Several months ago WR wrote up some background material on the War of the Oranges (Guerra de las Naranjas) during 1801, fought between the invading Spanish army and the defending Portuguese as the main players. Secondary French forces, along with a small French emigrate (English) contingent, marching in the respective rear areas just to add flavor to the proceedings. Later on WR wrote up an enlarged historical scenario engagement between the Spanish and Portuguese armies based upon an action fought near the old town of Arronches in Portugal. That scenario now has seen light to the miniature tabletop and the following After Action Report (AAR) is presented to report the miniatures engagement.
To read the actual scenario design and notes, the forces and units involved, and the battlefield terrain detail, WR refers the reader to the Arronches 1801 article posted on Wargamerabbit: Battle of Arronches 1801
The scenario starting positions has the Portuguese in army confusion and disarray, surprised by the “fast marching” Spanish advance guard division’s arrival during the mid morning siesta period of the Portuguese army. Only the formed Portuguese now “rearguard” (titled the Advance Guard command) and their cavalry brigade are ready to confront the Spanish army while their main infantry division breaks camp and forms their battalions to march. Not a good way to start a miniature scenario, even the Portuguese HQ starts the scenario with their line of communication towards Portalegre threatened by the Spanish Advance Guard’s division arrival. For the reader’s note, since WR has no 1790 era painted Portuguese, he will use his 1790 Reicharmee as stand in’s for the scenario play.
The respective Spanish and Portuguese forces for the scenario in the standard format OOB. For the reader decoding the information is formatted in the following way:
Unit name, Unit miniature size in miniatures or cannon / train number, Combat Morale Rating CMR (1-10 scale…. 1-4 Militia, 5-7 Line, 8+ Elite grade) based on d10 system, then notes.
1000 hours: Spanish have first movement. Scenario opens with the Spanish Advance Guard marching further on the battlefield and the bridge crossing the dry Caia riverbed. The Advance Guard division is fully deployed in “Battle mode” to engage the Portuguese Cavalry brigade across the dry Caia riverbed. Behind the Advance Guard division arrives the Spanish HQ, various train, and 12 pdr. positional foot battery (oxen). The Portuguese reaction is to advance the rearguard (their Advance Guard division) to the edge of Arronches while their cavalry brigade trot forward to screen the retiring trains heading for Portalegre. Meanwhile, the Portuguese 2nd Division tries to break their siesta camp and form the battalions, while slowly marching to seek the road to Portalegre.
Seeing the open flank of the Spanish Maria Luisa Hussars across the dry riverbed, a Portuguese “mounted men” cavalry regiment calls a charge. WR uses the term “mounted men” for the Portuguese cavalry as even the Portuguese army called them “mounted” and not cavalrymen during the 1790’s. Their morale and training comes to mind…. lacking.
1020 hours: Realizing the fools on Portuguese horses, the Spanish Maria Luisa Hussars (M L Hussars) wheel and form to receive the Portuguese charge while crossing the dry rocky riverbed. The several Spanish light battalions occupy the building besides the bridge and spread out to cover the Caia riverbank. Their 4 pdr. horse battery aims their small cannon at the Portuguese “mounted men” horse trying to increase the trot speed to charge. While preparing for the oncoming charge, the Spanish HQ march behind the road hedge as the massed Spanish columns of cavalry arrive in strategic march mode.
With little doubt, the delaying tactic Portuguese charge was repulsed by firepower and short period of swordplay.
1040 hours: The massed column ranks of Spanish cavalry ride off to the right passing the Spanish HQ set up for the forthcoming battle. Behind the cavalry division comes the column head of road-bound Spanish 3rd Division regular battalions. All in strategic road column mode or march as they enter the battlefield so they are not prepared to engage in combative actions or any musketry firefight. For the Portuguese they watch the growing Spanish army arriving before their eyes. The 2nd Portuguese Division finally has formed up and march slowly towards the Portalegre road, being screened from interference by the Spanish advanced units. Spanish skirmishers dart across the open ground against the poorly trained Portuguese “mounted men” cavalry. Slowly gaining some backbone, the Portuguese “rearguard” infantry battalions approach the massing Spanish at the crossroads, including the only Portuguese trained light infantry legion battalion (Alorna’s).
