Battle of Arronches 1801

Follow up from WR’s War of the Oranges previous post, this article covers the historical Battle of Arronches May 26,1801, pitting the Spanish “ancient regime” army against the Portuguese “ancient regime” army. Geographically, Arronches is a small Portuguese town located midpoint between the border towns of Portalegre and Campo Maior. a local center of orange and other fruit grove production, and a stop on the dusty Portuguese road. Apart from the well constructed Covento de Senora de Luz and the Igreja de Nossa Senhora Assuncao da Luz buildings, there was little to shine a light on behind the white wash walls, surrounded on almost three sides by the wet season / dry season Caia river. To pinpoint the town, WR provides an old Portugal map dated 1801 and drawn by John Gary below.

1801 map of Portugal drawn by John Cary and published in 1808.

Link to the actual John Cary map of Portugal to allow expanded viewing:  Portugal 1801 map

Theater of war in 1801. WR highlights the towns mentioned in the Arronches 1801 article. Expanded view from the John Cary 1801 drawn map of Portugal. Badajoz at right edge.

Modern day Arronches viewed from the northwest or the supposed Portuguese army position across the Caia river.

Historically, the battle of Arronches 1801 was a small action. A Portuguese an hoc brigade was nearly surprised by a “fast marching” Spanish force mostly taken from their Vanguard division near the siege lines of Campo-Maior. Players of the historical battle could simply use the outlined forces and see if they recreate the fate of the Reina Maria Luisa cazadores regiment fight and subsequent rout while chanting “Run Away Mary (Maria) for their earned new nickname. Charging across a stone bridge unsupported into the Portuguese defense should create the same result.

Known Spanish units facing the Portuguese historically at Arronches in 1801 were: Reina Maria Luisa Cazadoes (later hussars), Gerona Light regiment (battalion), 1st Volunteers de Catalonia Light regiment (battalion), Cazadores Voluntararios de la Corona Light regiment (battalion), plus a single battery of artillery. Across the Caia river the Portuguese regiments are unknown but could come from the following units for a brigade sized command, a cavalry regiment or two, and a small artillery battery attached:

So… that’s history. But WR wishes to expand the scenario base to make the battle a more definitive action for the War of the Oranges. One part of the Arronches 1801 story is the Portuguese were “outflanked” by the Spanish force. Looking at the Spanish force above it is clear their small force really didn’t outnumber the Portuguese if a full brigade was positioned at Arronches so the question is… how did they “outflank” the Portuguese while dividing into two commands with the Caia river between them is a mystery of history.

WR’s Arronches 1801 scenario premise has the Portuguese army placed in the same situation; caught by surprise and struggles to exit Arronches to form their main battle line across the Caia river, while their military train and baggage wagons seek safety protected by the Portuguese cavalry at the bridge. WR increases the Portuguese force to divisional size with a smaller vanguard (rearguard), some “cavalry” in name only, and weak artillery. For the Spanish, assume they brought the Vanguard division plus another reinforcing division from the Campo Maior siege lines, plus some extra cavalry, all seeking to chase down and defeat the Portuguese before their train column can exit northwest followed by the Portuguese infantry formations. The scenario roster for both sides:

The Arronches 1801 scenario tabletop terrain and initial command placement is shown by the scenario maps below. One map shows the complete scenario 6’x 8′ tabletop without command counters. The second map has with placement of commands at their stating map squares or off map to arrive. See the Arronches 1801 scenario notes file (.doc) for full details. Maps are drawn to WR’s standard scale. Each map square is 12″ or 600 yards.

Arronches 1801 scenario map drawn to WR’s contant scale of 12″ per map square or 600 yards (50 yds. to the inch game scale). Map legend at right.

Same map but with the starting commands placed in their initial map squares. Note the Portuguese train is under the cavalry brigade command and extends NW alone the road.

Here is the full scenario notes (.doc) file for Arronches 1801 plus the two roster spreadsheets (.xls) for both sides:   Battle of Arronches 1801 Scenario notes,   Arronches Spanish roster,  Arronches Portuguese Roster.

Google view from the clouds. Note the Caia river bending around the present day town of Arronches.

Narrower view from the Google birds. Views the same area as the scenario drawn maps.

Modern view of the Convento de Senora da Luz. Clearly a strong building and easy to prepare for defense. The nuns are optional.

Nearby to the Convento, the Igreja Nossa Senhora Assuncao da Luz. Another building easy to defend except for the ground level windows.

From the warren scenario desk. GM’s, a bowl of fresh oranges should be available during play…. it is after all, all about the oranges at war.


5 thoughts on “Battle of Arronches 1801

      • Follow up Peter, I found a source for orange trees for $6 in set of four trees. Ordered sixteen trees to mix in the orchards/groves along with two hills and some paint for free shipping to boot. Woodlands Scenics makes a basic tree, with orange “pips”, in HO scale. About 2-3″ in height which should work out after I glue a weighted base to each tree.


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