The Avon Napoleonic Fellowship (ANF), a small wargames group located in the Avon Valley, about 100 km ENE of Perth Western Australia. The focus of our group, as our name implies, is historical figure-based games in the Napoleonic period, but we do play wargames in other historical periods.
Catching Up On Past Games (3): Albuera, 16th May 1811 (Version Two)
A Hard-Fought Pyrrhic Victory
(17th ANF game, played 3rd December 2011) The Game
As with our first version of this game the scenario was based on the one in Fields of Glory, but this time the army lists were updated and expanded based on the orders of battle in Dempsey’s marvellous book on the subject. We also incorporated variable sized units rather than the easier-to-manage, standardised units that we generally use. French Army List
Anglo-Portuguese Army List
Spanish Army List
Our second re-fight of Albuera pitted Mark and Julian with Soult’s French-Allied army against yours truly in the unusual position of commanding Anglo-Portuguese, along with their Spanish allies. The game lasted for 12 30-minute turns, from 1000 until 1530, inclusive.
Before we begin the pictorial description of the game, here’s a stylised map of the battle from Fields of Glory to remind you—and me too—of what it (roughly) looks like!
Table looking north with Albuera in the foreground beyond the interesting fault in the river!
Looking south this time, Latour Maubourg's cavalry on the ridge in the foreground, Girard and Gazan's divisions to their right.
Across the Allied lines with Cole closest to camera, Hamilton to the left on the ridge behind Albuera, Stewart in the centre and the Spanish plus Lumley's cavalry on the ridge to the north, closest to the French.
Close-up view of Latour Maubourg's cavalry.
The French attack began against von Alten's brigade in Albuera...
soon driving the 1st KGL Light out of the town, but the 2nd hung on until midday...
The honours were initially even, but the balance of the odds did not look good.
One broken unit of Portugese dragoons (understrength)
Then another; at full strength this time...
and the French dragoons kept coming.
Overview of the cavalry mêlées.
Help was on its way as Ballesteros and Loy's Spanish troops reoriented to face the French and Stewart and Cole's divisions received orders to support them. In the background we see Girard's and Gazan's divisions developing their attack on Zayas' Spanish troops positioned on the northern knoll.
Back in the south, Hamilton's division attacked the French légère in Albuera...
trying to break the hold that Godinot's men now had on the town.
The plucky Portuguese also attacking to the south of the town.
Back in the centre Zayas' men awaited the on-coming French.
Zayas (in green) appearing calm in the face of the coming onslaught.
Back on the east of the battlefield, Latour Maubourg sent his next wave of cavalry to attack. The 2nd hussars broke a weak regiment of Portuguese dragoons.
In a rare success for Lumley's cavalry, the French 26th dragoons were broken, but Count Penne-Villemur's Spanish dragoons were broken at the same time.
The French 20th dragoons broke a larger regiment of Portuguese cavalry and then rode on to break the 13th light dragoons.
The morale of Lumley's command crumbled and the remainder fled the field, leaving only what remained of Loy's Spanish to try to stem the tide.
Latour Maubourg moved on to attack Loy's weak brigade of cavalry, Castanos' mixed brigade and Ballesteros' infantry.
In the centre Girard's men came on in force, supported by Gazan.
The Spanish 2nd and 4th Royal Guard and the Walloons resisted; for now.
Latour Maubourg's cavalry charged and broke Costanos' guns and the under-manned Husares d'Extremadura.
Loy's small command was soon broken, but the 20th dragoons failed against the square of the Lena Regiment from Ballesteros' command.
In the centre the Spanish guards continued to resist the attacks by Girard's troops, now supported by Werle, including a square which repulsed an attack from French infantry!
Girard's troops increased pressure on Zayas' division was beginning to tell as the 1st Toledo broke; but the Guard hung on tenaciously.
Briche's 27th chasseurs charged a square of the 2nd Portuguese line, were forced back and failed to rally.
While north of the town his 21st chasseurs combined with Godinot's infantry to apply pressure on Lardizabal's Spanish from the south. The chasseurs broke Lardizabal's infantry around Albuera and carried on to destroy his guns, but were themselves broken by Spanish a square.
This move was combined with a massive assault by Girard's and Werle's troops.
The French converged grenadiers finally broke the first of the Spansh grenadiers of Zayas' division.
Back in the south, Hamilton's men attacked Albuera in force, clearing the 1/51e ligne from the southern end of the town...
but one battalion from Godinot's command hung on tenaciously in the north of the town. Briche's command was on the verge of breaking as the 27th chasseurs failed to rally (again) and left the field.
The main French attack finally made head-way; Zayas' division ceased to exist as an effective fighting force, Lardizabal's was reduced to two battalions.
It was a pyrrhic victory though as the Anglo-Allied battle line re-formed around Ballesteros' command.
At Battle’s End
Girard: near half losses;
Latour-Maubourg: near half losses;
Godinot: 75% losses; Briche: broken once 27th chasseurs retreat from field;
Gazan: hardly engaged;
Werle: few losses;
Grenadiers: losses to one battalion only.
Stewart & Cole: not engaged;
Hamilton lost two battalions;
von Alten: command destroyed;
Collins' Indept Portuguese: lost one battalion
Lumley: command broken
Zayas: command destroyed;
Lardizabal: close to 75% losses;
Ballesteros: little engaged;
Loy: command destroyed;
Castanos: lost one infantry and one cavalry unit.
Albuera makes for a great game and is a really even tussle. The Spanish are initially left ‘hanging’ on the right flank of the allied army, but the balance is redressed as the game proceeds. In the end we found that the French-Allied army just ran out of ‘puff’, not having enough troops to exploit the early successes. We are considering doing it again sometime giving the French-Allied player free reign to direct the attack as he/they sees fit—through the ‘hinge’ between the allied right flank and Albuera, perhaps?
Dempsey, G (2008) Albuera 1811: The Bloodiest Battle of the Peninsular War. Frontline Books (an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd), Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK. 336 pp.
Leach, C and Conliffe, A (1997) Fields of Glory: Historical Scenarios for Corps Sized Napoleonic Battles in Miniature. Quantum Printing, New York, NY. 35 pp.