Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Action on the Danube, April 1809. A Shako scenario troops added.

For our final game of the year we returned to the Napoleonic period.  The scenario was based on the action around Regensburg at the beginning of the 1809 campaign.  Historically, the French garrison of Regensburg (3 battalions, just over 2,000 men) surrendered when confronted by an overwhelming force of tens of thousands of Austrians.  For the purposes of our scenario the attacking force was scaled back and a relief columns of French and Wurttemburg troops added.
Sketch map of the battlefield - south is at the top
The Austrian force was divided into 3 divisions, Frolich with 2 grenzer battalions and two light cavalry regiments, Koblos with 8 infantry battalions and Hessen-Homburg with 8 infantry battalions. Koblos and Hessen-Homburg also had artillery batteries.  Frolich started the game at point A (see map above) and would be followed by Koblos a few moves later (dependent on a dice roll).  Hessen-Homburg arrived at X, Y or Z (again dependent on a die roll), 10 moves later.

For the French, Colonel Marquis garrisoned Regensburg with the 4 battalions of the 2nd regiment of the line.  Teste's division (8 battalions and a regiment of light cavalry), would arrive at point C in three moves and Marchand's division (6 battalions), together with a division of light cavalry at point B some time after move 10 (dependent on a die roll).  The Austrians knew that French reinforcements were on their way, but not which road they would take. For both sides the objective was to take and hold the town and its vital bridge.

Frolich's advance guard enter from the east (point A)
A roll of the dice decided that Steve would take command of the Austrians and the action commenced.  Frolich's command advanced at its best speed towards Regensburg, the infantry screening the town whilst the cavalry took up position watching both possible routes which the French could take.  Marquis had two battalions in each part of the town and attempted to hold the line of the gardens.  The Austrian advance guard did a good job occupying the defenders whilst Koblos marched his battalions forward.  An unlucky die roll meant that Koblos' division arrived on move 4, one move later than Teste.  However the narrow avenue of advance taken by the French meant that the Austrians reached Regensburg first and although their first attack was stalled a second attempt, led by the Deutschmeister regiment, overwhelmed one of the defending French battalions.

Teste's division advance towards Regensburg
Teste's advance was being observed by the Merveldt Uhlans and Stipsicz Hussars and their presence inhibited the French infantry from advancing boldly towards the town.  Teste ordered the 2nd Hussars to charge the Austrians.  Although outnumbered the French cavalry obeyed with glee. Charging forward they drove back the Stipsicz Hussars and then carried on into the uhlans.  After a fierce struggle they forced this unit back as well, clearing the way for the infantry.

The first Austrian attack on Regensburg
Back in Regensburg a second French battalion had been lost trying to hold back the Austrian tide. Assailed to front and flank the 3rd battalion of the 2nd had suffered so many losses it took no further part in the battle.  Marquis had moved one of his reserve units from the northern part of Regensburg to bolster the defence and these men now awaited a renewed attack.  They didn't have to wait long. Two Austrian battalions charged the town.  One was halted by a volley, but the second pressed home the attack and was only repulsed after a fierce fight.  Seeing the fighting around and in the town, Davout ordered Teste to divert two battalions to aid the town's defence, whilst the remainder were to move round to the south and engage the Austrian supporting units.  Two battalions of the 54th of the line moved towards Regensburg, the leading battalion deploying into line and  firing volleys into the flank of the Austrian attackers.  Koblos ordered the Chasteler (1st battalion) and Lindenau regiments to push back the French.  Chasteler charged forward, only to be halted by a short range volley.  Lindenau moved through the stalled battalion and charged.  They ignored the losses from the French volley, but were bested in the vicious bayonet fight that followed and forced to fall back.  For all their valour, the French failed in their purpose; whilst the 54th were doing all they could for their comrades a further Austrian attack on Regensburg broke through the defences and pushed the surviving defenders back over the bridge.

Deutschmeister press home the attack
Marquis rallied what men he could.  As he prepared a last ditch defence of the northern end of the bridge he received news that further Austrian forces were approaching, on the northern bank! Hessen-Homburg's division had arrived, right on schedule.  Although not on the ideal line of approach, it would take three moves to reach the town, these fresh Austrians meant that the town could not be held.  Marquis took the decision to head north and try and meet the troops being assembled further to the north by Augereau and leave the town to the Austrians.

Davout saw the line of stragglers head north.  Although the day seemed to have been won by the Austrians, he could still salvage something by recapturing the southern part of the town.  Holding that would deny the Austrians north of the river access to the decisive area of operations south of the river.  Another courier was sent to Teste with orders to attack the southern side of the town at once, before the defence could be organised.

