donderdag 15 november 2018

Scenario - March 27, the Siege of Vigo

Historical Background
As Soult approached the city of Oporto his original force of 23,000 had been thinned to 16,000 troops. Casualties, relatively speaking were light, but to keep his supply and line of communication with Ney in Galicia detachments were placed in the major cities and towns along the way; these were Vigo, Tuy, Orense, Chaves and Braga. The uprising in Galicia threatened the first three locations and the Ordenanza in northern Portugal threatened the last two. Unknown to Soult, Silveira was successful in retaking Chaves as French neared Oporto.

A key link in the chain was the port of Vigo as it offered the British a toehold in the north to supply the insurgents there. On the 15th of February, Soult left a garrison of 700 men to secure the fortress and the harbour area before moving on to Orense and the frontier. By the 7th of March, the local populace rose in arms which drew the attention of both La Romana and the Central Junta in Seville and to support their effort officers were sent to help with the blockade the harbour and town of Vigo.

The French, commanded by Colonel Chalot could not prevent the insurgents from securing parts of the town and therefore remained determined to hold the fortress; not willing to surrender to a force of peasants. On the 23rd of March, two English frigates (Lively and Venus) entered the harbour and began to supply the insurgents with munitions and heavy naval guns for their use. After four days, one of the gates succumbed to the bombardment forcing Colonel Chalot to negotiate surrender.

Locating maps of Vigo during the Peninsular War is very difficult, however, you will have some success by searching for the Battle of Vigo Bay (Spanish Succession). This did produce a fine map of the harbour, city and Castro Citadel. The citadel does command the entrance to the bay but its location limits any effective control over the city.  

Colonel Chalot had at his disposal 700 men which were later augmented by the paymaster-general and his escort guarding the military chest, brought the total number of defenders to 1,300. On hearing of the siege of Vigo, a relief column was sent to aid the garrison only to arrive a day late.
The insurgents, commanded by Lieutenant Morillo, are described as sufficient in number to make French defence of the entire city impossible. Some sources quote more than 3,000.
British Naval
The two captains of the Lively (38) and Venus (36) had received discretionary latitude in cooperating with insurgency forces and so muskets, powder and other stores. Heavy naval guns and their crews were also brought ashore.

This is an interesting scenario if done from its entirety; from insurrection to surrender. The insurgent forces would increase with each week (7th – 13th) with the guerrilla leaders making assaults on the citadel. The French might recapture the town but as each week passes (14th – 20th) the increase numbers would make this impossible. Messengers were sent to the garrison at Tuy when the enemy grew in number. By the third week, Spanish officers will have arrived to coordinate the siege and the British Navy made their appearance to supply the Spanish with guns, powder, and naval guns. A French relief column was sent and this could arrive earlier than it did, but sources give its strength at a weak battalion (300).  

I highly recommend reading PhD. B. Toy’s ‘Littoral Operations in Galicia, 1809 and how effective the British Navy helped the uprising in Galicia.

Historias de Vigo
Littoral Operations in Galicia, 1809, by Brian M. Toy, PhD, West Point
A History of the Peninsular War, C. Oman, volume II,

dinsdag 6 november 2018

Portugal 1808/09 - expanding the project

I am currently painting Spanish infantry and to prepare for this I spent a week sourcing information covering uniforms. Gathering all related information I have the impression newly raised units were hard pressed to be clothed in a consistent fashion as the insurrection (1808) spread throughout Spain. Troops filling the ranks of the established regiments had depots to supply their needs, though items could still run short.

Selecting one of the many Spanish armies that confronted the French was a bit of a puzzle, as divisions were moved about to assist other regions. Of these, I did find Del Parque’s army, of late 1809, had a good balance of old line regiments, militia and newly raised levies. All would offer my colour palette a wide range to work with. Listed below is the order of battle which campaigned in late 1809.

Regiments listed in black type are the old established regiments, those in blue are old militia regiments and in green the newly raised levies. Light regiments are noted with (Lt) after their name.

Del Parque’s Army
in the Tamames-Alba de Tormes Campaign,
Oct.- Nov. 1809

Vanguard Division – MG de la Carrerra                                                  7,000 men (13 bns.)
Principe (3 bns.), Saragossa (3 bns.), 1st of Catalonia, 2nd of Catalonia (Lt.), Gerona, Barbastro (Lt.), Escolares de Leon (1 bn), Vittoria (1 bn), Montorte de Lemos (1 bn), Voluntarios de la Muerte (1 bn), one battery field artillery

1st Division – MG Losada                                                                           7,985 men (13 bns.)
Granaderos Provinciales de Galicia (2bns.), Leon (2 bns.), 1st and 2nd of Aragon (Lt.), Voluntarios de la Corona (2 bns.), Regimento del General (1 bn), 1st and 2nd of La Union (1 bn), Betanzos (2 bns.), Orense (1 bn), Compaña de Guardias Nacionales (1 bn), one battery field artillery

