Battle of Talavera – Turns 25 – Conclusion

As the French columns began to ascend the steep slopes of the Medellin, the British began to open fire as they came into effective range.

On the northern slope the British look on as Ruffin’s division begins to approach. The last British artillery battery opens fire plunging shot into the dense columns.
Continued – 

Barrois’ 2nd Brigade leads the attack on the northern slopes (top of photo) and comes under sustained fire losing heavy casualties.

Barrois’ Brigade becomes the first French units to make contact with the British line on the northern slope with one column successfully holding together through the hail of British lead and striking the tough 88th Line. They are though comprehensively launched back down the slope with one of Barrois’ battalions utterly destroyed by a combination of musketry and canister fire from the artillery.

The French fair little better on the eastern slope. Vilatte’s division come under heavy fire as the ascend the slope. One battalion attempts to rush to the top risking becoming unformed in the process. It fails, becomes unformed, and suffers under steady musket volleys.

Success for the French occurs during their attack on the British centre. Many French columns falter under the withering volley fire but some make it through. One of Solignac’s battalions routs the 7th KGL Line leaving a yawning gap in the British line.

French battalions are rushed into the gap with the victorious French column turning to hit the rear of the British line. The 7th KGL failed to rally and departed the field. One of Mackenzie’s battalions destined for the Medellin was diverted to restore order in the centre (just in view at bottom of photo).

Further along the centre the British were comfortably seeing off the French attacks.

The view from the French side showing the British vulnerability in their broken line and the struggle for the Medellin.

Worse was to come for the British with the rout of the 2nd KGL Line widening the gap. Columns also now threatened the flank of those battalions holding the Medellin.

Bad news for the French came from further along the centre where Laplanne’s brigade, having lost two more battalions to the devastating musketry of the Guards in particular, broke leaving just one battalion left.

French columns on the Medellin were also suffering badly. Those that made contact were thrown back and one battalion was destroyed.

On the French left, a dragoon regiment has charged the last of the British cavalry, the 14th Light Dragoons lead by Cotton. The British cavalry was defeated and would subsequently fail its rally test dispersing from the field and leaving Wellington with no mounted troops left.

Elsewhere on the left flank the dragoons of Milhaud were now aggressively threatening the British infantry.

One dragoon charge piles into a square only to be easily repulsed.

Two overview photos at the end of turn 27.

Pressed by the Dutch and Milhaud’s dragoons, Kemmis begins moving his squares towards the redoubt intending to hold out there. Casualties began to mount as the vulnerable squares were the target of Dutch musketry and artillery.

Worrying for Kemmis was the arrival of a battery now targeting the redoubt.

As Kemmis edged towards the redoubt, his battalion of detachments (middle left) broke under the relentless Dutch musket volleys and will now retreat unformed at the mercy of the cavalry.

However, developments elsewhere overshadowed the events on this flank.

In the centre the French continued to push columns into the breach of the British line as the latter desperately attempted plug the gap with anything they had available.

Wellington now made the decision that he would make a last stand on the Medellin hoping for nightfall. With the exception of Kemmis’ Brigade, all units were to make for the Medellin as soon as they are able.

To the right of the photo, the 2/54th Line was ordered to charge the approaching Guards battalion that had been rushed over from the area of the redoubt. The French battalion lost heart and faltered in the face of the advancing Guardsmen. The latter had no such qualms and counter-charged the shaky French column. The 1/3rd Foot Guards lead by Campbell had taken a risk being just one figure away from their dispersal point. They had to win the melee to stay on the battlefield. And this they did in style comprehensively routing the French with heavy loss. 

The melee on the left had a different outcome. The 3/8th Line charged the faltering British 31st Line with the latter routing!

The Guards victory had a dramatic effect on Solignac’s brigade. With Solignac dead, the brigade was under the command of a Regimental Colonel who would provide no bonus in the Brigade morale test. That morale test had a ‘Broken’ result leading to the loss of 3 French battalions who were already outing, retreating or who had suffered over 34% casualties. The rest would retire 18cm unformed.

The removal of those battalions resulted in an altogether different complexion in this area of the battlefield.
Ruffin’s Division have made no headway in capturing the northern slope of the Medellin. Several battalions have now resorted to forming line intending to fire their way to the top!

Vilatte’s Division were also struggling on the eastern slope.
At last a French breakthrough on the Medellin! On the left, partially out of photo shot, the French 1/54th Line successfully repulsed Tilson’s 48th Line from the summit leaving a breach in the British line.

On the right, Tilson’s 66th Line heroically stood against 3 French battalion columns, one of which had hit it on the flank. The 66th stood no chance and was effectively wiped out.

Donkin’s 87th Line that had been held in reserve was rushed forward (middle of photo) in an attempt to stabilise the line.

The British were now in danger of losing the Medellin.

One of Mackenzie’s newly arrived battalions began forming a new defensive line on the southern slope.

While the British line on the northern slope remained secure they were becoming increasingly apprehensive about what was happening to their right.

Two overviews at the end of turn 29. With just 3 turns left it still looked as though the French could do it provided they maintain momentum on the Medellin.
In one wild attack everything changed. For the first time in several turns the British won the initiative. General Hill had joined the 87th Line (upper middle of photo) and now launched a charge at the French column that had initially gained the summit. The French promptly routed before contact.

The 87th continued their charge now towards the two battalions of Cassagne’s brigade that had destroyed the 66th Line. With Hill in the lead the two French battalions did not hang around for impact and both broke. In one charge and without loss the 87th had swept the summit clean of French troops.

