East Tennessee, January 1862
Pap Thomas was worried. True, he had won the race to the vital Ox Crossing and his troops had spent the night digging thin rifle pits fronted by whatever rocks and sticks they could wrench from the cold ground. But they were mostly untested and spread thinly to cover the three roads along which the rebels might debauch.
His right was anchored by Lieutenant Colonel Luck’s 7th US Battalion, the original garrison of Ox Crossing. Having been there longer they had built a substantial redoubt on top of a grassy prominence known locally as Hare’s Hill. The rest of Gibb’s brigade covered the Grigg’s Bypass, including the only unit that had seen action, the 3rd Tennessee.
The center was held by Brigadier General Wilson and his polyglot brigade which had been hastily assembled from four separate depots and had only been brigades for three days. Johnson’s Track snaked its way through a small valley at the center of Wilson’s position.
Finally, to the Union left was Grover’s Brigade. They sat astride the Knoxville Road and had 2nd Battery, Ohio Light Artillery with its four 6-pounders enfilading the road. Rush River closed the flank, but Grover lacked the troops to provide a continuous front, leaving a gap between his left and the river.
George B Crittenden had an impressive resume – West Point education, experience in the Black Hawk and Mexican Wars – but he was out of his depth. In the race to Ox Crossing he split his “Army of East Tennessee” into three equal columns, gave conflicting orders and lost. Now he ordered them forward as three separate attacks against the intrenched bluebellies.
Patton Anderson led a Mississippi brigade over Grigg’s Bypass. Anderson was in good spirits – his brigade had just received a shipment of Austrian rifled muskets to replace the Tower of London flintlocks that had armed three of his regiments.
In the center, Manigault’s brigade was spoiling for a fight. Although they had marched with the trains, it had been discovered that the sacks of coffee they had captured from a Union rail depot the previous week had been filled with sand by some blue-coated quartermaster with a sense of humor. Rumor had it that quartermaster was in Ox Crossing.
Finally, on the Confederate right, on the Knoxville Road, advanced Hindman’s Brigade of Alabamians and Dent’s Battery of 6 guns. Hindman, however, had been recalled by Crittenden for “consultations” that morning so the column was led by the political general Felix Zollicoffer.
The Ohio battery duly opened the action by sending a few balls down the road. Zollicoffer, in his first taste of actual battle, saw his orderly’s horse disemboweled and ordered his column to deploy almost 600 yards short of the Union line. Unmolested by artillery, Anderson and Manigault deployed much closer, Manigault in more open terrain, slightly quicker though soon the pop of muskets was heard all along Gibb’s and Wilson’s front and clouds of smoke drifted into the cold mid-morning air.
Hindman, hearing the gunfire, raced to the front. Creating order from Zollicoffer’s chaos, he ordered Dent to unlimber and sent his brigade looping to the right, attempting to exploit the gap between Grover’s line and the river. Alas, Hindman was too late. Thomas had already sent a reserve regiment sidling to his left and Grover had moved his reserve further left to block the gap.
Manigault attacked first but with Thomas calmly walking his horse up and down the line and Wilson shouting encouragement the attack was repulsed. A musketry duel ensued at ranges of less than 100 yards. Manigault’s brigade fell back, their anger at the coffee/sand cooled by the loss of almost 400 men killed and wounded.
Anderson swept forward with the 44th Mississippi making it to the works on Gibb’s right with the 41st Mississippi in support but after a brief crossing of bayonets they were forced back. Down the road advanced the 10th Mississippi with the 9th in support. At a range of 25 yards they engaged the 3rd Tennessee and the 63rd Pennsylvania for more than thirty minutes. But it was too much. With the assault on the redoubt stopped and Manigault recoiling the rest of Anderson’s brigade was forced to fall back.
Hindman’s attack was overtaken by these events. Organized slowly due to Zollicoffer’s delay, his 19th and 39th Alabama had come to grips with Grover’s repositioned brigade just as a rider galloped up from Crittenden ordering a general withdrawal. Pinched by the river and Grover’s Bald Hill works the packed ranks suffered over 100 casualties in fifteen minutes. They had the consolation of watching the 2nd Tennessee find the action too hot and pull back to a grove of trees.
