Sunday, 6 December 2015

Peninsular war project part 1

With the last game of our Waterloo project being played out hopefully soon, its been a long wait as most of the players have been away. I was thinking about doing a solo project next. Staying with the Napoleonic theme i looked at the campaigns of 1812 and 1809, but both were large affairs and i wanted to up the scale to 28mm for some if not the majority of the games so i settled on the Peninsular Campaign 1807 to 1814.

I want to cover the campaign around the Portuguese theatre of war, and include the early fighting that took place before the British landed in 1808. So i did a bit of research and have come up with a historically based campaign. For the first part of the campaign, I'm going to start with the invasion of Portugal  1807 and ends in the battle of Vimeiro 1808.
The campaign will follow the historical time line, and as its progress i will try to cover the small and larger actions, were and when they historically took place. Im also hoping to add the odd maybe/what if action. As this is a new scale for me (for Napoleonics at least) i will also be constructing the units that will take part in the actions as the campaign progresses, as well as putting together some terrain so i will include the unit painting, terrain construction and the research as i go, as well as the Battle reports.
I am hoping to also include a mini war diary of the campaign from the point of view of some of the British fictitious character's. It sounds a lot going on, and it is going to be a long term project.

Historical Background
With the French trade embargo against Britain pretty much sown up. Portugal, Britain's oldest Ally boldly refused to enforce the embargo and continued trading with Britain. This defiance could not go unpunished in the eyes of Napoleon. this meant that Portugal was on a collision course with France. Napoleon started to put in place his response.

By mid 1807  General Junot at the head of the army of the Gironde  some 25'000 men had assembled south of Bordeaux and would soon marched into Spain. By November  Junot had been joined by Spanish troops and was positioned on the Portuguese border. On the 19th of November French troops started to cross into Portugal. This as history would tell was only a stepping stone as Napoleon had bigger plans for both Portugal and later Spain.

The French main route into Portugal would take them first to Alcantara on the Portuguese's border and onto Lisbon some 200 km west from Alcantara. The route was difficult filled with narrow valleys and tracks winding through mountainous areas.
The Invasion force was made up of both French and Spanish.
With 3 Spanish corps holding the border areas.
6'500 Spanish at Vigo  under Taranco was to march on Porto.
9'500 Spanish at Badajos under Solano was to march on Elvas
9'500 Spanish at Cuidad Rodrigo and Alcantara  under Caraffas were to join Junot's advance.
25'000 French advancing towards Alcantara.

The French started there advance along the desolate route following the upper Tagus, the infantry made it through but the cavalry had lost up to half there horses and few guns made it that far. a few days later the French advance units made it to Abrantes, and by the 25th of November the rest of the army finaly made it to. The men were starving and some stragglers had been killed by Portuguese peasants lurking in the mountains. while at Abrantes Junot learnt the Portuguese Royal family were making preparations to leave for Brazil. Junot put together a flying column made up of some joint Grenadiers companies and the 70th line infantry and made a dash for Lisbon. The march was difficult and they were harassed, but meet no significant resistance.
On the 30th of November Junot entered Lisbon with his flying column, the rest of the army followed in the next few days and following weeks, but he had missed the Royal family, only just.
Lisbon was know under French control. The three Spanish corps moved into Portugal in December. On the 15th of December the French Flag was flown over Lisbon, were riots broke out but these were soon put down ruthlessly by the French with the bayonet and sword.

Portugal was now occupied by up to 50'000 troops, the Portuguese army was simply disbanded. ( some being reformed in early 1808, and marched into France to join the Grand Army ) but i get ahead of myself.

Going back to the Autumn of 1807 for the first game  Combat in the hills   I'm going to have Small units of Portuguese militia and partisans fighting against groups of French regulars of the 70th line as they make there dash for Lisbon.

Some accounts state that Lisbon fell without a shot. Other accounts say small skirmishes were fought between Junot's flying corps and Portuguese patriots as he made his dash for Lisbon. so our first battle will represent one of the possible skirmishes that were fought as the French moved in on Lisbon.

Combat in the hills 1807

Looking at the forces involved the French are going to be made up of 2 company bases and their single skirmish bases. 5 single bases per company base as they are to represent the 70th line. Light infantry companies can have 6 skirmishers. Each company base will have 12 miniature's ( for larger battles the same bases will be used as the command base of a battalion ) they will be able to volley fire in the game and will also act as the rally point and deployment point for their skirmishers. I  have used a mixture of miniatures ranging from Perry, Warlord and victrix.

A companies of the 70th line and their skirmishers  four Voltigeurs and a NCO advance thought a vineyard

The Portuguese forces for this action are a bit more of a challenge reading up on them, references give accounts of units of militia dressed in rags, or white uniforms, and of units of partisans roaming the hills dressed in civilian cloths armed mainly with hand weapons. so armed with a few pictures i started to put together some miniatures.

some of the pictures i found on the net

I  used parts from victrix French Napoleonic and Perry ACW and even Warlord ECW plastics. This helped to get that irregular look to the partisans as well as the unit of militia.
early stages of the Portuguese irregulars 

 I also went for the white uniformed militia with wide brimmed hats as described by several accounts of British officers during the early stages of the campaign.  For the first action I'm going to have 1 company of Portuguese militia, militia units can't form skirmishers so no single skirmishers for this unit. There are also going to be units of irregular partisans 20 single skirmishers armed with hand weapons and 6 single skirmishers armed with muskets. Irregular troops can't form units so are based individually and are classed  as skirmishers.

hand weapon armed irregulars
close up of some of the irregulars
The partisans made up of numerous plastic parts from ECW to ACW and everything in between

Portuguese militia ready for action

Back to the game, its mid November the French infantry of the 70th line move up yet another Valley only to find there progress blocked by some Portuguese irregulars lining the hills. Lisbon is only a few miles west, and General Junot is eager to reach Lisbon before the royal family escapes. your job is to force the pass and take the village.
The Portuguese will try to stop you but they are not well armed, although they do out number you.

sketch of the battle 
1. The routes through the Valley are very narrow 1/4 movement for the companies bases, skirmish miniatures can move as normal.
2. All French troops must use the narrow tracks.
3. The Portuguese partisans can move along the track and the heights, 1/2 movement when moving along the heights.
4. The Portuguese militia can only deploy in the village or surrounding farm/vineyards.
5. The 2 companies of the 70th start at the base of the valley and have not deployed any skirmishers.

In part 2 i will post the full battle report and the next chapter of the campaign.
till next time