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Turn 18 - late February 1809

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Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  Mr. Digby on Fri Sep 25, 2015 7:45 pm

Part the First:


Latest News! Revelations at Lerida! Scarecrow Army Found. Mayor Names Them "los muertos vivientes".

A cold dawn awoke the world on a miserable wet day in the third week of February. The last few fit men of Palafoxes' scouting group, mounted on mules, watched the city of Lerida below them in the mist-veiled valley of the Rio Segre a few miles distant. They hid among pine trees on a hillside of the north flank of the Segre valley. Several miles further north of the little hungry party of Spaniards the thousands of starving men, soldiers now in nothing but name, of the Army of Aragon huddled for warmth under brush cut from pine trees in a wooded valley sheltering from the last of the winter snow. Behind them on the mountain paths many sons of Spain would never rise again from their slumbers. The men were reduced to nibbling at pine cones, catching insects and squirrels and boiling the leather straps of their equipment to make a crude soup. Even their muskets had been burned for firewood to boil water to keep alive. The men were living skeletons.
 
From the scouts party a man came into their camp astride an exhausted mule.
 
"Don Palafox! The French! They are retreating from Lerida! There is cannon fire! Come quick!"
 
Palafox took another mule - a gift from the guerilleros who had supplied his weakened army with what food and clothing they could over the winter - and rode south with his companion. Back at the hilltop he put his dented and dirty brass spyglass to his eye. A column of troops, their French banners plain enough to see, were snaking away west from the town on the road to Zaragosa. Behind them he could make out groups of Spanish horsemen carrying the Royal banner of King Ferdinand and from the walls of the citadel cannon popped, their shots chasing the French away. After an hour the sight was plain, the French were falling back from Lerida. Palafox sent his three best men mounted on the three strongest mules south towards the town. He watched them meet a party of cavalry and the group returned to his lookout point. A Spanish capitan took off his hat and bowed.
 
"Sir, whom do I address?" he asked.
 
"I am Major Ricardo Alfonse of the Pamplona Volunteers," Palafox lied, his mind made up. "The Army of Aragon is just north of here, sheltering in a wooded valley. I will inform Senor Don Palafox that we have made contact with friends." Palafox deliberately withheld a significant truth.
 
"I am pleased to meet you Major. I am Capitan Eduardo Vigres y Sengre of the Dragones de Numancia, part of the 16° División de Caballeria of Mariscal de Campo Feodoro Murillo de Galluzzo. Army of Valencia. I am at your service. Capitan-General de Llamas is in person in the town. He - no - all of us will be delighted at this news. We feared the worst for your army."
 
"Capitan, I am most grateful. I fear we need much food, water and blankets as well as wagons to move our sick and the most weak. Lieutenant Moraz, go to the General and pass him this wonderful news. I shall be with him shortly."
 
Palafox gave one of his men a certain look. Understanding his intent with a silent nod, one of the Aragonese scouts rode away to pass on the news.
 
Two days later as the weakened stragglers of the Army of Aragon, over 15,000 of them, collapsed in the streets and barns of Lerida they learned that a French army had invested the town six weeks prior but had been driven away back towards Zaragossa by the Army of Valencia only this week. The siege had trapped Palafox's men in the hills with no way to cross the Segre. By abandoning the town the French allowed this ragged army to be saved from complete disintegration.

None other than General Llamas, Capitain-General of Valencia was present in the town at the head of his troops. The Capitan-General asked to meet Major Alfonse of the Pamplona Regiment but he was not to be found. Following enquiries it was learned that no such officer had served on the strength of the regiment. Alfonse had vanished into the misty woods of the Pyrenees mountain lowlands, leaving his men to find safety but himself riding off into myth and legend.
 
The men of the Army of Aragon would need weeks to recover and even longer to be resupplied and equipped. Llamas gave orders for them to march to Tarragona to begin a period of rest, training and re-equipping. It would likely be months however before they could call themselves an army again.
 