With two more blue regiments forming behind, shuffled over by Thomas, Hindman reluctantly acceded to the general withdrawal order. Ox Crossing, at least for now, would stay under the Federal flag. The three uncoordinated rebel attacks cost them 850 casualties; Thomas counted almost 600.
Cochrane, Nelson, and Jones (CNJ) is a set of rules for naval warfare in the Age of Sail, roughly 1700-1820. It works equally well with single ship actions and large fleet battles. The need for record-keeping is reduced from that traditionally required for such games by using tokens and by using a card-based movement sequence. On a ship’s roster only damage, current speed, and boarding parties need to be noted.
The American frigates Fox and Hancock are running away from the small British 4th rate Rainbow. They are all hauling to the west northwest when another sail, the Flora, displaying Continental colors, appears fine off the port bow. The game begins with Flora 300 yards from Hancock, Fox 150 yards off Hancock’s starboard beam and Rainbow 200 yards astern of Hancock. Scenario specific rules are (1) that all ships must maintain course until Flora fires or approached within 40 yards of either American ship and (2) Flora must tack and close on the Americans at her best speed. For the move sequence, Fox draws a 9, Hancock a 5, Flora a 6, and Rainbow a King.
Turn 1 Phase 1 Flora tacks in the first phase, turning into the wind. The other three continue straight as per the scenario.
Turn 1 Phase 2 sees Flora complete her tack but with some sternboard, so she has lost a bit of seaway. She is now approaching Hancock on the opposite tack.
Turn 1 Phases 3 and 4 see all four ships maintaining speed and course, men poised at battle stations. Flora is now nearly crossing bowsprits with Hancock.
Turn 2 Phase 1 Card 1 is King of spades, Rainbow moves forward 55. Card 2 is 9 of diamonds, Fox moves forward 55. Card 3 is a 6 of clubs. Flora hauls down Continental colors, raises English colors, moves forward 60 and pours a raking broadside into the Hancock. Range is 20, odds are 12:11 (1:1) and the rolls are blue 5 and red 8 resulting in 4 hull and 2 rigging hits on Hancock. She also passes with 15mm of Hancock (nearest point) and rolls an 8 on the fouling table (not fouled). Fox and Hancock decide to hold their fire. Card 4 is 5 of spades. Hancock now moves to rake Flora. Unfortunately, she rolls a zero on the fouling table and her bowsprit becomes entangled in the mizzen of Flora. She lets go with her heavier, 12-pounder, broadside, at a range of only 30. Odds are 16:9 (3:2) blue 7 red 9 (+1) which results in 6 hull and 2 rigging.
Turn 2 Phase 2 Card 1 is 5 of clubs. Hancock makes the decision to board Flora and attempts to grapple, succeeding with a roll of 8. Card 2 is King of clubs and Rainbow closes on the unengaged side of Hancock, moving forward 55. Card 3 is 6 of hearts. Flora attempts to ungrapple and unfoul but fails with both rolls. With a heart Flora’s battery is reloaded at the end of the phase. Last card is 9 of clubs. Fox wears 60 and fires at Flora but only rolls blue 8 and red 1. At a range of 30 that is only one hull. Flora returns fire and gets a much better blue 0 red 9 which results in 4 hull and a rigging. Flora and Hancock drift 10 downwind.
Turn 2 Phase 3 Card 1 is 9 of hearts. Fox slows to just 30. Card 2 is 6 of diamonds. Flora manages to ungrapple (rolling a 9) but stays fouled (rolling a 4). She does let loose on Hancock, now at 10:11 (2:3), rolling blue 4 and red 4 which is one hull. She also sets a defensive boarding part of all sailors and marines. Card 3 is King of hearts. Rainbow moves forward 55 with a maximum deviation to try to close with Hancock. Card 4 is 5 of diamonds. Hancock throws another grapple and succeeds (8). She sets an offensive boarding party of all sailors and marines and three sections of gunners.
