We have 1020 registered users
The newest registered user is stephen

Our users have posted a total of 24908 messages in 1981 subjects
Log in

I forgot my password

TURN 13 - Early December 1808

Go down

TURN 13 - Early December 1808

Post  Mr. Digby on Tue Mar 03, 2015 3:26 pm

Cold Weather Worsens, Especially in the Mountains! Rain Lessens in Lowlands but Sleet and Cold Fronts Increase. War in Terrible Conditions Grinds Brutally Onward. French Advance in Leon-Castile! Battle Outside Pamplona! Alcazar Capitulates!

Confused Fighting and Spanish Retreat from Pampluna!

The siege was broken on the 9th when General Palafox's army made a desperate attempt to break out. The troops had been on half rations for two weeks already and shortages of powder and ball meant that each man carried no more than twenty rounds. The roads were seas of mud and the cold was an enemy that cut deeper than any opponents knife. General Palafox decided to make a run to the east and try to reach Lerida although his lieutenants told him no artillery could be taken. Nonetheless at one o'clock on Friday the fortress artillery began firing again after days of silence, sending French sentries scurrying for cover as the Spanish gunners burned through their dwindling supplies of powder. An hour later, with just three hours of daylight available a column of Spanish troops erupted from the city's east gate. Marechal Mortier had been forewarned of suspicious activity in the city and had shifted two brigades eastwards but despite this the Spanish advanced desperately across the two bridges that secured the east side of the city and up a steep ridge to drive aside the cavalry division of General Treilard. Palafox's force was pursued by the dragoons of General Kellermann and several guns were captured but the Spanish slipped away into the surrounding forests and growing dusk.

It is thought that Mortier will send troops in pursuit of the enemy who is now without guns, transport or supplies and faces a long gruelling march in the mountains past the Rio Aragon.

At Pamplona the garrison left behind was reduced to about 4,000 men, half of these armed citizens and in the battle the fortress artillery had fired off two-thirds of its remaining ammunition. The city's people are starving and burning anything to keep warm. The collapse of resistance cannot now be long.

Some French units returned to draw the tight grip of investment back around the city.


At Lerida a tired and hungry Spanish division remains in the fortress. French cavalry have now pushed across the Cinca and are scouting just outside artillery range of the walls. At Monzon more French cavalry control a minor crossing there. Communications are possible across the Monzon bridge but it is too small a route and too flimsy a structure to permit armies to negotiate it. In the hills around Monzon the guerilleros draw closer to the French cavalry picquets and losses from skirmishing are occurring on both sides.

At Gerona the church bells rang out alarms and the Spanish troops tumbled from their barracks and tented camps in the parks and avenues. Forming up they marched in some panic and confusion out of the city to take up designated positions along the right bank of the Ter. The news was that the French were attacking again! Almost a week of confused marches and counter marches to different points of defence along the river valley resulted before it became clear that the enemy had only intended to advance quickly as far as the river and push back over it the Spanish cavalry brigades that had been watching Rosas. General Vives was given a rude reminder of how quickly the French can move when they wish to and for the remainder of the early part of December the Spanish troops shivered in wet cold bivouacs along the valley floor opposite their French counterparts while the cavalry of both sides aggressively parried and skirmished.

St Cyr's troopers have not found any unguarded crossings. Even the boats and wine barges have been drawn to the south bank preventing the French from shipping even a company of light infantry over.

There is news that Junot's VIII Corps is now on the march from Perpignan, his columns moved out at the beginning of the month. His destination is not known.

Saragossa. King Joseph Departs!

The royal cavalcade has left the city and taken the main highway up the valley towards Tudela. A powerful escort guards the king and his court. Miquelets can be seen watching the long column but they cannot strike it due to the swarms of cavalry that patrol the flanks.

Fall of the Alcazar! French Surrender!

After almost three months of bloody deadlock the least unwell surviving senior officer of the French garrison, Général de Brigade Louis Cassagne, responded to a letter demanding surrender sent by the Conde de Belvedere, asking only that his officers be allowed to retain their swords and his men their colours. Belvedere granted the request of the officers but insisted that colours must be given up, along with all military arms and supplies. The well in the Alcazar must not be contaminated. Nearing the end of possible resistance, Cassagne agreed. On the 15th of December a weary but proud escort party of Spanish soldiers lined the long street winding down from the high rock in the centre of Toledo and the defeated garrison marched out. Many were appalled at the condition of the French, hundreds were so thin their bones were visible in their faces and hands. Many were sick, carried on carts and pannequins. Despite their hatred of their enemy, several women wept at this pitiful sight. The few officers had cleaned their threadbare uniforms and though no horses were left, a few were provided by Belvedere to Cassagne and his other brigade commanders. Cassgne saluted and declined.

"I will go on foot, as do my brave soldiers. Thank you Monsieur for this sign of respect. Even in the darkest moments of war the warmth in men's hearts still has strength."