Teste begins his attack
Once again the 2nd Hussars covered themselves with glory.  Reformed after their earlier charge, they now attacked again.  Catching the Stipsicz Hussars off guard, they drove them from the field.  Once again they reformed, but before they could move against the Merveldt Uhlans the Wurttemburg light cavalry arrived.  The uhlans were still shaken from their earlier fight and were totally unprepared to oppose the charge of the new horsemen.  In no time at all they were driven from the field, leaving the Austrian infantry without any cavalry support.  Koblos' battalions which had advanced to take on Teste's men now found they had cavalry to their flank and formed square.  The French and German cavalry pinned them in position whilst Marchand's battalions advanced and then deployed to fire volleys into the immobile masses.  Skirmishers picked off the officers and when gaps started to appear the infantry charged forward.  One by one the squares were destroyed.  An attempt by the Austrian artillery to offer fire support was snuffed out by a charge by the Prinz Adam Cheveauleger, which overran the battery cutting down the crews.

Marchand's attack develops
Rosenberg decided to bolster the defence of the southern part of the town and ordered Hessen-Homburg, who had now garrisoned the northern part, to feed units over the bridge.  This steadied Koblos' men and now the French faced the same problems the Austrians had had in the initial attack, but against a more numerous foe.  Hessen-Homburg's artillery now joined the fray, silencing Teste's battery and then cutting bloody swathes through the infantry waiting to attack the town.  Amongst the first to suffer were the gallant battalions of the 54th regiment.  Both suffered heavy casualties and had to fall back out of range of the guns to reform.  Led by the 9th legere the blue clad infantry swept forward.  The first attack failed, but a second cut its way into the town.  The remaining battalions of Teste's command, together with Marchand's men now began to clear the remaining defenders from the gardens around the town.  Losses were heavy on both sides and Teste could sense that his men were nearing the end of their strength.  He ordered an attack across the bridge in a last attempt to seize back control.  Stepping forward the 2nd battalion of the 9th legere formed up and then made a dash across the bridge.  Opposing them were the 3rd battalion of the Weidenfeld regiment.  Entering the streets of the northern bank the French struggled forward trying to establish a foothold.  It was almost achieved, but a desperate last charge by the defenders drove them back.

Gallant stand by the Salzburg militia (yes, two of the militia stands are facing the wrong way !)
Reforming across the river, they tried again, but this time a telling volley stopped them in their tracks and they had to fall back.  Both sides were exhausted.  Hessen-Homburg had lost the three battalions he had sent across the river and was determined to hold on to what he had.  Teste's men  had reached the limits of their strength and although Marchand's troops were relatively fresh, by the time they had rounded up the remaining Austrians south of the river, night was falling.  Special mention must be made of the Salzburg militia unit which twice beat off attacks by the Fusliers Von Neubronn before being surrounded and forced to lay down their arms

A fairly close run thing, but in the final analysis perhaps I gave the French too much cavalry, though Steve achieved a 100% record in losing every cavalry melee, even though initially he had the advantage of numbers.  This severely hampered Koblos' attempt to oppose Teste's advance.  Also Steve's luck deserted him in the die rolls for the arrival of his reinforcements.  There was only a 1 in 6 chance that Koblos would arrive later than Teste and that is what happened.  Also Hessen-Homburg arrived on time, but a long way from the town, (again when the odds favoured an entry close to Regensburg.  This deprived Koblos of support for a vital couple of moves.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Cropredy Bridge part 2

After a break for the RECON show last weekend, it was back to business this week to finish Steve's Cropredy Bridge scenario.

With the majority of Butler and Van Druske's cavalry routing, (this is a local amendment to Pike and Shotte, we felt that the immediate removal of a unit which failed a break test was too severe), the Parliamentary infantry in the centre were now threatened in the flank.  Middleton had managed to get one unit forward and this had fired one devastating volley into one of Astley's regiments.  However, any further advance was out of the question with Wilmot's troopers hovering, ready to pounce.  The colonel ordered his unit to form 'hedgehog' and hoped that other units would come to his aid.  Unfortunately, the remaining regiments were struggling to deploy as space was limited by the exit from the bridge.  Thus the unit in hedgehog had to endure a nagging fire from two enemy units, which slowly, but surely pushed it towards breaking point.

The fight for Williamscote
Wemyss had at last managed to deploy some of the Parliamentary artillery and their fire did force some of Cleveland's troopers (who were supporting Wilmot), to retire, but it was too late to save the bulk of Van Druske's command from fleeing from the field.  Butler rallied his two remaining units and they returned to the fray, but they were swamped by their more numerous opponents.  Over half of the Parliamentary cavalry had now been destroyed.

