Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Re-taking the Story

Glad to be back again and eager to re-take the story, that's how I'm feeling right now. It's been a real Annus Horribilis to me, due to the disproportionately high amount of time, commitment, effort and money invested on my Minairons miniatures company --a venture that has kept me not just busy, but permanently, deeply worried about all long this about-to-go year. An insane commitment ultimately depriving me from even my usual hobbies. Just for helping you to make an idea of what has this venture reported to me, I've played only 2 miniature games all long 2013!

Minairons Miniatures is still far from consolidation yet, but recovering my hobby time has become a priority now --for I'm certain I wouldn't be able to hold such working pace any longer without seriously damaging my personal and family life. I must find a way to reconcile both work and leisure, and Defiant Principality current adventure is a best therapy. So let's re-take the story where we had left it on last Summer.

A) To be short, we are now on our 22nd turn of military campaign, corresponding to the week of 11 to 17 December 1713. The Catalan player moves consisted basically of bringing some reinforcements to El Bruc area, where a battle started the week before was inconclusive, so making unavoidable a second fight on the same battleground.

B) Yesterday I posted here a new scene reflecting the Spanish player moves in turn; these consisted of reinforcing lines around El Bruc too --but also included a reckless advance into the Pyrenees valleys by a big army under Duke of Popoli --a rival to the current commander-in-chief, Marquis of Aitona.

C) From the Catalonian people and authorities point of view, a deep crisis seems about to erupt, as rumours about death of Princess Elisenda under the Spanish Navy guns keep growing ceaselessly, while the Junta de Braços (=name given by the Catalan Parliament to itself, when summoned without the Sovereign's attendance) is about to debate a likely poisoned proposal of peace talk by Philip V.

D) At the French held portion of Catalonia, Duke of Berwick is patiently waiting for news and orders from Versailles, in the confidence of having the country quiet and calm. For the moment, he has even managed to perform a prisoners exchange with the Catalans --so that only Spaniards are still being kept by them in Barcelona prisons. The French-Catalan front is amazingly peaceful, right now.

E) And last but not less important by any mean, Princess Elisenda has just arrived in the remote Valley of Aran, still unknown to everybody except for the Aranese themselves. There She has managed to earn the locals adhesion to Her cause, by granting them an update of the Querimònia protocol ruling Aran Valley union to Catalonia.

You can see her current position on the map below. Please have in mind she is still invisible to wargaming players. Depending on next turn's weather and road conditions in the area, rumours about her arrival in the Principality might spread quickly indeed --or she'll keep being invisible still.

Oh, I almost forgot. I wish to you all the happiest Christmas and New Year days!! Meet you again on the tortured Catalonian battlefields pretty soon!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Under pressure

El Bruc, 13th December 1713

--Any news from the rest of the Army?

Taken by surprise by the question abrupt tone, the aide-de-camp vacillated: --S-screen moves all long the front, Sire; j-just as your ordered.

Impatiently, Marquis of Aitona interrupted the assistant: --I give it for granted. I'm referring to Duke of Popoli's column.

--H-he keeps progressing with difficulty; melted snow has turned roads into mud everywhere, Sire.

--...Progressing still?

--He is progressing indeed, Sire.

The marquis dismissed the aide-de-camp in abrupt manner --and he immediately repented. "I'm being unfair to him, I shouldn't hold him as if responsible for this".

Finally alone, he plopped on a couch. He then glanced for the umpteenth time at the battlefield map on a wall. It was El Bruc battlefield, where goddess Fortune deprived him of a certain victory last week, transforming it into the certain threat of a new war of trenches. His captains were frightened by the remembrance of Prats de Rei battle two years ago --and such fear had begun inciting discontent among them. He was aware, but could do nothing to counter it... except winning the battle tomorrow.

