Last night we tried two versions of Hopton Heath, an early battle between small units - a mixed force of Parliamentarians under Sir William Brereton and a Royalist force of horse and light guns under the Earl of Northampton.
First we played with historical forces. Northampton attempted a simultaneous assault up the hill with half his horse and against the Roundhead horse on the south flank with the other half. He concentrated his dragoons on his right flank where the heath ended in a forest.
Brereton's horse employed Dutch (caracole) tactics and were soundly beaten. However, the foot stood firm on the hilltop, defeating the horse (as was fairly historically accurate). The artillery played an insignifanct role.
Next we traded out four stands of Northampton's horse for four stands of foot and tried again. This brought a more near-run game. The horse repeated the first game with the more poorly trained caracole troops being eventually overrun by their more aggressive cavalier counterparts. However, shotte combat proved decisive in disordering the attacking foor formation and actually causing one battalion to fall back. For a second time the Parliamentarian foot held the hill, though this time, much worn by their exertions.
6mm figures using King Charles' Lament rules.
The War of the Austrian Succession rages in Europe. The Dutch have been sucked into the side of the English, bringing them into direct conflict with the French. The latter see an opportunity – the vast spice island holdings of the Dutch are relatively weakly defended.
Two pairs of battleships are dispatched – Amiral Marquis du Roed with the new 74-gun Neptune and the old 50-gun Alcyon from Toulon and Amiral le Duc de Vale with the 78-gun Terrible and the anachronistic 46-gun two-decker Gloire from Rochefort. They are given orders to cooperate but also promised large compensation if they are the first to occupy the port of Jakarta.
The two pairs rendezvoused at Matatana, Madagascar and took on water and fresh provisions. While they lay to, however, the small brig Timor observed their arrival and races toward the Dutch colonies. Having no small vessels, the French had no way to intercept Timor and continued provisioning.
The Dutch assembled what ships they could at Surabaya and sailed to meet the French. The resulting fleet was a motley assortment of older ships and captains who had grown fat and complacent on the Indies station. Senior Captain van Ochs was elected to lead a three-ship group of his own 62-gun Rotterdam, the 56-gun Damiaten and the 58-gun Utrecht. Senior Captain van Kuper had his own 72-gun Haarlem as well as the Wageningen, a 36-gun frigate cum Indiaman, and the little 14-gun Timor.
Neither van Ochs nor van Kuper would accede to the other being in overall command, much like the differences between Amirals du Roed and de Vale. As a result, neither force had a unified command and none of the individual captains knew any of the seniors very well. The stage was set for one of the most disorganized battle between two flotillas of battleships in the entire war.
Under a fair sky and a stiff southerly breeze, the two fleets approached each other off the coast of Java. The French held the weather gauge, Amiral du Roed in the lead. Captain van Ochs led the Dutch line.
Both sides commenced cannonading at a range just under 300 yards. The fire being ineffwctual the French wore together. Alcyon raked little Timor, causing her main t’gallant to foul her port side. Unfortunately, as the wear continued, the maneuver put Gloire, Terrible, and Alcyon in a row where the broadsides of the latter two were masked. Neptune slowed and turned tightly to pass behind the other three ships.
Meanwhile, having been passed by the French, Captain van Ochs ordered a tack together. Captain van Kuper ordered his ships to maintain course, mostly in an attempt to clear Timor whose battle with the wearing French was the epitome of uneven.
Haarlem slammed into Utrecht and the two ships became tightly fouled by their respective bowsprits. Damiatan, having completed her tack with sternboard, was just slow enough for Wageningen to slide past. The Indiaman then engaged Terrible at 100 yards as the latter surged ahead of Gloire.
Amiral du Vale, now on a course to clear the western tip of Java and with only Wageningen in position to offer resistance, made signal to disengage. Alcyon, on the other hand, now turned close-hauled to come up on the north side of the Dutch while Neptune engaged from the south.
Neptune came up on the still fouled Haarlem and Utrecht, exchanging fire with Damiatan as night came on.
Damiatan and Haarlem suffered significant damage, with several hits between wind and water. The former also lost her mizzen topmast. Little Timor was also badly torn about but was saved from complete destruction by her low profile, many shots having simply whooshed over her hull instead of splintering her.
Gloire, being engaged by the heaviest Dutch ships and being the smallest of the French, suffered the most damage on the aggressor’s side with minor damage to the other three ships.
Poor adherence to the Fighting Instructions ensured an uncoordinated and often ineffectual engagement. Gunnery was poor until the ships closed, with the French wearing maneuver, to under musket shot.
In the end du Vale had insufficient strength to take the forts as Jakarta and was forced to abandon his attack when the Dutch fleet limped around the horn. Du Roed, forced to leave the battered Dutch as his own two ships were simply not strong enough on their own, retreated to Pondichery and filed a formal protest of du Vale’s actions. This came to naught as yellow fever took the disgruntled admiral.
