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: Continue reading

Battle of Castel Bolognese (Faenza) Feb 1797

The Battle of Castel Bolognese, also called the Battle of Faenza in several accounts, was a rare engagement between the forces of the French Republic and the Papal States. Few players even think of the Papal States during the French Republican and later French Imperial war periods. They didn’t exactly have a winning war record or successfully resisted against the several French invasions, being allied with other italian states (Kingdom of Naples) or Austria at times. After being run over, looted, territory taken, the Papal States disappeared as a sovereign state from 1808 till 1815, becoming the French Tibre and Trasimene governmental departments.


Pope VI.

Pope VI.

Back in time to Year 1797. The siege of Mantua finally comes to an end on 2 February 1797, when Austrian Feldmarschall Dagobert Sigismund von Würmser capitulated to the army of General Napoleon Bonaparte. Only 16,000 members of the Austrian garrison were capable of marching out as prisoners of war after their long siege. Leaving General of Division Sérurier to handle the details of surrender, General Bonaparte rode south and invades the Emilia-Romagna of the Papal States, using the Franco-Italian troops under the command of General Victor-Perrin, residing in the nearby Italian city-state of Modena. Several of Bonaparte’s new rising star leaders, Generals Lannes and Junot, joined him at Modena.

Before the discussion on the brief battle of Castel Bolognese (or Faenza), background on the Papal and French armies involved is warranted. Lots can be read about the French Army of Italy under General Bonaparte but the Papal States is generally unknown.

Surrender of Mantua fortress 1797 by Lecomte.

Surrender of Mantua fortress 1797 by Lecomte.

The Papal army was led by Austrian Feldmarschall-Leutnant Michelangelo Alessandro Colli-Marchi, a veteran of the Seven Years’ War. Colli-Marchi had served in the army of the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont from 1793 to 1796 and had faced Bonaparte in last year’s Montenotte Campaign before rejoining the Austrian army under FML Beaulieu. He was an intelligent and capable officer, diplomatic and cautious at times, but well suited for the mannerism of the ancient regime Papal States army.

Old print by G. Lazareus showing FML Colli taking command of Papal States army.

Old print (G. Lazareus) has FML Colli-Marchi taking command of Papal States army from Pope Pius VI.

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Battle of Aboukir 1799

Finally, after four months away from Egypt, General Bonaparte and the Armee d’Orient Syrian expedition arrived back at Cairo during the month of June 1799. In the meantime Ottoman and British officials and local eastern Mediterranean traders had brought news of General Bonaparte’s failure at Acre to the inhabitants of Egypt, stating that his expeditionary force was largely destroyed and Bonaparte himself rumored dead. On his return General Bonaparte dismissed the rumours by re-entering Egypt as if he was at the head of a triumphal army, his soldiers carrying palm branches, emblems of victory at the head of the infantry columns.

At Cairo the Armee d’Orient found the rest and supplies it needed to recover from the arduous Syrian campaign, but its stay in the major Nile city of Egypt was short. General Bonaparte had been informed that Murad Bay had evaded the pursuits by generals Desaix, Belliard, Donzelot and Davout and was descending on the delta region of the Nile. Bonaparte thus marched out of Cairo to attack him near Giza or further south on July 14th, joining General Murat, but upon receiving communications that one hundred ships (Russian, English and Ottoman) were off Alexandria then in Aboukir Bay, turned his army quickly about to Cairo.

Fort Aboukir L Mayer ca1820

Peaceful Aboukir town and fort during the 1820’s drawn by L. Meyer.

