Stuyvesant

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Getting married, moving and a new job?!? You don't do things by half, now do you? ;) Congratulations on all the good news.

I enjoyed the update. Etienne's facing a major demotion, but he's right: it's either accepting the demotion, or facing a firing squad. Unless, of course, the newly-delivered bad news forces Boney to turn to his trusted and most gifted general... A nice cliff you left us dangling from. :)
 

Seelmeister

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Congratulations on your upcoming marriage and new job!

Thanks very much, and thanks for your comments.

Getting married, moving and a new job?!? You don't do things by half, now do you? ;) Congratulations on all the good news.

Fortunately we have been planning this for the last year, so we are fairly organised, but I’ve still found myself with very little free time! Thank you, I’m really looking forward to the changes, an exciting time.

I enjoyed the update. Etienne's facing a major demotion, but he's right: it's either accepting the demotion, or facing a firing squad. Unless, of course, the newly-delivered bad news forces Boney to turn to his trusted and most gifted general... A nice cliff you left us dangling from. :)

Yes, Etienne’s time in the spotlight, at least on the Russian front, seems to be over. However, there are still a few years in which the fortunes of France could change. The Emperor is currently in a position of strength, with his enemies banished, but you’re quite right that should this change, he can hardly afford to neglect his most effective fighting force.

The decision to broaden the story out and explore Napoleon’s relationship with Etienne was heavy influenced by your helpful comments, so thank you for that :)
 

spinoza013

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Just discovered this AAR, it looks great so I look forward to reading it all. Coincidentally, I'll be on holiday in North Uist next week ( My Mother's family were Macdonalds) so I'll have time then.

Good to see my Avatar in action :)
 

BBBD316

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Seel, have just finished catching up and must say this is really on fo the most engaging AAR's going.

Hope after you exciting changes that you can continue.
 

Seelmeister

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Just discovered this AAR, it looks great so I look forward to reading it all. Coincidentally, I'll be on holiday in North Uist next week ( My Mother's family were Macdonalds) so I'll have time then.

Good to see my Avatar in action :)

Thank you, and welcome! I hope you enjoyed the trip to Uist!

Very much been enjoying this AAR. Keep it up! And congrats on the life changes!

Thanks! Glad you've been enjoying the AAR, I have certainly been enjoying writing it.

Seel, have just finished catching up and must say this is really on fo the most engaging AAR's going.

Hope after you exciting changes that you can continue.

Thank you for the kind words, and welcome!

A small update - I have unfortunately not had access to all the screenshots for this AAR until today - they were on a USB drive which I unwittingly left before moving. However, I have them now, and plan to bring a new update sometime in the next week. Thank you all for your patience!
 

DensleyBlair

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Hey Seelmeister,

Just to say that this is a fine AAR you have here, and that I'll be following along from here on in. My only regret is that I didn't sign up sooner! ;) Congratulations on the marriage and move as well. Hope everything's going well!
 

Nick Giordano

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I love the idea of following an individual general instead of the state. It's a really clever idea that makes reading it more meaningful as we follow Etienne! It is that because why I nominate you to the WritAAR of the Week award! You've earned it, congrats!

Now perhaps we can get an update? Haha. :p
 

Seelmeister

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Hey Seelmeister,

Just to say that this is a fine AAR you have here, and that I'll be following along from here on in. My only regret is that I didn't sign up sooner! ;) Congratulations on the marriage and move as well. Hope everything's going well!

Welcome along Densley! I'm sorry that you have arrived while I've been so inactive. I hope that you've been able to catch up with Etienne's adventures during the lull.

I love the idea of following an individual general instead of the state. It's a really clever idea that makes reading it more meaningful as we follow Etienne! It is that because why I nominate you to the WritAAR of the Week award! You've earned it, congrats!

Now perhaps we can get an update? Haha. :p

Thank you very much Nick, I am humbled to have been nominated for such a prestigious award. Unfortunately I will not have access to my pc until next week, bbut once I do I'll get right to work on chapter 13.
 

Buckingham

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What an incredibly well written narrative. Bravo! I have read this is one sitting and am positively mad at you for not having more for me to read!

Congratulations on all the things happening in your life, I hope the new year brings you happiness and success.
 

DensleyBlair

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All caught up – cracking stuff, Seel! Thoroughly enjoyable, and I am very much looking forward to more – especially considering the cliffhanger on which you ended the last chapter.
 

Merrick Chance'

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This AAR is fantastic! I must ask, are you planning on doing other AARs in this style? Because it seems like a thoroughly pleasurable to play and write AARs like this
 

Seelmeister

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Chapter 13 – The Plains of Spain and the Duke of Wellington[1]

cgjy.jpg

The northern winter battered Spanish town of Lérida, circa November 1815

Etienne, Carteaux, Klein and Souham were the sole occupants in the small tavern. French soldiers usually had the effect of frightening away the locals, and such a large contingent had created a siege mentality in the town. It was rare indeed to see any clothing besides the French military blue on the streets.

