Clash at Granja de Grasa

Flushed with the French success in forcing the Río de la Cocina Laga, Lieutenant Boursouflure and his grenadiers of the 69e Ligne spearhead the advance into Cerro Manteca. In their path lies Granja de Grasa, an estate owned by Don Elver Galarga, who just happens to be the father of the infamous guerilla, Señora Adora Heras. The señora’s ally and would-be paramour, the notorious individual known only as El Hombre Sin Nombre has therefore directed a force of the 1/3rd Guards, commanded by Captain & Lieutenant-Colonel William Sillie, to intercept the French before any harm befalls Don Galgara or his property.

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Don and Señora Galgara
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Time for a Smoke and Glass of Vino in the Viñedo Gargala

Voltigeurs under the veteran Lieutenant de Rière, who is doubtless still aching from his many recent wounds, and the rather unsavoury Sergent Serin, are the first to arrive, but they are quickly overtaken by a gun under the command of Lieutenant Boulet who dashes forwards in the best spirit of the French artillery.

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Boulet Avance le Canon!

The 1/3 Guards reach the small farm of the aged and diminutive Viuda Pato, who is here seen watering her cow as the guards march past.

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The Guards

Lieutenant Whistler brings his rifles up at the run as Sillie manoeuvres the guards to face Boulet’s rapidly advancing gun. El Hombre Sin Nombre and his motley band assemble to the rear.

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The Allies Deploy

Lieutenat Boulet’s dash is beginning to look foolhardy as the voltigeurs struggle to keep up.

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The Gun Forges Ahead!
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And the Grenadiers Arrive

De Rière’s voltigeurs can’t coordinate themselves properly and end up losing two men to Whistler’s riflemen – a fusilade that also kills an artilleryman and sees Boulet’s gun crew wheel sharply and retire.

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The Rifles Engage
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Boulet Recule!

As Serin and his men occupy the ground floor of the Galgara house, El Hombre Sin Nombre’s occupy the garden and approach the west windows. The Guards shake out into a firing line and the French grenadiers bash on up the road.

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Surround the House
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Form an Orderly Line
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Avant!

Sillie orders the Guards and Rifles to advance and Whistlers men fire some rather ineffectual shots as they do so that merely hasten the retreat of Boulet’s gun. They take some return fire which throws Sergeant Havers’ men into a bit of confusion.

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The British Advance
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The Voltigeurs Return Fire

Boulet’s gun has churned the dirt road to the point where it is making slow going for the column of grenadiers.

Always keen to resort to the dagger, and mindful of impressing the man who he hopes will become his future father-in-law, El Hombre Sin Nombre orders his guerillas to assault the house. The Spanish are thrown back but Sergent Serin falls, mortally wounded, while holding the door. While a man of poor repute and vile deeds, he died a heroes death in the service of the emperor.

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¡Ataque!
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¡Retirada!

Boulet gets his gun crew into some semblance of order on the flank of the French line. The gun must still be loaded. Rifles and Voltigeurs exchange fire with the French getting the worst of it but the handful of rifle shots hitting home isn’t nearly enough to stem the French advance.

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Skirmish Duel
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The French Advance!
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French Attack Column

Under constant harassing fire from the guerillas, the remnant of Serin’s voltigeurs quit the house. The don and his señora have a grandstand view of the unfolding battle.

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Les Voltigeurs se Retirent

The Rifles fall back through the line and Sillie calmly gives the orders to present and fire.

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Rifles Retire
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Presented Fire
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Some Disorder
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Voltigeurs Retire

Boulet gets his gun into action, firing canister into the left of the British line. only one man falls, but there’s some confusion that the crisp Sergeant Pringle endeavours to bring under control.

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Le Bang!
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Canister Hits Home

While his sergent-major and sergent restore order to the ranks, Boursouflure decides to give the British a taste of their own medicine and the French fire a nicely controlled volley that fells several guardsmen.

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Have Some of Your Own Medicine!
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Give Them Another, Lads!

The Guards are superbly drilled, of course, and they get another well controlled volley in before the French can reload. ‘Three rounds a minute will do very nicely indeed, my fine fellows,’ says Captain & Lieutenant Colonel Sillie.