Turn 2 Phase 4 Card 1 is the King of diamonds. Rainbow is finally up on Hancock, moving forward 40. Range is only 40 but the gunnery gods are not with the British. The heavy 18-pounder battery has odds of 18:11 (3:2) but roll blue 5 and red 0 for only one hull. The lighter 12-pounder battery does even worse, rolling blue 0 and red 0 for a miss. Hancock returns fire from its previously unengaged port battery, odds 11:13 (due to 3 gunners no longer at their guns) rolling blue 2 and red 3 for a single hull. Card 2 is 9 of spades. Fox inches forward 10, waiting for her guns to reload. Card 3 is 5 of hearts. Hancock fails to attach a second grapple (5). The final card is 6 of spades and Flora again ungrapples (9) but fails to unfoul (5). At the end of the turn the boarders are away! Hancock has 16 points against 8 for Flora. Roll is a 4. The attacker seizes a section of deck with losses of 2 crew sections for the attacker (Hancock) and 3 for the defender (Flora).
Turn 3 Phase 1 Card 1 is a 5 of diamonds. Hancock now has a 14:6 advantage in melee but rolls a 3 and gets a stalemate, losing 1 more crew section but Flora loses 2. Card 2 is a king of diamonds. Rainbow, at barely 30 range fires into Hancock inflicting 3 hull and a rigging from her 18s and another hull from the 12s. Hancock replies with a ragged broadside and also gets one hull. Card 3 is a 9 of diamonds and Fox wears 15, moves forward 40 and pours her broadside in a bow rake of Rainbow, rolling a blue 8 and red 2. The light 9-pounders only score two hull. The last card is 6 of hearts. Flora desperately orders all gunners to form into a reinforcing boarding party (this will take two phases). Her existing party fights a bloody stalemate, rolling 5(-2) resulting in 3 crew lost for the attacker but 2 more sections lost for Flora.
Turn 3 Phase 2 Card 1 is 5 of spades. Hancock, despite an 11:2 advantage rolls a 0 and gets another stalemate, losing two more sections. But Flora loses one, leaving her with a single section in melee. Card 2 is a 6 of diamonds. Flora rolls a 4 (+4) which ends the melee (Hancock takes the last two sections of deck AND the last crew section of Flora is casualties. Hancock loses one more crew section, for a total loss of 8 crew sections (2 gunners, 5 marines, and a sailor). Card 3 is a King of hearts. Rainbow tacks, bringing her port broadside full on to Fox at a range of only 40. Between both batteries she inflicts another 4 hull on Fox. Because the card was a heart, she reloads. Card 4 is a 9 of clubs. Fox moves forward 60. She also recovers her maneuver chip.
Turn 3 Phase 3 Card 1 is King of spades. Rainbow attempts to complete her tack but rolls a 0 and is in irons! Special damage to the Rigging is a 62 – main topmast falls to starboard and obscures the battery. She is pushed backward 45 (55 minus 10 for dragging a mast) which puts her in range to fire at Fox again at a range of 40, causing a total of 4 more hull and a rigging. Card 2 is 5 of hearts. Hancock forms a prize crew of 2 sailor sections and a marine section on Flora. She attempts to unfoul and fails (7). Card 3 is a 9 of hearts. Fox moves forward 60 and reloads with chain shot. Flora gets no action for her card as the prize crew is organizing.
Turn 3 Phase 4 Card 1 is 6 of spades. Again, Flora takes no action. Her prize crew will be organized at the end of this phase. Card 2 is 9 of spades. Fox wears 70 and takes Rainbow in a stern rake at only 70 range with dismantling shot. Her battered 9-pounders though are only 6:13 and she gets a red 0, only one rigging. Card 3 is a 5 of clubs and Hancock lets loose at Rainbow at range 130. However, her blue 8 is an outright miss. She again fails to unfoul (7). Card 4 is a King of clubs. Rainbow tries again to complete the tack and fails again with a roll of 1. This time she rolls a 95 and the entire mizzen mast falls, obscuring the port battery. She does cut away the starboard debris.
Turn 4 Phase 1 Card 1 is a 5 of clubs. Hancock finally unfouls (2) but fails to ungrapple (0). She fires again at Rainbow, now with more gunners and rolls better, blue 3 and red 5 firing high and causing two rigging boxes. Card 2 is a 6 of hearts and Flora ungrapples (8) and gets under way, moving forward 25. Card 3 is 9 of hearts. Fox moves forward 60 and fires chain again at Rainbow, range 70, stern rake, but 1:3 odds (6:13), blue 7 and red 6 is one more rigging. Card 4 is King of hearts. Rainbow falls off and fires at Hancock, range 130. She rolls two 0’s and inflicts no damage; she does manage to cut away the fallen mizzen.
