Friday, November 30, 2012

Campaign Move 12

2000 22ndAugust 1813

The 7th French corps have concentrated at Castillo to defend the approach to Burgos.

General Villante has opted to hold the town with his 6th division, and keep his 14th division in reserve and out of sight.

Two days earlier 2nd British division had arrived in front of Castillo and deployed on the Mayorga road.   After an ineffective cavalry recce they then moved south, leaving the road open and undefended.   At this stage 1st Spanish division was still a full days march west at Mayorga.

General Graham, commander of 2nd Allied corps, had ordered 1st Spanish division to join him west of Castrillo.   But before they arrived he ordered 2nd British division to attack into the empty area south of Castrillo.

Villante had anticipated such a move, and had ordered his 14th division to move south into I07 to counter it.

Under orders to attack two French divisions without any support,  Packenham halted his 2nd division and requested further orders from Graham.   Fortunately the two French divisions were on Hold orders and did not move to attack the isolated British division.

As night falls 2nd British division are in a very exposed position, but fortunately 1st Spanish division have at last arrived to support them.

It will be interesting to see whether Graham can turn this unusual deployment to his eventual advantage.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Campaign Move 11

1600 22ndAugust 1813

At midnight on 21st August Marshal Soult returned to his headquarters at Burgos having completed a 48 hour recce of the surrounding area to select a suitable area to concentrate his widely spread corps to meet the anticipated attack by the British and Spanish.

He was enraged to discover that his lines of supply from France had been disrupted somewhere between Burgos and Pancorbo, and that the garrison commander had done nothing to reopen them.

The unfortunate Westphalian colonel was summoned, demoted on the spot and sent to his room under guard to await courts martial.   His second in command was despatched with the whole brigade, less a skeleton garrison, to clear the road.   He was left in no doubt that failure was not an option.

The Spanish guerrillas had prepared a strong defensive position, and were full of confidence having closed the road for 36 hours.   They put up a determined resistance and the Westphalians lost 80 men in storming their defences.

The end was never in doubt.  The ill trained civilians were no match for the professional Germans, and they were soon put to rout.   By nightfall they were in headlong rout towards the high ground to the west.

Despite their victory, the Westphalians had taken casualties and were running short of supplies.  They were 10 miles from the safety of Burgos, and as soon as they had secured the road they marched back to the city.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Campaign Move 10

1200 22nd August 1813

General Sarrut had been tasked to hold the town of Aguillar with his 3rd French division.

On 20th August 1st British division arrived in front of the town and deployed as if to attack.  However for 48 hours neither side made any attempt to engage the other.

Late on 21st August 16th Italian division arrived from Pancorbo, and halted east of the town and out of sight of the British.

General Laval, commander of 6th French corps, had carried out an extensive cavalry recce of the British position, and was satisfied that he had a considerable numerical advantage over the enemy.   He ordered both of his divisions to advance at daylight and attack the British.

General Hill, commander 1st Allied corps, was present with the British division. 

He was under considerable pressure from Wellington to attack the French before they could concentrate.   His cavalry recce had been less successful, and he was not aware that he faced two enemy divisions.

He was aware that 1st Spanish division would arrive before midday on 22nd August.   He therefore ordered General Howard to advance towards Aguillar at daylight with his whole division and attack the town.

He sent orders to general Giron to march to join him with the utmost speed.

During the night of 21st August Howard ordered his division to abandon their carefully prepared defensive positions and form column of march to pass through the steep pass leading to Aguillar.

As the head of the British division entered the open space west of Aguillar they were confronted by 3rd French division advancing towards them in column of attack.   Behind could be seen the head of 16th Italian division marching north of Aguillar to join them.

Hill ordered Howard to deploy just east of the pass and hold his ground. 

He then rode back through the pass to find Giron and hasten his march to arrive in time to save Howard.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Campaign Move 9

2000 21st August 1813

At his headquarters in Valladolid Wellington is concerned and becoming impatient.

It is three days since he issued his campaign orders, and since then he has not received a single report from his three corps commanders. 

Reports continue to arrive from his network of spies, and from the guerrilla chiefs.   All confirm that the French are busy redeploying their divisions to meet the expected allied offensive.

The Spanish guerrillas have been busy behind the French front lines, and one has reported that the main road from Burgos to France has been occupied and all supplies disrupted.  

He is concerned that his generals do not appear to have taken advantage of the widely spread French divisions at the start of the campaign, and may have missed the opportunity to strike at them before they could concentrate.

He is very concerned about his ability to feed his army long enough to allow them to defeat the French and drive them from Spain.    Every single biscuit and musket ball issued to each of his 16,000 British troops has to be transported by mule 270 miles from Corunna to Valladolid along the most difficult of mountain roads.   In addition he has to allocate large stocks to his two Spanish divisions who are unable to live off the land and have received no supplies from their own government.

Angry letters are sent to his three corps commanders to provide urgent reasons for this apparent lack of initiative.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Campaign Move 8

1600 21st August 1813

There has been a lot of guerrilla activity over the past 24 hours.   The map shows the location of French garrisons and guerrilla activity.

The main road between Burgos and Pancorbo has been cut for two days.   As a result no supplies have reached any depots south or west of Burgos during that time.

The garrison commander at Burgos is responsible for the road to Pancorbo, but has not yet taken any action to investigate the cause of the problem, let alone solve it.

The break in supplies has not yet affected any of the fighting divisions.   Each depot holds sufficient supplies for one corps for six days.   But when these supplies are issued to the divisions they will not be replaced until the supply chain is working again.  And even then it will take time for the stocks to be replenished.