- Publication of Wellington at Bay, 18th April 2020 ”25/1/2020”
My new book Wellington at Bay, the battle of Villamuriel, 25 October 1812, will be launched at the Salute Wargames show at London ExCel.
This book describes the Battle of Villamuriel on the 25th October 1812. This battle, while small, was the largest engagement of Wellington’s retreat from Burgos. This battle involved twice as many men as the better-known Battle of Villadrigo/Venta del Pozo two days before.
This is the first full length account of the action and improves significantly on previous accounts in the campaign histories by Oman, Napier and Divall. The aim has been to pull together archival sources from all four nations involved, British, French, Spanish and Portuguese, to build a coherent and balanced account of interest equally to historians and wargamers.
- Linselles 18th August 1793 – The French troops ”23/4/2018”
Since my previous post I have undertaken some more detailed research into the French troops that held Linselles and Le Blaton when Lake's Guards brigade attacked.
From the French perspective, the action at Linselles on the 18th August 1793, was led by three French Generals, Macdonald, Jourdan and Béru. Dupuis gives the order of battle for the French Army on the 30th July 1793. The infantry is largely organised into provisional demi-brigades comprising an old regular battalion combined with two Volunteer battalions.
The Camp of Madelaine to the north of Lille contained 8 such demi-brigades. In addition a new Division was created under the command of General de Brigade Béru. This division comprised the following units;
5th de Vosges Volunteers; 1st Bn/45th Infantry Regiment; 10th Paris Volunteers
10th Seine-et-Oise Volunteers; 1st Bn/47th Infantry Regiment; 2nd Vienne Volunteers
2nd Paris Volunteers
1st St. Denis Volunteers; 1st Bn/19th Infantry Regiment; 6th Paris Volunteers
Company of Light artillery with two 12pdrs, two 8pdrs and two howitzers
12th Chasseurs à Cheval
of these, on the 18th, the demi-brigade comprising the 1st St. Denis Volunteers; 1st Bn/19th Infantry Regiment; 6th Paris Volunteers together with the 3rd Franc battalion and the 15th Light Infantry battalion, from Jourdan's command were dispatched to attack Roubaix under the command of General Desroques.
Chef de Brigade Etienne Jacques Macdonald advanced from Le Quesnoi to take Le Blaton from the Dutch, presumably with his own demi-brigade comprising the 5th l'Aisne Volunteers, 2nd Bn/2nd Infantry Regiment & 40th National Volunteers. Also present were the 2nd Finistere Volunteers.
It is known that Jourdan himself led the demi-brigade of the 1st/45th Regiment to Linselles, including the 5th Vosges and 10th Paris Volunteers.
This left Béru with the demi-brigade comprising the 10th de Seine-et-Oise Volunteers, the 1st/47th Regiment & the 2nd Vienne Volunteers, together with the 2nd Paris Volunteers.
The 2nd Bn/12th Infantry Regiment and the 1st d'Allier Volunteers were sent by Adjutant General Dupont from the Camp de Madelaine, while the third battalion of the demi-brigade, the 8th Paris (Sainte Marguerite) Volunteers were at Mouvaux on this day.
The French sources thus suggests that they had 4 battalions at Le Blaton and that Jourdan and Béru had 9 battalions at Linselles itself.
The strengths of the 9 battalions at Linselles can be estimated from the Situations reproduced by Depuis;
Strength Strength Men PUA Men PUA 30/07/1793 15/10/1793 5th Vosges Volunteers 443 373 1st Bn/45th Regiment 450 385 10th Paris Volunteers. 470 444 2nd Bn/12th Regiment 392 1st d’Allier Volunteers 888 10th de Seine-et-Oise Volunteers 457 367 1st Bn/47th Regiment 471 379 2nd la Vienne Volunteers 437 381 2nd Paris Volunteers 813
To close here are some photographs of another game at a recent Sons of Simon de Montfort club night. In this game the French forsook the shelter of the defensive works in an attempt to overwhelm the Guards Brigade;
- Lincelles 18th August 1793 – A small Black Powder Scenario ”7/3/2018”
This week I took this small scenario to a club meeting of the Sons of Simon de Montfort, Loughborough. Here are some photos of the game in action, together with some of the background research;
Rather than proceed with an invasion of France directly, the Duke of York chose to divert his army towards the objective of Dunkerque. Earlier in the day on the 18th, some Dutch forces had occupied the villages of Linselles* and Blaton, to the north west of Lille. In response, the French sent a large and overwhelming force, which recaptured both villages. In response to a Dutch request for help, the Duke of York dispatched the Guards brigade under Major General Gerard Lake to assist them. On his arrival Lake found that the Dutch were not able to assist in retaking the villages, but undaunted, he decided to launch an assault himself.