1100 hours: More Spanish battalion columns march on the battlefield. A bold move by Team WR as the risk being in strategic march mode caught by nearby Portuguese action. The leading converged grenadier battalions climb the low-rise towards Arronches supported by line battalions, all in march columns, as the Spanish 3rd Division hasn’t paused stationary for one Movement Phase to change over from Strategic mode to Battle mode.
Portuguese actions still are muted, mostly watching the Spanish deployment. Slowly their cavalry brigade has retired after the train have created distance from the Spanish. The formed 2nd Portuguese Division has completed their forming formation and changed to Battle mode. Next they endeavour to march across the battlefield to block further Spanish advance toward Portalegre. The Portuguese rearguard battalions exit partially from Arronches to join their fellow countrymen north of the dry Caia riverbed, leaving the Alorna Legion Chasseurs behind to threaten the approaching Spanish column formation battalions with a charge.
1120 hours: A sharp Portuguese reaction rather boldly played by Dan. The only proper Portuguese trained cavalry, the Alorna’s Legion Chasseurs, ride forth to charge the approaching morale disordered Spanish grenadiers and line battalions. They are disordered due to their Strategic mode status, unchanged from leaving the road last turn. Horses quicken the pace, the Spanish battalion commanders see their situation….. will the men hold? The dice gods are summoned.
Totally lucky Spanish team, blessed by the dice gods. The two converged grenadier battalion pass the critical CMR tests without a single morale disorder result…. which would immediately become a rout result compounded to their present morale disorder condition, caused by being in Strategic March mode columnar formation. The rearward Spanish line battalion bolted through their own road bound column, causing a few more rout passage tests but again the Spanish ranks held…. barely. Following the sequence of play, the Spanish have their Movement Phase so the entire Spanish 3rd Infantry Division halts in place with no formation changes, and changes from strategic March mode to Battle mode. This stationary, no formation changes move, leaves the Spanish grenadiers exposed to the approaching Alorna’s Chasseur charge. They cannot change column formation for square or even turn formation to face their attackers yet.
Disordered by the fight with the Spanish grenadier column, Alorna’s Chasseurs charge forth into the large column of road bound Spanish battalions. Like the grenadiers they couldn’t change the formation to square due to the Strategic to Battle changeover just before the Portuguese charge. Morale tests show the Spanish fusiliers are up for a fight (+1 CMR adjustment green marker, -1 if red), even being flanked by the now smaller disordered Alorna’s Chasseurs. Spanish massed bayonets prove too much for the brave Portuguese cavalry and they trot away towards Arronches. Still the Spanish were extremely lucky…. only three battalions sent in rout and no ride through results applied.
While the short and glorious Alorna’s charge was taking place, the Spanish cavalry division formed up and against the dry Caia riverbed, ready to cross in-mass the next turn. Spanish light battalions fan out to tease the weak Portuguese “mounted men” horse on the dusty plain and control the ground for their approaching cavalry ranks. Other light battalions skirmish with the single organized skirmisher battalion for the Portuguese, the battalion of Alorna’s Legion, protecting the Portuguese 2nd Division from any interference.
Portuguese counterplay continues with their weak cavalry brigade trying to hold back the growing Spanish cavalry front against the Caia river line. Pest Spanish skirmishers inflict damage to the milling about “mounted men” formations. The 2nd Division enters the orange grove beside the Portalegre roadway and deploys on the tabletop.
Note: To deploy a wooden block marker formation to the tabletop requires that formation to be threatened by declared cavalry charge, artillery bombardment, or be in adjacent map square to enemy formations. Otherwise the formation must remain as a wooden block to quicken the game and avoid physical movement of massed miniatures. Additional information on the wooden blocks and map movement grid system: Wooden Blocks System
1140 hours: By now the opening movements for both armies have become clear. The Spanish plan to watch the town of Arronches with several battalions and the Maria Luisa Hussar regiment. Sending their large cavalry division to the right with the objective to break into the open ground east of the Portalegre road, then sweep northwards to cut off the Portuguese army. The Spanish 3rd Infantry Division along with several light battalions of their Advance Guard will pin then assault the Portuguese holding the central orange grove position.
