This week we had another scenario from the series of books published by Partizan Press which have featured in earlier posts. The action concerns the attack by Thomas Fairfax on Leeds.
Faifax had four large units of clubmen, (all raw), two south of the river and two north. South of the river he had two raw musketeer units. North of the river he had a large unit of trained musketeers and two smaller raw musketeer units, plus three large units of horse. Although we were using the 1644 ruleset the parliamentarian horse were rated similar to 'trotters' in the Warhammer ECW rules reflecting their preference for caracole type tactics rather than the charge. A major problem for Fairfax was the lack of any artillery. [A note about the following photographs; lacking sufficient clubmen figures we used pikemen instead.]
The battle unfolded with the parliamentarian clubmen south of the river forming up to charge across the bridge, covered by the fire of the musketeers. My artillery started off well, hitting one unit of musketeers with their first round, but this was to prove their sole success for sometime. My dragoons, manning the barricade blocking the bridge, began a prolonged musketry duel with the opposing musketeers, but over time my losses began to rise. Although I managed to stop the first attack by the clubmen my line was beginning to look rather thin.
The first unit of clubmen charged forward and attempted to break into the town. A feeble volley failed to stop them, but the supporting pikemen proved just enough to hold the line and then push them back. As the clubmen tried to reform a further volley crashed into them and they broke. Fairfax galloped over to stop the rout, but it took some time for the unit to recover.
Nearer the river the Royalist dragoons were having a torrid time. Although enjoying the benefits of the cover afforded by the defences they were unable to counter the weight of fire which was coming their way. Within no time they had lost 50% of their strength and the line was stretched very thin. Fairfax's musketeers continued their steady advance,supported by a second unit of musketeers. A final close range volley cleared the defenders from the works and the way into Leeds was open. Fairfax ordered his cavalry forward, ready to exploit the gap.
[It was at this point we broke for lunch, with both commanders thinking their opponent was on the brink of success]
The success of the Royalist counter attack was short-lived. With little fire support the pikes were vulnerable to musketry fire and they could not venture out of the defences because of the Parliamentary cavalry. Once Fairfax's musketeers recovered their composure, their volleys forced the Royalist pikes to fall back. Again, the Parliamentarians reached the works, again the Royalists charged, but this time they lacked the numbers to halt the advance. The Parliamentarian musketeers pushed the pikes back and crossed the works.
Savile saw that Fairfax's musketeers were still reforming after crossing the works and immediately ordered his cavalry to attack. Unable to fire the musketeers had to resort to their musket butts but could not stand against this new attack. Those trapped inside the works were cut down, the rest ran for their own lines. With the whole Parliamentary cavalry force in the vicinity Savile ordered his own cavalry to pull back and reform. His trained men did, but the raw recruits saw only a fleeing enemy and in a ragged mob picked their way over the defences and pursued their opponents.
With his dragoons driven off with heavy casualties, Savile was relying on pikemen to line the defences; but with no supporting fire they were being 'picked off ' by Parliamentary musketeers and also pistol shots from the cavalry.
The western defences also required Savile's attention. The clubmen were reforming for a second attack. With Fairfax in attendance, the clubmen surged forward and crossed the defences. Even the pikes couldn't halt them.
With his infantry units battered and his cavalry unable to affect the outcome, Fairfax reluctantly decided to withdraw. For his part Savile was thankful that he had held on. Truly, a 'close run thing'