Battle of Valencia 6 July 1808

This is one of those really annoying newspaper reports that gives no map and no pictures, just in the style of “The Times” in the early 1800s.

Marshal Moncey with 9,000 French approached the outskirts of Valencia with orders to take the city.

Don Jose Caro, commanding a militia force of 7,000 men defending earthworks to the north-west of Valenica, somewhat rashly decided to attack the French.

(The wargame was fought using the “Commands & Colors” system with house rules for roads, etc. and for the campaign rating of generals and unit commanders. The main rules amendment was that a cautious officer would refuse to move on a D6 roll of 1 and a rash officer would exceed his orders on a D6 roll of 6.)

From “The Trumpeter” 7th July 1808

The battle started with an advance in the centre by Brigadier-General Perdiguero with his 2nd Brigade.

On the French side General de Brigade Dubois attempted to advance on the right flank with 35eme de Ligne and 2eme de Ligne. His intention was to capture the village on the right flank. The officer of the 2eme being somewhat cautious decided to hold back and the 35eme advanced alone.

The Spanish retaliated by sending their cavalry to hold the village. The Valtueña cavalry entered the village from the south.

The French then ordered attack in the centre, hampered somewhat by the rugged hills. Two light infantry regiments (29eme and 41eme Legere ) struggled to move forward in the poor terrain while the 111eme de Ligne made no attempt to move.

On the Spanish side General Perdiguero advanced with the regiments Talamillo del Tozo, Valle de Tena and Alemanas. This was a somewhat foolhardy move, abandoning the defensive earthworks that had been so painstakingly constructed over the previous weeks.

The French struggled forwards in the centre, the 29eme Legere making some progress.

The Spanish abandoned the fortifications on their right, general Ribagorda ordering the regiments Vales, Valdeavero and Torres de Segre forward. This was countered by an advance through the woods by the French 2eme Brigade commanded by General Mousseaux-Neauville, who ordered three light battalions (38eme, 64eme and 62eme) to advance through the woods.

The French artillery, despite not having fired a shot, decided that this was the time to retire to the rear to replenish their ammunition, but at the same time their infantry advanced on both fronts. 24eme Legere entered the village on their right flank, while the 62eme and 142eme legere advanced through the woods on the left. Once again the 35eme Legere refused to move forwards.

The 24eme Legere drove the Spanish cavalry out of the village and took possession of the western side.

The Spanish now made an all-out push forwards. The regiments Pantá de Sau, Talamillo del Tozo, Valle de Tena and Valdeavero advanced on a broad front. None of these regiments were able to find a reasonable target so fire was withheld.

The French moved forward in the centre, the 41eme Legere driving the Talamillo Regiment back to the rear. The 29eme Legere also managed to score decisively against the Valle de Tena Regiment.

On the Spanish left an attack by the Pantá de Sau battalion failed against the village, but on the French left the 64eme de Ligne, 62eme Legere and 38eme Legere advanced through the woods. The 62eme came against the Spanish Valdeavero Regiment and destroyed them.

The Spanish response was an attack across the whole line with the Generals at the forefront. Panta de Sau attacked the 24eme Legere and the Torres de Segre regiment killed many of the 62eme Legere.

The French countered with an enveloping attack. On the right the 73eme de Ligne and 5eme Cuirassiers advanced, the Cuirassiers coming against the Andrés del Rio light cavalry and winning the fight.

On the left flank the 38eme Legere and 64eme Ligne advanced against the Vales and Valle de Tena regiments, forcing the Valle de Tena to retreat.

The Spanish now went on to a defensive footing standing and firing against the French attacks. Torres de Segre held off the 62eme Legere and the Vales regiment sored equally against the 38eme Legere.

The French now switched their attention to their left flank. The 64eme de Ligne, 62eme Legere and 38eme Legere attacked the Alemanes and Torres de Segre regiments, causing many casualties.

The Spanish made a limited attack across the entire front. The Almensa regiment drove the 29eme Legere back with many casualties, and the Torres de Segre regiment caused the 62eme Legere to retreat.

The French attempted to mount an attack on their left flank, but a party of guerrillas intercepted and killed the couriers with the orders.

In the centre the Spanish prepared a new attack. The Alamenes regiment fired at the 41eme de Ligne and inflicted several casualties.

The French replied on their left with considerable success. The 64eme de Ligne destroyed the Vales regiment, while the 38eme Legere forced the Torres de Vedra to flee the field.

The Spanish finally employed their artillery against the 5eme Cuirassiers south east of the village and wiped them out. The French attacked on their right towards the village. The 24eme Legere killed many of the Pantá de Sau Reiment and the 73eme de Ligne drove back the Andres del Rio cavalry. General Morera de Monstant was forced to flee.

The Spanish regiments Panta de Au and Torres de Segre recovered and were able to reincorporate many of their men who had run from the field, but the French kept up the pressure with an attack by the 41eme Legere against the Alemanes Regiment.

