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TURN 8 - Late September 1808

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TURN 8 - Late September 1808

Post  Mr. Digby on Sat Nov 22, 2014 3:07 pm

A Period of Fortunes Mixed for Both Armies! Battlefield Defeats for France but Fortresses Captured! A Second French Army Massing in the Pyrenees? Two Missing Forces Found! British Establish Position in Portugal. Junta Releases Reserves! A Shipment of British Muskets and Cannon Lands at Cadiz!

The end of the month of September sees temperatures beginning to cool and the first drifts of white lacing the highest sierras between Madrid and Burgos, and above Calatayud and in the Pyrenees. The harvest is in, the grapes trodden, the olives pressed. In the farmlands of Spain and in the merchants' counting houses life goes on, or at least those not dragged into the turmoil of war attempt to continue to make a living, but recent weeks have witnessed some important developments and changes, on the field of battle, in the siege lines and at a higher level of strategy. It would seem the war will not be over this year. By late summer with the French position at Madrid now very precarious and a lost battle on the Ebro, commentators were saying that surely the French would withdraw from Spain. It is now plain to the most reluctant strategists that this is a country clearly in a situation of a mass uprising, military and civil, and not at all the victim of a few rebellious elements as the Emperor first suspected.

Defeat in Cataluña! Rosas Falls!

A party of riders came forth on thin ponies from the gates of the battered and smoking citadel near the port, both white and Spanish flags held aloft. General Reille and his staff met with the Spanish envoys. There followed a full day's discussion at the general's headquarters, a roofless taverna on the north edge of town. By nightfall the French had their way and Colonel Pedro O'Daly, the Spanish garrison commander, was forced to surrender his fortress and troops unconditionally. No relief force had arrived to give succour to the gallant defenders at the end of the month as had been agreed, and with food and fresh water almost at an end and lacking powder, ball and even a doctor to care for his many wounded, O'Daly signed the articles of surrender. Rosas has fallen! The defenders marched out, colours held high but the men (and women!) thin, filthy and ragged. They had done all that they could. It was seen that the lines of French infantry that formed an honour guard to the prisoners was also made up of men tired, dirty and exhausted from this long and most bitter siege.

It has been learned that in the dark of night, two nights ago, a party of cutters and longboats from a small British squadron offshore came in to extricate their company of red-coated marines. Also taken off were several weak companies of Spanish regular infantry which the Royal Navy convoyed to Barcelona. It is thought a new infantry brigade may be raised around this cadre of experienced veterans. O'Daly refused to leave, his place was at the head of his citizen army; he surrendered with the rest of them.

General Reille is known to be reorganising his corps, placing a garrison into Rosas, his engineers are commencing repairs and the Frenchman looks now to the south once again and the fatter prize of Gerona which beckons.

Defending the south bank of the Rio Ter at Gerona, General Vives' Catalan troops are ready. With the powerful fortress behind them restocked with grain and wheat, its arsenal again filled with powder barrels, Vives' troops are rested and well-supplied. A significant clash of arms at some point along the Ter seems inevitable.

At Figueras all is quiet for now, the running fights and skirmishes of earlier with bands of miquelets have abated and the French supply road is again open. However the "voleurs noirs" or black vagabonds as the French name the mountain fighters, are always nearby and a new leader has risen in their ranks. He is known only by a sinister title, "El Medico" (The Doctor) and his force of ruffians and cut-throats is said to number over 2,500. His men are operating north of Vich and west of Gerona, sealing all the mountain tracks to any French patrols and helping (or forcing?) the mountain villagers to hide their foodstuffs and draft animals to prevent the enemy using them.

Barcelona! A Lost Army Found! New Support for Vives' Catalans!

Capitán-General Llamas of Valencia has not been heard from for many weeks. Its now clear what the new Spanish strategy in the east is; The Army of the Right has been divided into two independent wings. The Valencians have marched up the Mediterranean coast and arrived in Barcelona to support and work with Vives' Army of Cataluña. On the 27th of the month a powerful body of cavalry, three brigades strong and over 1,500 men, jingled and clattered into the lines of the Army of Cataluña at Gerona, bringing much needed mounted support for the Catalans who have always lacked a strong mounted arm.

