Monday, 25 March 2013

Southam, 24th August 1642

This week's battle is another from the series of ECW Scenario guides  published by Partizan Press.  It is one of a number of small actions from the early war period in and around Coventry.  A Parliamentary force under Lord Brooke met a Royalist force commanded by the earl of Northampton.  Brooke had the advantage of more guns and infantry,  Northampton had the greater number of cavalry.  The Parliamentary force needs to push on across the river Itchen and march on Coventry, the Royalists need to prevent this, or at least delay it and extract the majority of their force before it is overwhelmed.

Brooke's force consists of his own  and Holles' regiments of foot, both rated raw; plus Hampden's regiment of foot (trained). The majority of his cavalry is also raw, only Goodwin's regiment being trained.  He has 6 light guns, the crews all being raw.

Northampton's force consists of his own regiment of foot and Saville's dragoons (fighting dismounted) and two light guns in the centre, with Legge's, Caernarvon's and Wilmot's Horse on his right and Saville's, Compton's and his own regiment of Horse on the left.

We used the 1644 rules and reduced the effectiveness of the Parliamentary cavalry, not allowing them to charge formed enemy troops, requiring them to resort to standing and firing with their pistols.  

The dice decided that I would command the parliamentary force and my cunning plan was to advance the infantry in the centre and 'soften up' the Royalist cavalry with the guns to try and offset my lack of numbers in that arm.  Steve, commanding the Royalists decided that he would use his more numerous cavalry to drive my horse off the field and then 'mop up' the foot.

With a certain amount of confidence both Royalist cavalry wings began their advance.  Due to some fortune with the dice both Legge and Saville lost half their strength before closing with my troops.  This did even things up a bit and for a time my cavalry seemed to be holding their own.  My guns now shifted their attention to the supporting Royalist horse.  To avoid further losses Northampton ordered his own  regiment to charge the guns on my right and Wilmot's to do the same on my left. Unfortunately, the latter were disorganised by the artillery fire and were unable to charge; instead they fell back to reorganise.  However, Northampton's Horse suffered no such problems and charged forward.  Self-preservation now took priority for my gunners and they ran for their lives.  Hampden's and Brookes now found themselves with cavalry threatening their flanks and quickly 'formed a body' to fend off the horsemen.  This of course made them tempting targets for the Royalist artillery who began to exact some revenge.

On my left Ballard and Fiennes regiments of horse had proved unable to hold back their Royalist opponents.  Numbers began to tell and in a trice the remnants of these two regiments broke and galloped for the rear.  The sight of fleeing foes was too tempting for Legge and Caernarvon's men and they pursued their quarry off the field.

My horse on the right fared better.  Against the odds they eventually defeated the Royalist horse and then moved towards Northampton's infantry.  These had been unformed due to casualties caused by my artillery and therefore a viable target for a charge.  Brooke's Horse swept forward but could make no impression on the infantry who stood their ground.  As they fell back a salvo from the Royalist infantry emptied many saddles and the regiment played no further part in the action.

Goodwin's Horse had moved towards the centre and took on  Northampton's Horse who were busy butchering artillerymen.  Caught by surprise the Royalist cavalry did not put up much of a fight and were driven from the field.  Fortunately for me Goodwin's men did not pursue their opponents, but rallied and were ready to move forward again.

With his cavalry dispersed and his infantry outnumbered Northampton had no choice but to fall back across the river.  My forces were too far back to interfere with this move, but were adjudged to have achieved a minor victory.

We did re fight the action using the Warhammer ECW rules.  This gave a very different feel to the game, especially for the Royalist cavalry, who in the main, swept all before them.  The only exception was Legge's regiment whose advance stalled under fire and this allowed the Parliamentary cavalry to approach and inflict yet more damage with their pistols.The Royalist artillery was also much more effective, even though it was outnumbered three to one.  Hampden's regiment was reduced to only 25% by the end of the action, mainly due to artillery fire. In this second running of the scenario the day went decisively to the Royalists.