I have now posted a scenario and orders of battle for this battle, my first project for the Dining Table Napoleon. This is based on a long process of research. I am particularly pleased with the orders of battle, which are much better that the mediocre stuff that is usually published, especially for the French. Of course, it just a best guess based on triangulating incomplete information – but that is what wargamers need!
This is one of the most important battles of the Peninsular War, and marked the end of French rule in Spain, though they continued to occupy some parts of the country after that. Strangely, though, it gets very little coverage compared to many other Peninsular battles. There is no book in English dedicated to it beyond an inevitably light-weight Osprey. Many accounts that do appear are a bit garbled. The best in English remains that of Charles Oman in his Peninsular War series – though I have not read Michael Glover’s account. However it clear from works written after Glover and referencing him that he does not come up with much that is new.
The best work is in fact in French, by Jean Sarramon, published in 1985. This makes better use of French sources, and provides a pretty convincing detailed account – if a little pro-French. I am not a fluent French speaker, but I did manage to translate the key sections of the book.
As a wargame, Vitoria is a bit one-sided, but nevertheless it is interesting. It is fought down the table rather than across it, with battles on two fronts eventually converging. I have also designed an alternative scenario, injecting more uncertainty into proceedings by allowing both sides to change their battle plans, and for the French to potentially have some more forces available. I haven’t played this – but I hope to get the opportunity someday!
Also included in orders of battle are forces in the vicinity that did not take part on the day. For the French these include Foy’s division, and a nearby brigade (Birlet’s) that was available to him. A firmer order from the French command would have ensured these forces’ presence – and Wellington probably expected them to be there. In addition I give details of Clauzel’s force, whose presence was never a real possibility – Wellington timed his attack to specifically to pre-empt him. On the Allied side I give rather unsatisfactory information on the Spanish general Giron’s forces, who arrived too late, and Pakenham’s British division,
It is too much to hope that anybody else will actually play this scenario with my rules – but I hope it is of value to any players wishing to do their own version of this interesting battle.
Apologies for the poor quality of the picture accompanying this post – which comes the game I played last November. The original looks fine on my screen. It seems to be an issue with the way WordPress displays pictures inserted into posts.