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...]