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  ) 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.