He knew for sure. He ought to break the fierce Catalan defense at that point, or the entire campaign would be cut off. And his own reputation with it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Unexpected guest

Vielha, 13th December 1713

Seated on the old armchair own to his position as Síndic, or Chief Magistrate of Aran Valley, the old man observed attentively that couple of numb with cold young girls who were greedily devouring their bowls of òlha aranesa stew by the living room large fireplace. Despite the undeniable authenticity of the credentials he had been shown, he found it difficult to accept that a princess accustomed to the Europe's Courts luxury and étiquette might have ever had the thought of dropping herself in that remote valley by full December, with such a small entourage. He finally decided to test her:

--So, what are the intentions of... er... Your Highness?

The alluded girl stopped eating and remained silent, absorbed for a moment, before answering with astounding firmness:

--To rule my country in accordance to the mandate I've been entrusted, as well as the will of its people.

The bowl still warming her hands, the girl then paused intentionally before adding: --Such does imply this valley too, of course.

The Síndic got visibly alarmed at this: --What do you mean, Milady?

--Whenever Aranese people does consent, naturally --Princess Elisenda calmly responded, and she later added:

--If I remember correctly, on last June 400 years were met of the Querimònia, the Magna Carta ruling by Aranese people's own will their valley's relationship with the Crown. Maybe it is already time for renewing and updating such agreement, don't you believe?

The old magistrate stayed silent, shocked.

--Modern times, new challenges that can only be approached through wide, extended powers. This is what I firmly believe --Elisenda added mischeviously.

--For sure, Your Highness! --The Aranese magistrate enthusiastically answered --I shall gather the whole Conselh Generau (=General Council) right tomorrow in the morning, to formally celebrate the Fourth Centenary and hold a joint Session with Your Highness.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Doomy hint

El Bruc, 12th December 1713

Crestfallen and deeply worried, young Foix de Rovellats finally left the headquarters tent, where their commander Marquis of Poal had gathered all his officers for a briefing.

During the meeting, the marquis had done his best to avoid even mentioning the disturbing rumours arrived from Barcelona, so that all his speech had dealt with technical, logistic and strategical affairs. Contrarily to his likely expectations, this had kept intact the slowly growing unease amongst his men.

So, Marquis of Poal acknowledged them about his decision to merge into 3 regiments all 4 Miquelets battalions under his command, due to the heavy punishment suffered by them during the battle fought last week. Each of these three new units would keep the 10 companies prescribed by Archduke Charles' Ordnances, albeit signifcantly smaller -less than half the 100 men stated by such Ordnance. As a consequence, these smaller regiments would manoeuvre and perform quite more smoothly than before.

He also tried to rise his officers' morale by announcing the arrival of new reinforcements under General Prado, albeit with little effect. No one among them dared to request about the rumours, but it was ominously present in all minds. Had Princess Elisenda really been murdered by enemy ships in Gulf of Biscay waters, the Principality cause would become orphan of political legitimacy to European Powers' eyes --and they knew.

Deeply sorry, Foix arrived in her regiment's encampment. Once there, she attentively started watching her women. The regiment was intact after last week's battle, with no more than a few lightly injured girls. They should be in good shape. However, their morale was obviously below a minimum, as if they had been heavily decimated.

At that point, one of the sentinel girls alerted her: --Look ahead, Milady: the Spaniards have started moving again...

There was a hint of doom in the young soldier's voice that made Foix de Rovellats shudder.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Growing unease

Barcelona, 11th December 1713


It was as if a bomb had fallen on the Generality Palace. That morning, the main weekly gazette in Barcelona dared to explicitly express the doubts and fears that an ever increasing part of the Principality's population had been silently brewing up. Some high officials tried to abort the gazette distribution by threatening the editor about defeatism prosecution. Only the energetic intervention of the Barcelona town Major prevented this to finally happen --not without some serious fisticuffs between Government and Municipality guards in front of the Publisher's workshop façade. Face to the uncertainties the newspaper had brought to public minds, a deep political crisis seemed unavoidable.

