A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Monday, May 30, 2016

Age of Eagles: Talavera, July 28th, 1809


 I have stated elsewhere, what really got me into Napoleonics was the novel Sharpe's Eagle, which I first read when I was 10 or 11.  My mom bought it because that edition (1981) was marketed as a romance novel, she didn't like it, and suggested that I read it instead (since I read military history).  However, all these years later, I had still never gamed the battle of Talavera, July 28th, 1809, which is the major battle fought in Sharpe's Eagle. 

Until now....

My French opponent and I used the v.2 Talavera scenario from PIMM.  He set up the table faithfully, within the limitations of our terrain.... this is something of a difficult table to set  up with the very large hills.  We declared certain areas to represent the very high ground, a place for French batteries, and the top of the Medellin for a couple of British batteries.

We found that the Allied lines extended further than we thought, so the set up is not quite perfect, but we both agreed this would work.  We declared that Talavera was effectively impassable to the French, and any Allied troops forced into Talavera could not reemerge, though would not be counted as casualties.

A look from the French lines towards the Spanish in their fortifications on the left, and the British on the Portina on the right....

A look from the allied lines towards the French, with some batteries massed on the heights of the Cascajal (we declared that region to be higher than the surrounding terrain, except the top of the Medellin directly across the Portina)...

A look from Talavera as it sits on the Tagus...

The early turns found me trying to shake out my clustered British into a more flexible organization, as I attempted to move my cavalry to my left flank.  The French organized their troops for the initial drive at the British lines.  I was able to inflict serious damage on the French batteries on the Cascajal early on, damaging and driving off 3 of 4 batteries.  My Spanish managed to silence one battery on my right.

 The French begin the initial major attack.... you can see the three batteries damaged and driven off...

A brutal back and forth slugfest turned the Portina red.  A series of attacks, counter attacks, left both sides bloodied and in disarray....

Meanwhile, on the Talavera side of the table, the Spanish were reluctant to leave their fortifications (there were some Spanish infantry deployed on the British side of the table... they were used to attack the French and were destroyed over the course of a few turns).   The French in front of them remained, a demonstration to keep the Spanish in positions, but, when French reinforcements began to arrive, some were diverted to deal with the Spanish defenders in the groves forward of Talavera.
A Spanish infantry battalion, and cavalry regiment, were completely destroyed.  Another Spanish infantry battalion was damaged, and pushed back into Talavera, becoming part of the "garrison" ...

The French began their assault on the Spanish breastworks close to the walls of Talavera..
amazingly, the Spanish were able to repulse the French twice....

The situation on the British flank steadily worsened as the French made deeper attacks into the British lines.  They paid for this, but they outnumbered the British, and those numbers began to tell.  The British cavalry, thankfully, were able to be deployed to counter the masses of French cavalry on the far flank.   The steep slopes in this area continued to disrupt the cavalry charges, and neither force of cavalry was able to gain any advantage... while the British cav were unable to turn the flank of the French, the French cav were unable to turn the flank of the British... you can see the small remnant of Spanish in the hills.

The French, on their third assault, were able to gain a small foothold in the breastworks, using those reinforcements.  

There was a cost.... by draining off resources to breach the Spanish lines, their increasingly successful drive onto the Medellin was running out of steam as there were no good units left.... which was good, as the British defense was crumbling.  The French had been able to bring their damaged batteries back into line, to support their late game attacks.  Damaged, they were still able to add some firepower and inflict losses on the British.

A new line was beginning to form, angled 90º from the left of  the Spanish fortifications.  However, the Medellin was close to being overrun.

At this point we called the game, mostly because of time.  It was apparent from casualties that the French were winning the battle, a minor victory, one they paid for, but a victory none the less.  It did not appear there was enough steam left in the French machine to drive the allies from the field, but it was certain the allies no longer had the ability to drive the French off either.  We presumed that the French might be able to whittle some Spanish away, but the greater portion of the Spanish infantry were still undamaged, in solid lines.  The French reinforcements, directed to attack the Spanish, MAY have been enough to crack the British lines... but by using them to batter a hole in the Spanish defenses, the French left themselves with very little to follow up their success across the Portina.

Casualties were high.  I may update with closer figures (my French opponent has them!), but it was something like 40 total bases of allies lost, and 2 damaged batteries on the table.... with something like 30 total bases of French lost, with 3 damaged batteries on the table.  About half of the allied losses were Spanish.

Edit:  the French losses were  4 cav, 20 infantry, 1 battery, and 3 damaged batteries.... or about 8000 French and 20 lost guns.  The British losses were a division commander, 1 cav, 17 infantry, 1 battery, and 2 damaged batteries... or about 6300 British and 16 lost guns.  The Spanish losses were 7 cav, 15 infantry, and 1 damaged battery... or about 6500 Spanish and 4 lost guns.  Considering that the Spanish may have only taken a base or two of French (though Spanish batteries did contribute some fire in conjunction with British batteries), the British portion of the Allied force performed quite well.  Unfortunately for me, the French did even better.... 8000 casualties and 20 guns, versus 12800 casualties and 20 guns.

Despite my loss to the French (or, rather, a well deserved victory for the hard fighting French), this was a very good game.  The scenario seemed balanced, and certainly it was possible for an allied victory... and also possible for an all out French victory.  The deployment for the allies, especially the British, is somewhat jumbled (historically accurate, it seems)... and boy, its just had to imagine trying to maneuver those Spanish in the open against the French.  No bonus for quality (all conscripts), no bonus for impulse... wow... very difficult to bring them back once disordered.  Very difficult to rely on them being able to move fully every turn!  But there sure were a lot of them... and the French showed reluctance to commit a major attack against them.

Again, a very well fought game, we had fun with this one, and I was glad to finally game Talavera, some 35 years after reading about it in a fictional novel .... 

Thanks for reading,



  1. Thanks for the report, Chalfont. I'm just coming to grips with AoE, plan to game the Peninsular Wars and was interested to read your write up! Great looking game.

    1. Thanks. We have gamed Fuentes Onoro, and Albuera, but tend to game central Europe more. Just gamed the 1815 campaign last year (200 years), including Quatre Bras, Ligny, Wavre, and Waterloo. The allies lost the campaign, though did well at Ligny, and inflicted some pretty harsh casualties at Waterloo.