Author Topic: Valls - 25th February 1809 : Part 1  (Read 2714 times)


  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 59
    • View Profile
Valls - 25th February 1809 : Part 1
« on: January 30, 2013, 02:38:20 AM »
The Battle of Valls (25 February 1809)

In late 1808, the Spanish still controlled most of Catalonia except for the besieged city of Barcelona. French General Gouvion Saint Cyr was sent to first relieve the city and then gain control of the rest of the province.

After a series of victories (Rosas, Cardadeu, the relief of Barcelona, Molins de Rei), General Gouvion found himself in early 1809 in a difficult situation. Having marched south to lay siege to the city of Tarragona his troops had exhausted the countryside of food and were diminishing in number due to the constant attacks made by guerrilleros (called somatenes in Catalonia) on his foraging parties. His communication with Barcelona and France was also regularly cut by the somatenes and he learnt that Spaniards were trying to tempt the French commander of Barcelona to deliver the city to them in exchange for money. Furthermore, two Spanish armies were slowly closing in on his army to surround it completely !

Instead of waiting for this to happen, he decided to strike first from his central position. He left troops to slow down the Spanish right wing and attacked the center and left, strongly dispersing it at Igualada on the 17th of February.

The Spanish commander in chief Reding, of Swiss decent, with the Spanish right wing went north to try to gather as many fugitives as he could from this first encounter.

In so doing, Reding’s army barely missed by a few miles Gouvion’s army marching south to meet him. Soon realising that the French were in the process of cutting his line of communication with Tarragona, Reding turned round and marched south. Gouvion, now aware of the situation, separated his army in two to try to cut Reding’s retreat by one of the two main roads leading to Tarragona.

Instead of taking one of these two roads, Reding chose a smaller mountain road and made a night march to turn the French left wing under Souham. His initial plan was to avoid the French completely and make it to Tarragona before they could stop him. Early next morning however, he ran into Souham’s force by surprise near the town of Valls.

Seeing his superiority and wanting to assure his retreat towards Tarragona unmolested, Reding had part of his army cross the Francoli River to push Souham back. Faced at first with a similar force, Souham’s men put up a strong resistance. Reding had to make a quick decision: either he should continue his retreat and have the present force facing the French play the role of a rear guard, or he should fully take advantage of the situation by rapidly engaging all his troops in a pitched battle in order to beat the French before the rest of their army could arrive on site. He decided to stay and fight but only slowly did he transfer the rest of his 15,000 men across the river to push Souham’s 6000 men across the plains west of Valls. If he had taken this decision more quickly and had crossed the river with all his men at once, the element of surprise would have had more of an impact against the French, who could have routed faced with an opponent more than twice their size…

Gouvion sent a message to his right–wing commander, General Pino, more than 10 km. away to inform him that he was presently under attack and for Pino to march his troops towards Valls as fast as possible.

At noon seeing the improbability of beating the French with his tired troops which had marched all night in the cold, Reding ordered them back across the Francoli. He calmly arranged them in a good defensive position, a plateau bordered by steep slopes overlooking the river, and rested his tired men. This was facilitated by the three long hours it took Pino’s division to arrive on the battlefield ! In order to try to prevent Reding from ordering a retreat before Pino’s troops arrived, Gouvion forbade his artillery to fire on the Spaniards but had his voltigeurs come as close as possible to pester and tempt them to fight.

Another night march by the Spaniards could have had them reach the safety of Tarragona’s walls the following day. It was already late afternoon and as the days were short, Gouvion had to act quickly if he wanted to defeat the Spanish army. He decided to attack it as he had already done so in his previous victories: massed columns against Spanish lines, but in a more hurried manner.

As soon as Pino’s troops arrived, Gouvion ordered his two infantry divisions into 4 brigade-sized columns; one crossing at a bridge and the other three through shoulder-deep fords. They were to then march straight towards the enemy without stopping to fire. Gouvion had already seen his troops in one of his previous battles waver during a musket duel with the Spaniards. To avoid this and gain time, his troops were to come into close combat as soon as possible.

Despite the cold water, the steep river banks and the murderous fire of the Spanish infantry and artillery, the French troops, more than half of which were in fact Italian, kept moving forward. Gouvion, who had waited for the right moment, finally ordered the 24th Dragoons to charge across the bridge, as his infantry columns were about to come to grips with the Spanish lines.

