Sunday 23 February 2020

Santiago Campaign – Day 5

Campaign Map on 23 October 1813
Despite his defeat at Lugo, Wellington orders an attack on Corunna
He is determined to strike at the French before they can regroup
3rd corps, retreating from Lugo, is ordered to rally at Santiago
This town will now be his main base and supplies are moved from Ourense

The French have advanced beyond their depots and must reorganise
Four days supplies are sent from Oviedo, to resupply 7th and 16th corps
However the convoy is captured by guerrilla and the escort routed
The last thing that Suchet wants is a battle at Corunna
The battle of Corunna
The battle opens well for Wellington

2nd corps is ordered to attack Corunna
The infantry attack, supported by artillery
The leading brigade inflicted 10% casualties on the garrison
Wellington takes command of their hussar brigade to form his reserve

1st corps attacks the Italian corps in the open ground to the right of the town.
To do so the infantry have to advance through the dense woods
Meanwhile the artillery and cavalry move forward on the right
The cavalry receive 10% casualties from artillery fire
They are immediately charged, and routed, by the Italian hussars
Wellington moves his reserve cavalry to support 1st corps
The infantry attack on the Italian infantry is disordered by the woods
As they attempt to regroup the centre enemy brigade moves forward
The Italian line engages the British column in a firefight, which they win

Suchet has taken command of 7th corps artillery to form his reserve
They now move forward to engage the British attacking Corunna
Without their cavalry 2nd corps have no answer to this threat

With two brigades in rout Wellington accepts defeat and retreats

Campaign Notes
Both armies were evenly matched in this battle

1st British corps cavalry started with 10% casualties
The rest of the corps was full strength

2nd British corps started at full strength

7th French corps cavalry started with 20% casualties
The rest of the corps was full strength

16th Italian corps started at full strength

The French held a strong position
Corunna is a fortified town and had a full garrison of two brigades
That left two brigades and the artillery to counter any attack
With 20% casualties their cavalry was too weak to deploy, and hid behind the town

The Italian corps was more exposed as they held the open ground to the right of the town
However a large woods would disrupt any enemy approaching their battle line

Consequently Wellington had a difficult task

1st corps would find it difficult to clear the woods and deploy to attack
To do so their artillery and cavalry must damage the enemy
In particular their cavalry and infantry

2nd corps would have to attack over a very narrow front
A large farm prevented a full deployment
Soult could divide his forces either side of the farm
But this would mean considerable difficult in command and control
Or he could attack either side of the farm
He choose to attack on the left

Only on the British far right was there room for cavalry
So Wellington took command of 2nd corps hussar brigade to form his reserve.

First blood went to the British when they attacked the left town section
It was held by a conscript brigade, and the loss of 10% casualties reduced their combat ability

However the loss of a cavalry on the exposed British right flank was a much more serious setback
Without cavalry he could not hold the ground for his infantry to deploy as they left the woods
Wellington moved his hussar reserve to replace the routed dragoons

This allowed the French to bring forward their reserve artillery in the centre
It was deployed to engage any British infantry attacking Corunna

After just five moves Wellington had to admit defeat
He had only suffered minor casualties
But both of his corps had suffered critical casualties
To press home the attack would almost certainly result in a major defeat

This short game was a master class in move and counter move
The loss of the British dragoon brigade was the critical factor
Wellington had to move his remaining cavalry to make up for this loss
This in turn allowed the French to place their reserve artillery to fire on the flank of any attack on Corunna

Very enjoyable wargame, but a terrible result for the campaign.

The British really needed to win this battle, to prevent being forced to retreat south
By doing so Wellington abandoned his last chance to regain the initiative
He would now have to concentrate at Santiago and await the next French attack
Soult could now take his time to reorganise his depots and replace his battle casualties
He would have to attack Santiago to win the campaign, but he could do so when it suited him to do so.

Sunday 16 February 2020

Santiago Campaign – Day 4

Campaign Map on 22 October 1813
The French attack on Lugo is to prevent Wellington counter attacking Corunna.   The attack cannot be delayed, so 8th corps will attack at daybreak, and be supported by the reserve cavalry and artillery at midday. 
The battle of Lugo

This photo shows the situation at 1400.  