Since the end of the Austrian campaign the four effectively banished leaders had come to accept their fate. Remaining at the head of the Cavalerie d'Italie was certainly more than could have been hoped for. The threat from Carteaux, Klein and Souham to refuse to acknowledge any leader besides Etienne forced the Emperor's hand – with dissatisfaction following the high profile defeats of the Grande Armee any suggestion of a rift among the General's could bring down Napoleon's leadership. Nevertheless, Spain was hardly the centre of world affairs.

Spain are currently fighting on the seas against Great Britain – the Brits are desperate to reclaim Gibraltar and have routed the Spanish fleet, but appear to lack the manpower to win on land. Stuck in this deadlocked conflict, there is little threat eminating from over France's southern border.

The longer France remained at peace, the more Napoleon would secure his power base. The four generals agreed that it seemed certain that the Emperor, thwarted once at Vienna, would ultimately try to remove Etienne once more. More than likely, the second attempt would be a far more brutal purge in which Carteaux, Klein and Souham were almost certain to be caught With this in mind, it was felt that there were only two possible actions open to them; a quiet retirement, or a quick resumption of hostilities to keep the Emperor and his lakies busy.

An incident was not difficult to engineer. A few soldiers disguised as members of the peasantry snuck across the border and did not struggle to stir up a confrontation, which was guided into French controlled territory and resulted in nine deaths. From there, Etienne felt justified in marching toward Zaragoza.

68n8.jpg

The Emperor had not signed off on this conflict, but with French deaths to answer for Etienne felt justified in his initiative

The first act of the war would be to establish a base of operations across the border. The small town of Zaragoza boasted a depot, and lay just south of the Cavalerie's position. With the fortress of Tarragona in French hands from the previous war, the road to Guadalajara and Madrid lay wide open to Etienne and his army.

At war with Europe's greatest power, the Spanish attempt to raise a banner which will unite the very many foes of France, but their own diplomatic position is hardly a strong one. The British are again attempting to retake Gibraltar, and the Spanish fleet have been heavily beaten on the seas. The British may not have had many successes in the last two decades, but the Royal Navy still rules the waves.

After a few days of marching, Zaragoza looms on the horizon. The town is not particularly well defended, possessing only the most basic of fortifications and a skeleton garrison of 2,500 militia. The Cavalerie quickly surround the town, forming a tight perimeter and preventing any hope of escape. On the 8th December, an impatient Etienne orders the assault. The towns walls cannot withstand the bombardment for long, but just to be sure a mine was placed at the main gate. Soon three breaches are formed and the French guards stream into the town. With so few defenders, even a relatively small town cannot be fully garrisoned, and the Spaniards are unable to resist the waves of French infantry pouring into the town from multiple directions. Almost instantly, any sense of order among the defenders evaporates, and what resistance is offered comes only from isolated pockets.

Less than 24 hours after arriving at the walls, the town is in French hands. A mere 15 Frenchmen have lost their lives, which over 1500 defenders died in the chaos, albeit mostly during the bombardment and detonation of the mine. Etienne, not willing to let any time pass, ordered the Cavalerie to rest the night and be ready to depart at dawn.

71u6.jpg

The storming of Zaragoza

Progress was quick, and within three days Etienne arrived in the forests of Guadalajara, an even smaller town with just 1,000 defenders. The dense woodlands did offer the town some protection, however, and only a small proportion of the 53,000 French could be deployed in the siege. Nevertheless, but early January 1816 a breach was formed, and the town surrendered on the 4th. Etienne was now just a few days from Madrid, and still there were no signs of a Spanish relief force.

After taking a days rest in Guadalajara, Etienne convened a council with his generals, and received a dispatch from France. The powers of Europe had largely rejected the Spanish overtures, with only Denmark honouring her alliance. Great Britain remained at war. Etienne, however, was ordered to pass Madrid for the time being, and advance west to Portugal where there was concern over a Spanish force wreaking havoc with the French vassal. While diverting from the advance to Madrid was disappointing, the trek across the Spanish heartlands would offer the best chance of an engagement with the enemies land forces. It was thought that the Spanish army numbered just 40,000 men, and so a decisive victory could quickly end the conflict. Etienne ordered the Cavalerie to begin preparations to travel immediately.

16n0.jpg

The route to Portugal would see Etienne march past Madrid and south of the Sistema Central

Within two weeks, the Cavalerie had reached the Portuguese border. A Spanish force of 10,000 had been spotted leaving Almeida and retreating to the northern fortress of Cuidad Rodrigo, a massive star fort which dominated the Spanish-Portuguese border. Around 3,000 men had taken ill, or sustained injuries on the march, and so with an almost full complement of men Etienne was ready. The order was given to march north and engage the Spanish army.

