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Peninsular Campaign 1808-1814 Being Refought

6 years 1 month ago #31 by Saddletank

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  • Events of Late December 1808:

    Wet winter weather continues with snow or sleet in some mountain regions. Many armies take up winter quarters. Storms in Biscay subside but contrary winds make navigation problematical even for experienced crews. Fresh winds but calmer seas off Gibraltar, Cadiz and Barcelona. Atlantic storms make all sea journeys hazardous off Lisbon and Oporto.

    The Lost Army?

    No news has been heard from General Palafox and his broken Aragonese army. It is thought that the troops are somewhere in the mid-Pyrenees, perhaps near Jaca but there is no confirmation. All that can be surmised is the dreadful conditions these poor men and animals must be enduring.

    We have been surprised to receive no news of a French pursuit.

    At Pamplona Marechal Mortier has resumed the investment. He still lacks heavy artillery to batter down the fortress walls but the defenders cannon have fallen silent at last and the French commander awaits news of a surrender at any time.

    A contingent of troops have arrived to support Mortier. 2,000 men commanded by Colonel Francois Duclos who has presented his written orders to Mortier stating his brigade has been sent by Imperial Headquarters to form the city's garrison.

    Cataluña. Lerida and Gerona! Spanish Retreats! Citizens Perplexed!

    There is shocking news at Lerida where a whole division of Spanish under General Casa Solano have abandoned the town and retreated east in some haste and disorder. The small but strong fortress was hardly threatened - a brigade of a few hundred French cavalry had appeared from the west two weeks ago supported by a few light guns. It is not clear why the withdrawal occurred and commentators are even mentioning cowardice on the part of senior Spanish officers. A brigade of Spanish cavalry commanded by de Larrocha remains east of the town at the bridges across the Segre and due to the citadel's fortifications and cannon overlooking these vital crossings, communication with the town is still open. Within the citadel a small but enthusiastic garrison remains, led by Coronel Juan-Pedro Apostoles. The French cavalry are keeping a respectful distance.


    Another French cavalry brigade was posted at Monzon to the north-west but was unable to find any significant roads in the region that may prove of military use, nor a suitable crossing of the Rio Cinca there. The troopers were suffering from daily and increasing skirmishes with miquelets and, short of powder and with several wounded, the brigade was withdrawn to join the cavalry at Lerida.

    There is similar news at Gerona. The city folk were dismayed to see the Army of Cataluña break its camps along the valley of the Ter and march away towards Hostalrich in the miserable mist and drizzle. At least the city is well supplied and damage caused by General Lechi's Italian troops in the summer has been repaired. A strong garrison has been placed within the walls and the outlying forts of Montjuich, Capuchins, Calvary and St. Narciso are strongly held with troops, powder and artillery. Reducing the city will be a major undertaking, the surprised and somewhat demoralised citizenry notwithstanding.

    General Saint-Cyr at first refused to believe his cavalry's reports suspecting a ruse de guerre. Within two days however Neapolitan and Italian dragoons and chasseurs had pushed across the Ter and found all the enemy camps abandoned. Infantry and artillery commenced to cross at once. The city has yet to be invested but a siege must surely follow. The only problem facing the French is the diabolical weather and the ever-present attacks of the determined miquelets which swarm in the surrounding hills and the more isolated valleys.

    Map of Gerona and her Defences

    Madrid! A Bustling City!

    Troops are crammed into the magnificent city, their rows of tents lining the fashionable avenues and the pretty parks. Any business or warehouse previously owned by pro-Bonapartists has been commandeered as barracks and in the less fashionable parts of the capital tavernas and night-houses are doing great trade. Mercantile traffic has increased greatly since the French left and the city's markets are now the place to do trade, many new businesses not all of them desirable, sprouting up with the influx of uncouth soldier and noble officer alike.

    Almost each day long supply trains of military goods accompanied by civilian traders and camp followers trudge and rattle away to support the Spanish troops, these convoys typically head north and east.

    The now famous Army of Extremadura has arrived in the city following its glorious and successful siege of Toledo's Alcazar. The men have temporarily swollen the population by another 15,000. General Conde de Belvedere has been awarded with the title of Conde de Alcazar and an annual pension.

    Cadiz and Andalucia! Spanish Forces Gathering!

    At Spain's premier port and dockyard British ships are now arriving more frequently and every week boxes of muskets, flints, bolts of cloth for uniforms and the disassembled parts of artillery pieces and limbers arrive in heaps on the quay sides.

    Quay sides of Cadiz

    Just outside the city a tented camp of great extent has arisen to shelter the reserve troops that are training and mustering. This is the Ejército de Segunda Línea (Army of the Second Line) and judging by the ramshackle township of traders and entertainers that has grown up around the encampment we judge this army to already be in excess of 25,000. An advanced corps of this army is reported to be stationed forward as an immediate reserve at Manzanares, with artillery companies equipped with English cannon and cavalry organised into a separate division following the most modern practices.

    Action on the Plains of Leon-Castille. Valladolid Threatened? Or Leon?

