Monday 21 November 2016

The Battle of Pampilhosa - Portugal 1810

On Sunday some of Posties Rejects gathered in the shed-o-war to play a neat little Napoleonic, Peninsular War game. This was a fictional battle set with historical forces pitting French forces against a mixed force of British and Portuguese in a strong position. The French had managed to hook around the allied forces and get behind them resulting in a harried defence with the troops at hand. The Allied army is a mixed bag in terms of quality but their General has taken full advantage of a string defensive arc of hills. The French are numerically superior but can they smash their way through without taking serious casualties in the process. 

Order of Battle
French c/o General Junot (Lee)
  1st Division - c/o Clausel
     1st Brigade - Monard
        4/19th, 4/25th, 4/28th, 4/34th + Medium Gun Battery
     2nd Brigade - Tavein
        4/15th Legare, 4/46th, 4/75th + Light Gun Battery
     3rd Brigade - Godart
        22nd Line (4)
  2nd Division - c/o Solgnae
      1st Brigade - Gratien
         15th (3) & 86th (3) + Medium Gun Battery
      2nd Brigade Tomieres
         65th (4), Irlandais Rgt (1), Regt de Prusse (1)
   Cavalry Division c/o Seinte-Croix
      1st Brigade
         1st Dragoons, 2nd Dragoons
      2nd Brigade
         4th Dragoons, 9th Dragoons
      3rd Bridage
         14th Dragoons, 26th Dragoons + Horse Artillery Battery
      4th (Reserve) Brigade - Ornans
         15th Dragoons, 25th Dragoons

British - c/o Maj-Gen Cole (Ian)
    4th Division - Maj-Gen Cole
       1st Brigade - Campbell
          2/7th, 1/11th, 2/53rd, 5/69th (1 Company) + 1 Medium Gun Battery
       2nd Brigade - Kemmis 
          2/27th, 1/40th, 1/97th, 5/60th (1 Comp)
       3rd Brigade - Collin (Portuguese)
          11th (2), 23rd (2) + Light Gun Battery
    5th Division - Gen Leith
       1st Brigade - Barnes
          3/1st, 1/9th, 2/38th + Light Gun Battery
       2nd Brigade - Spry (Portuguese)
          3rd (2), 15th (2), Tomar Militia
       3rd Brigade - Eben (Portuguese)
          8th (2), Loyal Lusitanian Legion (3)
    Cavalry Division
       1st Brigade - De Grey
          3rd Dragoon Guards, 4th Dragoons
       2nd Brigade - Slade
          1st Dragoons, 14th Light Dragoons
       3rd Brigade - Anson
          16th Light Dragoons, 1st Hussars KGL + Horse Artillery Battery

The Action
Initial Setup - The British and Portuguese hold a strong defensive position on an arc of hills with rough ground and fields to the front.  I was the Commander of the French but relied heavily on Ray as my 2iC as Napoleonic games are not my strongest period! The plan we developed was to hit the weaker Portuguese Division facing our right flank. Rays division would also press in the centre to stop the British from reinforcing the Portuguese and on our left the Cavalry division would protect the flank from attack by the British Cavalry. 

The French advance in attack column to the beat if drums. The British and Portuguese move their troops up onto the hills and spend a couple of turns shuffling units around in a vain attempt to convince themselves they can defend the line!

The French columns press on. In the Centre the 2nd Division (under Ray) aims itself at the gaps between rough ground. They have the toughest job as they will be facing British troops on the hill. Meanwhile my 1st Division advances either side of the cornfield. On the right flank I shield my Columns as best I can from artillery and skirmish fire with my own skirmish line.

My Legare regiment advances in skirmish line and while they take casualties the Portuguese fire is thankfully ineffectual at best. Maybe Johns dice rolling will improve later in the game?

In the Centre the 2nd Division also come under fire...but so far very little damage.  

Meanwhile on our left flank all is strangely quiet... The British Cavalry clearly doesn't like the look of our Dragoons and Surjit holds back from attacking. That's fine by us because we don't need to defeat the Cavalry to win the game, we just need to stop them from interfering with out infantry assault. 

Looking down the table as the French columns march onwards to glory or defeat. 

Ray quite rightly advised me to sweep the skirmishers from the cornfield. They duly evaded and fell back while my unit consolidated and prepared for another charge a few turns later. 

That British and Portuguese line looks quite formidable on the hill...but its a thin red line and the French columns continue to advance. 

Now the nitty gritty begins. With most of the enemy skirmishers pushed out of the way my leading columns begin to line up for the assault. I never expected these to still be intact at this point (marching as they were down the sights of an enemy medium gun) but here they are ready to launch a first wave assault up the hill. 

Meanwhile two units of Dragoons have inserted themselves into a gap in the centre of our line and may just have an opportunity to cause some havoc in a couple of turns. The British on the hill have still yet to shoot, they are holding their fire until it can be most effective. 

My Dragoons are now in position for a charge next turn. Meanwhile one of my columns has charged a Portuguese unit and it has run away! My column take the position without a fight, ready to exploit its good fortune next turn. Meanwhile just down the hill I have managed to get one of my units stuck behind a hedge! It takes me a turn to back it up and realign it for a charge. On the extreme right flank my skirmishers continue to shield the columns from the enemy gun and my leading columns are ready to charge the Portuguese on the hill next turn. We (the French players) think the other side have made a tactical error because they have placed the Portuguese Militia here. This is the weak point we have been aiming at from the very beginning of the game. 

Over on the left flank still nothing is happening! Surjit tries to tempt us to attack by removing his light gun from the line, but he has failed to realise we have absolutely no reason or desire to attack here. 

Meanwhile our columns have advance unmolested almost to within charge range of the British lines. 

Possibly the most amazing turn of action in any game I have played in my entire wargaming career! Ray and I win the initiative for the French and declare 9 simultaneous charges across the whole of the right flank. Unfortunately Rays three columns (far left in this picture) are a fraction of an inch out of range...but my six columns rush towards the enemy. As each charge takes place the Portuguese commander (John) has to make a Moral check to see if they stand and fight. He has to roll 4 or lower on a d6...and he proceeds to roll 5,6,5,6,5,6. !!! Every single Portuguese unit I charge falls back disordered off the hill and into a haphazard mess in the valley behind! My columns take the entire ridge line without a single casualty. 

This is game over...even if some of the British players wouldn't believe it. Their entire flank has fallen back disordered and my columns are still fighting fit, virtually undamaged and crucially within charge range of the enemy. Oh, and I have four more columns, spare heading to consolidate the gains.  

The final positions show the British lines in disarray and the French still in good order. 

I can't recall a plan ever working quite so well as this game. Ray and I had a clear plan of attack from the first turn and we didn't really need to change it at all. The saying goes that no plan survives first contact with the enemy...unless, it seems, your enemy is Surjit, Ian and John! (Sorry guys!)


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