With the COVID quarantines we have been unable to play. However, for those of you interested in the American War for Independence and small skirmish actions, he is a short vignette of the second battle between the rebellious colonists and the British, and the first time a Royal Navy ship was lost in the war. The Battle of Chelsea Creek is also known as the Battle of Hogg Island or the Battle of Noddle's Island.
Several islands dotted Boston Bay at the time of the Revolution. Most have been reclaimed as dry land in the 19th and 20th centuries. But in 1775, with Boston under siege, they were a flashpoint. The islands were used for grazing livestock and, with British naval control, were easily accessible by the besieged redcoats. The rebels found this detrimental to the efficiency of the siege and had, on May 21, thwarted an effort by the British to obtain forage and livestock from Grape Island by removing the animals and burning the hay.
General Artemas Ward, in command of the rebel army, next set his eye on Noddle’s and Hog Islands. Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves had placed several guard boats around the islands to protect them from the rebels. Ward dispatched Colonel John Stark and his 1st New Hampshire Regiment to gather in the livestock and deny the forage to the British.
Stark set out from his camp in Medford just after midnight and crossed the ford across Belle Isle Creek to Hogg Island about 10am. Stark dispersed most of his men to gather in the animals while he led a detachment of about 30 men over Crooked Creek to Noddle Island to do the same there.
Stark had avoided Graves’ guard boats but his presence was clear to the admiral when he started to burn the hay on Noddle Island. About 2pm, Graves ordered the marines to land and ordered his nephew, Lieutenant Thomas Graves, to sail the armed schooner Diana up Chelsea Creek in support. The sloop Britannia followed the Diana.
Stark’s party withdrew in front of the marines until they reached Crooked Creek between Hogg and Noddle Islands. Here, squatting down in the mud, the rebels made a stand. The Marines, unable to make any headway against the strong position, withdrew out of musket range.
Diana, on the ebb tide, was soon in trouble, having pushed too far in trying to foil the rebels. While most of Stark’s men continued to hurry the sheep, pigs, and cattle toward the interior a call for reinforcements went out to strike the stranded schooner.
Lieutenant Graves, realizing his situation, also signaled for help and the admiral quickly dispatched barges and the tender from the 4th rate Somerset, to try to tow the Diana to deeper water. Brittania, being further down the channel, was able to extricate herself.
A battle now developed between Stark’s men and from 200-1000 militia (sources vary) under the command of Israel Putnam. The rebels also had two small field pieces, the first time the rebel army used artillery in the revolt. The British fired Diana’s 4 4-pounder guns and also engaged the rebels with musketry from the Marines on the barges and a couple field pieces they had landed on Noddle’s Island.
About 10pm the British withdrew, the fire from shore too hot for continued operation and the Diana stuck fast in the mud. Lieutenant Graves transferred his men to the Britannia and abandoned the Diana.
Putnam’s men now slogged through the mud and removed everything of value, including the artillery, from the schooner and then set her ablaze.
Casualties were low. The colonials suffered only “a few wounded” while Admiral Graves reported two killed and “several” wounded. However, the colonial morale was raised and that of the redcoats lowered. Putnam was subsequently promoted to brigadier.
The action at Crooked Creek is relatively straightforward, Hogg Island was a tidal island, relatively flat and open with some scrub and copses of trees, perfect for grazing. Pitcairn’s marines numbered about 400 when all gathered, while Stark had about 300 men all told in his regiment. The bank is described as being waist high, and Stark’s men were said to kneel to gain maximal protection. The stream, really an estuary, was muddy and irregular in course, hence its name.
For the action against Diana, a small portion of Stark’s command remained with the two field pieces, probably 3 pounders, and Putnam’s militia. The barges could hold 50-60 marines but most of them would, of course, be engaged in rowing. Diana’s guns were of the 4-pounder sort (she is also reported to have up to 12 small swivel guns), as were, most likely, the two guns the British brought to Noddle’s Island. The low number of casualties bespeaks of an action at near maximum range with the militia observing loose order and taking advantage of the more heavily forested main land banks.
