Memorial Day weekend WR and his son Daniel played out the Battle of Evora 1808 scenario written on Wargamerabbit (Oct 2018). Hard to believe it has been eighteen months since the last historical (non pick-up) napoleonic battle reported here on WR, so plans for at least one more battle during the future summer months. Especially since WR’s “hiding from CoVID-19” FOW 20mm painting spree is slowing down, mostly from hand brush fatigue. You can only paint so many Italians platoons / companies / or support units for the Greek 1940 war, Russia 1942-43 eastern front, and of course, the North African desert theater, before you see pasta floating before your eyes. So time to change gears and return to the Horse and Musket era.
To set the opening stage for Battle of Evora 1808, the French, under General of Division Louis Henri Loison, have marched a strong mobile column from Lisbon to relieve the border fortress of Elvas, currently under pathetic siege or blockage by Portuguese militia. While marching towards Elvas they approached the city of Evora and confrontation by a hasty raised Portuguese and Spanish “army in name”, standing before Evora’s city walls. The Iberian army was under command of GenLt. Francisco de Paulo Leite, a former a naval officer. Open field battle offered, with trained and tested French seasoned battalions vs. mostly ragtag militia, except for the small Spanish contingent under Colonel Moretti, the pending battle appeared to the French command officers as a hopeless stand. From a scenario point of view this battle wouldn’t see the light of day on most gamer’s tables, but WR wished to see how the napoleonic era house rules handled a battle like Evora. Unequal in training and tabletop abilities, veteran vs. militia, musket vs. pikes….. couldn’t be anything close to a normal open field battle.
Spanish & Portuguese Order of Battle:
French Order of Battle and scenario starting positions map: The unit sizes, training, and combative superiority of the French clearly shows compared to the Portuguese / Spanish deployed outside Evora and rostered below.
Note: Combat Morale Rating (CMR) is scaled from 1 to 9. Militia grades are 1 to 4, Line grades from 5 to 7, and elite 8+. Game rules use d10 dice with “0” = zero and not ten value. To pass a typical morale test the gamer needs to roll equal or under the units CMR current calculated adjusted rating to pass. If die roll over calculated / adjusted value, then unit morale disorder, or worse, routing (5+ over). Simply one d10 roll system.
Turn 1100 – 1120 hours scenario start: The first two scenario turns had the French generally deploy out and advance their battalions to confront the deployed Portuguese formation outside Evora. Their right flank cavalry brigade (Provisional Dragoons) trotted slowly to face the small Spanish brigade positioned to the right of the French. For the allied / Iberian infantry formations all is quiet with some nervous feelings in the untrained infantry ranks. Standing on their Portuguese territory, they watch the French professional deployment closing the open ground distance between the armies.
Turn 1140 hours: The two French provisional dragoon regiments trot into range of the small Spanish contingent. Sensing opportunity, and a bit unlike their historical counterpart, the Spanish Maria Luisa Hussars advance and call a quick charge on the left hand provisional dragoon regiment.
1200 hours: French right flank dragoons quickly reorder their ranks and slowly approach the Spanish converged battalion square. In the center, forming battalion lines, with legere skirmishers to the fore, the leading French 2nd Brigade approaches the stationary Portuguese, who fire their militia crewed artillery to discomfort the French ranks. A lucky shot kills GB Solignac’s horse. French foot battery replies and sends roundshot into the Portuguese militia pikes, with deadly results. GB Kellerman’s grenadiers stroll down the dusty roadway to intercept the Spanish retreat, while 3rd Brigade (GB Thomieres) holds in reserve.
Seeing the French grenadier brigade approach, the Spanish battalion square tries to edge towards the crossroads while the rallied Maria Luisa Hussars mill about nearby. The French provisional dragoons charge the Spanish square, looking forward to driving the entire Spanish contingent from the battlefield in one charge.
The Spanish square halts. forms dense proper receiving ranks and opens musketry fire, dropping one French dragoon squadron miniature outside the bayonets. Swirling around the square, pistols and muskets increase the dim of battle. The Spanish hold, personally encouraged by Colonel Moretti within the square walls. More French dragoons bite the ground, eventually the rest bolt from the fighting on blown horses. A Spanish cheer!
1220 Turn: French press the central Portuguese position. Their foot battery fires into the massed pike ranks causing losses. The French legere / line skirmishers overwhelm the thin and weak Portuguese improvised skirmisher line. Again GB Solignac finds himself on the ground, arm broken, his remount shot again. Portuguese right flank slowly retires, but their formation maneuvers lack drill, causing confusion as GenLt. Leite tries to restore order.
1240 Turn: In the center the French 15th Legere battalion advances, forcing retirement of the token Portuguese skirmishers. The French legere and line voltigeur skirmishers press forward to fire into the Portuguese massed pike ranks, seeking to pick off any “civilian” leadership and sow disorder.
