Monday, 25 April 2011

The Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro

Hooray, finally some time off work, so we can get down to some serious wargaming. Jose from my local club contacted me, to ask if I was interested in playing a large Lasalle battle with a few other players. I said I would have a go at arranging it, so I had a look to find out which Napoleonic battle was coming up for its 200th Aniversary. The nearest was the Battle of Fuentes de Oñoro 3rd - 5th May 1811, and looking at the size of the forces it seemed possible.
The problem was most of the other people were busy with holidays and family commitments so Jose and myself had to pool our figures together. I worked out we had 22 French Infantry Battalions altogether, so dividing the total number of French Infantry in the actual battle I worked out the following Orders of Battle


C-in-C Massena

2nd Corp Reynier
2 Veteran Infantry
3 Conscript Infantry
1 Hussars
1 Foot Artillery

6th Corps Loison

4 Veteran Infantry
5 Conscript Infantry
1 Foot Artillery

8th Corps Junot

1 Veteran Infantry
2 Conscript Infantry

9th Corps Drouet

2 Veteran Infantry
3 Conscript Infantry
1 Chasseurs 1 Portugese Infantry

Reserve Cavalry Montbrun

2 Dragoons
1 Horse Artillery

Army of the North
1 Guard Cavalry Light Division Crauford
1 Chasseurs

C-In-C Wellington

1st Division Spencer

1 Guard Infantry (+)
1 Elite Infantry
2 Brit Infantry
1 RA Battery

3rd Division Picton

2 Brit Infantry
1 Portugese Infantry
1 RA Battery

5th Division Erskine

2 Brit Infantry
1 Portugese Infantry
1 RA Battery

6th Division Campbell

2 Brit Infantry
1 Portugese Infantry
1 RA Battery
7th Division Houston

1 Brit Infantry
1 Portugese Infantry

Light Division Crauford

1 Rifle (+)
1 Elite Infantry
1 Cacadore
1 RHA Battery

Cavalry Division Cotton

2 Light Dragoons
1 RHA Battery

We played the battle at my house, so I could have plenty of time to set up the table. We used my 5ft by 9ft table tennis table which was just the right size for the number of figures. We played the normal rules of Lasalle with a few modifications. Firstly Artillery units could only cross the stream by the two bridges or on the flat area on the British right. British Infantry units in line can add half the number of dice again when firing. e.g a 4 base unit would throw 6 dice, and a 6 base large unit would throw 9 dice. The number of moves was extended from 16+ to 20+
and for throwing for breakpoint 6 dice instead of 5, unless the objective was taken then 5 dice instead of 4. The objective for the French was to capture and control at least one of the two roads heading to their garrison at Almeida. The breakpoint for the French Army was 20 and for the British Army 16. The position of the troops were more or less the same as in the battle. We diced for which side we would command. I won and commanded the British.

Initial positions of the British troops looking from their right flank, in front you can see Cotton´s cavalry Division. Then Spencer´s 1st Division just above the village of Fuentes de Oñoro. The French Army is massing on the ridge opposite.

Looking from the British Left flank, Campbell´s 6th Division in the foreground.

Facing them the French right flank Reynier´s 2nd Corp.

Loison's 6th Corps begin their advance down the road towards the bridge before the village of Fuentes de Oñoro.

The French advance guard advances over the bridge and is fired on by the British Infantry deployed in the village.

The long French Columns advance down the ridge, a French horse artillery unit deploys on the other side of the stream and begins firing at the village.

The British Artillery on the ridge reply by hitting the french Infantry attacking the village.

Another British Infantry unit marches down the ridge to occupy the upper part of the village to support their comrades who are being attacked at the lower end of the village. Meanwhile the French cavalry have crossed the stream lower down in the woods on the right.

Further along the British line, Campbell waits in front of his troops while the French advance down the road and through the woods.

Wellington sees that Erskine on his far left flank has large body of French troops advancing in his direction. Not wanting to lose control of the road to Almieda, he sends Crauford's light Division to reinforce Erskine.

The French conscripts are no match for the British Infantry in the village and retreat all the way back through their lines until they reach the top of the hill. Spencer's Elite Infantry have to form square because enemy cavalry are on their flanks in the wood. Wellington sends Cotton's cavalry Division to support them.

On the British far left the French burst out of the woods. One unit forms square as the French hussars charge. The Royal Horse Artillery in front of the rest of the Light Division deploy quickly on the Far left to support Erskine's defence.

The British centre holds firm as the French Infantry enter the wheat fields in front of them.

The far British left holds out and repulses the French attack, but now Campbell's Division comes under heavy fire.

A birds eye view of the Battle. Bessieres is at the bottom of the picture commanding a single unit of Horse artillery in a futile flank manoeuvre, generously leaving his cavalry under the command of Massena.

With support from some French Infantry the Dragoons manage to break the British Elite square. However in the woods Cotton's cavalry manage to check the French Cavalry's attack.

The British line fire a volley and charge at the French (and Dutch) troops advancing along the road.
Bessieres is content to deploy his Artillery and take potshots at the British Artillery.

The French have taken the lower village and now start attacking the upper part of the village. The British Guards on the hill pour volley after volley to support the plucky defenders.

The French charge at the British Artillery on the the British Left flank.

The British guard on the ridge, have caught the attention of Montbrun who sends his Dragoons to attack them.

Erskine's 5th Division have stabilised the far left flank without any of the infantry of the Light Division firing a shot. Crauford receives orders from Wellington to return quickly to the British center because it is near breaking point.

The French having lost quite a few units are only one point away from their breaking point. On the British left flank the French pull back slightly to lessen their losses.

In the centre the French Dragoons charge the British guards. Instead of going into square the Guards decide to blast the dragoons with a well aimed volley. It was good but not good enough and the Dragoons charge home. The Guards being a large unit still have a chance but bad dice rolling by yours truly means that they have been destroyed. This is the turning point and quickly the tide changes as other british units are defeated in close combat. Suddenly the British breakpoint of 16 has been reached. They manage to pass their first test on turn eighteen., and both armies jockey for the final attack, the French cavalry trying to rally to be able to once more charge the last few units on the ridge in the British centre.
Crauford and his troops exhausted but intact can only watch as their commander throws six dice on turn twenty and gets a paltry eleven. They watch as the centre breaks and prepares to act as rearguard for his beaten army.


This was a very enjoyable game and in the end it was a "close run thing" with both armies hovering around their breakpoints. My mistake was moving the Light Division to the far left and not keeping it in the centre.
The modification on British line fire worked out very well and one I think we shall be repeating at the club. Roll on summer holidays so we can have a few more big games.


  1. very nice indeed, why did you feel that you had to adjust the die for the british in line?


  2. Thanks John

    Basically at our club some of us feel that the British Line firing should be more effective as it seemed to be historically.

    The reasoning is if a normal 4 base infantry unit represents about 600 men. Then a French Unit would be in 3 ranks with only the first two ranks firing taht is 400 men. A British Line would be deployed in two ranks with 600men firing. If in Lasalle a 4 base French unit can fire with 4 dice, then a British unit should be able to fire with 6 dice.

    At the moment we are just playtesting to see how effective it is, but if Sunday's battle is anything to go by it seemed to go well without being totally devastating. ( the Brits still lost).