I adapted this scenario from one of the excellent Partizan Press scenario books for British Grenadier and did a bit of tweaking to 'Lardify' it. This was the first time that all six of us had made it to a game. Clive and Max took command of the Rebels with Nige and the two Paul's taking the forces of the Crown. I umpired and played 'God'.
AAR by our regular war correspondent 'Max' Maxwell.
"A strange victory this, where your foe holds the field and your men stream back like conies to their bolt-holes." The horses shied nervously as the shrill shouts of the advancing redcoats grew closer, cresting the mound of the hill. Their brick red coats and whitened kit in stark relief against the swamp green smoke that drifted lazily across the field. Before them and the main force of General Washington's army, the Will-o'-the-Wisp that was the militia forces that had stood for just long enough for the big Virginian to nod to him in respectful recognition of a job done well.
Atop the hill, General Von Heister could see the perfidious rebels quit their defences, slinking like foxes out of the coop. His lights took occasional pot shots as they skated down the slope, but were in no shape, he could see now, to be more than a minor hindrance. By the stream the far left of the Americans retreated in good order, the Hessians offering little pressure to their manoeuvring.
This country, so rich in land, so verdant with its trees and rivers but so poor a place to keep an army, would seem to bleed him each time he met and beat it's rebellious forces. Taking stock of the field, the General sought to divine quite how this motley band of ragamuffins had held him for so long.
General Washingtons army had begun to prepare a defensive position. General Howe however had no intention of storming fortifications.
Instead he spotted Chattertons Hill, a wooded hill, to the right of Washingtons position that would allow British to turn it.
He ordered an immediate attack.
The American commander, McDougal, belatedly realising the weakness of his deployment, rushed reinforcements to Chattertons Hill.
The hill lay between the deep, wooded Bronx River that ran down it's flank, the ground beyond it narrow and hard, with copses and thorn. A low ridge along it had allowed the sweating men of Cleaveland's gunners, drag their large batteries to it's summit, to rail against the west of the hill, overlooking the defences at it's top. Behind them, von Rall's men, three large battalions of German mercenaries, were finishing a makeshift bridge across the water along the roadway.
Leslie's brigade, it's four foot regiments, advanced before von Rall's men, towards the right of what looked like American defences. von Rall was to take his men across the Bronx river, behind Cleaveland's guns, and take the ford the Loyal Americans told would open the flank of the Rebels' left. Leslie, when his marching men arrived, supported by the 16th Dragoons, would work though the wooded left, to move round the hill, his lights and, von Heister noted with pride, the green coated Hessian Jagers, would roll-up the position from here.
Von Heister knew that these farmers and townsmen were, when sat behind a wall or trench, the bravest of warriors, but bring them to the field, facing men in the eye and the question would be how quick can they run!
McDougal was as aware of this as his more professional, German foe. Placed in the van of General Washington's army, now entrenched in front of Manhatten Island, he was ordered to hold the British for two hours or more, to buy time for the main force. Putnam's shaky Massachusets's militia had been kept busy building an entrenchment on the brow of the hill. The New York militia had already filtered amongst the trees, in confused and scruffy Indian fashion, to the right of this position and a small battery, a mere two guns, were emplaced to the left of the militia to stiifen them by it's noise alone.
Haslet's strong Delaware Continentals held the right, deployed in the rear of the wood, with their few supports from the Connecticut levies milling across the road. McDougal himself, challenged as both C-in-C and Brigade commander, refused his force behind Putnam's men to the rear of the hill, to await events. Aware of the movement to his left, across the Bronx, he told off the 3rd New York to cover the ford.
Von Heister adjusted his neck collar, the humid day could be quite literally smelled from the coats of Von Rall's men, now moving into dense column and beginning their measured march over the flimsy bridge to move along the Bronx river and what he trusted be the Americans' open flank. His British aid, Sir Nigel had flitted between his brigades, sending his boys with the transcribed orders for the day. It was a simple task: move these farmers from the hill as quickly as possible. Nothing must be held back to allow Washington the opportunity to reinforce his position.
"Damn these glasses, croaked McDougal's staff, I cannot see more than the smudge from that blasted corporals filthy fingers....indeed, any man, not versed in the bible, might believe that creatures were living in this tiny universe!" The captains behind him cajoled the Marylanders and 19th Continentals into the semblance of a firm line. The men looked nervous but the position was generally good. MacDougal saw that his flank was exposed to the left but they were far away enough but for artillery...
Indeed it seemed that both sides might blunder into contact rather than manoeuvre with purpose. Eventually the body of Maitland's force, the cloud of loose filed Lights and speedy Jagers supported by the jingling horse of the dragons, stood at the bottom of the hill to the right of the Massachusetts fortifications. Nervously Putnam told off the New Yorkers towards the wood to hold the British lights and contest the ground. This ambitious move was to cost him soon.
Out of the dust, under the clear shouts of the experienced officers, the regiments of Foot formed into two lines, angled towards the left of the fortification. Sergeants poked men straight as an inordinate dressing of ranks in clear view of the line was precedent. MacDougal, sensing the threat, marched his uncommitted men in a refused flank across the hill, extending the New Yorkers forward in loose order: "Keep 'em busy, boys!" he shouted, "For a few minutes, at least", he muttered under his breath. It seemed that he was too early as this line simply stood, unwavering, like it's colleagues in Maitland's brigade, just watching, impotent.
Sir Nigel was conferring with his agent, his orders sat undelivered in his side bag, the pressing matter of the legality of his coffee estates in the south of this perfidious country of greater note than pushing back these militia. That, he reasoned, could be done in moments, he had a lifetimes investments to consider!
(In fact, Nigel, our designated card, well, poker chip drawer, left two of the British commands chips under his cup at least twice in the game! This might have allowed Von Heister a quicker result, but history is not made by the laying of perfect plans, more as accident and incompetence!)
With a bitter coughing, Cleaveland's batteries opened up on MacDougal's new line. The balls creased the turf, smashing into the thin ranks, sending men and parts of men flying from their position. The line nearest wavered as the men, unable to respond, weathered the fusillade, facing off the impassive British foot, readied for the close.
On the right, Maitland's lights had seen the bodies of Americans flitting through the copse to their front. An ill aimed scatter of shot announced their arrival. Before Maitland could co-ordinate their move, both regiments moved forward, tentatively at first, feeling out their foe. Then, ire risen, they rushed forward to the tree line! The New Yorkers, caught by surprise, barely stood to face the aggressive charge. The Jagers, guns shouldered, swords wielded shouting their threats as the Lights let off a sharp volley then surged in unison. The New Yorkers couldn't stand and fled without recourse to defence, breaking through the thin line of the Delaware's positioned at the rear of the wood. These men let the panicked boys stream by, reformed and waited.
"Can no-one silence these things?" cried the commander of the Continentals atop the hill. Under the constant, galling fire, his men fell back, unbidden. Under MacDougal's shouts and endearments they stood again, but the hill remained under oppressive fire as the gunners played amongst the desperate Americans. The second battery targeted the New Yorkers, moving as they were to the ford, but soon they were beyond them, hidden by the first battery, lining the reedy bank by the river.
"Where are those German bastards going?", asked Maitland, as he watched them lead his Lights out of sight. Calling up his Dragoons, he raced through the wood to bring the men back under order. Too late, they outran him, landing in charge range of the Delawares.
(In fact, a run of "Tea Breaks" early in the drawing sequence allowed the aggressive Lights to pursue the fleeing New Yorkers, straight into the Delaware line. This was further impacted on by Nigel's "losing" of the chip)
Carried forward by their deadly momentum, the lights and Jagers ran into Haslet's line. His Connecticut State Levies barely stood before scattering down the road, but the Delawares, in good line, faced the loose ranks in front of them, their resolution clear. The lights wavered as the line waited their close, then stood, shocked, as by platoons they spat their hate. The Jagers and Lights recoiled in surprise, bodies crumpled within yards of the line. They reformed as Maitland dragged his dragoons into action, ran in again but broke on the wall of their musketry again, unable to close the last few yards. Both sides now were spent by the fighting but the horse, routing the surviving New Yorkers overran their position, their squadrons needing to manoeuvre carefully back into line to avoid the small woods to the enemy's flank.
With both sides on the right spent (casualties whittling both to a state of permanent ineffectiveness) they stared at each other and resorted to desultory skirmishing. A crisis soon formed to the left.
A long walk had led Von Rall's force to the flank. Instead of a clear flank, he could make out a line. His men were in tight columns but the road and the ford prevented a better option. The Leib Infantrie Regiment leading, the men approached the ford only to be brought under gunfire from the main American line. "On, on!" he shouted, they pushed through the river, their heavy cloth jackets soaking the men and making walking hard. The front men, eyes wide with shock, saw the blue coated line to their front raise their guns. A pause, then "Fire"! The river ran with blood as the front ranks fell, those behind pushing back headlong into the men behind. Into this untimely spectacle, officers called for order. Again they tried, the Grenadiers, caps flashing in the sun, until they too fell back, despairing.
MacDougal surveyed his position, then his watch. Two hours, he thought, "Well, I have nearly stood for that long. I do not think I will hold much longer". Through the smoke, to his right, it seemed that the two forces were played out, but he could make out the spectre of horse through the trees, if they reformed all of his force were in great danger. His left, held firm by the brave New Yorkers, had turned two assaults by the Germans, but they too were suffering. And now, as he saw the British lines grow in stature, the decision will be made.
Von Heister's harsh commands rang out and the line lurched forward towards the American position. In good order they marched towards the crest of the hill. The American's, beaten down like so much corn after a Summer storm, presented a ragged line to contest the hill. The two met, then, as the platoons volley's crashed out, first odd men, then groups and soon the whole line broke and fled. A young boy flew past them until, lifted as if by a hidden hand, he lay spread-eagled down the hill, his kit and clothes spread before him already soaking up the blood from the shot in his back.
As the centre was breaking, MacDougal saw that Putnam still held the peak and that he had held to time. Two long hours and many men, but the hill was still theirs, barely but still theirs. Realising that encirclement was a real possibility, he called to the retreat, his job done.
Von Heister rode to the crest, watching the Americans flee from the position and his men take possession of both the place and the property of those bodies remaining. They had held him for far too long and now, from this lofty position, the extent of the main American position was clear. Further advance now was impossible.
Sir Nigel quietly burned the dispatches in his saddlebag before rejoining the staff. A hastily grabbed prisoner, bought from a willing Jager enabled him to walk in with story clear, a fight in the woods and a brave escape. More importantly, his shipments and lands secured. This wasnt such a bad place after all. And the battle was won, wasn't it?
Thanks for that Max. The Rebels were tasked with holding the hill for 12 turns (two hours). The forces of the Crown were ordered to take and hold the hill. Neither side knew what troops they were facing nor the victory conditions of the other side. In the event of a stalemate victory would go to the side which caused 50% of the enemy's units to be permanently defeated or routed. At the end of turn 12 the Americans had been driven from the crest, except for in the earthwork, but were still on the hill as such, though perhaps one or two more turns would have indeed given the British a victory. Casualties were moderate though the Americans had suffered 50% of their units to be practically defeated. On the night I awarded the victory to the Americans though in retrospect it was probably more of a stalemate.
It was amazing to see how crestfallen the British team looked when they realised that the Rebels only had to hold the hill for a certain amount of time. The Rebel commanders had kept an quiet 'eye' on the turn counter watching and hoping.
The Rebels suffered most of their casualties due to the British artillery, particularly a 12 pdr battery. The British casualties were largely suffered by the Hessians and Maitland's brigade which came up against a unit of Resolute troops who kept getting firefight results in decisive combat and forcing back their Jager and Light Infantry opponents. In the end both Maitland and Haslet's Brigades had fought themselves to a standstill.
This should have been a fairly easy victory for the British to win with numerical superiority, much better quality troops and two six gun artillery batteries in a flank position. However, by choosing to flank the American position with the Hessians the Crown forces' were operating on exterior lines and von Heister had to cross the Bronx to get the British moving. Their inability to move was due to their chips being hidden under Nigel's coffee cup, which will no doubt provide endless mirth for the rest of us in games to come. It was a definate failure of command and control which made progress so slow. Stranger things have happened though.
I tweaked the original scenario by allowing two batteries of off-table Rebel artillery, from the remainder of Washington's army in fortifications, to target any enemy troops reaching the ford. This came as a nasty shock to Nige and a welcome surprise to Max. A further tweak was that the Rebels may have been reinforced by a further brigade of two Continental regiments if any enemy troops managed to cross the ford. This was by no means certain however and I didn't tell either side until the circumstances arose.
A very interesting night's gaming played in the best of spirits, as usual.
All figures Peter Pig Miniatures, painted by myself. All photos taken and owned by me.