Both Captain van Ochs and Captain van Kuper took new commissions as silk traders and gave up fighting, except against Chinese and Annamite pirates. None of them mounted 36-pounders!
A little Napoleonic action. A French corps and the remnants of their Polish allies tried to surprise a Russo-Prussian army somewhere on the Frontiers of France. Unfortunately for the French, the Russians were awake, the picquets were active and the assault was checked.
Furious little game, fought to a stalemate, with about equal casualties on both sides. Great fun!
Near Lake George - 8 September 1755
Sir William Johnson withdrew his motley force of militia back to his fortified camp on the banks of Lake George. Baron Dieskau had given his scouting party a thrashing in the early morning hours and his men were in no mood for a fight, especially the handful of Mohawks who were still in camp. Fortunately, their position was strong, with a cleared field of fire in front of hastily built fortifications of stones, earth, logs, and a few fences. He also had artillery. Granted only a 3-pounder, but the French lacked even that.
The Baron was anxious to follow-up his advantage of the morning, but his force consisted of only 1/3 dependable regulars. The militia and Abenakis were, like Johnson’s troops, unwilling after having suffered severely in the ambush, especially amongst their leaders. Dieskau berated the militia and cajoled the natives. All agreed to accompany the regulars but only grudgingly.
At the edge of the cleared space the Baron deployed his men. The Grenadiers La Reine and Captain Bouchard’s company (Languedoc) on the right of the track from Fort Edward. On the left were Captain LaMotte and Captain Barbourg’s companies of Languedoc. Behind, supposed to support the advance, were four companies of militia and three bands of Abenakis.
Johnson had the cannon plus eight companies of militia and a small band of Mohawks. He had formed them in depth, three ranks behind the works. However, the Mohawks would spend the entire battle hunkered down in a small copse of trees near the lake’s bateaux landing.
Father Champagne conducted a brief service and then Dieskau ordered his men forward. British fire ripped into the neatly dressed lines of the regulars as soon as they emerged from the woods. The natives and the Canadians could not be made to leave the relative safety of the trees, though they could be persuaded to take random shots at the British.
The regulars paused halfway along to deliver measured volleys. In the exchange Johnson’s second in command, Colonel Lyman, was mortally wounded and Captain White of the Massachusetts militia wounded and carried from the field. However, the canister and musketry caused three of the four French companies to falter. Only LaMotte’s continued on, Father Champagne and Baron Dieskau encouraging them.
Over the works went the 2nd company Languedoc, skewering the 1st Connecticut militia with their bayonets. Encouraged by seeing the white uniforms cresting the works a few of the Canadians and Abenakis moved forward.
Johnson’s right now collapsed as Abenakis and Sgt Brissac’s Montreal company added their weight to LaMotte. The Mohawk’s led the run to canoe and bateaux. Johnson’s left, encouraged when Captain Corne was struck in the breast by a ball but then saved by his pocket testament, held a bit longer but, in the end, was also forced to relinquish the field.
Laughing Wolf was killed by one of the last shots as the British retired and the lamentations for his loss carried well into the night. Captain Bouchard, whose company routed ignominiously, was later (that December) sent by Baron Dieskau to establish a camp on Hudson’s Lake.
Dieskau’s total losses were 78 French regulars and 21 Abenakis. Crushed by defeat, Johnson left 113 casualties on the field and took 22 slightly wounded with him to the boats. The British also lost their cannon.
A fictional battle based (loosely) on the Rossbach campaign. With (loosely) the same result.
The battlefield was selected, a few small hills dotting a flat plain of neat fields. Only one copse of trees. On the edge of a rocky outcrop, was significant enough to impede movement.
The Prussian army, sixteen 12-figure battalions, arrayed along one edge. Their serried ranks were broken only by four minor gaps for the battalion guns and a single 6-pounder battery. Opposite, the French deployed as well in a long double-line, with one “extra” battalion. Likewise, they had three battalion guns and a single six-pounder battery. Two battalions, the Garde Francaises, were big, 16 figures strong.
Purposefully, resolutely, the four lines, two on either side, were marched forward. The Prussians, being better trained, advanced slightly further, managing to reach the only significant terrain feature before the French – the small rocky outcrop and its copse, theatrically dubbed the Bois de Belleau – on the Prussian right flank.
Battle was joined, as these things are wont to do, by the artillery popping away before the muskets could be brought in range. Also, as usually happens, the infantry shrugged off the few hits and trudged closer, where the execution truly began.
On the Prussian left, where the best of both armies faced each other, the French took the worst from the start. Poor morale throws sent the front line scurrying back and then the pressure of the well-drilled Prussian musketry laid heaps of tick marks on the casualty papers. The morale of the French second line held but the pressure was immense – with the Garde and Grenadiers taking an aggregate 27 hits!
