After quite a break we returned to the AWI last week. Using the Patriots and Loyalists rules Steve set up a scenario with a British force advancing against a supply depot with a force of Americans trying to buy the time for the supplies to be moved out of harms way.
This photo shows the table layout, with the British arriving along the lefthand side of the table. Rebel troops could deploy as far forward as the ridge of hills and only those units visible to the British troops were placed on the table. The British advanced in three columns, Able on the left, (actually the least experienced brigadier), Brown in the centre and Carter on the right; with the objective being the small church at the crossroads. Initially, the plan was for Brown to pin and rebel forces holding the ridge in front of the crossroads, whilst the other brigadiers tried to move around the flanks.
Brigadier Able was the first to encounter problems; as he advanced his lead line battalion came into range of the the rebel defenders and a well directed musketry volley caused sufficient casualties for this unit to have to retire to reform. A second battalion also stalled as a roundshot from the rebel artillery struck a group of officers. Able ordered forward his light infantry skirmishers (perhaps they should have been to the fore earlier?) to cover the reforming line battalions. They then came under fire from rebel skirmishers in a wood to the left of the road. The colonel of the British skirmishers directed his men towards this new threat and although their advance encouraged the rebels to withdraw they did suffer officer casualties to well directed sniping.
Brigadier Carter had read his orders for a rapid advance and had his lead units in column in order to make quicker progress. Unfortunately, his leading battalions were still in column when they came in range of the rebel defenders and the rebel artillery fired very effectively. Line formation was quickly adopted by Carter's troops and volleys were exchanged with the rebels. However, his artillery was delayed in getting forward due to the lack of room. Carter therefore directed one of his battalions to move further to the right, cross the road and then move through the woods, outflanking the rebel position.
Brigadier Brown, accompanied by General Frazer Stewart was moving his men forward towards the rebel centre. His jaeger were skirmishing with a militia unit which had advanced, threatening the flank of Brown's advance. Volleys were being exchanged between the British and the rebels under the command of Brigadier Bannister and both artillery batteries were firing in their support. Stewart ordered forward his elite grenadier battalion but to his surprise these 'picked' men were unable to stand up to the well-directed volleys of the continental infantry opposing them. Again, it was officer casualties which forced a British unit to fall back to reform.
Although all three British brigades were struggling, the rebels were not having it all their own way. Several of their units had had to fall back to rally and the units replacing them were also taking casualties. Stewart decided that another push was needed in the centre and sent forward his grenadiers with line units on both flanks. Once again the 'elite'unit was forced to fall back by musketry from the rebel infantry, but undeterred, the line infantry on the grenadiers right pressed on and approached the wooded hill in the rebel centre. As they neared the tree line the riflemen placed there fired at close range and inflicted heavy casualties on the officers. The leading British battalion stopped and the supporting unit passed through them. Levelling their bayonets this second unit charged the riflemen. Not wishing to melee the British, the rifles fell back, leaving the ground to their opponents. Benedict ordered a unit of Continental infantry to retake the wood and a prolonged melee took place amongst the trees. Eventually the British prevailed and the shattered rebel infantry fell back. Stewart was delighted that this lodgement had been made in the rebel position and encouraged more action from his flank brigadiers.
Carter was making slow progress on the right, but had managed to drive two rebel infantry units back from their hilltop position. Also the rebel artillery on this wing had run out of ammunition and fallen back. His main attack of three battalions was nearing the ridge when firing began on his right. The units he had deployed as flank guards were now being attacked by rebel forces in the woods.
Able was finding any progress difficult to achieve. A second rebel unit was now firing from the woods on the flank of his main advance. Deploying his artillery to fire at the rebels and diverting a unit of line infantry to support the guns did manage to drive off the militia, but the main rebel defence line was holding firm. Desperate to achieve some momentum he galloped over to his skirmishers and ordered them to charge the rebel riflemen in the woods in front of them. As he was leading them forward he was a conspicuous target for the rebels and fell from his saddle mortally wounded. His loss took away any drive from the attack and for the rest of the action the left wing brigade was fully occupied trying to hold its position in the face of rebel fire.
Even though the central attack was making progress the lack of success on both flanks forced Stewart to assess his position. With heavy casualties on the left and centre and his right coming under new attacks he decided to pull back to his starting position and await further reinforcements. Benedict was mightily relieved to see the British fall back. His left and centre were in a parlous state and another push might well have driven the rebels from the field. However, he now had the time to ride over to Cowman's brigade which had done so well against the British left flank and congratulate the brigadier on his actions. The rebel supplies were moved back without hindrance and rebel morale was increased by their successful defence.