Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The Battle of Hunter's Ford, an AWI scenario using Patriots and Loyalists

This week Steve set up a fictional scenario from the AWI, the Battle of Hunter's Ford.  An American force has deployed in a blocking position to halt a British push towards Philadelphia

The photograph shows the battlefield from behind the American position.  The William river flows across the field from right to left, with Hunter's Ford on the left and is fordable to all arms (except artillery and wagons which must use the bridge on the turnpike).  The turnpike to Philadelphia crosses the William river by a stone bridge.  Hunter's Ford settlement can be seen close to the ford by Green Hill and Jacob's Wood.  On the right, by the turnpike is the Mackenzie House, with Todd Hill to the rear.  In the centre is The Knoll and in the rear Turnbull's Ridge, where the American commander, General Jonathan Agnew took position.  His force was divided into three brigades, each with a mix on Continental and militia units.  On the right was Brigadier Matthew Arnold, who had only recently been appointed.  In the centre was Brigadier Thomas Hardy, an experienced commander who had fought under Agnew before.  The left, around Hunter's Ford was held by Brigadier William Collins, a steady pair of hands.  Agnew's task was to halt and if possible, repel the British advance and to this end he had deployed his rifle units forward to 'soften up' the enemy as they advanced.

Collins' troops near Hunter's Ford
Advancing towards the William river is the British force commanded by General Augustus Granville. He too has three brigades. On the left were the Hessians under Brigadier Max von Bredow, an experienced soldier who had served in the Seven Years War.  On the right the newly arrived Brigadier Richard Addison and in the centre Brigadier Thomas North, who had two years of experience campaigning in America.  Granville's orders were to advance on Philadelphia and he needed to secure the bridge crossing the William river to achieve this.  His plan was for von Bredow to capture Todd Hill and then the bridge, supported by North who would seize the Knoll and then pin the enemy centre.  Addison's orders were to demonstrate against Hunter's Ford and prevent any reinforcements moving towards the enemy centre.

Von Bredow's men advance along the turnpike
A roll of the dice granted me command of the British, whilst Steve took command of the Americans. As the British had the initiative, I moved first.  Von Bredow made slow, (some said glacial),  progress which allowed Arnold time to move forward and garrison the Mackenzie House.  Undeterred, von Bredow resolved to flank this outpost and deployed his jaeger and fusiliers to attack frontally whilst a musketeer battalion advanced up the turnpike prior to turning left.  Unfortunately, the musketeer's advance brought them in range of the American artillery on Turnbull's Ridge and a couple of salvoes of roundshot pulverised the head of the column, forcing the musketeers to fall back to reform.

On the right, Addison's command moved forward quickly and soon the opposing skirmishers were exchanging shots.  The line battalions moved up to the river and opened fire on the continentals on Green Hill.  Outnumbered two to one the Americans were driven back and Addison urged his men forward. One battalion came under accurate artillery fire from Turnbull Ridge and had to halt to reform, but the others pushed on.

Addison's men advance
In the centre North was also making progress, his riflemen got the better of the American skirmishers, but sustained some casualties in the process.  They also suffered from flanking fire from the Hunter's Ford settlement and deployed to meet this fire, rather than support the line battalions which were pushing towards The Knoll.  Hardy advanced his Continental infantry onto the Knoll and two steady volleys forced one of North's battalions to retire to reform.

Von Bredow had by now deployed two battalions for the attack on the Mackenzie House.  They were supported by artillery, the jaeger and on the turnpike, another musketeer battalion firing volleys. Undaunted by fire from the house and a supporting battalion, the fusiliers closed on the enemy.  They charged home and almost forced their way into the building.but accumulated  losses forced them to fall back.  Their place was taken by the musketeers who fired a volley and then charged forward. When they reached the Mackenzie House they found that the enemy had vacated the premises.  They too had had heavy losses and needed time to reform.  The unlucky fusiliers were hit by artillery fire as they fell back and were forced to retreat even further.  Von Bredow galloped over and helped them to reform.

The Hessians attack the Mackenzie House
Addison's skirmishers had now forced the American riflemen back and their supports had been forced to retire by a combination of infantry volleys and artillery fire.  A golden opportunity to turn the enemy flank seemed to be on offer and Addison ordered a general advance over Green Hill and moved his cavalry closer to the ford ready to exploit and openings.  In the centre. North had resumed his advance and his battalions were reaching the summit of the Knoll.

A view from Green Hill towards Todd Hill
Just as they reached the crest of Green Hill and the Knoll, both brigades were swept by volleys from the Americans.  Addison's troops shuddered under the impact and then broke as a second volley tore through their ranks.  On their flank their light infantry also fell back due to fire from the rifles.  All the brigade was now back across the William river with Addison frantically trying to restore order. To all intents and purposes the American left was now secure.

Collins' militia drive off Addison's brigade
In the centre, North's men weathered the storm and began to fire back.  Hardy's Continentals suffered heavy casualties and fell back.  Encouraged, North ordered his Highland battalion forward to the banks of the William river.  From here they fired volleys at the militia battalions opposite and soon one was scurrying back up Turnbull's ridge in confusion.  However, the Highlanders became the target for fire from two other battalions, a unit of rifles and an artillery battery.  Under the pressure of fire they were forced to retreat, the American lines had held again.

The Highlanders at the banks of the William river
On the American left, Arnold was struggling to hold his position.  He had moved forward two battalions to support his Continentals, who were doing their best to hold off the Hessians, but both these had been driven back by musketry fire from units advancing on their left flank.  His rifles were also in retreat, forced back by the accurate fire from the Hessian Jaeger.  Now, the Continentals also broke, having suffered heavy casualties from their prolonged tussle with the Hessian Fusiliers and artillery.  As they streamed back over Todd Hill they took some satisfaction at the sight of the fusiliers fleeing from the field,  as casualties also broke their spirit.  Even the efforts of Von Bredow could not stem the tide and the remnants of the fusiliers disappeared down the turnpike.  Arnold managed to stop the rot, at least for the moment, but it was clear that unless help arrived from the centre, he would have to withdraw.

The centre comes under heavy pressure
Help from this sector was becoming less likely as North continued his efforts to cross the William river.  The grenadier battalion had replaced the Highlanders at the river and nearer the bridge further battalions came forward.  As the volleys swept back and forth it was the Americans who fared worst. Hardy's Continentals were forced back again, only the presence of Agnew kept them on the field. Hardy was fully employed rallying his battered militia battalions and although the news from the left was good, it was the two brigades by the turnpike which mattered and they were on the verge of defeat.

What Agnew did not know was that Granville was also struggling.  Addison's command was unfit to advance and his artillery was out of ammunition, (all the British guns suffered from shortage of ammunition).   North was almost spent, his brigade holding its position by a mixture of bloody mindedness and the exertions of the NCO's.  Only the Hessians were in reasonably good shape, but they were faced by difficult terrain and would take time to push home their advantage.

So as the Americans withdrew, covered by their cavalry, the British halted and saw to their wounded, brought up ammunition and planned for the next days advance.  They had secured the bridge, but lost a day in the push towards Philadelphia.

This was an evenly balanced scenario from Steve and the result was in the balance to the end.  A few lucky dice throws could have seen either side win.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Postscript to Shrewsbury

One very interesting item I missed in my post yesterday was the short presentation by Tim Williams on the British Civil Wars wiki.  This aims to eventually provide information on all units which took part in the civil wars.  The benefit is of course that, being a 'wiki' it means that anyone can supply information, so all those titbits of information which gamers may have squirrelled  away on local regiments can be added and thus be available to everyone.  The site can be found here

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Visit to Chirk and Shrewsbury

This weekend Steve and I attended the Helion "Century of the Soldier" conference at Shrewsbury.   The plan was to meet Steve and his wife there on the Friday evening, so on the way down, my wife and I visited Chirk Castle.

Seventeenth century drum

Collection of arms

Of particular interest was the collection of 17th century arms and armour collected by Sir Thomas Myddleton, the son of the civil war general.  In a further room was a painting of the battle of Budapest from the early 18th century

The conference had several papers presented on the theme of 'professionalism', starting with a discussion of what the term meant to people in the 17th century and how that compared with contemporary views.   There was plenty within the day to inform and inspire and we both came away with plenty of food for thought.

The programme was

Prof Malcolm Wanklyn  "The New Model Army and Politics, 1659-60

Serena Jones;  "A Professional officer?  Colonel George Lisle and professional reputations in the English Civil Wars, 1642-48.

Andrew Robertshaw; "Cavaliers on the field of Mars, the Honourable Artillery Company and the London trained Bands as the training ground for the officers of the 'London' regiment in the Royalist army 1643-46.

Peter Leadbetter; "Organising the perfect militia, the Liecestershire Trained Bands prior to the Civil Wars.

Simon Marsh;  "A Case of drakes,  James Wemyss and artillery innovation in the civil war.

John Barratt; " A Rabble of gentility?, the Northern Horse, 1644-45.
Prof. Malcolm Wanklyn - ‘
The New Model Army and Politics 1659-60’
Serena Jones- ‘
A ‘Professional Officer’? Colonel George Lisle and
professional reputations in the English Civil Wars, 1642-48’
Andrew Robertshaw - ‘
Cavaliers on the field of Mars: The Honourable
Artillery Company and Trained Bands as the training ground for
the officers of the ‘London Regiment’ in the Royalist Army 1643-46’
Peter Leadbetter-
‘Organising the Perfect Militia. The Leicestershire
Trained Bands prior to the Civil Wars’
Stephen Ede Borrett-
‘The Rank and File of the British Army 1667 to
1699 from the Deserters’ Notices in the London Gazette’
Dr Jonathan Worton -
‘The Advantage Of Cooperation And
Conjunction Of Forces: The Battle Of Montgomery And High
Command During The First English Civil War’
Simon Marsh - ‘
A Case of Drakes - James Wemyss and Artillery
Innovation in the Civil War’
John Barrett-
‘A Rabble of Gentility? The Northern Horse, 1644-45’
Helion & Company pop-up bookshop
We will be launching Serena Jone’s new
biography of Sir George Lisle, Jonathon Worton’s
new book on the battle of Montgomery and
Warwick Louth’s new book on civil war archaeology
and drill manuals. We will also be launching the
printed proceedings of the 2015 conference
The Pike and Shot Society will also be supporting
us on the day as the official partner of the event.
They will be launching their new publication on the
artillery train of the Earl of Essex’s army.
Tickets include lunch, a free guided tour of civil war
Shrewsbury (lasting around an hour) and unlimited
drinks during the day.
One of the world’s leading specialist publishers and booksellers of military history 0121 705 3393
of the
1618 -1721

Friday, 2 September 2016

Battle of Winceby 1643: a scenario for the Pike and Shotte rules

For our ECW game this week I decided to base the scenario on a historical battle rather than to the fictional Kelhamshire.  The choice settled on Winceby in Lincolnshire, a purely cavalry affair and although each force consisted of only c60 horse and 10 dragoons Steve and I had a most enjoyable days gaming.

Information on the battle can be found on:-

the Battlefields Trust website

Historic England

On my 6'x 4' table I arranged the terrain with the flanking features of Slash Hollow and Snipe Dales along the long edges.  A couple of barns were also included, though I suspect that they were not there in 1643.  Each army had 6 units of horse and one of dismounted dragoons.  One of the accounts says that the dragoons were deployed as a Forlorn Hope to cover the deployment of the horse.  Therefore we decided that there would be 3 rounds of musket exchanges prior to the battle starting. (In our post action chat we decided that it would have been interesting to dice to see if individual units were able to form up during this initial skirmishing)

The Pike and Shotte rules rate the early Parliamentarian horse as 'caracole'  , but as Cromwell's Eastern Association horse were present his command were rated the same as the Royalists.  The Parliamentarians thus had two brigades,  Cromwell's and Manchester's.  Opposing them were Widdrington's and Saville's brigades

Manchester's Horse

Cromwell's Horse
Saville's force
A roll of the dice gave Steve command of the Royalists and after the skirmishing between the two 'forlorn's' his cavalry moved forward.  Manchester's men were slow to respond, but Cromwell's seemed keen and quickly closed with Widdrington's leading regiment.  Shuttleworth's (for parliament) lost the melee and had to retire, but their victors had suffered too many casualties to follow up their triumph.  Indeed as they reformed they were charged by Cromwell's second regiment, Nutter's who drove them back in confusion.  Indeed their precipitate retreat disordered the unit behind them who were also driven off by Nutter's.  In no time at all, Widdrington's brigade was in danger of being destroyed.

Widdrington's men take on Shuttleworth's
However, not everything was going the Parliamentarian way, Shuttleworth's were charged by the Queen's regiment (from Saville's brigade before they had recovered from their lost melee and were routed.  The Queen's regiment swept on and reached a position where it threatened the rear of Manchester's brigade.  At this point Manchester leading unit was struggling to hold it's ground against the Royalist attack, but even so he had to order his reserve regiment to turn to face the threat from the Queen's regiment.  Slow response to this order by Clayton's regiment meant that Queen's had time to recover  from their earlier melee before the attack was launched.  When it was the Parliamentarians were overwhelmed by their more numerous opponents and driven from the field, it was only poor command (and accumulated losses), by the Royalists which saved Manchester from disaster.
Nutter's driven from the field.
Cromwell was still pushing forward, but accumulated losses slowed his progress.  Although battered, Widdrington still had all his units available, as did Saville and they outnumbered the Parliamentarians two to one.  One final attack by Widdrington routed the gallant Nutter's and they tumbled by through their supporting unit Livesey's who became disordered.  With only one viable unit I had no choive but to acknowledge Steve's victory.

The Parliamentary dragoons stand against the Royalist attack
After lunch we re fought the battle and this time the Parliamentarian's prevailed as they did historically, even down to driving Royalist units into 'Slash Hollow'.

Two enjoyable games with fortunes swinging back and forth.  The rules do make cavalry melees very fluid affairs, with opportunities to recover from setbacks.  It also drives home the need to retain a reserve.