1300 Hours: The Portuguese forward central position has been overrun. Their units are streaming back towards the safety of Evora’s city walls with the French infantry in close pursuit. A token Portuguese “civilian” militia cavalry charge is attempted… to chase back the aggressive French skirmishers, but the attempt fails charge morale test. Spanish contingent follows suit and march along road to gain the safety of Evora. French movements seeks to race the Portuguese to Evora, and surround or cut off the retreating Portuguese and Spanish contingent.
1320 Hours: French legere skirmishers run past the massed slower pace ranks of Portuguese militia pike. Musket fire drops the occasional militia miniature but clearly the French are winning the race to Evora city gate. The Portuguese militia artillery battery lags behind, their oxen transport cannot quicken the pace.
As the Portuguese main body break and retreat towards Evora, the small Spanish contingent is forced to quicken their pace to leg it towards Evora. The Maria Luisa Hussars are called upon to form a rearguard against the regrouped French provisional dragoon brigade advance. Entering the lost battlefield, the lone Spanish horse battery arrives amidst the Portuguese flight as the Portuguese militia cavalry try to charge home again, losing half their number before contact, The remainder shot down in front of the formed legere battalion in a massed single volley.
1340 Hours: French continue to advance, chasing the fleeing Portuguese, or seeking to cut off the retiring Spanish battalion. After the French movement phase, the glory but death ride of the militia cavalry is resolved as mentioned. Evora lost some citizens of wealth this day. Still, the foolhardy charge delayed the French Legere advance for the moment, allowing the Portuguese to head for the Evora city gate.
1400 Hours: The scenario enters into the end game phase. With the Portuguese forces broken and seeking refuge in Evora, only the small Spanish contingent marches in formed ranks. The French provisional dragoons form up to charge the Maria Luisa Hussar rearguard. GB Kellermann and his two converged grenadier battalion march forward to chase the retiring Spanish infantry battalion. French legere skirmishers again close the range to pick out any leadership in the Allied army ranks.
1420 Hours: The French cut off the Portuguese just outside the city wall gate with their fleet-footed skirmishers. They occupy the Remedios church building besides the road to Evora’s gateway. The Portuguese are so disordered and confused…. old GenLt Leite cannot give any command guidance it seems. A thin French skirmisher screen holds the hapless Portuguese as the Spanish battalion advances to clear or poke an escape hole for the battlefield survivors.
1440 hours: As the French close in, their skirmishers fire upon the scattered Allied units. The road bound Spanish column take increasing losses as they surge forward nearing the occupied Remedios church building besides the road. The French provisional dragoon brigade close in, trotting forward with victory in their eyes.
1500 Hours: The French close in as the marching Spanish battalion loses ranks in their valiant charge. The leading front tank of provincial Spanish grenadiers crumble into the roadway. The following Legion Estrangeiros battalion step over the fallen ranks to bayonet charge into the smoke clouded linear French legere battalion, standing firmly besides the Remedios church. Another volley rips the Legion ranks, more fallen Spanish. Still the crazed Spanish infantry crash into the French Legere. A short bayonet struggle…. ends quickly with the French victorious on the field… more Spanish lying on the ground.
Note: Looking at the army morale status or Morale Fatigue Points (MFP) level, the Allied army is going over their critical trigger level this hour. Once over, every hourly turn the Allied army will suffer minus one morale step or -1 CMR on every morale test, quickening their demise on the battlefield. Looking over the actual tabletop, going down in morale just adds more compounded misery to their cause.
1520 Hours: The scenario is over. Finding his way forward from his surrounded army, old GenLt. Leite seeks an end to the hostilities on the battlefield. The meeting is arranged as the fighting dies down. GD Loison greets the old Portuguese general, escorting him to the French rear, then orders the total immediate surrender of the Allied / Iberian army. Individual soldiers huddle together fearing the worse to come as victorious French march into their city, the city-wide sack and looting soon will commence.
Scenario summary: The tabletop result follows the historical result in many ways. A token stand up to the veteran French advance, then the Portuguese infantry bolts and run for the city gates. The Spanish contingent, in general, presented a bold front on several occasions, but their small size had limit influence on the tabletop. In the end, the French steam-rollered the Portuguese and then marched towards the Evora city gate, the very same events happened in history. All WR can say…. stopping veteran French with a militia rated army is a fool’s errand, especially when outnumbered by the veteran French. Congrats Daniel on your French victory. The next napoleonic game will be a bigger test of your gamesmanship.
Cheers from the warren.
Such a clear and interesting account of the game Michael, with excellent photos of your lovely figures and terrain (I especially like the walls of Elvas).
I often find that the unequal, historical actions are the most enjoyable to refight as the winner has the pressure of doing as well as history and the loser just needs to do better!
Thank you for posting, James