The end for Butler's Horse
Waller had managed to rally the right wing cavalry, along with Balfour his wing commander and they advanced against the Royalist left wing cavalry commanded by Northampton. A fierce melee took place, with victory going to the Royalists, though at heavy cost.  The remains of the Parliamentarian first line streamed to the rear and Balfour led forward the second line to buy time for the remains of his first line to reform.  Waller was meanwhile attempting to get the remains of Van Druske's command to come to support Balfour.  Three times the order was given and three times it was ignored. (For a change I was rolling consistently high dice).  Finally, one of Van Druske's units obeyed (perhaps a pistol was pointed in the direction of the colonel at close range to emphasise the point?) and moved towards the Parliamentarian right.  Waller had had to commit his Lifeguard to halt the Royalist advance, but it cost them dear and it took some time for the unit to recover, despite it's elite status. Waller had other problems to deal with.  Balfour had fallen in the thick of the fighting, having led a gallant charge.  His replacement had attempted to rally one of the routing units, failed and been carried from the field in the general rout.  A second  replacement was so green that he barely understood the words of command and therefore Waller had to take charge of things personally, rather than direct the battle.

Chaos in the Parliamentarian ranks
Meanwhile Middleton's men had tried to push towards Wiulliamscote but as they began to advance, the unit in hedgehog reached the end of its tether and broke, heading for the bridge over the Cherwell. Confusion reigned and spotting an opportunity, ordered a charge.  As the Royalist cavalry swept forward the men of the Trained Bands readied themselves.  They greeted their enemy with a close range volley which emptied many saddles and then took on the survivors.  Surprised by the determined resistance, the Royalists fell back, only to suffer more casualties from the Parliamentary artillery.  Astley now led his infantry forward to increase the pressure on Middleton.  A charge by the last remaining Parliamentary cavalry on the left flank failed to halt the advance and only resulted in the destruction of the cavalry.  However, it did give time for Middleton to steady his ranks and when the musketry duel began, it was the Parliamentarians who gained the upper hand.

Grey's men advance against the dragoons
Now Cleveland tried a cavalry charge, but swept by close range artillery fire and a volley the charge dissolved into chaos before it reached its target.  Grey's battalia which had for a long time been trapped on the wrong side of the Cherwell by Balfour's slow moving cavalry now entered the fray. One unit supported the remains of the Parliamentary cavalry, whilst the other two moved towards Williamscote, driving back the Royalist dragoons and increasing the pressure on Astley.

The view ffrom behind Northampton's cavalry
It became clear that the Royalist cavalry could make no progress against the Parliamentary foot without Astley's men and these were fully occupied trying to hold back Grey and Middleton. Northampton slowly pulled back and moved north to rejoin the main army, Astley followed and then Cleveland and Wilmot formed the rearguard.  For their part Waller's men were too weary to pursue. The cavalry were severely depleted and the infantry were running short of powder.  Neither side could claim an overwhelming victory.  On the  Royalists side, they had avoided losing part of their army and given the opposition a very bloody nose, but they had taken significant casualties.  Waller had chanced an attack across a river and failed.  But for the steadiness of his infantry the day would have been lost.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

RECON 2015

Our last wargames outing of the year was to the RECON show at Pudsey.  Steve and I were putting on a game on behalf of the Lance and Longbow Society and we reprised the Battle of Liverpool game we had put on at Phalanx.  Once again we managed to persuade some visitors to join in the fun.

On the next table the Kirklees group were recreating the battle of Tankersley Moor 1643, using the "Victory Without Quarter" rules by Clarence Harrison.

Close up of unit label
Across the room was an SF game which used some ships produced by 3D printing.

Small ships are 3D printed
They also produce 3D printed modern AFV's.  In the main hall was a large WW2 game of the Battle of the Bulge.

My thanks to Steve, Will and Bob for helping with the game and the Wakefield and Osset club for organising the show.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Cropredy Bridge 1644; an ECW scenario for Pike and Shotte

This week's scenario is on a bigger scale than Lindal in Furness, making full use of Steve's 8 x 6 table. Background to the battle  can be found here on the site created by the Battlefields Trust.  The dice determined that I took command of the Parliamentarian forces which Steve had set up with most of their cavalry already across the River Cherwell.

A general view of the field looking south
The Parliamentary forces are on the right of the photograph with Butler's brigade nearest the camera and Van Druske's deploying in front of the village.  There are still two units of Van Druske's brigade on the road and behind them are a brigade of foot and the army artillery commanded by Wemyss.  At the far ford a  further cavalry brigade commanded by Waller is deploying whilst a brigade of foot wait to cross.

Butler deploys for action
Reacting to the Parliamentary advance, the Royalist forces turned to face the threat, some units acting more quickly than others.  The most alert seemed to be Astley's brigade of foot which moved quickly towards the enclosures and village in the centre of the battlefield.  When it was my turn to move, my plan, such as it was, quickly unravelled.  I had intended that the two brigades of Middleton's command (Van Druske and Butler) would both attack the Royalist vanguard and prevent the Royalist army moving north.  Butler edged forward cautiously (average die rolls gave him only one action for each of his units.  The problems increased when Van Druske discovered a world full of 5's and 6's when his command die were rolled and not one of his five units moved !  This meant that Middleton's foot, plus the artillery were stuck on the wrong side of the river.

