Wargaming in Hertfordshire

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Salamanca July 1812 - March 2008


Wellington was the British general to be feared. He could spot a defensive position usually a ridge, where he would position his troops on the reverse slope to protect them from French bombardment. The French would attack in fast moving columns protected by skirmishers, but Wellington would position his own skirmishers to counter their debilitating fire. The French column would get to effective range of the British, and deploy into line. However before the manouevre was complete the British would fire a well-aimed volley and charge in - scattering the deploying French.

Marmont was well aware of Wellington’s abilities. He was also aware that Wellington utterly relied upon his line of supply. The Anglo-Iberians did not live off the land but paid their way.

After following each other along the River Tormes in the hot summer of July 1812, near Salamanca, Marmont managed to cross the river unmolested. If he expedited his army he could out-flank the Anglo-Iberians. The ground around Salamanca favoured the French, gentle rolling grassland with almost no high ground. Specifically: no ridge. Better, Marmont does not even need to attack the Anglo-Iberians, he just needs to march to their Line of Supply and Wellington is forced to retreat back to Portugal.

The Battle March 9th 2008

The re-fight of the Battle of Salamanca starts with the French moving quickly in front of the British position. There are some features on the battlefield of tactical importance, a small hill: The Greater Arapiles needs to be occupied and the village of Los Arapiles will provide some flank protection for the French. Opposite the Greater Arapiles lies a smaller hill which the British have occupied. Los Arapiles is being attacked by the 4th Division.

The wargame begins with Marmont carefully directing Bonnet’s Division against the 6th Division. The British counter by directing Gardiner’s and Greene’s artillery toward Bonnet’s Division. Marmont is wounded instantly. The Light Division and Foy skirmish with each other. There is some desultory firing along the British front. Wellington quickly orders the 5th Division, Le Machants Cavalry, the 1st Division, and the 7th Division to attack.

The French, leaderless are thrown into confusion. Thomieres attacks the British LoS and deploys his Division. Maucaune tries to outshoot the 4th Division in Los Arapiles. Bonnet starts to trade skirmishers with the 6th. Boyer, Sarrut, Foy, and Ferey continue on their orders.

The British react by sending the 5th Division to Thomieres in a piecemeal fashion. Le Marchant saddles up his horses and readies himself for action, D’Urban likewise starts to sharpen sabres. Inexplicably Wellington ignores the 3rd Division with the most powerful Division in the army but prefers to dally with some German troopers about 5 miles from the action.

Thomieres organizes himself on Mount Azon on the British LoS. Maucune attempts to capture the village by a coup de main but is repulsed. Bonnet starts to move forward. Clausel is now in command, but the French chain of command is in disarray. Boyer with his cavalry, and the infantry Divisions of Sarrut and Foy continue to move to the enemy LoS.

Whilst Thomieres organized his artillery and infantry into cleverly designed kill zones the British 5th Division decided to check that kit was adjusted and webbing was whiter than white. The 4th Division begun to trade blows with Maucunes Division in Los Arapiles but the ‘City fighting’ ability of the French was showing its worth. The 6th Division readied itself to attack the French but began to realise that its guns so cleverly sited to wound Marmont were now vulnerable to a flank attack. Wellington had yet to lose an artillery piece in battle: today was not going to be the day. Wellington now sends an order to Packenham (with the most powerful Division in the army) and tries to get the Portuguese and Spanish reserve moving. The First Division, the Guards, bolt from their position to threaten the French.

Thomieres now has a particularly strong position on Mount Azon and starts to assault the disorganized 5th Division. Clausel, reorganizes Boyers Dragoons. Bonnet’s Division exerts more pressure on the 6th Division. Maucune succeeds in attacking the 4th Division in the village but the battle ebbs and flows. Foy starts to see success against the Light Division, primarily from his clever location of his artillery.