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Third Time Pays For All

But Sillie’s rather smug satisfaction is short-lived. Lieutenant Boursouflure somehow manages to exhort his men to fire two volleys before the Guards can reply. The French grenadiers’ shooting has been more deadly than the of the British Guards – and so it continues!

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The Grenadiers Volley!
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And Volley Again!
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The Guards’ Line is Broken!
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Denouement

Lieutenant Whistler’s riflemen pick off a couple of the French gunners as they cover Pringle’s men. El Hombre Sin Nombre bids Don Galgara farewell and makes a swift exit.

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The British Withdraw

Captain & Lieutenant Colonel Sillie watches the triumphant French advance.

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Captain & Lieutenant Colonel Sille Bids the French Au Revoir

Vive l’Empereur!

 

The Butcher’s Bill

BRITISH:

  • Dead – 2 Guardsmen
  • Wounded – 6 Guardsmen 2 Riflemen
  • Captured Wounded – 2 Guardsmen
  • Missing – 1 Guardsman

FRENCH:

  • Dead – Sergent Serin, 3 Grenadiers, 4 Voltigeurs, 1 Gunner
  • Wounded – 1 Grenadier, 4 Voltigeurs, 1 Gunner
  • Recovering From Wounds – 1 Voltigeur, 2 Gunners

SPANISH:

  • Dead – 1 Guerilla
  • Wounded – 2 Guerillas

 

 

 

 

 

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Forcing the Río de la Cocina Laga

L’Enfant Chéri de la Victoire, Marshal Masséna’s bold plan to turn Wellington’s left flank by pushing the 69e Ligne over the Río de la Cocina Laga and into Cerro Manteca has foundered at the outset. Serious reverses at Fuexu and the Viñedo Tripa de Pudrición had left the French seriously short of food – a state of affairs remedied by a descent upon Hueco Soñoliento, though at some cost in men and matériel.

Even fortified by good beef and pork, Capitaine  Pépin is reluctant to try and force his way to the bridge at Fuexu again because the 1/3rd Guards are reported to now be there in some strength; however a patrol of Polish Lancers under the stolid but dependable Sierżant Iwo Lacowicz has revealed way via a ford usually only practical in the summer months, but now unseasonably low. Mustering the men of the 4e Compagnie and, taking in tow some Voltigeurs under the experienced but morally dubious Sergent Serin, Pépin makes a dash for the ford.

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The Ford

As Pépin’s column nears the ford, he and his men are delighted to meet a rather dishevelled Lieutenant de Rière, who has just escaped from the clutches of the notorious guerilla, known only as El Hombre Sin Nombre. However, Pépin is considerably less delighted to discover that de Rière is hotly pursued. Drums beating, the 4e Compagnie race for the river.

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Who is El Hombre Sin Nombre? Surely it is not Enrique the Mild-Mannered Potato Peddler?
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Old Nosey Sniffs About the Abandoned Viñedo
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En Avant!

Lieutenant de Rière, recently lacking one of his ears and now thirsting for revenge leads the voltigeurs across the river.

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French, By God!

Lieutenant Connard, leading the main column is hot on his heels.

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¡Emboscada!

Of a sudden, a motley group of ruffians, led by an Amazonian figure resplendent in a (slightly bloody) uniform of a French officer of hussars, burst from the nearest windmill and fire into the voltigeurs! It is La Señora Adora Heras, the subject of many lurid  and frightful imaginings amongst the men of the 69e Ligne.

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Embusqué!
And no sooner have they fired than the guerillas dash back into the windmill, after a little unseemly pushing and shoving at the door.
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La Señora Adora Heras
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De Rière Advances Towards the Windmill
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Serin Presses On

And the drum beats the pas de charge!

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The Column Fords the River

The bold pressing by Sergent Serin has already denied the Rifles an excellent firing position from the high windows of the Vinery (Chosen Man Grundy had had the opportunity to take that position but his men were too busy looking for wine).

As Captain the Honourable Tom Blunt is fond of saying, ‘In the nick of time will do nicely,’ and so he is. He directs some well-aimed shots at Serin’s little band, wounding the sergent and bringing down two other men. ‘Merde Alors!’ is the shout.

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Captain Blunt Arrives
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Serin Injured!