Colonel William Washington had gone out looking for trouble and Colonel Banastre Tarleton had happily obliged. Both colonels led a polyglot mix of troops as deployed for battle on the Rutledge Plantation on a sunny March afternoon in 1780.
Tarleton had been bested by Washington in a minor skirmish near the Stono River a few weeks prior and was out for revenge. His party, a mixed foraging and scouting force, consisted of two troops of cavalry – one from the famed 17th Light Dragoons and one from his own Legion, as well as six companies of infantry – one South Carolina militia, one of Butler’s Rangers, a jager detachment of the Brunswick regiment, a company of the storied Black Watch, and two companies of the Royal Green Provincial regiment.
Washington had a troop each from Baylor’s Dragoons and Lee’s Legion, as well as three companies of Continental Line, Grim’s Rifle Company, Posey’s Ranger Company, and Bellow’s Kingston Militia. Washington’s primary goal was to snare Tarleton, though his orders were to find Cornwallis’ main column and to gather much needed foodstuffs for Greene’s hungry army.
The two colonels deployed their small commands in a mirror pattern. In the open fields to the west of the plantation’s wagon road, where on a more peaceful morning the Rutledge cattle would graze, each commander set his mounted troops in loose line. To the east of the road, in an open woodlot, both commanders shook out a double line of infantry, Washington’s slightly smaller units deploying four companies in front and two behind, while Tarleton had equal-sized lines with three companies in each.
As the infantry advanced, firing, in their long, ragged lines, broken by the ash and pecan trees of the woodlot, the cavalry clash opened in dramatic fashion. Baylor’s Dragoons thundered across the open ground to meet the 17th saber to saber.
In the woods, the long-ranged rifles drew first blood, and the captains were hit early – Captain Grim took a ball through his left hand, Captain Butler’s scabbard was shattered by a ball which left him with a burgeoning bruise, while Captain Pfeffer of the Brunswick Jagers was mortally wounded by a ball to the chest. The Jagers, stunned by the loss of their leader, fell back, their position in the line quickly filled by the staunch bearskins of the Black Watch.
In the open, Baylor’s, recently remounted on fine stock “acquired” from another loyalist plantation, thrashed the British regulars. 40 red saddles were emptied in the melee while only 9 blue-clad Americans fell. Decimated, the 17th broke, galloping for the safety of the plantation building a mile to the rear. As that skirmish was ending Tarleton was launching his own Legion against the green-clad Americans of Lee’s Legion. The swirling melee of horse and saber saw yet another captain fall – Captain Jones, who had been with Tarleton since the unit’s formation, was killed by a vicious cut to the neck.
Tarleton found his troopers staggered and led them back, disordered but together, to regroup with the 17th. Tarleton’s troop lost 31 men, while the Americans lost 22.
Tarleton’s withdrawal with the defeated cavalry, however, spelled the end for his embattled infantry. As the Colonel was falling back his second, Colonel Hamilton of the Royal Greens was breathing his last by an ash tree, having taken two balls to the belly and the Virginia Continentals pressed the Greens. The loss of the popular commander caused the loyalists to waver, the second company giving ground.
But the loss was not all one-sided. In pressing the attack, Captain Smith of the Second Virginia took a ball neatly through his ear as he turned to urge his men forward. While he would linger the rest of the afternoon with a grievous hole in his head, his last resting place was the plantation wood. Simultaneously Simcoe’s Tory Militia delivered a devastating on Bellow’s Company, killing and wounding 24 men.
However, with Tarleton in retreat and Hamilton dead, even remarkable marksmanship and the bravery of the regulars was to no avail. The British infantry slowly fell back against a thinning American line. Finally, after over an hour of hot action, the British leadership suffered one final, debilitating, blow. Captain Butler, rallying his rangers to reform and re-engage Posey and a few attached riflemen, was struck by a ball and killed instantly.
The British withdrew. Washington’s command, badly blooded, was too tired to pursue with any zest. The American dragoons, their blood up, did attempt to chasten the withdrawing loyalist horse but were dissuaded by Tarleton’s artillery train – two 3-pounders – which had missed the battle due to a broken wheel on a limber but were all too happy to send a few balls Washington’s way.
