A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 31 August 2012

Solo Campaign - Battle of Carpio de Azaba

Troops from D'Arnauld's brigade in Carpio Village

The Battle of Carpio de Azaba, 18th June 1812

With a letter from the Minister for War in his saddlebags, urging him to press on, the new Allied C-in-C, The Earl of Aigburth (better known as General Banestre Tarleton), advanced very rapidly from Almeida, over the border into Spain, along the road towards Ciudad Rodrigo. His intention was to attempt to surprise Clauzel, with the portion of the Armée de Portugal which had been ordered to protect Ciudad Rodrigo, defeat him, and move on to attack the fortress before the French had time to make good the defences damaged during their own successful siege a month earlier.

Aigburth’s force comprised the Anglo-Portuguese Third, Seventh and Light Divisions of infantry, the cavalry brigades of Long, Viktor Von Alten and De Jonquieres, a single battery of foot artillery and no less than three troops of horse artillery, a force of 16,600 men with 22 guns. Some regiments in the Seventh Divn were severely reduced in numbers by their efforts in the campaign to date. The few remaining fit men of the Brunswick-Oels Jaeger battalion, the 51st Foot, the 68th Foot and the 2nd Light Bn of the KGL were attached to other regiments. The army made good time on the march, the spirit of the troops was excellent, considering what they had been through in past months. On the night of Monday 15th June the column bivouacked near to the old battlefield of Fuentes de Onoro, which was seen as a positive omen by the men. Always wakeful and urging more speed, the Earl impressed his staff by his energy and the clarity of his orders.

As had been the case just three weeks earlier, his army was opposed by Clauzel, with his own and Maucune’s Divisions of the Armée de Portugal, plus the cavalry brigades of Col. Picquet and Treillard and 4 foot batteries – a total 13,550 men with 32 guns. Having recently retreated from Almeida after being defeated there by Wellington (with a very similar OOB for both sides), Clauzel had assembled his force with considerable haste from its wide-spread billets. At 9:30 in the morning of 18th June, with his infantry still shivering from fording the Rivera de Azaba during the night, Aigburth advanced to attack the French position – Clauzel had placed his line with its centre in the village of Carpio de Azaba.

[This game was played using CCN rules but, because the forces were rather too large for the Command Card system, an additional rule was added whereby the “Probe” Section cards could be played, instead, as a single move of all units and leaders in the named section – this movement could not result in contact, and the moved units could not carry out any combat. This option was exercised twice during the action. Being the attackers, the Allies had first move throughout, 6 cards each, and 10 Victory Banners for outright victory.]

The field is part of a plateau adjacent to the Spanish border. There are a number of small hillocks and some wooded areas, but the field is generally open. The village of Carpio was roughly triangular in 1812, with a population of approximately 250.

Aigburth positioned Picton’s Third Divn on his right, with the Light Divn, supported by all the horse artillery and with the Seventh Divn in reserve behind them, on the left and opposite the village. Clauzel had Berlier (with Clauzel’s Divn) on his left, and Maucune’s Divn in the village and extending to his right. Both generals placed most of their cavalry on the flanks – aware that the open ground would make cavalry a threat.

The Allied attack began on the left – riflemen and horse artillery to the fore, in a style which must have been very different from Tarleton’s experience in America 30 years before. The Rifles came into their own, using their extra range to harass the French gunners and cause loss to the French infantry. This stage of the attack was mainly an exchange of artillery fire, while some rifle units on the Allied left flank cleared a wooded area of French infantry, but progress was halted abruptly when the French, led in person by Baron Maucune, rallied strongly and pushed the Allies back again. This counter-attack was so vigorous, and for a while so successful, that at one stage it was difficult to see which army was the attacker, but – once again – the unsung heroes of Eustace’s Chasseurs Britanniques held things together, established themselves in one of the disputed woods and allowed time for the reserves to come up. There was some frenzied cavalry action on this flank at this point – the Duke of Brunswick-Oels’ Hussars performing in outstanding fashion, defeating both the 14e Chasseurs a Cheval and the Lanciers de la Vistule, who were routed very quickly – admittedly General Cotton was present in person, [and he brought a fine Cavalry Charge card with him].

Once again, the cavalry conflicts did little but wipe out most of the cavalry [mental note: I really must try to have a solo wargame some time which does not involve so much pointless slaughter in the cavalry]. However, the combined Portuguese cavalry unit did well to force one of the battalions of the 82e Ligne into square, a situation from which they were chased by the combined fire of Ross’ Troop of the RHA and a battalion of the 95th Rifles.

At this point, as a result of artillery fire on the advancing British, and of the cavalry actions on the flanks, the French held a 7:2 lead in Victory Banners, a situation which did not really reflect the balance of advantage. The French were defending stoutly, and Clauzel was generally successful in pulling tired units out of the firing line and bringing in fresh ones, but – despite his apparent advantage in Victory Banners – he now had many units which were reduced to a single base/block, and were no longer able to contribute to the battle. If the Allies could avoid suffering the critical 10th Banner, they had enough troops to win the day.

In the end, the result was (in boxing terms) a points win. The Allies never did roll over the French line, nor break into Carpio village – as the attack developed, the Victory Banners score came to 8-all, then 9:8 to the Allies as a battery was put out of action, then 9-all as the French replied in kind, and silenced MacDonald’s RHA troop. Then the last of Montfort’s battalions on the right were broken by the Allied fire, and it was 10:9 to Aigburth. Rather closer than he would have hoped for, but a clear enough win in the end.