 

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The State of Play

The rest of the French column arrives. Can they press on to victory?

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The French in Force

Meanwhile, de Rière begins to surround the windmill. La Señora Adora Heras abuses him from the doorway, promising to remove more than an ear when he is captured again . . .

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Surrounding the Windmill

Old Nosey’s snarling and biting forces Grundy’s men from their ransacking and into position to flank the column, which is quite an impressive sight.

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Grundy Among the Peach Trees
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Grundy’s View

Another volley from Blunt’s men sees Serin scuttle for the river.

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Serin Recule!

Lieutenant Connard presses on and Serin’s men wade up to their necks to get back to the other side.

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But those behind cried “Forward!”
  And those before cried “Back!”

Second Lieutenant Valentine Moon, annoyed not to find Grundy there already,  gets some men into action from the high windows of the Vinery.

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Moon Fires

A Frenchman falls and there is some confusion at the head of the column.

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Column Under Fire

Sergent-Major Froussard sorts things out with a stentorian bellow from the rear and Lieutenant Connard moves his column inexorably onwards.

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Ploughing On!

De Rière continues the stand off at the windmill but sends some of his men to interrogate Enrique, the mild-mannered potato peddler who denies all knowledge of El Hombre Sin Nombre, but offers to sell some potatoes at very reasonable prices.

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Enrique is Questioned

Serin’s men are routed by shots from Grundy’s riflemen and it is a very sorry and bedraggled bunch of voltigeurs struggle from the river and run.

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Unstoppable?

Voltigeurs secure the road. El Hombre Sin Nombre must retire and surely La Señora Adora Heras is trapped!

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Securing the Road

Blunt’s men advance into the copse of trees and fire on Connard’s column, which is beginning to deploy, but is it too little, too late? Where is Sergeant Fiddler? What has become of El Hombre Sin Nombre?

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The State of Play

La Señora Adora Heras tells her men that she at least will not die like a rabbit in a trap, and so of course their honour as Spaniards compels them to follow her. They fall with knives and, in the case of Adora, sabre upon De Rière’s men.

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¡No moriré como un conejo en una trampa!

The struggle is brief and furious. Both leaders are wounded – something that is happening to the unfortunate French lieutenant with monotonous regularity – but it is the voltigeurs who give way.

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¡Victoria!

In a raging fury, La Señora whirls about and charges the remainder of the voltigeurs who, unprepared, facing the wrong way, attempt to flee, but they are caught.

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Too Slow!

The fight is horribly one-sided and the French do not die well.

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Butchery

The lone survivor throws himself on La Señora’s mercy. He is kept alive to provide some evening entertainment. Poor fellow.

Now both French columns press on relentlessly. British rifle fire is, for once, proving surprisingly ineffective and Sergeant ‘Kid’ Fiddler is nowhere to be found. Blunt orders Bugler Tooting to sound ‘Retreat’.

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The Way Ahead Secured
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Over the River
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Closing In
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Time to Retire
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Endgame

The French finally succeed in getting across the river! Poor Lieutenant de Rière must now surely be the most wounded man in the entire French army. Adora Heras performs heroics and lives to fight another day. The rapist Serin and his accomplices receive just deserts. A poor day for the Rifles though.

 

The Butcher’s Bill

BRITISH:

  • No Casualties

FRENCH:

  • Dead – 7 Voltigeurs, 1 Fusilier
  • Wounded – Lieutenant de Rière, Sergent Serin, 4 Voltigeurs, 1 Fusiliers
  • Captured – 1 Voltigeur

SPANISH:

  • Recovering from Wounds – 2 Guerillas

 

 

Engagement at Hueco Soñoliento

After successive defeats at Fuexu and Viñedo Tripa de Pudrición, the men of the 69e Ligne would be on their chin straps had they not been reduced to eating them. The Rio de Cocina Laga must still be forced but a good meal (and perhaps a bottle of wine or two) is now of more pressing importance.

Lieutenant Boursouflure rouses the men of the grenadier company and, with the assistance of Lieutenant De Rière and some voltigeurs and a gun under the command of the recently arrived Lieutenant Boulet, heads off towards the tranquil village of Hueco Soñoliento. The Cantinière Isabelle Bitche, well beloved by all the men of the 69e Ligne, accompanies the small column.