The Spanish made a desperate counterattack in the centre. The only success was the Alemanes Regiment against the 41eme Legere.

Against this the French made an all-out attack. The 29eme Legere attacked the Valle de Tena and the 38eme de Ligne and 64eme de Ligne attacked the Torres de Segre.

The Spanish line broke and retreated.

The Trumpeter 4th July 1808

Here is the latest published edition of “The Trumpeter”,  the newspaper that brings news of the goings-on in the Iberian Peninsula during the play-by-email campaign.

1808 07 04 Trumpeter

Note: The map shown in this issue was created using the American Civil War board game “Battle Cry”.  The actual battle was fought on the wargame table but sadly no pictures exist.

Warfare 2015 – a shopping expedition

Back from the wargame show “Warfare” at Reading.

I bought exactly what I set out to buy, and then several other things caught my eye.

So the final haul was:

3 x Morris 15cwt Radio trucks and 2 x 75mm German Mountain Howitzers from Heroics & Ros for my Sealion campaign. (pre-ordered)

Army painter Satin spray varnish and two new brushes (pre-planned)

Four packs of green plastic bases made by Renedra Limited.  I have never seen these before but they appeared to be on every second trader’s stand throughout the show.  They are perfect for my 6mm wargaming and will save endless cutting of thin MDF. (Impulse purchase)

A whole lot of World war Two Infantry from Adler Miniatures to accompany my new GHQ tanks and equipment.  It’s looking like my entire WW2 stock will gradually be replaced with slightly larger, better sculpted figures. (Impulse purchase)

Three MDF 10mm Adobe Fort sets from LaserCraftArt.  These look like the solution for building city walls for my 6mm Peninsular war campaign.  About the right height with wide walkways for my 2cm bases. (Impulse purchase)

6mm Armoured train from Heroics & Ros bought second hand from Colonel Bill’s.  Planned for later purchase, but grabbed when available.

I ogled lots of other pretty things but thankfully the scale was too large.

There were some interesting demo games.  Unusual topics were Hyboria in the style of Tony Bath using similar flat figures (as seen in Donald Featherstone’s “War Games” book) and what appeared to be a snowball fight for Santa’s Grotto as a participation game for younger gamers.  The RAF Wargamers were playing an assault on a farmhouse (La Haye Sainte?) with on the sidelines a model film crew and first aid station.  I’ve played that before in 1830mm scale.

At 11:00 the entire show stood silent for one minute in tribute to the victims of yesterday’s atrocities in Paris.  A very good indication that most of us deplore actual violence while striving for it’s perfect representation in miniature.

“The Trumpeter” 3rd July 1808

Henceforth in my play-by-email campaign, instead of sending reports of activity elsewhere in the peninsula by courier, a “Newspaper” will be published to all and copied to my blog.  This “red-top” rag rejoices in the name of “The Trumpeter”

I hope this will eventually provide an alternative history of the war as played.  Here is the latest edition.

1808 07 03 Trumpeter

Two small battles and some conclusions

Yesterday I was lucky to have my old re-enactment friend Chris Scott available to play out a couple of actions from the Peninsular War campaign.

In the first he had a personal interest.  He plays the role of Don Cristobal d’Escozia, the renowned commander of all guerrillas in Spain (and the only fictitious overall commander in the game).  One of his sub-commanders with orders to capture some French cannon decided to ambush them en route in broad daylight.

We played the game using 6mm miniatures on a hexagon terrain board, using Commands & Colors Napoleonics rules.  I had to invent characteristics for the guerrillas, and as they would be outnumbered 4:1 I was generous.  They had all the advantages of light Infantry in firing, the advantage of French Line in mêlée and could use rugged hills (normally prohibited) with the same protection as villages.  Also, they has one base per 12 men whereas their opponents had one base per 24 or 36, according to type.

I was disappointed that I had not had time to paint up the Neapolitan Light Infantry from my Baccus collection, but I had loads of Irregular Miniatures chaps based up as French Light Infantry, so with a quick flag repaint they were ready, and due to scale differences I used the same manufacturer throughout, except the Guerrilla leader who is a splendid chap by Heroics & Ros that I bought, fully painted complete with leopard skin cloak, in the distant past.

Guerrillas in the mist. The commander with some of his brave chaps.
Guerrillas in the mist. The commander with some of his brave chaps.

And so to the game.

Both sides were given the same territorial objective.  To get the two gun models and two caisson models under their own control beyond the river using one of two bridges.  Each would count 1 Victory Banner.  The game would be won by the first to gain five banners, so at least one enemy unit had to be eliminated.

Chris insisted that this battle would not have happened, but I replied that he himself had ordered the capture of the guns, and his subordinate had decided an ambush would succeed. (Under my campaign rules with those odds, rash temperament and with imperative orders he needed to draw an ace or a two from “Señor Decacardes” and a two was drawn.)