The Royalist foot struggle across the Cherwell
Waller was also having problems.  Two of his cavalry units advanced, but a third resolutely held it's position, thereby blocking the ford and preventing any infantry crossing the river.  Waller's dragoons did move with some purpose, they rapidly got into position to take one of the enclosures near the village and provide covering fire for Waller's cavalry. However, this was the full extent of their activity.  For the next three moves they failed to pass the command roll which would have allowed them to dismount and therefore stood there 'like piffy on a rock bun' whilst the Royalist dragoons took pot shots at them.

View from behind the Royalist centre
Move two saw the first clash, with The Royalist cavalry charging into Waller's horse. The resulting melees were closely contested with both sides experiencing some success.  However, the Royalists had their fresh units ready to exploit their victories whilst Waller's support was still languishing by the river, having failed to move yet again  On the Parliamentary left, Butler continued his advance, whilst Van Druske spent the move attempting to manoeuvre into position to support him.  His rear regiment was still hampering attempts by Middleton's foot to deploy away from the road and allow the artillery to come forward.  To make matters worse Astley now had a unit of foot in position to fire into the mass of cavalry as they deployed.  When Van Druske managed to cajole his reluctant troopers to advance in support of Butler, who was now struggling to hold back the more numerous Royalist horse, they had to run the gauntlet of flanking fire.  The Parliamentary horsemen took significant casualties, but managed to maintain their order  as they moved forward.  Their arrival tipped the balance in favour of Parliament, pushing back the Royalist horse and threatening to cut the road north.

Wilmot enters the fray
In the nick of time for the Royalists, Wilmot arrived with two units of horse which charged straight into the fray.  These rolled up the front line of the Parliamentary horse and routed the remnants.  The fleeing cavalry carried away their supports and soon all of Middleton's cavalry was falling back.  On the opposite wing a sort of truce had developed.  Waller and Northampton were both reordering their regiments ready to resume hostilities.  It was at this point that we had to finish for the day, but the battle will be played to a conclusion soon.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Lindal in Furness; an ECW scenario for Pike and Shotte

One of the aspects of the hobby which Steve and I enjoy is trying out 'different' scenarios which   'push the envelope' for a set of rules.  Thus scenario does just that; as it features a force which is predominantly clubmen taking on a much smaller force which is mostly musketeers.  I found the bare bones for the scenario when looking through P R Newman's thesis "The Royalist army in Northern England 1642-45".
[As a side note for ECW enthusiasts this can be obtained via the British Library e-theses online service (EThOS http://ethos.bl.uk/Home.do  ) all you need to do is register]
In the thesis I found an account of the siege of Thurland Castle by a parliamentary force under the command of Alexander Rigby.  He learned of an attempt by forces from Cumberland to raise the siege and taking part of his force marched to intercept them.  The two forces met at Lindal in Furness.

Rigby's force comprised about 500 infantry, three small troops of horse and two drakes.  Ninety percent of the infantry were musketeers, with c50 pikeman in attendance.  The Royalist force was led by Sir William Harrington and consisted of c1500 men, all clubmen raised in Cumberland. Some contemporary accounts also credit the Royalists with three troops of cavalry.  The action, such as it was lasted little more than half an hour.  Seeing himself outnumbered, Rigby decided to be bold and ordered a general attack.  His cavalry overwhelmed their opponents who fled from the field.  Seeing this, the clubmen also decamped.  Over 400 prisoners were taken by Rigby whilst he admitted to only two casualties, one of whom was wounded when he accidentally shot himself in the foot!

The Royalist left
To make more of a game I strengthened the Royalist forces by including Preston's regiment of foot, a Cumberland regiment which at the time was actually serving in the Marquis of Newcastle's forces. Harrington's force was thus

Preston's Regiment            (small)
West Furness Musketeers  (small)
Harrington Clubmen
Egremont Clubmen

A second battalia was commanded by Colonel Pennington
Eskdale Clubmen
Allerdale Clubmen
Leath Clubmen

The horse were led by Colonel Strickland
Dacre troop
Walton troop
Egremont troop

The Parliamentarian force had under Rigby's command
Green musketeers
Yellow musketeers
Light gun
Detached pike company

Captain Nutter commanded the three troops of horse
Salford troop
Lancaster troop
Blackburn troop

The battlefield had the road from Barrow to Ulverston on it's eastern edge.  Two areas of enclosures were separated by Lindal Common which provided some open terrain for the cavalry.

An early Parliamentary success
The rules classify the clubmen as warband, which means they are limited to one formation.  Special rules rabble and militia  mean that they must be given orders individually thus it is difficult to co-ordinate attacks, and they fail an order test on equaling the leadership value, (standard units fail if they exceed the leadership value).

