Saturday, 12 April 2014

Toulouse 1814 - 2014 The end of an era?


Assisted by whichever wargaming club I belonged to at the time, or even asking bored shipmates on a long patrol to join in, since 2007 I have strived to commemorate the major actions of the Peninsular War on or around their anniversaries, not least to give me the same sort of time perspective on these events that a contemporary might have had. And 1807/2007 does seem a long time ago now...


Since retiring from the Navy, obviously my battles have been more lavish, although there still never seems to be enough time to do things exactly so! However, I am very grateful to my wargaming mates both at the Hall of Heroes Campbelltown, and at the University of Wollongong, for indulging and assisting in these games.

  
But this Thursday was the end of an era, since 10th April 1814/2014 saw the Battle of Toulouse as the end of the War, fought after Napoleons abdication, duly played out as a Black Powder game at the Uni. And of course this battle, and more importantly those fought in North Eastern France, put an end to the era that history will dub 'The Napoleonic Wars', now that the Emperor is safely ensconced on Elba, and Europe can once more settle down to a long peace...

Toulouse was a heavily fortified city in a naturally strong defensive position, protected by a complex system of rivers and canals. However, the populace was Royalist and even more strongly against suffering the inconvenience of a siege and subsequent sack and pillage, so Marshal Soult was forced to conduct something of a forward defence rather than allow his young Conscripts be disaffected by the city’s inhabitants. To overcome the defences, Wellington planned a carefully coordinated attack to assault all points simultaneously. Hill would feint from the West, Picton feinting from the North West, the Spaniards making the real attack on the distracted French from the North, and Beresford, sweeping up the remains from the South East. Nothing was left to chance…
…apart from Hill getting lost, Picton seeing red and ordering an all-out assault on the most heavily fortified sector of the city, the Spanish getting stuck in a bog, and Beresford… 

Our game only represented a fraction of the city's defences...
Well, with Beresford, the ‘Butcher of Albuera’, the only thing guaranteed was heavy casualties, not least to his own men… Our Game concentrated on Beresford’s assault on the Heights of Calvinet. Here Cole’s 4th Division and Clinton’s 6th Division, escorted by Somerset’s Light Cavalry Bde, after a long flanking march, will assault up the slopes onto the plateau, outflanking all but one of the redoubts, but finding French Infantry and cavalry waiting for them… Each Anglo-Portuguese Division advanced in Brigade Echelons with Battalions in line, shown above as red blocks 11-17, with Somerset’s cav as 27. They were opposed by Taupin’s Infantry Division G-J and two Cavalry Bdes L and M.   

Ground. A lightly wooded plateau is bisected by a track leading to Toulouse, protected by 2 redoubts; the Syphiere Reboubt, which will be facing the allied Assault, and the Colombier Redoubt, or Redoute, which faces away to the North. Each redoubt provides heavy (+2) protection to its front and houses a battery of artillery. The South Western approaches to the plateau are steep but as these had been passed by the British Columns when the action closed these will not be represented on the table. However the lie of the slopes may come into consideration with any cavalry combat conducted up/down slope…
The game was played diagonally across a 12’ x 6’ table, with the Colombier Redoubt in the NW Corner and the South East edge of the Plateau in the opposite corner.

Mission. The French Mission was to hurl the British off the plateau, the Anglo Portuguese was to take both redoubts. Note that these objectives were not mutually exclusive…

Execution.  Per Commander’s Quick Battle Orders. +
 
 

French Orbat. General Taupin CV9 (Provided by Ralph)
Redoubts – ea 1 battery 12 Pounders.
4th Infantry Division (Taupin)

Brigade Rey (CV8) 2 x Bns 12th Legere;  2 x Bns 32nd Ligne, 2 x Bns 43rd Ligne – 6 Battalions 
Brigade Gasquet (CV8) 2 x Bn 47th Ligne; 55th Ligne, 58th Ligne – 4 Battalions.

Light Cavalry Bde Vial (CV9) 5th, 10th, 15th, 22nd Chasseurs a Cheval (Models may be represented by Dragoons and Hussars but all will fight as Chasseurs)
 
Anglo Portuguese Orbat. (Substitute as required) (Atts & Dets – 2 x Division Foot Batteries RA detached)
6th Infantry Division (Clinton CV9) Provided by Ralph

Lambert’s Bde (CV8) 11th, 36th, 61st Foot Regiments of Foot – 3 Battalions
Douglas’s Bde (CV8) 8th, 12th Infantera, 9th Cazadores 2 Line, 1 Light (Rifles )Battalions.

