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TURN 15 - early January 1809

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TURN 15 - early January 1809

Post  Mr. Digby on Sat Apr 04, 2015 6:18 pm

Weather in the Peninsular

It is bitterly cold in mountain regions with high winds. In the lowlands drizzle has replaced the snow flurries and there are warmer temperatures. Many roads are almost impassable to wheeled traffic. Off the Biscay coast rough seas and changeable winds are continuing to make navigation problematical. No English cruisers have been sighted off the coast for some weeks. The Atlantic is also stormy. In the Strait of Gibraltar and Mediterranean there are fresh winds but lesser swells. Shipping from Cadiz has recently arrived in Tarragona and Barcelona with stores being unloaded. The Atlantic storms have brought a temporary halt to English supplies being delivered to Cadiz.

French advance towards Lerida!

A force of French infantry reported by locals to be at least a division with accompanying artillery has occupied Mequinenza and seems intent on moving east to invest Lerida. At that place a screen of French cavalry is observing but remaining beyond cannon shot of the walls. Lerida is still in communication with Spanish forces to the east.

Locals also tell of a screen of French light horsemen on the north side of the middle Ebro valley. The French may be searching for a secondary route across the Rio Cinca or they could be attempting to probe responses around Jaca, thought to be a guerilla stronghold. Whatever their purpose, the harsh winter weather is making their task deeply miserable and the sick list is increasing, especially among the horses.


Roads south out of the city remain open and the French have not yet cut communications to Barcelona or Vich. It appears St Cyr was content to gain a foothold across the Rio Ter, and with that difficult barrier behind him, rest his troops. The French have built two impressive pontoon bridges at Pontmayor and their tireless engineers and infantry have laid corduroy roads to enable artillery and supply wagons to pass the lower regions of the muddy river valley. From their rocky fastnesses in the hills, the guerillas watch their enemy, counting cannons and flags and campfires.

Inside the city the garrison is resolute but confused. Why don't the French get on with it and besiege the place? What are they up to? The uncertainty is causing unrest among soldier and citizen alike.

British Shipping at Barcelona!

A convoy of civilian vessels flying the red ensign has docked in the roadstead, escorted there by a ship of the line, a frigate and two sloops. Crates of supplies are being unloaded and it is reported that there are English muskets among the cargoes.

Barcelona itself is housing many thousands of Spanish troops who are resting over the winter. This is a good thing for keeping sickness lists short among the regiments but it encourages the less diligent officers, of which there are a good number, to go gambling at cards and dice, to go out riding or hunting and to play at other sport. Some regiments are falling into lethargy at the lack of low-level officers to keep the men busy.

Shocking Discovery! French on the Mediterranean Coast?

An envoy from Lisbon, the Portuguese representative to the Junta Central, Marechal de Campo José Joaquim Champalimaud, was riding north from Valencia towards Tarragona with an escort of fifty lancers. He was in the region on a diplomatic mission to observe the Spanish way of war and how they co-operate with British naval support at their various ports. The Marechal de Campo was a confirmed land-lubber and confessed to feeling seasick even if he was in a carriage that crossed a river by a bridge! To reach Barcelona, therefore, he had ridden by land, a journey of several weeks from Seville.

At Oropesa his escort was shocked to encounter a body of French light cavalry and even some infantry! A lively skirmish ensued before Champalimaud and his entourage, now with several empty saddles, fled back south in disorder! The Portuguese officer has returned to Valencia and raised the alarm to the Provincial Junta there who are considering sending troops from the garrison to investigate the envoy's claims.  

Madrid! English Troops Arrive! Lord Wellesley in the Capital!

It is finally confirmed that the well-known English sepoy general, Sir Arthur Wellesley, has reached Madrid with a powerful force of 20,000 red-coated troops, smart and accompanied by dozens of cannon. As the English columns snaked into the happy city from the direction of Talavera, the Irish-English general met briefly with the hero of the Alcazar, el Conde de Belvedere. The Spanish general was making his final plans to lead his army of Extremaduran soldiers out of the city, headed north-west. The two found the opportunity for a leisurely lunch and a brief ride in the gardens of Buen Retiro to discuss military matters before the Conde bowed and took his leave, his escort of smart light cavalry, the first squadron of Húsares del Extremadura jingling and clattering merrily as they trotted away.

The British have halted in the city to further discuss strategic plans with their allies.  

The Plains of Leon-Castille. Valladolid Again in the Battle Lines? Napoleon Makes an Aggressive Push!

General Sir John Moore's small force has retired to a position just north-east of the city. Though his command is referred to as a corps, it really only comprises a powerful division, with an attachment of cavalry, the whole being barely 12,000 men. Nevertheless his troops are determined and seem confident to halt any advance "those d----d Frenchies" may make.

Further north east of Valladolid General Soult's II Corps has been hamstrung by the recall to France of his cavalry division. A replacement division is en-route from Miranda but it may not arrive for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile Soult has bridged the Rio Pisuerga and occupied Duenas.