    There are reported to be significant movements of large bodies of troops of both sides in Spain's most open and flat region. Despite being dotted by small farms, citrus groves and some watercourses, this area is perfect for the deployment of large bodies of cavalry which commentators are quick to point out the French enjoy a superiority of, both in quality and quantity.

    His Majesty Emperor Napoleon has led a strong force of what is thought to be two corps west out of Burgos, reaching Carrion and then pushing quickly across the undefended river. It is not certain if his goal is Leon and Astorga or whether this march might be a move to threaten the northern flank of the Valladolid position or even the southern flank of the Spanish in Asturia and Cantabria. All that can be said is this is certainly no drive on Madrid, which was thought to be the target of the French when they reached Burgos. A busy swarm of light cavalry is pressing forwards to the front and flanks of this great host and although Spanish cavalry were encountered on the southern flank just west of Carrion, these fell back to the south-west when threatened.

    The French vanguard has reached Saldanha and is now skirmishing successfully against two Spanish cavalry brigades there. The small infantry garrison of the town has been withdrawn to join the Galicians and it's thought that General Blake's Galician Army is now secure behind the line of the Valderaduey.

    Of sudden concern to the French is the appearance again of more enemy cavalry on their left flank, mounted vedettes being observed moving north from Sahagun. It's not clear if these are the same cavalry that shadowed their left at Carrion or a fresh force.

    On the line of the Pisuerga between Duenas and Torquemada two armies have spent almost a fortnight observing each other barely beyond cannon-shot. Marechal Soult's II Corps, now somewhat weakened by attrition in the bad weather, held a strong position on rising ground on the left bank and was faced by a combined Anglo-Spanish army led by the English General Moore and the Spaniard Cuesta. The Anglo-Spanish army held the crossings of the river and cavalry patrols of all three armies tested the other's lines every day without progress.

    Towards the end of December first the Spanish contingent decamped and withdrew west and a couple of days later the English collapsed their tents, packed up their field forges and bakeries and withdrew down the Valladolid road. Before they left British engineers burned some wooden bridges and blew up the main stone bridge of the Valladolid-Burgos highway. French light cavalry have cautiously followed up, using some barges to ferry a few troops across the river. Supported by horse artillery batteries on the far bank the efficient French engineers are speedily building a replacement wooden bridge. To the south-west British cavalry observe these goings-on but do not interfere.


    What is becoming clear is that wherever the French advance further into Spain, soon after, in any surrounding hilly and forested regions, bandits, irregulars and civilian patriot fighters quickly appear. The hills south and north of Burgos were quiet last summer but now several bands of guerilleros have made their presence felt, names such as "El Blanco", "El Volante" and "Capitán Negro" have been heard and the French supply trains are needing stronger escorts with each passing week. There are even concerns from the garrison commander, an officer of Soult's II Corps, that the fortress could be "effectively isolated" by these scoundrels as they push in from both south and north to threaten the line of communications at Gamonal. He has asked for a division of dragoons to police the area between Torquemada, Carrion, Burgos and Miranda.

    A new development south of the city is the appearance of Spanish regular cavalry only five or ten miles down the Aranda road. It is even said by travelling locals that an army is on the march here from Madrid though this is typical of the exaggerated rumours of such uninformed persons.

    In The North! Cantabria! Santander! Reynosa!

    General Acevedo's Army of the Asturias has seemingly disappeared westwards along the coast. No word has been received from it in weeks and few travellers are on the highways in this region for fear of encountering French patrols or the equally unfriendly "banditos".

    The French of Marechal Ney who were around Reynosa are also quiescent, there is no news of new activity from this mountain town. It's possible the French have gone back east to reopen their broken supply road but nothing can be confirmed. If the guerilleros are aware of anything they keep their own counsel and watch from crag and ridge.

    At Santander a British fleet of transports is trapped in the harbour by contrary winds. Supplies continue to be unloaded at the quays however and the city is now garrisoned by a large force of Spanish some of whom are reported by local sources to be moving east to support General Baird, whose English troops hold Castro Urdiales.

    Off Bilbao and Portugalette two British sloops were observing the coast towns and road but inclement weather and bad winds have blown these vessels off-station.

    Around Castro English cavalry brigades are screening their position both to east and south and in both cases French light forces are moving forward and probing their picquet lines. This region of Biscay has some of the most broken and difficult terrain in Spain and light infantry on both sides are being used to assist troops of dismounted dragoons and hussars among the pine forests and hillsides. The region is a defender's dream and an attacker's nightmare; there is very little level ground to deploy mounted troops or even artillery. Any fight here will be a clash of infantry for the most part, made more unpleasant by the constant winds and sleet showers that dampen powder and make visibility variable.


    The Plaza Rossio

    A parade in the Plaza Rossio was watched by a crowd of citizens as the 1st Portuguese infantry brigade went through their new English drills. The men looked very fine in their new uniforms, their bright yellow, blue and white silken flags fluttering and the drummer boys beating out a stirring tattoo. The expertly barked commands of the British NCOs and the cheerful marching music raised everyone's spirits. Rumour has it the first Portuguese brigades will be released for campaign duties in the spring. Each is said to be comprised of two regiments each of two battalions of musketeers and a battalion of light infantry. There is some debate as to how they will be deployed. One suggestion is to form divisions of two brigades and two artillery companies and others have opined that these troops should be attached at the ratio of one Portuguese brigade to each English division. A number of senior Portuguese officers wish to have command of their army, corps and divisions while other commentators have stated that the new army is still very raw and combining them in the line with British troops will help them gain experience more quickly.

