Max Maxwell recounts a recent AWI playtest using 'Times That Try Men's Souls'. This was a
hastily arranged scenario to try out our new toys, but a lot of fun. Paul T and Max in
command of the rebels and Nige and Clive the British with myself as umpire.
The beseeching arms of the old oak clawed at the heavy skies, trying to draw the clouds grey curtains. The Summer meadow flowers were turning now,
paper dry under his feet. His weary feet, an ache that today's short halt had done nothing but remind him of. Brigadier General Zebedee Taylor stood atop
the low rise and wearily swung his head across the pungent jam of buildings in Pigpens farm, to his right, leading to the sunken road, the white-grey
fences of which snaked into the dark woodland. He stretched, feeling each years efforts in his back, and took in the dispositions of the army in which he
had served this past year.
An Army in name at least, more the disorderly assembly that had kept him from politics for so long. His peers, aware of his French Wars service as a
young man, had beseeched him to retake arms. But it was legs that had been more in use as the force had marched hard for weeks now, to outpace the
Kings men. With his help, the force had kept a day's advantage on them, pulling them into the fold of the main army. Constant ambuscades and delaying
raids were hard enough on his men, but of greater note was the tally each day of deaths from lack of food and fodder as they slunked back into the
ravened territory that the army had lived on for months now.
Taylor pulled his hat tighter onto his sweating head, an old Sergeant taping the men of his Continentals into their line. He had drilled them well, he
thought with pride, a cache of British powder allowed a rare chance to practice platoon drills, with their crashing tear and blackened faces. They held
the left, near the unkempt wood that seemed to flank both sides of this hot valley. Gibson’s battery stood between them and the newly drawn men of his
sister Continentals, a tattered band of tired militia sheltered beneath a rank of fruit trees to their right at the lee of the rise, he feared that the trees
threatened a greater staying power than these ever less keen rebels.
He was lucky, thought Brigadier Hibster, his men slouched and dozing in the rare shade of the sunken lane. Waving corn shone gold to his front but did
little to stop the stench from the farm, it's name was well met and, despite the heat, a thick muddy sluice had caked his feet in an uncomfortable
heaviness. He had placed his Continentals, barely more experienced than the weary Militia to their left and right, along the deep lane, trusting to its
depth and picket fences to hold any advance, for a time at least. Wary of the men’s resolve, he looked for somewhere to scrape his leadened feet, you never
know when you may need god shoes to suport a run.
General Euthan Cracke and his meagre staff sat in the shade of a farm outbuilding, near the pike. Between the two lead divisions, he might exercise some
command, or at least assess his foe. His leadership had been questioned by the politicians above him, and now just a days march away, he needed to show
his worth today. A feared of testing his naive force to open battle, he had been forced from position to pass, from town to crossing by the constant
movement of the Kings men. Better a boot worn than a bullet he knew but a traitor’s advice had revealed a ford over the river that had barred his foes'
closure for weeks now. The despatch was clear: "Hold for two hours, at least" he must allow time for the main force to decamp; he would attempt to save
his force in the same action. After all, what is a General without an army in this meddle of politicians?
To give him a last line, near his exits, he ranked his five regiments of Continentals, a small battery with them, on a rise that would dominate an attack, or
cover a reverse!
The younger son of an Irish Baron, Clive Wallesey let his servant adjust the powdered wig, the chalky dust caked his perspiring neck, but it was
important to look right, from there would stem your actions! He had been granted the vanguard and a clear mandate, to clear the farmers and agitators
whilst the main force thrust for the last known position of the American Rebels.
He entrusted his Light and Grenadier Companies (a fine looking bunch, rough and manly specimens, indeed) to an old friend, Julius Ardache, a splendidly
dressed boy, whose father had bought him the Colonelcy and the trip to the America's with a surprising willingness. He had proven himself on campaign,
inspiring his General with his poetic renditions and leading role as Agnes in the Church Burners Apprentice, a fine play when they prepared to leave
New York. Indeed, his method acting had seen him take great joy in burning more churches along the line of march, his feelings about churches and
churchmen were rather passionate. They held the honourable right, seeking to skirt the small fields along the pike, aiming for the low rise, near the trees.
The main line would advance to the lef of the pike, angled towards the smelly farm ahead. They included a rather chippy Colonel with his blackguards of
the 42nd, ever in the van, these men provided a strong backbone to the force.
To the left, an unruly blather of Loyal Americans led the painted savages, supported by the dragoons, whose horses were ill met by this country, its poor
forage was hard on men, but beasts suffered hard with forage light and ticks aplenty taking many from the saddle.
His "man" poured a small cup for each of his party as he waved the men forward. Whilst he couldn’t make out the American Line, he could make out their
rough positions, atop the rise and along what looked like a path flanked by fencing. No concerns there, he reasoned, the Rangers would move through the
wood, flank the lane and the chase could begin.
The haze on the fields prevented clear sight until, within shouting distance, from the browning fields, the loose lines of redcoats massed in front of the
American position. Taylor squinted, making out the bearskins of the grenadiers and reasoning that the widely spaced ranks to their left were the lights.
They were spread to avoid his men's fire, he saw, learning the American style.
Ardache had paused to done a natty hunting coat, only then seeing his lead companies climb the hill, their verve moving them out of his control, too late
to close up for assault. He fussed onto his horse simply unable to regain his men before the soon revealed American line jostling in their front.
