Sunday, 29 October 2017

Millbridge - an ECW scenario for Pike and Shotte

Once again we are in Kelhamshire and the idea for this week's game came from a post on TMP  linking to an AAR on a battle based on Grant's "Scenarios for wargamers" ( link ).  An overview of the table set up is shown in the photo below

Millbridge is a vital crossing of the river Kelham.  It's importance has been identified by the Royalist command and defences have been constructed to secure it against attack.  Lord Melchett had deployed three regiments of foot, a unit of commanded shot, a unit of dragoons and three units of cavalry as a garrison.  Three redoubts had been constructed, each holding a medium gun.  One further medium gun was in a barn across the river, waiting for a fourth redoubt to be built.

The Parliamentary command also recognised the importance of Millbridge and made a plan to capture it.  A small part of their forces made a destructive raid on Royalist properties several miles away and drew off the majority of Royalist troops.  Sir Victor Meldrew then made an overnight march with 6 units of foot and 5 units of cavalry to arrive at Millbridge shortly after dawn.  The speed of the advance meant that he had no artillery support, but he hoped a quick advance would quickly overcome the enemy resistance.

The Royalist defences
Lord Melchett had placed the dragoons in the wood on his left and the commanded shot in the barn to the left of the infantry defending the fences and hedges in front of Millbridge.  The two of the three infantry regiments (under the command of the experienced Sir Hugh Tipton) whilst a third, under the personal command of Lord Melchett, was to be the reserve.  Sir Hesketh Fleetwood had two regiments of cavalry covering the left flank.  The third regiment was away foraging and had been ordered to return immediately.

Stewart's brigade

Meldrum's brigade
Sir Victor had deployed his infantry regiments on his left (the brigade of Nathanial Parker) and centre, (Sir Walter Stewart, a veteran of the European Wars).  On his right was the cavalry brigade of Colonel James Meldrum.  Sir Roderick Murgatroyd's brigade was delayed, having missed its way in the dark.  His plan was for the cavalry to try and force its way through the gap near the barn and draw off the Royalist reserves.  At the same time he would send his infantry forward and break through the defences and secure the bridge.

Sir Victor waved his sword aloft and the attack began; at least the infantry advanced.  For some reason, Meldrum missed the signal and his cavalry remained stationary.  As the Parliamentary regiments advanced the Royalist guns began firing, although their early rounds were wide of the mark.  However, the infantry soon got the range and Gell's regiment in Parker's brigade took heavy casualties.  Sir Victor had his trumpeter sound the alert and then repeated his signal with his sword. Still Meldrum did nor move.  His temper fraying, Sir Victor sent a courier to Meldum with a terse message, "Get your men moving, or I will replace you with someone who will !"  This had the desired effect and the Parliamentary cavalry at last began to move.

Parker's brigade prepare to charge
By now the Parliamentary infantry were nearing the Royalist defences, they had taken casualties, but gathered themselves and charged home through the closing volley.   A fierce melee took place across the hedges and fences but the defences held and all the attacks failed.  Two of Parker's regiments, Gell's and Blackburn's routed and had to be rallied by Parker and a thoroughly displeased Sir Victor.  Stewart had ordered Broughton's regiment to drive the commanded shot from the barn, but this proved difficult.  The first attack was pressed home with determination, but a resolute defence eventually forced Broughton's to fall back to recover.

Blackburn's rout
Meanwhile Fleetwood was anxiously awaiting the arrival of his third regiment of cavalry, especially as the enemy had at last bestirred themselves.  Fortunately their approach route took them close to the wood and the dragoons emptied quite a few saddles as the Royalist troopers passed.  Seeing some disorder in the opposing ranks, Fleetwood ordered a charge and was rewarded by seeing his regiments drive back the attackers.

Although the first Parliamentary attack had been driven off, there was no let up for the defenders.  Before a second attack was launched Parker and Stewart resolved to 'soften up' the Royalists with musketry.  This was quite effective, Taylor's regiment on the Royalist right took such losses it was forced to rally.  Lord Melchett galloped over to encourage his men and as he rode along the ranks a musket ball hit him in the shoulder, a second hit him in the thigh and he slid from his horse.  He was carried from the field to receive medical attention.  The second in command, his cousin, Sir Marmaduke Cathcart, stepped forward to rally the men, but within 5 minutes he had gone to a better place, felled by a musket ball between the eyes.  Sir Hugh Tipton was fully employed trying to hold the line in the centre. Apsley's was coming under increasing pressure and Sir Victor sent forward a fresh regiment to press his advantage.

Apsley's attacked again
After a brief melee, the attackers prevailed and the Royalists fell back.  Seizing their chance the Parliamentarians forced their way over the defences and their rallied colleagues moved forward in support.  Tipton turned to Gerard's the reserve regiment, and led them in a counter attack.  A close range volley, followed up by a charge, drove back the Parliamentarians and restored the defence line.  Sir Walter Stewart fell in the melee, severely wounded and was carried from the field.  Sir Victor sent Colonel Boyes to take command in Stewart's place.

Some further help was on it's way for the Royalists as Fleetwood's third regiment galloped across the bridge and made its way toward the left.  Fleetwood was glad to see it arrive because Murgatroyd had at last found his way to the battlefield and was moving forward to support Meldrum.  When he had all three regiments available Fleetwood attacked again, destroying one enemy unit and driving back two more.  However, Murgatroyd restored the situation forcing the Royalists to fall back.  The melee flowed back and forth for some time, each time Parliamentary cavalry neared the woods the dragoons would fire at them, whittling away at their numbers.

Sir Victor sent forward another attack against the barn, surely the musketeers there would be running short of ammunition?  Once more the Parliamentary infantry charged the building; and once more the Royalists desperately contested each opening, using the butts of their muskets to bludgeon their attackers.  For a brief moment it seemed that the attackers would prevail, but the defenders rallied and pushed back with renewed vigour.  The colonel fell in the melee and the fight drained from his men, slowly at first,  then with gathering speed, the Parliamentarians fell back.

The crisis of the battle took place by the river.  Parker's leading regiment, Catterall's, had by now reached the road leading to the bridge.  Only Taylor's battered  regiment stood in their way.  Tipton hurriedly galloped over to Apsley's regiment and ordered them to support Taylor.  This they did, moving to Taylor's left flank.  Catterall's had Gell's regiment in support, but they were becoming disordered by moving through the enclosures and buildings of Millbridge.  Catterall's charged anyway and the volley from Taylor's was ragged and ineffective.  The Royalist line staggered under the impact, but the moral support offered by Apsley's was just enough to prevent a rout.  Indeed as the melee continued it was the Parliamentarians who were flinching.  Their supports were still too far away and now the gun stored in the barn was being moved to fire on their flank.  A final push and it was the Parliamentarians who ran, taking with them their erstwhile supports.

The Crisis of the battle
Sir Victor once again tasted the bitter fruit of defeat, it had been so close !  One fresh unit could have proved decisive, but that was something he did not have.  With a heavy heart he ordered a retreat; for their part the Royalists were too weary to pursue.  Losses had been heavy and their commander had been carried from the field.

A nicely balanced scenario producing a close and exciting game.  Interestingly the slow  Parliamentary cavalry duplicated events in the report on TMP.

Could I take this opportunity to once again thank those commenting on my various posts.  Your comments are very welcome and are a continuing encouragement to continue chronicling our games.