    Senior British generals and diplomats have not yet commented on these conflicting views.

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    6 years 1 month ago #32 by Saddletank

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  • Events of Early January 1809:

    Weather in the Peninsular

    It is bitterly cold in mountain regions with high winds. In the lowlands drizzle has replaced the snow flurries and there are warmer temperatures. Many roads are almost impassable to wheeled traffic. Off the Biscay coast rough seas and changeable winds are continuing to make navigation problematical. No English cruisers have been sighted off the coast for some weeks. The Atlantic is also stormy. In the Strait of Gibraltar and Mediterranean there are fresh winds but lesser swells. Shipping from Cadiz has recently arrived in Tarragona and Barcelona with stores being unloaded. The Atlantic storms have brought a temporary halt to English supplies being delivered to Cadiz.

    French advance towards Lerida!

    A force of French infantry reported by locals to be at least a division with accompanying artillery has occupied Mequinenza and seems intent on moving east to invest Lerida. At that place a screen of French cavalry is observing but remaining beyond cannon shot of the walls. Lerida is still in communication with Spanish forces to the east.

    Locals also tell of a screen of French light horsemen on the north side of the middle Ebro valley. The French may be searching for a secondary route across the Rio Cinca or they could be attempting to probe responses around Jaca, thought to be a guerilla stronghold. Whatever their purpose, the harsh winter weather is making their task deeply miserable and the sick list is increasing, especially among the horses.


    Roads south out of the city remain open and the French have not yet cut communications to Barcelona or Vich. It appears St Cyr was content to gain a foothold across the Rio Ter, and with that difficult barrier behind him, rest his troops. The French have built two impressive pontoon bridges at Pontmayor and their tireless engineers and infantry have laid corduroy roads to enable artillery and supply wagons to pass the lower regions of the muddy river valley. From their rocky fastnesses in the hills, the guerillas watch their enemy, counting cannons and flags and campfires.

    Inside the city the garrison is resolute but confused. Why don't the French get on with it and besiege the place? What are they up to? The uncertainty is causing unrest among soldier and citizen alike.

    British Shipping at Barcelona!

    A convoy of civilian vessels flying the red ensign has docked in the roadstead, escorted there by a ship of the line, a frigate and two sloops. Crates of supplies are being unloaded and it is reported that there are English muskets among the cargoes.

    Barcelona itself is housing many thousands of Spanish troops who are resting over the winter. This is a good thing for keeping sickness lists short among the regiments but it encourages the less diligent officers, of which there are a good number, to go gambling at cards and dice, to go out riding or hunting and to play at other sport. Some regiments are falling into lethargy at the lack of low-level officers to keep the men busy.

    Shocking Discovery! French on the Mediterranean Coast?

    An envoy from Lisbon, the Portuguese representative to the Junta Central, Marechal de Campo José Joaquim Champalimaud, was riding north from Valencia towards Tarragona with an escort of fifty lancers. He was in the region on a diplomatic mission to observe the Spanish way of war and how they co-operate with British naval support at their various ports. The Marechal de Campo was a confirmed land-lubber and confessed to feeling seasick even if he was in a carriage that crossed a river by a bridge! To reach Barcelona, therefore, he had ridden by land, a journey of several weeks from Seville.

    At Oropesa his escort was shocked to encounter a body of French light cavalry and even some infantry! A lively skirmish ensued before Champalimaud and his entourage, now with several empty saddles, fled back south in disorder! The Portuguese officer has returned to Valencia and raised the alarm to the Provincial Junta there who are considering sending troops from the garrison to investigate the envoy's claims.

    Madrid! English Troops Arrive! Lord Wellesley in the Capital!

    It is finally confirmed that the well-known English sepoy general, Sir Arthur Wellesley, has reached Madrid with a powerful force of 20,000 red-coated troops, smart and accompanied by dozens of cannon. As the English columns snaked into the happy city from the direction of Talavera, the Irish-English general met briefly with the hero of the Alcazar, el Conde de Belvedere. The Spanish general was making his final plans to lead his army of Extremaduran soldiers out of the city, headed north-west. The two found the opportunity for a leisurely lunch and a brief ride in the gardens of Buen Retiro to discuss military matters before the Conde bowed and took his leave, his escort of smart light cavalry, the first squadron of Húsares del Extremadura jingling and clattering merrily as they trotted away.

    The British have halted in the city to further discuss strategic plans with their allies.

    The Plains of Leon-Castille. Valladolid Again in the Battle Lines? Napoleon Makes an Aggressive Push!

    General Sir John Moore's small force has retired to a position just north-east of the city. Though his command is referred to as a corps, it really only comprises a powerful division, with an attachment of cavalry, the whole being barely 12,000 men. Nevertheless his troops are determined and seem confident to halt any advance "those d----d Frenchies" may make.

