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TURN 5 - Early August 1808

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TURN 5 - Early August 1808

Post  Mr. Digby on Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:57 pm

A Month of Momentous Events! Barcelona Falls! In a Shocking Event Pampluna Surrenders! Burgos Saved! Gerona Continues in her Suffering. The High-Stakes Poker Game at Madrid Plays On. Toledo Garrison Holds Out!

August has proven to be a month of great and terrible events, made the more tense by reason of no field battles. On both sides armies manoeuvre with caution and some skill. The Juntas continue to issue orders to their armies that defy logic, however among the Spanish generals skill and risk taking begins to be shown which has paid high dividends.

Pampluna Garrison Capitulates!

The most shocking news to reach these offices since the conflict erupted in late May has left commentators speechless. Last month Marshal Bessieres raised the siege of Zaragosa. It was not known why this strategic decision was taken, though now it transpires that this corps is being employed westwards to bring to battle the army of Gen. Acevedo, whose troops threaten the key road junction of Miranda. In the absence of any French troops watching Zaragosa, Genl. Palafox led his men out of the city and quickly driving a small garrison out of Tudela, pushed up the Pampluna highway into the Pyrenean foothills. The city was invested in the second week of the month and a few days later called on to surrender as formalities dictated. In a startling turn of events the garrison commander agreed! His force was thought to be very weak and already having suffered losses in the general attrition that accompanies any siege, declared that his force was too few in number to hold the walls.

General de Brigade Luc Simon Auguste Dagout surrended 1,900 muskets, 6 cannon and 4 colours in return for safe passage across the Pyrenees via Bayonne to Toulouse. His brigade may not be operational again at Toulouse until the winter. His troops are already on the march.

A surprised and delighted General Palafox finds he has France at his mercy! Pampluna can become a supply base from which to attack Irun and Bayonne.

Zaragosa held a fete day in celebration with music and dancing in the streets and a free bullfight tournament, paid for it is said, out of General Palafox's own purse.

Bravery and Bloodshed! Barcelona Falls. Duhesme Mortally Wounded.

General Palacio, upon seeing how weak the garrison of the city was after he invested it last month, ordered it to be stormed in the dawn hours of 4th August. A horrific and bloody attack ensued with the Catalan miquelets being in the forefront of the violence and atrocities that followed. Numerous French soldiers begged for quarter but were shot and bayonetted without mercy, the Spanish irregular troops going quite out of control, even killing numerous 'collaborators' they found in the city. The battle lasted for much of the day and ended at the gates of the Arsenal del Ciutadella where General Duhesme, brandishing his sword and a torn French cuirassier standard fell, struck in the abdomen by a blast of grapeshot.

His men capitulated and with Palacio on the scene, no more killing took place. The brave Duhesme was carried on a litter to a room in the Arsenal where he lingered in agony for two days. His last words were "Mon Empereur, je vous ai laissés tomber."

Losses among the attackers were heavy, among the fallen were Coronel Carlos Espinosa who commanded de la Serna's first brigade, Mayor Luiz Tordillas, la Serna's artillery commander, and the much-loved Coronel Cayetano Bonafoix who led the first brigade of irregulars under Milans del Bosch. It is said that when Bonafoix fell as his men scaled the city walls, shot by a voltigeur, his miquelets swore to avenge his blood a hundred-fold.

Palacio's entire corps has withered away in the recent desperate fighting and after supplying troops to garrison the city and guard the prisoners, no more than a division remains for field operations.

Captured in the city were 3,000 muskets, 400 good cavalry horses, 2 cannon and 6 colours. A general of division, Chabran, two generals of brigade, Goulas and Bessieres and several colonels including Viala the artillery commander were taken prisoner, Viala being badly wounded and losing his left arm below the elbow from a cannon-shot. At the height of the battle two squadrons of Neapolitan chasseurs à cheval under the command of General Schwartz managed to charge out of the north gate and make their escape up the coast road to Mataro.

Gerona - the Agony Continues.