In the center, the French 6-pounder helped to keep things even for a while. But the Prince Henry fusiliers, aided by the untimely withdrawal of 1st Belzunce, managed to provide just enough weight to cause the collapse of the French Brigade de Rochefort. With the destruction of 1st Briqueville (9 hits out of 12) the brigade failed its morale and ended the game, after the 6th turn.
The Prussian right was a scene not often played out on the table for the period. Formed troops – Regiment von Bevern and Regiment von Wied - edged their way through the Bois de Belleau! As they tramped through, they engaged Regiment La Roche. In the end the two on one was too much for the battalion of French, though their place was filled by the Royal Italians.
Regiment von Markgraf Karl successfully held the far flank against a turning maneuver by the Battalions Bulkeley and Clare of the Royal Irish Brigade. The Irish fumbled about when, failing to maintain their fire discipline, although their battalion guns did fearful execution, having hand-pushed themselves to keep pace and blasting away at a bare 75 yards.
With the center caved and the right (Garde Francais and Grenadiers) shattered, the French beat a retreat. French losses totaled 60; while the Prussians lost 43. Not as decisive as the historical battle of Rossbach but clearly a victory for the blue-coated figures representing Frederick the Great’s vaunted machine.
Somewhere on the Austrian-Russian border there are two small villages, Opol and Cheniye. The former has a spectacular onion-domes church while the latter has a cruder, board and thatch affair. Late in the campaign season of 1809, while Napoleon threatened Vienna and was on the verge of the great victory of Wagram, Russian Emperor Alexander hesitatingly decided to make an effort to the aid the Austrians. Napoleon, thinking Alexander much too vacillating, had only detached some German allies to cover the approached from Mother Russia. This Corps d’Observation was also hesitant to come to battle but, on the fateful 1st of July, the two reluctant forces collided with a violence that belied their rather tepid performance up until that time.
The Russian Relief was under the overall command of General Pyotr Bagratian. Under his immediate command were his own VI Corps and Lieutenant General Kapzevitch and his X Corps. Each corps had two divisions, and each division had two line brigades, a brigade of jagers, and a heavy battery of 12-pounders. In addition, Hetman Akim Karpov brought 8 sotnias of Cossacks; 3 from the Bug and 5 from the Don.
Marshal Francois Lefebvre commanded the Corps d’Observation. This contained three divisions of Bavarians, a division of Wurttemburgers, and a mixed division of two light cavalry brigades, one from each German state. The Marshal kept two 12-pounder batteries and a pair of horse batteries in reserve.
The two groups were evenly matched. Although the Russians had 48 guns to the Germans’ 32 and a couple hundred more infantry, the Germans had cavalry unafraid to mix it up in close combat and a higher percentage of veterans.
Bagratian had promised some of his generals that they could ride to Opol on the morning of the 1st to worship in the church whose dome they could see when they camped for the night. October 1 was a Sunday and they looked forward to services, and, perhaps, to the generosity of the congregation to fill their lunchtime tables with something a little above the normal campaign fare.
However, when Major Generals Grekov, Vasiltschikov, and Doctorov rode into town they were appalled to see dust to the north, where no Russian troops should have been. Several ADCs rode out and returned to report the column on the road was Bavarian. With that, the generals gave up on both religious services and lunch and hurried back to the Russian camp to raise the alarm.
Why were the Bavarians on the march? Prinz Ludwig’s division had spent a dry Saturday marching back and forth, chasing phantom Russian columns. Lefebvre had ordered the cavalry to conserve their mounts and therefore could only guess where Bagratian’s column, rumored to be nearby, actually was. The Prince had also seen the onion dome as his troops laid down that Saturday evening. He assumed, where there was a church there was sure to be water and had obtained permission to get his men a drink after breakfast.
Lefebvre’s troops marched out smartly and soon Prinz Ludwig had Prinz Karl’s brigade in Opol with his other two brigades in support – holding the wood to the east and holding Graf Ypenburg in support. Major General von Seydenitz deployed on a low hill to the east of Ludwig. (203215) Simultaneously, General von Wrede had brough up his mixed division to the west, throwing Major General Maranitz’s brigade into Cheniye and extending the line to the west with the rest of Major General Preysing’s division, then General Neubronn’s division of Wurttemburgers on the extreme right of the German infantry line. (left photo)
A wooded hill on the far west became the focus of both cavalry groups. Hetman Karpov though his troopers would be relatively safe and able to swoop over the battlefield from their perch at the opportune time, while Major General Deroi trotted out (his horses were fresh as they had not been used the day before in screening or scouting) seeking to vanquish a foe he thought to be Russian Uhlans.
Bagratian advanced his infantry to match Lefebvre’s deployment, with the VI Corps on the west opposite Wrede and the X Corps opposite Prinz Ludwig and General von Seydenitz. (right photo)
The Germans, at all points, won the march to the terrain points. Deroi reaching the hill first and ascending through a gap in the trees; Wrede reaching the road from Cheniye, and Ludwig and Seydenitz reaching Opol and the eastern hill, before any Russian was in artillery range.
