Friday, 14 April 2017

Medellin, 1809 : a Shako scenario

This week's battle came from  "Fields of Glory; Napoleonic scenarios for Shako rules"  book by Chris Leach and Arty Cunliffe.  The Spanish army commanded by Cuesta is growing in strength and King Joseph has ordered Marshal Victor to attack immediately to eliminate this threat.  Victor had argued that he required more troops, but was over-ruled.  Cuesta has helped him out by abandoning a strong defensive position and attacked the outnumbered French army.  Victor cannot afford to suffer heavy casualties and would prefer to avoid committing Ruffin's division (even though it represents 25% of his force).

When the two armies deployed, the Spanish (actually Russians as I do not have any Spanish troops) overlapped the French line due to their infantry being deployed in two long, mutually supporting lines.  The cavalry were held in reserve; they like half of the infantry were second rate formations, which, if 'staggered' would be difficult to rally.  A roll of the dice allocated command of the Spanish (Russians) to Steve, whilst I commanded the French.  Overall the Spanish (Russians) had 26 battalions, 3 units of cavalry and 3 guns, organised into 5 divisions.  The French had 20 battalions
(only 14 on the table at the beginning),  4 units of cavalry and 4 guns (one of which was with Ruffin) in 4 divisions

My plan, such as it was, was to 'soften up' the Spanish line with my artillery, then breakthrough with the cavalry and follow up with an infantry advance.  Steve opted, as had Cuesta, for a steady advance, maintaining the line of infantry.  He intended when in range to overwhelm the French line with musketry.  The old adage "no plan survives first contact with the enemy" held true yet again.  With their first shots the Russian artillery found the range, inflicting kills and 'staggers' on three of my infantry units.  In reply the French artillery achieved nothing!

The Russian line stretching away into the distance
The Russian advance continued with their artillery consistently out-shooting the French.  One saving grace was that after three or four moves they masked their guns, forcing them to limber up and move forward.  This should have been the point at which I summoned up my reserve, Ruffin's division.  However, I still believed I could hold my ground and if I committed the reserve the best I could hope for would be a' limited victory'   In retrospect this was the crucial error, that couple of moves was my last chance to achieve ANY sort of victory as events would prove.

Revest's Division
On my right Revest's division was holding a low hill, behind which sheltered two units of dragoons. The horse gun attached to the division had successfully canistered the 1st battalion of the Kexholm regiment (part of Kemnsky's division) and Revest judged the time right to attack.  The 16th dragoons moved forward and then charged towards the Kexholm battalion which, supported on its flanks remained in line.  As the French dragoons closed they were swept by volleys which emptied many saddles.  The cohesion of the charge was broken and the cavalry were unable to break through and had to fall back to reform.  In support were the 7th dragoons who overwhelmed a unit of skirmishers and attacked Kamensky's cavalry, the Siberian Uhlans.  These were driven from the field, but no exploitation was possible as the dragoons were faced by solid squares of infantry.

On the opposite flank Mouton's division was faced by Gladkov's division.  Mouton had two units of light cavalry and anticipated that he could drive off the Mounted Eger supporting Gladkov.  However, the Russian cavalry, although 'second rate' totally destroyed the 4th Chasseurs and  Mouton had to commit the 2nd Hussars to push back the Russian cavalry.

The 16th Dragoons are driven off

In the centre, Dupas' division was taking on the divisions of Ulanius and Neverovsky.  The front lines exchanged volleys, with the advantage going to the Russians.  Slowly they began to gain the upper hand and then their artillery, which had moved forward joined in.  Great holes were torn in the ranks of the front line and the divisional morale began to waver.  By now, both Revest and Moutin were in serious trouble.  Their losses were approaching 50% and disaster beckoned.

Dupas comes under increasing pressure
Only now did I call up Ruffin, but it was too late.  Mouton failed his divisional morale test and retreated, Revest had his last two infantry battalions overwhelmed and a 'death ride' by the dragoons resulted in the 7th breaking the line but the 16th being torn to shreds by musketry.  Revest's command was broken.  Dupas had also lost over 30% of his effectives and a failed morale test meant that he too had to fall back.  All that Ruffin could do was to cover the retreat of what remained of the army.

The scenario notes stated that this was a hard scenario for the Spanish to win.  Our battle seemed to contradict this.  One major French difficulty concerned the initiative.  The rules give the initiative to the army with the highest proportion of divisions on attack orders.   This meant that the 5 Spanish divisions could be the first to move and the last to move; allowing them to respond to any French attacks.  Our local rule has a die roll to determine the initiative, but even so the Russians could always react to any French attacks.  A solution may be to adopt the Konig Krieg method of dicing for initiative after each division moves.  That being said I was not helped by my delay in calling on the reserves, nor failing each divisional morale test I took.

To close I must thank those who have taken the time to post the generous comments  on my last two reports, they are most appreciated by myself and Steve.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed thanks - the rules seem to produce a very believable account.