General Lechi retreated from the city last month, lifting the siege and allowing the local miquelets bands to take in cart-loads of food and other supplies. The Italians, now lacking supplies due to the fall of Barcelona, fell back to a position at Hostalrich. General Laguna, whose garrison broke out, has spent the early weeks of August in a position some miles south-west of the city, gathering in wounded and stragglers from the recent battle. He was joined after several days by the Spanish 'Flying Column' under Caldagues and this body of troops numbers 10,000 it is thought.

Another Italian general, Domenico Pino arrived at the city and pushing troops across the Rio Ter, re-established the investment of the place. He made sure to avoid the disease-ridden entrenchments that Lechi's men had occupied and also pushed Italian dragoons to the south-west to observe Caldagues and Laguna and light cavalry south east to make contact with the demoralised division of Lechi at Hostalrich. Pino's division is a fresh arrival in Spain and he reports to General de Division Reille who is supervising the siege of Rosas.

There is talk in Cataluña of these French forces being a whole new corps, the VII, which is a designation of a formation of the Grande Armée.

Rosas. How Long Can The Defenders Last?

Reille's 3rd Division holds a noose-like grip around the town. The only thing keeping the resistance alive are the supplies brought in by English warships, but for how much longer?

General Vives has few forces left to succour Gerona, let alone push north to Rosas. Is the fate of this port a matter of time?

News From Valencia.

General Llamas has been appointed as the Capitan-General of Valencia and given the command of a new formation – the Army of the Right. It is thought he now has authority for military forces from Granada, Murcia, Valencia and Cataluña although to date there is little sign of him stirring from his desk where he is busy with administration and reshaping the armies under his command.

Cadiz. Bloodless Surrender of the Rosily Squadron. Peace Between England and Spain!

The ships of Vice-Admiral Rosily, 6 sail of the line and a frigate, the remnants of de Villeneuve's fleet that was defeated at Trafalgar, lay at anchor in Cadiz roadstead and have been a thorny problem for the Spanish Junta since May. Admiral Collingwood's English fleet patrolled off the coast and the talks to disarm the French warships have been progressing with more steps back than forwards in recent weeks. Rosily had proposed various solutions such as landing his cannon and powder ashore and having his ships escorted by the English to a neutral port, even to Portsmouth, but the Spanish governor of the city, Tomás Morla, refused any closure to the situation short of surrender of the ships and crews.

A few days ago, on the 9th, a division of Spanish gun and mortar boats and the batteries erected on the Isle of Leon and at Fort Louis commenced hostilities against the French ships with steady fire, which was kept up until nightfall. The Spaniards had even requested that two ships of the line, the Principe de Asturias (112) and the Terrible (74), help them.

On the following morning the cannonade recommenced and continued until 2.00pm, when the French flagship, the Héros, hoisted a flag of truce. Shortly afterwards Vice-Admiral Rosily addressed a letter to Governor Morla, offering to disembark his guns and ammunition, but to retain his men and not hoist any colours. These terms were considered unacceptable, the Spaniards prepared to renew the attack upon the French squadron with an increase of force. On the 14th, at 7.00am, an additional battery of 30 long 24-pounders were ready to act and numerous gun and mortar vessels took up their stations. The French ships struck their colours, which in the course of the forenoon, were replaced by those of Spain.

The British were impatient spectators of this action. Admiral Collingwood, who commanded the blockade of Cadiz, made an offer of co-operation, but his offer was refused by the Spanish. It was enough for them that the British should prevent the fleet from escaping; they were not disposed to give them any claim to a prey which would be captured without their aid.

The French suffered little human loss, the Spaniards had only four men killed. It being impossible for the French to offer much resistance, and certain of the success of his attack, the Spanish governor did not wish to employ more violent means of destruction, such as heated shot. The French ships seem certain to be taken into the Spanish navy, their crews held prisoners of war at Cadiz dockyard.

Immediately after the surrender of the French fleet, the Spanish Supreme Junta requested the British Admiral give passage in one of his vessels to the commissioners whom it wished to send for the purpose of negotiating with the Government of his Britannic Majesty for an alliance against Napoleon.

