Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Captain Richard Morris, Royal Navy, stood at the stern of the launch contemplating the Rifleman in the pre-dawn light. The man was tall and lean, scarred from some previous encounter. Many people thought he had risen from the ranks, given his lack of gentlemanly qualities. Few would have suspected that the man was from one of the more wealthy families of Liverpool. Richard Keen, his superior officer, was that man. In his Lordship, the Duke's wisdom, he had placed this ogre in command of the expedition. Morris felt that he was the much more qualified officer. And, in many ways, he was. As the Spanish coast appeared off the bow of the boats, he wondered what the day might bring...
The raiding force had been sent to rescue the Condesa de Corona, the beautiful widow of the former Spanish General, the Count de Corona. After his death, and subsequent arrival of the 3rd Hussars at her villa, she had been forced to seek protection from their Regimental Commander, Colonel Ruffin. The Colonel had been more than willing to enjoy the fruits of the relationship, and shared freely with her the details of his daily activities. This position placed the Condesa in a perfect position to pass information to Lord Wellesly, the Duke of Wellington, through his intelligence network. The system worked for a while, until she was betrayed by the Priest during a confession. A scheme was concocted by the priest to falsify the Count's will, and place her in a convent, thus allowing the church to gain the former Count's lands and wealth. She was abducted and brought to the convent at St. Cristobal. The priest had not counted upon the vengefull force of Colonel Ruffin. Ruffin learned of the betrayal and the plot, and vowed to capture and torture the Condesa in the name of the Emperor, and his honour. Colonel Ruffin has launched a force to track down and capture the Condesa at St. Cristobal. His hussars ride at the head of a column from the 9th Legere under Colonel Jean Paul Renault. Together, they will push aside any pesky guirillas, and capture Wellington's spy.
As the column came into St. Cristobal, they were shocked to see British troops had arrived at the town ahead of them. When the lead troop of Hussars, under Lieutenant St. Cyr rode into town, they were immediately fired upon by a group of Riflemen from the 5/60th, hiding behind a stone wall. The first volley killed two horses, and shocked the hussars to some degree.
Lt. St. Cyr was not to be stopped by a few pesky riflemen. He ordered the Hussars to increase their speed and charge at the "grasshoppers" behind the wall. The charge hit the wall, when the hussars under St. Cyr realized that this was a very bad decision. The riflemen would have better than 4:1 odds against them, given the nature of the cover in front of them. The Hussars became very disordered and retreated back into the advancing column.
At about this time, Renault's 9th Legere began to deploy to engage the forces in the town. His Voltigeurs and Caribiniers moved to clear an orchard on his right, while he formed the Chasseurs to the left of the main road, hopefully leaving room for his one gun to deploy, once the hussars get done milling around, after running scared from the few riflemen behind the wall.
As the chasseurs unmasked from the protective terrain of the orchard, they realized in shock that two light guns were set up to rake their line as they advanced toward the town. The cunning British commander had what appeared to be a light naval gun crewed by a few sailors and another light gun on a field carriage crewed by a few artillerymen. The army field gun fired immediately, and killed two men right off, causing some discomfort in the group, which had yet to form with the other chasseurs on the left of the line.
As the Caribiniers advanced on the extreme right they heard British soldiers on the hill above them. Though Sgt. Laroux, the section's leader couldn't understand Les Anglais, he thought that they were arguing with the nuns at the convent. The perceptive Sgt. Laroux immediately led his men to face the hill, and to advance toward the convent. As soon as he had done this, a squad of British Light Infantrymen appeared at the top of the slope. It was all about who would get to fire first. Grasping the initiative, as fast as he could, he ordered his men to present their fusils. The bearskin wearing caribiniers fired a tearing volley that created much confusion in the small detachment of light infantry, immediately killing a soldier, and shocking the rest. The British soldiers shook it off, quickly. Apparently, the officer in charge of the detachment (Lt. Smythe, raised from the ranks - not a gentleman), had ordered the men to "Stand Fast". The British Light Infantry then responded with a crushing volley, killing three of Sgt. Laroux's men immediately, and slightly shocking his soldiers. But, something was wrong with the British. As the men reached for their next cartridge, they could be heard saying something about a "damp squib". In the action that followed on the right of the line, Laroux continued his advance against the British, as he could see in the distance a squad of British Grenadiers leading a lady away from the convent. A large bearded man with an axe, and a sergeant with a pike were leading her away, carrying her over walls and around obstacles. This must be the spy!
Renault's advance on the left was stalled by the accurate fire of the light guns and the riflemen. His voltigeurs were taking refuge behind a stone wall in front of the orchard, and were beginning to pick off the pesky grasshoppers a bit at a time. The Chasseurs had finally formed into a line, and were volley firing into the stone wall, where the riflemen were hiding. He noticed a rifle officer behind the wall was hit by a well aimed shot from one of his chasseurs. "Mien Gott!", yelled the rifles officer, as he fell, badly wounded. He noticed that a few of the riflemen used the opportunity to slink off into a nearby building to begin looting. This would be the decisive moment to advance! Renault ordered the drummer to beat the advance, but something was wrong. His men were marching into a freshly plowed field. they struggled to advance in the muddy soil. Another cannon ball ripped through his formation, killing more men. While contemplating his options he felt an enormous pain in his shoulder. Blood was streaming down his shirt. Badly wounded, Colonel Renault handed over command to his executive officer, Major Francoise Gallant.
Seeing the predicament that they were in, Gallant ordered a general advance, and finally got his gun into action to support the movement. Still, the men fought through the field slowly. At least the gun to their right gave them hope. The riflemen, with the loss of their officer, and starting to take losses began to fall back from the wall, firing their rifles like muskets, "tap loading" as they went.
Lieutenant St. Cyr, of the 3rd Hussars, saw this as an opportunity to regain his honour. Seeing that the riflemen had abandoned thgeir cover, he started his men toward the wall. Another rifles officer (Major Keen), had arrived on the scene to salvage the situation, but he appeared to be stalled in decision. The hussars must seize the initiative now. St. Cyr brought his men to a trot and a gallop, and still the riflemen only fired ragged volleys and fell back. The new officer seemed overwhelmed with the situation. Charge!!!
The hussars hopped the wall easily, crossing a small open area, where the riflemen stood, unloaded to receive the charge with their sword bayonets. St. Cyr's men exacted a terrible revenge upon the riflemen, cutting the riflemen down.
As St. Cyr surveyed the scene, he saw a couple of navy launches rowing out to sea toward a frigate in the distance. A well dressed lady stared from the stern of one of the boats. A navy Captain and an Army major stood offering their swords to him, with a few riflemen, sailors and light infantry arround them. Major Gallant, a deeply devout man, advanced to accept the surrender. The wounded rifle officer, a Captain Schultz, from Westphalia, was brought to the regimental surgeon, as was Colonel Renault. The battle ended with the British having successfully rescuing their spy, the Condesa de Corona. Colonel Ruffin was furious.
This was a wonderful Sharp Practice game, played on Saturday, 26 June 2010, at my house in Jefferson, Maine, with my friends Tom F. of Rapid City, South Dakota and Dean E. of Coopers Mills, Maine. It was a wonderful game! We had a few issues with some events of the game, it still being a rather new set of rules to us. But, we had much enjoyment. Unfortunately, Dean had to leave slightly early, and was not present for the final charge of the 3rd Hussars, but it was his grenadiers, under Sgt Kelly, who had extracted the Condesa from the convent, and escorted her back to the launch.