Capitan-General of Aragon, Senor Don Palafox was never found. He appeared to have abandoned his men, his senior staff and close friends having vanished also. The Junta Central is still hunting for him and a reward of 20,000 Reales for confirmed news of a sighting of him is unclaimed.

Reynosa! A Small but Decisive Action!

At the hilltop town in the Cantabrian mountains the French garrison of the 4th battalion of the 51st line regiment was surprised one morning by a dawn attack by several thousand Spanish infantry of the Princesa and Zamora regiments and the light infantry of the Cataluña and Barcelona Cazadores regiments. There was a brief but violent charge into the main buildings of the square and the French suddenly found themselves overrun. A couple of hundred barricaded themselves in the Convent of Our Lady but were persuaded to surrender a few hours later.

Several French, fleeing the town eastward along the track to Espinosa were ambushed and shot or captured by guerilleros watching that path. These soldiers suffered a gruesome fate of torture and hideous dismemberment not seen before in this war. The guerillas were especially angry and intolerant after the months of French deprivations in their locality. We fear that reprisal will follow on reprisal after this most grisly incident.

Only a small party of mounted officers galloped back to Espinosa to report the news to Marechal Ney. The entire battalion was lost.

Somosierra. A Clash of Great Armies?

Around this remote mountain town Spanish soldiers have been labouring for weeks. An impressive series of redoubts and other works have been dug to command the only road up to the pass that leads the highway from Burgos to Madrid. Steep hillsides and gloomy pine woods look down on this pass from both flanks. The Spanish engineer officer lay his map aside and lit a pipe. He was satisfied with his work. He sent a courier down the road northwards informing General Castanos that all was as ready as it could be. The men and cannon were in position. Only a madman or the devil himself might attempt to attack here. It was a fortress.

A days ride north Castanos sat on a chair on the verandah of a taverna that commanded a splendid view down into the Duero valley where, hidden in the far distant haze, the town of Aranda lay, its streets now full of marching French columns. Below him on the hillside the Spanish army was drawn up in serried lines, cannon between the regiments and horsemen on the flanks. Further away and lower still an army of ants appeared to be gathering on the plain, covering the road from Burgos and fanning out to either flank in the farms and citrus groves. Their white, blue and red flags told him all he needed to know. Castanos lay his spyglass aside and with an irritated wave of his arm dismissed a waiter who offered another bottle of wine. Kicking his chair back, he stood up. Soon there would be warm work to be done.

A beautifully uniformed Chasseur of the Garde rode up to a staff officer, saluted and handed over a written note. The ADC read the message and passed it to a more senior officer. The man tucked his large feathered hat under his arm and pulled aside the flap of the ornate tent. Inside he spoke to the man who sat on a drum, his legs raised a little, ankles crossed, feet comfortably resting on a saddle. The seated man, his arms folded, his chin on his chest, eyes closed and seemingly asleep made no reaction as the officer read out the report received from the cavalry screen. Spanish guns here, cavalry here, brigades of infantry up here and over there. Bad ground on this flank, better ground at so-and-so. The message reader stopped.

"Sire?"

Silence.

"I can come back later if you wish to sl-"

"I heard every word Duroc, my friend. There is to be no 'later'. There is only 'now'. Are the cannons in position?"

Duroc nodded.

"They are Sire."

"Then give the order. We attack at noon. Do the necessary."

"Yes Sire!"

The Duc de Frioul, commander of Napolen's guard, bowed and withdrew, passing orders to his aides-de-camp. Drums rattled, bugles called, the French began to move.


Last edited by Mr. Digby on Sun Oct 18, 2015 9:24 pm; edited 3 times in total

_________________
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 18 - late February 1809

Post  Mark87 on Fri Sep 25, 2015 8:13 pm

Finally looking like we will have some closure, either way!
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Re: Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  midgetmanifesto on Fri Sep 25, 2015 9:30 pm

"Arg!" is the most printable comment I can make regarding these developments.
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Re: Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  Grog on Mon Sep 28, 2015 3:45 pm

Another great write up, Martin.