Without losing time and after straining the headquarter scribes, aides soon were carrying orders out of Cairo. General Bonaparte ordered his generals to make haste with quick marches. General Kleber’s division to march from Damietta, GD Desaix to re-approach Cairo and defend the southern Nile region around Giza, GD Reynier to watch the eastern approaches to Egypt. The citadel of Cairo was placed into a state of defense, stocked with supplies, to support Cairo’s GD Dugua’s garrison defenders (against possible revolt) after Bonaparte’s march to the coast. Before leaving Cairo, where he found them, Bonaparte wrote to Cairo’s divan, stating:

“80+ ships have dared to attack Alexandria but, beaten back by the artillery in that place, they have gone to anchor in Aboukir Bay, where they began disembarking. I leave them to do this, since my intention is to attack them, to kill all those who do not wish to surrender, and to leave others alive to lead in triumph to Cairo. This will be a handsome spectacle for the city.”

Fort du Bequier (Aboukir) drawn by J N Bellin 1754

Fort du Bequier (Aboukir) and area map drawn by J N Bellin 1754. Note the sandhill enlarged upper left and the two old villages.

The Army of Rhodes, denied landing near Alexandria, sailed to the open bay of Aboukir and landed on the open beaches. The small French coastal fort garrison retired to their final defenses and awaited word from General Bonaparte. After a brief siege, the French three hundred strong garrison capitulated and was promptly massacred by the revengeful Ottomans, a revenge from the French treatment of Ottoman prisoners during the Syrian campaign earlier. The small coastal Aboukir fort was now garrisoned by the Ottomans while the bulk of their Army of Rhodes continued to land tents, materials and supplies for eventual advance on Alexandria and possibilities of linking with Murad Bey’s cavalry.

Seid Mustafa Pasha. Leader of the Ottoman army landed at Aboukir.

Seid Mustapha Pasha. Leader of the Ottoman army landed at Aboukir.

General Bonaparte first movement was marching quick to Alexandria. He left Cairo on July 16th, passing Rahmanieh on July 21st and 22nd, where his army detachments joined him except GD Kleber’s division. July 24th had his army resting and resupply from the Alexandria depot, then he marched towards the Aboukir wells on the cool evening of the battle.

Mustapha’s army was thousands strong* and supported by several cannon batteries, with redoubts and trenches defending it on the landward side and free communication with the Ottoman fleet on the seaward side. The actual numbers present has been debated since the cannon became silent. “Thousands” could mean 7,000 to 18,000 Ottoman soldiers and naval landing parties. Some historical writers quote the Ottoman Army of Rhodes landed with the lower numbers…7,000-8,000 active soldiers, while General Bonaparte wrote of the larger 18,000 number in his reports to the Directory and the Cairo Divan.


Portion of the Blackwood & Sons 1852 map showing the Battle of Aboukir 1799.

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Multiple Tables Scenario AAR

This month the napoleonic group tried out the recently written up “Multiple Tables scenario” format for our monthly group December game. The scenario had two different side by side tabletop games (Tables A & B) running at the same time with the possibility of units exiting one rear edge table zone and entering the other table in a flanking position.

For team WR the armies involved were Austrian (Dave and Paul) and late period Bavarian (Bob, Daniel and WR). Austrians fielded their advanced guard division (mixed cavalry and light battalions), two-line divisions and corps headquarters (2000 points) for defending Table A. The Bavarians with 2600 points attacked on Table B with three infantry divisions, a small light cavalry division and Bavarian corps HQ. Should be noted that each of the Bavarian infantry divisions had two regiments of attached cavalry so the Bavarians had a marked advantage of cavalry against their Dutch and Polish opponents.

The opponents had French (Tim and Dan) and Kingdom of Holland (Ty and Andy) with attached Polish infantry. The French were the superior force against the Austrians with four infantry divisions, two light cavalry brigades, and reserve cuirassier division plus two corps headquarters (2600 points) on Table A. The defending Dutch with their Polish (DOW) allies had two Dutch infantry divisions, a Franco-Dutch light cavalry division and the Poles fielded an infantry division against the massed Bavarians on Table B.

