Sunday, 5 April 2020

Santiago Campaign – Day 12

Campaign Map on 30 October 1813
7th and 16th corps retreat to Oviedo
Both are now out of supply, and will lose attrition casualties until they resupply
There are only 5 days supplies at Oviedo, but that is sufficient for them to regroup
It will however take some days before either are operational again

Their retreat in the north also force 8th and reserve corps to retreat to Lugo
Both are low on supplies (two days each) and there is only one day at Lugo
They will have to continue their retreat to Astorga, and resupply from Sanabria

The French retreat allows guerrilla bands to occupy both Ribadeo and Santiago

Wellington’s army is also running short of supplies (two days each)
But he is much closer to his supply depots, and will be fully supplied within two days
This will allow him to move on to the offensive

Soult is well aware of his desperate situation, he orders a general retreat.

Campaign Notes         
It was interesting to see how the French managed to lose the campaign, despite making most progress through the campaign.    They managed to push Wellington into a small area between Santiago and Ourense.   One more victory would have sent the British back into Portugal.

However it was extremely difficult for the French to concentrate against such a good defensive position.  

This was largely due to the supply system, and the luck of the Spanish guerrilla in disrupting it.   If the French could have concentrated and regrouped at Corunna and Lugo they could have routed the British.   But it proved too large an area, and too many and much too long supply lines

It is also interesting to note that both 4th British corps at Ourense, and 13th Polish corps at Ponferrada took no active part in the campaign at all.   Yet they played a vital role in the eventual victory.

Ourense commands the vital road to Portugal, along which all supplies must move.   It had to be held by a strong corps, which meant that 4th corps could not be used to support the main army.   It might have been replaced by a corps which had suffered heavy casualties, for example 2nd British corps.   But that would have invited an attack by the Polish corps over the river Minio.   Had they taken Ourense that would have been the end of the campaign.   Worse still Wellington would have had to retreat to Corunna to save his army (sound familiar?)

I am very pleased with how this campaign went.   It was uncertain right up to the last  battle, which could just as easily have been won by the French as the British.  The Spanish guerrilla again played a vital role in the campaign.  Not because they were a formidable enemy, but because they could not be ignored.   It was sometimes tempting to do so, but that was when they then rolled a 6 and captured Astorga.  


Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Santiago Campaign – Day 11

Campaign Map on 29 October 1813
8th French corps occupy Santiago and secure depot and three days supplies
Ourense is now the main British depot

9th militia (guerrilla) occupy Astorga with its three days supplies
They ransack the town and burn all official buildings
Sanabria is now the main French depot

10th French brigade (the ex garrison of Astorga) rout towards Oviedo
They are ambushed by 5th militia (guerrilla) as they near the town
They try to surrender after a brief fight, but all are killed

Wellington is faced with a choice
He can either move south and retake Santiago
Or he can continue to attack in the north before the French can recover

He decides to abandon his lines of supply and attack Ribadeo
1st and 3rd British corps attack Ribadeo, both are well supplied

The town is defended by 7th and 16th French corps, who are both short of supplies
Battle of Ribadeo
Both armies start the battle with previous battle casualties.
This leaves them both with fragile morale
Wellington takes command of both corps artillery, and deploys them in the centre
The remainder of his army are kept in reserve out of artillery range of the French

He concentrates his artillery on the nearest French infantry brigade
They already have casualties, and are soon shaken
He moves his artillery to the next infantry brigade
Again they have casualties, and soon break and run
This causes the shaken infantry to test morale, they fail and also rout
This in turn has the same effect on the nearby dragoon brigade

With his centre in rout Soult orders his flanks to withdraw

Campaign Notes
Wellington took a risk in ordering an attack
The French has longer range 12 pounder artillery
And he could easily have suffered the same fate as Soult

However he was lucky, and he rolled better dice!

Both of the French corps started the battle with just two days supplies
The compulsory retreat will leave them out of supply
They will have to retreat, and accept attrition casualties, until they can resupply

The retreat will allow the Spanish guerrilla to retake Ribadeo and its depot
They already occupy Astorga, and control the French rear area

8th corps and the French reserve have occupied Santiago
But they are now very exposed to attack from both north and south

The situation of the French army is desperate.  

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Santiago Campaign – Day 10

Campaign Map on 28 October 1813
To keep the French off balance Wellington orders all guerrilla bands to attack French depots of Oviedo, Astorga and Sanabria

6th guerrilla attack Sanabria.   They suffer 800 casualties and rout
7th guerrilla attack Oviedo.   They suffer 800 casualties and rout
8th and 9th guerrilla both attack Astorga. 
They capture the town and rout the garrison with 400 casualties
They also take 2 days supplies

Unable to attack in the north, Soult orders 8th corps to attack Santiago
He also orders the reserve cavalry and artillery to support the attack
Santiago is Wellington’s main depot

2nd British corps is deployed just east of the city in a strong defensive position
They hold their own for most of day, but are eventually broken and routed
General Cole orders them to rally in Santiago 
Battle of Santiago
Cole deploys his corps at the mouth of the pass on the left
Two infantry brigades hold the heights on either side of the pass
Santiago is off table on the left

8th corps deploy immediately in front of the pass
Reserve cavalry and artillery move to attack the British right flank
However they are held between the hill and the farm until late in the day

The infantry on each hill make it very difficult for the two French wings to concentrate
But once they do so they quickly break the British centre

Campaign Notes
The French outnumber the British two to one in cavalry and artillery.  
Despite less infantry than the British, it is only a matter of time before they win

Far more interesting was the guerrilla activity

With the French concentrated at Ribadeo, Lugo and Ponfererada the three rear towns are left at the mercy of the guerrilla bands.  

Each guerrilla only has a maximum of 3 days supplies, and they must move to a farm or village to resupply.  This means that most of the time they are moving to supply, or halted doing so.   However on this day there are four guerrilla in position and ready to attack.

The outcome is decided by the roll of 1D6.   The guerrilla must roll 6 to rout the garrison and take the town.   A roll of 1, 2 or 3 will result in them taking casualties and routing or retreating.

At Oviedo and Sanabria they both roll 1.   Both guerrilla suffer 20% casualties (800 men) and rout.

However at Astorga two guerrilla attack at the same time.   Each need 5 or 6 to rout the garrison.   The first dice is 3, the second is 5.    The garrison rout, leading behind two days supplies.

The French victory is very important.   The loss of Santiago with its three days supplies is a blow to Wellington.   Worst still his lines of communication to Portugal are cut.

However Astorga is also the French main depot, and commands their lines of communication back to Salamanca, Valladolid and Madrid.    The loss of two days supplies is equally serious.   Even more so is the loss of all supplies from Salamanca.   Until Astorga is retaken they will have to rely entirely on what they can forage.

It will be interesting to see who can open their lines of supply first, and what they will have to abandon to do so.