Turn 4 Phase 2 Card 1 is King of diamonds. Rainbow, having reloaded with a heart at the end of the previous phase, now wears 40 (full speed) and fires at Fox, range 110, a stern rake. The dice gods, so pointedly absent last phase, return. With a blue 5 and red 9 her heavy battery scores 10 hull and 3 rigging and the upper battery gets another 3 hull and one rigging. Fox needs to roll twice on the Special Hull Damage table. First is 07 which is a mast. Rolling then on the Special Damage to Masts and Rigging is a 27 bringing down the foretopgallant which falls clear off the starboard side. The second Special Hull Damage roll is a 28, rudder damaged. The last three cards each of the ships simply moves forward. This ends the game. (Picture is of the fateful rake).
Epilogue. Flora had the misfortune of being fouled by the larger Hancock. This was compounded by hoping to detach and regain maneuver over being fully committed to the boarding action. Because Hancock committed so many crew to boarding, on the other hand, she was left to hope Fox could divert the much larger Rainbow. Fox did an admirable job dancing about, but her light guns could do little against the small 2-decker. Rainbow, in the end, was done in by poor seamanship, losing two masts in her abortive tack. Rainbow’s gunnery was erratic but averaged, in the end, to devastating damage on Fox and significant damage to Hancock.
Played a sharp little naval action entirely by email. A small Russian naval squadron, led by the 100-gun Saratov, with two 74s, engaged a Swedish squadron of a 70, 2 62s, and a 540 gun frigate. Photos are from the climactic 8th turn, where all ships were engaged, the two lines passing each other at from 1-3 cables apart. The frigate rakes the massive first rate, but rolls poorly, dooming the Swedes, who were then forced to withdraw with both their flagship and one of the 62s at over 75% damage.
In Honor of all Those who Served
We sent them off
Flags waving, bands playing
To defend our shores,
To claim new lands,
To banish tyranny and evil.
Or, even, once,
To sew the country
But we were never ready
When they returned
One at a time
From distant places
Damaged on our behalf.
Some came back
Missing pieces, left,
In haste and violence,
On some battlefield,
Rarely remembered by us.
Some came back
But left intangibles,
Minds affected like
The bodies of their buddies.
And some came back
As only a memory,
A paper apology for our loss,
Of course, only a tiny
Loss compared to that of he or she
Who never will come back.
Once a year, today,
We wave those flags,
Bands play, speeches are made
And we remember
Those we sent off
Without being ready
For them to return.
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.
The armies of the United States and the rebellious Confederate States are on the move. But that very movement means supplies are lean and two small corps find themselves maneuvering in the same area, near the village of Thomasville, North Carolina. Rumor has it that there are several overfull warehouses in the small town and its garrison, commanded by one Colonel E. L. Lucky, has marched off to chase down some bushwackers.
General J. B. Beatty has gotten permission to move on Thomasville from Ambrose Burnside, over on the coast at New Bern. General Hill has ordered his corps to the town on his own initiative. When the evenly matched corps break camp that summer morning, they have no idea they are marching to battle.
Tom Kennedy, a sergeant with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, wrote his wife Mollie, that morning, “Nothin but hardtack and bacon the last three days but Ole Mint says there’ll be good grub tonight care of the secesh gov’t.” Kennedy had served with the 2nd Dragoons on the frontier where he’d briefly been an orderly for Joseph Johnston.
Colonel Robert Minty led his troopers out of camp while the infantry was still rousing. They grumbled but they rode, his promise of a better dinner than their sorry breakfast a strong motivator. As the sun rose, they spied smoke curling from the chimneys of Thomasville.
Colonel Thomas Munford was likewise in the saddle early. His men didn’t even have coffee that morning. Their last meal had been two days before and they were definitely anticipating a stop at the (supposedly) friendly town. However, as Munford and his staff cantered ahead of the column Captain Norris saw a glint of sun on metal. Pausing on a small bald hill, he focused his field glasses in the distance. Unmistakable were the advancing columns of blue horsemen!