Multiple Tables scenario design notes (link): Multiple Tables scenario

Starting deployment zone on each table was up to two squares in from the rear edge. Our wooden block movement system was used to create uncertainly on command type and unit strength. Dave and Paul’s Austrians had their advance guard division positioned in the center woods and line infantry division alongside guarding the LOC road exit. The remaining Austrian infantry division was reserve positioned behind the woods to march against the main axis of the French advance. The French split their corps with Tim’s two French infantry divisions crossing the castle hill led by his French light cavalry brigade screening in front. Dan’s French occupied the other half of the table with two infantry division forming his front lines and backed by the other French light cavalry brigade. Off board was the French cuirassier division strategically withheld to keep the Austro-Bavarians guessing which tabletop zone they would appear in.

Wooden block movement system (link): Block Movement system

Table A. The starting positions for Austrian vs. French scenario table.

Table A. The starting positions for Austrian (at left) vs. French (on right) scenario table.

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Napoleonic Command Generation

For many scenario games, WR’s monthly third saturday napoleonic 28mm group just arrange set piece scenarios based upon a pre-determined number of points. Normally one player is assigned for each team side and given x points to create a rostered army from a chosen napoleonic nationality or allied army format (Russians, Prussian, Austrians vs. France and her common allied states). These armies are typically optimum tuned with the best of the nationality for tabletop play. Even points, even command count, evenly spread out along the tabletop edge and typically even the unit count is matched up, leading to stale and predictable game. A common variant of this point assignment gaming is each player is emailed a pre-determined point amount to roster his chosen army flavor of the monthly but still free to choose what he wished to use on the tabletop. These scenarios are a bit more fun but the typical player generally choses common line infantry battalions, light or line cavalry properly ratio’d to the infantry battalions present, one size fits all command TOE structure, and artillery batteries to match his force strength. Rarely elite or guard divisions are seen, no poor 2nd grade line infantry or even militia units, never under-strength or abundance of cavalry for the amount of infantry present, common “safe” nationality armies (no Ottomans, Spanish, Germanic minor states), but all very proper TOE gaming.

Original napoleonic command generation pale yellow card deck.

The original pale yellow napoleonic command generation card deck. Still valid for today’s scenario gaming.

Well, years ago WR created a deck of yellow index cards for players to blindly card deck pull on the actual monthly game day meeting and from those cards roster a group of command from the specific command card instructions. These “command cards” recently have been converted into a MS Excel spreadsheet with a random number generation for remote (via email) player command selection. Now the participating player is faced with the problem of creating his commands to match the randomly selected Command type choice and given a fixed number of points for each command. The army nationality, and year of army organization, could still be player open choice or pre-determined for the scenario (GM decides). The Command types could greatly vary along with the actual points for the command and, expanding out, the total team side strength. How many command selection choices given out is still the GM decision but typically two command choices per team side player with additional two selections to allow discard of the weaker command selections. Sometimes an extra command selection choice is used to represent a reserve late arriving command. Now the players arrive at the monthly game with limited intelligence about their own team side and even less about the opposite team side command structure. The possibilities are nearly endless and the matchup scenario action very different from the perfectly scripted even sided scenario play. Continue reading

Napoleonic Roster Workbook

This is my first attempt for an unglamorous blog posting. Subject today covers WR’s napoleonic gaming roster files and how to use the large MS Excel spreadsheet (.xls). WR’s original purpose creating these roster spreadsheets was to have a standardized template to price out the individual units of cavalry, infantry and artillery, plus create player scenario commands (brigades, divisions and their senior headquarter attachments from these individual units, then place this compiled information into readable format. Over time of years, these roster spreadsheets have been modified, upgraded, new features added and held up pretty well to ingenious player manipulations. In recent years WR has started writing up full historical battle scenario backgrounds, with maps, terrain tabletop design, historical notes, special rules of play and the required contestant force or command rosters. Always helps to use a standardized template spreadsheet to create scenarios, especially WR’s historical efforts since 2011.

