Monday, 26 November 2012

Siege of Manchester, 1642

This was another early ECW scenario with most of the troops being rated 'raw', which, as usual, created its own particular chgallenges for the commanders.  For the Parliamentarians, Colonel Richard Holland was in commnad of the garrison and had placed three units of infantry, a company of commanded shot and a light gun at the end of Deansgate under the command of Captain Bradshaw. In the Market square he retained a reserve of two units of the Manchester militia and his sole cavalry unit.  To cover the bridge over the Irwell he had the Cheshire and Wilmslow Trained Bands.
Lord Strange, the Royalist commander, had four units of foot, two divisions of Sir Charles Gerard's foot and two of the South Lancashire Trained Bands.  In support were Girlington's Horse and four pieces of artillery.  On his right, across the Irwell, Lord Molyneux had his own regiment of foot, two divisions of Sir Gilbert Gerard's Foot, a unity of dismounted dragoons and three guns.

Lord Strange's  'cunning plan' was to try and draw off the reserves by Molyneux attacking the end of Deansgate and then make the main push over the Irwell bridge himself.

This picture shows the Irwell Bridge with Deasgate in the top right corner.

Holland's men had not been idle and several barricades had been constructed to hamper the Royalist advance.  There were also plenty of buildings which may have garrisons that would pose a  threat to the flanks of the attackers.

The Royalists started with their artillery.  We were using the Warhammer ECW rules so the ranges were estimated then adjusted by dice throws.  There was always the chance of a misfire which could have a range of results from no effect to the destruction of the gun.  At first the Royalist fire, although inaccurate, did inflict casualties on the defenders.  One of the units of the Manchester Trained Bands was particularly badly hit and fell back to rally.  This prompted Molyneux to push forward his dragoons to outflank the weakened Parliamentary foot.  The Wilmslow Trained Band also suffered losses but held there ground.  Never one to be patient, Lord Strange ordered a unit of Sir Charles Gerard's Foot, supported by one of the Trained Band units to force the barricade on the bridge and push on towards the Market Square.  This they did, suffering no loss in the process and formed up ready to charge the Wilmslow Trained Band.  At this point they were fired from the house to their left and also from the churchyard which held the Cheshire Trained Band.  Although some casualties were sustained Gerard's charged forward, leaving the South Lancashire Trained Band to tackle the musketeers firing from the house.  Heavily outnumbered, the parliamentary musketeers were quickly ejected and ran towards the churchyard.  Gerard's was now in melee with the Wilmslow men and after a tough struggle pushed them back from the barricade.  Lord Strange had by now come forward and ordered Gerard's to dismantle the barricade and then push on to the Market Square. He also ordered forward Girlington's Horse and the remainder of the infantry.

At the Deansgate barricade Lord Molyneux had not had things all his own way.  Although he had pushed back one of the defending units, his own unit of foot had been hit by the Parliamentarian artillery.  One shot in particular had carried away a whole file of men and seeing the carnage, the unit began to edge back out of range.  Dismayed at this, Lord Molyneux galloped over to rally his men.  In this he succeeded, but he was unable to stop the gunners fleeing from the remains of their gun which had misfired and collapsed.  The continuing firefight at the Deansgate barricade was causing casualties to both sides and Bradshaw was glad to see a unit of the Manchester Militia sent by Holland, coming down the road.  Lord Molyneux had reinforced the flanking manoeuvre by the dragoons with part of Sir Gilbert Gerard's foot and the Militia would help to hold the flank.  Suddenly there was a loud explosion, heard across the town of Manchester.  Another of Lord Molyneux's guns had misfired, this time with disastrous results.  The barrel had ruptured and mown down the crew with shards of metal.

Lord Strange had also been plagued by misfires with two of his guns falling silent as the crews ran away, fearing the next misfire may result in their death.  However, his advance had masked the artillery fire on the Parliamentarians so he now had to rely on the skill of his men.  As the last elements of the barricade were cleared by Gerard's men they were charged by the reformed Wilmslow Trained Bands.  Caught unformed Gerard's were unable to stand and routed.  Seeing the rout, the men of the South Lancashire Trained Band lost heart and also ran for the bridge over the Irwell.  On the bridge Girlington's Horse refused to join the 'race to the rear', but were unable to move forward themselves.   Lord Strange galloped to and fro desperately trying to rally his men.  Eventually he restored some semblance of order and the Royalist advance began again.

Molyneux's dragoons had now begun to fire on the flank of the Deansgate position.  Bradshaw ordered forward  the Manchester Militia to disperse the dragoons.  Although they lacked musketeer support, the pikes moved forward quickly and after a ragged volley the dragoons fell back rapidly.  Refusing to be drawn too far from Manchester's defences the pikemen fell back to line the walls of the town.  Molyneux also had Gilbert Gerard's men threatening Bradshaw's flank.  As Gerard's musketeers moved closer they came in range of Bradshaw's artillery.  One discharge of hail shot caused such heavy casualties that the musketeers took to their heels.  Their accompanying pikes stood, but the sight of their dead comrades was enough to make them to reluctant to advance any further.  Molyneux recognised that he now had insufficient strength to carry the Deansgate position.  He had carried out his orders, drawing some reserves in his direction and honour satisfied he resolved to fall back and oppose any Parliamentarian advance.

Lord Strange's advance had also run into trouble.  Although Charles Gerard's foot had renewed their struggle with the Wimslow Trained Bands they had again been driven back,  Lord Strange had been unable to rally them and they were now dispersed across the battlefield.  The Wimslow men were now attacked by the South Lancashire Trained Bands who quickly avenged their fellow Royalists.  Carried away by their success the Trained Bands continued their pursuit of their foes too far.  They were caught in flank by the Manchester Militia and quickly became a disorganised rabble running for the bridge over the Irwell.  Looking around him, Lord Strange sensed that he would not capture Manchester today.  Half his infantry were dispersed and would take days to reform.  The defenders of the town seemed to be as numerous as before and were now encouraged by their successes.  He therefore sent a message to Molyneux telling him to break off the action and meet him at the Royalist headquarters to plan for the next day.

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