In all the American infantry suffered 62 casualties out of 350 engaged. The British, with about 400 infantry engaged, lost 56, but the loss of four commanders sealed their defeat.
We play using 25mm figures and A Continent in the Balance rules.
Early spring 1777, New Jersey
Colonel Ebenezer Driscoll’s American brigade stomped out of their winter quarters in search of some rations and shoes. General Howe dispatched Brigadier Dirk Patch to spoil the American’s excursion and keep them hungry and barefoot.
The two columns met near Dricut’s Store on a cold sunny spring day.
Major Scudbucker had been stripping Farmer Northey of what was left of his larders when word arrived of the British advance. He sent a courier thundering (actually trotting, the horse was too lean to do much more) to Driscoll and called his men into formation. Captain Forrester’s Connecticut Light Infantry stretched out to cover the American south flank in an open wood lot. He then deployed his two companies of Pennsylvania Continentals behind fences and outbuildings on Northey’s farm supported by a section of 3-pounders. Scudbucker deployed his German Flats militia behind and in support of the guns.
Driscoll had personal control of the rest of his small command. He deployed his Connecticut Line to cover the American north flank in thick woods. The 5th Company of the 4th New York Line deployed on an open hill to the right of the Nutmeggers. His small detachment of riflemen moved to a copse of walnut trees between the hill and Northey’s farm. Coming up from the rear, where they had been “guarding” (more like looting) the already filled supply wagons, were the 3rd and 4th companies of the 4th New York.
Patch deployed his force in a long thin line opposite the Americans. Quickly the two forces were heavily engaged. The 42nd Highlanders led down the farmer’s trail with a 6-pounder lumbering by their side. A slugging match ensued between them and the American riflemen on one side and the First Pennsylvania on the other. The uneven struggle fixed the Americans’ attention to fatal consequences.
Major Jonathan Dimsdale led the 33rd Regiment of Foot sharply through the woods and into line in support of, and just north of, the Highlanders. From behind the Highlanders a company of Marines moved into the farm building opposite the Pennsylvanians and took up shooting positions under cover of the thick log walls. This, despite the New Yorkers deploying in support of the Pennsylvanians and delivering a measured volley.
The tide of battle, a battle only 15 minutes old, now turned distinctly in favor of the redcoats. While the Highlanders fell back the 33rd decimated the riflemen with rapid volleys, forcing them to likewise retire. On the far northern flank the dismounted 17th Light Dragoons started to drive the Connecticut lIne through the woods, though stubbornly opposed.
At the same time three companies of grenadiers approached Scudbucker’s center. The Pennsylvanians did their best, standing stoically behind Northey’s fences but the balls arrived with much too great a regularity. One by one the Continentals fell out of line, dead, wounded, or just done in by the ferocity of the British fire. The cannons banged away but mostly ineffectually, getting only a single telling canister shot in that beheaded a poor lieutenant of the 23rd Foot and cut an entire section in half.
The coup de main in Scudbucker’s area was when the Grenadiers of the 5th Foot moved forward, bayonets glittering in the sunshine. The Americans had had enough.
On the far south flank the Light company of the 10th Foot methodically cut up the American Light Infantry and then chased away the militia, bravely led forward by Captain Van Eyken, with a deliberate fire by platoons.
With the riflemen and the Pennsylvanians falling back it was now the turn of the 5th New York company to be decimated on their exposed position on the naked knob.
In apoplexy Driscoll watched his command melt away under the British fire. Captain Iverson’s company of New Yorkers and Miller’s Connecticut line, from cover of woods west of Northey’s farm, checked the British pursuit long enough for the remnants of the American brigade to slink away. All in all the Americans lost 211 men out of only 1120 engaged. Another 55 simply disappeared into the countryside, never to return to their units. Patch’s regulars, by contrast, brought 1400 men to the fray and suffered a bare 96 men lost to all causes.
Game was played using 25mm figures and A Continent in the Balance rules played by the Long Island Irregulars.
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..