With the local playing group’s recent usage of our Napoleonic Command Generation system (NCG); a simple system of points and delineated command structure based from a random number selection (1-120), the latest version roster spreadsheet was re-written to include a calculation zone for assisting players towards their command organization and meet the requirements of the NCG. This beta project has finished preliminary testing and the passage of time will determine the accuracy of the spreadsheet formula programming. For now this blog post will only cover the actual roster spreadsheet and its various zones and worksheets. For the NCG design and usage coverage, WR plans to write about in a future unglamorous blog post.

Top of a Corps level roster spreadsheet. Has Corps HQ and six command slots.

Top of a Corps level roster spreadsheet. Has Corps HQ and six command slots.

The best way to read the following material is to have the actual roster spreadsheet (.xls) file open on a computer monitor and view each section and material below on the roster spreadsheet. Yes… we need a computer to use the Excel file or a similar modern tablet with MS Office installed. Counting toes and fingers carefully stopped working years ago even with WR’s lucky feet. Try some data input and see how the spreadsheet system reacts. Beware that if all the required cell fields are not completed then the final output could be in error or miscalculated. If unsure with the first attempts, double-check your work with a quick paper and pencil calculation till comfortable. The roster spreadsheet is always undergoing improvement and corrections as WR find errors or design improvements. WR posts the latest dated version directly on the blog under the Napoleonic Rules and Videos tab. Basic MS Excel spreadsheet cell protection in effect to prevent misplaced inputs and formula overwriting but can be removed if desired.

Small Command roster with NCG spreadsheet (.xls):  Small Roster Spreadsheet (wNCG) Continue reading

Battle of the Pyramids July 1798

The Battle of the Pyramids, also known as the Battle of Embabeh, was fought on July 21, 1798 between the French army in Egypt under General Napoleon Bonaparte, and forces of the local Mamluk rulers. General Bonaparte named the battle after the Egyptian pyramids, because they were faintly visible on the horizon when the battle took place. The battle occurred during France’s 1798-1801 Egyptian Campaign and was the battle where General Bonaparte put into use one of his contributions to tactics, the massive divisional square. Actually a rectangle, the first and second demi-brigades of the division formed the front and rear faces, while the third demi-brigade formed the two sides.

Egyptian campaign map.

General Egyptian campaign map for 1798-1799.

In mid July of 1798, General Bonaparte was marching from Alexandria toward Cairo after invading and capturing the former. On July 13th, the first important battle took place at Shubra Khit, where the outnumbered Mameluke forces were easily defeated and General Bonaparte continued his advance towards the capital. Continue reading

Battle of Alexandria (Canope) March 1801

In 1800 the British Army was the laughing-stock of Europe. A year later, after forty years of failure, its honour and reputation had been redeemed. Such was the impact of the Battle of Alexandria (Canope) March 21, 1801. During the spring of 1801, the British army fought a series of three battles along the coast near Alexandria in Egypt: First an amphibious landing using longboats and barges against positioned French beach defenses; second a French assault leading to a British counterattack and advance under the French heavy caliber artillery outside of Alexandria (Battle of Mandara or Mandora), and finally a final pre-dawn French attack amidst Roman ruins,  swirling French cavalry charges, Highlander charges, and the famous 28th Foot’s “about-face rear rank” engagement called the Battle of Alexandria or Canope.

After weeks of transported travel across the eastern Mediterranean sea, the British Army of Egypt was anchored in the bay of Aboukir. With modern-day precision, boat formations followed rehearsed landing skills, rowing the longboats and flat barges loaded with an assault wave of 5,000 British soldiers and sailors, directly under French artillery fire and musketry.

The British landings at Aboukir bay. The organized lines of boats, controlling craft and signals seen in this period print.

The British landings at Aboukir bay. The organized lines of boats, controlling craft and signals seen in this period print at the Gloucestershire regimental museum.

