Military History |
Liberators | Scenarios
Wargaming the Battle of
Cancha Rayada 16 Mar 1818
Posted 18 Dec 2011
Setting: Cancha Rayada, Chile; 16 Mar 1818
Historical Situation or Mission
On 16 Mar 1818, at the Surprise of Cancha Rayada (Second Battle of Cancha Rayada), a Royalist sortie inflicted a massive defeat on Patriots under San Martin (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada).
Earlier in March 1818 the Royalist Brigadier Mariano Osorio concentrated five thousand men in a fortified position at Talca (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). General José de San Martín assembled the Army of the Andes, around seven thousand men, about about 7 km away on the Cancha Rayada plains. Given the imbalance of forces Osorio was content to sit in his fortifications, however, Colonel José Ordóñez convinced the general to let him lead a surprise attack at night.
The Royalists attacked at 1930 hours on 16 Mar 1818 as the Patriots were in the process of redeploying to counter just such a move (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). Unfortunately the redeployment was not complete.
The attack landed on General O'Higgin's Vanguard Division (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). The surprised troops quickly fled under enemy fire and the division dispersed. O'Higgin's horse was shot dead and he was wounded in one arm.
San Martín initially ordered his army to hold their position but when he saw the Patriot force disintegrating he ordered a retreat (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada).
Colonel Hilarión de la Quintana's reserve had assembled on it's new position before the attack and now found itself fending off the Royalists (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). Unfortunately they were without their commander as, after the redeployment, Quintana had gone to headquarters for new orders. Colonel Juan Gregorio de Las Heras took command of the reserve and commanded it during the retreat, while trying to recover as much artillery and weapons as possible. The fleeing Patriots were closely followed by the Royalist.
The Patriot loss caused panic in Santiago (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). The public believed both San Martin and O'Higgins dead and an exodus began until San Martin calmed fears.
The battle was a bit of a Pyrrhic victory for the Royalists (Wikipedia: Second Battle of Cancha Rayada). The Patriots lost 150 men killed, 200 men captured, several hundred deserters, all of its artillery, and considerable amounts of horses, mules and weapons. The Royalists lost 200 men killed, 300 captured, and 600 deserters; in total they lost more than half the 2,000 men involved in the attack. But by 21 Mar San Martin has assembled about 3,500 Patriots in San Fernando and this number grew quickly to 4,000.
These are the scenarios and battle reports I have:
Fletcher, J. (2005). Liberators! Volume 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.