Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Battle of Talavera 1809(2) Part II

As battle was rejoined the ebb and flow of the battle continued to swing in favor of the French and then the British.  In the center, at the joint formed by the Spanish redoubt and 12lb. battery, the French were in some difficulty.  Two battalions had already routed from an utterly failed elan test to charge against the British and others had been thrown back by the Spanish in a firefight, which packed them tightly.  Sensing an opportunity the Zamora regiment and their grenadiers surged forward.  With the Marquis la Romana leading (yeah, I know, but we went with the figures painted) and de la Cuesta urging them on, they hit the French and threw them back, disordering themselves and the supporting battalions in column.

Zayas' division continued to "attack" Leval's German division but seemed every hour to be seized by inertia and could not risk getting too close.  (Damned Spanish modifier for activity rolls.)  Taking advantage of the previous situation, Romana threw himself and his regiment on the disordered French battalions, routing them.

On the left Ruffin and Lapisse continued to throw themselves at the Cerro de Medellin.  Charge after charge went up the hill.  Sometimes they closed and won or lost, sometimes they had firefights, but throughout it all the British held. 

The British light cavalry earned a brief respite as the French Dragoons sorted themselves out. 

But the Coldstream Guards suffered the most.  Being bombarded unmercilessly by four French batteries, saw their strength reduced to a small cluster around their proud colours.

The end of the hour saw a dramatic change in the status quo.  Lapisse caught a musket ball in the forehead and left his division leaderless, if but for a time.  Zayas, no doubt attempting to get his men moving was gut shot and was carried from the field.  Still conscious and naming a successor who would eventually assume control.  (He lived.)  Even de la Cuesta was not immune as debris thrown up by a cannonball skipping by struck him in the forehead, temporarily stunning him.  Or course it was really just a run of extremely low dice rolls, but this is much more interesting.  :-)

Finally, the French division facing the Spanish and British, which had been so man-handled this hour, felt the pressure.  Losing confidence in their officers, they precipitously retreated almost 1000 yards to the rear.  Romana, being also engaged by the Germans, had to watch as his prey (yeah, right) slipped out of reach.  To the relief of the British, it also meant the four batteries that had pummeled the British line also limbered up and moved away.

As the struggle renewed the temporarily leaderless Spanish kind of floundered.  The cavalry that had been ordered up two hours earlier to support la Romana still preferred to observe and the pervading sense of ennui that had taken Zayas' division now gripped the whole Spanish army.  Not so the French, who determined to take the Cerro de Medillin, no matter the cost.  Similarly, the French dragoons lined up for another attack on the severely fatigued British light cavalry.  Worse for British fortunes, an infantry element began to work its way around the far British left. 

As we began the fourth continuous hour of battle (tabletop time) it was obvious to all that the crisis point had been reached.  The seemingly endless stream of Dragoons maneuvered to flank the British light cavalry.  Only the continuing string of getting the first tactical impulse saved them temporarily from destruction.  The French infantry continued their march and engaged a rearward British division.

Even the Spanish Royal Guard moved in to attack.  There were no French reserves at this point, while the British and Spanish still had unengaged maneuver elements.  A breakthrough was essential.

Having moved up in column, they switched to line and prepared to charge.

Finally, not even the bagpipe band could halt the onrushing French.  The Cerro de Medellin fell, or at least the first part of it.  The Royal Guards wrestled with the depleted British Guards and KGL, and the French and German divisions under Sebastiani began to retake lost ground.

But just as the exhausted French took the long fought over ground, the sound of trumpets chilled them to the bone.  Fane's brigade of heavy dragoons moved forward.  First a foot battery was trampled, then several battalions that failed to make square were run down and dispersed.  As they were taking breath to cry "Victoire!" the words were ripped from their lungs.

Elsewhere French cavalry learned a bitter lesson about solidly formed squares.  Even the crack Royal Guard could make no positive impression on the British.  Romana and Portago, the latter with the revived de la Cuesta, were holding on tenaciously.  With a mass of cavalry and two unengaged Spanish divisions waiting, the French reluctantly conceded the field.  Having had almost all their infantry engaged for four solid hours of fighting they were in no position to carry on.  That just left it to the clean-up crews to begin their sad work.

A gallant game with honors to both sides.  Had the dice been a little kinder to Paul, Andrew and Jake the French may well have won the day.  But the Gods of War favored Todd, Dan and myself this day.  Next time....?

1 comment:

  1. Wow. What an exemplary game. I really enjoyed the reports. Thanks guys.