The stage is set...

Very Happy
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Re: Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  Mr. Digby on Mon Sep 28, 2015 4:40 pm

This is just a couple of incidents that I wanted to relay now. More will follow.

_________________
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 18 - late February 1809

Post  Mr. Digby on Tue Nov 03, 2015 12:06 am

The Second Half of February 1809, the Most Momentous Two Weeks in Spain Since Last May?

Great events are taking place as the armies that beset this fair land clash, causing blood to spill and ruin to descend on soldier, nobleman and citizen alike.

Gerona.

General St Cyr's Corps has made a sudden move from almost complete inactivity in its camps along the valley of the Ter to rapidly surround and cut the city off from outside communication. It appears a siege has begun. This is the third attempt the French have made on the city. News is almost completely lacking about the exact events here but some reports are trickling out carried by local civilians and of course the ubiquitous miquelets. It seems the French may have 30,000 men in the region with no less than five divisions plus a cavalry division and most importantly, a siege train has arrived along the coast road from Rosas, escorted by a second line division of reservists. The boom of heavy guns is heard each day in the surrounding villages and farms.

Further south French cavalry has pushed aggressively from Gerona and at Hostalrich has contacted a Spanish brigade of cavalry with some infantry who are busily working on digging field defences near the village on a commanding ridge. The French cavalry officers can plainly be seen taking notes of their enemy's strength and are presumably happy to see the Spaniards acting defensively instead of preparing a relief column.

Near Vich there is similar news; a band of miquelets holds the village while French light cavalry have issued south-west from Gerona along a secondary road to observe the town.

Lerida.

A Spanish division with some attached but somewhat ragged looking cavalry has been posted at Mequinenza and is covering the river crossing there acting as a forward defence for the town. Inside the fortress what remains of Palafox's Army of Aragon is recovering it's strength although there have been some sad scenes of burials of the most sick soldiers for whom rescue came too late.

A powerful Spanish column is said to have left the town and gone along the road towards Cervera.

Barcelona! Court Martial of a Popular Noble!


In Barcelona a military court has sat in judgement of Mariscal de Campo Martin de la Carrera, the commander of the cavalry division of the Army of Cataluna. The general has been found guilty of disobedience of orders during the action at Cervera on 14th February as well as "behaviour of an excited and reckless nature, resulting in unnecessary losses suffered by his command, and actions unbecoming an officer of one of His Majesty's regiments." De la Carrera has been placed on the reserve list on half-pay and refused a field command. He was offered command of the garrison of Tarragona but in a rage rejected this "insult to my honour", storming out of the courtroom. He has reportedly retired to his estate at Vendrils.

General de Brigada Servando Teresa de Mier, previously the commander of the cavalry of the Army of Aragon, has been appointed in Carrera's place, though its thought it will be some weeks before the demoralised and weakened cavalry will be fit to offer battle.


Calatayud!


A great battle has been joined at this fair town. The French under Marechal Mortier dug extensive earthwork defences to protect the place but have been driven back from their outer positions by the Spanish Armies of Murcia and Granada. The French now find themselves in a besieged situation. Of some concern is the whereabouts of the cavalry division of General Kellermann which marched south-west along the road to Madrid mid-month. Spanish cavalry patrols report it has reached Aviza or Medinaceli (it is not clear which) where it has probably halted, Kellermann's supply line being cut, preventing him from advancing further.


At Villa Viciosa a Spanish corps that is part of the Army of Extremadura has laid idle in camp. It was apparently supposed to muster and arrest the progress of the French cavalry at Aviza but has done nothing.

At Calatayud the Spanish are labouring to build a bridge of boats across the floodwaters of the Rio Jalon east of the town to facilitate a complete surrounding of the French there.

Oropesa and Valencia.