The landings were touch and go. Some British infantry battalions meet limited resistance apart from some token musketry or cannon fire. Other battalions had roundshot tearing holes into their packed craft, sinking a few, and causing havoc. Still, the line of boats and barges came ashore then returned to collect the next wave of battalions. Continue reading

Lodi 1796 Scenario

Last month the monthly napoleonic group’s game was a 1796 scenario set in Northern Italy near Lodi. Not exactly the historical battle of crossing the Lodi bridge but based upon a river crossing theme. Gave WR a good reason to pull out his 1790’s Austrians and some French republican units to take to the tabletop.

Scenario: The Austrians, having been pursued and pressured by the rapid French republican advance across northern Italy, have paused behind the Adda river. Leaving their rearguard and some support infantry along the river edge, the bulk of the Austrian Army of Italy have encamped besides the road from Lodi to Milan. As sunrise lit the morning sky, French battalions, lead by General Massena, were seen advancing towards the river bridge position though Lodi accompanied by French artillery. Calling his weary army to arms, FZM Baron Beaulieu watched as his rear guard engage the initial French efforts near the bridge.

The river was crossable in two locations, along the northern and southern lengths of the actual tabletop river terrain. During the game French scouting cavalry or infantry units just failed to march sufficient distance from Lodi to find the crossing points. Otherwise the scenario allowed up to four French commands (one cavalry and infantry command per each flank) to have crossed the river off table and advance from the northern or southern tabletop edges.

There is a slide show at the end of this post for quick viewing of the scenario game photographs.

Opening positions of the Austrian commands. View from the northern edge of the table.

Opening positions of the Austrian commands. View from the northern edge of the table.

Opening positions: As pictured above and below, the Austrian Army of Italy was positioned behind the Adda river with their rearguard and supportive commands protecting the bridge crossing. Behind them the bulk of the Austrian commands were position on or besides the Lodi to Milan road with a river flank guard placed north of the actual road. Continue reading

Battle of Dego April 1796

April 13, 1796, while the assault battle was raging below the bloody walls of Cosseria, General Bonaparte ordered General Massena’s divisions to reconnaissance the Austro-Sardinian positions near Dego. From the light skirmisher clashes during the day, the French learned of the Austro-Sardinian positions, entrenchments and redoubt artillery positions. Using the collected intelligence, and having fought at Dego in 1794 (see end of this blog post), General Massena that evening planned his battle to assault the defended Austro-Sardinian positions around Dego. The Battle of Dego II was set to begin on the afternoon of April 14 and continue into April 15, 1796 by the valiant but late counterattack by Colonel Vukassovich’s Austrian column.

Battle of Dego by Bagetti. Viewed from the western side of the Bromida. Church building atop the hill.

Period print of Battle of Dego by Bagetti. Viewed from the western side of Dego with the French fording the Bormida river. Church (castle) atop the hill.

As the French planned, the Austrians, with their Sardinian allies, looked at their bleak situation. FZM Beaulieu was in Acqui and trying to recover the situation. FML Argenteau had written him after the battle of Montenotte, “painting a pathetic status of his division” and saying the troops would need a day’s rest before they could move. FZM Beaulieu wrote that “Dego must be held for two or three days then he would arrive with his entire force, to remedy the previous reverses”. FML Argenteau know that Dego garrison was too weak to hold but made efforts by ordering reinforcements from Spigno to arrive on April 14th while himself and some weak former Montenotte battalions marched from Pareto. FML Argenteau wrote late to Colonel Vukassovich to march on Dego from Sassello but the latest of the despatch rider and distance caused Colonel Vukassovich to arrive on April 15th. FZM Beaulieu appealed to FML Colli to march and attack the French flank from Ceva, not knowing of the Cosseria battle and FML Colli’s standoff positioning. All this delayed despatch writing sealed the Austrian fate…. they arrived piecemeal as the concentrated French, under GD Massena and direction from General Bonaparte, true to his developing method of warfare, attacked Dego.

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