Sunday, 18 December 2011

Wakefield 1460

This was the display game put on by the Lance and Longbow Society at the Recon show at the beginning of December. Brief details can be found on Will's Wargames Blog Using the Poleaxe rules, available from the Society, gave us an unpredictable game which allowed the Yorkists a chance, even though they were outnumbered and vulnerable to treachery. In the event the Lancastrians did prevail, but, Richard of York managed to escape to fight another day.
Just before Christmas, we decided to rerun the game, the set up is shown below

In both cases the figures used (and featuring in the photos) were from the collection of Bob Metcalfe. The Yorkist right under Lord Neville were of uncertain allegiance and Richard stationed himself with Bouchier just behind them.

Richard's only chance was to attack and he ordered his troops forward. It soon became clear that some were more keen to fight than others. David Trollope's contingent in particular was noticeably hesitant, even when Richard in person delivered the order. The Yorkist centre was losing cohesion with Neville and Rutland striding forward and Montague seemingly marching through treacle.

However, the Somerset, the Lancastrian commander was also experiencing problems. Although having superior numbers, his commanders, with one notable exception, were quite hesitant in their advance. Admittedly they were maintaining their ranks, but the two flank battles were falling behind the centre, Here Clifford was driving his men forward,not even pausing to give his archers chance to fire. Of more concern were the actions of Lord Roos, with the cavalry reserve. He had orders to stand his ground and await opportunities to exploit gaps in the enemy line. However, to Somerset's alarm, the reserve were actually falling back towards the camp. He immediately dispatched a herald with an order for Roos to advance to support the infantry. Roos did halt his rearward movement, but seemed to have difficulty interpreting the order as no advance was seen. Before he could send more orders Somerset became embroiled in the developing melee in the centre as Clifford's men clashed with the Yorkist centre.

Thomas Neville and Codnor clashed whilst Harrington's cavalry charged Clifford. They were covering the gap caused by clashed whilst Harrington's cavalry charged Clifford. They were covering the gap caused by the slow advance of Montague and Rutland. Harrington's men were driven back with heavy loss, but Thomas Neville was making good progress against Codnor.

On the Lancastrian left Northumberland's archers were firing at David Trollope's men and also the stationary cavalry of Bouchier. The latter were goaded into action by the stinging flights of arrows and, ignoring their commander charged forward against their tormentors. After loosing a last volley, the archers fell back behind the men at arms and the disordered knights were met by a solid wall of defiant foot. Totally disorganised the now weakened cavalry fell back.

On the opposite flank the Lancastrian battle was becoming disorganised. They had been engaged in an exchange of arrows with Pickering and Mortimer, but, as they neared the enemy they moved their melee troops to the front. However, no order to charge was forthcoming. Exeter was waiting for confirmation from Somerset; who was otherwise occupied fighting in the centre. Seeing the confusion in the ranks opposite, the Yorkists continued to fire, severely weakening their opponents.

In the centre Somerset was struggling to restrain the headstrong Clifford; as he sent a herald off to Exeter urging an attack, he turned to find that the bulk of the battle was moving to attack Rutland. Cursing, he swung his charger around to join Clifford. In his haste he had neglected to send a herald to Lord Roos ordering him to advance, therefore the Lancastrian reserve sat and waited events. To Somerset's left the contingent of Codnor was struggling to hold against Thomas Neville's troops. They had not held the initial charge and began to fall back as the pressure increased. Suddenly, they broke turning and running for their lives. Neville, looking to his right, saw the flank of Gascoigne's contingent. He rallied his men and then directed them to attack Gascoigne. Caught unawares, Gascoigne's men offered little resistance, but delayed Neville just enough for Percy to redeploy his men to face the new threat.

A prolonged melee between Neville and Percy now began. Harrington's cavalry reserve tried to join in, but were met by Fitzhugh's contingent and driven back. Eventually, Percy's men prevailed and Neville's troops streamed from the field. Amongst the chaos Harrington's cavalry reappeared and caught Fitzhugh's men unprepared. The combat was brief, Fitzhugh himself being wounded and captured. His men were driven from the field with the Yorkist cavalry pursuing them.

On the right the Exeter had received Somerset's order to attack and passed it on to his subordinates. Unfortunately, Heron and Lord Grey had been so disorganised by the Yorkist archery that they could not comply. Only Dacre attacked and his men,perhaps dismayed by the lack of support, failed to make an impression. The counter attack by Mortimer routed the Lancastrians. The rout spread to the other contingents and soon the right wing battle of the Lancastrian army was running from the field.

In the centre Clifford and Devon were driving all before them. Rutland was dead, his men driven from the field; Montague was wounded and captured. A one-sided melee was taking place below the walls of Sandal castle with the Lancastrians driving all before them. Richard had at last persuaded David Trollope, who had until then been a mere spectator, to take action; "encouraged" by the point of a sword. Trollope's men moved slowly to the attack and fell on the rear of Clifford's contingent. Normally an attack of this sort would have been decisive. However, it was pressed with so little vigour, that Clifford's archers were able to turn and drive off their attackers.

It was at this point that Richard saw that the Lancastrian reserve, so long dormant, was now moving across the field. What remained of his army would not be able to hold against this force and so, gathering what troops he could, even the suspect Trollope, he retreated from the field. On the Lancastrian side Somerset's men were too exhausted to pursue; they contented themselves looting the fallen and looking for wealthy prisoners.

It had been a close fought battle, helped by the inactivity of the Lancastrian reserve. The rules allowed for a realistic lack of control by the commanders.

Saturday, 10 December 2011


Last month I reported on a Marlburian scenario and this is the 'return match'. The Comte de Salle Forde had been given the task of securing a bridgehead over the upper reaches of the River Dyle in preparation for a forthcoming siege. Crossing by the ford at Vache Bas he had begun work constructing defences, but this was only partly completed when a force under Graf Von Grommitt appeared.