Mr George Canning, His Majesty's Foreign Secretary, stated:

"No longer remember that war has existed between Spain and Great Britain. Every nation which resists the exorbitant power of France becomes immediately, and whatever may have been its previous relations with us, the natural ally of Great Britain."

During early August the British government emitted an order, declaring that all hostilities between Great Britain and Spain would cease with immediate effect.

King Joseph Rules Only His Own Parlour!

So goes the shout among most Spaniards in New Castile. Spanish armies said to be led by Villava, Castaños and Belvedere are drawing a "ring of steel" around the capital with all bridges across the Tagus now held by the Spanish, King Joseph holds power over little more than the city itself. The Junta urges the Spanish troops to attack but with effective government gradually being established at Seville and the French effectively already inside a giant prisoner-cage, is there a need for the Spanish troops to attack? Will Marshal Murat make an attack himself to break this 'siege'?

Toledo Retaken! Frere Defends the Alcazar.

The historic jewel of New Castile has been re-occupied by Spanish troops. Forces said to be parts of the armies of Andalucía and Extremadura entered the city from the west, having made a crossing of the Tagus east of its confluence with the Guadarrama. The French garrison of that place led by General de Division Frere did not attempt to hold the perimeter walls which in many places are not continuous, instead falling back into the Alcazar citadel. The Spanish hold the city but are under constant threat of sallies and musketry from the fortress that dominates the city, a brigade at least, even a division, will be needed to encircle Frere's soldiers who, it is said, have grain, livestock, animal feed and gunpowder to hold out a year if need be.

Generals Castaños and el Conde de Belvedere attended a mass held at the cathedral of Santa Maria, a service held in memory of the innocent citizens hanged by the French in the recent fighting in the city.

Castaños is thought to be the mastermind of strategy behind this coup, leading his army across the mountains from Mora while other elements of it have retaken Ocana and Aranjuez from the French. At Aranjuez, inside the Royal Summer Palace were found medal sashes and a mink fur-lined cloak said to have been left behind by Murat himself.

After this success surely command of the new and powerful Army of the Centre will be offered to this general?

French Imperial Forces at Bay! Where Will Murat Strike?

There are now known to be two French corps d'armée in Madrid, plus the Royal Guard of the King. The latest rumour to excite the nobility at their dinner tables and theatre boxes is news that the finest cavalry commander in Spain, general Grouchy, has been called to Murat's headquarters to take up a new command of a corps of cavalry. Said to consist of fine cuirassiers and heavy dragoons, this powerful body of horse is rumoured to be newly arrived in Spain and must have entered Madrid over the Somosierra pass. It is said to be complete with its own horsed artillery batteries.

"Soon one may journey from Sesena to Montenebro by treading on nothing but blue," goes the joke in Madrid's coffee houses, a reference to how many French soldiers the city is now host to.

Talavera Greets Troops.

Part of the host led by el Conde de Belvedere has entered Talavera and secured the town for Spain and the Borbons. Several divisions are said to be encamped in the lush valley around the place, enjoying the harvest of grain and wine offered by the happy townsfolk.

"Liberating Spanish cities is thirsty work!" said one colonel, raising a goblet and slipping his arm around the waist of his 'wife'. "It is tempting to stay and ensure the freedom of this place than go and annoy King Joseph. Let him have his pick of Madrid whores, we have the countryside and the harvest!"

There's concerns that some Spanish troops may be difficult to get back into their march columns if each freed town puts on celebrations such as Talavera.

Valladolid.

This troubled city at last has found peace. Cavalry of General Blake passed through earlier headed for Burgos and in August more cavalry and infantry belonging to a division of Gen Cuesta's battered army entered the city and established a garrison. Horsemen rode off east up the Duero valley.

Burgos Saved. Verdier Triumphant.

French general Verdier has pulled off a successful defence of the city by amassing his corps just west of the walls in time to bring to a halt the march of General Blake's Army of Galicia. His strong cavalry division was placed skilfully to both protect the important Aranda road and slow Blake's advance.

