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.