Bonaparte's Peninsular War: Wellington vs Massena May 5, 1811

May 5th, 1811 Massena slips past Wellington.
On April 23, 1811 Wellington was encamped at Elvas, Portugal some twenty kilometers from Badajoz, Spain.  Massena's French army of three corps was far to the north of him across the Agueda massing to enter Portugal at Ciudad Rodrigo.

Determined to keep his army between Massena and the Portugese interior (Coimbra) through which his supply lines flowed, Wellington rode north to meet Massena, corresponding as he did with his brother Henry, the British envoy to Spain, about his possibly taking overall command of Spain's armies.  Wellington we learn from his letter didn't like the idea, preferring to remain focused on Portugal and it's defense, but at that moment he deferred to Henry's guidance.
Elvas, Portugal

Two days later and over eighty kilometers closer to Massena, Wellington would follow Henry's letter with a letter to the Earl of Liverpool, Robert Jenkinson, about his fear that Massena, the French Army commander in Spain, was receiving too much information gleaned from Wellington's own, official dispatches.

During his time in Portugal, Robert Jenkinson and Henry Wellesley were frequent recipients of Wellington's official correspondence, with the former responsible for rallying Parliament to support Wellington's army in Portugal and the latter serving as Wellington's window onto the larger conflict on the Peninsula.  I mention the two letters because they are an interesting insight into Wellington's frame of mind as his showdown with Massena looms.

I am currently gaming this campaign with Doug at Cry Havoc. He is playing the French and I am playing the British.

As I mentioned above, the historical French commander is Andre Massena who nine months earlier at Bussaco in a foolish frontal assault against the monastery perched atop the Serra do Bussaco mountain range, was turned aside by Wellington.  His 1810 army had more infantry as well as more horse and artillery than his 1811 army and yet here he is again marching into Portugal determined to reach Lisbon.

On May 3, Massena launches another frontal assault against Wellington's army at the village of Fuentes de Onoro.  He would be repulsed by a well placed British force and spend all of the next day reconnoitering the British positions looking for a way to turn the British flank. 

The scenario Doug and I are playing begins on May 5.  The John Tiller scenario designer is Rich White.  The game is Bonaparte's Peninsular War.

Rich's scenario description follows:

Fuentes de Onoro 5 May 1811 - Having failed to take Fuentes by direct assault on 3rd May, Massena spent the following day scouting the British line and endeavouring to find a weak spot. Then, determining that the British right flank south of Fuentes could be turned, Massena decided that the main French thrust should be launched against Poco Velho and Nava de Aver, whilst additional diversionary attacks along the line would hold the enemy in place.

May 5 - Jump map of  our positions.
Wellington's letter, written two days after this action, details his defense of the Portugese  frontier which consisted entirely of a series of cantonments (a term Wellington uses in his letter that was fashionable from his time in India) beside the river crossings between Fort Concepcion in the north and Nave de Haver in the south.   That's the situation I take over as the British commander.

Wellington would have to coordinate the movement of his forces with the Spanish force in the south under Don Julian Sanchez, a Guerilla leader.  His communication between cantonments was likely intermittent with each force operating independently from his main body as the enemy cavalry "were infinitely superior to us." And yet again outnumbered and outgunned, he somehow manages to parry Massena as he did in the past.

We will see if I am as lucky against Doug and I will be sure to blog about it.

Scenario particulars:

Turn length: 40
Date: May 5, 1811
French strength: 47,000+
Allied strength: 38,000+


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