Seeing that he was outnumbered almost 2 to 1 in infantry and his opponent had more guns and a brigade of cavalry; the Comte quickly dispatched a messenger requesting reinforcements. The young officer crossed the ford and rode off to the west.

The Comte made his dispositions; Bavaria, Zurlaben and Dragoons de Wettigny manning the works and Languedoc in reserve. His artillery was on the left with Bavaria. Von Grommitt arranged his infantry in three columns; on his right two battalions of grenadiers,(Hesse and Palatinate), in the centre three battalions of Hessians (Lownestein, Wartenslaben and Erbprinz) and on his let the battalions Palatinate and Von Blitzenkron. Further to the left were the allied cavalry (Jung Hannover, Erbach and Veningen Gendarmes). The artillery supported the infantry attack.

As the Allied infantry advanced they began to suffer casualties. Hardest hit were the Palatinate grenadiers who were the target for the French artillery. In the centre the Hessians came in musketry range and Lowenstein was forced to halt to dress its ranks before continuing the advance. However the French did not have everything their own way. Bavaria suffered casualties from the Allied artillery and its musketry was badly affected, being insufficient to stop the oncoming grenadiers.

A musketry duel began and the dragoons and Zurlaben stood to their task, it was the Bavarians, who had the benefit of the completed works who were struggling and the Comte decided to move his reserve to the right to support them.

Both commanders were surprised to receive messages that cavalry with infantry support was advancing towards them on the eastern bank of the Dyle. The Comte was delighted when he saw that they were French reinforcements, Von Grommitt's thoughts have not been recorded! With time short, the allied attack was pressed home and a melee developed for the works.

Meanwhile, the allied cavalry sought to defeat their French opponents and stop any infantry support reaching Salle Forde. As the cavalry combat developed fortunes ebbed and flowed. The Veningen Gendarmes initially pushed back the Spanish Horse, but the latters greater numbers eventually told and the Gendarmes routed. The combat between Jung Hannover and Vaillac went the way of the Austrian cuirassiers, but as the French cavalry broke the Austrians surged after them, leaving the field. Erbach and Aubusson fought fiercely, but the Germans cracked and this left the flank of the allied infantry in peril.

At the works the Palatinate grenadiers had quickly defeated Bavaria and were now faced by Languedoc. In the centre Zurlaben had driven off Lowenstein, but Erbprinz fired a devastating volley and charged forward. Outnumbered, the French were driven back and the Hessians entered the works. The French pride was saved by the dragoons who fought off Von Blitzenkron. The dragoons were helped by Von Gromitt who had moved the supporting Palatinate battalion to cover the flank of the allied infantry. As the allied cavalry streamed from the field a second battalion, Wartenslaben was also moved to the flank.

Von Grommitt thought that two battalions wold be enough, but Aubusson moved quickly towards the works. Palatinate were caught before they could fire a volley. In a trice all order was lost and groups left the ranks seeking sanctuary from the cavalry. As the battalion dissolved they were driven back on Wartenslaben. This unit was disorganised by the fleeing infantry and was unable to halt the French advance. Victory had been snatched from Von Gromitt's grasp. He had secured majority of the works and controlled the ford, if the cavalry had done their job the day would have been his. Instead his infantry were penned in the works, joined by his gunners who had abandoned their pieces to enemy cavalry. The enemy now outnumbered him in all arms and all he could do was sue for terms.

For the Comte, who had taken upon himself the task of rallying Bavaria (on the far bank of the Dyle), it was essential to accept the allied surrender before Saint Evremond (who commanded the French relief force), snatched all the glory; after all wasn't it his infantry who had done all the fighting?

For this scenario we tried using the revised '1644' rules which give army lists for the Marlburian period. It was an interesting experiment, giving quite a different feel to that experienced with the Wargames Holiday Centre rules. The cavalry melee is dealt with much better in 1644, but you lose the requirement that your infantry need to keep in formation to preserve their morale.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Poles v Swedes

Our scenario this week was set in the early years of the 17th C, and concerned the ongoing rivalry between Poland and Sweden for dominance along the Baltic coastal area. At this time the Swedish army was not the feared fighting force it would become under Gustavus Adolphus, but the battles against the Poles provided it with valuable experience which led to the development of the tactics which would prove so useful in future campaigns.

A small Swedish force has advanced into Polish territory and the local Polish commander has gathered what forces he can to oppose this incursion. The Swedes have a balanced force of infantry and cavalry with two light guns; the Poles are fielding a force which is 80% cavalry,containing Cossack light cavalry, Pancerni and Hussars.

The Polish commander quickly glanced at the Swedish dispositions and decided to attack (no surprise there!). The Swedes had drawn up their forces with the infantry and light guns in the centre and cavalry equally divided between the wings, apart from a small reserve under the control of the Swedish commander. The Polish commander decided his best option was to attach the flanks whilst pinning the infantry centre. Ignoring his two units of Haiduk infantry he ordered his light cavalry forward to cover the advance of his Hussars and Pancerni.

The attack on the Polish right was first into action. The Cossacks used their bows to try and sting the Swedes into attacking them. In this they succeeded and one reiter unit charged forward.

The initial contact was indecisive, but the Cossacks were joined by a unit of Pancerni and the Swedes began to be pushed back. A unit of cuirassier moved forward to help the reiter, but they were met by more Pancerni and then a unit of Hussars. To further discomfort the Swedish left some of the Cossacks had worked their way around the flank and were harassing the Swedish reserve cavalry.

Meanwhile, in the centre, the Swedish infantry were standing to their duty. Supported by the light artillery, they were slowly driving off the skirmishing light cavalry with volley fire.

