|Maxwell's House (Freeman's Farm)
Or when Big Rich Clarke of Too Fat Lardies accepted an invitation from our gaming group
to come and have a playtest of our AWI rules 'Times That Try Men's Souls'....
I used as a basis for the game the Freeman's Farm scenario from the excellent Partizan Press British Grenadier
book and did a bit of tweaking to 'Lardify' it. As Max was hosting the game I disguised and rechristened it
'Maxwell's House' to throw the players off the scent. Whenever I have done a historical refight for our group I
always try to prevent anyone from reading up on the battle beforehand so names and units are changed to
confuse and to fit our collections. Evil as I am I really like to try and put the players under pressure in an
attempt to simulate something like the situation their real life counterparts might have endured. Its not always
popular, but it is usually fun. Max and Rich took command of the rebels, Clive the British forces with me as
This was an important play test for the rules as Rich 'calls a spade a spade' and we wanted, and indeed knew
we would get an honest opinion on our progress. It was the also the first time we'd tried the rules out with a
historical refight and I was interested to see how close to the real battle it would be.
As it turned out the battle was a very close and hard fought one which gave us much fun. On top of it all Rich
really rather enjoyed himself and was seemed very satisfied with our efforts.
AAR by our regular war correspondant and host of the day 'Mini-Max' Maxwell.
Monseigneur, I trust that my report reaches you with speed. I have spent these past weeks with General Nantucket and can attest to many changes in the
war in these Americas. I have the honour to report of a grand action, one that both inspires me to think of the potential of these peoples to damage our
mutual foes and further questions their preparedness for victory.
I post this missive to you from the woods surrounding the British lines. Woods that we left but this morning and we now reoccupy. The latter we
achieved with greater speed and fervour, I’m afraid to state, than we left them.
Our General’s plan was to secure a position to the flank of the British lines. These positions are of some strength and, despite their investment, are
thorough, palisaded well and equipped with great earthen banks.
This flank was secured against a small hamlet, built around a farm the locals call Maxwell’s House. The cleared land is well watered with a goodly
stream bisecting the field. It was this position that General Nantucket sought to secure, to prove a base of action against the main force.
Our march took us through the deep woodland of which this land abounds. The troops prepared their advance along this, out of clear sight from the
defenders. Our other forces would join us by the turnpike that led towards the British lines. The General was concerned for us to act with alacrity as the
British would react with heir usual fervour against our bold incursion.
Nantucket and his staff sat behind the vanguard, the 2nd Brigade composed of the hardened 11th Virginian rifles, looking like our own Canadians from
the recent wars in the North, in their native shirts and leather trousers. With their long rifles with which they have demonstrated a rare proficiency they
sought to take a toll on the redcoats. Supporting them were the willing volunteers of Colonel Dearborn’s Light Infantry.
Both units left the woodland, heading to the fields above the farm, in American order, wide files and little of our European order. Their Brigadier was
dressed alike them, marginally cleaner, and he led them efficiently demonstrating his experience.
I rode ahead at the edge of the wood near the Generals staff and am therefore able to advise you of the unfolding events that I foresaw.
Brigadier General Duckley quickly took in his position. His forces were behind the tumble of houses by the thinning edge of the stream bed, its marshy
close would provide cover for his men and he might cover the roadway, but the clutter of fields, copses and buildings would make control difficult. He
placed his battery to the rear of the stream and advanced the 16th and 42nd Regiments into the town and fields.
The men were formed in good order, looser files than he liked, unlike his British training, but he recognised that this was often the best way in the
As they moved up what seemed a probe by the Rebels was clearly stronger and, damn them, it was aimed at his position full square. The loyalist, Tory
scouts moved carefully around the river to look over the small ford. His fingers were crossed as he trusted that General Driedsel’s column might return to
them with alacrity.
The 22nd were to widen his line and moved around the tight copse. Through this he planned to offer these farmers a fine front and deal with this day
These American’s, Sir, are a curious people. They seem happier in this individual warfare of ambuscade and assassination than ordered lines and
manoeuvre. The Virginians spread wide and moved to the edge of the buildings like a crowd to the races. I could already see the redcoats milling in the
buildings, lining the fences. The Light Infantry too were in wide order, their strange coats well suited to this terrain. I grant you Sir that they moved
At some great distance, the Virginians long arms fired and with effect at the line of the British in the town. Their reply was a wasted shout and I saw
many men fall as the Americans took their deliberate aim.
Duckley called as the men of the 42nd dressed their line in the cornfield. Already the shooting of the Americans was telling on his men in the hamlet and
the sergeants were having to work hard to maintain order. He could see another regiment move through the field above the 42nd, the Tory scouts’ fire
making no tell on these men as they too moved into range.
As far as he could see his men were facing at least two groups moving to the farms and ford, another debouched from the wood between farm and fort,
moving towards his flank and the column of the 22nd as they moved around the wood.
God, these Americans could shoot, his men had little response finding it difficult to pin a target when the opponent cravenly crept twixt tree and bush
towards his men.
I saw as Nantucket watched with pride as Clarke’s Brigade shook of to the left of the farm. With the men of the New Hampshire Regiments supported
by the New York and Connecticut militias, they moved well towards the strung out column on the right of the British line.
It was clear now that the forts at the flank were well supported and a strong fire teased at the men as they marched forward. I’m pleased to advise that
they did not falter but Clarke's men found holding their formation a challenge and their line was caused to face both the fort and farm. A small battery
attached seemed quickly forgotten as its guns played with little effect on the buildings.
It seemed that the British General was constrained as his force was still strung along the ground and in the farm and fields. I can advise you that these
Americans can sense a reverse and as their fire caused a waver in the British line, they moved to the buildings to torment their position at good range,
despite the protestations of the nearby battery.
In the field alongside, the close fire of Colonel Dearborne’s men was more telling, the British line was shocked and looked in great despair.
Further encouraged, were we, by the appearance of the gallant General Tubbucket’s column, moving with purpose towards those tormenting batteries
atop the hill. They flowed almost like good regulars, with men of the Massachusetts Regiments, two up in loose order, so beloved on the continent, teasing
at the gunners, the other and the Canadians in good order in support
Duckley struggled not to duck as the balls of the Americans told around him. His shouts drew the attention of the Major of artillery as he watched the
American Regiments face up to the men of the 22nd as they struggled out of their column. Men fell, scythed by the platoon fire of these good new
Hampshire regiments. His flank was folding but the play of his guns bought some time as he tried to reorganise the wavering men of the 17th as their
remnants left the buildings and fled across the stream.
His fight was close now as his men reformed to attack again, he turned the guns to tear at the perfidious riflemen in front of him.
Our allies Sir still have much to learn, despite their ambitions. It seemed like these English were ready to quit the field, with the New Hampshire’s
turning their flank, the skirmishers torment had forced back their centre and the gallant Tubbuckets men a face the redoubts.
True, scouts had called that a column had been sighted heading toward the ford and, true, that the centre was still fighting hard. It seemed that the
British were attempting to realign with the 17th replacing their hard pushed colleagues.
Dearborne noted that the Virginians had suffered hard under the balls of the artillery and had withdrawn to the rear of the buildings. The men of Clarke’s
force were too far spread to give real control and take advantage of the opportunity gained. I noted Dearborne’s men form into a good line, preparing to
assault the shaken defenders.
I have to tell you Sir that on occasion a posset scent hides a pox and the nature of our allies force is such. As Dearborne raised his flag, so Tubbucket,
galled by the batteries atop the redoubt pressed forward in a gallant advance. His skirmishers moved close, potting at the gunners, the line surging through
in good style.
Sadly now did the true nature of the British line show itself. The redoubt was crowned by the Grenadiers and dynamic light infantry. A sergeant did cross
the defences and the guns of one battery were scattered but too late, the brief fight saw too quick the fragility of their resolve and the rebounded men fled
in some disorder their commander struggling to recover their composure.
Dearborne was just in the order of addressing his men when the recovered British line surged forward. With too little time to aim their pieces, these men
fled before the shining bayonets, taking with them the remnants of the Virginians.
Duckley felt like he’d fallen in shit and found a sixpence. The charge of the 42nd had driven off his tormentors and the threat of the Massachusetts
regiments on his flank was threatened by a surge from the Lights from the redoubt.
He could make out the column of Driedsels moving to the Ford, on the flank of the Americans and it was clear that the redoubt was no longer threatened.
It was not over, he thought, but somehow he had survived.
I trust that my messenger reaches you in good time Sir. Soon after this reverse, General Nantucket drew his men back to the woods. His casualties had
been light in comparison but it’s clear that their order, whilst improving, still requires time to build.
It was a defeat, certainly, but one that we should take heart in. These men have given the British real course to consider their position and the redcoats
laying still on the field attest to the bloodletting that this fighting is causing our enemies. With more support and arms we can do much more to the
British on this continent.
Your servant Sir,
Duc Alphonse de Fritas
I'll leave the final word to Rich Clarke....
"What struck me most about the game was how well it represented command and control issues. As the American player I was able to wield
my forces with incredible aplomb and style until the moment of contact with the enemy, at which point I was faced with two enemies, the
British and battlefield friction. At every point I was obliged to make choices, not about "what do I want to do", but "What MUST I do". At no
time did I feel like I was in complete control of the situation, but rather was having to struggle with external factors which kept threatening to
divert me from my objective.
In the attack I was able to maintain the momentum by advancing with my foremost units in heroic style, but in doing so I was obliged to
accept that fact that I was abandoning other units to make their way as best they could. In attempting to maintain constant pressure on the
British in the centre I eventually completely over-extended myself. My plan was only sound while I had the enemy on his back foot, and I was
constantly pushing him back. Once I lost the momentum and allowed him a moment in which to rally his men and bring up reinforcements
the game was up. My other units were under artillery fire and despite casualties being minimal my absence ensured that these poor quality
troops took matters into their own hands and retired back into the woods. By the time I reached them the day was lost. Naturally in my
report to Congress I blamed Max, my fellow American commander. It seemed the decent thing to do...
On reflection I should have ignored the redoubt, but I was unhappy attacking all out in the area of the Maxwell House with an enemy on my
flank. I made the classic wargamers assumption that says "Big redoubt = Umpire's bluff, there's really not much in there". How wrong I
was. In an ideal world I'd have screened it with cavalry and attacked elsewhere. As it was I got my come-uppance for being a smart arse.
The Hessians were the kiss of death. Once they arrived I was riding for the hills and contemplating swearing an oath to King George.
All figures Peter Pig Miniatures.
British and Loyalists painted by myself.
American Rebels painted by 'Max' Maxwell.
All photos taken and owned by me.
British Earthworks on the hill