Monday, 18 July 2011

Hubbardton 1777

This week our battle was from the American War of Indpendence and the scenario was the rearguard action at Hubbardton following on from the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by Burgoyne. The American forces under Seth Warner had outposts near the bridge over Sucker Brook (in photograph below) and a picket on the trail leading through the hills along which any British force would advance. The main body was encamped near Hubbardton, just behind the hill on the left hand side of the photograph. Warner's orders were to delay any British pursuit and give time for the main army to reorganise. The British force was under the command of Brigadier General Simon Fraser. It comprised one unit of grenadiers, four light companies, two detatchments from the 24th Foot and a small body of Indians. Fraser's orders were to push forward quickly and disperse or destroy any 'rebel' forces he encountered. We used the computer moderated version ofWill McNally's rules for the action ( which means that you are never really sure how your units are going to react.

Shortly after dawn the British light companies encountered the American picket line and the action began. The scenario required the American player to roll a 7 or more on two d6 to activate each of his units. Demonstrating a readiness to enter the action 8 out of the 10 units passed the test and began to move towards the line of the Sucker Brook. One of the British light companies pushed the American picket away to the left allowing the remainder of Fraser's command to advance towards Sucker Brook. Fraser had detached the Indians to carry out a flanking manoeuvre, they were to advance to the right, making use of the broken terrain and approach Hubbardton from the west.

As the British approached the brook they found the Americans waiting for them and they received a hot reception in the form of some telling volleys. Two British units were forced to retire to reorganise, further encouraging their oppoents. However, Warner's deployment, although maximising his firepower, meant that he had no reserve. Fraser therefore ordered the grenadiers to charge across the bridge over Sucker Brook. In a one-sided encounter, the light infantry routed towards Hubbardton, leaving the grenadiers with a foothold on the far side of the brook.

Warner's response was to pull back his two separated wings, leaving the road to Hubbardton open, but posing the major of grenadiers the problem of how to advance without exposing himself to flank attacks. In the end he decided to move to his left and try and secure the hill to protect the flank of any advance on Hubbardton. Combining with one of the light companies the grenadiers moved to attack the American units on Warner's right. Again they were successful and both American units routed, but Warner's reserve units had now moved forward and they threatened the flank of the grenadiers. Facing about, the grenadier's rather ragged volley was not sufficient to halt the American charge, led in person by Warner, and now it was the grenadiers who were routing!

Warner now concentrated his forces, covering Hubbardton and the road to the south west, his main line of retreat. As the British advanced the Americans slowly retreated, beating back attacks by the light companies, who were now becoming disorganised after leading the attack and taking casualties. Fraser received three units of reinforcements in the form of Major Von Reidsel's jaeger's and grenadiers.

The Indians had eventually reached their intended position and charged the flank of Warner's line, but, after a fierce melee both sides had to pull back to regroup. Wary of attacking again, the Indians decided to move further to their right, searching for an open flank. An attack by the 24th Foot caused another American unit to rout, leaving Warner with only half his force still under command. The routing unit had the misfortune to cross the path of the Indians. The result was never in doubt and those who could ran for their lives. As the Indians 'mopped up' the remainder they were charged by two American units keeen to avenge their comrades. The Indians beat a hasty retreat back to the safety of the woods, but the attack had moved reserves away from the main position and the 24th attacked again, breaking the line and cutting the line of retreat for three American units. Warner's only option now was to order a general retreat across country, hoping to find a trail which would lead him to the main army which was concentrating on the town of Manchester. The troops which could have severely hampered this march, the light companies and Indians were too beaten up to pursue and so the action came to an end.

The result was as the historical event, with the Americans being forced to retreat across country and the British suffering sufficient casualties to prohibit any qctive pursuit.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Olaschin 1696

We were in Eastern Europe again for our latest battle, but much further south; not the Steppes, but the Danube basin neat Temesevar. Olaschin was the major battle of the Ottoman's 1696 campaign against Austria. The scenario was based on an article in Arquebusier, the journal of the Pike and Shot Society (

Now, we don't have an Austrian army (or their Saxon allies), for this period so the figures from the Jacobite army for the Williamite Wars were used. This means that some non-Austrian flags will be seen in the photographs. We also created some additions to the Wargames Holiday Centre Malburian rules to cover the Austrian's use of portable chevaux de frise against the Ottoman cavalry. This allowed for a possible breakthrough the barrier by the medium or heavy cavalry, but it also carried the risk of them being stalled by the obstacle and subject to close range volleys from the infantry. The Arquebusier account also mentioned the undergrowth as inhibiting movement and so the scattered lichen represents this

Historically the Ottomans began with their cavalry probing for weak spots in the Austrian defences and then followed this up with infantry attacks. We followed this pattern, testing out our rule amendments.

The Austrian artillery proved very effective and the Ottoman commander could probably have done with a greater number of light cavalry to act as a screen. However, in spite of their losses regiments of Spahis charged foward and in two cases broke through to engage the Austrian and Saxon infantry. The melees did not go the way of the Ottomans, even though the infantry's pikes proved ineffective. Setting an unwelcome precedent, the Ottomans seemed unable to inflict any casualties, not for the last time their dice seemed to be specially modified, ie they had the 6s removed .

As the cavalry withdrew to lick their wounds, the Ottoman infantry advanced, preceded by a screen of skirmishers. Unfortunately, they were not close enough to the Austrian line to maintain the pressure and this allowed the Austrian commander to pull back the units which had been in melee with the cavalry and substitute fresh regiments from the second line.

On the Ottoman left, their light cavalry was attempting to draw out their Hungarian opponents. A swirling melee took place with both sides having success; indeed the Austrian commander had to commit extra units to hold the line. Eventually, numbers prevailed and the Ottomans routed, hotly pursued by the Hungarians, who disappeared from the field for the rest of the battle. This was only one of element of a larger conflict as the opposing medium and heavy cavalry clashed. Lady luck favoured the Austrians, time after time they prevailed over the gallant but "6 less" Ottomans. In only one sector did the Ottomans enjoy some success. Driving back two enemy units, one unit of Spahis almost reached the flank of the infantry line, only to be met by the last reserve horse, led forward by the Austrian commander.

Unlike the formed infantry the skirmishes were not delayed by the undergrowth and reached the Austrian lines unsupported. There they were almost wiped out by the volleys of the defenders and their artillery. On the Ottoman left the infantry attack was stalled by the threat of the Austrian cavalry which now had total control of that flank. Only on the right did they have any success. A second cavalry attack breached the chevaux de frise and threatened a breakthrough. All that was needed was infantry support, but the Ottoman foot failed to advance after coming under close range artillery fire (poor dice again) The cavalry also failed to make headway against the infantry and after the regulation three rounds of melee, with no decisive result they had to fall back. the chance was missed.

At this point we called it a day. Historically the Austrians, after repulsing the Ottoman attack, had gone over to the offensive. After advancing to and capturing the Ottoman wagonburg, they fell to plundering and were caught disordered by their opponents.

The scenario and the way it played out highlight the difficulties of finding a set of rules which encompass the different fighting techniques used in this and other simialr wars. We could perhaps have 'stiffened' the Ottoman foot, but that would have caused problems rating the Janissaries. Starting the two forces closer together would have given the Austrians less chance to recover from the initial cavalry attack and may have assisted the Ottoman foot. On balance, the rule for the chevaux de frise did seem to work and may well be used again.

On another day, with the right dice, the Ottomans may have succeeded. Perhaps, once the wounds have healed we'll try again.