    Further north east of Valladolid General Soult's II Corps has been hamstrung by the recall to France of his cavalry division. A replacement division is en-route from Miranda but it may not arrive for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile Soult has bridged the Rio Pisuerga and occupied Duenas.

    General Cuesta's Army of Castila, now a corps forming part of the Army of the Centre, had been pushed forwards to Sahagún which place was occupied in late December. However Cuesta's cavalry encountered very strong French cavalry probes early in January and under increasing pressure from these, the town was vacated. Within the day light cavalry from Marechal Victor's I Corps occupied the place, with columns of infantry and artillery following on behind. Hardly stopping to exact a quick and aggressive military taxation of livestock and goods from the citizens, the French pressed on south towards Valladolid, leaving a garrison behind. Cuesta's small army fell back rapidly in some confusion though his cavalry rearguard which is quite powerful remained a coherent force and fell back in good order, aided by some cazadores light infantry.

    Citizens of Sahagún were surprised and awed to see the cavalcade of the Emperor pass through their humble town, the presence of Napoleon himself and many squadrons of glittering Imperial Guard cavalry making it plain this was a major French advance. News was passed out among the outlying villages quickly and soon was brought to the attention of nearby guerilla bands.

    At the middle of January the French had almost reached Valladolid, Cuesta's small army has dropped back before them, it's right now in contact with Sir John Moore's left. North of Valladolid however there is no good position by which to make a defence, only rolling open farmland bisected by small hamlets and citrus groves. It is perfect cavalry country and the splendid French guard horsemen seem eager to seek battle and win glory!

    Chaos in the Army of Galicia! Blake to Face Court Martial!

    We are shocked and dismayed to learn of this turn of events. It would appear that communications between the Junta Central and General Blake have been failing for some time with a particularly unhappy exchange taking place as Blake abandoned the siege of Burgos some weeks ago. Charges of cowardice have been made against the good general as well as "behaviour and intemperate language unbecoming a gentleman of the rank of Capitan-General". It seems the long retreat from Burgos towards Leon has tried the patience of the Junta Central too far while other armies of Spain such as Andalucia, Extremadura, Castilla and Sir John Moore's British are prepared to face the invader, Blake is not. Of the many Spanish armies his is the only one never to have fought the enemy. It is also the strongest and contains many regular regiments. Blake has been recalled to Seville to explain his actions before a military tribunal!

    In the immediate wake of this untimely news the next senior officer, Teniente-General el Marqués de Portago has assumed command, however it is not known if the Army of Galicia is on the move or remains in its encampments.


    A Spanish army is moving upon the city along the direction of the road from Aranda. It is thought that General Castanos himself commands! In the city all is a-flutter. A French cavalry division passed through from west to north-east early in the month and this had to push aside Spanish cavalry patrols that were threatening the Burgos-Valladolid road. Part of the garrison, Soult's III Division has marched out to secure the supply road of II Corps in the region of Venta del Pozo. Other garrison forces are preparing the city for defence. The small town of Gamonal to the north-east has reportedly been occupied by guerillas. For a second time the garrison commander is asking Napoleon to allocate a division of dragoons to help defend the place and keep open lines of communication with Vitoria.

    King Joseph and his royal guards have entered Burgos. This has not terribly inspired the French defenders!

    The Northern Theatre of Operations!

    Powerful French forces appear to be converging on Castro Urdilaes from several directions. Still General Baird does nothing! What is wrong with the fellow? In Santander strong Spanish armies languish in winter quarters, relaxing and seemingly unaware that their ally might be attacked! Something has gone badly wrong with Allied strategy in the north. These forces form part of the Army of the Left and again General Blake's name is mentioned. Charges of incompetence may be added to the other calls against his honour!

    General Acevedo's Army of the Asturias and General La Romana's forces both occupy Santander. Forty-five miles west at Torrelavega French troops have cut the coast road. Communications with Oviedo are severed! Disaster might soon befall Anglo-Spanish fortunes in this region!


    Latest News! Fall of Pamplona! Spanish Surrender!

    On 15th January Marechal Mortier saw a white flag flying above the Borbon colours of Spain atop the battered citadel. Sending forward a group of officers led by his senior division commander, Général de Division Louis-Gabriel Suchet, the French were met outside the north gate by a party of Spanish gentlemen. The Spanish were escorted by a troop of hussars to Mortier's headquarters and there, during the day agreement was reached. It was not to the Spaniards liking but they were exhausted, their powder had run out and their men were starving. Officers were to retain their swords and mounts and were paroled but were not to take up arms or political posts against France until King Joseph was again proclaimed King of Spain by the Spanish Junta. All the other ranks were to become prisoners of war. Colours were surrendered and sent by fast despatch to Burgos for presentation to Napoleon and all military equipment was destroyed.

    The garrison marched out into captivity.

    Marechal Mortier took possession of the city, its people thin, starving and glum, their faces thinly veiled with hostility.

    V Corps has been decimated by this terrible siege. It now numbers under 10,000 men. Reinforcements are urgently needed if it is to hold a front-line position.