With that, Cassagne and his 2,900 men were led into captivity.

Behind them they left a filthy ruin, a shell of a palace filled with rubble, the central courtyard lined with rows of bodies covered in sheets. There was no place to bury the dead inside the citadel. The flagstaff was broken and so a Spanish Borbon flag was hung from the bent weather vane of the bell tower. Toledo's church bells rang out the victory, though it has been a costly one with many Spanish dead and most of the Army of Extremadura tied down in the siege since October.

Duenas and Torquemada. Cuesta avoids a French Trap!

General Cuesta's army was camped at Venta del Pozo where it had arrived to assist General Blake's army in the siege of Burgos. Spanish cavalry with some German cavalry in British pay were operating nearer the city. When Blake retreated, Cuesta, ever the blustering and bold fellow, remained, but news early in the month that Napoleon's army was marching west along the Leon highway and making no secret of an intent to chase Blake's Galicians worried Cuesta who saw his left flank exposed. In some hurry the Spanish retreated, first to Torquemada and then over the rivers Pisuerga and Carrion to Duenas. Marechal Soult's II Corps, with an enormous reserve artillery train, possibly taken from the fortress arsenal (the watching miquelets suggested), followed Cuesta, snapping at the heels of the retreating Allied cavalry.

Cuesta fell back over the Carrion in some haste and his tired army took up a post behind General Moore's English. The Spanish had withdrawn not a day too early for as they made their way west strong French light cavalry forces, including Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard and Polish Chevau-Leger swept down from the north overland from the direction of Carrion village itself. Cuesta had narrowly escaped being cut off and surrounded, surely the destruction of his army was the French object. Not so fortunate were the German cavalry of Sir John Moore's army which received no order to fall back and were skirmishing with the advancing horsemen of Soult's corps when the northern French fell on their flank. A confused and whirling cavalry skirmish began with the Germans commanded by Lt-Col Frederick von Arentschilde attempting to cut their way out. The running fight lasted all the way back to Duenas bridge where Sir John sent across part of Major-General Edward Paget's brigade with several companies of the 95th Rifles and a battalion of the 52nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry forming a bridgehead supported by British guns on the far bank. Eventually the German Light Dragoons got back across, the 52nd, in square, retiring back to the bridge behind them. The Germans lost 80 or 90 men, half of them prisoners. It was a sharp shock to Sir John, a soldier can never be complacent with the Master of Europe as your opponent.

Napoleon himself arrived on the field an hour or two after with his Imperial Guard and Marechal Victor's I Corps. The French army deployed for battle the next day and the 10th December saw the French and Anglo-Spanish troops standing to arms while French cavalry scouted for a way across the river or around the Allied position. Tensions were high but although the cannons were trained on the opposing forces, no battle occurred.

The following day part of the French force decamped and returned north back the way they had come. On the right bank of the Rio Carrion, Spanish cavalry patrolled north, observing the French. Soult's II Corps remained east of Duenas observing Moore and Cuesta and blocking the road to Burgos.

Carrion! Blake in Retreat!

The Army of Galicia fell back along the main road to Leon across the Rio Carrion. On reaching Saldanha the Spanish cavalry encountered French light cavalry deep in their rear area, cutting their supply road and surrounding the small garrison of the town! As Blake's army fell back, the French were driven off north along a minor road that follows the steep-sided Carrion valley towards Reynosa, Blake has reopened his supply road but has had to give up 75 miles of Leon-Castile in the process.

Cantabria! Santander and Reynosa!

General Acevedo's Army of the Asturias has fallen back west from the village of Torrelavega, 45 miles west of Santander. Acevedo has gone back towards Oviedo under threat of French attack from Reynosa.

At Santander the British corps of Sir David Baird marched out of the city and drove back the skirmish lines of General Latour-Maubourg's force holding Castro Urdilaes. The British occupied the village and road junction cutting the enemy supply road between Bilbao and Espinosa. Latour-Maubourg fell back towards Bilbao with his 5,000 infantry, 1,500 cavalry and 30 guns. Supporting troops are holding Bilbao.

In the mountains near Reynosa Marechal Ney has been dealing with Spanish irregulars in the rugged hills and valleys by increasing his garrisons and putting in place a system of LoC escort units of dragoons. His cavalry under General Bicquilley returned from Saldanha after the first week of the month. The Reynosa-Saldanha road is swarming with "el banditos".


Notices have been issued requesting able-bodied males over the age of fifteen and part-time soldiers of the Ordenanza (militia) to report for duty as labourers on a major building project. Lieutenant-General Beresford is overseeing this work. It is likely however that this distraction may compromise the pace at which the regular Portuguese army is being disbanded, reconstructed and retrained by British officers.

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

Posts : 4956
Join date : 2012-02-14
Age : 58
Location : UK Midlands

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum