Monday, 15 February 2016

Jamestown: a fictional AWI scenario for Patriots and Loyalists

This week we returned to the AWI for a fictional scenario which featured a force of 2 Continental and 1  Militia brigades attempting to stop a 'British' advance on Philadelphia.  The location was the fictional Maxwell's Ridge, a series of low hills just outside the equally fictitious town of Jamestown. The main road to Philadelphia crossed this ridge and the brigade commanded by Brigadier Patrick Reagan had been ordered by General Arnold Benedict to take up a defensive position there.  Further troops; Bush's militia brigade and Ford's brigade of Continentals were on the way to reinforce the position.  Reagan had had only enough time to build a small earthwork to protect his artillery placed on Baker Hill, next to the Philadelphia Road, before the enemy forces arrived.

These comprised three brigades, On the left Boyd's brigade of British regulars with a unit of Loyalist riflemen; in the centre, Albrecht's brigade of Hessians and on the right, Cathcart's brigade of British regulars, plus a unit of cavalry.  In overall command was General Stewart.  Looking at the enemy force before him, Stewart decided that the best course was to use Albrecht's brigade to pin the opposition, whilst sending his two other brigades around their flanks.  The Hessian commander was by far the most experienced of his brigade commanders and could be trusted not to endanger his troops unnecessarily.  Cathcart was newly arrived from Britain and although he came with a good report he was as yet untried on the battlefield, Stewart thought this would be a good opportunity to see how the young man coped.

Albrecht's men advance
With the Hessian jaeger leading the way, Albrecht's brigade advanced against Reagan's position on Baker Hill.  The first shots from the American artillery passed harmlessly over the light infantry as they moved forward in skirmish order.  Once in range they opened a harassing fire on the unit of infantry supporting the battery.  Their fire quickly took effect. Targeting the officers, the riflemen soon had the Continental infantry wavering and Reagan was forced to pull them back to reform, sending another unit forward to take their place.  Cathcart meanwhile had ordered his light infantry forward into the woods from where they began firing at the enemy lines.  Screened by those woods Cathcart's line battalions and cavalry moved further to the right, intending to swing round Church hill and then advance on the Philadelphia road.

Reagan's position on Baker hill
On the left, Boyd's brigade had drawn the attention of Reagan's unit of riflemen and a battalion of line infantry.  Boyd pushed forward his Loyalist rifles and deployed two battalions into line, whilst his grenadiers plus another battalion of line infantry moved left through some woods.  The two units of riflemen exchanged shots, neither able to gain the advantage, but, two volleys from one of the line battalions did inflict sufficient damage to drive back Reagan's riflemen.  Outnumbered, the Continental infantry  also had to fall back, or risk being surrounded.  By this time Reagan was conferring with Benedict, asking about the reinforcements.  Benedict sent aides galloping back down the road with orders to Bush and Ford to advance with all speed.  He turned to Reagan and said that he must hold his position as long as possible.

Cathcart's advance
In the centre, Albrecht's men were talking casualties, but the experienced troops closed ranks and pressed forward.  As they reached the Jaegers, they deployed into line and began firing at the units supporting the battery.  The jaegers moved to the left to clear the field for the infantry and strayed too close to the enemy line.  Raked by volleys from two units the rifles had to fall back to reform, but they had done good work.  One Continental unit, weakened by the Hessian's fire, broke when hit by two telling volleys from Albrecht's fusilier unit.  On the other side of Baker Hill, near the Jamestown chapel, a second unit was also driven back by a combination of volleys and fire from the Hessian artillery.  Sensing an opportunity, the commander of Cathcart's light infantry battalion advanced on the chapel to  deny it to the enemy.