General Llamas has taken up overall command. The Spanish host in Cataluña is said to now number more than 40,000, though as always part of Vives' force is irregular Catalan light infantry, somatenes and miquelets who cannot stand up to enemy cavalry or close order infantry in open terrain.

Madrid! French Collapse Imminent! Armies of Murcia and Granada Advance!

In the centre position where the fortunes of the war are most critical, the division of the Army of the Right to two wings has given General Villava of the Murcian's fresh strength and support. Llamas has sent north a reserve formation that was recruiting in south-east Andalucia and calling it The Army of Granada has placed it under General Villava's command. The Murcian commander lost no time and with his new strength pushed aggressively north, recovering lost ground and retaking Tarancon in mid-month. With Grouchy's cavalry corps being too weak to hold ground opposite him, Villava then swept on north-westwards and by the end of September he had made the line of the Rio Jarama and two days later pushed across to capture Sesena. The Army of Granada meanwhile operated on his right and pushed up the La Poveda road. By the end of the month a cavalry unit captured La Poveda and infantry were only 15 miles behind.

Spanish troops are now only ten miles from Madrid!

Great and Bloody Battle at Aranjuez! Dupont Retreats!

The carelessness of General Belvedere in not blocking the road running south-east out of Toledo could have resulted in the destruction of the entire Army of Andalucia, Spain's most powerful force. General Dupont, with daring and cunning, saw the gap and exploited it with a lightning march, the kind of which only French troops are said to be able. His corps pushed through Almonacid and cut the Manzanares road behind Castaños, south of Ocaña. Castaños' army had marched up that very road only a few days prior and were now deployed north of Aranjuez holding the line of the Tagus, expecting to face an attack from the north. Instead, discovering his supply lines cut, Castaños was obliged to face his tired men about and attack south. Dupont had just time to take up a strong position on a high ridge near the village of Scarnafigi when his small corps was assailed in force by three Spanish divisions. The French fought tenaciously and drove back the division of General Areizaga with heavy loss but was then hit in flank and rear by the troops of Coupigny and Lapeña. After several hours of brutal fighting in which no quarter was asked or given, the French were obliged to break out of the encirclement and retreat pell-mell westwards across country. Their losses in artillery and baggage were especially heavy. Castaños has claimed a great victory. The Central Junta has bestowed on him the title of "Marques de Aranjuez" in gratitude and recognition.

Late in the month General Dupont's troops retreated back across the Tagus at Toledo, returning to their earlier positions, much weakened. Again the sleepy Conde de Belvedere did nothing to stop the French column, though his cavalry screen watched it go past.

There have been more reports of civil disturbances in Madrid. With the news of the battle at Scarnafigi church bells have been rung. Courtiers and Francophile nobles have been packing their baggage and wagons and urging King Joseph to leave. If he delays his departure he may not get away!

Portugal. Seville.

The British Plenipotentiary, Mr John Hookham-Frere has established a legation in the city and entered into correspondence with the Junta Central on the details of allowing British troops to enter Spain. Much is apparently being discussed including possible training of Spanish troops, British supplies of muskets, cannon and cloth for uniforms as well as the release of some Spanish troops held prisoner in Lisbon by General Junot.

As to military movements it's understood that Sir John Moore has ordered elements of his corps to march towards the border with Spain and 'supervise' the final removal of elements of French garrisons belonging to Junot's corps. Sir Arthur Wellesley remains in Lisbon, meeting Portuguese politicians and ladies as well as talking with Hookham-Frere. His troops continue to drill outside the city, eager to get at "them d--m Frenchies!"

That Cunning Old Dog Cuesta Surfaces!

Despite his advancing years and waistline, it seems the tactical finesse displayed on the Adajo and at Valladolid (!) has not deserted him. Cuesta's army has appeared north-west of Madrid at Villalba, only 35 miles from Madrid and 20 from Montenebro where the French line of communications with Burgos runs. The riots in Madrid have been linked to pamphlets he ordered distributed and its said his spies in the city know the menu of the King's breakfasts before the royal chef! For now Cuesta seems content to let the pot simmer, but no doubt when it reaches the boil he will strike!