Norris spurred his mount to Munford who sent couriers thundering away to encourage Generals Field and Gregg to hurry forward the gray-clad infantry.
Minty saw the dust approaching and likewise send riders galloping back to the slow-moving foot columns. “Hurry on or dinner will be lost!”
Minty, being better mounted, deployed the 3rd Indiana in the buildings of the town west of the road and north of Deep Run. Bridges’ battery deployed on the road just north of the bridge over Deep Run, the 4th Michigan in the buildings of the town east of the road. The 7th Penn he ordered to loop to the left and attempt to force the stream and occupy a mill complex on the south bank.
Munford countered by placing Potter’s battery on his far right and pushing the 2nd Virginia into the southern half of the town. The 7th Virginia extended the line to the west along the bank while the 6th Virginia remained mounted as a reserve. Field’s brigade could be seen approaching at the double quick from the southeast.
Engagement range was a stone’s throw and all the cavalry were well-armed with breechloading carbines. Bridges’ battery was devastated in their exposed position – not a man or horse could stand with the guns which were soon abandoned. The four Rodmans would remain manned only by the dead for the rest of the fight. Two squadrons of the 4th Michigan managed to make it into a brick bank building and its surrounding brick fence. The rest of the regiment, in more exposed positions was decimated by the veterans of the 7th Virginia. Minty encouraged the Wolverines to hold firm.
Lieutenant Colonel Douglas pushed his Pennsylvanians across the stream under a hail of grapeshot from both Potter’s battery and Carrington’s newly arrived battery. Despite almost a hundred casualties the Pennsylvanians occupied the mill complex and their devastating return fire made Potter’s battery resemble Bridges’ – four pieces crewed only by the lifeless.
Now the race was on. Whichever side could get their infantry up first would be able to consolidate their position and secure Thomasville.
Brigadier General Charles Field was first on the Confederate side, arriving on the east flank and moving forward to an open rise opposite the mill. The 22nd Virginia Infantry was soon hotly engaged with Douglas’ horsemen as the rest of the brigade deployed.
General John T. Croxton’s blue brigade was first to arrive for Beatty’s boys. They arrived from the northwest and deployed tot the west of the road, pinning Munford and forcing him to deploy his oinly reserve, the 6th Virginia. The battle in the town itself, between the 4th Michigan and 3rd Indiana on the north bank and the 2nd and 7th Virginia on the south settled down to a bloody firefight.
The next half hour was critical. Thomas Negley arrived with his brigade on the east road for the Union. Douglas, seeing Field approaching with an entire brigade against his rapidly depleted single regiment, was desperate to signal Negley to hurry. Sergeant Kennedy snatched a guidon and raced up the stairs of the mill, rising three stories above the ground. On the roof he stood and waved the swallow-tailed banner energetically. Captain Dan Rickles saw the bright color dancing on the mill and pointed to Negley. “There they are boys! The cavalry holds the mill! Bread for everyone!” With three huzzahs they surged forward.
General Maxcy Gregg’s brigade and General Lawrence O’Bryan Branch’s brigade came swinging forward, Gregg slightly ahead, but they were too late. Even as their bayonets could be made out from the town, Croxton’s boys went into action. Battery B, 1st Ohio, beat off a desperate charge by the 6th Virginia, double-shotting their Napoleons, blasting away. The 74th Indiana, encouraged, surged forward on the extreme west, the excitement of their first battle overriding their terror at their first whiff of powder.
The 15th Kentucky came up to the left of the mill Douglas shouting to Rickles as he led the sweating foot soldiers, “Damn glad to see you boys!”. Field’s brigade did his best to interdict but the powder they had drawn from the depot at Fayetteville had spoiled and fully half the muskets misfired and fouled on the bad powder. Further it was found that half of Carrington’s canister rounds had only wooden balls on the sabot, a clear sabotage for profit by an unsavory contractor.
In one last effort Field pushed the 40th Virginia into the town to contest Negley, who had relieved the battered Wolverines. The veteran 104th Illinois unleashed a killing volley and the Virginians were forced back. Likewise, Croxton now pressed his advantage and a furious firefight developed with Gregg’s troops.
