Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Lathom convoy; an ECW scenario for Pike and Shotte

Rather than return to Kelhamshire, I decided that the latest ECW game should have some element of historical fact about it.  The whole scenario was fictitious, but there was a protracted siege of Lathom House during the ECW.  For the purposes of the scenario the Royalist commander of Liverpool (Sir Roderick Murgatroyd), has organised a convoy of supplies to bolster the defenders of Lathom House. The Parliamentarian commander (Ferdinando Assheton),  prosecuting the siege has got wind of the convoy and ordered part of his force to take up a blocking position at a vital bridge.

This is a general view of Assheton's deployment.  In the distance on the Parliamentarian left are the two regiments of Starkie's brigade of horse; in the centre are three regiments of foot under Assheton's command and by the road in reserve are Shuttleworth's brigade of horse.  A unit of commanded shot is deployed on the far right covering the ford.  By the bridge is a light gun and in the toll house is a unit of dragoons.  The river is fordable by both horse and foot (not artillery or wagons, they must use the bridge), but there is a risk of disorder.  Assheton's objective is to stop the convoy leaving the table towards Lathom.
Sir Roderick has deployed Hoghton's brigade of horse (two regiments) on his right, Gerard's foot (3 regiments) is in the centre accompanied by a light gun and Tyldesley's horse (two regiments) are facing the ford.  On the road is the convoy, under the command of Sir James Moylneux.  The column is led by a unit of dragoons; with the wagons, escorted by two units of commanded shot, following. With the sides fairly evenly matched, Sir Roderick realised that forcing a crossing would not be easy; he therefore pushed his dragoons forward, intending to occupy the toll house.  In the centre his artillery moved forward to 'soften up' Gell's regiment, prior to a general advance by Gerard's brigade. He ordered his cavalry to move forward and engage the enemy horse with pistol fire, but not to cross the river.
As the dragoons trotted down the road and began to deploy they came under fire from the defenders of the toll house; surprised, they fell back and requested reinforcements. To their right, Hoghton's men had moved up to the river, but Starkie's men had moved back out of range.  On the Royalist left, the gun was quickly in action and soon found the range causing significant casualties in Gell's regiment.  Tyldesley's men remained a couple of moves back from the ford, waiting for the Parliamentary infantry to be forced to fall back due to losses.

Sir Roderick ordered the dragoons to move round the toll house and support Hoghton's cavalry by the river.  He also ordered one unit of commanded shot from Molyneux's command forward, to take on the Parliamentary dragoons in the toll house.   The commanded shot were to be supported by the green regiment from Gerard's brigade.  Assheton had begun to move his infantry more to the centre of his position to oppose Gerard's brigade, but he had had to halt Cunliffe's regiment to counter the Royalist dragoons.  Cunliffe rather exceeded his orders, because, not only did he reform to face the dragoons, he then advanced across the river and charged them!.  Not surprisingly the dragoons did not wait to receive the pike charge, firing a parting volley, they quickly mounted their horses and fell back.  In the process they fell into disorder and Sir Roderick had to gallop over and in concert with Sir James Molyneux rally them.

However, Cunliffe's impetuosity had placed his unit in a bad position.  Intending to support the dragoons in the toll house, he now instead found himself threatened by Hoghton's horse.  To protect themselves, the unit formed hedgehog, but now were vulnerable to fire from the second commanded shot unit and the reformed dragoons, in addition to the pistols of Hoghton's troopers.  They could expect no support from the dragoons in the toll house who were trying to beat off a determined assault by the green regiment.  In the end the dragoons were successful, but it was only a temporary respite.

Struggle for the toll house
In the centre, Gell's regiment  was struggling.  Losses from the Royalist artillery were increasing and, when Gerard moved forward Taylor's regiment the pressure increased further.  A devastating first volley from the Royalist infantry broke the defenders' morale and they routed from the field, leaving a gaping hole in Assheton's line.  Sensing that now was the time, Sir Roderick ordered Tyldesley to advance across the ford to support Taylor's men.  As the Royalists reformed after crossing the ford they were charged by Shuttleworth's leading regiment.  They had time to counter charge and won the ensuing melee, but were disordered in the process.  This gave just enough time for the Parliamentary horse to pass through their supports and begin to reform.  Assheton's commanded shot now began to fire on the Royalist cavalry and with casualties rising and threatened by a fresh regiment of Parliamentary cavalry the Royalists fell back across the ford.  Assheton was saved by Gerard's red regiment being very slow in moving up to support Taylor's men.  The delay enabled Assheton to get the yellow regiment in place to support his artillery and when Taylor did advance he was met by a veritable storm of musketry  and artillery fire.  Disordered by the river crossing and shaken by their casualties, the  Royalist infantry routed.  It required all of Gerard's efforts to halt them.

Starkie caught in flank
It seemed that the advantage lay with the parliamentary forces, but, on their left the pendulum began to swing in favour of the Royalists.  Cunliffe's regiment, thinned by musketry fire broke and routed across the river.  As the infantry milled around in disorder the Royalist cavalry gathered sensing easy prey.  Starkie placed himself in front of one of his regiments and crying 'Follow me brave fellows' plunged into the river with the intention of charging the royalist horse assembled on the far bank.  His men followed him across and the impetus of their charge enabled them to overcome their opponents. To his right, Starkie saw the commanded shot firing at the toll house and beyond them the supply wagons.  Waving his sword above his head he led his men towards the wagons, hoping to win the day with a decisive charge.  The Parliamentary cavalry closed on the infantry, but suffered heavy casualties from a closing volley.  They also lost men to fire from the dragoons who covered the flank of the musketeers.  Their charge lost its momentum and the melee was indecisive.  This allowed time for Hoghton to reform his men and lead them in a charge against the flank of Starkie's cavalry. Caught at a disadvantage, Starkie's men broke, their gallant commander losing his life in the rout.

Hoghton's remaining regiment now crossed the river and charged Starkie's second unit.  The melee was indecisive and both units fell back to reform.  Hoghton's men accomplished this quickly and charged again.  Their target this time was Cunliffe's regiment which was still trying to recover from their losses.  They stood no chance when the Royalist cavalry hit them, the majority turned and ran, a few stood, but they were cut down.  Hoghton's second regiment, fresh from their victory over Starkie now joined the fray and together the two Royalist units charged the last cavalry on the Parliamentary left.  If this attack succeeded few, if any of the Parliamentary army would escape.  Against the odds, fighting like demons, the Parliamentary cavalry drove off both their assailants, buying Assheton a little more time.

Cunliffe's men routed
The end was nigh for the Parliamentary dragoons in the toll house.  Casualties were rising and a second attack by the green regiment was imminent.  As the Royalist infantry charged home, the dragoons resolve cracked.  Assheton galloped over to try and rally them but he was felled by a stray bullet from a volley by the Royalist commanded shot.  The dragoons took to their heels and ran from the field.  Attempting to restore Parliamentary fortunes, Shuttleworth led his cavalry forward, but his leading regiment was hit in flank by Tyldesley's men and driven back in disorder.

With their general dead, four units routed from the field and the majority of the remainder in a shaken condition, the Parliamentary army quit the field, allowing the convoy to progress to Lathom.

Another seesaw action under the Pike and Shotte rules.  For this battle we watered down the 'disorder' result, For trained regiments it required 2 6's to impose disorder by  musketry and/or artillery.  This meant that in the whole game we only had 2 or 3 instances where musketry/artillery inflicted disorder, the majority of disorder results were caused by melee.  We felt that this gave a better game, though perhaps we may remove the recovery roll (the extension of the elite unit bonus instituted for the Gloucester game link   

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