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    6 years 1 month ago #33 by Saddletank

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  • Events of Late January:

    Weather in the Peninsular

    The spring thaw is upon us. Snow melts in high hilltop regions and the rivers are roaring with melt-water. In lower lying regions the rains are easing off and roads beginning to dry out. In a few weeks the main highways will be practical again for all manner of traffic.

    Off the coasts the storms and contrary winds in the Bay of Biscay have abated allowing shipping traffic to dock and leave ports with greater safety. A freak storm off the Valencian and Catalonian coasts has driven shipping either into port or far off the coast for the time being. Seas are choppy and winds fresh in the Gibraltar Strait and off Cadiz and Lagos.

    Lerida invested!

    A French infantry division with an attached cavalry brigade has thrown up entrenchments around Lerida and invested the fortress. Communications with the place are closed. The French have emplaced a battery of cannon in a redoubt covering the bridge across the Rio Segre east of the town. There has been a formal call upon the garrison to surrender which has been equally formally and politely declined.

    Further east towards the small town of Cervera a second French column of infantry and cavalry with some guns has boldly pressed through bandit-infested hills and woods to secure the place but after a stiff running fight to get into the town the French under General Rigaud are now cut off by the large bands of roving guerillas which swarm about the place in the hilly country. The taking of Cervera does however threaten a side road that leads over the mountains via Valls to Tarragona, a track the French had previously been unaware of.

    We have no news of any response from Barcelona and General Llamas to this worrying development. The French in the middle Ebro region under the command of Marechal Moncey seem to get bolder with each passing week.


    The French troops of General St Cyr still rest easily in their damp encampments near the city with cavalry scouts watching every highway and byway for news of approaching Spanish - none are reported. The city's communications remain open to the south and Barcelona but there is no reported response from the Spanish. Are they asleep?

    Further north many guerilla patrols are scouring the regions of northern Cataluna for news of the whereabouts of the Corps of General Junot. This large formation was known to have left Perpignan some time ago but it has vanished! The guerillas can only send reports of no sightings of this force. This is extremely curious since 20,000 men and fifty cannon cannot be spirited away into the ether!

    The Mediterranean Coast. A Spanish Response?

    At Valencia the city is excited at the news of French troops near Oropesa. The Provincial Junta has decided to send part of the city's garrison north up the coast road but they have no field guns to send with their small division, and no cavalry. A message was sent by cutter to Barcelona asking General Llamas to despatch a cavalry brigade south via Tarragona to investigate the area around Oropesa. Meanwhile the local garrison troops, somewhat annoyed at being disturbed in this wet and disagreeable weather, have trudged out northwards with Mariscal de Campo el Conde de Caldagues at their head. Since his infamous disobedience last year in the face of "unreasonable" orders from General Palacio, Caldagues has languished in the command of the Valencia garrison but he has spoken to our correspondent and declared this campaign to be his chance to return his name to its former glorious heights. The general rode out on a magnificent white horse with his favourite mistress accompanying his baggage trayne in a splendid carriage. His grumbling men trudged behind.

    Madrid. Wellesley Departs!

    The English army marched out northwards with bands playing and silken flags a-flutter. Lord Wellesley was guarded about his military orders and refused to state his destination. The night before his departure, he did joke at the ball of the Condesa de Mondragón that he had not the slightest interest in collecting fowl of any kind. His goal was to capture frogs. There was a round of polite laughter at the gentleman's wit.

    Valladolid! English and Spanish Armies Retreat! Great Battle Fought! Many Spanish Prisoners!

    At this great city, capital of the rich and ancient province of Leon-Castile, the Emperor Napoleon descended upon the Allied armies assembled there in a lightning rush from the north. Using a small road that links Saldanha with Sahagun, the French dictator pushed his "Army of Madrid" boldly on and when it was seen how close he had approached, the English under General Sir John Moore at once broke their camp and began to march away to the west along the north bank of the Rio Duero aiming to reach Zamora. To Moore's left hand or west was General Cuesta's Army of Castilla, a formation making up part of the Spanish Army of the Centre.

    Finding he was now facing Napoleon and Marechal Victor alone to his front and with news arriving that Marechal Soult's corps was en-route to the city via Cabezon, Cuesta boldly handed over command of his army to General Theodor von Reding, a Swiss general in Spanish pay, and bowing munificently the broad-bellied Castillian nobleman rode away to take up his new appointment commanding the Army of the Left! Von Reding was left in a state of stunned shock. He had arrived in the city only the day before to take command of Cuesta's troops, he being due to report to Conde de Belvedere, his new superior, only to find himself face to face with the most powerful and dangerous man in Europe, if not the world!

    Von Reding rose to the occasion however and issuing forth a stream of crisp (if complex) orders in German which his Hispanic aides-de-camp struggled to translate, he got his army to withdraw south from an exposed position on a low wooded ridge south of the Rio Arlanzon and brought them back to a new position south of the Duero some miles west of the city, his plan being to cross the swollen river at the bridge and fords of Novi. Napoleon was no man to be tricked or deceived and at once set his troops in motion to stop the Spaniards and if possible, catch Sir John Moore's columns in the flank.