While future Marshal of France, Étienne Jacques Macdonald, then a chef de brigade (lt. colonel), held Blaton, General de Brigade Antoine Anne Lecourt de Béru, held Linselles. Another future Marshal, General de Division Jean Baptiste Jourdan arrived in Linselles to support Béru.
It is clear that Lake's force comprised the 1100 men of the 1st Foot Guards, the Coldstream Guards and the Scots Guards, without their Flank battalion, but with their light 6 pdr battalion guns, commanded by Major Jesse Wright. However the size of the French force is not so clear; various sources suggest that the position was held by 12 battalions with a total strength of 5000, but this probably includes Macdonald's command at Blaton. Wright wrote that the French were three times the size of the British, which suggests the French strength at Linselles was in the range 3,300 - 3,900. The French position was reinforced by a two redoubts and other earthworks, containing approximately 12 guns. These guns are variously described as 16 pounders (France Militaire) or a mixture of 6 pounders (in the redoubt attacked by the 1st Foot Guards) and 9 pounders (in the redoubt attacked by the Coldstream Guards) as reported captured by the Guards (History & Origins of the First Regiment of Foot Guards, p. 286).
Major Jesse Wright (1st Battalion, Royal Artillery, KIA May 1794) provided the following account of the action;
The troops sent on this service were the 3 regiments of the Guards under General Lake, and the 6 guns belonging to them, which I command. The officers with me are De Ginkle [1st Guards], De Peyster [3rd Guards] & Watson [Coldstream Guards], the whole number of us altogether did not amount to more than 1300 men, and the enemy were more than 3 times the number, strongly intrenched in and about the village of Lincelles. The action began about 6 o’clock in the afternoon and lasted until it was quite dark. The Guards gallantly stormed the intrenchments under a dreadful fire and retook the village, together with 12 pieces of cannon, with their horses, and many prisoners. They lost about 12 officers and near 200 men killed and wounded, among the former is Colonel Bosville [Coldstream Guards]. De Peyster is killed; he behaved with a great deal of bravery and spirit. He was wounded by a grapeshot that hit him in the temple and died very soon afterwards. There are about 6 artillerymen killed and wounded, and 6 horses; most of these losses took place with the two guns of the first regiment that I was with; we were situated part of the time in an orchard. De Ginkle, who was the officer with me, behaved to admiration,” ......”it was a miracle that De Ginkle and myself escaped being killed or wounded; the quantities of grapeshot that fell about us would surprise one; we had both several men killed and wounded so close to us that I cannot conceive how we escaped”....”I have got Lt Hughes to my guns in place of de Peyster”.
For the scenario I have assumed that Jourdan and Béru led 8 battalions of infantry, supported by a battery of 8 pounders and one of 4 pounders. The French generals had difficulty in getting their men to stop pillaging the village and to face the British assault. For this reason all eight battalions were given the Wavering and Unreliable special rules and suffered -1 to their Melee, Shooting and Stamina factors. By contrast the 3 British Guards battalions were given the special rules First Fire, Reliable & Elite as well as +1 to their Melee & Stamina factors, reflecting their performance on the day.
The game starts at 6 pm and ends when darkness came at 10 pm, 16 moves in all. To win the British had to either take the redoubts or break 5 of the French battalions. The French win if they broke two of the Guards Battalions. Given that the Guards suffered almost 20% casualties on the day, we allowed Lake to rally his "Shaken" battalions, even after losing one battalion. Given that Jourdan described the defeat of the French as a "rout", any French battalions that left the table could not be brought back on.Finally Lake had a Staff Rating of 8 with one bonus attack, while both French generals had a Staff Rating of 7. Overall in terms of points the British had 335 and the French 348, so it was more balanced than originally expected.
The British started off by advancing in March Column for three moves;
The view of the French end of the 3ft x 2ft table;
By move 4 the Guards Brigade had closed up on the French position and a charge by the Scots Guards in the centre dispersed the French skirmishers. The Scots Guards then advanced to outflank the redoubt on the French left;
A French reserve battalion however managed to counter this move and a close combat ensued, after which both battalions where shaken and then broken. A great hole thus appeared in the British line (Move 6); The British Guards had also suffered significant casualties and consequently retired out of medium artillery range in order to rally for a couple of turns. In game turns 10 & 11 the British Guards advanced again to assault the redoubts. At which point things started to go wrong for the French. First one of the central reserve battalions was forced off the table by the accurate fire of the Coldstream's battalion guns, due to the break test caused by the Wavering special rule. In response, Jourdan led forward the other central reserve battalion to take on the Coldstreams but this too was quickly broken by the British fire power.
As the Coldstream Guards turned to support the attack of the 1st Guards, they presented an open flank to the remaining French battalions on the right flank. Jourdan saw his chance to end the game with a Follow Me charge from the flank, only to Blunder. The battalion involved, having seen the Coldstream Guards advance, immediately left the table to their right!
This move ended with the French having 5 battalions lost or broken and the British being declared the victors, despite not capturing either redoubt.The scenario worked well and fitted into a club night with ease. Related links; The Dutch at Linselles Battalion Guns in the Netherlands and Flanders
(*Linselles is the correct spelling; the spelling Lincelles, which features in the Guards battle honour, is blamed on the Duke of York's campaign map on which the "s" was obscured and the Duke read it as a "c" when writing his dispatch of the 19th August 1793 - Source; A.H. Burne, The Noble Duke of York, 1949, p. 67.)
- More on British Battalion Guns ”27/10/2016”Taken from the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 28, 1950, p.137 "Field Pieces for the Infantry, 1803 - 8th June 1803 To General Sir David Dundas, The Commander-in-Chief directs me to inform you that it is generally his intention that each regiment of the Line shall have two small field pieces attached to it." (W.O. 3/36)
- Sir Dudley St. Leger Hill, 8th Caçadores ”5/7/2016”
- Lieutenant Arthur Brooke, 44th Regiment, in Flanders 1794-5 ”3/2/2016”
Continuing my interest in the Duke of York's campaign in 1793-5 in Flanders and the Netherlands, I visited the Pubic Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast. Included in their archives is Arthur Brooke's diary of his war experiences between 1794 and 1814. His diary is more famous for his account of his participation in the 1812-14 war with the USA, but also includes his experiences in the Mediterranean theatre during the Napoleonic Wars. Unfortunately his diary for 1794 & 1795 deals more with the dreadful retreat than the fighting, but is still of great interest;
“On the 31st of October 1793 got my first commission in the 44th Regiment as Ensign, & joined it in Dublin Barracks, where I was quartered till the 25th April 1794, when I embarked at the Pigeon House for England. Landed at Liverpool and marched from thence to Dartford & Gravesend, marched through London. The year 1794 embarked at Gravesend for Ostend to join the Duke of York’s army. Went from Ostend to Antwerp. Antwerp a beautiful town, the church an elegant structure. I there saw a fine picture of Christ ascending to Heavan. Marched from Antwerp to Breda from thence to Bois-le-Duc & from there to Nuimegon[sic] on the banks of the Waal, where we took up our position till late November, when the British army retired[?] across the Rhine , I never saw a more dreadful retreat. Men women & children were froze to death & the greater part of the Army lost; this dreadful weather lasted till March, when we arrived at Hamburgh and in April embarked for England, when I arrived on the 25th of May 1795 at Sunderland, in the north of England.”
(Source: PRONI D3004D/1, p. 1)
Although he doesn't mention it in his diary Brooke was promoted to Lieutenant on the 26th November 1793 (Source: Army List 1795, p.142). Lt Brooke left the UK with Lord Moira's force which was sent to reinforce the Duke of York's army. Thus, Sir Arthur Brooke would have fought at Boxtel with the 44th Foot in Wellington's First Battle.