The British have reinforced the Spanish garrison of Lugo with an additional British brigade.  The Portuguese brigade is in reserve behind the town.

The remainder of 3rd corps are deployed to cover the bridge (out of sight at the bottom of the photo.

8th French corps are moving down towards the bridge.  Two infantry brigades have been detached to screen the town.

French reserve are advancing towards the bridge from the right.

The battle is about to be decided by a cavalry melee.   British dragoons are moving forward to slow down the French reserve.   They will soon come under artillery fire from the reserve, lose 10% casualties and be shaken.  They will then be charged by the lancer brigade of 8th corps.  When they rout they will take the highland square with them.  

Picton will hold the town until night and then retreat towards Santiago.

Campaign Notes
It has always been difficult to balance the two allied armies in Spain with their French opponents.  The British and French are pretty well equal in ability.   The Spanish regular and irregular troops are the problem.

In the south there is a Spanish army supported by nine militia brigades.   In the north it is a British/Portuguese army also supported by nine Spanish militia brigades.

In the north there are five French corps against the four British.   One of the French corps is a reserve entirely composed of conscript troops, even the cavalry and artillery.
The infantry are used to garrison the French depots, the cavalry and artillery as an army reserve.   They can be used to protect the lines of supply, or as a battle reserve.   In this game it was the latter.

If the French were allowed to attack with both 3rd corps and the reserve it would be a very uneven wargame.   So 3rd corps had to attack at the start of the game, the reserve would not arrive until move 5.   It would therefore be at least move 7 or 8 before they would be able to join the attack.   There are only 12 moves in the game, so their arrival would have to be carefully planned.

The reserve would arrive on the table directly behind 3rd corps.   However if they simply advanced behind them, it would be impossible to bring them into action before the end of the game.   3rd corps would block their advance, and might even rout back into them.

Lugo is a fortified town, and providing it is adequately garrisoned would prove difficult to take.   Picton put a British infantry brigade in to support the Spanish militia, and even left his Portuguese brigade in reserve behind the town.   So a direct attack was not an attractive option.

The French plan was to screen the town with two brigades, and take the bridge over the river Mineo with the rest of the corps.   The reserve would support the attack on the bridge.   3rd corps would advance directly towards the town, and then swing left towards the bridge.   This would leave an open area along the river for the reserve to advance.

The British artillery opened the battle by hitting the leading French infantry brigade.   They made their morale, but the attack would now be led by a weak brigade.  

8th corps gunners evened the odds by hitting the highland square near the bridge.   They also made their morale, but would be a less reliable support for the cavalry and artillery.

But the decisive action was when the reserve artillery hit the British dragoons.   They also made their morale, but were disordered.   The lancers from 8th corps charged, and the dragoons were unable to counter charge because they were disordered.  It looked like an easy French win.   The Lancers rolled 2D6, with plus 3 combat factors.  Anything more than a total of 8 would be sufficient to put the British cavalry out of the game.    The French (me) rolled a total of 3 with 2D6.   This resulted in both brigades being shaken and each losing 10% casualties.   Jan was well pleased

However her joy turned to despair during the next move.   Both brigades had to test their morale for being shaken.   The lancers rolled 5 and rallied to disordered.   The dragoons rolled 1 and routed.  The nearby highland brigade had to dice because of the rout, they rolled 2 and also routed.  

All of this happened during move 9, and whilst the French were still out of range of the town.   The British withdrew but held the town.   However it had to be abandoned during the night, or risk the garrison being forced to surrender.

An interesting and enjoyable game, for both players.   Neither made any mistakes.   Both had good, and bad, luck with the dice.   The reserve made the difference.   Although they played little part in the battle, they made it impossible for the British to continue a second day after the loss of two brigades, including their only cavalry.

Also an interesting problem for Wellington.   With the loss of both Corunna and Lugo, holding Santiago is now critical.   Another defeat will almost certainly mean he will have to retreat into Portugal.