Meanwhile, the growingly demoralized Catalan forces prepared themselves for the next clash with King Philip's armies --another week else...

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Battle in the snow (3)

DEATH OF A HERO

El Bruc, 8th December 1713

Behind the hills where the Catalan Artillery was staked, Marquis of Poal had arranged all the Horse he had available --four squadrons of Dragoons and another two of Hussars. All this wing was put under command of General Ortega, along with the mentioned artillery and a battalion of pioneers. As the Infantry General he was, Ortega felt plainly uncomfortable at commanding that heterogeneous force, as well as at the pioneers poor quality --they were in fact a poorly armed and even less motivated punishment battalion. This made him feel unsecure from the very start.

His reluctance at the commission became evident when two full Spanish squadrons of Horse suddenly came from behind their position, charging right away against the Catalan Dragoons --a whole squadron of which was volatilized at the very first engagement. When Ortega finally managed to align the three remaining squadrons for facing the new threat, the Spanish Foot main line had already reached the hill foot. The last battery that could defend the position was then destroyed by the devastating fire from the enemy siege battery. The Catalan right wing seemed hopelessly doomed.

But the unexpectable then happened. In one of his few right decisions of that day, Ortega ordered the Hussars not to get involved in the fight for neutralizing the Spanish Cavalry, but to deal with the advancing Foot instead. It was the opportunity young Colonel Gaspar de Portolà (*) expected. True that little could do his Hussars face to an entire Infantry brigade, Portolà thought, but if they were at least capable of inspiring some fear on the enemy, perhaps... In a bold gesture, he ordered both Squadrons to quickly form into a broad line along the hill crest, well in sight of the Spanish Infantry.

Veteran Ramón Lanuza, who was in command of the second squadron as Lieutenant Colonel, immediately understood Portolà's intentions. He then watched at their feet --at the human tide painfully climbing up the hill. "--A charge downhill? Hum, perhaps...". Lanuza grinned wildly when Portolà gave the order, a few seconds later. Roaring an old battle cry, Lanuza threw his horse downhill, followed by the whole Regiment:

--Saint George and Aragon!! --Half a thousand throats also roared with him.

Colonel Portolà's gamble wasn't just right --but brilliant instead, for it literally saved the day. Scared at the frightening vision of a massive Horse charge, the first Spanish battalion facing them lost nerve and fired a too premature volley. The terrifying charge made the line to waver and fall back in disorder. A second battalion following them at short distance was fatally disordered by their retreating comrades --and they were also charged in turn. Bewildered, they had to fire hurriedly at the thundering Hussar tide, so that their own volley was plainly unable to stop the charge, in spite of being slightly more effective than the former's one. Again, the battalion fatally wavered and fell back in disorder too, to the astonishment of Marquis of Aitona, who helplessly watched the scene from the opposite wing.

The nearly suicidal Hussar charge had effectively stopped the Spanish advance, for a while enough to prevent them to resume the attack. For day was coming to an end, so that the fighting slowly softened up all along the front. Marquis of Aitona's troops had secured the highlands at one flank, but had been uncapable of reaching the Catalan entrenched main line. Perhaps the next day.

However, Lanuza himself became one of the few Hussar casualties in that enchained series of charges. His lifeless body stayed all night in place, along with all those who died during that crucial day.


(*) Not to be confused with his own son, Gaspar de Portolà Jr., who was viceroy of California between 1767 and 1770.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Battle in the snow (2)

El Bruc, 8th December 1713

A few minutes before, the relentless artillery bombardment ordered by Marquis of Aitona had finally opened the first breach in Catalan trenches. And now, a sudden series of explosions in the enemy right wing hills indicated that one of the two Catalan light batteries had been blown into pieces.

--Gentlemen, let's start the assault! --The Marquis then triumphantly told to his officers.

