19 November 1809
Encouraged by a lack of cooperation between the British and their Spanish allies in the aftermath of Talavera, the newly crowned King Joseph Bonaparte of Spain, along with his trusted “advisor” Marshal Soult, pressed an offensive against a Spanish army twice the size of their own force. The battle was met along a dried river bed on the outskirts of the Spanish town of Ocano.
The Spanish defenders were smartly arrayed two lines deep with forces of light horse covering each flank. A large force of militia was positioned as a reserve, behind the town. The French deployed the bulk of their light cavalry against the Spanish right and arrayed the crack Dutch, Hessian and Polish regiments to assault the Spanish center. The battle was joined in a huge clash of light horse near the olive groves along the Spanish right. The Spaniards fought valiantly but 2 of their 3 brigades were routed and the French turned to regroup and threaten the Spanish baggage trains. A lone brigade of Spanish horse forced a brigade of Poles into square and delayed their assault against the Spanish center. The Hessians and Dutch were met with an unexpectedly fierce series of volleys and were forced back in disorder. They regrouped and advanced again, only to be met with determined resistance. The Spanish fought on bravely throughout the afternoon, contrary to all expectations, but finally they gave way as the quality of the French troops began to tell. As their center gave way, the Spanish generals saw the writing on the wall and ordered a general withdrawal, hoping to fight again another day. The French, victorious despite being outnumbered 2 to 1, held the field, but at a great cost in crack troops who lay strewn about the field. Joseph Bonaparte’s schemes would meet yet another delay…
We used 15mm figures from Heritage, Old Glory and AB and the town of Ocono was portrayed with Miniature Building Authority models. The game was played with Napoleon’s Battles rules. Special thanks go to der Fitzer, who ran home at the last minute to retrieve his French army!