Saturday, August 10, 2013

French Column of Division Intervals

Should French battalions deployed in Columns of Divisions use intervals? They were used historically. Therefore, so should we. Pictures are worth a thousand words so....

Each of my five French battalions is screened by their voltigeurs. Behind them each battalion has a two company wide front. Every two companies deployed this way is a division - a small d.  Jim pointed out the checkerboard arrangement that could be used as shown.

When intervals are violated, confusion and disorders happen. There is insufficient room to change formation into line or square. It would be a traffic jam at quitting time!

As we move in closer, two battalions are separated by a bit more than a six inch ruler. Within that interval lights can move forward and back, cannons might be deployed and the gap might be useful to bring up rearward battalions not to form a massive unbroken wall, but to move them farther forward. It could be used to provide an open space for messengers and routers too.

Forming a line is also the idea. The right-hand battalion could form line to the right. The other one would form to the left and right of itself because a third battalion is to the left off image. See the first photo. The battalion off image would form to its left.

The 9th Foot's two-deep line is screened by Rifles with a two company reserve. Rules need to be implemented so fire into the deep columns is prodigiously effective with possibilities of disorder. Plus the celebrated fire and charge concept is needed to cause morale checks to rout the French. If none of this occurs, the 9th Foot is going to be beaten. Polite comments welcome.

Jim's Der Alte Fritz blog has some very good commentary and historical illustrations reinforcing the above concepts. See the link below:

Link =  Der Alte Fritz Journal

The diagrams above are from the book Napoleon's Finest, Davout and His 3rd Corps, Combat Journal of Operations, 1805-1807, Military History Press, 2006, Page 66.  

Bill P.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Chapter 4: Battle of Aveiro

Date: March 2-3, 1809
Location: Aveiro, Portugal, Northwest Iberia
Situation: Battle of Aveiro
Purpose: Fictional campaign novel adapted from actual historical events.

Recommendation: See previous Chapter 3: Marshall Soult Presses His Advantage

9:32 p.m  March 2, 1809  Aveiro, Portugal

In the closing hours of March 2, 1809, Brigadier Kinch ascended the highest building in the village of Aveiro. He believed campfires illuminating the countryside to the north were from one of Marshall Soult's Divisions. He knew another Division could arrive behind it in a few days. When it arrived, odds stacked against him would be impossible to overcome.

Yet Major General Pettygree ordered the village held until relieved or to retire southwards if the position became untenable. Pettygree was marching hard to support him from the east.

Kinch thought village hedges, vineyards and buildings offered good defensive positions for his 2,920 British soldiers. There were also an estimated 250 guerrillas in the area who might render some service. Still the French very likely outnumbered him by 3:1. He wondered if Pettygree would arrive in time.

10:07 a.m  March 3, 1809

Left Flank:  Four French battalions deployed in double column of companies approach two British battalions. Both of the latter stretch to the right off image.

Left Flank:  The British withdraw to gain time hoping the French will be disordered passing through the hedgerow. French skirmishers to the left are busy sniping at 250 Portuguese militia of the ordenanza off image. (Ordenanza: local militia too old or too young to serve in the militia useful as guerrillas.)

Center:  The British withdrawal gained time and the French gained the hedgerow.

Center:  A Rifle Company came forward to help. However, in moments everything changed as the tide rolled in.

Left and Center:  The French surge forward disordered by the hedgerow. Their intent was to overwhelm the thin red line in a tidal wave. Indeed, things looked very bad for Kinch even with confusion caused by the hedgerow. Somehow combinations of firing advantages shooting into a deep mass and the disorder of the columns held the line and threw back several columns. (The latter is not shown.)

Left and Center:  Later the French stabilized and the British fell back again. Only a few infantrymen in the house and Rifles to their right remained left to stave off annihilation.

Right Flank:  Here you see Kinch's right flank stretching westwards into Aveiro. Off the top of the image are the buildings and combats recorded earlier. The French desire to turn the British flank but....

Right Flank:  They did not! The British cavalry beat their counterparts, pushed some back, routed others and was about to catch a green-coated French Chasseur a Cheval unit in the flank but it quickly evaded out of harm's way.  Things were looking good....

Right Flank:  Except when French reserves poured in to sway the combat in their favour and....

Right Flank:  When one considers another French infantry brigade appearing. If they turn toward the viewer, (toward Kinch's right flank) the British in Aveiro will be overwhelmed. No way to stop 'em. Yet they appear disinterested in doing so. Plus, the French Chasseur Regiment in the center has a story to tell previous to it's encounter with the foe shown above. What was it?


