160 Years Later!

Sunday April 30th 2023 was the 160th anniversary of the Battle of Camerone, an event commemorated every year by French Foreign Legion units wherever they might be. In 1863 a small force of Foreign Legionnaires fought against a significantly larger force of Mexican troops until they were completely overwhelmed and the action went down as one of history’s famous last stands (you can find out more about the battle here).

I started working on forces for the Second French Intervention in Mexico in 2021 (first shown here, along with a brief historical background), lapsed a bit last year, but picked things up again at the start of 2023. My aim was to get my Mexican Republican army finished in time for a wargame on the 160th anniversary of Camerone and although I didn’t quite manage this I got enough done for a game. I set the game up and made the initial move on Sunday April 30th and then finished the game on Monday May 1st.

The game was based more around events happening on that fateful day in 1863 rather than the specific action at Camerone itself. The French were tasked with delivering a convoy containing the army’s pay chest to the main French camp, while the Mexicans’ objective was to capture or destroy the convoy. It was fairly easy to determine the conditions for a major victory for each side, but if these weren’t met then it would take a bit of subjective judgement to determine the outcome. I used Neil Thomas’ 19th Century European Wargaming rules as they can cope with a reasonable amount of troops in a short-ish game but still give what seem to me very reasonable results and a lot of action.

French forces are shown above. At the front, from left to right, are a unit of Tirailleurs Algerien (commonly called Turcos), the Foreign Legion and a Chasseur unit. At the back are the wagon representing the convoy and a Chasseurs d’Afrique cavalry unit. The wagon counts as a limbered artillery unit in the rules and has virtually no chance of surviving a charge by the enemy! The Foreign Legion were rated (appropriately) as elite and the Turcos and Chasseurs as veteran. All of the infantry were armed with muzzle loading rifles.

The Mexicans are shown above. At the front, from left to right, are a National Guard unit and two regular infantry units. The middle row contains two National Guard units and a militia unit (the latter on the right) and at the back is an irregular cavalry unit. The regulars are armed with muzzle loading rifles and have average morale, the National Guard are armed with smoothbore muskets and are classed as green troops for morale purposes, whilst the militia are armed in the same fashion but count as rabble! The cavalry were rated as dragoons, armed with smoothbore muskets and classed as green. My rationale behind the forces selected for both sides was that the better weapons and higher morale of the French would be counterbalanced by the numerical superiority of the Mexicans.

The unit shown at the left of the front row in the previous photograph is shown above in more detail. This is the most recently painted unit, finished just before the game. The flag bearer was featured in a previous post (see here) but I’ve now added another five figures wearing blue kepis to the unit. The remaining four figures are generic troops from my Paraguayan War Allied armies, since the last four Mexicans for the unit are still being (very slowly) painted!

The game layout is shown above. The French convoy is just to the right of the bridge in the centre with the Chasseurs d’Afrique (referred to henceforth as CdA to avoid confusion with similarly named infantry) forming a close escort behind it. Ahead of it are the Turcos (to the left of the bridge), with the Chasseurs off-road near the wagon and the Foreign Legion forming an advance party between the building and wall near the top right of the picture. Most of the Mexican forces have appeared at the top of the picture (north), but the militia unit is off-picture to the left of the wood shown in the bottom left-hand corner (west).

The picture above shows a close up of the convoy and the picture below a view of the Foreign Legion from the left-hand side of the board in the earlier pictures. Two Mexican infantry units are closing on the Legion’s position from the west, while another threatens it from the north!

At this point, with two Mexican infantry units to its front and one behind it, the Legion decided attack was the best form of defence and moved to their rear to engage the closest Mexican National Guard unit. Other Mexican infantry had also advanced from the north and were now engaged in a musketry duel with the French (shown below, the Legion are on the right).

The other Mexican units engaged the Chasseurs and Turcos who were now north of the road covering the wagon (shown below).

The convoy had now moved west along the road and the CdA had moved ahead of it to deter the Mexicans advancing from the west (see below).

By this point the Legion (closest to the building in the picture above) had forced back its closest enemy through effective shooting and had now turned round to close up with the wagon on the road. To the east the Mexican cavalry (on the left in the picture above) was now moving round in an attempt to cross the stream and outflank the French position. It’s worth explaining at this point that generally infantry units need to outnumber their opponents before they can make a bayonet charge, but the French are not constrained by this rule (elan and the furia francese) – poor Mexican musketry meant that they could not gain a numerical superiority over the French and so could not charge them yet!

