The Napoleonic Wars, General de Brigade, 28mm
When we don’t have time to dream up a scenario, or can’t think what to do, we dip into Charles S. Grant’s Scenarios for Wargamers (1970), looking for inspiration. Dougie had been painting up French cavalry, and was eager to give them an airing, so we chose this scenario, which begins in disaster for one side, and takes it from there. The premise is that one force – the French in this case – have managed to work their way around the flank of the enemy, and are about to unleash themselves on one exposed flank. The scenario was based on Leuthen (1757), but the situation was also similar to Albuera (1811). To win, the French have to roll up the British line, and secure the pass between two hills, by capturing the village. The British had to recover from the disaster, and hold their ground. The two armies set up as shown on Charles’ map, with the bulk of the French army deployed in the area marked “F”, their advance screened by dawn mist, rolling ground and scattered orchards.Obviously, it wasn’t much fun for the British, who spend the first few turns desperately trying to issue new orders to their brigades, with the French falling on their flank like a Gallic tidal wave. Dougie’s new cavalry really came into their own. On the first turn the 16th Dragoons charged the British flank guard – the 16th Light Dragoons – who were driven back in disorder after a single turn of melee. The British brigade on the left flank was unable to change its orders, so the units had to pretty much remain in place, although they had a little leeway to change formation, or to try to turn to face the new threat. The British 28th Foot in reserve went into square, as it lay in the path of the French cavalry, but the 48th had no time to react. The 15th Dragoons hit the battalion from the rear, while French infantry columns burst out of the orchard on their left flank. The 48th broke and ran, pursued for a bit by the French cavalry, before the horsemen pulled back to reform, their job done. The 48th was dispersed, and for the British the only consolation was that their loss had bought time for the nearby guns to limber up and escape.It was then the turn of the 28th, whose square was threatened by both cavalry and infantry. The second unit of French cavalry – the 5th Dragoons – failed to charge, but the massed battalion columns of the 95th Ligne piled into the square, which dissolved. The British had now lost half of their left-hand brigade, but the survivors miraculously passed a brigade morale check, and fought on.By that time the British brigade on the right had moved up in support, forming a line in front of the village and the western ridge. To win the game the French needed to break this line, and storm the village beyond. With the French columns massing on the eastern ridge, the British players (Angus and Dax) threw caution to the wind, and launch their reserve cavalry brigade at the French. On the British left, the reformed 16th LD charged and drove off their French counterparts of the 5th Dragoons. The French reacted by going into square, but on the ridge itself the French columns were still unformed, after their destruction of the British square. Dax launched the 2nd Dragoons into the heart of the French, forcing a battalion of the 96th Ligne to run back to the cover of the orchard behind them. Purists will tell you that the 2nd Dragoons – the Scots Greys – weren’t in the Peninsula, but Dax was rightly proud of his unit, and so they got to play their part after all.The French screening force to the south weren’t to be left out, and began advancing on the British position. Leading the assault were the 5th Chasseurs a Cheval – Dougie’s only metal cavalry unit. They were duly eviscerated by Dax’s Royal Horse Artillery batteries, and the survivors broke and ran. Wisely enough the supporting French infantry – actually they were a German allied battalion – decided to halt where they were. With this flanking manoeuvre stymied, the French would have no option but to launch a frontal attack on the waiting British. The charge of the Scots Greys though, had bought time for the British infantry to get into position, and their cavalry were now loitering on the northern flank of the French.While the Scots Greys were eventually driven back with heavy losses, it was clear that the French would be extremely hard-put to break the British position. The game was duly declared a draw, although quite rightly the French player (Dougie) claimed a moral victory, having broken two British battalions. To be honest, the British players were a little relieved – they spent the entire game under a lot of pressure, and much of it on the wrong foot.