Karpov had not anticipated the necessity to fight formed troops and, as such, the Don Cossacks were still in column of division when Deroi crested the hill with his brigade of Wurttemberg Chevauxleger leading and the Bavarians in support. In the heat of the moment the Wurttembergers charged headlong into the irregulars.
However, unreadiness, conversely, can work to one’s advantage. Such was the case as the bewildered chevauxlegers scattered one group of lancers after another only to find more obstructing their way. Deroi called on his men to reform. Only then did he see the Bug Cossacks forming on his right.
The Bavarian general urged his troops forward to meet the Russian irregulars at the southern foot of the hill. As irregulars are wont to do, the men from the Bug gave some ground but regrouped just outside the lunge of the saber-armed Germans. Deroi had deployed his horse battery on his left and they took some shots at Vasiltschikov’s men as they marched past but caused only minor irritation.
Again, the Wurttembergers dashed at the Don Cossacks. Again, the men from the steppe recoiled and reformed like the waters of the Don in flood. Deroi, conscious of events on the infantry line, ordered Duke Louis to continue the effort to rout the elusive irregulars while he decamped with the Bavarians and horse guns to help the hard-pressed footmen (see below).
Louis, outnumbered two to one, finally came to grips with his foe, embracing the Bug sotnias in a brief death duel with his own regiment. Many saddles were emptied, and the surviving Bug troopers “bugged” out, racing 800 meters to the rear before turning to face their tormentors. But Louis had recalled his regiment to face the Don sotnias, now reorganized and led personally by Karpov.
For the fifth time that morning the Wurttembergers charged and met their opponents from the far grasslands. For the fourth time the Cossacks swirled away relatively unharmed. Louis regrouped only to receive a lathered messenger from Deroi – the battle was lost, time to pull out.
Despite all the charging back and forth, total casualties for Karpov’s men were only 87. Louis’ brigade suffered even less - 11 men wounded, 2 killed, and 25 missing. Most of the latter showed up at camp, red-faced, the next evening.
Bagratian now used the stoicism of the Russian infantry to the fullest. Having been denied the terrain features by the more rapid marching of the Germans, Bagratian simply failed to send his corps orders to halt. His columns, dutifully, continued to march directly at the enemy.
On the Russian left Kadyschev’s line brigade pitched into the Wurttemburg light brigade who gave way. Simultaneously, Glebov’s jagers charged Herzog Wilhelm’s regiment and forced it to retreat. Baron von Neubronn immediately galloped to rally the shocked infantry regiments while General Wrede called for reinforcements.
Kadyschev now pitched into Prinz Paul’s regiment, but the Prinz’s men only bent. Glebov’s victorious jagers now rushed over the Wurttemburg reserve battery, scattering the gunners. Paul’s resistance and the disorganization inherent in capturing the battery allowed von Neubronn and Wrede the time they needed.
The Bavarian light infantry rallied forward from their initial position behind Cheniye, forced Glebov to give ground. With the Bavarian Kronprinz regiment repositioning to support, the German right seemed to be stabilizing. However, to be sure, Wrede sent an aide galloping to see if Deroi could offer help; this was the recall of the Bavarian chevauxleger.
Brigadier Glebov now led his reserve battalion forward. Their inexorable advance broke the resolve of the Bavarian light brigade and carried forward into Kronprinz, pushing the latter back. Kadyschev continued to press Prinz Paul. Coming up on the left, Panzerbiter’s brigade moved to counter Deroi’s arrival. The latter, responding to Wrede’s call, had deployed his horse artillery forward and the Bavarian chevauxleger, having squeezed through the gap in the trees, coming up.
Panzerbiter charged the guns and overran them. Deroi called for his sabers to recover the guns. The Russians hastily formed square and repelled the cavalrymen, though they had to relinquish four of the six guns, which were hastily withdrawn.
Neubronn and Wrede (and Deroi) had bent but they had not broken. However, their situation was precarious, their artillery lost, their troops shaken, and fresh Russian brigades near at hand. They were relieved when orders arrived from Lefebvre to fall back. They’d find water somewhere else.
Lieutenant General Kapzevitch was more cautious than his chief and, therefore the battle on the eastern half of the field was initiated by the Bavarians. General Seydenitz, being originally a cavalryman, was not one to sit on a height and endure bombardment. He launched his Provisional Brigade - made up of a garrison battalion, a depot battalion, and three Grenzer companies – and the Konig Regiment against the Russian right flank, Doctorov’s division.
The Provisionals, having borne the brunt of camp jokes since joining the corps, had a lot to prove and they drove Voyeikov’s jagers back. Konig, however, faltered. Lyapunov’s brigade had their blood up and checked the Bavarian assault and then counterattacked, sending them flying. Lyapunov carried forward and pitched into the Regiment von Preysing.