For the Portuguese, the position is slowly falling apart. Their weak “mounted men” cavalry cannot contain the massed Spanish cavalry from riding further north across the open ground east of the Portalegre road. Their 2nd Infantry Division firmly holds the central orange grove position, but has a completely open flank along the threatened Portalegre road and rear LOC exit. In Arronches, token battalions hold the town for now but the Portuguese plan is to abandon the town entirely as their HQ marches or rides to regain LOC at the Portalegre road. At least their military train column has exited the northern road towards Portalegre. WR wonders if anyone read the scenario victory conditions… abandon Arronches?
1200 hours: Two hours or six turns into the scenario. Spanish continue with their basic game plan: 1) outflank the Portuguese on their open eastern flank, 2) contest the center with Infantry vs. infantry, and 3) clear Arronches. The Portuguese cleared Arronches (giving up a victory condition to the Spanish), 2) hold firm in the center orange groves, but 3) have almost no answer to the Spanish cavalry flanking their eastern front.
Seeing opportunity to force back the retiring Portuguese Arronches rearguard faster, the Maria Luisa Hussars declare a charge to throw back the Portuguese skirmishers.
1220 hours: As the Spanish fusilier battalion columns toil up to the Portuguese defensive orange grove position, their cavalry rides further into the Portuguese rear zone. The skirmisher action is lively as the Portuguese battalion extend out “improvised skirmisher” to protect their exposed front, seeing the Spanish foot artillery slowly marching with their massed infantry. Hey… oxen drawn artillery moves slowly.
Note: The impoverished skirmisher rule allows stationary line battalions to deploy a single ad-hoc skirmisher miniature (semi trained) if enemy skirmishers are within 12″ of the parent battalion. If the parent battalion elects to move, the impoverished skirmisher miniature immediately returns to the parent battalion’s location and rejoins the formed ranks. Battalions with organized internal light companies cannot use this rule.
1240 to 1300 hours: WR guesses he didn’t photograph the 1240 turn. More of the same…. Spanish cavalry moving northwards, Spanish battalions starting to form their line of battle with light battalions skirmisher to the front. Artillery arrives just behind their linear battalions as unlimbered Portuguese artillery sends shot into the deploying Spanish ranks. The Maria Luisa Hussars (M L Hussars) recover from their earlier charge and face off against the Alorna Legion Chasseurs, since the Portuguese HQ base bolted for protection of nearby battalion squares. Seeing opportunity, the chasseur declare their charge, then final to keep ranks formed and retire away from the Spanish swords.
Note: Every time a Spanish or Portuguese cavalry charge, they must take an additional morale test prior to the 1st contact with enemy formed unit. These national character rules reflects the poor conditioning and discipline for the Iberian cavalry.
1320 hours: Spanish cavalry, now in position to press the Portuguese cavalry remains and several nearby battalion squares, Two Spanish cavalry regiments, a heavy and dragoon, formed to charge the Portuguese “mounted men” aka cavalry. Led by their commander, General Taranco, the de Sequnto Dragoons defer to the heavy Reina Regiment, who with honor, cleared the Portuguese cavalry from the field.
1340 hours: Time for a lunch break. Today for this War of the Oranges battle WR has been serving fresh-cut oranges, spanish nuts and now for lunch… an orange slice covered pizza. the game break lasts for 45 minutes as both teams discuss how the battle has unfolded and what the Portuguese need to do to reach a draw. Victory conditions discussed…. why did the Portuguese team abandon Arronches in discussion.
After the break, back to the tabletop action. The Spanish seem to be ready to finish the engagement on their terms. The last Spanish fusilier battalions form into the grand linear battle line, both armies rigidly follow the 18th century rules of war and conduct. Paced musketry then bayonet before any columnar shock tactics. Closer the Spanish limbered batteries press towards the Portuguese battle line somewhat hidden in the orange grove.
1400 hours: Portuguese retire several battalions to the northern orange grove to secure some form of avenue of retreat parallel to the Portalegre road. The bulk of their infantry arrive near the orange grove farm and prepare a strong rearguard linear line, bent to face the Spanish cavalry on their flank and the Spanish infantry to front.
While the main battle lines face each other, out on the open western flank the individual battalions engage each other in formalized combat. A brief Portuguese charge by a battalion seeks to force the Spanish skirmishers to retire. Two Portuguese converged grenadier battalion anchor the Portuguese defense, led by Duke d’Alorna himself.
