Monday, 6 November 2017

Action at Hunter's Ground - an AWI scenario for Patriots and Loyalists

It has been some time since Steve has been able to organise an AWI game, but this week the figures  returned to the table.  He had been working on a rule variant to differentiate the shooting efficiency of the various grades of troops (grenadiers, British line, Continentals, militia).  This was the opportunity to try it out; would the British be able to prevail against a greater number of rebels?

The British lines from their right flank, Bracegirdle's brigade nearest the camera

The arrival of the Rebel troops
Hunter's Ground is a large estate owned by the Hunter family.  The present head of the family is James Hunter and he is known to be sympathetic to the cause for independence.  Nevertheless he has afforded the commander of the British force in the area, Sir Hugh Thornleigh every hospitality, even inviting him to stay in his house, though the presence of two brigades on infantry probably influenced his decision.  The house is in the centre of the photograph above.

In the fields behind the house are the battalions of Bracegirdle's brigade; to their left, in the lee of Robert hill can be found the battalions of Clark's brigade.  This information has been passed to the commander of the local rebel forces, general Greene, who has assembled three brigades of infantry with the intention of carrying out a dawn attack on the unsuspecting British forces.

Caldwell's brigade

Archer's brigade
As the rebels approach they are hampered by early morning mist. Archer 's brigade, on the right blundered into a picket line of loyalist riflemen.  A few shots were exchanged and a few casualties occurred.  The shots attracted the attention of the riflemen skirmishing in front of the central column formed by Brewer's brigade.  Outnumbered, the loyalists were gradually forced back towards the big house.  The rebel battalions continued their advance, Archer towards Robert hill and Brewer towards the fields by the big house.  On the rebel left, Caldwell's brigade made relatively slow progress as the mist was thicker here. 

On the British left, Clark's brigade roused themselves and as reports came back from the light companies on Robert hill  plans were made to deal with the rebel attack.  Two battalions moved to fill the gap between Robert hill and Hunter's Ground whilst two more moved further left around Robert hill to threaten the flank of any attack.  On Robert hill the light companies were joined by the brigade artillery.
It was in the centre that things were unravelling for the  British.  Thornleigh waited with increasing impatience for Bracegirdle's brigade to move forward and support the riflemen.  As knots of riflemen began to fall back he decided to see what was causing the delay and made his way to Bracegirdle's camp.  Here found the staff rushing around trying to form up the battalions.  Finding one of the colonels he asked brusquely to be taken to the brigade commander.  The colonel haltingly informed him that Bracegirdle had decided to take up residence at an inn two miles back down the road, rather than use the tented accommodation provided.  "Are you the senior colonel?"asked Thornleigh.  "Right, you are now in command.  Restore some order and send Mr Bracegirdle to me when he deigns to appear!"

The Loyalist riflemen fall back
Bracegirdle's brigade had almost formed up when the front line of Brewer's brigade reached the fields.  One battalion was caught unawares when the first volley from the rebels ripped through their ranks.  Two more volleys followed and the sergeants struggled to maintain the line.  Even the renowned British discipline faltered when further volleys reduced the front rank to a bloody ruin and the remains of the battalion fell back in disorder.

Brewer's men advance
On the extreme right, the grenadiers had formed up quickly and advanced towards the cornfield.  As they neared the hedge they found that the rebels were there first and received a welcoming volley at close range.  The grenadiers responded in kind and a prolonged fire fight now developed with neither side willing to give ground.  Bracegirdle's other battalions were now ready and they moved forward to try and push back the rebel forces.  Some sort of stability had now been achieved in the British lines, but Caldwell's brigade now entered the fray. 

Caldwell's men begin their attack 
Their approach had been slow, but unopposed and Caldwell took the opportunity to manoeuvre his force into the right position.  He had moved round Brewer's left flank and now deployed  at right angles to the British line, enfilading it.  Thornleigh saw the threat and ordered two battalions and the brigade artillery to move to the right.  As they did so they were almost caught up in the rout of one of their fellow battalions which had been shredded by musketry.  Then the leading battalion suffered heavy casualties as the same rebel battalion fired into its flank.  The gun had moved forward and deployed, but it now found itself under fire from rebel infantry and artillery.  Although it did manage to drive back one enemy battalion another took its place.  Two rebel volleys felled a good proportion of the gunners and the rest fell back, abandoning their gun.

The British line before the collapse
The grenadiers now found themselves under fire from front and flank and they too were eventually forced to fall back to reform.  Thornleigh was desperately trying to re-establish a line when Bracegirdle galloped up.  "What are your orders sir?" he asked,  "Take command of the grenadiers and form a flank guard" was the reply.

On the British left Clark's men were gradually gaining the upper hand.  Two attacks had been driven back and the rebels were having to give ground.  Indeed, Clark's men were now supporting the loyalist riflemen who were moving  to outflank Brewer's men around Hunter's Ground.

Archer's men are forced back
 In the centre, Bracegirdle, keen to escape the threatening glare from Thornleigh, busied himself rallying the grenadiers.  That achieved he moved them forward with the intention of gathering up the gunners and recovering the brigade artillery.  Thornleigh had managed to reform the other battalions and they were now protecting the grenadiers' flank.  As the grenadiers reached the gun they were met by a volley from the waiting rebel infantry.  Halting, they returned the favour and with Bracegirdle riding up and down the ranks encouraging the grenadiers to greater efforts, further volleys were exchanged.  The right hand battalions of Brewer's brigade had been driven back and Thornleigh saw the chance of attacking the flank of the remainder of the rebel line, thus relieving the pressure on his centre.  He was about to issue the order when, on his right he saw the grenadiers fall like wheat before a scythe.  Two devastating musket volleys followed by two rounds from the rebel artillery decimated the grenadiers' ranks.  Among those lost was Bracegirdle. 

All thoughts of counter attack now evaporated.  A new flank was required to cover the withdrawal of the remainder of the British force.  This was achieved remarkably quickly.  Archer's men were in no fit state to attack, half of Brewer's battalions had taken heavy losses, so the only pressure would come from Caldwell.  He would have to attack on a narrow front and so negate his numbers.  The final position around Hunter's Ground can be seen below. 

The final position
An enjoyable game, with a different feel to it than with the traditional Patriots and Loyalist rules.  Steve's amendments did give an advantage to the British.  However, to be effective they need to be able to engage the enemy  at long range and hope to establish superiority.  The British around Hunter's Ground did not have this opportunity to 'soften up' the enemy as they advanced and really struggled, especially as they were outnumbered and outflanked.  One outing does not prove or disprove the efficacy of a rule amendment so no doubt we will be returning to the colonies again before long.

1 comment:

  1. Another fun report to inspire others to fight a war-game or paint up another unit, thank you.