Clauzel withdrew in good order, the 3 battalions of the 15e Ligne determinedly holding the village to cover the retreat, but his lack of cavalry meant that most of the wounded had to be left on the field, and there was an element of panic among the troops as they fell back – leaving the fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo exposed and heading to join with Jourdan’s forces at Salamanca.

General de Brigade Berlier, commanding Clauzel’s Divn on the day, was seriously wounded late in the day, and  General de Division Maucune was struck by a canister ball while at the head of the 86e Ligne, and he died within minutes.

The Earl of Aigburth was clearly elated at the end of the action, but was shaking with fatigue. The Portuguese cavalry, the KGL heavy dragoons and the heroic Brunswick Hussars were dispatched to keep the retiring French moving, and to assess the situation at Ciudad Rodrigo.

French Force – Gen de Divn Bertrand, Baron Clauzel

2nd Divn, Armée de Portugal (Gen de Bde Berlier, acting)
Bde Berlier (Col. De Conchy) – 25e Leger & 27e Ligne [3 bns]
Bde Pinoteau – 50e & 59e Ligne [4]
15/3e Art a Pied (Capt. Pajot)

5th Divn, Armée de Portugal (Gen de Divn Antoine-Louis Popon, Baron Maucune)
Bde Arnauld – 15e & 66e Ligne [4 Bns]
Bde Montfort – 82e & 86e Ligne [3]
11/8e Art a Pied (Capt. Genta)

Bde Col. Picquet – 6e Dragons & 1er Dragons Provisoirs (4e & 11e) [6 Sqns]
Bde Treillard – 14e Chasseurs, 7e Chev-Lanc (Vistule), Dragoni Napoleone [9 Sqns]

Reserve Artillery
10/3e & 19/3e Art a Pied (Capts. Dyvincourt & Gariel)

Total force engaged approx 13550 men with 32 guns. Loss approx 3200 infantry, 875 cavalry and 10 guns. Gen. Berlier was severely wounded, though he is expected to recover. General Maucune was killed leading his Division.

Allied Force – General the Earl of Aigburth

Third Divn (Maj.Gen Sir Thomas Picton)
Col. Wallace’s Bde – 1/45th, 74th & 1/88th Ft + 3 coys 5/60th
Col. J Campbell’s Bde – 2/5th, 2/83rd & 94th Ft
Palmeirim’s Bde – 9th & 21st Ptgse + 11th Cacadores [5 Bns total]
10/9th Bn Royal Artillery (Maj. Douglas)

Seventh Divn (Maj.Gen JHK Von Bernewitz, acting)
Col. Halkett’s Bde – combined Lt Bn (1st & 2nd Lt Bns KGL & 68th Ft)
Von Bernewitz’ Bde (Col. Eustace) – Chasseurs Britanniques & Tomar Militia Bn (attached)
Troop E, RHA (Capt. MacDonald)

Light Divn (Maj.Gen Karl, Baron Von Alten)
Col. Beckwith’s Bde – 1/43rd, 1/95th & 3/95th + 3rd Cacadores
Vandeleur’s Bde – 1/52nd & 2/95th + 1st Cacadores
Troop I, RHA (Maj. Ross)

Cavalry (Lt.Gen Sir Stapleton Cotton)
                Long’s Bde – 3rd Dgns, 5th Dgn Gds [6 Sqns]
                Viktor Von Alten’s Bde – 1st Hussars KGL, Brunswick-Oels Hussars [6]
                Provisional Bde (Col. De Jonquières) – 1st Dgns KGL, Prov Ptgse Cav (dets 1st & 11th) [6]
Troop A, RHA (Maj. Bull)

Total force engaged, approx 16600 men with 22 guns. Total loss approx 1100 infantry, 725 cavalry and 4 guns disabled.

Detail losses:

French – 1/27 (-3 blocks), 2/27 (-1), 2/50, 3/50, 4/66 (-2 each), 15/3 Art a Pied (-1), Arnauld’s tirailleur bn, 5/82 (-2 each), 1/86, 2/86 (-1 each), 6e Dragons (-2), 11e Dragons (-1), 10/3 Art a Pied (-3), 4e Dragons, 14e Ch-a-Ch (-1 each), Lanciers de la Vistule (-2)

Anglo-Portuguese – Wallace’s combined lt.coys (-2), 5/60th (-1), Troop ‘E’ RHA (-2), 1/95th (-1), 1st Cac (-2), 1/52nd, 2/95th (-1 each), 3rd Dgns (-3), 5th Dgn Gds (-1), KGL Hussars (-1)

General view at the start, from the South-East (behind the French left)

Clauzel's position, from his left - Picquet's dragoons in the foreground

Treillard's light cavalry, on the other flank, with the Vistula Legion
Lancers in evidence - they did not have a good day  

Hanging about - some of Picton's troops

First time in action since the previous century - the Earl of
Aigburth watches anxiously

State of the Art - rifles and horse artillery - slow going, though

95th Rifles - the Qualiticast Battalion

Cotton supervising the Riflemen clearing the woods...

...with the odd setback

Fine fellows all - the Chasseurs Britanniques, who have done very well
throughout the campaign

Assault Center - and about time too

The Brunswick Hussars upset some elite opposition.
Bearing in mind his fondness for a bet, we can only hope
the Earl had some money on this one

With everything updated for the battle, here are the returns and the map for 21st June 1812 (Week 22)

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