of Almeida, 28th May 1812 Battle
Part of the fortress of Almeida - stocked for a siege?
The Earl of Wellington, with the Third and Seventh Divns of the Anglo-Portuguese army, arrived at the approach to the fortress of Almeida at around 10am on 28th May, on an overcast morning. He also had an improvised brigade of cavalry, assembled from the remains of the two regiments of KGL heavy dragoons (now commanded by Col. de Jonquieres) and of Otway’s Portuguese cavalry brigade. Karl von Alten, with the Allied Light Divn and his brother’s brigade of light cavalry, was on the march to join him from the South West, and was expected any time after midday.
He was confronted by Clauzel’s Divn of the Armee de Portugal, with a small force of attached dragoons and a useful proportion of the army’s reserve artillery. Clauzel also was expecting reinforcements, since Maucune, with his division and a mixed force of cavalry under Treillard, was marching from Ciudad Rodrigo, and was also expected sometime after noon.
Clauzel had been detailed to mask the fortress of Almeida, in preparation for the arrival of Marshal Jourdan with a full besieging army, and he was now driven in near to the walls, which could bring two half-batteries of Portuguese Artillery to bear on his force if they came too close. Clauzel was careful to deploy out of range of the bastions where these garrison guns were placed.
[The reinforcements of Maucune and Von Alten started off-table – after Turn 5, a dice roll of 6 (for each army) would announce the arrival of the extra troops – Von Alten on Wellington’s right, Maucune behind Clausel’s right-centre. Units could be called on to the table as Command Cards allowed, and Leaders would arrive attached to units. The Allies had first move throughout, 5 cards each, and 9 Victory Banners to decide things.]
The area surrounding the fortress is fairly barren, and has been systematically cleared of timber over the years. There were some small ridges approximately a mile from the walls, and a cluster of buildings at the deserted seminary of Las Natillas, which was the scene of bitter fighting during the early part of the day.
Aware of the need to press on, Wellington attacked Clauzel’s left and front with Picton’s Third Divn, who became badly bogged down in attempting to dislodge the formidable 3/25e Leger from the seminary. The French troops maintained a remarkable rate and accuracy of fire, and Picton’s men suffered badly for a while.
On the left,
sent Cotton with some of the cavalry and the Seventh Divn, to advance close in
to the walls of the fortress, under cover of the guns, in an attempt to turn
The action was intense throughout this period – both sides suffering heavy losses, and with no obvious superiority emerging. The French refused to commit their usual mistake of being drawn from their defensive position, and for a while they had a 2-0 lead in Victory Banners, but thereafter there was never a difference greater than 1 between the sides, until the very end.
The Light Divn duly arrived at 12:30, and promptly cleared the defenders out of the seminary, and the attack on the main French position proceeded in rather confused fashion, troops being thrown in as they arrived – Wellington suffered somewhat from getting most of his horse artillery (with which he was well supplied, and which should have been invaluable in the assault) stuck behind the infantry.
On the Allied left, Cotton’s outflanking move went fairly well and his cavalry had some early success, which was subsequently wasted as the squadrons (inevitably) pushed too far and were lost. Clauzel spent an anxious couple of hours waiting for Maucune’s troops to arrive, and they eventually showed up around 2pm [taking excellent advantage of a Forced March card to get all the infantry on to the field very quickly], pushing back Cotton’s men.
Still the result was very much in the balance, and the Victory Banners score reached 7-7. Around this time (about 4pm), Treillard’s cavalry, who had arrived with Maucune, caused some panic among the Seventh Divn, but were bravely resisted by the 1st Light Bn of the KGL, who formed square and held their ground, despite heavy musketry which the French brought to bear on them. The Earl of Dalhousie, arrived in the
Peninsula within the last few weeks to take command of
the Seventh Divn, was mortally wounded in this square. [8-all at this point...]
By this stage, Treillard’s men had become rather casual about the guns on the walls of Almeida, which had failed to hit anything all day, and approached too closely as they came in to finish off the KGL square. The Allies played a Bombard card, which gives bonus dice to any artillery in action, and the Almeida gunners finally produced a show-closing couple of volleys, which wrecked the 4e Dragons and wounded Treillard himself before the cavalry could contact the square. One Victory Banner each for the loss of the cavalry unit and the Leader – the Allies had won by 10-8! An unexpected way to end, but the French had had enough – since the victory was marginal, they retired in good order towards Ciudad Rodrigo, using their fresh cavalry (in particular the Lanciers de la Vistule and the 14e Chasseurs a Cheval) to cover the retreat. There would be no siege at Almeida for the time being.