1420 hours: More player fun as the Portuguese “mounted men” make another appearance with one detached and beaten up regiment. How that command is even on the tabletop requires lucky dice rolls (60+% loss level). Setting the stage…. The Spanish M L Hussars ride up to charge the beaten up Portuguese horse (or mule) regiment. Being battered themselves and surely a bit worn from the morning action, they failed to charge but rally up immediately (per SOP). The Portuguese regiment tries to move away…. the Spanish M L hussars countercharge test successfully. Seeing the counter charge, the remains of the Alorna Chasseur ride up on the M L Hussar flank as they charge home, triggering their own counter-charge to the counter-charging M L Hussars. The game SOP Shock Phase has reaction to reaction when cavalry is involved and makes for the back and forth cavalry melees.
Seems the Maria Luisa Hussars have earned a different nickname from this actual historical action…. not “Run Away Maria” but “Maria’s Finest” battle nickname.
Slowly the Spanish grand battalion linked wall closes in on the Portuguese 2nd Division positioned in the rear of the orange grove now. A grand sight…. not seen on the typical napoleonic battlefield tabletop. Both Spanish foot batteries have unlimbered, sending round shot deep into the Portuguese ranks; shattering fresh, bone, and orange trees. Skirmishers trade shots…. a rising toll of bodies litter the grove. The Duke d’Alorna is wounded, topples from his horse after being hit by a musket ball.
1440 hours: With the loss of the Duke d’Alorna, the Portuguese army breaks formation and retire another leap towards the northern orange grove. Growing disorder and lack of a unified front leaves the Portuguese volatile to Spanish attack… if they can close the distance. Slowly the Portuguese senior command order battalions to retire, form up, present a front as their neighboring battalions retire past them. The Portuguese are electing to retire from the battlefield in drill order, lacking a secured path of retreat on their LOC.
1500 hours: End of the scenario play. Team Portugal call the scenario. Their regional army cannot be stopped from retiring from the local battlefield. Forced from the Portalegre road and northern Portugal, they must retire further west and surrender central Portugal to Spanish incursion.
Reviewing the victory conditions the Spanish win a Major Victory since they have cleared the battlefield. By directing the massed Spanish cavalry division to outflank the Portuguese position, the Portuguese army couldn’t regain position to secure the road to Portalegre and hold the main Spanish 3rd Infantry Division. Abandoning Arronches without a fight allowed the Spanish to clear a minor victory condition; control of Arronches. Therefore they didn’t have to detach or even divert any infantry battalions to clear the town. This allowed them to simply quick march northward to form a grand battle line at full strength and overwhelm the Portuguese 2nd Division…. equal in size, but also required to attempt covering the Portalegre road exit with several squared battalions. For the Portuguese “mounted men” cavalry, their early losses near the bridge set them reduced against the arriving Spanish cavalry. Still, they gave little effort to block the Spanish cavalry eruption on the open plain…. no spot charges to slow Spanish deployment, or ride further east to confront the Spanish trooper ranks.
Thanks to Dan, Andy, Greg, and Daniel missing in action for playing the scenario. Different, with different nationalities, on an open battlefield fought the old-fashioned 18th century way.
Cheers from the dusty plains of Portugal…. before the French involve themselves in local politics. Also the cut oranges are great.
As usual, splendid terrain and figures…and so glad to see Spanish army in action!
Thank you Phil for stopping by the warren. Interest scenario, especially dealing with an army surprised in camp by a fast moving enemy. Hopefully my effort to create the early confusion and play balance worked.
I really enjoyed this AAR, Michael. Unusual opponents, little known conflict, and an unusual scenario as well. Your Spanish Cavalry look great. Imagine the “Run away Marys” as the heroes of the day! For once the Spanish cavalry was the superior mounted arm on the field!
Yep…. The ML Hussars had a good day. Interesting action….. working out the Portuguese starting “siesta factor” was a bit of a challenge for play balance. Seemed to work out during play. Spanish cavalry is good for something… even with our “2nd chance to screw it up” rolls just like the Portuguese “mounted men” aka cavalry.
Time to find another unusual matchup and battle for this rabbit to play this early fall.
Other subject….. loved the recent Snappy Peninsular campaign write ups. Did think the French had it a bit easy… just roll or march to Lisbon. You paint up “On to Lisbon flags” for each player’s column head? In French of course.