    A disjointed and fluid battle ensued among the small woods, farms and rolling Castillian countryside with each Spanish division almost fighting its own private war in a series of short retreats, brief stands to allow guns, carts and pack-mules to pass before falling back again. The French of Marechal Victor's corps pressed on with elan and much artillery was brought to bear on the withdrawing Spanish columns to good effect. The cavalry of General Beaumont was handled boldly and clashed in a series of fights with the cavalry of Mariscal de Campo Fausto de Elhúyar, many saddles being emptied on both sides. Among all this the English coolly marched away, several large cages containing valuable aviary specimens being escorted by the Kings German Legion on special converted gun carriages, the unnecessary and heavy cannon barrels having been dumped in the Duero, surplus to requirements. The KGL light dragoons of von Arentschildt's brigade, forming the British rearguard, clashed with some infantry of Ruffin's division at Gonzaga west of the city before scampering away and leaving von Reding's men to their fate! The brave lion of Albion never roared with such a whimper than this day, a shameful episode in the annals of British military failures.

    At the city itself one man stood proud and strong, General Bruno Mutis was the commander of the garrison. His weak division of old men and boys numbered only six battalions, barely 3,000 men, yet this small command stood firm against the pounding of the guard artillery and finally fell back as evening approached, harassed by the horse grenadiers of the guard, finest cavalry in Europe. Time and time again (so Mutis relates in a flowery letter he penned to his sister in Madrid) his brave men formed square from their march columns to stand off the heavily-moustached mounted grenadiers until his withdrawal reached Villimpenta on the Arevalo road. Mutis was weeping at the loss of his beautiful supply depot, those fine silken sacks of purest white flour, soft as a maidens thighs, those teeming barrels of grain, those vats of Rioja. Such a tragedy. Such a waste to be consumed by the godless French! At the bridge across the Rio Adajo, Mutis held his sword high and waved it defiantly at the fallen city.

    "I shall return!" he shouted, before leading his bitter and bloodied men on their long retreat.

    Von Reding's tired and harassed troops finally got across the Duero and fled south over the farmland and through the olive groves towards Arevalo although much baggage and several cannons were abandoned and at the Novi bridge many prisoners fell into French hands. South of the river von Reding and de Elhúyar had deployed a fresh brigade of mounted cacadores and these fell back with surprising fortitude to cover the retreat. Even a brisk attack by troopers of the famed chevau-leger Polonais could not dissuade the cacadores from their important duty.

    Night fell. The French gathered up a rich harvest of Spanish stragglers, wounded and men hiding in barns and orchards and with the Imperial Guard capturing the city itself and the vast Spanish supply depot there, His Majesty the Emperor declared the fully stocked warehouses to the "prix de la guerre" of Victor's valiant men. With joyous cries of "Vive la France! Vive l'Empereur!" the French soldiers fell upon the warehouses to enjoy an orgy of feasting and looting of biblical proportions, men carrying away whole salted pigs, large Extremaduran hams impaled on their bayonets, loaves under their hats and drunken local women laughing and draped about their shoulders. Within two days the 20,000 locusts of Victor's corps had picked the place clean.

    Von Reding could not halt his broken army easily. It is not certain where it has fetched up. Some say it has run all the way to Madrid, others that it halted behind the Adajo at Arevalo, a third story goes of it halting at Villacastin in the hills on the south rim of the Castillian plain. None of these rumours can be confirmed.

    The British have stoically gone back to Zamora, their precious exotic fowl safe among Sir John's baggage along with a number of other crates marked; "Valladolid Commissary Department, Officers Silverware Only."


    A Spanish force maintains a strong watch around the city from the south and every citrus grove, pine forest and crag is festooned with guerilleros, grinning and counting their strings of dried French couriers ears. Matching pairs are much in demand and can be exchanged for a flagon of wine, a French winter greatcoat or a box of musket flints!

    General Castanos is now known to be the general commanding the army watching Burgos.

    Late in the month a division of French light cavalry had to literally hack its way through a guerilla force at Gamonal to reach the city. King Joseph is not amused.

    "My good brother calls this my temporary capital! This is nothing but a prison, and a stinky one at that. I deserve... no I DEMAND to return to Madrid! My people need me!"

    The Northern Theatre of Operations!

    The English of General Baird, lacking any help from General Acevedo or General La Romana who remained comfortably in winter quarters in the city, has been forced to conduct a dangerous and bitter rearguard action from Castro Urdiales back to Santander. Fighting in unforgiving weather across tumbling streams and snowy pine forests in some of the worst terrain in Spain, Baird's men, many of them skilled light infantry soldiers, fell back doggedly and expertly, shooting down the French who tried to get across this hostile landscape using columns and other dense formations and using overly aggressive 'rush' tactics which merely disorganised and exhausted them. They suffered heavy losses before being forced to move at a slower pace and employ clouds of skirmishers against the British light infantry. The French cavalry of Marechal Ney attempted to ride a column along the coast road, but finding no good ground to deploy on and being shot at from the wooded slopes to either flank were forced to go back with reportedly 200 empty saddles.