The Polish commander was required to move forward his reserve Hussar squadrons to pin the infantry in place, relying on the Hussars' armour to reduce casualties. It was with some mixed feelings that he saw that his subordinate had anticipated events and ordered the Polish infantry to advance towards the Swedish lines. Surely his cavalry didn't need the help of those peasants?

On the Polish left there had been some delay in getting the cavalry deployed, the Hussars 'requesting' they be in the van. Eventually they moved forward and a fierce melee took place between the two cavalry forces. The Swedes absorbed the initial shock of impact, but as more Polish units joined the fray the Swedes began to give ground.

Galled by the light artillery and musketry the units of Hussars in the polish centre attacked. The gunners abandoned their guns and sought refuge behind the infantry. The infantry stood their ground and fired a volley at point blank range. The few Hussars who managed to reach the Swedish line were driven off by the pikes. Falling back, the Hussars rallied and were joined by fresh units and charged again. Again the Swedes held their fire until the last moment, but this time the Poles would not be stopped and a fierce melee developed on the Swedish right.

As he looked about him the Swedish commander saw that the day was lost. His left wing cavalry had been all but destroyed. His final reserve, his personal lifeguard had been sent to try and stem the flood, but they were in danger of being overwhelmed. On his right, it was only a matter of time before his remaining cavalry were swept from the field . In fact the rout of his reiter had dragged off three units of Polish cavalry in pursuit and helped to reduce the threat of his centre being surrounded. One unit of infantry would have to be sacrificed, but the rest could escape.

The Polish commander had no fresh cavalry to harass the Swedish retreat. His reserve had dashed itself against the infantry. His only fresh troops were his infantry and they were too slow to intervene. All he could do was accept the surrender of the surviving Swedish troops and see to his wounded.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Denbigh Green

We are back with the English Civil War this week,with a scenario based on the Battle of Denbigh Green. The Royalist forces are trying to raise the Parliamentary siege of Chester and a force of cavalry with a few companies of foot are approaching the siege lines. The besiegers gather up some cavalry and three small regiments of foot to oppose the Royalists. Overall the cavalry forces are fairly equal, but the Parliamentarians have more foot. neither side has any artillery. The battlefield is split in two; with open heathland (Denbigh Green) to the west and enclosed fields to the east. The small Royalist force of infantry have taken up position in the enclosures covering the road down which the Parlamentary foot must approach.

With his infantry delayed, the Parliamentary commander ordered forward his cavalry; he had a slight edge in quality as three units of Royalist horse were recent recruits. The front lines advanced and soon the melee spread across the Green as more men joined the fray.

Both commanders tried to move their reserves around the melee to flank their opponents, but the Royalist commander also manouvred his men to enable two troops of horse to reinforce one of the melees in the same move, thus gaining an advantage. All along the front the Royalists were gaining the upper hand, belying the relative inexperience of many of their troopers. The Parliamentary commander was forced to commit more and more of his reserve just to hold the line.

On the eastern flank the Parliamentary foot began to arrive in column of march along the road.

A forlorn hope of firelocks had taken up position in a walled orchard and were engaged in a musketry duel with two companies of Royalist musketeers. Honours were fairly even in the fight, but the firelocks were in danger of being outflanked. The first unit of parliamentary foot came under fire from more musketeers and deployed to their left to attempt to clear one of the enclosures. The fire from the Royalists caused quite a few casulaties and the deployment was slow, but eventually the unit was formed and after firing one volley they charged their opponents. Even with the advantage of pikes they failed to push back the Royalists and a slogging match began over the hedges.

The Royalist commander could see that with the disparity in numbers it was pointless to try and hold the position, so he ordered his men to fall back to the next hedge line. His stand had delayed the Parliamentary advance and also given time for the Royalist supports to take up blocking positions.

Back on the Green the melee continued. By using all his reserves the Parliamentary commander had managed to gain momentum amd two intermixed bodies of horse had routed their opponents. However, they now required time to re-organise themselves. As the units milled about and officers attempted to restore order the Royalist commander committed his carefully husbanded reserve. Charging the disorganised Parliamentary horse they routed them and the Parliamentary commander had to watch half of his cavalry force routing into the distance. He also had a unit which had pursued their beaten opponents off the field so his force was now much diminshed. He moved to his last intact unit and taking command led them against the Royalists. A determined melee swung back and forth but slowly the momentum moved to the Royalists. As the fight continued the other Parliamentary cavalry were forced to surrender and with the day lost the Parliamentary commander offered his sword to his conquerer.

Although victorious the Royalists did not have sufficient cavalry in hand to pursue their advance. Nor were they able to attack the enemy foot who had taken up positions in the enclosures. So, gathering their captives and wounded they fell back towards Denbigh.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Fontenoy part 2

Last week's report closed with Campbell's Highlanders facing fresh French battalions brought forward by De Saxe. To their left the remnants of the French first line were enaged in a prolonged firefight with the Hanoverian grenadiers.
Buoyed by their earlier success the Highlanders charged the leading French battalion, Bearn. They were met by a disciplined volley and although they closed to hand strokes, the Scots were badly outnumbered. Even their jutified reputation as tough fighters was unable to bring them success in the melee and the battered remnants of the battalion fell back. To their left a Hanoverian battalion delivered a crushing volley which swept away the last of the 'Wild Geese' and then advanced on the Royal Eccosais.

They were met by a crushing volley which stopped them in their tracks. As they struggled to recover,a second volley completed their discomforture and they routed. The supporting battalion moved forward through the wreckage and although the Eccosais fired a volley it was ineffectual. Sensing unease in the opposition ranks the Hanoverian colonel ordered his battalion to charge. Regardless of their earlier success the 'exiles' ran, but the Hanoverians now faced fresh battalions, "les vieux" in the shape of Picardie and Piemont.