Kniazin’s brigade came up in support and Doctorov’s batteries shook Prinz Karl’s regiment with deadly fire, even as the Bavarians huddled in the cover of the buildings in Opol. Regiment von Preysing, after a desperate struggle with Lyapunov, fell back and rallied on the rise on the left of the German line. But Lefebvre had no more troops.
With all the Wurttemburg guns captured or in flight, Bagratian redeployed a third battery in front of Opol, making 36 heavy guns against only 14 Bavarians. This weight of metal on his center, with casualties mounting and both flanks held by rattled regiments, Lefebvre gave the orders to withdraw. The Provisionals were recalled, but were unable to rejoin the line, having the brigades of Kniazin and Lyapunov interposed and had a long march to regain Lefebvre.
Bagratian let Lefebvre go. Deroi’s troopers threatened any impetuous motion of the infantry, and the well water was a strong draw to the parched throats of the infantry. Vasiltschikov lamented to his chief that a single regiment of regular cavalry would have granted them a crushing victory. Bagratian nodded, saying “If only does not win the battle. We have done enough.”
In truth, the Russian infantry had done very well. At a cost of 956 casualties, they had captured 10 guns and inflicted 1813 casualties on the German infantry. Except for the Provisional Brigade, which drove Voyeikov’s brigade completely out of line, no German infantry formation was worthy of exceptional mention.
Bagratian, in his report to Emperor Alexander, made no mention of Hetman Karpov’s performance except to say he was engaged on the left. He did, however, single out Brigadiers Lyapunov, Kadyschev, and Glebov for their gallantry and success.
Only a few days later came the crushing defeat of the Austrians at Wagram and their collapse. With Napoleon’s victory, the Emperor recalled Bagratian.
The Battle of 20 June 1780
A True Account by One Who Was There
We were nine days out of Bermuda as the sun glinted off the waves of the Caribbean somewhere north of the Hispaniola coast. Commodore William Cornwallis had orders to look for a French convoy reputed to be in the area. To that end Ruby (64) had been dispatched to investigate a sail earlier int the morning making to the northwest. From the quarterdeck of Lion (64) we could make her out fine on the after port quarter as we beat to the east south east.
The Commodore had just ordered us to set the signal to shorten sail to await Ruby when the lookout cried “Sail Ho!” Upon interrogation it was found to be multiple sail to the northeast beating on the opposite tack. The signal was immediately rescinded until the new sails could be resolved. I went up the main ratlines to the t’gallant yard and spied out what we later learned to be de Ternay’s squadron of frogs. Beyond his warships, which rapidly formed line ahead, maintaining their bearing, was the convoy we had been sent to find.
I scurried back to deck with this intelligence. The commodore dispatched our lone frigate, Niger (32), to carry this important information to Admiral Parker, in Jamaica. Further, he ordered our own ships to close our line and clear for action.
Tense moments passed. The master, with chalk and slate, presented to the Commodore that, if all ships maintained their current bearings and speeds, the French would cut off Ruby. Our commodore was a resolute man, he was. Upon this report he immediately ordered the signal “Wear in succession. Make for Ruby. Engage the enemy closely.”
The order was passed by Captain Hyde at that same instant for the men to their stations to wear ship. We were a well-drilled company, having been on station nigh on three years, since the dastardly rebel raid on Bermuda in ’77, and the ship came about smartly and settled into a new course, reaching toward Ruby. At the same moment, Captain John of the Ruby tacked, coming about to the same course as the Frogs, in essence running from them to give us more time. None of us held out much hope she’d be able to outrun them, her bottom being foul, over two years since her last careening.
We now ran together, the two lines, tension building in the crews as we willed the ship to drive faster into the wind. As we closed the Ruby suddenly tacked again. It was clear in a trice Captain John was trying to ride his ship between the two lines with the double goal of delivering damage and allowing the rest of us to close.
To our dismay she made sternboard and, instead of flying between the lines, found herself alone to leeward of the French!
Bravely she crossed, engaging in succession the Conquerant, Duc de Bourgogne, and Neptune. With each crashing broadside we could only imagine the carnage on deck! Later it came out that brave Captain John was felled by a musket ball through the breast from Conquerant’s marines. Then the poor ship had her bowsprit shot away, forcing her to hold her course past the biggest French ships.
Fortunately for Ruby her course and that of the Frogs diverged and, while Provence and Jason gave her a broadside each, by then she was two cables off and lived to fight another day.
Commodore Cornwallis, seeing Ruby’s ill luck, cast another signal to the squadron – wear to starboard, together!
Thus, we closed the distance, each ship taking a raking fire from her opposite at about a cable’s distance. The first division then wore again and engaged the enemy’s line hotly. The rear division, the tiny 50s Salisbury and Bristol, continued to close, attempting to cut the French line.
Alas! Our ships, smaller than the enemy’s, were swifter and soon Lion surged ahead of the Conquerant. But the cost had been high, with blood filling the scuppers, guns dismounted, and sails tattered. Then, as perhaps an evening of the odds, the mainmast of the mighty Duc de Bourgogne toppled into the sea, smashed just above the main deck by a 32-pound ball fired from Hector at pistol shot. Poseidon take it!