Our story has run ahead of events by an hour or so. Let us rewind the clock and reposition the green-coated Chasseurs a Cheval from whence they came.

Far -- far to the east of Brigadier Kinch, the road to Aveiro entered the beginning of a large open woodland. It was here the green-coated Chasseurs a Cheval with orders to scout turned a corner and discovered Lord Paget's Brigade of Light Cavalry cantering towards them. Paget's force consisted of the 7th and 15th Hussars with the 16th Light Dragoons.

Having learned what was a hoof, the French light cavalry turned about to report what they had found. You see them in the upper left of the image. To their left is the cavalry combat just mentioned.

Paget moved his brigade forward and then left off the main to a side table (not shown) because...

Brigadier Peter Young's Brigade was hurrying into the open area to deploy. The 9th is in closed column of companies on the left whilst the 5th has shaken out into line screened by two companies of Rifles and....

Protected inside the wood by a portion of Brigadier Sinclair's Brigade advancing through the woodland with artillery and infantry. The 83rd Foot is at the top of the image with a company of rifles near his two 9 pounders.

Young's Brigade advanced into the open ground. The 5th is in the upper right whilst the 9th formed a half battalion line; half being on a ridge top with the other half marching in open column of companies to deploy behind it also in line. Intervals are necessary so each movement tray can wheel right into line.

The French deployed into a dogleg opposed by a crescent-shaped British line.

The 5th Foot advanced toward the French and opened fire.

Casualties were heavy on both sides and the French began to give way.

A Brigade of French horsemen came forward to help but....

Paget's Horse Artillery suddenly appeared on the afore-mentioned ridge top to counter them. It had been marching behind a crest and appeared near three of the clock.

Hello! The right flank of Brigadier Kinch's infantry is in the upper left of the image preparing to meet a French infantry regiment.

Near four the 5th Foot having suffered a 2/3 loss fled. Moments later Paget's Battery (off image to the left), the fresh 9th shown plus Sinclair's Brigade (off image to the upper right) were about to execute the coup de grace when the French withdrew from this sector properly covered by a screen of light cavalry.

Meanwhile back in Aveiro though the French occupied the northwest corner of the village, casualties had been severe on both sides. Fighting died down to a trickle - both sides were exhausted and..... 

Captain Siggins arrived with a dispatch from Brigadier Kinch saying the village had been held and the French were departing to the north presumably back to Oporto.


1) Seated left to right: Chris K., Derrick N., Curt B. and John M. (Brigadier Kinch). Standing left to right: Chuck L., Rob O., Mike H., Jim P. (Der Alte Fritz and Brigadier Sinclair) George R. and in the hat me, Bill P. 

Everyone brought either food or drink to share during the course of the game and at lunch. Thank you and I wan you to know I greatly appreciate you making the day so pleasurable. You are a great group of companionable friends/pards. Jim and I look forward to our next Iberian game with you very much.

2)  Participants arrived between 9:00-9:30 a.m. Our game started at 9:55 a.m. and ended around 4:00 p.m.

3) Rules: Batailles de l'Ancien RĂ©gime 1740-1763 adapted for Napoleonics in Iberia.

4) French Forces:
Infanterie: 828 + Cavalerie 99 + Artillerie 6 tubes/30 gunners = 957 combatants.
45% Casualties: 431 miniatures. (4,130 at 1:10)

5) British Forces:
Infantry: 645* + 99 Cavalry + Artillery 11 tubes/54 gunners = 798 combatants.
31% Casualties: 245 miniatures. (2,450 at 1:10)
* Includes 37 guerrillas.

6) What's next? 
(a) Medical dice need to be thrown monthly until our next game.
(b) Replacements plus newly-painted units will be posted to our orders of battle.
(c) Map movement and contemplations about next marches. 
(d) General Pettygree is of the opinion Marshall Soult's II Corps will defend the Douro River north of Aveiro with his three divisions starting at the city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast and stretching eastwards. There is some worry that Ney's VI Corps in northwest Spanish Galicia could render assistance though needed there as an army of occupation.

7) Any regional pards interested in raising British, Portuguese, French or French allies (Swiss, Hessians, Poles + ?), please let Jim P. and I know and --- go for it. Not much: a unit or two or three.

8) Thank you very much for looking in.Your remarks are welcome below.