The Hanoverian grenadiers were still struggling to overcome the resolute Swiss battalions facing them. Even with the support of light artillery firing canister they could not make progress. The steady volleys of the Swiss caused one of the grenadier battalions, the one nearest Fontenoy village, to fall back and a Hanoverian line battalion moved forward to replace it. Thier volleys eventually forced one of the Swiss battalions to retreat, but as the Hanoverians advanced they were met by volleys from the Grenadiers de France in Fontenoy and canister from light artillery.

By now, according to Cumberland's plan, the village should have been captured by the Hanoverians and Hessians of the left wing.

The Hanoverian attack had reached the village and tried to gain entry but a combination of volleys from the Grenadiers de France and a flank attack by Saxon Guard Grenadiers caused heavy casualties and the battered remnants sought the security of their own lines. One success for the Hanoverians was that their artillery was able to target the Saxons and they suffered so many casualties that they had to fall back out of the line. Indeed, the artillery was also successful in causing losses to the German battalions supportng Fontenoy and therefore Cumberland ordered that the village should be attacked again, using the Hessian brigade.

Cumberland had been busy rallying the battalions which had retreated from the main attack. Grenadiers and Highlanders were sent forward again to support the line battalions. Unfortunately, their path, dictated by Cumberland, led them straight into the killing ground in front of the redoubt. Before they could reach the front line their ranks were town apart by the fire from the heavy guns.

Undaunted, Cumberland rallied two line battalions and led them forward in person. As he moved forward an aide galloped up with news of a French counter attack on the left flank.

The French cavalry commander, seeing the weakness of the allied left, had requested permission to attack. De Saxe had agreed and two brigades of cavalry from the reserve, preceded by a screen of hussars, had moved onto the open ground beyond the redoubts.

Von Luckner's Hussars attempted to slow their progress but were defeated by the Bercheny Hussars. The commander of the Hanoverian cavalry ordered two brigades to move to the left to cover the flank of the Hessians advancing on Fontenoy. Cumberland realised that he would not win this battle. He ordered the battalions he was with to stand and form a reserve and ordered that the main attack should begin to fall back. To buy time he ordered his sole remaining reserve, two regiments of British cavalry, to attack the enemy line. The light dragoons led the way and paid with their lives for the privelege. Their nemesis was the same Swiss battalion which had stood like a rock against the Hanoverian grenadiers.

With the battle won, De Saxe looked to avoid unnecessary casulaties and halted the cavalry attack. For his part Cumberland returned to camp to count the cost of his folly. Fighting the enemy on ground he has chosen rarely results in victory.

Monday, 14 November 2011


Our latest refight was Fontenoy, one of the classic 18th century battles. Will De Saxe triumph again, or will the red-coated infantry carry the day? The set up will be familiar to many readers, but suffice it to say that we followed history and asked four brigades of British infantry to advance against a similar force of French which was flanked by a redoubt and the fortified vllage of Fontenoy. To the left of the British infantry two brigades of Hanoverian infantry were to capture Fontenoy village and pin the French right. To the left of the main British attack a small force of light infantry were to advance through a wood and attack the main French redoubt.

The French centre behind Fontenoy was held by their cavalry reserve, well placed to support either flank. Two redoubts strengthened the French right as it extended towards the river.On the far bank was an artillery battery placed to enfilade any attack on the French line.

Taking the part of Cumberland, I began the attack by moving the light troops towards the wood. Although opposed by some French light troops they did make some progress.

The main attack began as the first two lines of British infanry stepped forward. They were supported on their left by two artillery batteries and two light batteries accompanied their advance. The heavy batteries did inflict some casualties, but nothing compared to the carnage caused by the battery sited in the French redoubt. First to suffer were Keith's Highlanders who in no time at all lost one third of their strength. Ignoring the commands of their remaining officers they broke and ran for the rear, only to be met by the stony-faced Cumberland who harangued them and shamed them into forming up to advance again. Next to suffer was a battalion of gtenadiers who were trying to manoeuvre around an obstacle placed in front of the redoubt. Caught in canister range, over half their number were lost, but the battered remnant struggled forward.

After initial success, the allied jaeger and Frei Korps found their progress through the woods blocked by a unit of grenadiers. Undeterred by musketry the grenadiers advanced and quickly drove the light troops back out into the open.

On the allied left the Hanoverians had delayed their advance whilst their artillery tried to 'soften up' the village of Fontenoy and its defenders; two batalions of the Grenadiers de France. Orders from Cumberland that the attack on the village should be pressed 'with urgency' was met with some dismay, but were obeyed. As they advanced the first brigade of Hanoverian infantry suffered casualties from the French artillery and quickly the second brigade was ordered to move to support the attack.

The first line of British infantry had now reached musketry range with the main French line. They were outside the arc of fire of the redoubt and so safe from artillery fire. Volleys were exchanged and everything now depended on the willingness of the respective lines to stand. However, one unit decided that hand to hand combat was preferable. Campbell's Highland regiment fired one volley and then charged their opponents, one of the Irish "Wild Geese" battalions. After a short but savage melee the Irish broke and ran. Campbell's advanced again and broke a second battalion. However, De Saxe had moved forward his supports and the Highlanders now faced two further lines of infantry.

That is how matters stood at the end of the evening. Hoopefully matters will be resolved this week and recounted in the next blog.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Lines of Brabant

This scenario is based on Marlborough's passage of the Lines of Brabant in 1705. In a change from history the allied main force has been delayed and so the vanguard has to hold a position and await reinforcements. The French have gathered together what troops they can and are attempting to push back the allied troops. The figures are actually for the Grand Alliance period, just before the War of Spanish Succession, so they have pikes; a weapon which had almost vanished by the time of Marlborough's wars.

The vanguard has seven battalions of infantry (including two of grenadiers), three regiments of cavalry and a light gun. One flank, (the left) rested on the grounds of the Chateau Plonc, garrisoned by the combined Palatinate grenadiers. In the centre were the remaining six battalions in two lines of three and the light battery. On the right were the cavalry with the Jung Hannover Cuirassier in the first line, supported by the Veningen Gendarmes and regiment Erbach. In overall command was Graf Von Grommitt

The French, under the Comte de Salle Forde, have nine battalions of infantry (including one of dismounted dragoons), two light guns and three regiments of cavalry. Viewing the enemy dispoditions the Comte decided on a general advance, then use his cavalry to pin the opposing horse and his artillery to weaken the enemy infantry prior to a general assault.

Needing no encouragement the French cavalry (actually led by a regiment of Spanish horse), moved forward accompanied on their right by the infantry. As the infantry advanced they came into range of the allied gun and regiment Rouergue was the 'target of choice' and began to suffer casualties. Undaunted, the French advance continued and once the Comte was satisfied that the guns were in effective range they began to fire at the allied line.

On the French left the first hand to hand combat was taking place as the Spanish horse met the Austrian Cuirassiers.


At first the sides were evenly matched, but as the second squadrons joined the fray the greater numbers of the Spanish began to tell and suddenly the Austrians broke and routed to the rear. With their blood up, the Spanish pursued, punching a hole in the allied line and forcing the allied horse to change face to avoid being flanked.
Unfortunately, the Spanish colonel was unable to recover command of his men once the pursuit began and they followed the remnants of the cuirassier off the table.

In the centre the Hessian regiment Lowenstein was the target for the French artillery. It had suffered some loss and the Comte decided that the time was ripe for a charge by the Vaillac regiment of horse. Undeterred by the onrushing horsemen, the Hessians stood their ground and fired a volley, this, backed up by the steady pikes forced the French cavalry to retreat.

Von Grommitt was reasonably satisfied with affairs so far, but knew that main test would come once the two infantry lines closed to musketry range. For his part the Comte was keen to use his advantage in artillery to 'soften up' the allied infantry; encouraging the gunners to keep up with the advancing infantry line. The allied regiments Von Blixencron and Lowenstein were suffering casualties from the artillery, but their first volleys stopped Rourgue and Bavaria in their tracks. As the fire fight developed, the allied artillery commander saw that French guns were in canister range and ordered a change of target. The blast of lead tore through the French battery cutting down gunners and nearby infantry.

This relieved the pressure on Lowenstein, which just as well because their losses had mounted to such a level that Von Grommitt decided that they should be replaced in the front line by the Hessian grenadiers. Fortunately for the allies, regiment Rourgue was unable to advance to exploit the manouevres. It too had suffered and was replaced in the front line by regiment Zurlaben. Meanwhile regiment Bavaria and Von Blixencron were still blazing away, though losses were surprisingly light. On the French right, regiment Languedoc approached the chateau grounds to be met by a punishing volley from the Palatinate grenadiers which stopped them in their tracks.
The cavalry duel on the French left had reached a stand off with neither side wanting to risk an attack. In the centre the balance shifted dramatically when the remaining French gunners were felled by a volley from the Hessian grenadiers. With no artillery support the French infantry would struggle to gain the upper hand. Seeing that the battle was slipping away, the Comte summoned the colonel of the Aubusson cavalry regiment forward and ordered him to attack the grenadiers. If they could be defeated then the allied line would be broken and the French could still prevail.

Calling on the trumpeter to sound the advance, the colonel took up position at the head of his regiment. Making use of the wreaths of smoke from the musketry duel the French cavalry managed to approach near totheir target without suffering heavy casualties. However, the grenadiers were too experienced to be shaken by the cavalry. Even without the moral support of pikes the grenadiers held their composure to deliver a volley. This did not stop the charge and the grenadiers had to make full use of their bayonets. The melee was a close run thing but in the end the cavalry had to withdraw.

The comte had no alternative now but to withdraw. Half his infantry battalions had been driven from the line; his cavalry were dispersed and the artillery silenced.

Von Grommitt had prevailed, but his losses had also been heavy, so there was no pursuit of the retreating French.

In the post battle discussion we decided that giving the allies two elite battalions made the French task too difficult, so next time the French will have more battalions or the allies fewer.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Ancient flats

In more ways than one. These Egyptian, Nubian, Greek et al figures are getting on in years. Their provenance is uncertain, but looking at them brings back memories of the grainy black and white photographs from the pages of the Featherstone classic "War Games". In particular the battle of Trimsos between forces from Hyperborea and Hyrkania.

The Greeks are the most numerous, with a solid phalanx of hoplites, supported by smaller units with cavalry on the wings.

They have very few light infantry, unlike the coalition assembled against them who have swarms of Nubian and Egyptian archers, javelins and slings. What really catches the eye are the elephants and chariots.

The skill of the painter in making these two dimensional figures look 3D has to be admired. I did have some problems getting the focus correct when photographing these flats and so have not really done them justice.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Mayhem on the Mississippi

The home-made ACW ships had another outing last week. The scenario was that a Confederate force was gathering at Knot's Landing with a view to disrupting Union operations further down river. At the core of the Confederate force were the ironclads Raleigh, North Carolina and Manassas, and they were supported by four wooden ships, (General Beauregard, General Polk, Water Witch and Little Rebel), plus the torpedo launch David. The anchorage at Knot's Landing had been strengthened by the construction of a battery on Fisherman's Neck, a peninsula of land which jutted out into the river opposite the small island of Rogers' Folly. The battery dominated the narrow passage between the island and the eastern bankad this gave the Confederate commnader the confidence to allow the crews of the Raleigh and North Carolina a little R & R at the local hooch parlour, a decision he would come to regret.

Having discovered the location of the Confederate force the Union commander decided to act swiftly and gathered a force of two ironclad monitors, (Catskill and Saganaw), three wooden ships,(Donnelson, Shenandoah and Sumpter), and the tinclad Potomac. He raised his flag in the Hartford and set off up river ordering the Potomac to take a mortar barge in tow to help shell the new battery. His plan was to use the ironclads to engage the battery and shield the wooden ships as they passed up stream. Once above the battery the Hartford would land a force of marines to destroy the Confederate base and burn any ships at anchor.

