The battle of Alcolea 1808 has several interesting features for a small napoleonic battle. Apart from the unusual units which formed the French order of battle, the Spanish blocking force of mostly militia or armed civilians was found incapable of holding a river line position and “fled the field” after limited combat. So, why play this early Peninsular war battle on the table…if we could call it a “battle” or action? Well, WR favors unusual OOB actions or battles, a change from the normal straight up napoleonic battle, but scenarios which place players into atypical situations. Alcolea 1808 fits WR weird battle scenario profile except for the general lack of actual combative action. Looking over the historical notes, the order of battle for both sides, the actual battlefield terrain, there are lots to give an interesting tabletop action. The following scenario is my attempt to have a fun scenario from the historical forces and terrain.
Google maps: Alcolea battlefield
The battle of Alcolea 1808 occurred on June 7, 1808, a hot Spanish day. The battle came about with the march of General of Division Dupont’s 2nd Corps de Observation de la Gironde towards the city of Cordova. The name of Dupont’s corps lends some mystery to the units which formed this corps. Marines of the Imperial Guard, Garde de Paris battalions, legion of reserve infantry, Swiss line, provisional dragoon and chasseur a’ cheval regiments. Not the typical French line, legere and regiments of cavalry found on everybody’s wargame table.
The Spanish force collected and formed at Cordova then marched eastward to block the approaching French under Dupont. Lead and commanded by retired lieutenant colonel Don Pedro Agostino de Echavarri, the Spanish deployed on either side of Carlos III’s 1785 Alcolea bridge. Some “mounted regular cavalry ” and skirmisher infantry crossed the river and deployed on the heights parallel and overlooking to the main road. The Spanish force consisted of even a wider arrangement of units. The normal sources noted a wide spectrum of regulars, trained militia or just armed civilians and none seem to agree. A quick summary of five sources below gives:
Oman: 1,400 regulars (cavalry infantry), 10-12,000 armed civilians, 8 antique cannon
De la Cierva: 2,100 regulars and 20,000 armed civilians
Napier: 3,000 regulars and 10,000 armed civilians
Foy: 3-4,000 regulars and 3-4,000 armed civilians
Osprey’s map per Sanudo: No regular vs. armed civilian numbers given but list of possible regiment names and Spanish artillery present of some small batteries (8 pdr or 4 pdr). Regiment names include: Infantry; 3rd Granaderos de Andalucia, Campo Mayor light btn., Provincial Alcazar de San Juan, Preux’s Suizo #6, Provincial de Ecija. For possible cavalry; Farnesio, Reina, Principe, Husares de Espana and some Lucena militia cavalry.
For this scenario I tended towards the Spanish infantry regulars at 2,700 men and the armed civilian mob about 10,000 with two small batteries but gamers are free to adjust more or less.
For complete scenario game notes, including scenario set up, terrain notes, weather, order of battle, victory conditions and optional special event cards: Alcolea 1808 Scenario notes (.doc)
For game spreadsheet rosters: Alcolea 1808 French Roster (.xls) and Alcolea 1808 Spanish Roster (.xls) spreadsheet links. Note that WR used a lower divisional with brigades command arrangement instead of the normal army / corp with divisions or brigades. This is due to the smaller force scaling for Alcolea. Our napoleonic game system is command scalable in that regard.
Not much is found on the basic web search. Interested parties are suggested to research the French L’expedition d’Andalousie and the battle of Baylen July 1808 for background material. A short historical summary at: History of War: Alcolea 1808
Nafziger OOB lists: French 2nd Corp Obs. Gironde April 1808, French Army Spain June 1808, Dupont’s forces Baylen 1808, Spanish Army Andalusia May 1808, Spanish Army Andalucia July 1808, Spanish forces Baylen 1808.
Napoleonic game rules, files and videos at: Napoleonic rules etc..
Now that WR has drawn up this scenario, just need to find a willing French player to take charge and chase Spanish regulars and armed civilians on the tabletop. Any volunteers? Marines of the Imperial guard… vs. WR with the local tough Spaniards. Didn’t say it would be a “fair fight” with one arm tied behind the Spanish player’s back.
A special WR thanks to M. Hopper for his assistance with this unusual spanish battle before Baylen. His direct assistance and support enabled WR understand and write-up scenario notes and strengths of the forces involved.