The 5th Division finally get themselves organized to inflict a volley fire on Thomieres Division. Le Marchant arrives with the Heavy Dragoons, but Thomieres clever disposition means that they are ineffective. The 4th Division are still pressing the bayonet in the village, but Macaunes veterans are easily holding the British. With the tactical nous of a rugby forward Cole continues to push forward from the front without a thought for using his superior numbers and outflanking Maucune. The 1st Division now race to confront Sarrut’s and Ferey’s Divisions who are both in March column – the worst possible formation. The Light Division starts to suffer from Foy’s well-placed artillery, and the Portuguese break.

D’Urbans cavalry are ready to help out the 5th Division, whilst Packenham (with the most powerful Division in the army) is left to make sense of Wellingtons orders (Attack the Arapiles. Lesser? Greater? Village? More clarification is needed.). If only Wellington had come over and delivered the orders himself.

The French reaction is brilliant. Thomieres attacks rather than defends and scatters Ellis’s Brigade of the 5th Division. The British run through D’Urbans recently arrived cavalry. Thomieres personally leads his infantry against this new disorganized foe scattering more horsemen. Maucune struggles against the 4th Division in the village, things are going against the French but their tenacity is keeping them in the village. ‘Anyway – isn’t Curto with the Cavalry and Taupin meant to have arrived by now? Bonnet is exerting pressure on the 6th Division, Clausel has got hold of the situation in the centre, his Division is now exerting pressure on the 7th Division. Wellington’s carefully sited artillery is now looking vulnerable. Sarrut is still strung out in march column with the Guards ready to attack them in the flank. Sarrut calmly deploys every brigade and artillery into line, none are left vulnerable to attack. Perhaps the moment to beat the French by this bold move has gone.

The 5th Division , Le Marchant and Durban finally organize themselves into an attack formation. Thomieres Division starts to disintigrate. Thomieres himself is killed by a Portuguese sabre cut. Maucunes Division is getting worsted by the British and requests help from Bonnet’s Division. The French reserve of Curtos Cavalry Division and Taupins Infantry Division are starting to look threatening. The British Guard volley fire against Sarrutts Division but the French hold firm. This fight will be decided by the bayonet. The Light Division continue to take casualties from the well directed artillery of Foy. Foy notices that his men are taking very few casualties and releases two regiments to attack the increasing isolated Guard Division. The artillery of the 6th Division is overrun, the Scots assaulting the Greater Arapiles break, the host of retreating men shake nearly every unit of the 5th and 7th Divisions.

Boyer delivers his cavalry charge into the flank of Wheatley’s brigade who immediately surrender. A third of the 1st Division is now in enemy hands. Can Anson ride up to rescue the remaining two thirds? In Los Arapiles Maucune gets shot and his Division starts to retreat from the village. Le Marchant and the 5th Division mop up the remaining elements of Thomieres Division on Mont Azon. In the centre Clausel is pushing the 6th and 7th backwards.

Curto wakes up to the danger as Le Marchant (now on badly blown horses) attacks him. Curto’s Cavalry force Le Marchant back and chase him to Lisbon. The remaining heavy cavalry have out-ridden their infantry supports and are badly mauled by Taupin’s infantry. Anson’s Light dragoons attack Clausel’s Infantry and Boyer’s Cavalry but are easily beaten off and retreat. The 1st Division is now completely isolated, and the King’s German Legion surrender, another 2,500 men in the bag. The 6th and 7th Division take heavy casualties and are forced off the Lesser Arapiles. Packenham (with the strongest Division in the army) arrives at the Lesser Arapiles to cover the inevitable retreat.

The French have won a magnificent victory.

Marmont (wounded), Thomieres (dead), Maucune (dead), Curto and Taupin – Peter Day
Clausel, Bonnet and Boyer – Chris Fitall
Foy, Sarrut, Ferey , and 15th Cavalry – Jim Cornish

Wellington, Leith (5th), Cole (4th) Le Marchant and D’Urban – Ian Rawlings
Campbell (1st), Clinton (6th), Hope (7th), Alten (Light) and Brock – Colin Brewer
Packenham (3rd), Sanchez (Spanish), Anson, Pack (Ind. Portuguese) – Se├ín Slater

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