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Almeida et Bussaco 1810» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Coimbra Cavalry Clash, October 1, 1810 rss

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Eric Stubbs
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Gaithersburg
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Introduction
Almeida, Bussaco, and Coimbra are the 30th – 32nd games in the Jours de Gloire, a successful and long-running series of Napoleonic tactical battles, each produced on the bicentennial of the original battle. The game covers some of the key events of Massena’s 1810 invasion of Portugal, in which he sought to defeat Sir Arthur Wellesley’s Anglo-Portuguese army and drive the British from the Iberian Peninsula.

I played the historical scenarios for each battle and kept notes to write session reports. Almeida and Bussaco are posted separately, Coimbra is the last of the three and the smallest. I played it first, but it’s the last chronologically.

For more details on the game, please see Marco’s video!

The Battle
October 1, 1810: In the aftermath of Bussaco, Wellesley’s army is withdrawing despite its successful defense a few days earlier. Massena retains the strategic initiative, though his army will not soon forget the drubbing it got on the field! His cavalry vanguard under St. Croix is probing forward for likely targets, and it has found some in the form of civilians and wounded soldiers attempting to evacuate from the town of Coimbra. Opposing the French are Cotton’s Light Cavalry and some units of Crauford’s Light Division, who have orders only to hold the town and the crossings over the Mondego river. The Light Cavalry needs to buy time for the evacuation, then extract itself as well.

Each side gains VPs for eliminating enemy units, as well as for routed units on the map at the end of the game. The British gain VPs for evacuating civilians and wounded, the French gain VPs for destroying them and for getting their troops across the river.

10 AM
Cotton orders his horse artillery to open fire on the French cavalry emerging from the marsh, and cannon balls crash into the horsemen, scattering their formation. Beyond that, he judges his position favorable and holds position, commanding his men to make ready to receive a French attack. To the south, the evacuation of Coimbra begins, covered by Crauford’s men.

St. Croix shifts his formation and steadies the dragoons who were unsettled by the cannon fire.

11 AM
Cotton’s formation withdraws slightly and then holds. Emboldened by this, St. Croix advances to contact and routs the King’s German Legion (KGL) Hussars on the right of Cotton’s line. Coimbra evacuees continue to make their escape, while St. Croix is temporarily unable to press his advantage.

12 PM
He spurs forward soon enough, though, with initially mixed results turning into greater success that pushes back the 16th Light Dragoons and Cotton himself, who orders a further withdrawal as a result as the 16th Light returns to good order. Crauford’s men cover the last of the Coimbra civilians and wounded as they cross the Mondego, while French infantry march onto the scene, fresh arrivals from the enemy vanguard.

1 PM
St. Croix retains the initiative but his attacks are largely ineffective. The refugees continue to evacuate, and Cotton orders a withdrawal over the Mondego, while St. Croix pressures them: an impetuous charge by the 4e Dragoons routs some of their British counterparts over the river and panics the still-shaky KGL Hussars. Crauford’s 52nd Foot, guarding the Mondego ford, remains steady, and his other troops redeploy to further secure the crossings against the French. Cotton and his remaining men attack the 4e Dragoons but are repulsed, rather humiliatingly.

2 PM
St. Croix takes advantage of the confusion and his men pounce on Cotton’s disorganized forces, routing and eliminating them, though Cotton himself manages to join the Light Division troops near the ford, ordering them to pull back and hold the crossing. St. Croix repositions his cavalry with an eye towards charging the ford, and the French infantry hustle forward, but it is likely too late for them to make a difference.

3PM
Crauford’s men form square just beyond the river ford, determined to keep the enemy on the other side of the Mondego, while Cotton’s remaining cavalry form up on the rise above the ford, readying a countercharge if it proves needed. Cursing the delays that gave the enemy time to position so strongly, St. Croix calls off the attack.

Final VPs: French 4, Anglo-Portuguese 2, a draw.

Final thoughts: The French would have been better served trying to prevent the Light Cavalry from evacuating, rather than trying to eliminate them. As it was, although the French caused casualties, the enemy evacuation was generally a success.
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