Alerted by lookouts down river the Confederate commander ordered his ships to raise steam; only to find that the engineers for the Raleigh and North Carolina were still absent. Sending a platoon of guards off to retreive them he called upon the captain of the Little Rebel and ordered him to tow a fire raft out into the channel and then release it to float down and disrupt the Union fleet.

As the Union fleet moved up river the Potomac moved towards the eastern bank and cast off the mortar barge to begin its bombardment of the battery. As the first shells began to fall they were joined by more from the monitors as they came into range. he battery's response was not effective, only light damage being sustained by the Catskill as it sailed past. Of more concern to the Union commander was the lack of manouevering room between Fisherman's Neck and Rogers' Folly. He therefore ordered the Sumpter to pass between the island and the western bank. What he failed to notice was that a string of mines or torpedoes) had been laid across the channel.

Meanwhile the Catskill had now passed the battery and began to fire on the Little Rebel. The captain of the Little Rebel decided that it was now time to release the fire raft and withdraw and therefore did a quick turn to port and cast the raft adrift. Just when he needed full control the captain of the Catskill found that his steering had failed. As the raft approached the Union engineers frantically worked away, but the rudder refused to move. The damage control crew went on deck and prepared to put out any dangerous fires as the raft bumped along the hull of the Catskill. Luckily for them only small spots of tar and cotton fell on deck and they were quickly dealt with.

The Saginaw behind them was not so lucky. The captain's attention was fixed on the raft and he failed to spot the David approacing from the cover of Fisherman's Neck. The David's captain deployed the spar torpedo, ordered full speed ahead and braced himself for the explosion.

As the torpedo struck the explosion was followed by a huge jet of water and then dull red flames as fires began inside the Union vessel. Within a minute another explosion rent the vessel asunder and she slid beneath the waves. The David did not escape unscathed. Shaken by the force of the explosion she became the target for the wooden Union vessels sailing by and was pounded to pieces.

Just then a further explosion was heard, this time from behind Rogers' Folly. The Sumpter had struck a mine. In true Farragut style the captain had taken a chance on the mines being faulty; he had not been lucky, the explosion tore a large hole in his bow and as his ship slowed to a halt to aid damage repair it was rammed by the Water Witch. The Sumpter could not survive this second shock and sank. This was not the last of Water Witch's victories. As the Donnelson moved past on the other side of Rogers' Folly it was fired upon by Water Witch and one of the shells penetrated the magazine and the Union ship was destroyed in an instant.

With three ships lost, the day seemed to be going against the Union fleet, but the Confederates were still trying to get their two ironclads moving. If they remained moored in the anchorage they would be sitting ducks. It was then that the decision to bring the mortar barge began to pay dividends. In quick succession three shells fell directly on the battery, knocking out one of the guns and causing severe casulaties amongst the crews.

With all of the Union ships now upstream of his guns the battery commander decided to withdraw and the gun teams were called forward.

The Confederate ironclads had gun crews on board and began to fire on the Union ships. The Hartford was hit and had its steering damaged, just as the captain ordered it to move towards Fisherman's Neck to land the marines. A long range artillery duel began. Meanwhile the General Beauregard and General Polk tackled the Catskill. Although they suffered damage they did manage to damage the Union ship's engines,reducing it to a floating battery. Emboldened the captain of the General Beauregard decided to ram the monitor. The wooden ship steamed forward at its best speed and crashed into the Union vessel; seemingly to little effect.

However, some damage must have been done because the Catskill seemed unable to hit any target, even at point blank range for several turns. As the General Beauregard backed off it became clear that it had suffered considerable damage in the ramming manoeuvre. Whilst the damage control parties worked to repair the bow, the Sheandoah steamed past firing a point blank broadside. This was too much for the Confederate ship and it sank.

At long last the first of the Confederate engineers returned to Knot's Landing and began to prepare the Raleigh for casting off. As the Raleigh moved forward it began a gunnery duel with the Sheandoah. Meanwhile the General Polk was exchanging shots with the Hartford. In an unequal duel the Confederate ship began to suffer damage and finally succumed to a full broadside from the larger Union vessel.

Down river the Water Witch was now engaging the Potomac. The latter vessel had successfully seen of the ironclad ram the Manassas, but as it moved out into the main channel a shell from the Water Witch started a fire on deck. Desperately, the crew rushed to extinguish the flames and eventually succeeded. As the Potomac resumed its move up river it fired on the Water Witch. The heavier guns of the Union ship soon reduced the gallant Confederate vessel to a drifting hulk and the captain beached on Rogers' Folly.

The second ironclad North Carolina had now raised steam and it also mved out to attack the Union vessels. The Confedrate commander felt confdent that his two ironclads were more than a match for the wooden vessels opposing him; a view encouraged when the Raleigh sank the Shenandoah and then moved alongside the Catskill.

Several point blank salvoes proved ineffective and Raleigh moved round beind the Union vessel. The North Carolina joined the fray and exchanged shots with the Hartford, causing minor damage. However, the Hartford's shots started a fire on the Cofederate vessel. This was extinguished, but the captain was concerned about the engine machinery. After several neffective salvoes the Catskill evenually hit the Raleigh, knocking out its engines.

With darkness falling the Union commander decided to move into mid river and try to sail down river in the daylight so he could avoid all the wrecks caused by the days fighting. For the Confederates, they beached the North Carolina and scuppered the Raleigh rather than let it fall into enemy hands.

