Sunday, 8 May 2022

Llanes Campaign – Day 2


12 May 1813 – North Spain – Day 2

Wellington orders his army to advance to the border

But to avoid combat unless the French cross into Llanes district


Soult orders 3rd French army to attack Cabezon

He considers the Spanish held centre to be the allied weak point

The Spanish army are advancing as part of the main allied advance

Battle of Cabezon

The French had to advance, in three columns, through the mountains to reach Cabezon.   This made coordination of the whole army very difficult.

The French commander created a reserve of two infantry brigades in the centre to attack the town.  However the Spanish garrison had been increased to three brigades.

The two corps kept their artillery, but were expected to support the attack on the town.  However they found it difficult to advance with the guns supporting their own columns.

At nightfall the Spanish still held the town and won the battle


As this is the opening battle of the campaign there are no previous battle casualties.   All brigades are therefore full strength, and morale does not play such an important role.

Two things decided the outcome of this battle.

First was that the French would have to approach through the mountains.  This, combined with the campaign rule that there can only be one command in each map/wargame square, made it very difficult to coordinate the three columns.

Second was that the Spanish had 12 pounder guns, the French 9 pounder.   So the French could fire further than the French.   This allowed them to deploy to cover the mouth of the three valleys and engage the French before they could deploy.   The Spanish gunners were not as well trained as the French, but the longer range more than made up for that disadvantage.

In this game the Spanish actually outnumbered the attacking French.  This is because they had a militia brigade in garrison.  In addition the garrison was increased to three brigades, and the French had only allowed two brigades to take it.  So the attacking column would have to rely on artillery support from the two corps either side of them.

Being pinned at the entrance to the valleys the French artillery had to first engage the Spanish corps opposite, only then could they afford to concentrate on the town garrison.    This all proved too difficult, and the French gunners could not pull it off.   The garrison did eventually suffer casualties, but it was too little and too late.  

At nightfall the Spanish still held the town, and therefore won the battle/wargame.

You will see from the map that there is a lot of hill ground either side of the border, so this is a problem which the attacking player will encounter again and will have to be solved.   Fortunately I usually command the attacking army, and Jan the defending one.   So I will have to come up with some solution.


  1. Thistlebarrow,

    I read your more detailed battle report on the 1813 Campaign Page, and although the Spanish won the battle, they seem to have come out of it in a not much better state than the French. Holding the town meant that they won the overall battle, but in the open terrain to the south, the French seem to have achieved a partial victory against the Spanish forces facing them.

    An interesting opening to the campaign … and it was nice to see the Spanish army in action.

    All the best,


  2. Hi Bob

    Thanks for your comment

    The Spanish were lucky to hold on to the town, making it a disappointing start to the campaign for the French. Particularly as they had the element of surprise.

    The Spanish under Wellington's direct command in 1813 seemed to do quite well. My understanding is that they were on a par with the Portuguese, who by this time were almost as good as the British troops. However the Portuguese has the advantage of a large number of British officers seconded to the Portuguese army. The Spanish had no such arrangement, resulting in poor quality leadership. I believe this is the reason Wellington felt he had to leave them behind when he finally entered France in 1814.

    Good to be back in Spain, there are always more challenges for the French. Also for me ensuring that the rules balance the advantages and disadvantages for both sides

    best regards



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