The Dragoons attacked the Spanish left flank which collapsed. Reding quickly drew troops from his front line to reinforce the Spanish left. When the French columns finally reached the top of the plateau, the weakened Spanish line collapsed in its turn. It took the French a half-hour from the beginning of their attack to repulse the Spanish from their strong position.

During the rout, Reding received several Dragoon sabre wounds from which he died several weeks later in Tarragona. The Spanish lost 1500 casualties and just as many prisoners, as well as their baggage and artillery. The French lost 1000 casualties.

The Spanish army of Catalonia no longer existed but the cities of Gerona, Tarragona and Tortosa were still to be subdued, as well as the vast bands of somatenes, before the French could consider Catalonia under their control.

There are two options to this scenario: a standard game between two or more players (part 1) or a “semi” campaign game (part 2) needing at least two players and a referee.

The standard game:

The following links, to copy and paste in your navigator window, show detailed maps of the battlefield:

The Francoli River is passable only at the 4 fords and 2 bridges, 1 BW in width for the bridge, 2 BW for the fords. Artillery can only cross on the bridges.

The slopes of the plateau on which the Spaniards are positioned are Rough Terrain. The plateau itself is normal terrain and has no incidence on movement.

The Spanish troops are deployed in line, as specified on one of the maps. They can change formation if they wish anytime during the game. The French are placed in 4 columns as shown. They can also change anytime during the game. The game has only 12 turns to take into consideration the limited time left for Gouvion to win the battle which restarted at 4 PM with the arrival of Pino’s troops.

The victory conditions follow the standard breakpoint rules. Furthermore, at the end of the game, count one extra level of victory (from drawn to marginal to decisive) for the army which has the most unbroken units completely on the plateau, slopes excluded.

The table width should be such as to permit the French infantry in March (and then in Attack column within musket range), to reach the top of the plateau by game turn 5; the French moving first. This corresponds to 16 BW from their set-up position to the edge of the plateau and leaves them 3 turns before the end of the game to push the Spaniards back and climb onto the plateau.

The Spanish army: Commander in Chief: Teodoro Reding

Major general Castro (5650 men):

Granada Regt. (2 batt.): Reliable/Exp/SK1
Santa Fe Regt. (2 batt.): Reliable/Exp/SK1
Antequera Regt. (2 batt.): Reliable/Exp/SK1
Wimfpen, Reding, Tarragona Light inf. Regts. (+): Reliable/Exp/SK1

Major General Marti (7380 men):

Brigadier general Saint Ellier:
- Wallon and Spanish Guards (+): Valiant/Exp/SK0
- Baza Regt. (+): Reliable/Exp/SK1
- Almeria Regt. (+): Reliable/Exp/SK1
- Soria Regt. (+): Reliable/Exp/SK1

Brigadier general Iranzo:
Saboya Regt. (+): Reliable/Exp/SK1
Lliberia Regt. (+): Reliable/Exp/SK1
Palma Volunteers and Tercios (2 batt.): Unpredictable/Amateur/SK1
Provincial Grenadiers of Castille (4 batt.): Unpredictable/Amateur/SK1

Brigadier general Casteldosrius:
Dragoons of Santiago (4 fig.): Shaky/Ama/Pursuit
Hussars of Granada (4 fig.): Shaky/Ama/Pursuit

Foot battery: Med/3 cannons

Some weak infantry battalions have been merged into one “normal Lasalle” sized one for game purposes.

The French army: Commander in Chief: Laurent Gouvion Saint Cyr

Général de division Souham (6100 men):

 Général de brigade Dumoulin :
1er Léger (4 batt.): Reliable/Exp./SK2

Général de brigade Vergès:
42ème Ligne (4 batt.): Reliable/Exp./SK2
24th French Dragoons: Reliable/Exp/Shock/Pursuit

Général de division Pino (7100 men):

Général de brigade Mazzuchelli:
1st Italian Light Regt. (2 batt.): Reliable/Exp./SK2
2nd Italian Light Regt. (2 batt.): Reliable/Exp./SK2
1st Royal Italian Chasseurs: Shaky/Ama/Pursuit

Général de brigade Fontane:
4th Italian Line Regt. (2 batt.): Reliable/Exp./SK2
6th Italian Line Regt. (2 batt.): Reliable/Exp./SK2
7th Italian Line Regt. (2 batt.): Reliable/Exp./SK2
Italian “Napoléon” Dragoons: Reliable/Exp/Shock/Pursuit

Foot battery: Med/4 cannons