A roll for initiative was won by Harrington, who tried to advance; only one command roll was successful, with Preston's regiment moving forward.  Pennington failed to get any of his clubmen units to move forward and rather surprisingly Strickland's men also failed to move.  This hesitation seemed to inspire Nutter, who got all three of his units to push forward with some speed.  However, Rigby's men seemed quite happy behind the hedges and content to await the Royalist infantry.  The sight of the approaching Parliamentary cavalry galvanised Strickland's men, The troops of horse from Dacre and Egremont charged forward to be met by pistol fire from their opponents.  Lancaster, who opposed Dacre fired a telling volley which disorganised the Royalist horse who were forced to fall back after making no impression in the melee.  Egremont rode through the pistol fire but were worsted in the melee and also fell back.  Fortunately for the Strickland, the Parliamentary cavalry were also disordered by the melee and could not follow up.

The Eskdale clubmen cross the hedge
However, the presence of the Parliamentary cavalry persuaded Pennington's men that it would be prudent to stay behind the hedges for moment.  Harrington meanwhile continued to push forward with Preston's regiment and the West Furness musketeers.  These units were joined by Harrington's own unit of clubmen and all three advanced on Rigby's Green musketeers, with the musketeers taking up a flanking position to fire at the parliamentarians from close range.

On the Royalist left, Strickland managed to get his men organised and moved forward to renew the fight with Nutter's men.  They had some success, but Nutter committed his reserve, the troop of horse from Salford and once again both sides fell back to recover.  Pennington had by now managed to get his clubmen to advance, but they made slow progress.  Rigby's Yellow musketeers decided to advance and get into musket range of the Royalists.  Their first few volleys had no effect and this seemed to encourage Pennington to press on.  The Allerdale clubmen charged forward, but were stopped by a closing volley which forced them to fall back.  Gallantly, they rallied and charged again, only to suffer the same fate.  This time the accumulated losses resulted in a rout and they played no further part in the battle.  Pennington had tried twice to get the Eskdale clubmen to charge in support of their comrades, but each time they held their ground.  Now that the Allerdale unit was broken, Eskdale decided to obey orders; ignoring the closing volley from the Yellow musketeers they charged home. Against the odds the musketeers prevailed and Eskdale had to fall back.  Pennington had by now managed to get the Leath clubmen to move forward, but their stay was short.  One volley from the Yellow musketeers was sufficient to break them and they fled from the field.

The Allerdale clubmen attempt to charge home
While Pennington struggled on the Royalist left, Harrington was slowly winning the musketry duel with the Green musketeers.  The Furness musketeers were proving effective with their flanking fire and prompted Rigby to commit his company of pikes to drive them off.  Manoeuvring into position took some time, but eventually the pikes charged and drove off the Furness musketeers.  Behind the musketeers were the Egremont clubmen.  They fired an ineffective volley at the pikes as they charged home, but managed to withstand the impact and hold their ground in the melee.

The decisive charge by the Egremont troop of horse
All this time the cavalry melee had continued, flowing back and forth across the common. Eventually, the Royalists gained the upper hand and drove the Parliamentarian cavalry from the field. The Royalist infantry definitely needed support.  Pennington's battalia had been reduced to one unit and was edging back towards the hedges.  Harrington had lost the Egremont clubmen who had given up their struggle with the pikes and routed.  His own unit of clubmen was badly shaken and on the verge of breaking, as were the Furness musketeers.  Only Preston's regiment was carrying the fight to the Parliamentary  forces.  Strickland reformed his men and the Egremont troop charged home against the flank of the Yellow musketeers, who routed.  These losses plus his lack of cavalry, persuaded Rigby that he should withdraw.  For their part the Royalists were only too happy to round up the remnants of the Yellow musketeers and tend to their wounded.

The scenario demonstrated the difficulty of handling a force with a large number of militia units.

  • The difficulty of coordinating an attack
  • The weakness of the clubmen due to feeble musketry and low melee value
The 'Follow me' order was an option, but it did put the general at risk,

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Battle of Whitemarsh, an AWI scenario

This weeks battle comes from the 1777 campaign during the AWI.  The British forces, under General Howe, had occupied Philadelphia but still needed to bring the American army to battle.  Scouts had reported to Howe that the Americans had taken up a position at Whitemarsh which covered their supply bases.  Having reorganised his forces Howe advanced on the Whitemarsh position in early December.  Three days of skirmishing convinced Howe that there was no way round the by now entrenched position and it was too strong to attack frontally, so he withdrew to Philadelphia.

American position from the left flank
Steve's scenario had Howe moving against the American forces before the entrenchments were completed, thus making an attack feasible.  The British forces consisted of three brigades, each containing four infantry units and a light gun.  On the left was Grey, whose command included a battalion of grenadiers.  In the centre, Grant with a unit of combined light companies and three line battalions and on the right, Cornwallis with  a unit of Hessian jaegers and three line battalions. Howe's plan was for Grey and Cornwallis to attack the American flanks, whilst Grant advanced against the centre, attempting to prevent Washington sending reinforcements to the flanks.

