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.
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.
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.
The British come swinging down the road. Lieutenant Wolfe Whistler in command of the Rifles.
Boulet’s gun opens up on Sergeant Havers’ Rifles who have taken position on the hill where the church stands, but to little effect.
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.
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.
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.
A long range musketry duel ensues between Pringle’s guardsmen and Boursouflure’s grenadiers.
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.
El Hombre Sin Nombre leads more guerillas onto the balcony where they fire at the rest of De Rière’s men.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
El Hombre Sin Nombre is stunned by a French musket butt and falls back into the courtyard. Recovering, he tries again!
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.
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
- Recovering from Wounds – 1 Guardsman, 3 Riflemen
- Dead – 4 Guardsmen, 1 Rifleman
- Wounded – 1 Rifleman
- 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
- Recovering from Wounds – 2 Guerillas
- Dead – 2 Guerillas
- Wounded – 1 Guerilla