The little 50s had bracketed the last ship in the French line, Eveille (64) and caused terrible slaughter. But the French, Eveille and her next in line, Jason (64) had done equal execution. Salisbury’s master was down, and Bristol’s rigging shredded. Neither was able to turn back and remain engaged. Rather they sailed on, eventually joining Ruby, far downwind of the battle, unable to contribute further. It was they who would take the sorry news to Jamaica.
For sorry news it was to be. Cornwallis made one more signal, Wear to Starboard Together, in an effort to break the French line. Obediently the three ships turned to run down the Frogs!
Our speed and the Duc’s lost mast allowed Lion and Hector to cross, delivering devastating rakes fore and aft on Conquerant and fore on Duc. But Sultan answered her helm too slowly and, in turn, received the might of the Duc.
None of the British were fast enough and each, in turn became fouled with her opposite number – Lion with Conquerant, Hector with Duc de Bourgogne, and Sultan with Neptune. Now was the time for boarders!
However, in all three cases, our captain’s had left their faith in speed and not in bullets. Grape rained down as the limeys formed on each of the three quarterdecks and, when away, the survivors were pitifully few and the officers even fewer. An unfortunate event also hampered the Lion’s men. In the final broadside from Conquerant, a gunner’s match was cut from his hand by an 18-pound ball and fell into some spilled powder. The fire quite disrupted any fire from the main battery.
The boarding action were swift and bloody and decisive, as they almost always are. In the end all three of His Majesty’s ships drifted with Saint Andrew’s cross cut from the flagstaffs, disgracefully floating in the sea.
Lion’s fire was extinguished and de Ternay brought his prizes triumphantly into Martinique. The greatest disaster in English naval history since unfortunate Admiral Byng.
We use 1:1200 ships and Trouin, Cochrane, and Jones rules – a modification of Fighting Instructions.
To defend against the pesky French revolutionaries and privateers, the Honorable East India Company formed a squadron under Commodore Charles Mitchell. Five big Indiamen and a small brig sailed down the Sunda Strait in early January 1794. Hoving into sight was a motley collection of French naval ships and privateers under Flag Captain Jean-Marie Renaud. He had convinced his captains that the best way to get to capturing prizes was to deal first with Mitchell. Renaud commanded a captured East Indiaman, two naval frigates, a small naval brig, and two large privateers.
The two lines approached on gently converging courses when signal flags snapped out from Prudente and the French executed a wear to starboard together, turning to run down the British. The slower Indiamen maintained their line ahead.
In the light airs tension flooded the decks as the two forced slowly closed. Then, as the range between the nearest ships closed to only 200 yards, the British executed a turn to port (the rear division, Pigot and Houghton, failing to read the signal, plowed ahead). Battle was thus joined at the head of the column with the two biggest and best manned and armed French ships, the naval frigates Cybele (40) and Prudente (36), engaging the little brig Nautilus (14) and the giant Indiaman Britannia (26).
Both sides fired high, with the French escaping with little more than scratches from the brig’s 6-pounders and some of Britannia’s sails seeing holes. However, the combination of maneuvers meant the Cybele and Prudente were sailing away from the action.
The largest French ship, the captured Indiaman Trouin (26) had fallen behind creating a gap which the British ships lunged toward, trying to catch the two large privateers Vengeur (30) and Resolue (26) against four two-decked merchants. But the lumbering Brits were too slow as well! Vengeur cleared the Britannia and delivered a devastating fire at close range. Britannia showed that her poor gunnery against Prudente was no fluke and barely scraped Resolue. However, the two ships, Britannia and Resolue tangled, the latter’s bowsprit stuck fast to the ratlines of the former.
The next ship in line for the British, Pitt (26), now closed and luffed to hammer the corvette. Two broadsides crashed out and ripped glass and woodwork, causing fearful damage. Meanwhile Britannia, with barely 100 crew, desperately tried to unfoul and prepare to repel boarders. Resolue prepared her guns for the moment she was free.
And free she soon became! Pitt, unable to halt her momentum, continued past and Britannia cut away the fouled rigging, only for Resolue, better manned and handled, to ease forward and deliver a stern rake. Down came the mizzen top!
By this time Trouin and the little Vulcain (14) had finally come up and engaged Nonsuch (26). Cybele and Prudente had made a long laborious wear about and were sailing to rejoin the fray but faced the virtually undamaged ships of the British rear who were finally closing and the British center, threatening to sandwich the French.
At this point one of those vicious tropical storms with torrents of rain engulfed the battlefield and the two sides broke off the action.
Resolue and Britannia were badly hurt but no other ship took any substantial loss.
September 30, 1813
Leutnant Karl Preysing sat his horse in utter amazement. Generalmajor Karl von Sahr, commanding the Saxon 25th Division of the French Grande Armee, had just informed him that the Saxons would conform to his request. They would switch sides and surprise the small Polish Corps camped just east of where they now sat, on the south side of the small river Niesse. Von Sahr had already issued orders to that effect.
