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.

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