Monday, May 29, 2017

After action report - Battle of Toulouse

24 April, 1814 - Evening Edition

TOULOUSE - A great battle was fought on the day of 10 April of this year between the forces of his Majesty and his allies, and those of that Corsican ogre.  Your faithful reporter was present at the battle and files the following report from the great Occitanie city of Toulouse.

The battle just after dawn with the forces of Lord Wellington drawn up north of the city.  Marshal William Beresford's corps was on the left, Spanish forces under that dandy General Freire formed the center, and Wellington's own corp formed the right.  Furthermore, Lieutenant General Sir Rowland Hill joined in the battle, assaulting the western suburbs of Toulouse, just across the great Garonne river.

Lord Wellington took ill that morning and left the bulk of the planning to his young protege, Colonel Northrup.  Northrup's plan called for a bold cavalry assault of the French redoubts across the Canal de Garonne.  The generals told him he was mad, but Northrop insisted the battle would be fought his way or not at all.  They say he had the fevers that day.

True to his word the young colonel directed the cream of his cavalry command - the Life Guards, the Dragoon Guards, and the KGL Dragoons - toward the canal and into the fury of the French redoubts.  The case shot and canister tore great holes in the cavalry ranks, but the greater the casualties, the brighter the gleam in the eye of Northrup.  By some calculations a new widow was made every thirty seconds, yet the colonel drove the men and horses forward.

Meanwhile in the center, Freire -- known as El Martillo (the Hammer) to his men -- drove his Spanish legions forward.  The attack soon became uncoordinated with some brigades halting with others driving forward.  The generals sought El Martillo for guidance, but could not find him.  Later, allegations were leveled that El Martillo was sampling different snuffs, but no proof could be found.

And on the left, the good Marshal Beresford moved his forces to support El Martillo.  As he and his troops closed on the French positions, there were reports of a wild look on the face of Beresford as he seemed to transform into a wholly different personality, and referred to himself only as Billy War Monger.

As War Monger moved to support his fellows, four French divisions fell upon him.  Strangely the French generals commanding those divisions had all been school teachers before the revolution, and only entered military service after becoming disenchanted with public education in France, and more to the point, because they came to despise their students. Their names do not translate well into English, but the closest approximation for the one that translates best is simply, Cheatin' Bob.  A wild melee ensured between the former teachers and WM leaving both sides almost completely destroyed.

El Matrillo and his Spanish divisions suffered lighter losses, but were never able to seriously threaten the French positions.

And so the main weight on the battle fell to the right and Northrup.  Against him stood two French divisions under the command of an enigmatic figure known only as "Double-D."  Time and again Northrup pressed his cavalry into the guns and canals and redoubts of the French, inflicting some casualties, but always being driven back with even higher casualties.  And while the colonel did eventually manage to seize a narrow bridgehead across the canal, he did not have the support to hold it.

As a final footnote this reporter should include a report on the results produced by Lt General Hill.  The general was in poor health this day, suffering from an infection which limited his ability to be in the field.  His young aide-de-camp, one Bloody Jim, served his general well, clearing the suburbs west of Toulouse with a relatively low loss of life.  To celebrate the tactical victory on the banks of the Garonne, Bloody Jim drank a toast to Lt Gen Hill, and then took his saber to the physician of General Hill, a young practitioner who had studied at the medical school of the university located in central Europe.  Opposing Hill was a single division of regulars, and a large provisional division of militia.  Unusual for this period, the two divisions were commanded by a father-son team.

The final casualty totals from the battle were:

4,680 cavalry
10,800 infantry
7 brigades annihilated, including all British heavy and elite cavalry

1,600 infantry

5,200 infantry
2 brigades annihilated

1,620 cavalry
13,600 infantry
4 artillery batteries
3 brigades annihilated