The rules we use for these actions are very simple home grown ones (just over two sides of A4). They cover most eventualities, but for the mortar barges firing is by rubber band rather than dice. That is the player throws the band as you would on a hooplah stall, trying to 'ring' figures or models.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Eastern Front

Before the report on our latest SYW battle I must correct something from the previous blog. The company which manufactured the fences I bought at the Stoke show is Ironclad Miniatures, not Ironclad Games.
One of my regular wargames opponents has recently increased his SYW Russian army by investing in some more cavalry regiments. To give the new 'lads' a run out, a scenario was drawn up whereby a Russian force had invaded eastern Prussia and Frederick had responded by gathering up a force to oppose them. The Prussian response had forced the Russian commnader, Saltykov, to take up a defensive position where he could take advantage of the renowned fighting qualities of his troops. The position chosen by the Russians was a steep ridge(requiring one full move to ascend), with a wood and village on the southern end and a church on the northern end. A stream rose near the centre of the ridge and flowed westwards between steep banks, again requiring a full move to cross. The western slopes also had areas of ground impassable to formed troops. Behind the southern end of the ridge was a ruined village. For the Prussians to be victorious they needed to capture either both villages, or, one village and the church.

This is a general view of the centre of the Russian line. It was supported by two field batteries and one howitzer battery. The southern end of the ridge was held by a brigade of grenadiers with an attached light gun. The church and churchyard were garrisoned by the first battalion of the Schusselburg regiment plus a light gun, with the second battalion and both battalions of the Ingermanland regiment in support. In traditonal style the flanks were held by cavalry, both wings having a mix of heavy (horse grenadiers/cuirassier), light and irregular units. A regiment of dragoons were held in reserve.

Frederick decided that he would use his favourite tactic of an oblique attack. His army was divided into two forces. The northern (left) would attempt to pin the enemy right and centre, whilst the bulk of the army (right)would attack the enemy left. This would mean tackling the brigade of Russian grenadiers, but Frederick was confident that his units of Guards would be up to the task.

The first task for the Prussians was to defeat the Russian cavalry to protect the flank of the infantry advancing towards the ridge. The Prussian right swept forward, led by the Von Reusch Hussars, who had little regard for the Kalmuck troops facing them. Goaded by the Kalmuck archery the hussars got ahead of their supports and the Russian cavalry commander sensed he had a chance to attack the hussars in flank.

He ordered his cuirassier regiment to wheel to their left end then charge. The future looked bleak for von Reusch, but in the nick of time (lucky initiative dice) the Garde du Corps charged forward and caught the Russian cuirassiers in flank. In no time the Russian cavalry were in retreat and the Prussian elite cavalry surged forward believing that the Kalmucks in front of them would be no match for them. However, it was not to be. Already disorganised by the melee against the cuirassiers, they suffered casualties from the archery of the Kalmucks who then stood and defeated them in melee. So, the pride of the Prussian mounted arm, fled to the rear and played no further part in the battle. This victory bought only a brief respite for the Russian left flank cavalry as in quick succession the horse grenadiers were caught and defeated by the Von Buddenbrock Cuirassier and then the Kalmucks were driven from the field by Von Reusch. Unfortunately for the Prussians, the hussars lost command and pursued their opponents off table being lost for the rest of the battle.

On the northern flank the Russian cavalry advanced and the cuirassiers led the way, supported by a regiment of horse grenadiers.

On the right of the heavy cavalry were the light cavalry, a regiment of hussars plus one of Cossacks. Opposing them were two regiments of cuirassiers and two of hussars, one of which was a frei hussaren unit. The first clash was between two units of cuirassier with the Russians victorious. As the Prussian regiment fell back the Russian commander decided not to exploit his victory, he may well have been wary of becoming isolated, because he advanced the horse grenadiers to cover the flank of the cuirassiers.

As the cavalry clashed on the flanks, the Prussian infantry moved forward supported by their artillery. The Prussians were not having things all their own way. The Russian artillery was inflicting heavy casulaties on the packed ranks and half of the fusilier brigade tasked with pinning the Russian right flank infantry fell back, having to be rallied by Frederick himself and led back to action. The other brigade in the 'pinning' force was also suffering, not helped by having to manouevre across the stream directly in front of the howitzer battery. In spite of their losses they were pushed forward, encouraged by the scathing remarks of the commander of the Guard infantry. The activities of the Russian light infantry added to the problems of the attacking Prussians. Pandours and jaegers made full use of the broken ground, proving adept at picking of guardsmen and then pulling back into terrain where they could not followed.

The Russians did not have things all their own way. The Prussian artillery began to take a toll on the front line of Russian infantry and the grenadiers were forced back from the edge of the ridge into the cover of the village. Seeing the threat to his left, Saltykov began to lead troops to that sector, thinning out his right. But he had another problem, Prussian cavalry was beginning to probe around the ridge. If they moved to the rear of the ridge he would have to find troops to defend his rear, thinning the line defending against the Prussian infantry even more. He therefore moved his last cavalry reserve to block the Prussians and supported it with the reformed, but now depleted, horse grenadiers.

On the Russian right the cavalry combat continued. The Prussian cuirassiers had now reformed and faced the Russian cuirassiers and horse grenadiers, but the decisive action would take place between the light cavalry forces. The Prussian hussars defeated their opponents and taking the initiative (via a lucky dice roll), attacked the flank of the horse grenadiers. They broke after a short, but bloody melee. Their fellow heavy cavalry, the cuirassiers were also defeated and then routed by the pursuing hussars. Now both Russian flanks were defeated.

Saltykov deployed more units to cover his rear.

The Prussian cavalry continued to advance,pushing back the Russian dragoons and horse grenadiers. To their rear they could see the Prussian left flank cavalry advancing, they were in a trap.

The day was lost for Saltykov; his infantry held the ridge for the moment, but with no cavalry, the only option was to attempt to retreat.