Near this great fortress General Baron Verdier has withdrawn his corps from the line of the Rio Carrion back to a position under the guns of the city. This move has allowed him to shorten the line he is holding and send a cavalry brigade towards Aranda. On the mountain road the French met, not with irregulars, but with several troops of Spanish regular dragoons! The cavalry are part of Cuesta's command and were driven off with ease, scrambling back towards Valladolid. Finally the communications between Burgos and Madrid are reopened. Baron Verdier has busied himself with strengthening the Burgos garrison and supervising the bringing in of more supplies.

On the Rio Carrion Spanish General Blake observed the French retrograde move but contented himself with following it up with only cavalry patrols for now. The Spanish mounted screen remains in contact with their French opposite numbers and these scouting groups have been 'playing at war' with each other now for so many weeks that fraternisation has begun with the men exchanging brandy, tobacco and other small gifts. French officers come into Spanish tents at night to gamble at cards and dice and the next night the noblemen of the Galician army do likewise.

Santander. Romana Arrives!

A British squadron escorting a large number of heavily-laden transports has come to anchor off the port. Small vessels have ploughed to and fro between the harbourmaster's residence and the English flagship and news is breaking that a great coup has been won in Denmark. As part of her treaty obligations to her erstwhile ally, Spain sent to aid French arms an Army of the North under Teniente General Pedro Caro y Sureda, 3° Marqués de La Romana. Napoleon used the Spanish troops to occupy and garrison Hamburg and later areas of Denmark, releasing French troops for field service. When Romana got news of the uprising in Spain he opened talks with English agents and after several months a plan was hatched to spirit away the Spaniards from Danish soil aboard a Royal Navy squadron. part of the plan faltered and two infantry regiments and a cavalry regiment either refused to co-operate with the English or were restrained by local French commanders. Nonetheless a division of infantry and a division of cavalry with several artillery batteries were taken on ship and whisked to freedom, surely one of the more daring operations of these wars.

The Pyrenees Theatre. Blow and Counter-Blow,

The French continue to occupy Miranda del Ebro in some strength. The army of General Acevedo has cautiously moved its forward elements back to San Milan and his light cavalry are watching the town from the north-west but no pressure is being applied. At Bilbao Spanish troops have re-entered the city though again, their movements are tentative and unsure, as that of a mouse coming from his hole and concerned where the house cat is hiding, waiting to pounce.

The corps of Maréchal Bessieres holds Miranda and has refitted and restocked its troops from the supply depot there.

The self-styled Capitán-General of Aragon, Palafox, after his brilliant victory over the corps of Maréchal Bessieres at Calahorra has been moving cautiously towards Miranda and has occupied Logrono, driving back a brigade of French dragoons. The news of Calahorra has rejuvenated Spanish fortunes in this theatre and at Pampluna fresh Spanish troops are being raised.

A Second Missing Army Found! Shock at Zaragosa! Murat's Surprise!

In a carefully planned lightning march Maréchals Murat and Moncey have led a corps d'armee over the Sierra de Guadarrama via Alcala and Calatayud to descend in a surprise move on Zaragosa! The Spanish appear to have been caught completely by surprise and with no forces outside the city Moncey's corps quickly invested the place, sending an immediate demand for surrender. This was brusquely refused but its thought the strength of the garrison may be critically low after General Palafox ordered a division of miquelets to march out to Tudela and join the battle of Calahorra at the beginning of the month. If true, the timing of that move could be critical in whether or not Zaragosa can hold out. The French are considering storming the place at once, an operation likely to be very bloody, but probably successful!

Emperor Napoleon Furious! A Second French Army Marches!

News has just arrived from France that the Emperor himself, deeply agitated at the contrary news and reports from Maréchal Murat, and learning of the gravity of the situation around Madrid and in the Ebro Valley, has ridden south and brought the bulk of the Grande Armeé with him! Already assembling near Bayonne there are reports of four army corps under Maréchals Victor, Mortier, Léfèbvre and Ney. Maréchals Berthier and Soult are also with the army as is Général de division St. Cyr. A terrible and perfect storm is about to rage across the Pyrenees.

Last edited by Mr. Digby on Fri Nov 28, 2014 8:40 pm; edited 1 time 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
Mr. Digby

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