Pack’s Bde (CV8) 42nd, 79th, 91st  Regiments of Foot – 3 Battalions

4th Infantry Division (Cole CV9) Provided by Philip
Anson’s Brigade (CV8)  3/27th, 40th, 48th Regiments of Foot – 3 Battalions
Vasconcello’Brigade(CV8) 11th, 23rd Infantera, 9th Cazadores – 2 Line, 1 Light (Rifles) Battalions.

Ross’ Brigade(CV8)  7th, 20th 23rd Regiments of Foot – 3 Battalions

Light Cavalry Bde Somerset (CV7 +2 when giving a ‘Charge!’ order)
7th, 10th 15th Hussars, Gardiner’s Battery RHA. (Provided by Ralph and Philip)
 
 
The game opened with some effective French bombardment from the Syphiere redoubt's battery, and some frantic hauling and repositioning of the heavy 12 pounders in the Colombier redoubt, which, sited to cover the North East, Beresford had flanked in his long approach march...
 
 However it was insufficient to dampen Austin's ardour and he duly advanced his Portuguese brigade boldly, drums beating and Colours flying, into jump off positions to assault the Syphiere redoubt, with British Regiments closely supporting...
 
 There was little the French could do in response except continue the bombardment, particularly as Alan, our Cavalry commander, was late to the game after lingering over the brandy and cigars at some fund raiser or other....
Here the Royal Irish Regiment represent the Portuguese 11th Infantry Regiment taking the redoubt.
So sure enough the well planned and supported assault, after several turns of desperate hand to hand combat, succeeded in taking the redoubt. If the Allies captured the other one, it was game over!
 
However by this point Alan had deigned to join us, and more than made up for his tardy arrival by using his Cavalry brigade, which was without organic horse guns, to force an entire British brigade into square within effective range of the Colombier Redoubt!
 
However pesky Portuguese Cacadores by sniping at the gunners, who had been forced to manhandle their guns out of the now useless fortifications, and so were shooting disordered or shaken...
 
So that the squares survived long enough for the British Light Cavalry to come up in support:
Photo courtesy Kobold Press Agency
 
The ensuing cavalry stoush failed to drive off the French cavalry, so that the British right flanking advance was effectively stalled in squares... Whilst the French Infantry were able to retake the Syphiere redoubt. At this point I called the game, with honours about even as the Allies had not taken the redoubts, but the French had emphatically not driven the Allies from the table, and were indeed rather battered and about to be forced back into the city!
 
 

 I should like to mention here that many of these models used in this game were professionally painted by my mate Fons's team at Mabuhay Miniatures Painting Service, which I heartily recommend should you want a large 28mm army fast!
I would also point out that Alan has also give an excellent, and far more detailed account of the battle as seen from the French Cavalry's perspective here Toulouse 1814
The references I used for this scenario were both from Colonel Nick Lipscombe's works, the Peninsular War atlas, and his Osprey Campaign 'Bayonne and Toulouse 1814', both highly recommended.
 
But my particular thanks and gratitude to fellow gamers, even if only to pass the tedium of a long dog watch, who have helped me on my journey to commemorate these anniversaries...Should the Emperor loose the Eagles once again, so shall we!

10 comments:

  1. Beautiful pictures, splendid minis, great maps and explanations...Thanks for this batrep, really impressive!

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  2. Well done to you and the fellas on meeting another bicentennial 'deadline' Ralph. A fine looking game it was too!
    Hundred Days 200 will be HUGE, hey?!

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    1. Thanks James! Hundred Days? - Yes we certainly hope so and appear to be on track - fingers crossed!

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  3. Great report. I have used Colonel Nick Lipscombe's the Peninsular War Atlas as the basis of a couple of games. It is much more than an a simple atlas. Good luck with the Hundred Days.

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  4. Very cool game and figures; I've always been intrigued by Toulouse after seeing the painting of the running battle along a canal. Something visually appealing about all that.

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  5. Thanks Gents! Yes the Atlas is a great publication, good value for money. Actually we did look at doing Hill's Division's feint across the canal, as Philip has that Division modelled exactly, but it would be too demanding for our landscaping and terrain abilities!

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  6. You are so right - it seems the ears have passed to quickly I this 200th anniversary makes you wonder what they will be doing on the 300th Anniversary in 2096 -2115

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  7. Great game Sparker, I'm honoured to have taken part. Thank you indeed.

    Cheers,
    Caesar

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  8. Another beautiful game and figures. I love seeing your games up on the web. They are a true inspiration

    Regards

    Vinnie

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