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Lieutenant Boursouflure
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Cantinière Isabelle Bitche

Unbeknown to Boursouflure, Hueco Soñoliento is the headquarters of the notorious guerilla known only as El Hombre Sin Nombre. He and his men have taken residence in the house of  Señor Pinchazo while awaiting the arrival of another notable guerilla, Señora Adora Heras. To further complicate matters a small force of the 1/3rd Guards and 1/95th Rifles under Captain & Lieutenant-Colonel William Sillie is also marching on the village. Sillie has orders to make contact with the local priest who, he is assured, will be able to put him in touch with the enigmatic El Hombre Sin Nombre.

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El Hombre Sin Nombre
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Captain & Lieutenant-Colonel William Sillie of the 1/3rd Guards

Voltigeurs  under the rather unsavoury Sergent Serin lead the way into the village. The residents flee in panic but one woman is not quick enough and finds herself bundled into a toolshed by Serin and his men where a very sordid incident ensues. C’est la guerre, mais ce n’est pas édifiant.

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Déployer le Canon

The British come swinging down the road. Lieutenant Wolfe Whistler in command of the Rifles.

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The British Arrive
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Grenadiers En Avant!
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Le Boom!

Boulet’s gun opens up on Sergeant Havers’ Rifles who have taken position on the hill where the church stands, but to little effect.

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The Battle Begins!

Whistler’s men engage the French right flank, which comprises some grenadiers under Sergent-Major Boumdier (Sergent Serin’s men are still busy in the toolshed just in front of Boumdier’s left flank). Lieutenant Boursouflure has boldly advanced the bulk of his grenadiers in the centre where they are being harassed by Havers’ rifle fire. The guards are out of sight behind the hill. On the French left, Lieutenant De Rière and a dozen voltigeurs have reached the wall of Señor Pinchazo’s small estate and captured a rather disgruntled pig that was snoozing beneath an olive tree.

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Rifles Sniping
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The Guards Form an Orderly Line
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The Villagers Seek Refuge

Sergent Serin’s men finally emerge from the toolshed and, after buttoning their trousers, add their fire against Lieutenant Whistler’s riflemen, who are now feeling distinctly outnumbered.

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French Volleys

One villager, trying desperately to save his pigs, was caught in front of the first volley that Boursouflure unleashed against the Guards, who were emerging from behind the hill under the command of Sergeant Pringle – a very crisp-looking individual – while Sillie went off to interview the priest. The villager mniraculously escaped unharmed but two of his precious pigs were slain. La guerre c’est l’enfer.

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The Guards Reply

A long range musketry duel ensues between Pringle’s guardsmen and Boursouflure’s grenadiers.

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Long Range Musketry
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Le Choc!

Half a dozen voltiguers enter the courtyard in search of chickens. They receive a rude surprise as the guerillas emerge from the house to fire with blunderbusses. No Frenchmen are hurt but the noise and smoke of the discharges have considerable effect and they recoil towards the doorway.

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El Hombre Sin Nombre

El Hombre Sin Nombre leads more guerillas onto the balcony where they fire at the rest of De Rière’s men.

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La Belle Bitche!

The grenadiers are getting the worst of their exchange with the guards but Isabelle Bitche, well-beloved by all the men of the 69e Ligne, hands out free brandy to restore the men’s spirits. Enthused they deliver a crashing volley that severely discomfit’s Pringle’s previously crisp firing line.

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Une Vache Capturée

Meanwhile, Serin captures a cow. Lieutenant Whistler has been forced to retire, the firepower of the French right being too much for his small band, even when reinforced by Señora Adora Heras and her entourage. While Sergent-Major Boumdier presses forward to threaten both the British left flank and some chickens, Serin rounds up the stray cow, which will feed the company for a week.

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At the Church

Captain & Lieutenant-Colonel Sille has not been idle. Unfortunately it turns out that Latin as taught at Eton is not quite as that used by churchmen in Spain, and the French cannon, for want of better targets, has begun firing on the church, so communicating with the priest has been more difficult than he anticipated. Nonetheless he has gathered that the guerilla leader he seeks is in the large house. Wishing the somewhat perplexed priest,  ‘Die enim bona,’ he sets off to restore some order to his faltering guardsmen.

