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

Monday, 30 September 2013

Solo Campaign – Let’s Get This Show Back on the Road

As promised, and with due apologies for the lengthy intermission, I am now working to get my solo Peninsular campaign going again. I would claim force majeur if I felt it would buy me any credibility, but the truth is I’ve been ambushed by the dreaded Real Life again, and I’m not happy to do this half-cocked – if I’m going to run a campaign (especially one which can be viewed by others) then I’d rather take the extra time to do it as well as I can.

My last entry, I am a bit shocked to see, was back in January, when the armies were updated to 2nd August 1812. For my own benefit as much as anything else, I’ll set out a very quick summary of the state of play at that date.

The campaign began in January 1812 with some passing connection with actual history, but very quickly (and deliberately) drifted into a narrative of its own. After some early success, Wellington suffered a couple of major defeats – most notably at Benavente (28th Feb 1812) and Allariz (8th May 1812 – Sir Thomas Graham was the commander on this occasion) and the Spanish-held fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo fell to the French on 23rd May.

The French have hardly covered themselves with glory – though their field army has performed well enough in the field, the operations of the main commanders (Marshals Jourdan and Marmont, and General Clauzel) have been compromised and fragmented by interference from Paris and by King Joseph’s overriding fear for his capital at Madrid. They have found the Spanish army rather more formidable than expected, and there has been a gradual shift of their best troops to the regions around Valladolid, Zamora, Salamanca and Madrid, the garrisons responsible for keeping the supply routes open in the North East being gradually back-filled with Garde Nationale and other second-line units.

Despite a couple of subsequent victories – most notably near Almeida on 28th May – Wellington’s standing with the British government had already fallen low enough for him to be relieved in mid-June, a surprise choice for his replacement being General Banastre Tarleton, the 55-year-old veteran of the American War of Independence, who is now created Earl of Aigburth. Wellington returned to London, and there are various theories that he might take a field command in Canada, or be seconded to the Spanish army (unlikely).

The Spanish regular army has performed very well, and has the great advantage that it may replace losses more easily than the other armies. The irregulars and guerrilleros have had a couple of surprising successes, but generally they have proved to be unsuited to conventional battlefield actions. Following a rather daring manoeuvre, transporting España’s Division in British ships from Vigo, around the coast via Gibraltar to Tortosa, on the east coast, the consolidated Spanish 3rd Army has been further reinforced by more volunteer infantry plus some extra cavalry, and, under the command of Giron, now offers a major threat to the French position in the vicinity of Zaragoza. King Joseph is extremely worried about all of this…

Aigburth entered into the campaign with a closely-fought but important victory over Clauzel at Carpio de Azaba, on 18th June, and immediately afterwards attacked the fortress at Ciudad Rodrigo – still damaged from the earlier French siege – and took it by storm after a very brief investment.

Since then, a British advanced guard under General Long have defeated a French force under Pinoteau on the River Huebra at Martin de Yeltes, and Aigburth is now preparing to drive Clauzel’s rather dispirited army out of the Salamanca area. Clauzel has appealed for support from Madrid, but King Joseph does not seem to be able to help.

If you wish to see any of the previous posts, a search on Solo Campaign will find them.

Situation at 2nd August, updated for the action at Martin de Yeltes, is thus: 

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