Clever deployment of different divisions of his own formation and that of Genl. Mouton last month saved both Burgos and Miranda from Spanish attack and in the north-west theatre at least, the Bonaparte star continues to shine brightly, though this area is now the only region of Spain where French forces control the same amount of land they did in May, elsewhere it is a story of retreat and retrenchment.

Miranda del Ebro, A Game Of Nerves?

General Acevedo's army is holding its ground west of Miranda, threatening to attack, but with Mouton's division now recovered from its recent rough handling and reinforced with a garrison of foreign troops and a brigade of cavalry attached from Marshal Bessieres' corps, the town appears secure.

The large numbers of French formations that passed through last month would appear to have been the component brigades and batteries of Verdier's corps that is at last assembled at Burgos.

Meanwhile, what of Marshal Bessieres? He withdrew his corps from Zaragosa in the middle of July and his whereabouts are unknown… until…

Bilbao! French Troops Occupy the Port! Spanish Pushed Out!

Cavalry from Bessieres' corps has at last shown itself on the coast, having used a mountain road to cross the Pyrenean foothills from Tolosa. The speed of the French troops is astounding, even in such poor country and even accompanied by heavy artillery. The efforts of their soldiers and skill of the engineers in making such a route passable for a whole corps is what has shocked Europe's military leaders for over a decade.

Bilbao was held by a small Spanish garrison of two volunteer battalions and two hussar squadrons. These have been tumbled unceremoniously out and retreated in some disorder to the fishing village of Portugalette where attempts to rally them were finally successful. Couriers sped south to inform Acevedo but already the wily Bessieres is advancing west. If he reaches Castro Urdilaes before Acevedo, the Spaniards will be trapped.

However, east of the French the Spanish under Palafox can advance from Pampluna. What will Marshal Bessieres do?

_________________
The other Martin - Charles Reille, le dernier Maréchal de France.

"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: TURN 5 - Early August 1808

Post  Mr. Digby on Wed Sep 17, 2014 5:28 pm

News From Portugal. English Troops Land From Their Fleet. First Action With The French.

An English convoy protected by a squadron of warships came to anchor in Mondego Bay and over the course of several days a large contingent of red-coated English and Scottish soldiers was put ashore in boats. An Irish noble who has dabbled in Dublin politics by the name of Wellesley is in command. Not much is known about this rather dour fellow except that he served in India and had some success beating native armies, though that counts for little against one such as Napoleon. The only other information that seems to attend upon the Irish Lieutenant-General is his obsession with ensuring his army is always well-supplied, a trait that may cause him concern in the dusty hinterland of desolated Portugal.

At Coimbra a few leagues inland, Wellesley made contact with a representative of the local Portuguese commander, a general by the name of Bernardim Friere who leads a ragtag militia at Oporto. Friere's right-hand man is a Colonel named Nicholas Trant, a British officer in Portuguese pay. This gentleman led a brigade of infantry and some weak cavalry squadrons south from Oporto to rendezvous with the English.

After landing supplies ashore the British made their way south until they struck up against a division of French troops commanded by General Delaborde at the village of Rolica. Although heavily outnumbered, the Frenchman's position atop a line of stony bluffs obliged Wellesley to deploy his army into fighting formation and commence a distant bombardment and movements around both of Delaborde's flanks. The French general, displaying much skill, held his ground long enough to waste at least a day of English time before nimbly pulling his few battalions back and scuttling away down a side-road to the town of Vimeiro where he is waiting and more French are assembling.

About 200 casualties were suffered on each side. Wellesley has now closed up to the French position at Vimerio with the fleet of Admiral Cotton offshore covering his right flank.

In Lisbon general Junot is hastily getting his troops out of the coastal forts around the Tagus estuary and from their barracks into marching order to go north and join Delaborde. There's news Junot has summoned the firey general Loison from Elvas where he has been besieging that town.

Delaborde has reported that Wellesley has fewer than 19,000 men and almost no cavalry. Junot's corps in Portugal numbers over 25,000 but many of these are still employed elsewhere keeping their boot-heels on the neck of the stubborn Portuguese rebellion.

_________________
The other Martin - Charles Reille, le dernier Maréchal de France.

"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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