July 04, 1806,
French army of 13 units opposed to British army of 19 units
for a battle of complexity 0.29 at Regiment(III) level
on a 2.5 Km/Hex map
for 6 turns of Full Day each.
by Piero Falotti submited on 12-03-2005
Rugged-Defense Playing Statistics
Battle of Meida - 4th of Jula 1806
this is a small scenario, playable in a few minutes. good for familiarization to the TOAW basic system.
In 1806 a British expedition, under Major-General Sir John Stuart, against Calabria in Southern Italy had been instigated to flank some of Napoleon's forces and to strike on the weaker Kingdom of Naples. In short though the british expedition only numbered some five thousand men a large portion of it was of the very highest quality.
The expedition arrived at the Bay of St Euphemia on June the 30th and following a short exchange on the beach by the 1st of July the invasion force was ashore. However, later in the day a heavy surf rose up which prevented speedy landing of ammunition and supplies this in turn prevented Stuart from taking full advantage of surprise. The French commander General Reynier used this delay to full effect and concentrated a much more numerous force (5690 infantry, 328 cavalry and 373 gunners) to oppose Stuart.
On the 3rd Stuart heard contradictory reports that the French were concentrating across the River Lamato near the town of San Pietro di Maida and rode out with his staff to reconnoitre, (It so happens General Reynier at that time also decided to reconnoitre and the two only just missed each other by moments). That evening Stuart having mistakenly underestimated French numbers gave orders that 350 men were to hold the beach-head while the rest of his force would march for an early morning attack on the French position.
The scorchingly hot morning of the 4th July found the British force advancing in two parallel columns across the plain between the beach and the River Lamato.
The march itself was not without difficulties French cavalry patrols were very much in evidence while according to Fortescue the plain was littered with deep marshes and sand that "the field guns could only with difficulty be bought forward". So thanks to the heat and their exertions over the guns it was a much suffering infantry that passed through the streets of Lamato before wheeling inland and entering the Plain of Maida.
Meanwhile General Reynier (who at this time though himself inferior in numbers) had been far from inactive, while the British advance on Lamato had progressed his infantry had filed out of their campsite into the upper portion of Maida plain. By 0845 his cavalry had been recalled and he advanced confident that he could "drive six or seven thousand English into the sea" once again to quote Fortescue "Reyneir who had tested the quality of the red coats in Egypt ought to have known better than this".
On entering the Plain of Maida the British force continued its advance with Kempt's light brigade on the right next to it Acland's brigade followed by that of Cole. Slightly to rear of Centre as a reserve was Oswald. French cavalry and horse artillery was by now in action the guns exchanging shots with the British artillery. Although little damage was done the effect of much manoeuvring and cannon smoke was an obscuring of French infantry movements.
On the right Kempt deployed his Corsican Rangers and light company of the 20th across the shallow Lamato River to clear some thickets only to have them driven back by infantry secreted there by Compere in an attempt to turn the British right. The 20th lost its Captain and was in great difficulty however it stood its ground "until the flankers of the 35th came to its help and drove the French back in disorder" this was followed by a charge from the rallied Corsicans and the detached British were able to rejoin their places on the right of Kempt's Brigade.
The French cavalry now moved towards the British left allowing the dust to settle and display to the British the French force marching towards them, in echelon from the left---Compere's leading. On the French left was as stated Compere's brigade of 1st Light infantry (Legere) and 42nd Line infantry (2800) , to their right was Peyri's brigade of Swiss and Poles (1500) and on the far right was Digonet's 23rd light infantry (1250) now joined by the French cavalry and Guns.
The armies closed upon each other in silence, punctuated by the boom of cannon, the French firing mostly high the British guns more effective. As has often been misreported (and so well pointed out in Dr David Chandlers book, On the Napoleonic Wars, Collected Essays) the French were NOT in column but in line, the British in their by now traditional two deep formation, the French in three.
With Compere's and Kempt's brigades closing to about one hundred yards the two lines halted and fired and exchanged a number of volleys, during which the British seemed to have emerged the more successful, as they were quickly ordered forward.
Now occurred one of the great mistaken actions of military history, to quote Fortescue again "Kempt observing that his men were encumbered by their greatcoats, which they wore bandolier wise actually halted them, when they must have been within no more than seventy yards of their opponents and bade them throw their coats down. The front rank turned about to help the rear rank obey the order and the French mistook the movement for the beginning of a retreat." Compere galloped in front of his men shouting "Cease fire, Cease fire, Charge! and his men moved forward.
By now the British light infantry were now free of their greatcoats and actually moving forward themselves. With Kempt ordering "Steady, Light infantry! wait for the word. Let them come close." Waiting till no less than thirty yards separated the two lines Kempt ordered "Fire! Charge bayonets". The leading French infantry turned and fled at this sudden turn about, taking with them practically all of Compere's 1st Legere. Compere himself though struck twice, accompanied by one or two lone brave men, managed to close with the British line but were quickly overcome. Kempt's men pursued their French counterparts until being rallied at the village of Maida having killed or captured some 900 men for the loss of fifty.
Meanwhile the French 42nd of the line of Compere's brigade and Acland's brigade came in contact. Here the French were first to fire an ineffective volley but the counter fire of two volleys and following charge forced the French line infantry back in some confusion. They managed to rally covering Reynier's now exposed left and any possible retreat route while supporting the brigades to their right.
Peyri's brigade of Poles and Swiss now advanced from the rear to halt Acland's advance, the Poles being driven off with little difficulty. Unfortunately the Red coats of the Swiss were mistaken by the Highlanders as Watteville's Regiment and were able to deliver a close range damaging volley into much surprised British infantry. Recovering the British red coats returned fire and managed to drive off the now unsupported gallant Swiss. This allowed Acland's bloodied brigade to continue its advance.
Reynier now had only his 23rd Legere (1250) his cavalry, plus horse artillery, uncommitted, with these he intended to attack the by now Acland's left. This was thwarted by the advance of Cole's brigade, sometimes in square, advancing on the extreme British left. Reynier now went on the defensive and formed his 23rd Legere on rising ground supported by his cavalry. Sending forward detachments of his light companies with cavalry in support. This was so successful that Reynier even managed to force Cole back on the defensive indeed due to ammunition running low and exhaustion beginning to set in, all was not good for the British left.
The situation was retrieved by Oswald bringing up the reserve on Cole's right and the late arrival of the 20th foot under Colonel Ross (delayed at sea) doubling forward first into action against the French skirmishers on Cole's exposed left and then wheeling to the right and open devastating fire upon Digonet's now isolated 23rd Legere.
The result of the battle was now a forgone conclusion Reynier concentrated his forces on his now steadfast 42nd Line infantry before covering his retreat using his cavalry and skirmishers according to Fortescue "had the British possessed but two or three squadrons of cavalry, hardly a man of Reynier army could have escaped".
So ended the battle of Maida, returning to the beach, Stuart remained inactive for 48 hours (although he did allow his troops by brigades to bathe) before pushing Oswald's brigade forward to take Monteleone. Here the garrison of three hundred and fifty seven surrendered along with other exposed detachments. On the 21st of July the Castle of Scylla capitulated this was swiftly garrisoned by fresh British troops while the rest of the army re-embarked for Sicily.
This battle prooved the superiority of the line in firepower versus the column. A lesson the British would use more and more in the peninsula campaign as well as in 1816, at Waterloo