Sullivan's militia brigade
Washington had two brigades of Continental infantry; Greene on the left and Stirling in the centre, with Sullivan's brigade of militia on the right.  He had reinforced the militia by sending them the elite light infantry battalion.  His plan was to hold his position and protect his supply base.

The British attack on the left made good progress.  The first British volley sent the American skirmishers back in disorder.  This was followed up by two volleys which forced the light infantry battalion to fall back to reform.  In no time at all the forward slope of the ridge was empty of American troops.  On the other flank Cornwallis was advancing more steadily, but the jaegers were beginning to fire to some effect against the flanking battalion of Green's command.  It was in the centre that the British were having problems.  Grant's units were hampered by the wooded terrain and took time to form up.  However, they were far enough away from the American lines to be out of musketry range.

Grey's brigade ready to advance
Once Cornwallis organised his line battalions their fire, added to that of the jaegers forced Greene to pull his exposed unit back to reform.  However, he had managed to move one of the units from his second line to plug the gap.  This unit was welcomed by two rounds from Cornwallis's artillery and then a couple of rounds from the British line.  Wavering, they were forced to fall back and reform, once again exposing the American flank.  As the British advanced to exploit the gap, Greene's artillery came to his rescue and forced one of the British battalions to fall back and then turned their attention to the jaegers and forced them to fall back also.

Greene reforms his flank
On the opposite flank, Grey was advancing with some confidence following his initial success.  However, the American militia proved to be of stern stuff.  Trading volleys with the British battalions, they forced one to fall back.  However, this brought the grenadiers forward and their fire broke the resolve of two militia battalions.  As Sullivan rushed to rally them, the reformed elite light infantry moved forward.  They too began to trade volleys with the grenadiers.  To their left two militia battalions attempted to stop a second British line battalion establishing itself on the ridge.

Grey's men attack the militia
Whilst the flank attacks were doing well, Grant's battalions were suffering losses from the units of Stirling's command.  Two line battalions were forced to fall back to the tree line by the American artillery.  However, the light infantry managed to keep advancing and soon engaged the American infantry.

The crisis of the battle approached.  Sullivan's command was nearing the end of it's tether.  All the units had suffered losses and further casualties may well break the brigade.  Grey increased the pressure by advancing his units up the slope of the ridge and fired volleys at closed range.  Greene on the American left  was also struggling due to heavy losses.  Would Cornwallis prevail?

The militia save the day
The action started with Grey, whose grenadiers prepared to fire volleys against the light companies.  However, the American troops managed to fire first.  Their volley struck home and forced the grenadiers to fall back.  Inspired, a unit of militia also 'got the drop' on their opponents and drove them back.  Suddenly, the ridge was empty of British troops.  Cornwallis's men fired their volleys, but the Americans stood their ground, and in their turn reinforcements arrived from the centre.

With the December light fading and hope of a breakthrough receding, Howe called off the attack and ordered a withdrawal to Philadelphia.  For his part, Washington breathed a huge sigh of relief; he had been within a whisker of losing both his flank brigades and with it the battle.  

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

A Thirty Years War scenario

My wife and I have just returned from Scotland, where we visited my wargaming opponent of many years, Alasdair and his wife.  During the day we visited museums and historic sites, but for the evenings Alasdair had laid on a large scale Thirty Years War game for 'us boys'.

Swedes were opposed by Imperialists and we used the 1644 ruleset.  Alasdair had had some ideas about representing the caracole tactics used by the Imperialist cavalry and set up a scenario to try out the new mechanisms.  He took command of the Imperialists and deployed his cavalry in deep formations (4 ranks of 5 or 6 figures).  In the centre he had his infantry deployed in 'late tercios',  5 ranks deep and 11 wide.

Bavarian tercio with cuirassiers supporting their flank
I took command of the Swedes and their centre was composed of 6 brigades of infantry, (each of two regiments), with batteries of heavy guns in support..  On the flanks were the cavalry all deployed  two deep.

The standing order for the Imperialist cavalry was to use their pistols in preference to charging in with the sword, so the onus was on me to attack.  Obligingly, I sent forward my cavalry.  On my right flank, the king himself directed operations.  Inspired, the Finnish regiments surged forward and ignoring the pistol fire of the opposing reiters charged home, hacking about them with a will.  The Swedish  cuirassiers, faced by a unit of Pappenheim's  cuirassiers didn't make the same progress.

Imperialist Cavalry
 On the opposite wing, although the Swedes charged forward with enthusiasm, the Imperialists stood their ground and absorbed the first shock.  The second wave followed the first, but still the Imperialists held firm.  Now the extra ranks of the Imperialist cavalry began to join in and the pressure on the Swedish cavalry increased.