    After several days of exhausting combat Baird's small force reached the city and withdrew inside the new defences his engineers, the Spanish garrison and several hundred Royal Navy sailors had built around the place since October. Ney's troops closed up to the defences and his cavalry and voltigeur officers swarmed up the nearby hills to spy out the defences of the port. A vast fleet of English transports fills the harbour but the critical neck of land that commands the roadstead called Somo has been sealed off by an earthwork garrisoned by Royal Marines and naval guns landed ashore.

    The defenders and attackers alike are taking stock of the situation.

    To the west of the city the coastal road to Oviedo has been cut by a French force led by Général de Division Dessolles. This appears to be a strong division in size with attached cavalry brigades although cavalry is of little use in this terrain.

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    6 years 1 month ago #34 by Saddletank

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  • The latest news, rumours and reports, early February 1809:

    Weather in the Peninsular

    The late winter thaw continues with snow receding on the lower slopes and rainfall lessening. The dirt roads have dried sufficiently to allow more rapid military movement. Rivers are roaring with melt-water. Off the coasts the eastern Bay of Biscay remains stormy with contrary winds but further west the winds are steady and westerly. The Atlantic coast has seen an unseasonal calm. Winds off Gibraltar and the Balearic Isles are stiff and sailing weather is good.

    Lerida and Cervera

    The Siege of Lerida

    The French continue to invest the fortress-town with communications to the outside world cut. The Spanish flag still flies over the citadel however. Further east a battle has been fought around Cervera which saw the small force of General Rigaud thrown out of the town with heavy loss. Several French guns were captured and many prisoners taken including one General de Brigade. Losses to the Spanish infantry were moderate but they lost heavily in cavalry with the division of Mariscal de Campo Martin de la Carrera being badly mauled by Rigaud's chasseurs a cheval.

    The battered remains of Rigaud's force has retreated through hostile, guerilla-infested country and reached the French lines east of Lerida.

    It has been learned that the Spanish army that arrived at Lerida had come from Barcelona and was commanded by none other than Capitan General Llamas, commander of all Spanish forces in Cataluna and Valencia. It is not known if Llamas intends to follow up his victory or return to the east coast and maintain his watch over General St Cyr's VII Corps near Gerona.


    The French troops of General St Cyr still rest easily in their damp encampments near the city with cavalry scouts watching every highway and byway for news of approaching Spanish - none are reported. The city's communications remain open to the south and Barcelona.


    On the Mediterranean coast the small French detachment commanded by the daring General Morlot that had cut the coastal highway has been withdrawn north-westwards along a little used hill track. The force was attacked as it began it's withdrawal by a weak division of reservists and garrison troops under the Marques de Caldagues but the Spanish received a bloody nose and halted their pursuit once it was apparent the French were abandoning their blocking position on the main road. The French have gone over the coastal hills in the direction of Alcaniz. Caldagues has penned a glowing self-serving report to Valencia announcing a great victory and the full flight of the French in panic back towards the Pyrenees!

    Madrid, Valladolid, Burgos and the Central Theatre!

    Tension is high in this region where the greatest stakes are at risk. After his victory at Valladolid in January, Napoleon sent some troops west to pursue the retreating English of Sir John Moore. Marechal Victor's cavalry scouts have reached Zamora. Sir John's army is reported by locals to have turned south across the Duero on the Salamanca road.

    From Valladolid Napoleon led a powerful force including his guards south and contacted an Allied Anglo-Spanish combined army at the crossing of the Rio Adajo at Arevalo. Some light cavalry parrying and thrusting followed over the course of a half-day with a few prisoners and wounded on each side. Napoleon learned that the force facing him was the Conde de Belvedere's Army of Extremadura which caused him no concern, but the British on the Spanish left or southern flank was the army of none other than Sir Arthur Wellesley who had been instrumental in defeating Junot in Portugal last summer. The British reportedly have 20,000 and Belvedere 15,000. The French conducted a skilful retreat and by mid-February had gone back to Valladolid where a powerful garrison of two divisions under General Mouton is said to be preparing the city for defence.

    South of Burgos Spanish forces under the Capitan General Castanos have retired south after it became clear their position threatening the fortress had been turned on the western flank by French cavalry arriving via a secondary road from Valladolid via Cuellar. The position at Aranda became untenable and Castanos has withdrawn the main body of his corps to Somosierra where the high pass offers a dominating position over a single narrow mountain track. Such a place is thought impossible to take by any number of attackers, even if they be the glorious French guard cavalry themselves!

    However the fates have now placed these very gentlemen in the vicinity of Aranda, they having led the march of the French column from Cuellar. While it is thought Napoleon had gone back to Valladolid from Arevalo it is now rumoured that he has conducted a speedy march through the last of the bad winter weather and is hastening towards Aranda behind his guard cavalry.

    In Madrid the winter party season continues unabated. The nobility, clergy and other persons of social status continue to relax, secure in the knowledge that the hated enemy cannot possibly get past their English allies to the north-west and their own famed Marqués de Aranjuez at Somosierra. The city also possesses a powerful garrison in the shape of a strong division of the Conde de Belvedere's army, with other forces blocking the mountain roads to the north-east.

