Don Diego Vega has been a thorn in the French side since the Dos de Mayo. The last piece of intelligence sent by the infamous Major Manque, just before his recent capture by guerillas at Corazón Sangrante, revealed that Don Diego was visiting his mother at her country estate. Capitaine Eugène Javert of the 69e Ligne has hastily assembled a force to arrest Don Diego. However, the 33rd Foot are in the vicinity and one of their companies, along with some riflemen under the command of Lieutenant Stephen Harpe, is also approaching Donna Vega’s residence.
In the cold dawn light, Javert leads some voltiguers up to the east wall of Donna Vega’s residence, supported by some dragoons.
Lieutenant Stephen Harpe swarms over the west wall, followed by his small but doughty band of riflemen. The lady of the house informs them, somewhat frostily, that there is a door they could have used. Fortunately neither Harpe nor his riflemen know any Spanish beyond ‘vino‘, ‘señorita‘ and ‘¿Cuánto cuesta?‘, which last they mispronounce shockingly.
Voltigeurs push forward in the centre while a small column of French infantry comes marching down the road. A French canon is deployed to cover the British approach.
The 33rd move up in two small columns to the south of the stables. Some of their light bobs occupy the stable yard, fling open the gates and fire upon the small group of skirmishers they see. The French are a bit startled but unhurt.
Harpe’s men struggle through the vines. ‘¿Por qué no usaron la puerta?‘ demands Donna Vega of her nonplussed son.
As if in answer, Voltigeurs burst through the gateway and pour fire into the riflemen. It’s hard for them to tell green jacket from green vine though and the effect is desultory.
The French column makes good time down the road and forms line to face the 33rd as they emerge from behind the barn.
Javert’s voltigeurs come over the wall and fire a ragged volley which sees Lieutenant Harpe reel and collapse into the vines. Exchanging fire, the riflemen dash into the villa as the dragoons attack the north door.
French and British skirmishes shoot it out at the stables while the main bodies advance.
The French line shoots first.
The voltigeurs who are shooting it out at the stables kill the British corporal and, emboldened, take the stable yard at the point of the bayonet.
Bowler’s redcoats press on into cannon and musket fire.
The long range volley has good effect on the French. Captain Bowler’s men may not march quickly but their shooting is good.
The Fight for the house has been desperate. Although leaderless, the riflemen have withstood shooting from three sides and assaults from both dragoons (who have quit the field) and Javert’s voltigeurs (who have lost over a third of their number). But with every assault, their numbers have diminished and Javert rallies his men for a final attack.
The remaining small handful of men in green fight tooth and nail, but as the French force their way through the windows, they reluctantly abandon the house and slip away, two dragging the wounded Harpe from where he lies amidst the vines.
With Don Vega captured (and goodness knows what fate awaiting his aged mother and young niece, not to mention the donkey), Captain Bowler of the 33rd, realising his redcoats are too few and too far to interfere, orders a retreat.
Victory to the French.
Next episode: Saving Don Diego.