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31. Battle of Alba de Tormes - 31st March 1809

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31. Battle of Alba de Tormes - 31st March 1809

Post  Mr. Digby on Sat Dec 19, 2015 7:44 pm

This is a back-up scenario for Sunday 20th December in case we don't get enough players for Ojos (see separate thread).

During the confusion during the loss of Madrid, the Conde de Belvedere advanced his Army of Extremadura towards the city with the object of destroying the Spanish supply depots there. In this he failed, his cavalry advance guard being blocked by the cavalry of Victor's I Corps on the NW suburbs of the city late on the 14th March. Belvedere's own supply route was from these important depots and without supplies his army began to involuntarily fall back, French cavalry harassing his retreating column, which fell back through Villalba on the 16th.

At Villacastin some 30 miles west of Villalba and 60 from the capital, a British corps under Lieutenant-General Thomas Graham was encamped, having been sent there to join Sir Arthur Wellesley's army. Sir Arthur however had chosen to strike north towards Valladolid in company with General Theodor von Reding and his Spanish Army of Leon-Castille, in pursuit of Marechal Soult's II Corps.



Wellesley's and von Reding's supply lines ran from Salamanca via Villacastin, so it was vital to hold this place.

Belvedere's disintegrating army fetched up behind Graham's force near the town on the 18th and the two generals enjoyed a long and progressively heated exchange over their options. These frank negotiations came to a close after Graham suggested that Belvedere requisition von Reding's supply wagons to feed and equip his own men, but since this would leave von Reding helpless, and to his great credit and honour, Belvedere refused, saying "I am a count, not a thief. I will start my retreat. I should rather die an honest man then live as a thief."

An hour later, the weary Spanish began to form up again in their straggling columns and move west. That evening French cavalry contacted Graham's thin cavalry screen of KGL Light Dragoons and pressed them in, outnumbering them greatly. Graham was in a very difficult position. If he withdrew his senior officers supply line would be ruptured. If he stayed he risked the destruction of his small corps against what his scouts were telling him was a bigger French force - and a defeat would still result in the loss of the supply road.

With much chagrin Graham too ordered his men to fall back the next morning, the 20th, and for the next ten days a bitter retreat ensued with Graham's rearguard of German cavalry and British light infantry desperately holding back the strong French cavalry advance guard. Graham's march was hampered by the slow columns of Spaniards ahead of him and each day saw broken carts, wagons and abandoned cannon with despondent clumps of exhausted stragglers grow in number at the roadside.

This sorry state of affairs came to a head at the town of Alba de Tormes on the 30th March. Here the River Tormes runs north into wide Leon plain over flat open farming land with the town tucked against it's right or eastern bank. There was no good defensive position other than the river itself for miles around and both Graham and Belvedere were trapped on the wrong side of it.

Nevertheless and with great gallantry Graham offered to hold the bridges open for several vital hours in order to let the Spanish escape along the road to Tamames. This act may risk his own corps but the British general has complete faith in his skilled cavalry and well-drilled infantry. He faces a far stronger force however and Marechal Victor, now placed in command of the Armee du Madrid, is leading General de Division Lapisse and his I Corps against the town.

The British must prevent the French getting any infantry units across the Tormes (Reka Ostr on the map) at either of the bridges west of the town for a certain period (the time limit of this is not known to the French). After that they may withdraw. The Spanish will be umpire-controlled and will retreat slowly. There may be some Spanish units with high enough esprit de corps to act as a rearguard.

There is a primitive horse-drawn tramroad or "railed waggonway" that runs out of the town to the north-west alongside the Salamanca road. It serves to bring clays and sands from nearby quarries into the town for use in brickmaking. The trackbed and bridges of this early railway line MAY NOT be used to cross the rivers on the map.



A more detailed map and OOBs will be given in the two sides' private forums.






_________________
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: 31. Battle of Alba de Tormes - 31st March 1809

Post  Mr. Digby on Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:58 pm

The action at Alba de Tormes on 31st March was an inconclusive affair although the Allies have a small justification in calling it a victory. General de Division Lapisse attacked with his I Corps in a robust and vigorous manner, pushing the British quickly out of the western outskirts of Alba although Lt-Genl Graham had ordered his troops to fall steadily back behind the tail of the retreating Spanish columns. The Spanish retreat was covered satisfactorily and their slow moving baggage which took an hour to cross the Tormes was almost evacuated intact however General Conde de Belvedere's Army of Extremadura continued in increasing disorganisation on lesser tracks to Tamames.

The British and some Spanish brigades that were the rearguard then withdrew over the Tormes although they suffered not inconsiderable losses to some KGL battalions of Murray's division and several battalions and squadrons from the Spanish brigades who did not apparently receive the order to withdraw and were hit hard by the advancing French.

General Fraser's division was sent north along the road to Salamanca to watch a crossing of the Tormes further north and took no part in the battle, leaving the fighting to Murray's KGL and Hope's Light divisions. Graham was able to establish a strong line on the west bank and set up his artillery which caused the French some discomfort in their attempts to cross.

What may have been a telling factor had the battle continued was the loss of so many French cavalry squadrons and guns from Beaumont's light cavalry division. His 2nd and 4th hussar regiments which had begun the battle each 4 squadrons strong were reduced to just three squadrons in total and his horse battery had been driven off, with two cannons destroyed.

On the Allied side Arentschilde's 3rd KGL light dragoons still had 3 squadrons in action and there were two full brigades of Spanish light cavalry available. These forces may have been sufficient to cover any Allied withdrawal.

On the French side Ruffin's 1st division attacked in the south and made a determined push directly for the southern Tormes bridge, driving back the Spanish brigade of grenadiers of General Monteleón with heavy loss and securing it. Maison's 2nd division attacked in the centre directly through Alba with Vilatte's 3rd division on his right. These two divisions pushed back Hope's Light and Murray's KGL troops gradually but took some loss while doing so.

On the extreme French right or northern flank, Beaumont's hussars faced off the Spanish cavalry division of Don Josef Solis and quickly defeated the dragoon brigade of Bèrriz which uncovered the left flank of Murray's KGL battalions and allowed the French hussars to charge two of them as they withdrew, routing both.

Once across the Tormes however the Allies stabilised their position and would have been difficult to shift, especially if Fraser's highlanders had been recalled to support the line.

The French lost 300 killed, 2,200 wounded and 50 missing. The Allies' loss was 350 killed, 2,480 wounded and 60 missing. Of these 165 killed, 1,190 wounded and 30 missing were British and 185, 1,290 and 30 were Spanish.

Belvedere's Spanish have retreated quickly to Tamames where the Conde intends to reopen a new supply line from the fortress of Badajoz in Extremadura. Graham remains obstinately on the west bank of the Tormes at Alba faced by Lapisse and Victor. With such heavy loss to both sides and no clear winner neither the British nor French may advance in the coming weeks though they may remain in position or withdraw. An attack by either side is not practicable unless they are reinforced by fresh troops.

Replay File here.

_________________
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: 31. Battle of Alba de Tormes - 31st March 1809

Post  Iberalc on Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:13 am

That's when the British started to call a retreat a victory. Twisted Evil
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Re: 31. Battle of Alba de Tormes - 31st March 1809

Post  Mr. Digby on Fri Jan 15, 2016 8:24 am

Indeed, we are good at doing this. This art of self-delusion reaches its peak at Dunkerque in 1940.

_________________
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: 31. Battle of Alba de Tormes - 31st March 1809

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