The French column marches into the trap.
The French column marches into the trap.  The Guerrillas start to search for a better mousetrap.

Despite routing the first two Neapolitan companies in the column, the ambush party was surrounded and annihilated in the woods.  The other guerrillas moved into the village in blocking positions, except one company that (due to the lousy hand of cards held by Chris) was left out in the open to be picked off.

I drew a lucky card allowing a strategic move and got the guns onto the hill overlooking the village.  Two guerrilla bands attacked them (before they were deployed) but rolled appallingly and failed to hit anything, while in both cases the guns replied with devastating effect.

We both agreed that the rules for this cannot be correct.  Even allowing for the effect of canister at short range if frontally attacked the artillery have too much power.  We were playing with miniatures, so the tactical situation was different to that of the board game, but I ruled that in future.

“Artillery when battling back in mêlée, unless attacked frontally and having already fired from their current position, will battle using only one die.”

The final result was that the Guerrillas lost three units (11 of their original 16 bases).  One company of Neapolitan troops was destroyed and a second ran for the hills (overall French loss 7 of 24 bases).  The Guerrillas withdrew from the field, so technically it was a draw.

Following this engagement I have also changed the way that Guerrillas will operate in the campaign.

If they encounter a lone ADC or a party of enemy less than half their own strength I will adjudicate the event with a couple of card draws to determine losses (if any) on each side, as I previously did whatever the odds.

Otherwise if a party of guerrillas is in the same map square (10 miles x 10 miles), the enemy will be moved backwards along his intended route by 1 mile per 25 guerrillas (actually calculated with a finer degree of accuracy in my records).

This will represent the delays caused by ambushes, the necessity to scout ahead for ambushes and other disruptive activity.

As an example a band of 100 guerrillas could slow an unencumbered infantry battalion from 20 miles per day to 16 miles per day on good roads, and from 12 miles per day to 8 miles per day in the mountains.

And so, having very quickly resolved this encounter, Chris offered to assist with another that had arisen in the previous 24 hours.

In this battle the vanguard of an Anglo-Portuguese Force has approached a well-defended town in Portugal. They have observed and fallen back to await the rest of the division.

However the French spotted the column and have sent a strong battalion out to investigate.  They know there are wagons to be captured (but the British officer has withdrawn them to safety).

Both commanders gave orders to try to outflank the enemy to the east side of the approach road, which was an increasingly steep ridge. And so the situation is that a battalion of around 600 Portuguese infantry, with separated pickets on the hills, faces a battalion of around 1100 French, of whom one third have been ordered to outflank the enemy by using the hills

The opening move with Portuguese pickets on the slopes and the French starting their flanking manoeuvre
The opening move with Portuguese pickets on the slopes and the French starting their flanking manoeuvre

Although the Portuguese had orders to hold the position, seeing the isolated French force, I sent them forward.  They had some success, but Chris moved the rest of the French battalion to the left and drove them back with heavy casualties.

In the nick of time a British battalion arrived on the road from the south, and a second arrived beyond the ridge to the east (unseen by the French).  The French decided that enough was enough and withdrew

The end of the affair. The Portuguese have fallen back defeated, the British are advancing and the French have quit the field.
The end of the affair. The Portuguese have fallen back defeated, the British are advancing and the French have quit the field.

Last week I have been mostly – drawing maps

I have recently revised my approach to the Peninsular War e-mail campaign to try to engage the players a bit more.

Rather than insist they sit in their HQs awaiting reports of engagements they never saw, now whenever there is a contact on the master map between any more than scouts and messengers I will prepare a detailed game map of the 10 mile x 10 mile map square.

My copy is gridded in hexagons so that any part may be quickly copied to a wargame table or the Commands & Colors board as required.  The player in residence or who has scouted the area will receive a tracing, gridded in 1 mile squares.  The player entering the area will receive a tracing of the main roads and rivers, town and hilly areas.  The players are then demoted to the position of the senior man on the spot and asked for orders.

Results of any ensuing conflict will not be known to the player until he receives the local commander’s report or reads about it in the newspapers.

Sample map for the occupying player
Sample map for the occupying player
Sample map for invading player
Sample map for invading player

Added to this activity I have (some might say foolishly) started up another campaign to umpire.  Trying to get away from always playing Napoleonic games I resurrected my Operation Sealion campaign.  I started to play this solo some time ago, but thought an opponent would be a good idea.  Then I realised that there could be no secrecy, so I found a second player and I am now the umpire.

This campaign is run using a linked area system with 65 defined 6ft x 4ft tabletops.  I have a campaign book with the orders of battle and small maps of the areas.  I have started to create the maps for the game using the drawing tools in Microsoft Excel.  I use this tool because it enables me to add positions of troops later and to annotate the map using the “comments” function. Also I can keep all the maps, orders of battle, timelines and notes in one editable file.

