At our October Games Day we re-fought the Battle of Almanza with 10mm figures using Black Powder rules. Almanza was one of the most decisive engagements of the War of the Spanish Succession. Despite the Duke of Marlborough's successes at the battles of Blenheim and Ramillies, Almanza ensured that securing the Spanish throne for the Hapsburgs became a near impossibility. It is also notable as "probably the only battle in history in which the English forces were commanded by a Frenchman, and the French by an Englishman." The Allied commander, the Earl of Galway was a French Huguenot and the Franco-Spanish commander, The Duke of Berwick, was the illegitimate son of James II (and incidentally the nephew of The Duke of Marlborough).
This was a very one-sided battle, so I devised a "what-if" scenario, allowing Galway's army to link up with the Earl of Peterborough's forces advancing from Catalonia. This made the Austrian claimant for the throne of Spain (Charles III) the nominal commander-in-chief of the allied army, advised closely by the Earl of Peterborough.
Between the pooled resources of various club members we were easily able to field the British, Dutch, Catalan, French and Spanish units required. Nobody had any Portuguese however, so we had to substitute Bavarians.
The two forces deployed in the traditional manner of the day, infantry in the centre with the cavalry on the flanks.
The Western end of the Franco-Spanish line
On the western side of the field a ravine made the French hold their cavalry back, but in the open ground to the East they threw their horse forward. In the centre the Franco-Spanish infantry held their position (they were meant to be defending after all).
The Allied army advanced. In the East the Portuguese cavalry led a rush to meet the advancing French, in the West the first line of cavalry headed for a narrow gap between the ravine and the French Infantry and the second line advanced to the ravine to try and find a way across. The infantry lines plodded forward, but the British and Dutch advanced rapidly out pacing the Portuguese on their flank.
In the East the first lines of cavalry crashed together, although the Portuguese came off worse they performed much better than they had historically and inflicted heavy casualties in return. With units routing, retreating and following up the front lines became a disorganised mess. As the respective commanders tried to rally their units the second lines moved through to engage, with the same effect. This flank remained in utter confusion for the rest of the battle as officers rallied units and threw them back in piecemeal until all four brigades had broken due to their losses.
A very confused cavalry melee
On the Western flank the front lines clashed in the narrow gap and fought inconclusively for a time. The Allied second line managed to cross the ravine but the French second line moved across to face them. After heavy fighting the allied horsemen fled, a broken brigade. As the French now crossed the ravine in turn, the Allied first line, who had pushed their opponents back, moved to block the French from out-flanking the allied infantry. Another fierce fight left the French victorious and the last Allied cavalry brigade fleeing the field.
Allied cavalry advancing
The remains of the Allied second line fall back
In the centre the British and Dutch closed with the French lines, whilst the Portuguese came on more slowly. The intention was to get into musket range and blast the French front line away with their superior firepower, then overwhelm the second line with superior numbers. However the Allies lost control (Blunder roll of 6) and the first line, instead of engaging in a firefight, charged with the bayonet. Some reached the French, but some didn't. Unsupported, the foremost units were thrown back, with one battalion routing away. Then the French concentrated their fire on the reminder of the Allied first line.
The Allied second line attack....
Compare everyone else's neat lines with the British brigades!
With the infantry attack stalling and his cavalry failing, Charles III decided to lead his Catalan infantry, held in reserve, out into the open East flank to try and catch the French in a pincer attack with the Portuguese. Unfortunately for him, events on the other side of the battlefield decided the result before they could close with the enemy.
The Catalans advance (the shaken French dragoons in front of them will not slow them down).
A final view of the Eastern flank, in the bottom corner the Catalans are starting their advance
At this point the British commander should probably should have halted the second line and rallied the first line behind them, but seeing his cavalry starting to melt away and expose his flank he opted to throw the second line in and assault the French. They did rout one French battalion, but otherwise fared no better than the first assault and fell back in confusion. The British were now in a total mess, with the first and second lines intermingled, the officers desperately trying to rally units as the French stood and poured in musket fire and close range cannon shot. With mounting casualties the British front line morale failed and the brigade broke. Now with 5 out of their 9 brigades broken the Allies had no option but to quit the field leaving a French victory.