Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Royston Bridge : an ECW scenario

This week's battle is set in the fictional county of Kelhamshire and features those determined adversaries Sir Victor Meldrew, (Parliament) and Lord Melchett, (Royalist).  The Parliamentary forces are besieging Kelham, the county town and a supply train is on its way to help them prosecute the siege.  The quickest route is by the Royston bridge over the river Kelham and Sir Victor has sent a regiment of dragoons ahead to secure the bridge.  Lord Melchett has also divined the importance of the bridge and in turn has sent a unit of dragoons to hold it against any Parliamentary reconnaissance.

This is the general layout of the table.  The river Kelham is awkward to cross, disordering any infantry or cavalry units which attempt it and requiring them to take a command test to reform.  The Royalist forces enter from the right and there is a swampy, waterlogged area (impassable to all troops) on their side of the river in the bend. Beyond this is a ford.  By Royston bridge are the enclosures where the dragoons have taken up position.

Lord Melchett has 3 units of foot, Gerrard's, Taylor's and the Kelhamshire Club men, the latter being rated raw.  He also has three units of horse, Tyldsley's, Blackadder's and the Kelhamshire Horse, all being trained, but prone to pursue a defeated foe; and a light gun.

Sir Victor has 4 units of foot, the Green, Yellow and White trained band regiments plus Carpenter's Firelocks.  There are two units of horse, Livesey's and Shuttleworth's, the latter being raw and a light gun.

Before the action starts each general decides on his order of march and also whether he approaches in one or two columns; if one, all troops appear near the bridge, if two the second column enters the table opposite the ford.  For both sides the objective is to hold the bridge.  Arguably, it would be enough for the Royalists to deny the Parliamentary forces progress beyond the bridge, but Lord Melchett is of the opinion that honour requires that he should hold the bridge.

As you would expect, both generals placed the bulk of their forces where they could attack the bridge and the battle opened with infantry units on both sides of the Kelham advancing to support their dragoons.  Having the advantage in horse, Lord Melchett ordered Tyldsley's Horse to cross the river between the marsh and the enclosures and then attack the Parliamentary foot advancing on the bridge.

Tyldsley's advanced, but found the banks of the river very marshy and required some time to reform on the far bank.  Their delay proved costly.  Sir Victor had time to deploy the Yellow regiment to face them and a volley drove the Royalist horse back over the river.

Meanwhile, the dragoons had been popping away at each other inflicting roughly equal casualties.  Down the road advanced the Green regiment.  Ignoring a volley from Gerrard's they surged onto the bridge, determined to break through the Royalist line.  As they charged home they received a second volley which caused some disruption in the ranks.  Gerrard's absorbed the Parliamentary charge and then gained the initiative, slowly pushing their adversaries back.

Meanwhile, on the other flank, near the ford, Blackadder was leading forward the remainder of the Royalist cavalry.  Opposing him were Livesey's Horse and the White regiment.  The Parliamentary horse reached the ford first and managed to cross and form up before the Royalists could intervene.  Blackadder sent forward the Kelhamshire horse, retaining his own regiment as a reserve.  The melee was a confused affair, the impetus swinging back and forth.  Blackadder committed a troop of his regiment and this gained the Royalists the upper hand.  Perhaps acting too quickly, Blackadder recalled his troop and watched as the Kelhamshire horse drove back Livesey's first troop.  Livesey's second troop manoeuvred to avoid being swept away if their colleagues were routed and Blackadder reformed his lines to meet this threat to his flank.  The Kelhamshire horse lost all cohesion in the melee, whilst their opponents retained their discipline and began to regain the initiative.  Suddenly, the Royalists broke and galloped off the field, pursued by the troop of Parliamentary horse.

Livesey's second troop now charged Blackadder's men.  Outnumbered, they could make little progress and were slowly pushed back towards the waterlogged ground near the river.  Trapped by the impassable terrain they lost all cohesion and were driven from the field.  Blackadder's men now found themselves in an awkward position, isolated and within musketry range of the White regiment who were  on the far bank of the river and thus safe from being charged.  Heavy casualties were sustained before Blackadder could draw back his men to safety to reform.

At the bridge Lord Melchett had enjoyed some success.  His light gun had reached the enclosures and was supporting the fire of the dragoons.  Sir Victor had committed Carpenter's firelocks to the firefight and even though they lost several casualties to the fire of the gun they quickly established fire superiority over the Royalist dragoons.  Drastically reduced in numbers, the dragoons fell back, leaving the gun crew unsupported and they quickly quit the field as bullets sang past their ears.
Gerrard's regiment pushed back the Green regiment and in the confusion and press of the struggle on the bridge, it was the Parliamentary infantry which cracked first and routed.  Lord Melchett, ordered Gerrard to hold his men in check and reform ready to advance.  In retrospect a pursuit may have won the day for the Royalists, but Melchett was far too cautious to hazard his best regiment in a pursuit into the unknown.  His attention was taken by the deployment of his two remaining regiments, Taylor's and the Club men, both understrength.  He determined to send them to the right of the bridge to take on the Yellow regiment which was holding the river line in this area.  The fire of the Yellow regiment drove off the remaining dragoons and inflicted heavy casualties on the Club men as they advanced into the enclosures.  Lord Melchett had to gallop over and encourage them with a few well chosen words.  The Parliamentary gun also added its fire to that of the Yellow regiment, targeting the packed ranks of the Club men.

Even with the support of Taylor's regiment the Club men began to waver and once again, Lord Melchett had to intervene to steady them.  At the bridge Gerrard had reformed his men and led them forward. As they crossed the bridge they were subjected to fire from Carpenter's firelocks, but they pressed on.  Sir Victor had not been idle, he had galloped over to the Green regiment and forced them to stand and reform.  So, as Gerrard's reached the far side of the bridge they were charged by the Green regiment.  In the narrow confines of the bridge and lane both sides found it difficult to gain the upper hand and the fighting swayed back and forth.

Sir Victor now committed his remaining cavalry unit, Shuttleworth's.  In spite of seeing the difficulties experienced by Tyldsley's men, Sir Victor ordered his cavalry to cross the river and take on the Royalist cavalry. He hoped that this would allow the Yellow regiment to cross and take on the weakened Royalist foot.    Shuttleworth'sfared no better than Tyldsley's, disorganised by the crossing, they struggled to contain the Royalist charge,though their continued resistance drew in all the available cavalry in the area.

Unfortunately, time now ran out for us (the generals).  We adjudged that it was a winning draw for the Parliamentary forces.  At the bridge the Green regiment had the advantage over Gerrard's, the Yellow regiment had fire superiority over the Club men and Taylor's regiments and although Shuttleworth's cavalry were on the brink of defeat, it was likely that the Royalist cavalry would pursue any rout and thus leave a gap for Parliament to exploit.

No comments:

Post a Comment