Short time later, all three Spanish brigades began moving. The Marquis of Aitona himself commanded the right wing, consisting of two battalions of the Reales Guardias Españolas (Foot Guards), followed by the McAuliff Irishmen and supported by two squadrons of the Reales Guardias a Caballo (Horse Guards). Meanwhile, the artillery continued to methodically tamp the Catalan defenses, thus opening a second breach --at the sector defended by the Fiona McGregor's girls, to be precise.

When they had already advanced half the distance, a full regiment of Miquelets suddenly appeared from their hiding place behind a hill, to the Spanish right flank. "Now I understand why these bastards showed so few forces at this flank!" --the Marquis muttered angrily. Indeed, the Catalans had kept visible there only two small contingents of miquelets and volunteers so far. This new regiment was posing a serious threat to their whole right flank. The reneging Marquis then ordered the Horse Guards to dislodge that newly arrived enemy, while his foremost Foot battalions maneuvered for facing the rest of Catalan forces in the hills, who encouraged by the Miquelets had also begun to move. Such orders would unavoidably delay the final assault, but he could not risk a flank attack capable of ruining his battle plan.

The Marquis also realized that their own siege guns were now in silence. "But, why aren't they shooting? What is doing this Torremayor plodder, why isn't he ordering new targets?" --Having achieved their starting targets, the Spanish batteries were patiently awaiting for new orders to be delivered. For some unknown reason, General Torremayor was apparently absent.

Deployed on the ridge top, the Miquelets were in a privileged position with regard to the Spanish Horse Guards, who had to move uphill for reaching to them. Indeed, when the first squadron closed up enough for starting a charge, it was stopped short by a deadly musket volley making them to fall back in disorder. This circumstance however allowed the second squadron to charge in turn. The mounted impact was devastating, and the Miquelets broke ranks closely pursued by the Horse Guards, who caused a horrible carnage amongst them. Unfortunately, by pursuing the enemy they lost contact with the main army [and left the table].

The hills completely fell into Spanish hands after a regiment of Dragoons arose from behind the Catalan flank, sweeping in a few minutes the amalgamated fusiliers force defending the area. That sector of the battle was virtually won. Nevertheless, the starting plan timing had been delayed significantly, so that the weak sun of December had already begun its descent toward the horizon.

Marquis of Aitona was still striving for his brigade to resume the appropriate direction and alignment, when he realized that, in the distance, the Spanish left flank had also stopped and maneuvered sideways. "Hum, General Bracamonte likely wants to conquer the enemy artillery hill" --he thought at first. But then, next to the destroyed enemy batteries, he also perceived on top of the hill an enemy Horse regiment fully deployed and prepared to charge downhill. "Hussars? What the Hell are those Hussars doing up there?"

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Battle in the snow (1)

El Bruc, 8th December 1713

At dawn, all regiments were already in position behind the trench. The Queen Catherine English volunteers stood in the middle of the line, with the girls of Fiona McGregor Regiment just at their left. Both regiments blocked side by side the winding path of the road toward Barcelona. That would be the primary target of the enemy, no doubt.

Nervous, young Foix de Rovellats looked all around. The girls of her regiment were also visibly nervous, but still steady. To their right, those hardened English veterans were phlegmatically awaiting the battle start, motionless as statues in red. Only some sporadic smoke cloud flowed up at regular intervals from a pipe.

With the daylight, some movement down in the snowy valley could be perceived. Foix trembled: the enemy was already formed too, in a huge line of 3 battalions deep. "What are they expecting?", she asked to herself.

She was soon given an abrupt response, under form of cannon roar. Guns! The Spaniards had deployed on the hills ahead up to three field batteries, as well as some huge siege cannons --that now started firing all at once. The projectiles hissed and beat the Catalan defenses at so an endless cadence, that she believed would get stunned. "Hold your positions!" --someone shouted, she herself perhaps. In spite of the call, she would gladly be the first one to panick and run away.

