Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Post-war (1): The decisive battle

El Bruc, 14th December 1713

In order to help understand the turning point our post-war setting starts from, it's compulsory to talk first a bit on the last main battle fought on Catalan soil. This is the battle of El Bruc, whose first volleys had ben shot the week before in a snowy battlefield. Just as the Spanish Commander-in-Chief Marquis of Aitona had feared the most, the vanguard of his division met the Catalan army heavily entrenched along a wide front, and enjoying the chance to extend the line for several miles at both flanks, from the fortress of Cardona at North to the also fortified catalan positions near the Mediterranean coast at South.

To the Spanish commanders, such situation was ominously recalling of the sad experience of Prats de Rei battle in 1711, where the Two Crowns army was dragged by the entrenched Allies into an ever-extending, long battle of attrition that lasted for two months. Uncapable of neither taking Prats de Rei town or flanking the Allied positions due to the stubborn resistance of Cardona fortress, the Duke of Vendôme had to desist invading Catalonia that year.

Things had been happening so far as if a carbon copy they were of that previous battle. The Spanish first assault had been repulsed last week, and Marquis of Aitona was determined not to let the Catalans repeat the feat, so that he ordered a new assault to be done on the morning of 14 December, from the tactical positions won to the defenders the week before --who in the meanwhile had their damaged entrenchments repaired.

To the Spaniards, their very first surprises of that day were not only the Catalan entrenchments complete repair, but also their unexpected deployment --a massive concentration of nearly all their Horse and Miquelets on their own left, behind the first line hills. Just as it could be expected, that combined force immediately started progressing fast toward the Spanish right. Marquis of Aitona had to derive one full infantry battalion from his center to support his own right flank, which at the start consisted just of a couple of heavy horse squadrons and a light battery.

Once the right flank secured, the Spaniards advanced their centre resolutely toward the Catalan entrenchments, awaiting the propitius moment to unleash a charge that would expel them from their positions. That moment seemed to arrive when a bitter quarrel erupted between two Catalan regiments at the line far left, due to a matter of deployment seniority (due to an event card from the Beneath the Lily Banners ruleset we used). For a lapse, things apparently turned quite bad for the Catalans.

However, discoordination among Spanish colonels made the first clash to happen at a different point of the line, where the Catalan defenders were steadily awaiting. It gave as a result the vaporization of an attacking battalion, while the rightmost Walloon Guards were still struggling to climb the steep slopes face to them.

There were no chances to change orders substantially, so the two battalions of Walloon Guards gallantly charged the quarreling Catalans they had in front --only that those had long ago stopped the internal fisticuffs at the sight of the so much feared Guards! The defenders quickly re-organized their own lines and started delivering a deadly series of volleys upon the still climbing Walloons... In a few turns, both Guard battalions had decimated themselves by ruthlessly charging against a wall of fire!

After this critical setback, the Spanish assault had virtually lost all of its fuel. Despite some reinforcements had already come from the neighbouring town of Igualada, the Spanish centre was definitely broken down and no chances were left to break the stubborn Catalan defence. In just a matter of days, the defending line would be reinforced in turn and extended several miles along thorugh both flanks. Winter was closing to its climax and supply routes had become more fragile than ever, so the whole Spanish offensive got aborted. It happened at El Bruc, between December 8 and 14.

With His invasion army severely affected, His Treasure Fleet mysteriously lost (historical facts), and deprived from the direct support of Louis XIV (due to the diplomatic efforts of our ineffable Marquis de Vilana,) king Philip V would have had no choice but "to show a good face on bad weather" (as commonly said here) and consent to a negotiated peace with the Catalan authorities, accordingly to Louis XIV's own pressure (influenced in turn by Marquis de Vilana's revelations over Duke of Vendôme's death).

4 comments:

Jeroen72 said...

Didn't you make a series of syw uniforms?

Soldadets said...

Yes I did --a few uniforms for an hypothetical Catalan Legion, to be dispatched in aid of someone else's Imagi-Nation. Only that the page showing them is hidden. Do you need them?

Jeroen72 said...

Just curious :)

Soldadets said...

If not wrong, you can still find it at http://what-if-catalonia.blogspot.com/p/syw-army.html

Don't worry about the broken links there --these were no uniform plates, but some kind of space reservation.