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La Garde Recule! Les Voltigeurs Fuir!

Sillie is only just in time. The relentless French volleys have forced the guardsmen back and quite ruined their previously nice neat line. But thing have not gone all in favour of the French. El Hombre Sin Nombre’s guerillas have chased the voltigeurs out of the courtyard. But there’s no doubt that Boursouflure has gained the upper hand.

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Spanish Stand-Off
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Adlante!

While some of his men push through the doorway to fire into the remaining voltigeurs with blunderbusses, wounding Lieutenant De Rière, El Hombre Sin Nombre takes his dagger in his teeth and leads the rest over the high wall to come to close quarters.

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Thrown Back!

El Hombre Sin Nombre is stunned by a French musket butt and falls back into the courtyard. Recovering, he tries again!

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To the Knife!
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¡Victoria!

The fight is savage and brief. Gallant to the last, Lieutenant De Rière gives up only when he is knocked senseless.

And now the tide has turned in favour of the Allies. His blood up, El Hombre Sin Nombre falls upon the remnant of fleeing voltigeurs and then the gun crew, who are forced to abandon their piece.

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¡Sin Piedad!
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Rapide! Tourner le canon!
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Trop Tard!

Alarmed by the unexpected and utter collapse of his left, Boursouflure orders his men to retire with their haul of one cow, one pig and several chickens. It is no victory for the French but it is enough for a feast.

 

The Butcher’s Bill

British:

  • Recovering from Wounds – 1 Guardsman, 3 Riflemen
  • Dead – 4 Guardsmen, 1 Rifleman
  • Wounded – 1 Rifleman

French:

  • Dead – 3 Grenadiers, 4 Voltigeurs, 2 Gunners
  • Wounded – Sergent-Major Boumdier, 1 Grenadier, 4 Voltigeurs
  • Captured Wounded – Lieutenant De Rière, 2 Voltigeurs
  • Captured – 4 Voltigeurs, 2 Gunners
  • Missing – 1 Grenadier

Spanish:

  • Recovering from Wounds – 2 Guerillas
  • Dead – 2 Guerillas
  • Wounded – 1 Guerilla

 

Encounter at the Viñedo Tripa de Pudrición

Having received a savaging at Fuexu, Pépin’s company of the 69ème Ligne have fallen back in search of much-needed supplies. But although short on food and water, the ever-aggressive Pépin, discovering that Captain Blunt’s small force of riflemen has followed them, decides to try once more for the crossing of the Rio del Cocina Laga. Unbeknown to the French, Blunt has been reinforced by a 6-pdr under the command of Lieutenant Arthur Thunderman. 

With Sous-Lieutenant Hugo de Nigot captured, Victor Bouffon, newly promoted from the ranks steps in to fill the vacancy. Although only half the company are fit for service, the rest reorganising under Lieutenant Connard, the voltigeur company have sent some men to reinforce Pépin under the command of the capable Lieutenant Jacques de Riere.

The sun is burning hot as the French march along the dusty road that leads past the Viñedo Tripa de Pudrición and Pépin’s men are flagging from want of water. But the captain drives them on ferociously, telling them that they can drink their fill at the Rio del Cocina Laga. 

At the vineyard, Blunt and his small band lie in wait.

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First Shots

Serjeant ‘Kid’ Fiddler starts the shooting while Lieutenant Thunderman gets his gun into position in the shade of a handy peach tree.

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First Casualties

A ripple of rifle shots and Sergent Corniaud falls stunned as the ball that blew the brains from a man further forward dents his shako.

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A Voltigeur’s View
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Grasshoppers

Second Lieutenant Valentine Moon brings his riflemen into action.

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Waiting

Captain Blunt has taken possession of the vineyard from the Spanish owner – ‘I’m awfully sorry, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to occupy your property’ – he gets a frosty response.

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Skirmish Screen

The voltigeurs begin firing.

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Tirez!

With the voltigeurs now covering the flank, the main body of the French near the road junction.

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Wounded!
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Pépin Deploys

Under heavy fire, Pépin deploys.

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Brandy?

A Spanish pedlar arrives and is eager to sell the thirsty Frenchmen brandy from the bottles carried by his mule.

