Von Neuenstein's Frankfort and Baden units calmly await the storm
General de Brigade Von Neuenstein was sent to deal with an irregular Spanish force under the command of Don Alfonso Maceta – “El Achaparrado” – which was attacking supply trains and couriers in the mountains to the north of Madrid. Von Neuenstein’s own brigade consisted of 5 battalions of troops from the Confederation of the Rhine – professional, experienced soldiers, but a long way from home and increasingly convinced that this was not their war. They were augmented by a very smart new battery of (French) horse artillery from the Madrid garrison. Von Neuenstein marched his men up into the mountains, somewhat concerned about their lack of spirit, and hoping that the inexperienced artillery would perform well if called upon to fight. The French force numbered about 4300 infantry, with the 6 guns of the horse battery.
Maceta’s men had also been on the road for a while, having marched from the Avila area. They were a mixed force, militia and volunteer units and groups of irregular partisan infantry from Avila. The total was 4700, approximately, and Maceta was not impressed when the artillery support promised by the Junta de Castilla turned out to be a half-battery of extraordinarily old and fragile-looking cannon, apparently borrowed from a museum. Better than no artillery at all, but there was no means of moving them once they had been brought into action.
The forces met in the late morning of Thursday 27th February, in a deep and rugged valley near the monastery and village of San Rafael. The unusual terrain generated some special scenario rules – a number of impassable hills were defined, but also some “severe” hills, denoted by double-height blocks and mostly topped with trees – these hills could be entered only by guerrilla infantry and the voltigeur battalion of the French brigade.
[Spanish move first, normal CCN rules, 5 Command cards in each hand, 4 Victory flags needed for a win.]
Very early, the French played a Grande Manoeuvre card and moved 4 units forward quickly, the intention being to gain a toehold in the hills and woods adjacent to the Spanish position. This did not go particularly well, since the Spanish responded with a Bayonet Charge card, which enabled them also to rush 4 infantry units forward, and also to fight with a bonus dice. Von Neuenstein’s troops on the left were caught in the open and suffered badly – the 1st Bn of the Nassauers and the combined voltigeur unit were both broken and routed, and the 2nd Bn of the Nassau unit only avoided a complete collapse of the left by taking possession of the monastery and its outbuildings.
The Spanish militia units, Maceta at their head, now showed commendable élan in the centre, committing to a bold frontal assault on the French force. This had a measure of success at first, and the Frankfurt regiment suffered considerable casualties and recoiled. Neuenstein brought up the two battalions of the 4th Baden regiment and the horse battery, and the Spanish militia and their supporting irregular bands were pushed back and broken. At the same time, a rather half-hearted attack on the monastery was stopped by the Nassauers’ disciplined fire, and the Spanish force retired, the triple-retreat rule for militia units pushing them back quickly, though their previously unengaged cavalry served to cover the retreat well. The antique guns, sadly, were abandoned.
The melee combat at the end of the action was of a very confused nature, the broken terrain and the many twisting paths appear to have caused many men to be separated from their units. The victory for the French was marginal, there was no pursuit by the victors, and many of the missing and wounded on both sides returned to the ranks during the night. On a Victory Flag count, the French won 4-3, and losses were surprisingly light considering the severity of the fighting and the very aggressive tactics of the Spanish commander. The game took about 50 minutes, representing a little over 3 hours fighting. Von Neuenstein conducted himself with great valour and calmness, fighting in the ranks with the Frankfurt unit, striving heroically to rally them when they finally broke, and then taking command of his own Badeners to win the day.
French (from l’Armée du Centre)
Genl de Bde Von Neuenstein with his own brigade of D’Armagnac’s Divn
2nd Nassau (2 Bns), Regt de Francfort (1) & 4th Baden (2)
Masset’s battery of horse artillery (attached)
Total 4300 men with 6 x 6pdr guns
Don Alfonso Maceta with a mixed force of militia units, volunteers and irregular partidas, with a half battery of irregular artillery provided by the Junta de Castilla
Total 4700 men, including 350 irregular cavalry, with 3 guns
The French lost 1050 men killed and wounded, from the Nassau and Frankfort units, and from the brigade’s voltigeur battalion, which last was pretty much destroyed.
The Spanish, by the time runaways and detached stragglers had rejoined, were reported to have lost only around 800 men, though Neuenstein claimed that the Spanish losses were at least 2000 men. The Confederation troops took a number of standards – mostly informal flags abandoned by the irregulars, and captured 3 very dilapidated 4pdr guns.
General view at the outset, French on the right hand side
The artillery unit provided by the Junta was not what had been hoped for...
1st Bn of the Nassauers caught in the open by the quick Spanish attack
The 2nd Bn, more sensibly deployed next to the monks' vegetable plot
Capt Masset's horse artillery unit
The Spanish attack runs out of momentum while the Frankfurters run out of men...
General view of the Spanish attack