Wednesday 9 December 2015

South America's biggest battle - Tuyuti (1866)

Look who I bumped into last week, just before the 150th anniversary of his death, as I strolled along a Paris boulevard:

1815: definitely out of favour.
1853: rehabilitated and commemorated.

President Francisco Solano Lopez of Paraguay could possibly have done with the services of someone of Ney's calibre in 1866. His intervention in Uruguay's political turmoil in 1864 had resulted in Paraguay being at war against Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina: the "War of the Triple Alliance", or "Great Paraguayan War" if you prefer. This murderous conflict lasted over 5 years and cost 100s of 1000s of dead.

For us wargamers, this war is notable for generating the largest battle ever fought in South America: Tuyuti. At around 60,000 combatants all told, this is not a big battle by BBB standards. Still it is big and bloody enough to deserve our attention. Konstantinos Travlos had drafted a BBB scenario for it, so this week we decided to give it a go.

As so often in the late nineteenth century, the battle is an interesting one to fight, not just for its historical significance or its exotic Latin American setting, but because it confronts asymmetric armies. The Allies are mostly average line troops, averagely trained and motivated, with modern rifled weapons. The Paraguayans are almost entirely equipped with older smoothbore muskets and cannon, but are ferociously determined fighters. Thus the Allies are better in a firefight, but the Paraguayans have the edge if they can get to grips.