Encouraged by the prospect of alcohol, Sous-Lieutenant Bouffon leads the rear of the column up.

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Poor Sergent Serin!

 

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Fire!

Thunderman’s cannon continues to play on Pépin’s ragged line while the rifles take a steady toll.

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Bouffon Avance!

Pépin may have received a mauling but Sous-Lieutenant Bouffon drives his men forward regardless, weathering canister shot and getting them into line. The brandy doubtless helps with this.

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Leur Donner un Autre!

Sous-Lieutenant Bouffon unleashes a rather ragged volley that kills a gunner, and then another far more devastaing one.

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Fiddler Wounded! (Old Nosey is Fine)

Fiddler sees three of his men fall and a ball passes through his calf. His Caledonian expletives keep his remaining men in the fight. Lieutenant Thunderman’s men are reduced to a single gunner who runs screaming from the fight while Thunderman gamely drags the gun to safety.

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Le 69ème Recul!

But Bouffon’s small success has come too late, Pépin’s men are on the verge of total collapse. Ordering the retreat, the bloody but defiant Pépin shakes his hat in rage as he is foiled again.

The Butcher’s Bill

British:

  • Recovering from Wounds – Sergeant Fiddler, 3 Riflemen
  • Dead – 3 Gunners

French:

  • Dead – 3 Voltigeurs, 3 Fusiliers
  • Wounded – Capitaine Pépin, Lieutenant de Riere, Sergent Serin et Sergent Corniaud, 2 Voltigeurs, 12 Fusiliers

The Fuexu Affray

Captain the Honourable John Thomas Blunt and his handful of gallant Riflemen from the 95th Regiment of Foot have arrived in the Spanish village of Fuexu just in time! Blunt’s faithful hound, The General (known to the men as Old Nosey), has detected an advancing French force.

Beyond Fuexu is the key bridge over the Rio del Cocina Laga, which in French hands will unhinge Wellington’s left flank. Outnumbered more than four to one, Captain Blunt must halt the French in their tracks.

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Fuexu

The picture above shows the key tactical features of the battlefield. The French, entering on the road lined by tall cypress trees, are attempting to exit by the road to the right of the church, which leads to the aforementioned bridge over the Rio de Cocina Laga. Blunt has established his headquarters in the church, where his men have made a second breakfast of some wine and some rather thin wheaty biscuits they found lying around in the apse. Old Nosey is on the road near the vinery buildings where Moon and a dozen riflemen are ensconsed.

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Old Nosey On Guard

Major Manque, a French officer of daring repute, has just completed an assignation with a mysterious Spanish lady known only as La Ubrera. Increasingly uneasy with what La Ubrera has imparted to him, and noticing the unexpected arrival of Blunt’s riflemen, he lurks near the village outskirts.

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Major Manque Outside La Casa de la Ubrera

A French staff officer has ridden a little way ahead of the column and sees the road is clear (apart from some rather scruffy looking mongrel gnawing on chicken bones). He orders the advance!

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Staff Officer Surveying the Ground

French voltigeurs eagerly scamper forwards. A dozen head into olive groves to the left of the road, six under a sergeant into the vines to the right. After a while, a steady chomping of fruit can be heard.

Captain Blunt is an aristocratic gentleman to his (currently rather muddy) boots. But he knows a good ruse de guerre when his serjeant suggests one, and he has had half his men lie down on the muddy hillside (his own pelisse is ruined anyway, so it doesn’t matter). A whispered exchange:

Captain Blunt (urgent): Tooting, your bugle!

Rifleman Tooting (indignant): I’m not, sir!. (hurt): I wouldn’t ’til you give the command, sir.

Captain Blunt (with a heavy sigh): Sound, Skirmishers May Engage, Tooting.

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Blunt Springs an Ambuscade!

And to the merry notes of Tooting’s bugle, a dozen rifle shots ring out as one, startling the Voltigeurs in the vines and bringing to an end their spirited debate on the merits of Prieto Pecudo over Tinto de Toro.

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More Shocked Than Hurt

‘Kid’ Fiddler urges the men to reload speedily, and they do, knowing that the last man to fire will be the serjeant’s next sparring partner. Their next shots are more ragged in timing but deadlier in effect.