Tang Hisbraucher spat onto his hand, rubbing his leathery fingers loosely as he replaced his rammer. A greased ball and wad sat firm in the gun, it's length
made aiming hard at all but close range, but Brigadier Taylor had taught them well to hold fast, aim low and shout hard. His first shot caught a big man
just beneath the shoulder, spinning him, toppling his rearward man as he slumped forward.
Without pause the Grenadier Companies pushed up the hill, loose lines providing comfort against occasional sniping by the Americans. They revealed a
battery which scattered shot at the Lights as they streamed around a thick fence, a still quivering body lay limply on a spar.
At fifty paces the widened files paused, lifted their guns and fired by platoons. Like cloth tearing, the fire shook men’s resolve, but at it's close the
American line still held. The loose files disallowed the sergeants easy control and the men, tired from the climb, must have shook as their breathing
strained. Hisbraucher lifted his gun, his fellow countrymen did likewise, surprised by the failure of the British volley, "Aim low, you bastards" came the
order. At first a pop, then a burst as the fire rippled down the line and the Grenadiers saw lead men fall and waver, and then fall back.
With a great cheer the men made to chase the retiring Redcoats but were restrained by Taylor, himself who had stood in the line with his men to help
stiffen their resolve. It was clear to him that, great though this was, the British were already reorganising, ready for another assault. Behind them wee all
too few bodies, those that lay close to the line were already being rifled through.
Cracke saw the rebuff and realised that the battery was unlikely to hold if the line were attacked again. "Rider", he called to a young man in a distressed
hunting shirt, "Get over to Taylor and tell him to move back to the rearward fence". It was clear that his was where his enemies' main force was hitting. A
move to the rear was a tough call, even for a regular force, but if anyone might do it, it would be Taylor. He hoped.
Argent Hinkler sweated under his leather cap, grateful for the shade of the trees as they outpaced the natives and dragoons, moving across the flank of
the lane. A detachment of rifles, posted across the path, searched out the green coated men, rushing from tree to tree towards their position. The Rangers
outpaced their allies, the Indians settling into cover to await the looting. As they moved closer, they picked shots, firing and moving ever closer. The
American reply was cushioned in the trees and soon, in a surge of energy, the three companies hit the Rebel skirmishers, swinging clubs and loosening
hatchets. Scattering, the American skirmish line fled, opening the American flank.
Cracke raced over, personally directing the Militia in the lane in a complicated turn to face, snaking down the lane to face this threat. They stood, more
nervous now in the wood than the lane. The rangers moved up, still skirmishing forward, the Militia let of a ragged volley as the screaming Rangers raced
onto the lane. Despite men falling like buffalo in a hunt, the rest sought no pause and the Militia rear line scattered, the front following as they broke,
guns, packs and men littering the scruffy woodland.
The small British battery fired ineffectually covering the main line's assault on th now broken up American line. In response Hibster told off his Militia
to occupy the farm as the Redcoats shifted to the right to push their assault. Crashing like a sullen wave along the picket near the farmstead, the British
were fired on ineffectually by the Americans, shot skidding against the fence.
Leaders cajoled and pushed but the lines were redressed by habit, the aggressive 33rd, taking it on themselves to wheel towards the Continentals, their
lines disrupted by the fence and lane's height.
Ardache's men reformed, retaining their loose order and returned to the hill. The American's rarely stood such a rush, bayonets glinting, certainly not
twice. Already they could see the gun retreat and troops in an orchard shuffle backwards. As they pushed forward the line, their brave general foremost,
levelled and fired, men fell in a desperate exchange, but their resolve was too great and again the grenadiers fell back, taking their lines with them.
Taylor's coat was shredded in the fire but he somehow survived these close fights. The Americans could see the foppish British officer berating his charges,
moving them again for another attempt on the hill. Taylor pushed back his men, now disordered and less steady, a thin line of crumpled rags defining his
Cracke was desperate. He needed to slow his foes for two hours, not nearly half way through this, his right was streaming backwards through the woods
and now, as the British surged into the farm, skated out of the outbuildings, the broken militia moved past his small staff, some of whom berated them as
they slumped by.
The centre was now barely held by his single Continentals who looked nervously from the confines of the sunken lane. The British swung their line
dangerously close, their other flank now threatened by the red painted natives lurking in the woods.
Taylors command became impossible as the remnants of the two regiments retreated to the nearby field line, order breaking down as the men sought cover
behind a stout fence. Fear was now in the eyes of the men as the tall grenadiers and swift moving lights crested the rise, pushing towards the rebels like a
Later, exhausted in the C&C's tent, Cracke tried to piece together the bitter hours. As his centre had collapsed and Taylors brigade retreated in disorder
across the wide cornfield. His Continentals move toward the thick fences in the rear as the remnants streamed up the lane.
Shocked by the rebuff on the hill Ardache's men sought revenge as Ardache shouted in high pitch for reform. Wallesey held his line past the sunken lane,
reordering the ranks carefully as the hidden reserve revealed itself to the rear of the American force.
Cracke's men found themselves walking again to gain distance away from the redcoats. They had barely gained the main force the time required but
another cull of the British elite forces and time bought were a satisfactory conclusion for the General.
All figures Peter Pig Miniatures.
British and Loyalists painted by myself.
American Rebels painted by 'Max' Maxwell.
All photos taken and owned by yours truly.
British and Loyalists