Preysing watched the Saxons pivot to their right, screened by a ridge and their light cavalry. After fifteen minutes he was convinced. He saluted to Von Sahr and spurred his horse north, crossing a rickety wooden bridge and galloping to his chief, Feldmarschall Ludwig Yorck, to inform him of the stunning change.
When an ensign galloped to his headquarters at first Prince Poniatowski could not believe the report. The Saxons traitors? Impossible. But then he saw their cavalry in the distance, with his glass. They were moving toward him, not against the Prussians on the far side of the Niesse.
He reacted quickly. Couriers thundered away from headquarters. If the Saxons wanted to betray their Emperor, let them. He, Poniatowski, would make them pay! Just to be sure, he sent one last aide galloping furiously to Prince von Wrede’s camp a mile or so further south. The Bavarians might very well be needed if both Yorck and von Sahr attacked.
Yorck, equally as surprised, was equally energetic. Orders were dictated and send by aide-de-camp to each brigade. The small advanced guard (only half his corps was with him) was soon in motion toward the Niesse and the Poles on the far bank.
The Saxon Cheveauxleger Brigade opened the action by skirmishing with the Polish light cavalry. General de Brigade Sulkowski ordered forward his lancers in a furious charge. The Saxon cavalry fled. Sulkowski then wheeled and led his lancers headlong into Regiment Prinz Maxmilian. These unfortunates, disordered by Polish artillery fire, failed to form square and broke, running behind the steadfast Light Infantry Brigade. Von Sahr was already regretting his early morning decision.
Meanwhile Yorck had his men across the Niesse. While the Prussian cavalry threatened, the Converged Grenadiers Brigade and 11th Reserve splashed across and went over to the attack. The Reserves slammed into a 12-pounder battery, positioned to sweep the stone bridge, and sent the gunners running. But when they tried to exploit their gains, they ran into the 4th Brigade du Marche in the tiny hamlet of Ostkulm. The French held.
The grenadiers, however, in the open, had better success. Without pausing to reform, led by Kolonel von Pitt, they smashed into the Polish Converged Legere Brigade and sent it streaming to the rear. This then exposed the 1st Line Brigade who had squared to face the Prussian light cavalry. In square, against the already victorious grenadiers, the Poles had no chance and joined the legere in running.
On Yorck’s far left, the 2nd Pommeranian Brigade fixed the Polish 3rd Line Brigade, but suffered over 400 casualties to accurate Polish fire.
By now Wrede’s Bavarians were up and pitched into the action. The converged grenadiers, tired and disordered from their wild charge were now mercilessly ridden down by the arriving Bavarian Cheveauxleger. These riders continued into the Niesse, striking the Prussian cavalry and driving them back.
Count Beckers led his Bavarian brigade into action on the far left of the Allied line, striking the Saxon Grenadier Brigade. Supposedly the best infantry in the Saxon army, having lost their major and two captains to artillery fire, gave a ragged volley, and ran. Beckers, shouting alternately “En Avant” and “Vorwarts” led his men up a small hill and at the Regiment Prinz August who had just repelled a charge from the Polish lancers. August, in square, could not resist the Bavarians, and quit the field.
The opera had pretty much played itself out. Ganeralmajor Karl Le Coq had rallied Prinz Maximilian and led them in a desperate charge to try and blunt Beckers and the supporting Bavarian Light Brigade. But the Saxons, even under the direct gaze of their longstanding officers, this day, would not fight. Maximilian recoiled and Von Sahr gave the necessary orders to disengage.
The Prince of Hesse-Homburg had one maneuver left to try to wrench the Franco-Poles from Ostkulm. He brought the 7th Reserve onto the flank of the Polish 3rd Line Brigade while assaulting frontally with the 5th Silesian Landwehr. The maneuver was successful, but, by now, the Bavarians were up, bringing three fresh brigades of infantry to stabilize the front and allow the 4th Brigade du Marche to fall back unmolested.
Yorck called off his attacks, consolidating his gains, staring across a mere 300 yard gap at Poniatowski and Wrede. But, with Von Sahr in retreat, he was too outnumbered to continue. Von Bulow, with the rest of the corps, would not arrive until dark.
The Saxons had paid in blood for Von Sahr’s duplicity, with almost 5000 casualties out of 14,000 engaged. Yorck had suffered 1500 casualties. The Poles, hard-pressed and badly outnumbered at the start, lost almost 2000 men, while the Bavarians won the most honors at the least cost – capturing 6 stand of colors for only 300 men killed and wounded.
Played with Napoleonic Fury rules and 15mm figures.
After successes in 841 the Chieftains Njal from the Shetlands and Grim from the Orkneys agreed to raid further up the Seine, perhaps as far as the City of Paris where Charles the Bold sat precariously on a throne. At a bend in the river near Rouen they agreed on a small side expedition to obtain some provisions. Unfortunately for Njal and Grim this allowed a mixed group based on the retinues of the Norman Duke William to bring the raiders to heel.