Here is a sample map, gridded in 1 foot squares for the players and hexagons for me.

A wargaming map created in Excel
A wargaming map created in Excel

The Battle of Luso 23rd June 1808

This is a report from my play-by-email campaign.  The situation is that Sir Arthur Wellesley has established his headquarters at Busaco Palace, and his force is under attack by General Delaborde advancing from Coimbra to the south.  Delaborde opted to approach Busaco from the southwest.

The game was played solo over about a week of evenings using home-grown rules featuring plastic counters on “Advanced Squad Leader” boards.  I developed the game as something to play while on a solo caravan tour of Spain in 2010.  The scale is approximately 1 hex = 20 yards and one company token occupies one hexagon with no stacking allowed.

This illustration, taken from a previous game using this system shows the look..

British and French battalions on the board
British and French battalions on the board

Our battle was fought using five ASL boards side by side; the resulting layout is shown here.

The battle map.  French approach from the bottom left.
The battle map. French approach from the bottom left.

In the campaign the corps commanders, as well as receiving reports from their own officers, receive by fast courier copies of reports from “The Trumpeter”, a newspaper which carries all battle reports and other interesting incidents.  here is the report from Luso as published.

The Battle of Luso, 23rd June 1808

Luso is a small town just west of Busaco. The country is hilly with numerous small woods and copses and winding roads in the valleys.

Busaco, in the east, is a town with a palace to the south surrounded by parkland. Between Busaco and Luso is a ridge penetrated by a single winding road that branches to north and south.

Luso nestles between three hills and can be accessed by road from all four points of the compass. To the west is another ridge of hills and then a large convent with an extensive orchard to the south and gardens to the north.

Apart from the convent gardens and the park of the Busaco palace there are few areas where a battalion can form an unbroken line. Fighting broke down into company actions.

Here are the stories from the British commanders as told over dinner on the evening of 23rd June, which your correspondent attended.

Major Nobber, 1st Battalion, 9th Foot

General Bowes ordered me to take the 9th from Busaco around to the north of Luso and attack from that direction. We formed column of march and followed the northernmost road out of Busaco, followed by four guns of the Royal Artillery. At the road junction we took the road to the north. Our advance was screened from the French by the buildings and small stands of trees.

We left the road and climbed a hill overlooking the north of Luso to prepare for an assault, forming line on the southern slopes of the hill. To our right 32nd Line from General Hill’s division also formed line and we charged the enemy who was forming up opposite us. We were repulsed, the enemy having the advantage of the walled gardens, so we commenced shooting at close range, which drove them back into the village. I advanced the battalion on a two-company front, taking fire as we moved forward. We made contact with the enemy again and he having the advantage of the enclosures we were forced back. I moved as much of the regiment as I could into the walled garden of a large house and we began to trade volleys.

As the French began to fall back again we recommenced the advance, hampered by the narrow streets. Several times we advanced only to be repulsed by grenadiers from behind walls and hedges. I was beginning to lose more men than I could afford in this attack. Eventually I withdrew the battalion to the large house on the north-east of town and awaited the support of the 45th, but the attack was called off.

Lieutenant Smerdon, 1 Battery Royal Artillery

In the battle I commanded A and B Troops of the battery, stationed to the north end of Busaco.

We accompanied the 9th Foot towards Luso, but deployed onto the slopes of a hill to the right of the road from whence we could bombard the north-east side of the town.

We unlimbered the guns and opened fire, setting light to a wooden house at the north end of the town.

We continued to fire at the infantry in the gardens around the burning house.

As we saw our infantry moving south into the village across our line of fire I decided to shift my position to the next hill westwards to support their advance.

We had just deployed the guns when a messenger from HQ arrived recalling us to Busaco.

Lieutenant Wells, 1 Battery Royal Artillery.

C and D troops of the battery were guarding the western side of the Busaco Palace, from where we could hear the firing to our west. After some time a messenger from HQ ordered me to take the guns forward to a position from which I could fire upon the south end of Luso. We limbered up and moved westwards over the spur of a hill, there being no easy road. Eventually we reached the small hill commanding the road south from Luso. We deployed the guns but our only target moved out of range so we swung the guns to point directly north into Luso. We fired a few shots with little effect and then received the word to return to Busaco.

Major Cosgrove, 1st Battalion, 6th Foot

Some time after the sounds of battle reached us in Busaco General Nightingale sent word that I was to advance westwards towards Luso in support of the attack. We marched out and headed for a large hill with a commanding ridge. On reaching the ridge we formed along the crest. We were joined there soon after by some companies of 52nd Light Infantry, who took post on our left flank until ordered back.