Following accusations of incompetence from Capitan-General Llamas, Mariscal de Campo el Conde de Caldagues, twice defeated yet twice claiming victory at Oropesa, has returned to Valencia with his second-line division, his career, it would seem, in ruins. He left a battalion in Oropesa and in great distress has retired to his villa to write his memoirs: "A Loyal Soldier: Life in the Grand War of Liberation - The Spanish Army and Why General Llamas and General Vives Have No Friends."


Madrid!


Always a hotbed of social speculation and liable to boil over into excited chaos at a moment's notice, the news of Bonaparte so near the capital is causing all manner of excitement, speculation and unrest. A few fashionable people are leaving, taking carriages to their country estates, while the bolder entrepreneurial merchants are buying up stocks of grain, wine, textiles and other goods in the hope of selling them to the French!

About sixty miles north of the city, in the still-cold Sierra de Guadamarra, a bleak high pass in the mountains at Somosierra is the scene of quiet resolution as the tens of thousands who comprise Capitan-General Castanos' Army of Andalucia await the arrival of the French, or more specifically, one man. A man whose name is on every pair of lips; to whom the conversation turns at every camp fire and card game; about whom each man of this great host has his own opinion, fears and imaginings:

"Bonaparte is coming. He must not get to Madrid. We are in his way. We must stop him.

We - must stop Bonaparte, the conqueror of Europe!"

In the last days of February Castanos refused battle south of Aranda and abandoned that position to withdraw thirty miles to Somosierra. It is said this is the strongest military position in all Spain. The Swiss strategist and engineer Bertholdt has opined, "Soldiers say the Ordal Cross heights are a strong position. True soldiers know that Ordal is but a child's castle of sand upon a beach compared to the pass of Somosierra."

South of Aranda the French army has moved forwards and remains in contact with the Spanish. Their cavalry officers have arrived at the foot of the road leading up to the pass and are studying the position through their spyglasses.

In the West! Lisbon and the British! What is Going On?


There is news of further fleets of transports approaching Lisbon. It seems the English intend to land yet more soldiers ashore. Soon perhaps Portugal will break off and sink into the Atlantic under the weight of fat English officers, their fat wives and their fat horses. Madeira, potatoes and beef are being consumed in grotesque proportions. The Lisbon economy is booming, English soldiers stomachs are booming, but what is not booming is English cannon! Where are the British? They landed ashore last summer yet all we have seen of them is one battle at Vimiero and then nothing! They have landed ashore here and gone away there. They march hither and thither and their politicians yell at their generals who yell back, indignant and red-faced. We have only seen the English run away from battle! Valladolid! Santander! Duenas! These foreigners come into our country, take their pick of our finest beef herds and our exotic birds and keep marching away from the French. Something must happen soon, something more than the loud belches coming from the English officers messes!


Valladolid, Zamora, Aravelo and the Plains of Leon.


A farcical cat and mouse game is being played out on these pretty fields and among the red-roofed farms of Castille. Detachments of French and Spanish cavalry trot here and there, armies sit idle, garrisons relax and enjoy the local delights. There is a French division - or two divisions - at Valladolid, a critical place that the British and Spanish seem to pointedly ignore, despite its military importance. The English armies go back and forth to no purpose. At Arevalo the Conde de Belvedere rests in a fine villa and his men enjoy the dry fresh weather. A few hundred French cavalry are posted across the Adajo and daily chat with their counterparts as they water their horses on the opposite bank. There are rumours of French patrols in Zamora yet no attempt is made to investigate this news. Is this a war or is it not? Is every person so mesmerised by each word Bonaparte utters that none cares for any place but where he rests his behind?

It is like a war and yet not a war in Leon-Castile. Are we trying to drive the invader from our beautiful country or are we not?


Torrelavega!


