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.


  1. A nice scenario, with the topography being particularly interesting. Seems a good scenario to benchmark various rule sets.

  2. Great write up. Reads like real historical battle....