Sunday, March 11, 2012

El Serfaz - 1810

Known for reasons lost in obscurity to the French as the battle of Pierre Tombale, this engagement in the Peninsular war, saw a reinforced Brigade of the French army try to capture the exit to a key pass protecting their flank.

Ok, so this was in fact another dip in to the wonderful Grant's Scenarios for Wargamers book, which had me fall upon the Chokepoint scenario.  A tiny allied force of one regular infantry battalion, two militia battalions, a squadron of cavalry, and some rifle detachments was to protect the heavy Spanish artillery sited at the monastery  covering the entrance to the pass.  If we could hold this position, our forces would latterly be able to move safely to attack the rear of the main enemy force.  To prevent this the French sent the equivalent of six battalions of infantry, three squadrons of cavalry and some light artillery to storm the position and secure their main advance.

The allied forces were mainly focused around the ruined walls of the Monastery of St Bernardotte.  Small forces of Rifles were deployed by the English commanders to the woods on either side of the valley and the English troops themselves held in reserve.

For their part the narrowness of the pass allowed only a staggered arrival of their forces (the French commander could only enter three units per turn, not including his artillery or commanders - Grant detailed a more complicated system but this seemed to evoke his intent essentially).

The first French arrivals were both battalions of a regiment of foot with a 4lb cannon, and a regiment of Legere.  They duly marched forward, apparently unaware that the Spanish cannon in the Monastery were 24lb siege weapons, well provisioned but in fixed emplacements.  The roar of the Spanish guns tore huge swathes through the French lines, leaving one battalion of French badly shaken.

The rest of the French infantry arrived, and moved to address the flanks, whilst the Legere moved to screen the main body of the force.  At this stage the Rifles opened fire on the advancing French creating much disorder, whilst the Spanish guns continued their chilling business.

The infantry attack having stalled badly, the French General released his cavalry from the pass towards the English left.

The French managed also to manoeuvre one of their light guns to a position to enfilade the Spanish infantry; and the unit scatter in ill ordered panic at the first strike of fire on its' ranks.

This represented a high water mark for the French.  They had lost a battalion in the centre but had dressed their ranks to try to reduce the threat of the big Guns, supported ably by a British 9lb cannon deployed to the edge of the English camp.

The Siege guns were able however the respond by enfilading the French hussar squadron, destroying it. and the French flanks remained contained by the Rifles.  With his infantry attack mired, The French General moved to engage the thus far tardy English cavalry and infantry.

Two squadrons of Dragoons cantered forward in fine array, but the English Light Dragoons charged and drew them in to a bloody melee that neither won and both retired from in a parlous state.

(At this stage, one forgot to take photographs for a couple of turns)

The French centre, their right and the cavalry retired, but elements of their left and centre tried to maintain pressure.  The English cavalry, felling it's work done retired intentionally and allowed their infantry to take the position.  A last effort to attack the flanks by the French saw rallied Dragoons crash haplessly into the rifles in the woods, resulting in their destruction;  whilst a combination of cannon fire, some shaky Spanish musketry and the other rifle detachment broke the French left.

The French, seeing that they had failed began to retreat back in to the pass, and so the allies carried the field.  The Monastery of St. Bernardotte remained resolute.

As ever a cracking game; though some of Jez's decisions in command of the French did surprise me.  Although he advanced on the Monastery in column, rather than take it by column attack, as one might assume of the French, he instead drew into line and tried to denude the position by fire; who did he think he was?  Wellington?!  With that opportunity missed, his cavalry also dropped the ball by not going for the jugular.  To be fair he didn't really discover the inability of the Spanish guns to turn or move, and his commanders failed some notable efforts to rally their troops in the centre.

Had I commanded the French rather than the English, obviously I would have had certain unfair advantages having known the scenario, but I think I would have led with the Cavalry to sweep around the flanks of the allies, and then sent a sacrificial regiment straight down the throats of the guns.  Had the English been as reticent to get involved as they were for me, the more aggressive tactics could have carried the day...

1 comment:

  1. Great little game - tactical decisions to be made all over the place - exactly what you want! Happily it all looks great as well.
    Be happy