Bombing continued endlessly for over an hour until, suddenly, a deafening lucky impact opened a gap in the positions of the Englishmen, so that projectiles begun impacting among their ranks --but those hardened men held position nevertheless. Encouraged, Foix shouted again to her girls: "Stay! Stay and keep the line!"

Then a terrible explosion threw her to ground, along with all the girls around. A gap! Those enemy damned guns had opened another gap, now at their own position!

Between one explosion and the next one, Foix happened to glimpse the snowy plain stretching ahead. The enemy had already covered half the distance to their trenches, and had begun to climb the slope --at least three battalions strong. When she was finally able to distinguish their flags, Foix nearly fainted: Guards! Two battalions of the Spanish Guard were advancing straightly toward them, followed by McAuliff's Irishmen!

Suddenly pale, Foix de Rovellats whispered: "Fix bayonets". Miraculously, the girls heard that.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bittersweet victory

Gerri de la Sal, 7th December 1713

[On last weekend it was fought the first battle of this turn, by the gaming group of Lleida city, who so kindly have offered themselves before for other proxy battles.

[This time, they had volunteered for gaming the ambush of General Moragues' Mountain Fusiliers over a Walloon battalion lead by Marquis of Bus, in a remote Pyrenean valley half buried in snow.

[This is their battle report]


El capellà beneeix les tropes catalanes photo 20130506_164944_zpsbc0273b3.jpg
A priest blessing the Miquelets
Situaci photo 20130506_171147_zps222f7bf6.jpg
The trap about to close

Suddenly, the thunderous cracking of a musketry volley tore with violence the hitherto so calm, silent valley. That very first volley proved quite unsuccessful, as a matter of fact; but a lucky shot hit the officer leading the Walloon scouting vanguard, making his men to leave the road in disorder for some cover. Contrarily, the bulk of the battalion behind managed to keep order and formed a line to repel enemy fire.

L'emboscada s'inicia photo 20130506_172433_zps5344ea76.jpg
Starting volley
L'avantguarda borbònica baix el foc photo 20130506_172502_zpsffac80ec.jpg
First casualties
Els comandants borbònics posen ordre i es preparen per al contraatac. photo 20130506_174045_zps28e248ca.jpg
The Spanish rearguard forming a line
Les tropes es tiroteigen sense pietat... photo 20130506_175622_zps9ecab2a7.jpg
A furious exchange of musketry fire starts

After a pityless exchange of fire, another lucky shot hits the Spanish second-in-command, this making about one third of the battalion to flee. At the opposite side of battlefield though, things start going differently. Demoralized by the Walloons' steady fire, part of the Catalan Miquelets also fall back from their positions, so starting a ruthless retreat too. Trying to restore order in the deserting ranks, General Moragues is close to being swept away by his own men.

Fugida borbonica devant el foc a banda i banda... photo 20130506_180916_zps55e6fe34.jpg
Spanish rout
La fugida de part de les tropes catalanes... photo 20130506_180926_zpsdd8e7a47.jpg
Some Miquelets also rout

Taking advantage of the Catalan momentary loss of control, a second Walloon formation rapidly decides to withdraw in good order before the enemy leadership is restored --thus avoiding anihilation. Unable of doing so too, the Walloon foremost detachment choses to surrender.

In the end, the balance for the Catalan side is:
Starting force: 30
Casualties: 2
Routing: 9

And, for the Spanish side:
Starting force: 30
Casualties: 9
Captured/Disbanded: 15 --including the Spanish commander, Marquis of Bus
Successfully exiting the field: 6 --with no senior command

[And this weekend, an actually big battle, to be fought by ourselves. The mother of all battles, I'd say --well, some malicious propaganda actually, for demoralizing those damned stubborn Galateans, hehehe...]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gascony

Tarbes, 7th December 1713

Thankfully holding the bowl of warm soup between her hands, she looked all around. That small guesthouse close to Tarbes was pretty quiet, with almost no guests apart from themselves. "That is good", she told to herself, "for we'll finally be able to rest a whole night on a bed".