    At Burgos Spanish irregular troops have sent word that fresh French forces are arriving on the road from Vitoria. A cavalry division and an infantry division have been observed reaching the fortress.

    King Joseph is now known to be in Burgos with his Royal Spanish Guards. Now that drier weather has arrived, he has announced his intention to travel south at once and meet his brother.

    Northern Leon-Castilla

    A division of French dragoons has arrived in the region of Carrion, Saldanha and Sahagun, spreading out across the rolling plains and watching all roads that bear upon Burgos or Valadolid from the west. At the Rio Valderaduey near Villazanzo the dragoon patrols are in contact with some Spanish cavalrymen who are said to be part of the Army of Galicia, now under the command of General Cuesta.

    In the mountains to the north guerilleros watch the road through Reynosa and its small French garrison. Nothing moves in the highlands that is not at once reported to the Army of Asturias headquarters.

    Spanish irregular scouts.

    Santander! A Great Battle! Who Won?

    Map of Santander

    A battle of the utmost significance has been decided at this great northern port-city. The British under Sir David Baird had held the port for months, fortifying it since October. With support from a Spanish garrison and then the Army of the Asturias and Division del Norte led by Acevedo and la Romana respectively, the Allies were determined to defend their fortifications to the last. A letter of fateful consequence then arrived from London, via Lisbon, ordering Sir David to not allow his army to be besieged but to remove it on Royal Navy ships at once.

    A week of hasty embarkations then followed, right under the noses of the French led by Marechals Ney and Verdier who were investing the city. The whole affair was a dangerous and fatal game of bluff and counter-bluff with both sides conducting deceptions and ruses to confuse their enemy. Ney sent a force of artillery to the base of the Somo peninsular to bombard the redoubts built on its seaward end by Royal Marines but with supporting fire from three warships, the redoubts held out long enough to protect the roadstead and allow the vulnerable transport ships to embark their cargo of men, horses and equipment and stand out to sea in the outer anchorage.

    Ney then fell ill and took leave of absence, retiring to Bilbao and leaving Marechal Verdier to conduct operations. Verdier chose to storm the city's new earthwork defences and on 10th February ordered an attack by both his own IV Corps and Ney's VI Corps. Unknown to the French the Allies had held a heated council of war a few days prior. Baird's position was untenable - he had clear orders to withdraw and by the 9th all of his army except Coote Manningham's division of two brigades (Hay's and Craufurd's) was embarked and out to sea. Without the majority of their allies the Spanish knew they could not withstand an attack by two full French corps and agreed to attempt to leave the city westwards along the coast road which was clear of enemy. General Acevedo's army would spearhead the withdrawal with the vast and valuable wagon train of Spanish equipment and some British artillery behind it. La Romana and Manningham's divisions would form the rearguard. The last few Spanish and British supplies were still loading at the quayside and the garrison under Mariscal de Campo Jose Montebrano was ordered to stay in the south-eastern quarter of the city to ensure these supplies were got safely away.

    The Storming of Santander, Marechal Verdier in the Foreground.

    To the west of the city the Allies were unaware that a single French division of VI Corps under Général de Division Dessolles blocked the coast road, Desolles having come east from Reynosa and Torrelavega the previous month. When Acevedo's troops irrupted out of the city they collided with Desolles in the deep ravines and heavy pine woods near the coast road and a bloody clash followed with heavy Spanish losses but with Desolles being forced to give ground away from the coast, the Spanish being assisted by the 12-pound guns of two British warships, HMS Boreas and HMS Porcupine (both 22s). With the French pressed back the Anglo-Spanish baggage train was got through without loss and the critical cavalry and artillery escaped. To the south-east la Romana and Manningham were falling back through the city and then west to cover the withdrawal, facing powerful attacks by superior numbers of French. In the streets, houses and farmyards the men of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 95th Regiment (the Rifle Regiment) distinguished themselves, emptying several French officers out of their saddles.

    Soldiers of the English 95th Regiment.

    In the heart of the city the brave but foolhardy Montebrano held to his task for longer than he needed. The last British supply ship weighed and made for the channel and the only remaining stores were burned on the dockside but the Spanish garrison was overwhelmed in the streets by French cavalry and slaughtered. What remained of his six battalions all surrendered.

    Defeat of General Montebrano.

    The French attempted a pursuit west but the poor terrain and unsuitability of the ground for any cavalry operations obliged them to curtail the chase. Anglo-Spanish losses had been heavy and the French secured the vital city but it cannot be said the Allies were defeated.

    Baird, Acevedo and Romana reached Torrelavega by mid-month.

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    6 years 1 month ago #35 by Saddletank

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  • From the late February turn onwards the Kreigspiel Group is going to resolve the battles the campaign generates using Scourge of War - Waterloo using and the new KS Mod. I'll therefore continue reporting the campaign's progress in the mods section of the Waterloo area of the forum.

    We have some map commands available if anyone is interested in joining us - commands are usually a corps on the French side or an army on the Allied side (Allied armies tend to be a corps in fact). People are also extremely welcome to join us for the MP battles as well.

    If you are interested please drop me a note by private message here or a private message on the KS forum (link below).


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