2nd Division – MG Conde de Belveder                                                      6,415 men (14 bns.)
Rey (2 bns.), Zamora (2 bns.), Seville (2 bns.), Toledo (2 bns.), Hibernia (2 bns.), Voluntarios de Navarra (Lt.), Santiago, Lovera (2 bns.), one battery field artillery

3rd Division (Asturias) – MG Ballasteros                                                9,632 men (15 bns.)
Navarra (3 bns.), Princesa (2 bns.), Oviedo (1 bn), Covadonga (1 bn), Villaviciosa (1 bn), Candas y Luaneo (1 bn), Castopol (1 bn), Pravia (1 bn), Cangas de Tineo (1 bn), Grado (1 bn), Infiesta (1 bn), Lena (1 bn), one battery field artillery

5th Division (Leonese) BG Marquis de Castrofuerte                                            5,912 men (7 bns.)
Tiradores de Ciudad Rodrigo (1 bn), 2nd of Ciudad Rodrigo (1 bn), Voluntarios de Fernando VII (1 bn), Leon (1 bn), Legroño (1 bn), Toro (1 bn), Valladolid (1 bn), one battery field artillery

NB – The 4th Division, Galician troops under Mahy about 7,000 strong, and the garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo, 3,817 bayonets, were never brought up to the front.

Cavalry Division – the Prince of Anglona                                               
Borbon, Sagunto, Granaderos de Llerena   
Reyna, Provisional Regiment, Cazadore de Ciudad Rodrigo, one horse-artillery battery  

Total Old Line regiments - 32 bns., Old Militia regiments  - 6 bns.., New levies  - 25 bns.

History of the Peninsular War, C. Oman, volume III, appendix III.

donderdag 1 november 2018

Scenario - March 27, the Battle of Oporto

Historical Background
Following their defeat at Braga, the majority of the Portuguese retreated south toward Oporto with Baron Eben’s command leaving other Ordenanza to seek safety in the mountainous region. Pursuing the Portuguese, Soult crossed the Avé River and approaching Oporto found the Portuguese behind field works and gun positions shielding the city. While awaiting his extended columns to gather, Soult made an appeal to the defenders not to expose the city to be sacked as raw levies would not be able to stand an assault by regular troops. The Portuguese reply was defiant leaving Soult to make plans for an assault for the following day. During the night, a thunderstorm struck and the subsequent downpour drenched both Portuguese and French alike. The general assault planned at daybreak was postponed to seven in the morning. [1]

The Peninsular War Atlas by Col. Lipscombe offers an excellent map of the battlefield with relative positions of both Portuguese and French forces. Do note that the Portuguese were positioned on a long front spanning six or seven miles covered by entrenchments and batteries. As Soult’s invasion of Portugal became known, the Portuguese had three weeks to prepare fortifications along the heights. Streets near the edge of the city were barricaded so as to offer a second line of defence. The position of these fortifications remained unchanged and can be seen on maps of the Second Battle of Oporto. [2]

The defence of the city was under the nominal command of the Bishop of Oporto. At its core were the nucleus of two Oporto regiments (6th and 18th), two battalions led by General Vittoria and a battalion of the Valenza regiment (nr. 21) and remnants of the 2nd bn. Lusitanian Legion that survived the rout at Braga. Four militia regiments (Oporto, Baltar, Feira and Villa de Conde) are added to the list but the majority were levies similar to those that fought at Chaves and Braga; 9,000 citizens of Oporto and further levies from the outlying areas to muster a force of 30,000 men. Brigadier Generals Lima-Barreto, Parreiras and Vittoria commanded the left, centre and right of the battle line; each was to have two to three battalions of regulars as a reserve. As at Braga, a state of anarchy prevailed resembling a Revolutionary Tribunal which undermined the overall effectiveness of command. After giving a benediction to the garrison, command was handed over to the three generals with the good Bishop of Oporto retiring south across the Douro. [3]
Delaborde and Franceschi were positioned on the left, in centre were Mermet and one brigade of dragoons and on the right, Merle and a second brigade of Lahoussaye were to force the western entrenchments. Two regiments of cavalry formed a general reserve. This gave Soult a total 16,000 men including 3,000 cavalry. [4]

The Portuguese must hold their current position until nightfall and prohibit the French from entering the city of Oporto. This will allow more civilians to leave the city and the military the opportunity to retreat.
The French have victory by demoralising two of the three commands. The Ordenanza do not count toward break point but as in BBDBA they do count toward the 50 percent loss of elements for the army.

[1] History of the Peninsular War, Oman, volume II, p.244
[2] Second Battle of Oporto, Wiki, see map.
[3] History of the Peninsular War, Oman, volume II, p.240
[4] ibid, p.244