She thoughtfully glanced at the table next to theirs own, where her Catalan and German bodyguards were devouring their meals in silence, disguised as simple lackeys and grooms. They looked pretty fatigued, after several days and nights of ceaseless march along the snowy road. It was then that the young lady sitting by her asked:

--Lisette? --Such was her agreed name during their journey across upper Gascony. It wasn't advisable by any means she was called by her true name, Elisenda.

--Yes I'm here, Claire --she smoothly answered while getting back to reality.

--You look worried --Claire said, as if diagnosing Elisenda-- Still concerned by our good corsairs' fate? Don't anymore. Their captain is cunning enough for having fooled King Philip's warships one way or another. Such has been his way of life for years, you know?

Elisenda replied in a tired voice: --Perhaps I'm concerned for these corsairs, true. But for our own exhausted escorts too, and for my Nation's fate right now, while I'm resting here... or it's just that I'm scared dead for myself.

--Please stand strong a few days else, Lisette. We're close to Perpignan. Once there, you'll be able to hold firm the reigns of your destiny again.

--Perpignan? Too a long roundup.

--Oh no, Lisette!! --Claire looked alarmed and exasperated-- Are you still thinking of...?

--Crossing the Pyrenees across Aran Valley, sure --Elisenda's voice sounded unexpectedly sharp.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Ambush in the White

Gerri de la Sal, 6th December 1713

As fast as the thick snow layer allowed him, the scout hurried close to the high officer leading the column.

--We've got them, Sire! --he whispered while puffing--. Down there, in the valley.

General Moragues ordered his men to halt and keep silence, and then he followed the scout to the designed observation place, not far from there. The man was right: down in the valley a long military column winded northwards along the tortuous road, struggling with the snow to progress. He lifted his spyglass and watched. Several hundreds of infantrymen in pearl grey coats. Their flags were rolled around the staffs, but confusion was impossible. "Hum, it's the walloon battalion we had been reported. We've got them indeed, in the worst possible place for them".

--Any screen? --Moragues asked, still watching.

--Just a handful of men preceding the column a hundred yards. Nothing else, Sire. --the scout answered in a grimace.

"Crazy fools", General Moragues told to himself, while lowering the spyglass and looking at the mountainous landscape around. There was little else to watch, so they headed back to the column of Miquelets, who were patiently waiting in silence. Moragues then gathered his officers and simply said:

--I venture this to be a best place for an ambuscade. Wouldn't you agree, gentlemen?

[The unbalanced fighting suggested by this scene is a result of climate effect in our current gaming turn. North of the Principality, the march of a Walloon Infantry Regiment across the Pyrenean valleys has been suddenly cut off by the unexpected snow storm. This has allowed a less harrased battalion of Mountain Fusiliers to reach to them. As no scouting troops are accompanying the Walloons, they are very likely to be caught in a deadly ambush amidst the deep mountain valleys.]

[The gaming scenario itself might well be a narrow depression sorrounded by high mountain, such as the Noguera Pallaresa river valley in the vicinity of Gerri de la Sal town --which lies precisely half-way between Tremp and Sort hexes in our campaign map.]

[Such would be the first battle scenario of this current turn, then.]

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cold spreads

Generality Palace, 5th December 1713

General Villarroel was the last one to arrive in the hall where the highest level meeting had to take place. There were not only the six ex officio Generality members, but also other distinguished parliamentarians, including the Mayor and the Bishop of Barcelona city. The thick silence reigning among the attendees was anything but a good presage. Alarmed by such silence, Villarroel occupied an empty chair and waited.

After a nervous coughing, President de Solanell finally found the strength to start saying:

--Dear Sirs, I must acknowledge you that His Majesty King Philip V is... ehem... is proposing to begin formal peace talks. The meeting would take place in Cartagena, within two weeks' time.