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Independent Fire Commences
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This Time, More Hurt Than Shocked

Two Voltigeurs will pick grapes no more beneath a Spanish sun.

The first half of the French main body arrives under the popular Sous-Lieutenant Hugo de Nigot (whose uncle of course fought in the Saindoux Campaign of 1757 in the Americas). They swing down the road in the shade of the cypresses singing (perhaps somewhat prematurely) La Victoire est a Nous.

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Enter the Conscripts

 A mournful howl from Old Nosey brings Second Lieutenant Moon and his men tumbling from out of the Vinery, their jackets bulging, the contents chinking gently. They cover the road and, encouraged by the increasingly vociferous dog, begin to shoot into the densely packed French ranks.

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Out, Lads. Fight Them in the Open!
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Shocking Stuff, Unexpected Rifle Fire

Meanwhile, Blunt’s men continue to fire from the hill at the Voltigeurs. Two more of the French lights fall and their sergeant decides that he’s had quite enough of this particular game of soldiers and orders them to fall back.

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Third Time Pays for All
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Se Livrer à la Pédérastie avec Cela Pour un Jeu de Soldats

The balance of the French company has now arrived under Capitaine Pépin. Rather than get drawn into a bottleneck at the road junction, the good captain takes his men east, across country, aiming to turn the English flank. He urges the voltigeurs out of the olive grove and, replete, they make their way towards the house where Major Manque is still adjusting his dress.

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The French Press Forwards

Sergent Grondement (by astonishing coincidence, his great-uncle also fought in the Saindoux Campaign of 1757) challenges Major Manque.

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Vous Y! Qu’est-ce Que Tu Fais? Oh, Désolé, Monsieur . . .

And Sous-Lieutenant de Nigot leads his men bravely into the rifle fire.

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En Avant!

The column deploys and opens fire, wounding two of Moon’s men.

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Tirez!

The popular de Nigot is wounded, disheartening his men. But the brave sous-lieutenant takes his sword in his teeth to avoid crying out with pain and waves his men on.

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Shooting French in a Barrel

Blunt realises that Grondement’s voltigeurs are getting near to his flank and, trusting that Moon will sensibly retire whilst firing before the French column, takes his men to deal with the threat.

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Take That, Froggie!

But young Moon’s blood is up and he sees the column is in some disorder. He gives the order to fix swords.

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Fix Swords!

And charges! Ten men against forty-three!

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Rout

The sight of the rifles charging out of the smoke is too much for most of the young French conscripts. The front ranks hold their ground until Sous-Lieutenant de Nigot is brought down – a snarling Old Nosey dashes between the Frenchman’s legs and Rifleman Knox smashes his rifle butt into the stumbling officer’s face, sending him to the ground. The column breaks, half a dozen French cut down as they turn to flee, and a mad sauve qui peut ensues.

With half his force in incontinent retreat, and seeing the consternation on the faces of the rest, Capitaine Pépin decides discretion may be the better part of valour.

As a final blow, a shot from Rifleman Penfold, the company marksman, wounds Major Manque.

The French are repulsed and Wellington’s flank secured. Blunt’s men drink his health three times three from their looted bottles of wine.

The Butcher’s Bill

British:

  • Recovering from Wounds – 4 Riflemen

French:

  • Dead – 3 Voltigeurs, 4 Fusiliers
  • Wounded – Major Manque, 1 Voltigeur, 4 Fusiliers
  • Captured Wounded – Sous-Lieutenant de Nigot, 1 Voltigeur, 3 Fusiliers
  • Captured – 3 Fusiliers
  • Missing – 1 Voltiguer, 5 Fusiliers

 

Prelude to Battle

Captain the Honourable John Thomas Blunt was in a foul mood, morose and irritable. Rain had fallen since dawn and his new pelisse quite ruined by the thick coating of malodorous mud it had acquired following an unfortunate slip whist passing through a farmyard; Blunt hoped it was mud anyway. But it was not the soiling of his pelisse, nor the incessant rain that had dampened Blunt’s spirits; rather it was the unhappiness of his lot as a gentleman who had quite properly purchased his commission and subsequent promotions, and who looked forward to purchasing further promotion as soon as he had served the requisite time in his current rank. Now, blast it, the mess was half-full of ex-rankers, terrible fellows with no table manners and uncouth accents. Perhaps he should have joined the cavalry like dear pappa had wanted, but Tom Blunt had heeded the stern advice of his friend and old fag-master, George Brummell, ‘Green is the very colour for you, Tom, and you would be most ill-advised to even think of red or blue for a jacket or, Heaven forfend, trousers.’