Worse was to come for the French as they were now faced with panicked troops flooding down the eastern slope of the Medellin. With that panic taking hold several more battalions failed morale tests leading to the complete collapse of the whole of Vilatte’s Division. 

The end result with the whole of Puthod’s brigade having fled the field and just 3 battalions of Cassagne’s brigade remaining. And those would retire unformed in the next turn.
Hill and the victorious troops of the 87th Line look on in amazement at what they had achieved!

Two British battalions failed to rally and fled the field but their defensive line had now been pretty much restored around the Medellin.

Ruffin’s Division had taken such a severe battering they were in no position now to force the northern slope. The cavalry could not help out as they were unable to charge up the severe slope.
French cavalry were now pressing the British right flank including Kemmis’ Brigade (top left of photo). But it was all too little too late. With what was left of Solignac’s Brigade recovering (bottom) the French had surrendered all they had gained in the centre.

From the British side it all looks unexpectedly rosy!

3 overview photos at the end of turn 30. It is now very definitely over for the French. There is little offensive capability left in their infantry let alone the fact there is only 2 turns left until nightfall.

With regard to army morale tests, the French were now over their break point of 149 accumulating 169 points in losses. To demonstrate how close it was the British were also about to pass their break point of 64 with 57 points in losses. More on army morale tests below.

CONCLUSION

To say that game finished on a knife-edge is to put it mildly! I believed the end was in sight for the British when their line was broken in the centre and even more so as several French columns gained the summit of the Medellin. 
The British had precious few reserves and for the 3rd Foot Guards it was an all or nothing charge in the centre that began the catastrophic turn of events for the French. 
Awards really have to go to General Hill and the 87th Line. For several turns the French had won the initiative, but on this one the British succeeded at a critical time. This gave Hill leading the 87th the initiative in charging the French columns. The 87th also happened to be in attack column formation rather than the more usual British line giving them a greater charge range and manoeuvrability. The dice results were almost comical. The 3 French battalion targets of the 87th rolled a total of ‘4’, ‘2’ and ‘3’ respectively on 2D6 in response to the charges. All routed before contact! The 87th on the other hand only rolled just enough to succeed with their 3 charges. On two occasions it was only the presence of Hill (+1 bonus) that lead to success. 
This one action by the 87th triggered the total collapse of Vilatte’s division and destroyed any prospect of success for the French.
As can be seen by the losses above, the British were dangerously close to collapse themselves.  I have little doubt that had it not been for the Guards and the 87th in particular, the French would have won. Most of the British battalions that had been holding the centre had suffered heavily and it would not have taken much to break them.
For the French, their problems began earlier in the game. The length of time it took them to clear the Northern Plain (the valley to the north of the Medellin) was far longer than anticipated and drew in Maubourg’s reserve cavalry which could have been effective in supporting Lapisse’ Division in the centre. This delayed the attack on the Medellin which when it did come required a more hasty, and thus less well co-ordinated, assault up the steep slopes. 
Sebastiani’s 4th Corps on the left suffered badly with Leval’s Division paying a high price for routing the Spanish and Liger-Belair’s likewise for ill-considered and wasteful assaults on the Pajar Redoubt. The end result being the lack of a decisive breakthrough on the British right flank.
Even so, the French were desperately unlucky and demonstrated that as long as they hold their nerve and push through the British musket volleys they can gain the advantage. 
There are some issues with the rules in translating to large battles in 6mm that I am still tinkering with. These are:

Skirmishers

In my early games including Waterloo, I dispensed with them completely feeling that they would bog the game down too much and also very fiddly at this scale.
I settled on a reworking of the skirmish rules contained in Sam Mustafa’s Grande Armee but also keeping some aspects of General de Brigade. Each battalion was given an ‘SK’ value based on its size and the number of skirmishers it could field. e.g. a 36 figure French battalion would have one company of 6 skirmishers which equates to a roll of 2D6 in GdB, or an SK value of 2. The SK values of all the battalions in a brigade are added together to give the Brigade skirmish screen value. 
I stripped out most other aspects of skirmish rules in GdB assuming they will do as trained including recall to their parent battalions etc. As losses occurred in their parent battalions an equal proportion would be lost in their SK value. In the rules skirmishers can deploy up to 18 cm from their battalions and taking that into account along with their range gave an overall distance they can attack an enemy formation. Also taken into account would be proximity of cavalry.
Overall then an abstract way of handling skirmishers that does not bog the game down and does not physically represent them on the tabletop. In this battle I experimented with having a strip of skirmishers represent a brigade skirmish screen. It was not unworkable but I found it added detail for little or no benefit and a little fiddly. 
I will therefore be revisiting my earlier incarnation of skirmish rules with perhaps some adjustments in ranges.

Army Break tests.

This is the first time I have used the GdB army break test in a game of this size. The collapse of the Spanish was perfectly plausible given the number of broken brigades and routing units. The French and British were a little more problematic. The former in particular were never in any danger of fleeing the field and therefore I felt it would be pointless to conduct a break test although it was obvious at this stage that they had failed in their objectives.
I can understand why such tests are built into rulesets to help bring a game to a conclusion where two opponents are involved and there is a limited amount of time to play.
For me though this of lesser value. Before I play the next Napoleonic game, I intend to make a decision on whether I will continue with such tests possibly leaving it purely down to brigade tests and seeing how that plays out. It will be a real test as the next game will be the largest I will have played since my Waterloo game (a French v Prussian affair in the campaign) and interesting to see how it pans out.
That brings to a conclusion my Talavera refight and will shortly be selecting the next battle to play in my Peninsular War project. I hope you found it as enjoyable reading it as I enjoyed playing it.

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