Deeply uncomfortable, Solanell fixed his attention on King Philip's letter, avoiding to cross gaze with any other of the meeting attendees who, bewildered, looked in turn at each other without daring to say anything either.

It was the Mayor of Barcelona, Sir Rafael de Casanova, who spoke the first. He energetically exclaimed: --It's a damned trap! Let's ignore it, Excellence!

--A request for peace should never be disregarded --Barcelona Bishop calmly replied--. Contrary, I do state the proposal should be immediately accepted.

After some hesitation while, an alarmed Villarroel finally decided to intervene: --Modestly, I do not see the Generality as empowered enough to make such decision alone. It should be agreed before with Princess Elisenda who, as you know, was entitled the Crown of this Principality by His Imperial Majesty...

--So, don't you know that...? --the Military Deputy Francesc de Berenguer asked.

--According to Spanish military reports, the ship carrying Princess Elisenda back home was sunk last week in Basque waters. --it was Lord Antoni de Peguera, a Nobiliary Deputy, who had spoken. His voice sounded calm, but the gaze he crossed with Villarroel denoted true panic.

Villarroel stayed frozen mute. Silence reigned again over the hall, and again it was Casanova who broke the curse: --I do agree with General Villarroel. This Government isn't entitled enough for taking such decision.

The alluded looked back to him in surprise. How could the "Busca" Republican Party leader agree with him in this circumstance? Then Casanova continued: --May we have lost a Crown, but there is still a Parliament, which is entitled enough to take a decision. Let's call the Parliament, then.

"So it was", Villarroel quietly told to himself.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Snowfall

Catalonia, 4th December 1713

As a prelude to the coming winter, the snow made early appearance in the first week of December 1713. Snowfall was abundant all through the country, blocking villages and roads even at sea level lands. Together with the previous week heavy rains, the accumulated snow hampered severely movement of troops and supplies all around --thus producing rather unexpected results on the respective military headquarters plans.

The Spanish Army managed to win the initiative, but some of their provided moves were aborted by the bad weather. Such was the case of Marquis of Bus at north, whose walloon regiment was caught by snow in the remote Pyrenean valleys between Tremp and Sort towns. Or that of Duke of Popoli, whose army was barely capable to get more than a few miles closer to the relatively unprotected fortress of Castellciutat, the main Catalan stronghold in the Pyrenees.

The daring attacking manoeuvre of Marquis of Aitona also suffered from some issues, such as the delay of a couple of battalions, that were unable to follow the main column path and had to spend the week in Igualada town. Nevertheless, most of the overall operation ran accordingly enough to the Spanish Commander-in-Chief provisions, so that the Catalan army standing ahead found itself attacked more or less simultaneously by:
  • 2 Horse Guards Squadrons, 2 Foot Guards Battalions, 7 Line Infantry Battalions and 2 Dragoons Squadrons by the front;
  • as well as 2 Line Cavalry Squadrons flanking them from the left,
  • and 2 Dragoons Squadrons did the same by the right.
  • Two artillery batteries were to provide the necessary fire support.

Meanwhile, odd news and rumors about the fate of Princess Elisenda began to circulate across the country --especially in Barcelona city, dedicately spread by fifth columnists and enemy agents. Besides, a small cutter flying Spanish flag had managed to sort out both bad weather and Catalan privateers, and anchored in Barcelona harbour carrying a personal message of King Philip V of Spain to the General Deputation President. This made rumours to increase alarmingly.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Lettre de marque (4): Sa Dragonera

Balearic Sea, 20th November 1713

Captain Ginard, still lost in his thoughts, reached to the galley rumbade and continued with his unhurried pace by one of the gangways around the wooden platform covering the ship main battery. At the opposite side, the five artillery pieces stuck their muzzles out of their respective doors. Young Mateu was sitting astride the central eighteen pounds gun, immersed in practicing a complicate knot with an arm long piece of rope. Ginard sat himself over one of the six pounds gun, removed his hat and pointed his face towards the sun. He allowed himself a few minutes of relaxation, enjoying the pleasant warmth eyes closed.