The mountainous countryside was slow to traverse, however, and the by the time Etienne's scouts approach the Spanish fort the hostile army had long since melted away, crossing the river Porto. Etienne opted to march south through Almeida to try and catch his foe in Portugal. By the 27th January, the Spanish were sighted again, in possession of the small town of Guarda. As soon as the scouts reported the Spanish position Etienne ordered a detachment of cavalry to ride north hard, and prevent any retreat into Spain. The main body of the Cavalerie marched hard, and within a day had closed on the Spanish position.

The Spaniards were comprised almost entirely of militia, and were under command of Jose Palafox y Melci. Souham, at the head of the French cavalry, rode down the Spanish riders who attempted to flee the battle, and corralled the remainder of the Spanish army while Etienne advanced. Battle was joined early on the morning of the 29th January.

Souham and Carteaux harassed the Spanish from the flanks, using French cavalry to keep up a constant raid. Casualties on both sides were light, but the Spanish were forced closer and closer to the waiting masses of French infantry. Souham ordered his light infantry to advance and engage with the Spanish skirmishers, and the vastly superior range of the French guns was immediately apparent. Discipline broke in the Spanish lines after just a few volleys were exchanged, and with no avenue of retreat open the army dissolved into chaos. After just five hours, Etienne restored calm on the field by accepting the Spanish surrender. Over 1,000 lay dead, at the cost of just a few hundred French lives, and the 8,500 were deprived of their arms and soon scattered in all directions.

27fw.jpg

The Battle of Guarda was not much of a contest, but neutralised one of the larger units of the Spanish army which had been harassing the forces allied to France

With the threat to Portugal lifted, Etienne marched back towards the Spanish heartlands. The garrison town of Salamanca lay to the north west of Madrid, and would be the perfect base to launch further operations from. A number of allied armies had now entered the Spanish theatre, which was leading to a fairly rapid occupation of much of the county. Isolated units of Spanish militia had been reported, but they were neither large enough nor (many) enough to constitute a threat.

By early February the Cavalerie arrived outside Salamanca, and Etienne ordered a tight perimeter to form. Though larger than Zaragoza or Guadalajara, the fortress at Salamanca was minimal, and only 2,500 men were available to defend it. As the French engineers set about forming breaches in the defences and the French artillery wrecked havoc on the fortifications, the towns garrison saw the writing on the wall and surrender on the 16th February.

With the town secure, it was time to return to Madrid and establish control of the Spanish heartlands. The march was uneventful, with a few small bands of militia being encountered and forced to surrender. The Cavalerie remained at above 85% of their pre-war strength, the mild Iberian winter had not taken too heavy a toll. In late March, the city walls of Madrid were approached. Etienne received a messenger, who informed him of the latest rumours internationally. There was concern that a new coalition would form to come to the aid of the Spanish. Thus far, only Piedmont had joined Denmark in actually declaring war against the French, but rumours abounded that the Austrian's were attempting to broker a peace between the Spanish and the British which would allow these powers to cooperate against the greater threat. If the British were to join, it would be a matter of time before Austria, Prussia and even Russia would also throw their weight behind Spain.

While he contemplated these developments, Etienne left the Cavalerie with orders to starve Madrid into surrender. It would not be wise in the current climate to needlessly throw away men. In any event, the months of war against the British and French had left supplies perilously low in many Spanish towns, and on the 11th April the capital surrendered to Etienne.

eqj1.jpg

The capture of Madrid was not really a turning point, but rather a solidifying of French control of the north of the country

While French forces spread out and occupied the Spanish country side, it seemed that the rumoured of a concerted international effort to challenge French dominance were not merely diplomatic chit chat. In May the Duke of Wellington landed on Spain’s northern coast with almost 68,000 men, and occupied a small patch of territory. No declaration of war followed, but with the British now having almost as many men in Iberia as the French it was clearly of concern. Orders were received from Paris instructing Etienne to proceed north and shadow the British, and more French troops would be available to him in due course.

There was a buzz in the Cavalerie's camp; here was an opportunity to finally engage with the British! One of the few armies not yet bested, one of the few flags not mounted on the camp walls, and led by their formidable commander. Etienne immediately made preparations to march north to Burgos. The mood was buoyant, no one doubted that they marched to war. British scouts were encountered on the march, and it was apparent that they were nervous about the outbreak of hostilities.

b0oh.jpg

The large British force grabbed four northern towns and then partially withdrew to the waiting Royal Navy ships

By the 27th May the Cavalerie arrive immediately south of the British position. One of their three forces have withdrawn back onto ships in the Bay of Biscay. Etienne decides that now is the time to strike. Immediately north lie a British force of 17,000, with a larger force of 28,000 lie further north. The French advance, and engage with the British 10th Army at Reinosa on the 30th May.

