Monday, March 18, 2024

Medellín (28 March 1809)

This scenario is a refight of the Battle of Medellín (28 March 1809) during the Peninsular War. It was played using the Commands & Colors Napolionic rules but on hex terrain from Kallistra, buildings from Total Battle Miniatures and using 6mm figures from Baccus instead of blocks.

The History

After being forced out of its defensive positions on the River Tagus, General Don Gregorio Garcia de la Cuesta’s Spanish army was retreating in the face of Marshal Victor’s advancing French army. On the 27th of March, Cuesta’s army was reinforced by the Duke of Albuquerque, and Cuesta decided it was time to fight. Cuesta’s plan was to strike both French wings and hope to catch the French army with their backs to the Guadiana River. Victor was outnumbered, but had veteran troops who knew how to win, so he willingly deployed for battle. Victor’s plan was to keep withdrawing his flanks closer and closer to the center until a powerful counter-attack could shatter the Spanish line.

Cuesta formed his infantry into one long, thin unbroken line since his greatest fear was that French cavalry could destroy his infantry if there were gaps in the line. At first, Cuesta’s plan seemed to be working. Lasalle’s position on the French left was at risk, but his men held on to their tenuous positions. Spanish infantry formations were also pushing forward against the French batteries on Latour-Maubourg’s hill position. Latour-Maubourg flung his cavalry into a counter attack, but the cavalry was forced into a disorganized retreat. As the Spanish infantry threatened to capture the French guns, Latour-Maubourg ordered his reformed cavalry to attack again – this time against the Spanish cavalry covering the end of the infantry line. Events now unfolded quickly. The French cavalry charge succeeded and the Spanish cavalry fled the field, exposing the thin Spanish line to a devastating flank attack. Cuesta’s left flank dissolved in panic. Lasalle and Villatte, seeing the opportunity, ordered a counter-attack that caught the right flank of the Spanish army between infantry to their front and cavalry to their flanks and rear.

The result was a massacre. Entire battalions were destroyed as they tried to stand and fight, and the French cavalry showed no quarter in their pursuit of fugitives. Over 7,500 Spaniards became casualties. In the aftermath, Cuesta’s shattered army retreated to Monasterio.

The Refight

The Spanish started the battle by repositioning their infantry on the central ridge to make room for a battery of foot artillery, moving forward so as to be in a good position to bombard the French.

Marshal Victor ordered La Grande Manoeuvre and moved his left flank over to face the Spanish centre. By doing so, he got his troops out of a tricky situation, as they had had their backs to the unfordable Guadiana River.

General Don Gregorio Garcia de la Cuesta ordered both his flanks forward.

On his left, Spanish line infantry and Heavy Dragoons advanced. Perhaps hoping to surprise the French right, or perhaps just to secure the town of Mengabril.

While on the Spanish right, the troops moved towards the centre, to mirror the French manoeuvre.

Marshal Victor ordered his right flank to assault the advancing Spanish. General Latour-Maubourg took command of the Dragoons, and supported by their horse artillery, they attacked the Spanish Dragoons. While French infantry advanced to fill the gap they had left in the line.

Charging down the hill, with the supporting cannon fire from their horse artillery, Latour-Maubourg's Dragoons wiped out their Spanish counterparts.

The Spanish Force Marched their left wing infantry commanded by Brigadier Juan Henestrosa to oppose the advance of the French right wing.

Marshal Victor was about to order his troops forward, however troublesome Spanish Guerrillas delayed his chief of staff from sending out the command.

Taking advantage of the apparent hesitation of the French, General Cuesta ordered his left flank to attack.

Musket fire from the Spanish line infantry caused severe losses to the French horse artillery causing it to retire behind the crest of the hill.

However the Spanish infantry's attack on the French Dragoons was less successful, resulting in heavy losses for the Spanish infantry and the death of Brigadier Juan Henestrosa and no noticeable effect on the French.

The French centre was ordered to attack. One light cavalry unit charged a Spanish infantry unit and a second light cavalry unit moved up in support.

The Spanish infantry formed square, creating a temporary stand-off.

Showing inspired leadership, General Trias led his Spanish infantry unit through the valley between the hills in order to attack and push back the French cavalry.

On the French right, the horse artillry advanced again and the Dragoons attacked the Spanish infantry in front of the town of Mengabril, The Spanish infantry formed square, repulsing the Dragoons.

Seeing the success of their comrades, the remaining Spanish infantry attacked the French on the hill.

The first attacking Spanish line infantry column was repulsed by the French horse artillery, causing it to retreat back to the ridge after taking losses. The second attacking column caused the French artillery to retire behind the crest of the hill, but did not follow up its victory.

The French ordered their centre to attack. Two units of light cavalry rode forward to attack the Spanish positions.

When the cavalry attack was over, one cavalry unit was destroyed and one had retired. However both Spanish line infantry units had severe losses.

Back on their left flank, the Spanish infantry climbed up the hill and attacked the French horse artillery.

The horse artillery was destroyed.

The Spanish light cavalry advanced, causing the French light cavalry to retreat to their own lines having taken severe losses.

On the French right, the dragoons advanced to attack the Spanish artillery while a line infantry column advanced over the crest of the hill.

The dragoons rode passed the decimated Spanish square, which the line infantry opened fire on and destroyed.

The dragoons attacked the artillery on the hill.

General Latour-Maubourg and his dragoons caused serious casualties and only a few surviving Spanish artillerymen managed to retreat.

The dragoons followed up the attack and overran the few surviving Spanish artillerymen.

General Latour-Maubourg and his victorious French Heavy Dragoons...

Having taken heavy losses, and their left flank turned by the French heavy cavalry, the whole Spanish army gave up the battle and started to fade away and head for the sierras.

The Outcome 

Spanish Victory:   Spanish 6 - French 3

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