In the centre both infantry bodies had advanced to within musket range and began to exchange volleys.  Both sides had support from their artillery and losses mounted.  Two bodies of Imperialst cuirassiers moved forward to add their pistol fire, but both were decimated by the Swedish artillery and achieved nothing.

The Finns drive off the reiters
On the Swedish right, Pappenheim committed his Lifeguard to try and stem the Finnish advance. This they achieved, forcing Gustavus to commit both his regiments.  Eventually they overcame the gallant Lifeguard, but when they tried to attack some dismounted dragoons, a volley stopped them in their tracks.  Gustavus and his Lifeguard had charged into the continuing cuirassier melee. Their extra impetus tilted the balance in the Swedes favour.

The Imperialist cuirassiers rout
The Imperialist heavy cavalry broke and routed back past the artillery and their commander.  It took time for Gustavus to redeploy his remaining cavalry to threaten the Imperialist centre.  However, Tilly had used the delay to move his reserves to form a new flank.

The Swedish left breaks
At this point we called a halt and discussed the impact of the rule amendments.

1          Pistol fire was pretty ineffective.  (no surprise there !)
2          If the deep formations retained their command, their numbers would tell
3          There needed to be some way to allow the Imperialsts to charge when opportunities presented             themselves.  Perhaps by passing a command test.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Return to Shevardino

In July, Steve and I played through a Shako scenario based on the battle for the Shevardino Redoubt.  (link).  Although we had a good game, we thought that the position was rather cramped on my 6 x 4 table and Steve kindly offered his 8 x 6 table for a re-run.  The same terrain was used (see map below), except for increasing the depth of the woods and broken ground on the Russian left, through which the Polish infantry had to advance.

With the experience of the first game I bolstered Voyeikov's forces on the Russian right by adding a horse battery and a regiment of Uhlans; also Duka's cuirassier division gained a fourth regiment.

The Polish infantry move through broken terrain
On the French left Compans struggled to make decisive progress as a marshy stream ran across his front and Voyeikov had deployed his cavalry forward making it hazardous to cross unsupported, Eventually, the French did cross, but only after considerable manoeuvring to try and find an unopposed crossing.This delay allowed the Russian skirmishers to whittle away at the French infantry, the 5th Legere in particular really struggled.  In the centre, Teste had no such problems.  His main concern was the batteries of guns supporting the redoubt he had been ordered to attack.  As his men moved forward they began to take casualties as the roundshot tore through the columns.  On the right, Bruyere's light cavalry, led by the 2nd Hussars and 4th Chassuers, moved forward to try and pin the Russian jaegers in place whilst Krasinski's Polish infantry moved onto their flank.  To try and maintain some freedom of manoeuvre, Gogol ordered his hussars to charge the French cavalry. Sweeping forward the Alexandrinsk Hussars overwhelmed the 2nd Hussars, driving them from the field.  Without pausing they then charged the 4th Chasseurs and also defeated them, forcing the French to retire and reform.  Unfortunately, the exuberance of the Russian hussars had carried them beyond their supports and before they could reform they were charged by 4th Lancers.  Caught at such a disadvantage the Alexandrinsk were driven back in confusion and took so many casualties they were out of action for the rest of the battle.   Bruyere had only one fresh unit, the 3rd lancers and decided to wait whilst the rest of his command reformed.  This allowed just enough time for Sievers to bring forward his dragoons to support Gogol.  

The Alexandrinsk Hussars driven back by the French lancers
Sievers leading dragoon regiment, the Riga dragoons, crested the small hill on Gogol's right and Saw Sulkowski's Polish light cavalry which had just arrived. Supported by horse artillery, the dragoons charged the Polish uhlans.  As they swept forward they ran into fire from the newly arrived French artillery reserve which emptied some saddles.  The uhlans won the melee, but decided to fall back rather than take on the second Russian dragoon regiment, Neu Russland.
With all the cavalry in the area, the infantry of both armies mostly adopted square formation or, in the case of the 4th Polish infantry remained in the wooded broken ground.  However, when a battalion of the 15th jaeger formed line to attack the 2nd battalion pf the 4th Polish infantry as they moved out of the woods, the colonel  of the 4th Chasseurs decided to ride them down.  Unfortunately, his move was spotted by the colonel of the jaegers and the battalion rapidly formed square.  Inevitably the French light cavalry made no impression against the square, losing heavily from the volley fired by the jaegers as they closed.  With their morale shattered, the chasseurs fell back and took no further part in the battle.