Sir James Henry Craig was alerted to the French movement, and formed a defensive position on the edge of a forest. Etienne massed his 46,000 men and advanced. Early on the morning of the 30th May French skirmishers engaged. The heavy foliage limited the effectiveness of the light infantry, but after suffering mild losses the Brits withdrew. As the British rifles returned to the main front line Souham ordered a massed bombardment from the centre. The British, sensing an opportunity to wound the French, had ordered a quick raid from their cavalry, not expecting the French to follow up after the skirmish so quickly. 3,300 horsemen charged over the field, which convulsed as the French missiles found their mark, tearing through the charging cavalry. The charge faltered almost immediately faltered.

In response, Sir John Cradock ordered the light infantry to return to the field and screen the cavalry. Klein, sensing an opportunity, ordered the French cavalry to the field to harass the retreating Brits. Etienne and Carteaux, however, are concerned that a draw out battle will mean more casualties than necessary, and further will offer the larger British force to the north the opportunity to join the battle. The French guards and line infantry begin to advance, while artillery shell the British who march to meet them. A mere ten hours after first sighting the enemy, Etienne accepts the surrender of Sir James Henry Craig. Over 10,000 British lie dead in the field, while French casualties were relatively light at just over 1000. This was, however, just the precursor. The main British force, under the command of the Iron Duke, awaited to the north.[2]

f5r4.jpg



[1] Although Arthur Wellesley only became the Duke of Wellington on the 3rd May 1814 and after his success against the French in the Peninsular campaign, it is a far more impressive title for this chapter!

[2]Note that his popular nickname 'The Iron Duke' was not used until long after his military career was over, due to his political resolve. It came into widespread use after his decision in 1832 to fit his house with metal shutters to defend against rioters.

 

DensleyBlair

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If this we're taking place anywhere other than a battlefield, Wellesley's appearance would not fill me with confidence, it mut e said. His convictions were shaky at times.

Great to see another update, in any case. Even better now that I'm all caught up and fully aware of what's going on. :)
 

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What an incredibly well written narrative. Bravo! I have read this is one sitting and am positively mad at you for not having more for me to read!

Congratulations on all the things happening in your life, I hope the new year brings you happiness and success.

Thank you for the kind words, and welcome to the AAR! I hope I can atone for the lack of updates now, I've played enough for one more update following today's post, and should get this AAR finished in the coming weeks

All caught up – cracking stuff, Seel! Thoroughly enjoyable, and I am very much looking forward to more – especially considering the cliffhanger on which you ended the last chapter.

Thank you Densley. I'm glad to be back and should be more regular with updates now.

This AAR is fantastic! I must ask, are you planning on doing other AARs in this style? Because it seems like a thoroughly pleasurable to play and write AARs like this

Thank you Merrick, and welcome! I'm not sure if I will do anymore in this style, but I will certainly finish Etienne's story.

If this we're taking place anywhere other than a battlefield, Wellesley's appearance would not fill me with confidence, it mut e said. His convictions were shaky at times.

Great to see another update, in any case. Even better now that I'm all caught up and fully aware of what's going on. :)

Thanks once again Densley!
 

Stuyvesant

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Ooh! The Peninsular War! Now there's a chance to really test your mettle (assuming that in-game Wellington is as impressive as real-life Wellington - the general, not the politician, as DensleyBlair points out).

Rather cynical way of Etienne to provoke a war, but hey, he's a soldier, he has to make the best use of the tools at his disposal, right?
 

Seelmeister

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So glad this has continued. One of my favorites; I stayed subbed the entire time wishing for it to start back up.

Thank you very much, I've very glad you had the patience to wait so long for an update.

Ooh! The Peninsular War! Now there's a chance to really test your mettle (assuming that in-game Wellington is as impressive as real-life Wellington - the general, not the politician, as DensleyBlair points out).

Rather cynical way of Etienne to provoke a war, but hey, he's a soldier, he has to make the best use of the tools at his disposal, right?

Great to see you're still around Stuyvesant. Since the start of the game I've been looking for an opportunity to pit the Cavalerie against the British, and Wellington's invasion was too promising to pass up. I'm hoping the AI is as gungho as Etienne - some British reinforcements could make this theatre very interesting indeed.

Glad you are back! We don't see that many AAR's for MotE but this one is excellent. Great update, interesting to see how this Peninsular War goes.

Thank you very much L. Jzn. Koster, I agree it is a shame that activity seems to have dried up in the MotE forums for the time being, but I'll certainly do my best to bring some more regular updates.

Thank you all for the kind words, it was great to return to this AAR and immensely humbling to see so many readers still around. I've played some more and hope to have the next update ready in the near future, ideally I'll aim to bring you roughly a weekly update until Etienne's tale is told.