Though he did not know it at the time, this was to be
Wellington’s last victory in the Peninsula,
since he had [wait for it...] been
given the boot by the British parliament.
French Force – Gen de Divn Bertrand, Baron Clauzel
Clauzel’s (2nd) Divn, Armee de Portugal
Bde Berlier – 25e Leger & 27e Ligne (4 bns)
Bde Pinoteau – 50e & 59e Ligne (5)
15/3e Art a Pied (Capt. Pajot)
10/3e & 19/3e Art a Pied (From reserve - Capts. Dyvincourt & Gariel)
Attached cavalry (Col. Picquet) – 6e & 11e Dragons (4 Sqns)
5th Divn, Armee de Portugal (Gen de Divn Antoine-Louis Popon, Baron Maucune)
Bde Arnauld – 15e & 66e Ligne (4 Bns)
Bde Montfort – 82e & 86e Ligne (4)
11/8e Art a Pied (Capt. Genta)
Brigade Treillard – 4e Dragons, 14e Chasseurs, 7e Chev-Lanc (Vistule), Dragoni Napoleone (12 Sqns)
Total force engaged approx 15000 men with 32 guns. Loss approx 3765 men – Gen Treillard slightly wounded, Col Picquet unhorsed but only shaken.
Allied Force – Lt.Gen Sir Arthur, Earl Wellington
Third Divn (Maj.Gen Sir Thomas Picton)
Palmeirim’s Bde – 9th & 21st Ptgse + 11th Cacadores (5 Bns total)
10/9th Bn Royal Artillery (Maj. Douglas)
Seventh Divn (Maj.Gen Earl of Dalhousie)
Von Bernewitz’ Bde – combined Lt Bn (51st & 68th Ft) + Chasseurs Britanniques
Troop E, RHA (Capt. MacDonald)
Attached cavalry (Lt.Gen Sir Stapleton Cotton) – provisional units of KGL & Ptgse dragoons
Troop A, RHA (Maj. Bull)
Arrived approx 12:30pm:
Light Divn (Maj.Gen Karl, Baron Von Alten)
Vandeleur’s Bde – 1/52nd & 2/95th + 3rd Cacadores
Troop I, RHA (Maj. Ross)
attached: Thomar Militia Bn
Viktor Von Alten’s Bde – 1st Hussars KGL, Brunswick-Oels Hussars
Total force engaged, approx 17200 men with 20 guns, plus two half-batteries of the 4th Portuguese Artillery Regt, who provided supporting fire from the walls of Almeida. Total loss approx 3300 men; Maj.Gen The Earl of Dalhousie received a mortal wound from a musket ball and died during the night.
French – 1/25L, 2/25L (-2 blocks each), 3/25L (-4), 2/27, Berlier’s Tirailleur Bn, 1/50 (-1 each), 6e Dragons (-1), 11e Dragons (-2), 5/82 (-1), 2/86 (-2), 4e Dragons (-2)
Anglo-Portuguese – 1/45th, 5/60th, 2/5th (-1 each), 94th (-2), 1st Lt Bn KGL (-1), 51st (-2), 68th, 1st KGL Dgns, 2nd KGL Dgns, 1st Ptgse Cav, 11th Ptgse Cav (-1 each), 1st Cacadores (-2), 1/52nd (-1), 2/95th (-2).
The Pictures (as ever, my thanks to my son Nick for his photography)
The Pictures (as ever, my thanks to my son Nick for his photography)
The Earl's final appearance
Clauzel deploys his troops well away from the fortress guns
The 3rd battalion of the 25e Leger - determined defence
The joy of Command Cards - Cotton (in the silly red uniform)
finds that his provisional Portuguese cavalry are short of something,
and have to go back - not sure what it was, but it was all very embarrassing...
Clauzel showing some impatience when the dice which is supposed to cue the
arrival of his reinforcements refuses to produce a 6
Portuguese artillery and militia on the San Pedro bastion
Maucune - brave but not beautiful
MacDonald's Troop, RHA - one of the few artillery units
which performed well
French reinforcements stream onto the field in the background
The square of the 1st Lt Bn KGL - in reality, of course, Dalhousie
should have been inside the thing, but it didn't help him anyway