Reagan's position on Maxwell's Ridge
Cathcart's advance had slowed as he took time to deploy his men ready for the attack.  His cavalry had rounded Church hill, but he decided to lead his infantry over the hill.  Eventually he had his men ready and they moved forward.  As the leading battalion crested the ridge they saw, in the distance, enemy infantry advancing towards the battlefield along the Philadelphia road.  Ford's men were at last reaching the battlefield.  Benedict and Reagan had also spotted them and Reagan pushed his men forward once again to buy the time for the reinforcements to deploy.  Although they were nearing the end of their tether, the Continentals responded.  Once more they lined the hill, trading volleys with the Hessians, but to their right, Boyd had moved to their flank and two of his battalions were now joining the fire fight.  Reagan had sent one unit to try and delay Cathcart, and as the first of the British battalions moved down from Church hill they were met with a torrent of fire.  The line staggered, was hit again and then fell back to reform.  Cathcart debated whether to order his cavalry to charge, the ground wasn't particularly open and he had a grudging respect for the enemies marksmanship.  As he dithered, Ford's leading units arrived and an artillery battery deployed in support of the Continental infantry.  That decided the matter, the cavalry were pulled back and the infantry ordered to advance.

Moving onto Church hill
The battle for Baker Hill now reached a climax.  Albrecht sent forward his grenadiers against the earthwork.  Advancing through the artillery fire they paused, fired a volley and then charged.  When they arrived at the earthwork, they found it abandoned, only the dead remained.  Their volley had felled many of the gunners and the survivors had fled.  In fact, the whole of Reagan's command was falling back.  Losses in the brigade now exceeded 50%, ammunition was almost spent and many of the officers were hit.  Benedict commended the brigade's courage and ordered forward Ford's men to retake the position.

Carter's men arrive
On the 'American' right Carter's men were also arriving.  The riflemen moved through the wood whilst two battalions deployed from the road and advanced on Windsor hill, which lay to the right of Baker hill.  To their front a British battalion appeared.  Carter's men fired two volleys and charged forward.  Shaken, the British fell back in disorder and the attackers took the hill.  Their success was short lived because to their flank lay Boyd's grenadiers.  Without pausing to fire, they charged Carter's men and drove them back in disorder, regaining the hill for the British.  However, they too had exposed their flank.  Another unit of militia now advanced and fired a volley at close range into the flank of the grenadiers, which withered under the impact.  A second volley proved too much and the much vaunted grenadiers fell back in disorder to reform.  Fortunately for Boyd his third battalion was able to stall any advance by Carter as it could fire volleys into the flank of any unit moving onto the hill.  This gave him the time to reform his lines.

The Hessian grenadiers advance
 On Baker hill, the crisis of the battle approached.  Ford sent three infantry battalions forward to try and wrest the position from Albrecht's men.  The leading battalion shrugged off the fire from the Chapel grounds to their left, exchanged volleys with the Hessian grenadiers and then moved forward again.  Suddenly, they were assailed by a storm of fire from Cathcart's artillery on Church hill, which caused them to pause.  Another salvo from the guns struck home and they fell back, seeking safe ground in which to reform.  Their supporting units continued the advance but suffered heavy losses from the light infantry and the Hessians.  When the Hessian artillery moved forward to support their infantry any prospect of regaining the earthwork vanished.

Boyd's men on Windsor hill
Benedict surveyed the scene and with a heavy heart ordered his men to fall back, he had done all he could, but further attacks would be a waste of the lives of his men.  For his part Stewart was satisfied to have secured the ridge.  Cathcart's cavalry was ordered to scout forward to encourage the enemy to continue to fall back, but the infantry needed time to dress their wounds, refill their cartridge boxes and have some well earned food.  Albrecht's men had taken the brunt of the casualties and Stewart commended them on their actions.  Boyd's performance had been steady, but not decisive and Cathcart still had a lot to learn.  The successes on his wing had mostly come from the initiative of the unit commanders rather than the Brigadier.

Ford's men advance
A very enjoyable scenario, the rules produced swings of fortune and the Americans were hampered by the very late arrival of their reinforcements.  (Steve was decidedly unlucky in his die rolling)

1 comment: