Sunday, March 10, 2013

Chapter 1: The Game Is Afoot

Date: 1 February 1809
Location: Port of Lisbon, Portugal
Situation: Expected News Arrives
Purpose: Fictional campaign novel adapted from actual historical events.

Toward the end of 1808 the military situation in the Iberian Peninsula for allies Britain, Portugal and Spain was hopeless. Napoleon had overrun most of Iberia and seemed unstoppable. Spanish armies were defeated and disorganized. Portuguese forces were insignificant and wanting. Finally, Sir John Moore's British contingent was greatly outnumbered and retreating fast into northwest Spain. Lest everyone be lost, he intended to embark for home from the port of Coruna.

Wind kept troop transports off the port until 15 January. Embarkation commenced almost immediately. The next day Marshall Soult's II French Corps arrived commencing a furious battle to prevent it. The line held but Moore was killed. On the 17th the French paused allowing the rest of the British Army to embark and sail for England.

A fortnight later only one viable allied body was left in northwest Iberia. It was the 10,000 man division commanded by Major General William Justinian Pettygree in Lisbon. News was expected any hour saying Soult's 23,500 men were marching south into Portugal. All that stood in his way was the garrison of Lisbon.


During the indolent morning of 1 February, Marshall Soult's plans were of no concern to Royal Marines guarding the seawall at the Lisbon Custom's House. Their boredom had been barely relieved observing a pair of two deckers rapidly arrive and depart the roadstead. For Thunderer and Conqueror, both 74s, it had only been a matter of touch and go to deliver an important dispatch from the inshore squadron near Coruna, Spain.

Captain Michael Siggins, Aide de Camp to General Pettygree, arrived to receive that dispatch.

Siggins: "Thank you Captain. This will be hand-delivered to the General without delay."

Major General Pettygree's Personal Journal
1 February 1809

"In the early morning Major Ridge (5th Foot) and I left Castelo Vasco de Gama for exercise. He pointed to a rider clattering in haste over a bridge toward us."

 Ridge: "It's Siggins Sir. I'm thinking he's holding a dispatch."

Siggins: "It's news from the inshore squadron off Coruna General; no more than two days old. They must have flown to get here in that time."

Pettygree: "It was news about the French. The dispatch read.

Pettygree: "There was not a moment to lose. Soult was on his way and we needed to respond. Cutting our ride short, we repaired to headquarters and consulted our map of the region."

Siggins: "Three days ago Soult left Coruna in the north heading for Santiago and probably Oporto."

Ridge: "I reckon he'd like to have Oporto's docks and control the Duero River bridge."

Pettygree: "Quite so."

Ridge: "If we leave Lisbon in the morning General, we might deny Oporto to him."

Pettygree: "No Major. We shall force march past Oporto to the Spanish border and deny the crossings over the River Minho (Minio) near Vigo Galiza to him. --- How soon can the 5th get underway?"

Ridge: "I daresay we can be on the road at noon today."

Pettygree: "Let the men eat first and afterwards be on the march no later than an hour past noon."

Ridge: "The Fighting 5th. will do as you say General! Quo Fata Vocant (Whither the fates call.)"

Pettygree: "Ridge was as good as his word. His gosling greens were indeed on the road at one of the clock in the afternoon waiting only for...."

Pettygree: "Captain Siggins to render my orders to Lord Paget and his Light Cavalry Brigade. I could always count on him to be ready to gallop off at a moment's notice. Paget would lead and screen our Advance Guard to the Minho. The rest of the garrison would follow in the morning."

Pettygree: "The 16th Light Dragoons trotted down the river road in style."

Pettygree: "Ahead of them was Paget's personal guard from his own 7th Hussars."

Pettygree: "Leading were the celebrated 15th Light Dragoons of Emsdorf fame. None better."

Pettygree: "I could just see Lt. Colonel Stomper in front reviewing his troopers as they passed by."

"I would leave with most of the rest of the garrison in the morning. The game was truly afoot. --- Quo Fata Vocant applied to all of us."

Major General William Justinian Pettygree
Chief of Staff: Lieutenant Colonel Hyde
ADC: Captain Siggins
Exploring Corp Officer: Major Hogan
Royal Marine Detachment (320)

Brigadier Alexander Sinclair
2/83rd Foot (840)      Lt. Col. Charles Gordon/ Major Amos Dundee
94th Foot (840)         Lt. Col. Blackford Oakes
2 Coys 5/60th Regt. (240)  Captain Ward Bond
Lt. Harry Pearson's RA Section 2x 9 Pdrs. (10 crew)

Brigadier Petrus Young
5th Foot (860)      Lt. Col. Devereaux/Major Hicks
9th Foot (1,060)   Major Henry Ridge/Captain Packard
95th Rifles A and B Companies (250)     Captain Hunter
Portuguese Cacadore Company (120)     Captain Mendes

Major General Lord Henry Paget
7th Hussars (60)
15th Light Dragoons (250)      Lt. Col. Stomper
16th Light Dragoons (250)      Lt. Col. Valentine
KGL (240)      Major Kinch
Grant's Horse Artillery 6x 6 Pdrs. (300) Captain Hew Grant
Artillery train (240)

Total Rank and File: 5,970 Foot, Horse and Artillery


1) Our Prelude was adapted from Michael Glover's, The Peninsular War 1807-1814 A Concise Military History published in 1974 by Penguin. My copy dates from 2001.

2) The Custom's House is from Miniature Building Authority's Spanish horse and musket era collection.

3) We will occasionally provide information using the Murat Campaign System map of Iberia. On 6 November 2012, Malcolm, the owner, granted permission for use here. Thank you very much Malcolm. This is an important and singular opportunity to better explain campaign movements, etc.

4) Captain Siggins is a 28mm Front Rank British Napoleonic courier. Foundry produces the Royal Marines whilst Elite Miniatures has the yellow-cuffed officer.

5) Most of the cavalry and infantry are 28mm Elite miniatures. For variety officers from other manufacturers have been posted to the 5th Foot; Front Rank, Foundry and others. Paget and his 7th Hussars are Front Rank.
Friends, readers, lurkers and enthusiasts. 

This is the start of a serial story Jim P. (Der Alte Fritz) and I (Bill P. of the General Pettygree Colonial Blog) we  hope you will return to again and again. The story will advance with captioned photos, character development and some narration as you've just seen. 

It will also feature historical miniatures tabletop games conducted by our regional pards. Their conclusions are unknown. Quo Fata Vocant!

We sincerely appreciate your interest. Pass the word to friends, if you please. 
Germane remarks will always be welcome below.


  1. Give you joy of your blog posting sir!

  2. The 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regt. is now being raised to add to Sinclair's brigade. The uniforms have been ordered from Morbey & Sons Ltd and I expect that the new regiment will be able to take the field by Memorial Day of this year..

    Bill: what a terrific beginning episode. I am totally stoked to start the campaign .

  3. Bill,

    Another great story line for us to look forward to. And your using the 5th Foot as the advanced guard carries special meabing to me as the 5th Foot was the first Britannian battalion I painted for my imagi-SYW armies.


  4. I just love these posts. Many thanks!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this article, well guys.

  6. It's all kicking off splendidly, great to see the 5th Foot on the march.

    I'm very much looking forward to following the action.