However the National Guard unit forced back by the Legion gathered itself together and moved up again to threaten them, forcing the Legion to turn to face them (shown above). By this time the Mexican infantry advancing from the west were now moving up to threaten the convoy, causing to it leave the road and allowing the CdA to charge against the Mexicans (top right corner of the picture above, shown looking east in the picture below). Incredibly, the Mexican infantry held their ground, inflicting significant casualties on the CdA and forcing them to regroup!

At this point, on the other flank, the Mexican cavalry chose to move up and threaten the Chasseurs, the latter engaged with the Turcos in a musketry duel with Mexican infantry (see below).

In a stiff fight the Chasseurs repulsed the Mexican cavalry with significant losses, but both sides were getting worn down by now. At this point, and happening so quickly that I failed to catch it on camera, things started to go awry for both sides! The Mexican cavalry charged the Chasseurs again and were shot to bits and at the same time the Foreign Legion eliminated the National Guard unit that had been harrying them. The Legion turned back towards the road to support the convoy, only to find that the Mexicans there had destroyed the CdA after it launched a brave charge at the Mexican militia, followed up by a National Guard unit reaching and destroying the convoy! Quelle horreur!

By this point the French infantry units were down to around 50% strength, but most of the remaining Mexican units were even worse off! The Chasseurs had to turn about-face to attempt to drive off the Mexican militia advancing across the road (top of the picture above) while the Legion had to act in a similar manner to repulse the Mexican regular unit that had advanced from around the building (bottom right in the picture above).

The three French infantry units were now fighting back-to back (see above), the Legion repulsing a charge by the Mexican militia while the Chasseurs turned about to face off against the Mexican regular unit that had been threatening the Legion. Mexican numbers were now so severely reduced that they were unable to mount any further charges against the French!

At this point the two remaining Mexican units decided to withdraw, leaving the field to the French. The French convoy had been destroyed but Mexican losses had been heavy, although the remaining French units were also badly mauled!

This was a really good game, with a lot of action! It was frustrating for the Mexicans in that they never established the fire superiority they needed to permit infantry to charge to contact. It was quite bad luck for the French when the Chasseurs d’Afrique were eliminated, allowing a gap to form which the Mexicans exploited by charging the convoy and destroying it.

To their credit, the Mexicans kept up pressure until the end. Surprisingly, the worst Mexican unit, the militia, probably put in the best performance. As for the French, the infantry all fought hard and, as befits any tribute to the Battle of Camerone, the Foreign Legion performed exceptionally well throughout!


    • Thanks Dave! πŸ™‚ I’m always thinking of anniversary games I can plan for! I managed centenary games of the relief of Peking (1900), the Battle of Mons (1914), the Battle of Moon Sound (1917) and the first tank-vs-tank action (1918, but I was a couple of weeks late with the game), 150th anniversary of the Battle of Avay (1868), 160th anniversary of the Battle of Koniggratz (1866) and the 75th anniversary of the first tank battle between US and Japanese forces in WW2 (1941, more of a skirmish but important nonetheless)! I’ll have to try for some late WW2 actions in the next couple of years! Keeps me busy!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. 160 years?! I think it took me that long to paint my Dwarven Blood Bowl team as well! Oh wait, we’re not talking about mini painting time, here?! ;P

    Great looking game. No doubt thanks to those minis you got painted and the nice table setup. I really like that convoy mini too. I’m confused though, if the convoy was destroyed but the Mexican force was routed….who won!!?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Faust! πŸ™‚ We discussed the result after the game and my opponent (who played as the French) reckoned it was a victory for the Mexicans, although a somewhat pyrrhic one! I’m inclined to call it a draw, since the convoy was destroyed but at a high cost to the Mexicans.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great way to commemorate the anniversary, John! Not that any of us need an excuse to get a game in though either πŸ™‚ I really like the size of this game as it looks like just about the right amount for plenty of action and casualties but not so many that it becomes overwhelming. Having visited Paris once, I find it difficult not to root for most things French so I will close by saying, “Allez les bleus!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Dave! It was a good game with plenty of action! I’m thinking about trying out the Rebels & Patriots rules for this conflict, although I don’t like them as much as The Men Who Would Be Kings (which I really like and could also try)!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “the Second French Intervention in Mexico in 2021”

    Me: “Wait, France invaded Mexico two years ago? Why did no one tell me?” Yes, I need more coffee. Great write-up, John, and I do love seeing battle reports that don’t involve daemons, spaceships or genetically-engineered superhumans in power armour πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Matt! πŸ™‚ I had to go back and check what I’d written – I could change it but then people would wonder what you were talking about! Glad you liked the report! Funnily enough, I quite like game reports with daemons, spaceships and genetically-engineered superhumans in power armour!


  4. A great looking historical anniversary battle, John – the scope looks pretty epic with the number of units spread across the battlefield, and the army shots at the start of the report look very impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

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