Major Lidford, 2nd battalion, 95th Rifles

I moved my four companies forward from the Busaco Palace onto the ridge between Busaco and Luso. Reaching the ridge I deployed all the companies into skirmish order and sent them forward onto the lower slopes, ordering them to take advantage of the woods wherever possible. As they came into range they opened fire on the French infantry arranged along the eastern side of Luso, and infiltrated some of the houses and many of the woods in that area. From these positions they were able to keep up a telling fire on the enemy from between 20 and 40 yards distance. Several sections of the enemy line began to crumble.

I moved the men up to within 20 yards of the enemy line wherever it was possible to do so while remaining in cover. My 2nd Company occupied a large house at the north-east end of Luso commanding the road.

The French fired some volleys at the centre of my line, but we lost a mere handful of men as most kept their heads down and sheltered in the trees. I kept pushing forwards in short runs, keeping the men under cover as much as possible. However, we got a little too close for comfort and lost half a dozen men to enemy volley fire. I pulled back some 60 yards to regroup, and then moved forward again into the buildings at the south-east end of the village.

The enemy once again retired from our fire. I moved 4th company around to line some hedges at the south of the village and they soon had some customers as the French tried to leave by that route. As the French began to make their move to the south I put my companies into positions commanding the road and soon our rifles were felling his men like skittles.

After a while fresh French infantry and cavalry arrived. The 52nd retired behind our line and we also fell back to the outskirts of Busaco where I now have my piquets.

 General Hill, divisional commander

My headquarters was in the convent west of Luso, from where I intended to fight a rearguard action against General Delaborde’s division, while putting pressure on the French garrison at Luso.

I ordered the 32nd Foot to move from the convent to attack Luso from the north-west. The 52nd Light Infantry were already moving along the winding road towards the southern end of Luso. My third infantry battalion, the 2nd Queens, was ordered to hold the orchard for as long as possible and to make a fighting withdrawal, supported by the 20th Light Dragoons.

I had the support of two small units of Portuguese Cavalry, which I deployed to the west of the Convent to protect my flank.

The 2nd Foot held the French back with skilful fire and movement tactics, but it became clear that we should be cut off from the army. I evacuated the convent and ordered the brigade to move to Luso.

The 2nd had a deal of difficulty moving across the hill and there was a great danger that the battalion would be cut off as I spotted French light infantry moving northwards up the road between us and the town. I spurred my horse and reached the 32nd, who I ordered to block the road.

The French came on and the 32nd met them in good style, sending them back down the road faster than the came up it. I then received your orders to abandon the attack on Luso and retire to the main force.

Major Milton, 1st battalion, 32nd Foot

I formed my battalion on the straight road leading through the convent gardens towards the north and marched them out. At the end of the road was a hedge bordering a cornfield. The pioneers forced a gap and the grenadiers led the way through the field eastwards to climb a hill to the north-west of Luso.

We breasted the ridge in column and moved down onto the road leading from Luso to the north-west. Crossing the road we began to climb another hill. The 9th foot appeared on the next hill so we formed line facing south.

Enemy infantry came out of the village and began to form line facing us, so together with the 9th we charged before they could organise properly. After a brief struggle we reformed and commenced an exchange of volley fire. The enemy fell back into the village, and we followed up. They continued to fall back to the south as we advanced, but then they occupied a defensive position in a hedged enclosure near the middle of the town. I managed to move two companies into the north-west corner of Luso to defend against any French attack from that point, where we met the sorry remains of the 20th Light Dragoons. The dragoons took shelter in a courtyard and we saw that they were being pursued by a squadron of French dragoons. I formed the battalion into square on the hillside north-west of the village.

General Hill then arrived and informed me that the main threat was now light infantry moving north up the road. I formed the battalion into line to meet any skirmishers coming through the woods and sent my lights into the north end of the woods to intercept the Frogs.

We managed to get a couple of companies astride the road and when the French arrived we sent them packing with many casualties.

We were joined by the remains of 2nd Foot and together we retired by the road to Busaco.

Major Salcey, 2nd battalion, 52nd Light Infantry

On the road towards Luso I received orders to attack the town from the west in line. My rear would be supported by the 20th Light Dragoons and the 2nd Foot. I was to expect 32nd Foot to appear from the north-west.

As I approached Luso my grenadier company came under fire from French skirmishers deployed between two copses near the south-west corner of the village, causing two casualties.

I advanced the grenadier, 1st and 2nd companies to form a firing line while the remainder of the battalion came up. I advanced the line as well as I was able through the wooded terrain. At the same time I detached the light company to the right flank to deal with enemy skirmishers.

5th Company moved into the woods on my left while the remaining companies moved along the road to the north to search for a more open place to form for an attack.

Whilst doing so the battalion was fired on by skirmishers from the woods to their right, causing several casualties and some confusion. Behind the skirmishers French line troops were advancing between the copses. We gave them a volley that stopped the advance.

