Friday, 28 August 2009

Battle of Almonacid Refight August 11th 2009

I have been wargaming and reading about the Peninsular war for quite a few years now. But it is only recently that I have realised that the Spanish on their day could be more than a match against the French and they did actually win some battles. Most of the books in England make the Spanish out to be incompetent and always running away at the first instance of trouble. Therefore as well as playing all the British Battles in the Peninsular, I decided to play all the Spanish Battles against the French as well. I had never heard of The Battle of Almonacid until a few weeks ago, so I thought I would give you a brief introduction below.

The battle of Almonacid of 11 August 1809 was a relatively costly French victory that effectively ended the Talavera campaign. A key part of the Allied plan for that campaign had involved the Army of La Mancha under Venegas. He was meant to threaten Madrid to prevent General Sebastiani’s 4th Corps from moving west to aid Marshal Victor, but after a good start Venegas had been inactive during the most important days of the campaign. Sebastiani had been able to move to Talavera, but despite this the French had still been defeated. The French position was only saved by the arrival of a large army from the north west of Spain, under Marshal Soult, which forced Wellington and Cuesta to retreat back into Estremadura. As the Allies retreated, King Joseph split the army that had been defeated at Talevera. Leaving Marshal Victor to take part in the pursuit of Wellington, he took Sebastiani’s corps and the Royal Reserve east, to end the threat from Venegas.

When King Joseph reached Aranjuez, he decided not to attempt to cross the Tagus there, but instead to move west, and cross the bridge at Toledo. Venegas soon realised what Joseph was doing, and set his army off on a parallel march to the west, on the south bank of the river. The French won this race to Toledo, arriving late on 8 August. On the next morning Sebastiani crossed the river, driving away a Spanish detachment that was watching the town, and then following it east. The Spanish were not far behind the French, and as Sebastiani’s men advanced, they ran into the Spanish 5th division (Major-General Zerain). After a short skirmish the Spanish were forced to retreat, and moved south east along the road to Mora and Madridejos, stopping at the small town of Almonacid. By the end of 10 August the rest of the Spanish army had come up to Almonacid, where they were facing Sebastiani’s corps and Milhaud’s dragoons. King Joseph and the Royal Reserve were about ten miles to the rear.

Sebastiani, Joseph and Venegas were all determined to fight on 11th August. The French believed that they needed to defeat the Army of La Mancha to secure their hold on Madrid, while Venegas was determined not to retire in the face of the enemy. Both sides were also planning to attack, but for some reason Venegas decided to delay his own attack until 12 August, apparently expecting the French to sit quietly for an entire day to allow him to carry out this plan.

Despite being outnumbered, on the morning of 11 August Sebastiani decided to attack the Spanish line. His plan was to capture Los Cerrojones, and then attack the rest of the Spanish army in the flank.
The Spanish army deployment

The French arrive on the battlefield

Order of Battle

Infantry units were approx 1250 men , Cavalry units 500 men and Artillery 10 guns.


Sebastiani 4th Corps
3 Generals (Normal Rating)l
10 Infantry units (Regular)
2 Light Cavalry units (Regular)
2 Foot Artillery units


Joseph Royal Reserves
1 General (inferior Rating)
4 Infantry units (Regular)
1 Light Cavalry unit (Regular)
1 Foot Artillery

Cavalry Reserve
1 General (Normal)
4 Heavy Cavalry units (Regular)
1 Horse Artillery Unit


1 General (Inferior)
2 Generals (Regular)
6 Infantry units (Inferior)
10 Infantry units (Regular)
2 Heavy Cavalry units (Regular)
2 Light Cavalry units (Regular)
2 Light Cavalry units (Inferior)
3 Foot Artillery units

The rules for the battle I used as before the Waterloo rules, however as always I made a few changes . Firstly I wasn't happy with the command system especially when playing solo, so I used a system that I had played before. For each general there is a coloured chit, these are mixed in a bag and pulled out one at a time therefore the initiative passes from side to side.

The action started at 8.00 a.m with the French attacking the left flank, managing to capture and disable the artillery, but after a fierce counter attack, the Spanish managed to break the French Infantry.
On the Spanish Right flank a French infantry attack was repulsed by a single Spanish infantry unit who took quite a few damage casualties itself.

At 9.00 a.m The French renewed their efforts on both flanks, breaking a Spanish inferior unit on the left flank and then continued advancing over the crest.

A similar advantage for the French was on the right flank, the Spanish General had just prepared to initiate a counterattack when his time ran out.

The Spanish commander Venegas on the extreme left flank spotted dust clouds in the distance, this was Milhauds reserve cavalry force moving on to the left extreme flank. Venegas was able to stable the Spanish line on the left and repulsed the French off the crest. But on the right things were looking bad for the Spanish right flank . The Spanish General was killed in a new French attack and the fresh French force had started to threaten to roll up the Spanish line.

The Spanish cavalry on the extreme right Spanish flank was split from the command. The Spanish center General saw the danger and orderded the Spanish Reserve to deal with the threat.

11.00 a.m Milhauds cavalry arrived on the battlefield but they then refused to move (I had two chances to activate the force and each time threw a 1). However the French force on the Spanish left managed to break the Spanish infantry and cavalry and then took the hill.

Meanwhile the Spanish centre general brought down the reserves and with some Heavy cavalry was able to clear off the French threat from the Spanish right.

12.00 p.m Another dustcloud was spotted behind the French central lines this time it is Joseph Royal reserves. Milhauds Cavalry saw that there was no Spanish cavalry left to block their advance, and so swept around and behind the Spanish lines to threaten the Spanish escape route.

Venegas pulled back his remaining units into the center. The Spanish General after clearing the threat on the right flank, then collected all the spare Spanish cavalry left and faced the new threat that faced him in his rear.

1.00 p.m Josephs Royal reserve arrived on the Battlefield and then advanced to the Spanish center.

Venegas attempted to organize his forces into a defence, but is attacked and his troops broke exposing his left flank. The Spanish center General was able to push back Milhauds troops off the hill and hold them back while the rest of the Spanish army attempted to flee through the town of Almonacid and off the battlefield.

I had to stop the battle here because as I was playing outside and it was getting darker, I would have liked to have carried on to the end, but I think the Spanish had lost by then anyway. The new command rules improved the game making it run faster.
The next 200th Napoleonic Battle Anniversary I will be playing is the Battle of Tamames on the 18th October. Hopefully it will be a bit cooler then so I can set it up earlier and play for longer. My next project is the Battle of the Little Bighorn, hopefully I will play this in about 3 weeks time.