A Cautious Advance - Portugal 1808

SWF put a Napoleonic game on Saturday afternoon at his place, his butler showed me to his study, and after turning down a cigar, but grasping a very fine glass of Cognac, I read my briefing.........

The Adventures of Captain Richard BLUNT of the 95th Rifles.

The Battle of Rolica 17th August 1808.

November 1807 saw a French Force of 50,000 men led by General Andoche JUNOT invade Portugal. With the Royal Family fleeing to South America to safety nothing stood in the way for the French to take Lisbon and control the Country.

On the 6th June 1808 an uprising led by the Bishop of Porto – Don Antonio de sao Jose de CASTRO, took the French by surprise and threatened their hold on Portugal. To support this, the King of England dispatched troops to aid the Portuguese.

On the 1st August 1808 Lieutenant – General Sir Arthur WELLESLEY landed at Fiqueira da Foz with a British Army of 14,000 men with the intention of marching on Lisbon before JUNOT could gather his forces in strength to react.

Upon landing on Portuguese soil, WELLESLEY entrusted an urgent matter to one of his most able officers. Captain Richard BLUNT of the 95th Rifles was ordered to make all haste north to Porto and intercept a small French Force moving on a meeting between local guerrilla’s and Father Jose de CASTALLAN. Father CASTALLAN is known to be the right hand man of the Bishop of Porto. WELLESLEY knew that if he was to be captured or killed then it would severely disrupt the uprising and therefore free French Forces in the North to come to the aid of General JUNOT.

Captain Richard BLUNT set off to save the situation commanding a company of the 95th Rifles and a further company of the 29th Foot – Worcestershire’s led by Lieutenant CAVENDISH. Both BLUNT and CAVENDISH showed courage and good leadership in the face of overwhelming odds. Father Jose de CASTALLAN was safely escorted to Porto and safety before Captain BLUNT returned to WESSESLEY. It is not long before Captain BLUNT is summoned to WESSESLEY’s tent and briefed on the forth coming engagement.
Captain BLUNT is briefed that whilst he has been away the British have marched south towards Lisbon before JUNOT has time to regroup. A network of spies has reported that General JUNOT marches North to Torres Vedras with 8,600 men and is hoping to be joined by General LOISON in command of a further 6,000 men marching from the east. This would give General JUNOT a sizeable force to fight the British.

Between JUNOT and WESSESLEY was General DELADORDE who had been ordered by JUNOT to delay the British at all costs. DELABORDE is known to command a small force of 4,300 men and has retreated from Batalha south to Rolica. WESSESLEY believes this is where he will make a holding action to buy JUNOT more time to regroup. Captain BLUNT and his 95th Rifles are given orders to join Major – General FERGUSON’s Left Flank Column as the Army marches towards Rolica on the morning of 17th August 1808.

An aerial view of the battlefield

I had an addendum to the briefing, which I continued to read whilst scoffing some Beluga Caviar...........

The Adventures of Captain Richard BLUNT of the 95th Rifles.

The Battle of Rolica 17th August 1808.

Captain Richard BLUNT finds himself at the head of the Left Flank Column commanded by Major – General FERGUSON. To his right he can see the main British Force moving towards Rolica whilst far in the distance past them he can see the Right Flank Column commanded by Lieutenant – Colonel TRANT.

Ahead of the main British Force are the small French Force commanded by General DELABORDE.

WESSESLEY intended to use both Flanking Columns to put pressure on the French Line but before this could happen General DELABORDE ordered his forces to retreat to a second French Position.

With the French in full retreat, Major – General FERGUSON orders Captain BLUNT to advance and capture the enemies guns that are being manhandled away from their original position. Capture the guns before they can be repositioned to fire on our forces.

Major Blunt moves forward eagerly with a company of 95th Rifles.
Moving in support is a company of the 6th (1st Warwickshire) Foot and a company of the 32nd (The Cornwall) Foot. Major – General FERGUSON has dispatched two 6pdrs forward to pound the French in direct support.

Capture the guns and win the day and by night fall songs will be sung of your heroic deeds.
WESSESLEY watches his flanks with interest.

So all I had to do was capture some prized French artillery under the watchful gaze of my boss, what could possibly go wrong...........

My mate is such a perfectionist. He scavenged some stones, and proceeded to paint them...stone coloured.

I noticed a wagon on top of a hill, next to a French 'blind' - I made a reasonable assumption that this where the French would place their guns....

So in view of this, I decided to place my artillery on the opposite hill with a commanding view of the table. Now, I noted in a quiet understated way that SWF mentioned in passing that we had not seen any enemy cavalry f or a few days. Being bright as a button I deduced that we would today!

I assigned the Cornish boys to protect the guns from the inevitable arrival of a French chaps on horses (notice my play on words -eh?).

The Cornish Infantry Company take up position. The third one in toward the centre is from a little fishing port called Falmouth. Lovely place, with nice people who are fond of cricket and BBQ's.

That left me The Rifles, and the other infantry company with which to successfully complete my mission.

The British gunners ready themselves.

With a couple of successful dice rolls, I spot some French infantry, close to some artillery on the hill (as guessed).

I have to say that the French Artillery really do need to smarten up

Soon some French infantry started to cross the table toward the Brits. They soon drew the attention of my gunners.

I also targeted the scruffy buggers on the hill

More French appeared on my left flank. That was now three companies of infantry, and an artillery battery. It was looking gloomy for my little command. I wondered when the cavalry would make an appearance......by keeping the. Cornish boys back, I was down to my rifles and a single company of infantry supported by my guns. It was going to be tough, and it was certainly not helped by the quality of my dice rolls.

Soon the French gunners opened up on my advancing troops. The rifles running to the cover of some rock coloured rocks in the background.....

They also target my guys. Pressure was building, and I was worried my rifles would be caught out in the open by the yet to be seen cavalry.

The rifles take up cover being some rocks. The French guns are far off in the distance.

A chosen man brings down a French officer with a crack shot at distance. This stalls the French infantry column marching on my left flank.

More French casualties caused by a mixture of artillery and musketry.

I knew the game was up, and the French guns were safe. Richard threw in the towel and withdrew.......the French cavalry were conspicuous by their absence, and I had fallen for a ploy by SWF.

A French victory and a great game.


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