5th Company, the light company and grenadiers moved forwards through the woods in open order while 2nd company advanced in close order towards the French, supported by 1st Company. A brisk fire commenced between my own skirmishers and those of the enemy. We soon drove them out of the woods.

The skirmishers followed up and occupied some of the buildings to the west side of Luso, from whence they continued to fire, causing a number of casualties to the enemy.

1st and 2nd companies charged the enemy line. After a fierce struggle in which I lost over a hundred men the French fell back. I reformed my skirmishing companies and we pushed eastwards into the south end of Luso. General Anstruther arrived and congratulated me on the achievements of my battalion.

We were now able to move along the road through the south end of the village, where we came across enemy infantry, both line and light, moving south. After a brief exchange of fire we pulled back to consolidate and reform. I placed my grenadiers on the hilltop while the remaining companies began to pursue the French.

A squadron of French dragoons appeared and charged the grenadiers and General Anstruther who was with them at the time. The grenadiers fired a volley and then retired to the battalion. The dragoons cut down a few, but retired when they saw the whole battalion forming square. The square was formed in difficult ground, around a small building and with a copse protecting one corner. General Anstruther and his staff sheltered within our ranks.

At this point a French infantry battalion marched down the street. Their lead company poured a volley into my square and the dragoons charged again. The square crumbled and the cavalry swept in, slaughtering all around, including General Anstruther and all his officers.

The 95th came to our rescue, firing at the rear of the French horsemen and they retired, allowing me to reform the battalion to meet the new threat from the French infantry.

By now I had little more than two companies left, so I retired to the east and joined the 6th Foot on the ridge west of Busaco Palace. We refused the flank, facing south in case of further cavalry attacks from that direction. No further attack came and we were ordered back to Busaco.

Major Holdenhurst, 1st battalion, 2nd Foot

I deployed the battalion in line to the south of the convent, extending my light company in skirmish order into the orchard towards the Luso Road, which I intended to use as a route for withdrawal. 20th Light Dragoons were stationed on a hill some 150 yards to my left.

On the approach of French cavalry the light company reformed on my left. I ordered them to occupy a building just behind the left of my line, and moved the battalion to the left in line into the orchard. French skirmishers began to move forward through the orchard so I fired a battalion volley that dropped a few and curbed their enthusiasm somewhat. However, seeing the numbers of the enemy gathering beyond the south wall I began a steady withdrawal by company around the east of the large convent building. As the companies moved to the left they halted periodically to fire at the enemy and keep them at bay.

4 and 5 Companies had a problem in that to withdraw with the rest of the battalion they would need to pass between the smaller building containing the light company and the enemy skirmishers. They solved the problem with a bayonet charge that drove the French back through the orchard. This left the two companies somewhat exposed to musketry from the enemy behind the wall and they fell back in disorder.

I reformed the battalion, fired a volley and then withdrew my first three companies.

The enemy came on again, led by his grenadiers. I still had the light company in the building at the north of the orchard and they combined their fire from the windows with that of the line to try to hold back the enemy charge. Alas the firing was unsuccessful and we fell back, chased by the enemy grenadiers.

Seeing enemy infantry advancing along the hedge to the east of the orchard I formed a line behind the stone wall facing east and commenced to fire volleys at the hedgerow. The light company in the building was now guarding my right flank.

At this point General Hill ordered me to form the regiment up and march towards Luso with all speed. As we were marching east along the road we were attacked by Dragoons, our own cavalry having apparently abandoned us. We shot maybe ten of them, but they came on and we were forced to withdraw up the hill from the road. We reformed as a reinforced line on a low ridge. The enemy infantry formed for an attack on us in this position from the south. We commenced volley fire, while moving to the left by companies. As the French continued to come on we charged downhill to meet them. They fired a volley and we recoiled. They came on and the battalion split up in confusion. My grenadier company was cut off from the main body by a small wood and fought a running battle with the enemy’s grenadiers. The Lisbon cavalry came dashing to their rescue and the other Portuguese horsemen formed a defensive line. As the French came on the Portuguese cavalry charged, receiving a tremendous volley and followed by a furious melee. However they managed to protect my grenadiers from further attention as they rejoined the battalion. The battalion formed alongside the 32nd Foot and we then received the order to return to Busaco. We fought a running battle through the north of Luso and returned here.

Major Greenholme, 20th Light Dragoons

From my three squadrons who landed in Portugal only 95 men were fit for duty. We formed as three troops (one from each squadron) on a hill to the east of the convent occupied by General Hill.

French dragoons appeared on the road in about squadron strength. They looked like our old adversaries from Boialva, but one Frenchie is much like another. We charged them in the flank from our position on the hill and scattered them. A small number – maybe a troop – reformed some 80 yards back.

I wheeled the regiment to form a blocking line across the road. Two squadrons of the enemy charged us while his third attempted an outflanking manoeuvre to our right.