In the post action discussion we decided that a revision was needed to the initiative rule in Konig Kreig. In a Prussian - Russian action with Frederick present the Prussians have at least a plus two on initiative, enough to almost guarantee a win. Even with a strong Russian position this was a decided advantage. Therefore in future, the msximum initiative advantage would be +1 for the Prussians

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

flags and fences

The present SYW game is likely to be spread over a few nights of gaming, so this is by way of a 'pot pourri' post of snippets from recent wargames related activity.

Last month we spent a long weekend in London and visited the Royal Hospital at Chelsea. In the pensioners'dining room has replicas of flags captured during the AWI and French and Revolutionary Wars. Here are a couple of examples.

In the museum there are displays of medals and the history of the regiments of invalids and examples of the certificates proving the right to a pension. You will also find one of the eagles captured from the 82nd regiment of the line in 1809 when it capitulated to British forces in Martinique.

I attended the Stoke Challenge show and bought some fences from Ironclad Games. Earlier this year I bought some of their emplacements which are useful for the large scale Shako games. The fences also painted up quite well

Here they are framing some recently painted artillery bases for my British SYW army.

The Heritage Open Days give plenty of opportunities to visit places you wouldn't normally visit. An added attraction at a local event was a ECW camp organised by the Sealed Knot. Memebers of Lilburne's regiment demonstrated drill to good effect. Certainly the amount of smoke generated by a salvo of 20 muskets made you wonder about the visibility on Civil War battlefields, or any battlefield in the 'black powder' era.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


This was the last battle of the Seven Years War in the western European theatre A Prussian force under the command of Prince Henry was attacking a Reichsarmee commanded by Prince Stolberg. The Reichsarmee had the support of an Austrian corps under the command of Hadik. Whilst the Reichsarmme held a series of heights in front of Freiburg, the Austrians were in an entrenched camp on the southern flank.

Historically Prince Henry had decided to screen the Austrian positions with a small force, hoping for their inactivity and attack the weaker northern flank with the bulk of his forces. Taking command of the Prussians I, in my wisdom, decided to attack all along the line, hoping to break through in a couple of places and reach the town of Freiburg.

The Prussian cavalry moved forward to force the opposing cavalry to retire and thus clear the way for the infantry to advance. This was accomplished with some ease, but it brought the Prussians within range of the enemy artillery and cuirassier regiment Buddenbrock suffered several casualties. On the Prussian left the cavalry advanced against the Imperial infantry. Their flank covered by hussars a regiment of cuirassier moved onto the heights thorugh a gap in the entrenchments. However, their progress was halted by a square of grenadiers who presented an unwavering wall of bayonets.

Cavalry cannot afford to be static in the centre of an enemy position and they had to fall back. Prince Stolberg had not been idle, he had moved all the cavalry reserve to his right to bolster the defence. This mass of heavy cavalry was a threat to the Prussian dragoons and hussars on this flank. Trying to use the terrain to offset the difference in numbers the Prussian cavalry charged their opponents. A fierce melee ensued but gradually the greater weight of the Austrian cavalry told and the dragoons and hussars routed, exposing the left flank of the cuirassiers on the heights. Indeed the right flank of the cuirassiers was also ,now threatened, Saxon cavalry had moved from the centre to support the Reichsarmee infantry. Fortunately, the supporting Prussian fusilier brigade had now arrived and their volleys removed this threat

Two Austrian curiassier regiments now attacked the single Prussian one, the contest was never in doubt, overwhelmed the Prussians broke and fled from the field. This left the Prussian left wing totally open to an outflanking manoeuvre by the Austrian cavalry. Prince Henry was already making plans for the whole army to withdraw. It was at this point that Hadik 'requested' the return of the Austrian cavalry to support the centre of the position which was under attack. With some relief the Prussian command watched the enemy cavalry turn and move back towards their own lines.

The Prussian fusiliers continued the attack on the heights, but were unable to dislodge their opponents and suffered increasing losses from the enemy artillery.

Meanwhile in the centre Prussian infantry had advanced and a tussle began between opposing units of grenadiers, with the Prussians discovering that their opponents were a stiffer prospect than they had anticipated. To the left of the Imperial grenadiers the brigade from Bavaria were under heavy attack. Even though they were supported by two artillery batteries they were unable to halt the Prussian brigade advancing towards them.

On the left of the Bavarians a stout defence was being put up by Frei Korps Loudon. Their first volley stopped their opponents in thier tracks

Loudon then followed this up by stopping two cavalry attacks with their disciplined volleys. With Frei Korps of this calibre, what would the rest of the Austrian corps do?

The answer was not very much, at least offensively. Hadik's orders were to 'hold his position' and this he intended to do, but no more. He would not risk his command by abandoning his entrenchments. The artillery fusiliers held an exposed position defending a key battery. Behind them stood a brigade in support. This force was attacked all day by the Prussians, who eventually gained the heights, but had no strength to push the advantage so dearly bought.

On the far right of the Prussian army a mixed force of Frei Korps and grenadiers faced the Austrian entrenched camp. I should have moved them further left to support other attacks, but I didn't. Perhaps it was an attempt to counter the almost universal opinion that the Prussian Frei Korps were no more than a liability on the field and would never achieve anything. In any event, forward they went against a brigade of Austrian regulars behind a palisade. s you would expect, they didn't achieve much, apart from closing up to the palisade and exchanging volleys with the defenders. However, once the grenadiers arrived the situation changed. The Hungarian brigade were perhaps a little overconfident and soon found that the grenadiers were a force to be reckoned with

Hadik's confidence that he 'would not give up an inch of his position' was severely dented and he moved his reserves to counter this threat.

However, as night fell the Prussian command could see little gain for the losses they had sustained. All along the line they had gained a little, but nowhere had sufficient progress been made to claim victory. If the force had been concentrated the breakthrough may have been achieved. Note to diary: remember the principle of concentration of force when attacking.