--"Sa Dragonera". I think we must rename her "Sa Dragonera".

Mateu's suggestion made Ginard smile. Sa Dragonera was a small island in the western Majorca coast. They'd just left it behind little ago. In Majorcan variant of Catalan language, "dragó" was the name given to some types of small lizards. His galley would become a dragons' den, he thought.

--Not a bad name. –-Ginard took the rope from Mateu hands and checked the knot. --Now, dragons are what we need.

--Are we going to recruit crewmen here in Palma, Sir?

--Hmmmm... --Ginard returned the rope back to Mateu and looked to the bow.
--We'll see. First of all, we must meet our mysterious patron.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Escape (5): triumph in Tremp

Tremp town, 2nd December 1713

Inside Tremp town, news about the reappearance of local heroin Maria Sauret accompanying General Moragues spread across like a lightning. A crowd gathered in front of the Town Council Hall, demanding for them to be granted access into the town --that had been denied to all troops so far, with disregard of the side, in a naive attempt to keep neutral to all. Hardly pressed by the demonstration, the Major finally consented in allowing access to General Moragues troops.

The sagacious heroin still kept a further ace up her sleeve. Taking advantage of the popular expectation on the arrival of General Moragues' troops, she placed herself heading the column alongside to the General. Once the small army started marching across the town's main street, she suddenly unveiled a flag she had been keeping folded in her bag, and started flying it before the marching troops: it was the Saint Ignatius flag of Lleida City's Militia, preserved from king Philip's confiscation.

Attendants bursted in an unanimous roar, and a number of people joined General Moragues' troops in their march toward the Town Council Hall, as if determined to take it --either by the word, or the sword. Scared at the events, the Major hurried to meet the General and symbolically offered the town keys to him.

The only neutral town in the Principality had finally joined the cause as well.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

The Escape (4): meeting the General

Tremp town, 1st December 1713

Curious, General Moragues watched critically at the picturesque group facing to him, who claimed to have escaped from Lleida revolt.

The girl was who lead the group --and she looked determined indeed: she had that kind of power that makes men obey. Although sweating abundantly, the little man to her side was not less determined when discussing about money --he'd refused once and once again to release his bag contents, suggesting instead for the War Board to finance their plans. The other two men in the group stated to be military --and that's what they looked like indeed.

It was the girl who spoke all the time, while the little man simply nodded. Consistently to their alleged status, the military said nothing but seemed to be willing to go anywhere that kind of fun was granted.

They (well, she in fact) stated to have money enough for raising an entire battalion of Miquelets, and asked him to grant them a license, under which they would perform under his command. Their plans were quite simple and effective: embarrassing the enemy rearguard and attack all supply convoys between Balaguer town and the Spanish vanguard at Ponts.

Although willing to trust on them, The General was aware that in such troubled times no complete trust could be granted to anyone. There was something suspicious about that proposal, he thought --but, at least, if conveniently directed it could help leading the enemy into some serious trouble. That would be more than enough to him.

--My dear Lady, are you suggesting you'd be able to have enemy communications cut between Balaguer and Ponts? --he asked.

She looked at him intently. The little man began sweating even more. One of the soldiers, a man that looked like an officer, bursted a kind of smile and answered: -- We'll do it if such are your orders. If you order anything else, we'll do that. The only thing I want is to win this damned war.

General Moragues kept silence for a moment while thinking. He was still doubtful, but there wasn't any room for formalities.

--The War Board would not authorize a new irregular battalion, but if you're willing to fight, and if you put the necessary means, I shall give you a permit to build a company that will perform under my orders. You'll have the mission to cut communications between Lleida and Ponts. On the understanding that you'll inform me of any eventuality, or oddity it might arise.