Sunday, 15 May 2016

Peninsular project part 7 the campaign continues

With the city of Evora under French control, and general Lision moving onto Elvas. The situation would seem to have been stabilised for the French in Portugal, but far from it. clashes were still being fought around the country, even riots were braking out in Lisbon. The fortress of Almeida was surrounded by Portuguese and Spanish regular troops, the city and fortress of Elvas was also blockaded, all be it by irregulars. News of the French defeat at Baylen had reached Juont, which know meant he was cut off from Spain, and a route home and to make things worse, there was the news that the British were about to land in Portugal. All this made the situation dangerous for the French. The site chosen for the British landing was Mondego bay. As the bay was secured by the fort of Santa Caratina which had been held by he students of Coimbra university since late June. The fort was of great importance to the British, as Wellesley approached the bay he sent some Royal Marines to help garrison the fort, before he attempted landing troops at the bay.

At this point general Lision was recalled to Lisbon, as was other French troops around the country. Junot's plans were simple, gather a field army, and smash the British army around Figueiras-De-Foz before it can be reinforced. For this task, Junot could put together around 12 to 14'000 men, but he needed time to consolidate. So he ordered general Henri-Francois Delaborde to find the British and observe them and if possible, "engage them in a manor as to slow there progress but not to lose his command." General Delaborde was based around Torres Vedras when he received orders to advance north. He moved quickly towards the British, but found they were moving fast and his scouts located them around Alcobaza on the 14th of August.

General Delaborde force was made up of the following troops:

26th Chasseurs A Cheval

2nd light infantry
4th light infantry
2 battalions of the 70th line infantry
4th Swiss line infantry

one field battery

Although out numbered by the British general Delaborde was a excellent officer, and new how to use his troops and the terrain to his advantage, as the British were to find out.

The British force that landed at Mondego bay was around 8'700 men with another 5,400 men on rote from Gibraltar. this would give a total of around 14'000 men.

Some extracts from a diary.

Being the accounts of Captain William Jenkins  an exploring officer attached to the 29th foot Regiment.

Date the 22nd DEC 1807
We are off the Bay of Biscay the wind is getting worse, by the day. All but the best of us are sick, I'm truly not cut out to be a sailor

Date 25th DEC  1807
Christmas day, the weather is at its worst, we could hardly cook, and we were all forced to eat while sitting on the floor.

Date 1st JAN 1808
We are to make for England, the weather has beaten us.

Date 23rd JAN 1808
We set sail again, in three days we have returned to the Bay of Biscay. This time the weather is with us.

Date 28th Feb 1808
We have made the rock of Lisbon, we could see the British fleet blockading the port, as we commanded the sea, but the French held the port and the country.

Date 1st AUG 1808
After much sailing and communications with the Portuguese and Spanish we are to land in Portugal, we have arrived at Mondego Bay and immediately commenced landed troops, we have a most handsome army. Although there was a heavy swell which pounded the hole length of our beach. The flat bottom transport boats did roll from side to side some, which made things very discomforting. I was extremely happy to gain a footing on the beach. The army mainly infantry with some cavalry belonging to the 20th light dragoons some 280 strong. we also had 18 guns we numbered some 8'000 strong.

Date 5th AUG 1808
We are all on dry land with the loss of some poor soles, who drowned, it would have been more as many of the boats were over turned in the swell, but the locals did us a great service by swimming out, or wading out to help the unfortunate soles who found themselves struggling in the water. There was a huge welcoming crowed on the beach and surrounding land. We were offered grapes, oranges and wine. soon the beach was in chaos, there was men and horses everywhere, mountains of ships biscuits and all the accoutrement's of an army on the march could be found.

Captain Jenkins sketch of the beach at Mondego Bay august 1st 1808

We will leave Captain Jenkins for know. I will be including more diary extracts as we progress. By the 9th of August the British were on the move and by 11th they had reached the village Batalha were the French had only been the other day. The quick movements of the British had caught the French off guard. General Delaborde had withdrawn towards the town of Rolica. He had moved as far north as Alcobaza's but French had spotted the British, and the French withdrew through Batalha to the town of Obidos, just north of the town of Rolica. Delaborde reached Rolica on the 15th of August having left a rearguard near Obidos. At the village of Brilos near Obidos, on the same day Belaborde reached Rolica the British skirmishers moved towards the French position. a minor skirmish occurred when the rearguard was spotted and some companies of the 95th rifles and the 60th rifles were sent forward to flush them out.
 The forth battle in my project will be a re-fight of the skirmishing near Obidos.

British troops march south from Mondego Bay

The forces involved:

The skirmishing around Obidos was the first action of the Peninsular war to involve the British, all be it a very small affair. The French piquets around the village of Brilos were either troopers of the 26th Chasseurs or skirmish infantry of the 70th line, for my re-fight i have gone for the 70th line.

For the French:

The French command 

The 26th Chasseurs a Cheval single bases for skirmish action

The 70th line infantry battalion

The 2 units of skirmishers of the 70th line infantry

For the British:
The British commander 

General Spencer who was in command of the brigade that arrived later in the skirmish

Skirmishers of the 60th rifles

Skirmishers of the 95th rifles

The 29th foot regiment part of generals Spencer's brigade in the re-fight

The 71st Highland light infantry also part of Spencer's brigade

Set up and deployment:
For the re-fight one of the 70th line skirmish units are positioned in the walled area near the village of Brilos. The other skirmish unit of the 70th is positioned on the hill with the windmill, on the right of the village. The 26th Chasseurs are approaching the area, as is the rest of the 70th line. The two British skirmish units will enter the table from the road leading to the village of Brilos. The French will move first, on the first turn their orders are to hold the area around the village and the hills protecting the road to Rolica for as long as possible, to allow the rest of Delaborde's troops to withdraw to the town of Rolica. For their part the British have to clear the French from both the village and the hills. 
Battle sketch showing the French skirmishers near Brilos and on the hill. The British rifles skirmishers can also be seen approaching the enemy.

Both sides in the action wish to keep casualties to a minimum for each enemy skirmish figure that is killed you will receive 1 point. For each objective held or taken you get 2 point. All normal morale tests and order test will remain for the re-fight. The British reserve brigade lead by general Spencer will arrive on the road at turn 10. The Chasseurs will arrive on the road on the French table edge on turn 8, the French 70th line battalion base will also arrive on the road at turn 10, on the French table edge.  The skirmish will run for 15 turns assuming that the game lasts that long. The side  with the most points wins unless one side routes before the end of the game. 

well that's it for know part 8 will have the full skirmish and more info on the continuing campaign. till then my friends.