Action at Arnedillo, Friday 21st August 1812
French forces (Gen de Bde Jean-Marcel-Auguste Paquerette)
17e Regiment Provisoir (111e, 114e & 115e bns Garde Nationale)
18e Regiment Provisoir (112e bn GN et 3/Garde du Tarn)
7/5e Art à Pied (Cpt Borrance)
Total: 3910 men, with 8 guns
Spanish forces (Don Iago Pacheco, “El Banquero”)
3600 irregulars from the Junta de Vizcaya, of whom approx. 280 are mounted.
Paquerette’s men are Garde Nationale soldiers from the Languedoc and Albi areas of France. Originally recruited to serve in their home region, to release front-line troops for the main field armies, these men were subsequently very bemused to be moved, first to Bayonne, then to serve in North-Eastern Spain. They have no battle experience, though they have acquired some skill in dealing with guerrilleros and policing hostile towns, and their morale is surprisingly good.
Pacheco has under his command a mixture of troops with a wide range of experience and enthusiasm – from seasoned resistance fighters to terrified conscripts. The Junta’s recruiting methods are pretty ruthless. His men are aware that the fairly open terrain does not suit their normal manner of fighting, but their contempt for the French prevents any undue pessimism, though the more experienced men are concerned about the French artillery.
Early on Friday morning, in a light drizzle, the French units pass through the village of Arnedillo, and march on towards the area of small hills around the (deserted) Convent of Nuestra Senora de Penalba, which has been stripped repeatedly by both sides over the last 4 years. A tributary of the River Cidacos rises near the village, the source being a long-established working for the extraction of building sand. The river is not deep, but very muddy, and it may only be crossed at the old Roman bridge.
[Because of the small numbers involved, the action will be played out end to end of the table. This renders the normal C&CN concepts of centre and flank sectors meaningless – thus the game will use C&CN combat mechanisms, but the Command Cards will not be used, activation being carried out by a dice-based system. These are fairly poorly trained troops – on both sides. None of the infantry is able to form square and – to avoid an unnecessary bloodbath – victory conditions are light – the French need to eliminate 5 units or officers to win, the Spaniards need to eliminate just 3. This could be a very short battle!
The French infantry are classed as militia, and are thus subject to triple retreats, though the artillery are trained regulars. The Spanish have the special guerrilla classification I use in C&CN – they may move 2 hexes and fight, and may move freely through woods and villages, but a single, uncancelled retreat will eliminate any unit.]
|The French approach - you may see eagles and line troops, but these are Garde|
Nationale troops (apart from the artillery), and they are scared out of their wits.
Paquerette is visible at the centre rear, framed in a dining chair...
|Dust & sweat (1)...|
|Dust & sweat (2)|
|Foy seen in the sky above Arnedillo|
The Spanish infantry took advantage of what cover and broken ground there was, and Paquerette marched his men forward in good order. The speed of deployment of the guerrilleros enabled them to bring a lot of units against the French advance, and an intensive firefight commenced, though the standard of shooting was not what we would expect from the line. The French rookies performed steadily, though a couple of battalions retired (with fairly light losses). The Spaniards (whose units are small – counting only 2 bases each) are invariable brittle in action, and soon there was a steady stream of the wounded and discouraged to the rear.
With militia and irregular troops, C&CN requires units to be clustered together for mutual support, and to have generals close at hand. Both generals did a decent job of bringing up fresh units to fill gaps and relieve battered ones. As ever with C&C related games, the ghost of Mr Borg was somewhere around, and once again we reached a stage where one further loss either way would decide the action.
At this point, Paquerette aspired to a little text-book C&CN, performing an attack with combined arms (artillery + infantry charge) as his men finally closed to within melee range of the enemy. It was a near thing – with 7 combat dice available, he was handicapped by the fact that militia (and the French classed as militia here) do not get to count “crossed sabres” in a melee, but he managed the single infantry hit required to eliminate a fifth Spanish unit and El Banquero withdrew without battling back.
Both commanders did quite well, but the French troops’ musketry was disappointingly ineffective early in the engagement. The Spaniards suffered a total of about 1200 losses – a great majority of which were runaways. The French had 100 killed, 280 missing, and about 400 wounded.
The rapidity of the Spanish movement, plus the lack of French mounted troops, allowed El Banquero to retire in reasonable order, without further harassment. The first shots were timed at around 9:30. The Spaniards had melted away, with most of their wounded, by 10:45.
|Starting position, from the Spanish side|
|That's the way to do it - the terminal retreat flag can be ignored, given|
enough support among the guerrilleros
|El Banquero - first time in the field - he did OK|
|Don't get captured by these fellows - actually, one of them is a woman...?|
|The decisive attack of Combined Arms, which finished things...|
|...looks like plenty of dice, but the single blue symbol is what counted|
|Only here for the drink? - some kind of mirage on the horizon|
Once again, my thanks to my staff photographer - Nick - for his customary idiosyncratic work.