General Cuesta's Army of Castila, now a corps forming part of the Army of the Centre, had been pushed forwards to Sahagún which place was occupied in late December. However Cuesta's cavalry encountered very strong French cavalry probes early in January and under increasing pressure from these, the town was vacated. Within the day light cavalry from Marechal Victor's I Corps occupied the place, with columns of infantry and artillery following on behind. Hardly stopping to exact a quick and aggressive military taxation of livestock and goods from the citizens, the French pressed on south towards Valladolid, leaving a garrison behind. Cuesta's small army fell back rapidly in some confusion though his cavalry rearguard which is quite powerful remained a coherent force and fell back in good order, aided by some cazadores light infantry.

Citizens of Sahagún were surprised and awed to see the cavalcade of the Emperor pass through their humble town, the presence of Napoleon himself and many squadrons of glittering Imperial Guard cavalry making it plain this was a major French advance. News was passed out among the outlying villages quickly and soon was brought to the attention of nearby guerilla bands.

At the middle of January the French had almost reached Valladolid, Cuesta's small army has dropped back before them, it's right now in contact with Sir John Moore's left. North of Valladolid however there is no good position by which to make a defence, only rolling open farmland bisected by small hamlets and citrus groves. It is perfect cavalry country and the splendid French guard horsemen seem eager to seek battle and win glory!

Chaos in the Army of Galicia! Blake to Face Court Martial!

We are shocked and dismayed to learn of this turn of events. It would appear that communications between the Junta Central and General Blake have been failing for some time with a particularly unhappy exchange taking place as Blake abandoned the siege of Burgos some weeks ago. Charges of cowardice have been made against the good general as well as "behaviour and intemperate language unbecoming a gentleman of the rank of Capitan-General". It seems the long retreat from Burgos towards Leon has tried the patience of the Junta Central too far while other armies of Spain such as Andalucia, Extremadura, Castilla and Sir John Moore's British are prepared to face the invader, Blake is not. Of the many Spanish armies his is the only one never to have fought the enemy. It is also the strongest and contains many regular regiments. Blake has been recalled to Seville to explain his actions before a military tribunal!

In the immediate wake of this untimely news the next senior officer, Teniente-General el Marqués de Portago has assumed command, however it is not known if the Army of Galicia is on the move or remains in its encampments.


A Spanish army is moving upon the city along the direction of the road from Aranda. It is thought that General Castanos himself commands! In the city all is a-flutter. A French cavalry division passed through from west to north-east early in the month and this had to push aside Spanish cavalry patrols that were threatening the Burgos-Valladolid road. Part of the garrison, Soult's III Division has marched out to secure the supply road of II Corps in the region of Venta del Pozo. Other garrison forces are preparing the city for defence. The small town of Gamonal to the north-east has reportedly been occupied by guerillas. For a second time the garrison commander is asking Napoleon to allocate a division of dragoons to help defend the place and keep open lines of communication with Vitoria.

King Joseph and his royal guards have entered Burgos. This has not terribly inspired the French defenders!

The Northern Theatre of Operations!

Powerful French forces appear to be converging on Castro Urdilaes from several directions. Still General Baird does nothing! What is wrong with the fellow? In Santander strong Spanish armies languish in winter quarters, relaxing and seemingly unaware that their ally might be attacked! Something has gone badly wrong with Allied strategy in the north. These forces form part of the Army of the Left and again General Blake's name is mentioned. Charges of incompetence may be added to the other calls against his honour!

General Acevedo's Army of the Asturias and General La Romana's forces both occupy Santander. Forty-five miles west at Torrelavega French troops have cut the coast road. Communications with Oviedo are severed! Disaster might soon befall Anglo-Spanish fortunes in this region!

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
Mr. Digby

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Re: TURN 15 - early January 1809

Post  Mr. Digby on Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:00 pm

Latest News! Fall of Pamplona! Spanish Surrender!

On 15th January Marechal Mortier saw a white flag flying above the Borbon colours of Spain atop the battered citadel. Sending forward a group of officers led by his senior division commander, Général de Division Louis-Gabriel Suchet, the French were met outside the north gate by a party of Spanish gentlemen. The Spanish were escorted by a troop of hussars to Mortier's headquarters and there, during the day agreement was reached. It was not to the Spaniards liking but they were exhausted, their powder had run out and their men were starving. Officers were to retain their swords and mounts and were paroled but were not to take up arms or political posts against France until King Joseph was again proclaimed King of Spain by the Spanish Junta. All the other ranks were to become prisoners of war. Colours were surrendered and sent by fast despatch to Burgos for presentation to Napoleon and all military equipment was destroyed.

The garrison marched out into captivity.

Marechal Mortier took possession of the city, its people thin, starving and glum, their faces thinly veiled with hostility.

V Corps has been decimated by this terrible siege. It now numbers under 10,000 men. Reinforcements are urgently needed if it is to hold a front-line position.

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
Mr. Digby

Posts : 4951
Join date : 2012-02-14
Age : 58
Location : UK Midlands

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