We fell back 80 yards and reformed on the hill crest. The French dragoons continued to work around both flanks so I fell back again. The enemy followed on and we clashed. Honours were even in the melee, but he had more men to lose than I. We retreated towards Luso, where we found shelter in a courtyard. The horses were exhausted so we tied them up and formed a dismounted piquet guarding the road at the north-west of Luso. We continued to exchange fire with the French dragoons in houses across the road until receiving the order to retreat to Busaco.

Capitan Valugas, 6th Portuguese Cavalry

My regiment and the troop from the Lisbon Police Cavalry moved from the Luso road back towards the convent as ordered by General Hill. We were to protect the English right flank as they withdrew.

When we arrived at the convent we observed that the French were already threatening to envelop the building. I ordered my regiment to guard the western side, outflanking the French infantry and keeping just out of effective musket range but threatening to charge anyone who moved onto the open ground or path around the building. I sent the Lisbon Police to guard the north side of the building in the same way.

The enemy posted a company to fire on us from behind a hedge and I lost several men to their musketry. Eventually we received orders to fall back to the north-east to protect the withdrawal of the 2nd Foot who were in some difficulty with enemy cavalry.

When we reached the long ridge we found that the British infantry were in desperate trouble. I formed a line and prepared to charge the French infantry. They fired and my second squadron scattered. The other two squadrons charged, but with limited success against the grenadiers.

The remains of my men formed a protective cordon around the British grenadiers and after some difficulty we managed to escort them towards the east and Luso. We met up with 32nd Foot who had just received orders to retire, so we marched with them back to Busaco.

And the following day I attended upon the French and received these tales:

Major Berthelot, 3e battalion, 12e Regiment d’Infanterie Legere

Approaching from the south-west we came to a convent occupied by English infantry. I lined my grenadier company along the walls and hedges to the south-west of the convent and its orchard. As the other companies began to arrive I ordered the grenadiers over the wall into the orchard in skirmish order. They advanced to within about 40 yards of the enemy and opened fire, which the enemy met with a volley. The enemy then began to retire. I ordered the grenadiers to maintain the distance of 40 yards and keep up the skirmishing fire while I moved the remainder of the battalion around to the west of the convent.

Two companies of the enemy infantry suddenly charged through the orchard with the bayonet. My grenadiers reformed quickly and a couple of volleys from the supporting companies behind the wall drove the enemy back in confusion.

My left flank was threatened by enemy cavalry so I refused the flank, placing 1st Company behind a hedge with a good field of fire to the left. The remaining companies began to move forwards into the orchard vacated by the British. The enemy continued to fall back, so we fired again to help them on their way. On the left the enemy cavalry was just out of effective musket range, but we fired at them anyway to stop them from coming closer. One squadron moved into the open and we felled about half a dozen, so they moved back into cover.

On the right flank my grenadiers closed to contact the enemy infantry. His line was now reduced to 3 companies as the others retreated. I sent 2nd company to the right along the hedgerow to the east side of the orchard and 3rd company and the voltigeurs moved into the orchard in support of the grenadiers. The grenadiers took some casualties but continued to attack. The enemy fell back with heavy casualties, and the grenadiers followed up.

I continued to move my battalion around the east side of the orchard to cut off the enemy’s retreat. I was still worried about the cavalry on my left so two companies remained there as a shield.

The remainder now formed to assault the British infantry who had been forced off the road by our dragoons. We had to climb a hill towards the British position on the ridge. The enemy began to move to his left, so I extended the line to our right and was able to overlap his flank.

The enemy in desperation charged us. We fired a volley and then they hit us and a fierce fight ensued. I believe that we and the English lost about a hundred men apiece.

Eventually the enemy retired and we pursued to the top of the ridge. One of his companies was separated from the others by a small wood and was trapped. We attacked, but were in turn charged by Portuguese cavalry. We killed a number of them but they managed to escort the infantry to safety.

My voltigeur company by this time had crossed the hill and were advancing north on the road towards Luso. There they were mat by two companies of redcoats, whose fire forced them to retreat.

I reformed the company but the English retreated and we marched into Luso.

Major Seillon, 3e Regiment Provisional de Dragons

Advancing along the road towards Luso from the south-west we encountered British skirmishers in the orchard of a convent to the left of the road. At our approach they reformed into close order and rejoined their battalion in front of the convent.

From our right 1st Squadron was charged by British light cavalry. They struck us in the flank and my men scattered, but reformed moments later to face the enemy at about 100 yards distance. 2nd Squadron advanced in support.

I moved 1st Squadron to the right to outflank the enemy. 2nd Squadron formed to their left, but was not in a position to charge because of stone walls and a copse to the front. The enemy attempted to block the road but this only gave us the opportunity to charge with 1st and 2nd squadrons. 3rd squadron moved to the left to outflank them.