- Firing Shells from Long Guns in 1779 ”1/2/2016”
Following on from my article regarding the use of howitzer shells in long guns in the 1793-5 campaigns in Flanders, here is the full text from the experiments during the siege of Gibraltar;
"(Sept. 25) An experiment was recomd. by Capt. (now Major) Mercier, 39 regt., viz.: to fire out of guns 51/2" shells with short fuses, which was tried on 25 Sept. and found to answer extremely well. These small shells, according to Mercier's method, were despatched with such precision, and the fuses calculated to such exactness that the shell often burst over the enemy and wounded them before they could get under cover. This mode of annoyance was desirable on many accounts: less powder, and the enemy more seriously molested. The former was an advantage of no small consequence since it enabled the Governor to reserve, at this period, what might probably be expended to greater benefit on some future occasion; it will also account for the extraordinary no. of shells which were discharged from the Garrison. The enemy attempted this practice, but never could bring it to perfection."
(Source: Minutes of the Proceedings of the Royal Artillery Institution, vol.29, 1902-3, p.93)The Great Siege Stewart and Shells for long guns in Flanders
- Wellington’s First Battle at Salute 2015 ”23/6/2015”
James and I had a great day demonstrating "Wellington's First Battle" at Salute this year. Again we used Blackpowder(TM) to run the game of Boxtel in 1794. The Gallery shows the game as it unfolded on the day. James played the French, he quickly advanced Daendels' brigade to crowd the British Guards. The subsequent firefight developed with both sides becoming close to broken. Eventually it was the Guards brigade that was broken. The retreat of the British thus mimicked the real events at least with respect to outcome.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by for a chat.
My thanks to several attendees whose photos I have added to this gallery to complete the story. Their blogs contain many other excellent photos of the games at Salute;Shedwars Onelover Lee Hadley: Ten Figures a Week Asienieboje Wargaming Blog
- Wellington’s First Battle wins “Best in Show” at Phalanx 2013 ”16/6/2013”
On Saturday 15th June 2013, we took our Wellington's First Battle demonstration game to the Phalanx Show run by the Spartans - the St. Helens Wargaming Society.
Although a long drive it was a great day out. The venue is large and was well laid out with good supporting materials. We were fortunate enough to win both the "Best Demonstration Game" and the "Best in Show" prizes - so the drive home seemed a lot shorter!
The game resulted in a French victory for James, after Colonel Vyse became a bit too ambitious and got his fragile cavalry brigade broken. The combat was however close as the British Guards brigade were successfully holding off the superior numbers of Daendels brigade;
The British left on the final move
The result of the somewhat disastrous British Cavalry charge
The trophies on proud display
- Wellington’s First Battle at Cannon, Retford, 24th March 2013 ”25/3/2013”On a snowy 24th March 2013, I attended the new Cannon show at Retford. The show is hosted by the Retford Wargames Group and is named after a Crimean War cannon that is a key feature in the town. The game generated a high level of interest from attendees both young and old. Here are some of my photographs of the venue and game, which was played using Black Powder; Nice light and airy venue - the other upstairs hall was splendid The table set up with plenty of room for supporting materials As the British emerge from Schyndel they can see the French vedettes in the early morning mist Daendels brigade is struggling to get forward as it can't use "brigade moves" in the first two turns The British Light Dragoons advance boldly to drive off the French Hussars ..... ... only to be broken in the ensuing cavalry combat and resulting sweeping advance. Meanwhile Daendels finally gets his brigade moving forward - his battalion guns looking for the convenient bridge. The French Hussars are driven off by the advancing British Guards Wesley's brigade looks on from their position in reserve near Schyndel The French infantry arrive to drive back the British Guards, breaking the First Foot Guards Some links featuring other photographs of the game; Meglomanic's blog Retford Wargames Group The Retford Wargames Group's website is; Retford Wargames Group
- Publication of Wellington at Bay, 18th April 2020
- Linselles 18th August 1793 – The French troops
- Lincelles 18th August 1793 – A small Black Powder Scenario
- More on British Battalion Guns
- Sir Dudley St. Leger Hill, 8th Caçadores
- Lieutenant Arthur Brooke, 44th Regiment, in Flanders 1794-5
- Firing Shells from Long Guns in 1779
- Wellington’s First Battle at Salute 2015
- Wellington’s First Battle wins “Best in Show” at Phalanx 2013
- Wellington’s First Battle at Cannon, Retford, 24th March 2013
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