The latest news is of a titanic battle on the coastal plain near this town. Reports are that General Acevedo's army was caught in a strung out position with one of his divisions out of place. Certain defeat was uppermost in every officers mind yet by the Grace of God the French have been halted here. Marechal Ney's corps attacked on the 28th in the morning but was denied victory by a combination of their own slow advance, the very bad terrain in this region and an unusually dogged defence by the brave soldiers of Asturias. We carry a full report of this battle elsewhere but the most important news is that the French have gone back to Santander to lick their wounds although Ney's fellow Marechal, Baron Verdier, is reported at Reynosa upon Acevedo's flank.

Of the British who were in Santander and marched out with Acevedo and la Romana, there is no news.


Oviedo!


At this city the powerful garrison marched out to confront a brigade of French light cavalry that was patrolling outside. A couple of days of inconclusive skirmishing took place with the more numerous garrison able to send convoys of carts and ox-wagons past the French to Acevedo's army. Shockingly, within a week, the French commander,
Colonel Louis-Marie Le Ferriere-Levesque, was confronted with the news that his own line of communications was cut. A powerful body of Spanish cavalry arrived from the east, escorted by an artillery train and most worrying of all, a brigade of British light infantry. Faced with enemies to front and rear and with the Royal Navy's private lake on one hand and a mountain range infested with murderous guerillas on the other, a demoralised Ferriere-Levesque surrendered his entire command! Eight squadrons of fine French light cavalry, nearly 1,200 men, have been captured and are now held in Oviedo's barracks. The exhilarated Spanish horsemen at once began exchanging their thin mounts for sleek French ones.

_________________
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 18 - late February 1809

Post  Mark87 on Tue Nov 03, 2015 12:20 pm

Interesting. Lots to sift through
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Re: Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  King_Rufus on Sat Nov 07, 2015 4:46 pm

Sift well, my friend, lest you miss the egg of a prize Penedesenca
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Re: Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  Mark87 on Sat Nov 07, 2015 6:00 pm

I would appreciate your comment more if I had any British to sift through via my telescope. Alas, I have only viewed the backs of the English once, and at a great distance. Not much to sift through, indeed.
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Re: Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  King_Rufus on Sun Nov 08, 2015 1:12 pm

Now that we have established direct diplomatic contact, Your Excellency, please allow me to raise the matter of Senorita Martinez, reported to be in your custody in relation to an attempt upon your person.

Although I acknowledge that the Senorita is a past acquaintance of mine, and indeed at one time occupied a senior position in His Majesty's armed forces, please be assured that HM Government in no way condones terrorism, or violent attacks on Heads of State, under any circumstances.

It is a fact that Senorita Martinez has led a somewhat wayward existence since her resignation from His Majesty's employ. One should however consider her tender age, and her predisposition to seek the protection of powerful and imposing male protectors, of which you are doubtless the foremost example in the world, Your Excellency, ............. with the possible exception of the Emperor of China.

It was surely the sudden dashing of the Senorita's hope of romance with Your Excellency which led to her childish tantrum, potentially lethal though it may have been.

In short, His Majesty's government offers the sum of five thousand silver guineas for the safe return of Senorita Martinez to the bosom of her friends and family, on parole never again to work against the life or interests of Your Excellency.

I am prepared to throw in, from my personal collection, a breeding pair of the genus Castillana Negra, whose lustrous black plumage, and rosy brown eggs, are sure to delight Your Excellency.

Your Excellency may care to communicate your response through my aide, Captain Flashman, by whose offices this message is brought.
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Re: Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  Martin on Sun Nov 08, 2015 2:54 pm

Is this an appropriate use of British Government funds?

Burlington H Grumble
Crime Correspondent, The Times of London

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Re: Turn 18 - late February 1809

Post  King_Rufus on Mon Nov 09, 2015 2:28 am

Only time will tell, Grumble, but I am sure that will not prevent you giving me the benefit of your wisdom in an upcoming edition. Were you not on the Rodrigo Reveille last time I looked, incidentally? It seems you have contrived a Fleet Street position on the back of those scurrilous stories you circulated about my person?
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