Teste's advance continues
Whilst all this was going on, Compans was making slow progress on the French left.  The 3rd Etranger regiment (Irish Legion) had managed to move round the left of Voyeikov's line and caught the 2nd battalion of the 8th Jaegers in the flank and drove them from the field. Pushing on, the 1st battalion of the Irish attacked the remaining battalion of the 8th Jaegers.  As the jaegers turned to face this threat it allowed the 5th legere to cross the stream unhindered.  Voyeikov's cavalry was on his right, countering the threat posed by the battalions of the 10th line.  His horse artillery was doing a great job supporting the cavalry, but the pressure was increasing.  He was relieved when a courier arrived from Gortchakov with orders to fall back to support Beverovsky's position around the redoubt. However, this manoeuvre was made rather more difficult when St Germaine's heavy cavalry division (cuirassier and carabiniers) arrived and immediately moved in support of Compans.  In no time at all Voyeikov's infantry were all but destroyed by the combined attack of infantry and cavalry. The remnants were saved by the brave advance of the Tenguinsk and Bielevski regiments from Neverovsky's division and also the intervention of Emmanuel's dragoons.  The over-confident French heavy cavalry were repulsed by the squares and then driven back by the dragoons, blunting the French advance.  Gortchakov had been able to allow Neverovsky's counter-attack because Mecklenburg's Grenadier division had arrived and was taking up position on the right of the redoubt. Compans also received further infantry support when Morand's division arrived on his left.
St Germaine's heavy cavalry advance
In the centre, Teste continued his advance.  The French skirmishers were now engaging the Russian infantry and the infantry battalions were ready to close.  However, losses from the Russian artillerycontinued to mount, the 9th Legere in particular seeming to be the 'target of choice'.  The French reserve artillery was unable to support the advance as it had been slowed by the advance of Sievers' dragoons, so Teste's infantry suffered. 

13th Polish infantry caught in line by the Neu Russland dragoons
On the French right, the cavalry battle became more intense as Wathiers Heavy Cavalry Division (cuirassiers and dragoons) moved forward against Gogol's hard pressed infantry.  The battered remains of Sievers dragoons were glad to see Duka's Cuirassier Division moving in their support. Soon the field was filled with cavalry regiments charging, meleeing and falling back to reform. Gogol tried to extract his infantry, but Krasinski had at last managed to get his infantry organised and supported by the French reserve artillery they crushed the jager battalions one by one. Their stubborn resistance had tied up resources which should have supported Teste and also delayed the advance of the Polish infantry which should have combined with the Wurttemburgers of Marchand's newly arrived division on the left flank of the Russian position.  The cavalry melee was to continue for the remainder of the battle, with the French gradually gaining the upper hand, but the Russian cuirassiers had done enough to prevent the French cavalry intervening in the fight for the redoubt.

Heavy cavalry melee on the French right
On the French left it was predominantly an infantry battle.  Emmanuel's and St Germaine's commands fell back to reform.  Indeed, the French were so shaken by their losses that they took no further part in the battle; a great loss to Compans attack on Mecklenburg's grenadiers.  Compans and Morand moved forward, preceded by a swarm of skirmishers.  The Russian guns exacted a price for the advance, but still the French pressed forward.  The Irish found themselves in the front line yet again and were attacked by the Kiev and Moscow grenadiers.  As the grenadiers closed the Irish fired a volley which stopped both battalions in their tracks.  The Irish charged, ignored the Russian volley and drove the grenadiers backwards.

The Irish stand against the Russian grenadiers
However, this proved to be the high water mark of the French advance.  Morand's division had suffered severely from the Russian heavy guns and when the third of the battalions of the 46th Line was forced to retreat due to casualties, the attack stalled.  In the centre Teste's division had come to the end of it's tether.  Swept by canister and the volleys from the Russian infantry the battered remains of the French infantry began to fall back.  The Russians had held the redoubt and inflicted heavy casualties on the French, but had suffered themselves.  It would be up to Kutusov to decide whether to remain in position, or fall back to the Borodino line further back. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Hadrian's Wall

I will get back to wargame reports eventually, but over the weekend we visited Hadrian's Wall.  It is 40 years since I was last in the Housesteads fort area and that was for a rather rushed visit.  With more time I was able to appreciate the use of terrain and the amount of work which went into the construction of this defensive wall.

A shot from near the Steel Rigg carpark, just west of Housesteads fort.  The route of the wall can be seen on top of the Whin Sill feature and in the distance, leading up to the small wood.

With the clouds brushing the tops of the surrounding hills and late autumn shafts of sunlight failing to instill any warmth, you felt every degree of windchill from the sneaky breeze.  For the garrison of 800 men it must have been a thankless posting, I bet many wondered which God they had angered.

The guiding within the remains of the fort is useful, helping to interpret the foundations which have been excavated.  From the north wall you can see the line of the wall to the east; the gap in the valley is the location of a later gate allowing easier access for wagons.  The original north gate being bricked up.

In the museum you can see a selection of late Roman arrow heads which were discovered during the excavations.

Once the Roman troops left the wall became a very useful 'quarry' for the locals to use.  Over a thousand years later they used the ruins of the southern gatehouse to construct a Bastle House as a defence against Border Raiders.