Sunday, 5 June 2011

Trouble in the East

This week's action was a scenario involving Muscovites and Cossacks created out of the troubled period in the early 17th century. Mucovy had decided to annex some Cossacks lands and as preparation, ordered the local Boyar, Prince Dmitri Pozharski to construct some works to defend a river crossing. One redoubt had been completed on the northern, Muscovite bank and work on the second had begun.

This work had not gone unnoticed by the local Cossacks of the Bolotnikov clan and a force had been assembled to destroy the works and push the Muscovites back over the river. Warned of the approaching Cossack force by his scouts, Pozharski moved his whole force south of the river to support the small detachment of streltsi covering construction. his force consisted of his own feudal cavalry, a unit of horse archers and three understrength streltsi units. In the already constructed redoubt was a field gun. As a precaution Pozharski had sent a messenger to Ivan Dolgoruki, a local boyar and distant cousin, requesting assistance.

Taras Bolotnikov, head of the clan, had gathered three units of cavalry supported by two units of horse archers, a unit of Zaporozhian musketeers, the lcoal levy, some registered cossacks and a light gun. His plan was for the infantry to secure the part constructed redoubt whilst the cavalry defeated the Muscovite cavalry.

Pozharski was confident his feudal cavalry would defeat their Cossack opponents and moved to closely direct his horse archers who were raw and newly raised. His concerns were well-founded as the lefthand unit was out-manouvred and pinned against the river, where it was cut down. The second unit was unsettled by arrows from the cossack horse archers and as Pozharski attempted to restore order the enemy charged. Pozharski and his standard bearer were engulfed in a swirling melee, where he and his men were outnumbered two to one. Fighting desperately, Pozharski looked for asistance from his feudal cavalry, but they were invovled in their own struggle with the main body of Cossack cavalry. Unable to escape, Pozharski went down fighting.

Meanwhile the attack on the southern redoubt had been progressing. The light gun had been inflicting casualties on the streltsi who could ill afford the losses. They managed to stop the first attack by the levy but the defenders were stretched very thinly and the Zaporozhians were moving around their left flank. Fortunately this brought them within range of the field gun on the northern bank and losses began to mount. Having defeated a second levy attack the Vorontzov Streltsi moved to support the Ivanov Streltsi who were invovled in an unequal firefight with the Zaporozhians. It was at this moment that Dolgoruki arrived with his reinforcements, a body of feudal cavalry and two units of streltsi.

The Muscovites were clinging on to the part contructed redoubt and the feudal cavalry were still fighting the main cossack cavalry, but the cossack horse archers were beginning to move across the river by a minor ford, threatening to attack the northern redoubt from the rear.

Bolotnikov saw the Muscovite reinforcements arriving and sent his last reserve of cavalry to attack the feudal cavalry as they came across the ford, delaying their advance as long as possible. Dolgoruki for his part sent one unit of streltsi to defend the northern redoubt and gave orders to the second to deploy to cover the ford from the northern bank. He then led his cavalry forward across the ford. On the far bank they were met by the Cossack cavalry and found it difficult to deploy to use their superior numbers and another protracted melee began.

In the redoubt the Zaporozhians had finally driven off the Ivanov Streltsi and closed up to the part completed works. The Vorontzov streltsi charged forward but were met by a telling volley and then driven back by the Zaporozhians. As the streltsi attempted to reform they were charged by the levy who had taken advantage of a gap in the defences to enter the works.

Still disorganised from their failed charge the streltsi were swept away by the levy and organised resistance in the part completed redoubt ended. The few remaining streltsi ran for their lives towards the ford. Dolgoruki had made some progress, driving off the cossack cavalry, but was now coming under fire from the levy musketeers. He struggled to form his men up to charge this 'rabble' because they could see streltsi running for the ford and also cossack horse archers on the northern bank. As the feudal cavalry milled about Bolotnikov gathered the few cavalry remaining from the successful fight with Pozharski's cavalry and charged. Caught at the halt and in disarray Dolgoruki's men broke and were pursued to the ford by the jubilant cossacks. The two undamaged streltsi units deterred any Cossack move across the river, but they were happy to take away the wagons of stores and an artillery piece from the redoubt

We used a few amendments to the 1644 rules for this 'eastern' scenario. Instead of charging in squadrons the feudal cavalry charge as a body and only count their second rank if the melee continues. This second rank does not get any impetus.

With small numbers of figures it is possible to have 'rubber swords' melees which go on and on with no casualties. In these cases two rounds of melee with no casualties result in both sides falling back.

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