The enemy withdrew onto the top of the hill, so I continued my outflanking movement. I sent 2nd squadron to the left and 3rd squadron to the right while 1st squadron faced the enemy. The enemy cavalry fell back so I was able to move forward and cut the road between their infantry and Luso. I attacked enemy infantry marching in column and they retreated to the north, where the 12e Legere were sent to deal with them.

I continued with the regiment towards Luso in pursuit of the enemy light cavalry. To the south of the town we spotted a lone company of infantry on a hill. We charged with one squadron, taking fire from some concealed riflemen to our right. The enemy fired a sharp volley, but we made contact and after a short struggle they retreated to the rest of their battalion that we could now see behind them. We retired to reform.

The British formed a rough square but at that point the 32e Infanterie de Ligne arrived and opened fire on the square. We charged in again with 1st and 3rd Squadrons. The square broke and we got into the middle, killing a general and several aides.

The 2nd squadron had moved north into Luso where they dismounted and occupied some houses, engaging in a firefight with the British cavalry.

We took no further part in the action, as the fighting now became house to house.

Major Uglas, 2e Battalion, 86e Regiment de Ligne

My battalion was in position along the western side of the village of Luso. The voltigeur company on a hill to my left spotted British infantry advancing in column along the road from the south-west. I sent the voltigeurs forward in skirmish order to delay their approach and moved No. 4 company left to occupy the hill. As the enemy approached, 4th Company moved to enfilade them. I extended the line by moving the Grenadiers onto the hill to the north. 1st Company moved right to replace the grenadiers and 2nd and 3rd companies moved forwards to hold the centre near the junction of the west road. These companies immediately came under volley fire from enemy infantry and I was forced to withdraw about 20 yards.

In the woods my light company was skirmishing with the enemy light troops, keeping up a brisk fire. They advanced to within 20 yards of the enemy, but the enemy fire drove them back out of the woods. The enemy moved forward into the houses, but they now came under fire from my companies formed up in line.

My voltigeurs managed to get within 20yards of the enemy, while a desperate hand to hand struggle ensued between 1st and 2nd companies and the enemy who had charged them. We were forced back with over a hundred casualties, but we also left many English bodies behind us.

We moved back into the town under pressure from the British from north and east. As my casualties mounted I decided to break out to the south but found the way blocked by riflemen who were in the trees and hedgerows. They began to take a toll of my men. Please advise the Emperor that we could use some of theses weapons.

Two of my companies took up good defensive positions in enclosed gardens to the north of town, from where they repulsed several attacks by determined British infantry.

Eventually we were relieved by 32e Ligne.

 Major Ortèvres, 3e Battalion, 15e Regiment d’Infanterie Legere

My battalion was deployed in line along the road on the eastern side of Luso, facing Busaco. My attention was drawn to some parties of British riflemen advancing over the ridge to the east, but they disappeared behind the trees as they reached the lower slopes. I ordered the regiment to load their muskets and stand ready. Some time later we saw the grasshoppers in the woods opposite my position and fired a volley. It appears that it was ineffectual as there was a sudden explosion of return fire from the woods and houses. I lost about 50 men and some companies fell back in disorder towards the centre of the village. The riflemen advanced but we reformed, fired several volleys and drove them back out of the village.

On my left flank a battalion of redcoats appeared over the crest of the hill about 60 yards from my light company. The company faced them and opened fire.

I moved 3rd company around a building that had been set alight by enemy artillery fire to extend the north-facing line. My other companies advanced to the road again and took shelter behind the walls and hedges, keeping up the fire on the elusive greencoats.

Two battalions of enemy infantry charged down from the hills on my left flank. We met them with a volley, which stopped the charge, but then the two battalions began firing at close range, and with enemy artillery adding to the fire from the hill to our north-east, I pulled the two companies back further into the village.

At the south end of the village my men were also beginning to suffer from the attentions of the rifles. Companies began to disintegrate, but in a hand-to-hand scuffle we sent some of the rifles back the way they had come. I decided that it was time to attempt to break out to the south and rejoin General Delaborde. Our way was blocked by more riflemen behind the hedges.

After some exchanges of fire my Grenadier company forced a way south. The rest of the battalion was now skirmishing amongst the houses in the middle of town.

We continued to exchange fire with the riflemen until eventually we were relieved by 32e Ligne from the south-west and the British withdrew.

Major Gambetta, 3e Battalion, 32e regiment d’Infanterie de Ligne

The battalion was ordered to march to Luso, which we approached from the south-west. Ahead of us the 3e Dragons and 12e Legere were already engaged.

As we entered the south of Luso we found a British square drawn up against the 3e Dragons.

Unable to deploy in the street I opened fire with my grenadier company and caused some casualties. The dragoons charged and broke open the square doing terrible damage. The British retreated, leaving the way open for our entry into town. I sent the voltigeurs to join the fight in the centre of town while we chased the enemy out of the south. The British had clearly had enough and pulled back to Busaco.