The raiders were desperately short of horses – not much space in a drakkar – but they were seasoned and set up watch posts to scan the countryside and give early warning if the Franks decided to contest the right of plunder. One of these, manned by Sven the Toothless, caught sight of the Norman horde and gave the alarm. Grim and Njal called in their parties and gathered their men on a series of low hills. Wagons overburdened with commandeered provisions and the wealth of the Rouen
countryside made their way to the drakkar in the Seine.
Njal aligned his band on the west side of the line, his flank secured by a hill covered in thick thorny bushes and rough rocks. He placed a motley band of Frankish mercenaries, who had hired on over the past two years on his left. The bondi led by Grieg was next occupying a low hill, then Bjork with his lightly armed bondi. Njal himself led the hird on the next hill.
Grim had set Bran’s band of heavily armed Norwegians in a valley between Njal and Grim’s own hird on the next hill. Ivor the Boneless and his bondi extended to the east and the far right was held by a band of Northumbrian mercenaries. A swampy lowland secured Grim’s right flank.
Both Grim and Njal threw skirmishing thralls in front of the main line.
The Normans advanced in five main groups. On their right (west) was a band of Swabians on loan from Charles the Bold’s brother. Then came a band of foot knights under Count Geoffrey. The Norman horse under Odo and William in person held the center. To their east was a band of bondi and finally the Norman left (west) flank was formed by Count Eustace’s foot knights. A swarm of archers was a dozen paces ahead of the battle bands.
William had but one order – crush the invaders!
The battle began auspiciously for the Normans. Superior archery killed nine Vikings at a loss of only two Normans. Then the impulsive young leader, Bjork, charged, leading his mostly-naked band headlong into Geoffrey’s heavily-armed knights. A few minutes later, Erling led his javelin armed thralls forward to engage the Norman archers in front of Grim’s line. Better to die fighting than as mere deer under the
William ordered the cavalry forward. “Ride down the thralls! Make the gully run with the invader’s blood!”
The gully was the gap between the Njal’s hirdmen’s hill and Grim’s hirdmen’s hill – where Bran and the Norwegians stood.
Bjork’s attack was more showy than substantive. After recovering from the sight of naked men with short spears charging his solid mass, Geoffrey split his forces and destroyed the islander bondi while attacking Njal’s Hill with half his force. Likewise, the Frankish mercenaries made little headway against the Swabians.
Geoffrey’s foot knights struggled up the little hill and were easily repulsed by Njal’s hirdmen. The islemen’s only other action was spillover when Robert, Count of Rouen, trampled Njal’s sling armed thralls and charged up the hill only to be cut down by the massive two-handed axes of the Vikings.
Against Grim the Norman attack was aggressive and fearless but met by individual skill, luck, and determination.
Aimerii, Bishop of Valery-au-Bouchonne, led the Norman cavalry over the thralls, and personally skewered Erling. However, the thralls, using agility to dodge inside the long Norman lance and use their javelins as short spears caused unexpected losses on the Norman elite. One, Svelard, forever after known in song as Svelard the Incredible, killed three Norman horse, before finally being trampled by Odo the Meek, son of the Count of Brittany.
With the work of the thralls, Bran still faced hard work in the gully. He would have likely been done for but for the work of Grim and Ivor the Boneless on Grim’s Hill. Assaulted by Eustace, Duke of Rheims, and his foot serjeants, Grim and Ivor absorbed the first shock in their shield walls on the hill. Then Grim, with a roar heard in Valhalla, led his men forward. Eustace was slain and the cavalry assailed from the flank. Hugh, Count of Vergennes, shouted, a bit too loudly for William’s taste, “Time to go home!” and led the retreat. Afterwards Hugh was known to say, “I knew they couldn’t catch us if we rode away!”
On Grim’s right the final scene played out as the most lightly-armed footmen in the Norman battle-line attacked the Northumbrian mercenaries. Here the story was that of luck and pluck. The Northumbrian band had but a single archer, Fredrik. As the footmen charged down he shot one and then another whose spear missed the intrepid archer by inches. The charging men bypassed him to hit the main line but even then, he shot two more before the tide ebbed back past him.
William’s men, led by Hugh, withdrew from the battle. Geoffrey and the Swabians were mainly intact, having been on defense most of the day. The vaunted cavalry had suffered 70% losses and would be hard-pressed to oppose any more forays. Eustace’s band was likewise decimated.
Grim and Njal had suffered heavy losses but not enough to stop their expedition. The continued up the Seine, terrorized Charles the Bold and eventually retired the next year, drakkars full of loot.
Svelard the Invicible Thrall was given a warrior’s funeral. Fredrik was offered (and accepted) the vacant post of Thrall-Captain, replacing the dead Erling.
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..