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Captain the Honourable John Thomas Blunt

So the 95th it had had to be (the 5/60th Foot were far too full of Germans with their horrible efficiency and rather mad stares). And so here he was, the very model of a dashing young rifle captain, forced to share his mess with the illegitimate offspring of butchers and fishwives and who knew what else.

Here to break Blunt’s glum reverie was Second Lieutenant Valentine Moon slithering and splashing across the road to the tree beneath which Blunt sheltered. Blunt would always remember his first encounter with young Moon beneath the new-fangled gas lamps near the old Dog and Bell. Moon was looking pretty blue.

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Second Lieutenant Valentine Moon

‘Bad news, sir,’ said Moon, wanly. ‘You know Old No . . . I mean The General . . . went ahead earlier? No sign of him back yet.’

Blunt’s heart sank even lower. The General had always shown himself very friendly towards the aristocratic Blunt, but was notorious for showing little affection for the common soldiers, who nonetheless regarded him as a kind of talisman – they’d never been beat when Old Nosey, as they vulgarly called him, was on the field.

‘Thank you, Moon, go and get yourself some breakfast. There’s some cheese that Rifleman Wallace found lying about in that farm we passed.’

Moon perked up noticeably. He had a great fondness for cheese, consuming so much of it that Blunt often thought he must be made of the stuff. As his lieutenant went to eat, Blunt called for his serjeant, Alan Fiddler – ‘Kid’ the men called him because of his formidable expertise in the Noble Art

‘The General’s got himself lost, serjeant. Round up the men. We must go and find him.’

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Sergeant ‘Kid’ Fiddler

‘Aye, sir.’ The Presbyterian Scot caught Blunt’s glum expression and made a sympathetic face,  ‘Dinna fret ower yon yin, sir; there nivvir wis a Frog yet who’d fetch yon. Aye, ye’ll no fickle Auld Nosey; he’ll like be bidin’ doon the wa’.’

Blunt, having taken some time attempting to digest the somewhat perplexing Caledonian idioms, decided to overlook his serjeant’s rather overly familiar way of referring to The General. One had to tread carefully around a man who’d once floored the Game Chicken and sparred with the mighty Cribb himself.

As always, Solomon Grundy was the first man to report. He had been married last Wednesday, as Blunt recalled – Grundy’s had been the highest bid for some drab of a Portuguese camp-follower – and it would be his birthday on Monday. Blunt had overheard some of the  the men wishing they could a special pudding to mark the occasion, they’d ‘duff him up proper given half a chance’. It was amazing how considerate some of the lads could be considering their dreadful manners and uncouth speech. In twos and threes, the rest came up, forming in two ranks. Not much spit and polish in evidence but clean weapons and dry powder could be guaranteed.

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Chosen Man Solomon Grundy

Five minutes later they were on the march, Moon munching his cheese. The sun came out and the men began a chant.

‘Where are we going?’ Grundy would sing.

‘Fuexu!’ the rest would roar lustily.

Fuexu was indeed the first village that they’d come to once they were over the Rio del Cocina Laga. Blunt didn’t know much Spanish, but he was pretty sure the men weren’t pronouncing the name of the place properly.

They went at the quick march, doubling five paces then marching five, then doubling again. Whenever they did this, Blunt always wished his boots weren’t quite such a snugly fashionable  fit. Pinched toes didn’t encourage a manly gait. Within the hour, they were swinging into Fuexu, up the hill where the great stone church stood gazing imperiously over the village – and there on the other side of the hill was The General. The remains of his breakfast – chicken it looked like from the bones – was strewn carelessly at his feet, and he stood pointing down the road, his very nose quivering with the excitement Blunt recognised so well. Nosey barked a curt greeting, which Blunt returned rather breathlessly. The men cheered.

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The General a.k.a. Old Nosey

The French were coming! And his old dog had sniffed them out again!

Next, the Battle of Fuexu!