But it was too late for the graybellies. Beatty had taken the town and the increasing weight of their arrivals, paired with the faulty powder, left Hill with no option other than to issue the recall. It would be another hungry night for the boys in butternut and gray.
Game played using Mr. Lincoln's War in 15mm.
It is 1807, late spring. The fields are green with new wheat and the first crop of hay is already in the mows. Cattle are fattening nicely, and the new foals are starting to gambol about in the great estates of Poland. However, war is afoot. Napoleon and his legions of veteran French troops are driving into the heart of Poland and the Tsar’s armies seem unable to even slow them down. On a prominent hill near the manor od Count Politnotski and the market village of Snotaratnik, the Seventh Corps of Count Raevsky, tired from marching and short on rations, has set up a defensive perimeter. Generals Vandamme and Gerard, with the French III and IV Corps respectively swing in a wide arc to snap up this juicy target. But Hetman Platov spies out the advance and Baron Scherbatov and his reinforced Third Corps marches hard to his fellow’s aid.
While Vandamme deploys carefully and Raevsky waits his doom with classical Russian patience, Gerard and the cavalry corps of Milhaud find that instead of sweeping in and engulfing the hopeless Raevsky they are faced with the hard-marching Cuirassier of Von Pahlen and the infantry of Scherbatov.
Vandamme, faced by only two sotnias of Cossacks on the plain (there was no chance Raevsky would detach a single jager from the hilltop), deployed casually and the Hetman pounced. 3rd Sotnia struck two batteries as they approached. The guns, stunned by the audacity of the irregulars, failed to unlimber before being overrun. The Cossacks cut the traces, lanced man and horse, destroying half of Vandamme’s artillery in a single strike. Maurin’s light cavalry brigade failed to react in time, the brigadier having called his colonels to a council of war.
A Russian horse battery, commanded by Captain Rashashellsky, dashed out with the Cossacks and confronted Vandamme’s entire corps of infantry, alone. An aide from General Paskevitch raced out and recalled the gunner after he had fired a few rounds into the leftmost French regiment.
His honor smeared Maurin now launches his brigade at a gallop into the offending plainsmen. Perhaps it is the elan of a French sabre-wielder with his honor on the line, perhaps only an irregular’s desire to avoid personal unpleasantness, but the sotnia is forced back with over a hundred lancers deciding they needed to be somewhere else.
On the other side of the field Gerard and Milhaud, unimpressed with Scherbatov, boldly sidestep across the Russian’s front to press forward in their planned attack on Raevsky. Vandamme now has his infantry in motion toward the hill as well.
The battle is now joined in earnest. Milhaud throws Berruyer’s light cavalry brigade at the massed Russian 12-pounders at the point of the hill. The cavalry general knows if he can sabre the guns there will be nothing to stop his cuirassiers from decimating, if not annihilating, the Russian infantry. However, the Russian gunners are up to the task. Their rapid and accurate canister blasts empty hundreds of saddles and Berruyer, struck by three balls himself, is forced to retreat.
Maurin, his blood now fully up, leads his brigade with a flourish into the Hetman himself and the 4th Sotnia. Perhaps because they were under the eye of the great man himself, these raiders and plunderers retain their cohesion and only give way a short distance before reforming, glaring at the French horsemen over the snorting snouts of their mounts.
On the far Russian left, the Kurland Dragoons do their best to keep Gerard’s interest away from the hill. They engage Domon’s light cavalry and manage to push them back and overrun a horse battery. Gerard, knowing a gnat when he sees one, ignores the turn of his right.
Von Pahlen sees his opportunity, launching four regiments of cuirassier over the wreckage of Berruyer’s brigade. They strike a weak screen of horse artillery and brush it aside though Astrakhan does take a measured dose of double canister that carries away a chef d’escadron, a major, and the first trumpeter. However, Gerard’s leftmost regiment, the famous 57th Ligne, having been campaigning since Napoleon was in Italy, formed square and Farine’s brigade of cuirassier rushed forward and Von Pahlen recoiled. The heavies found themselves in the same situation as Platov and Maurin!
Vandamme, while the cavalry thundered to and fro, marched steadily forward, his serried ranks glinting in the sun as the drums beat the cadence. Raevsky, fearing the veteran infantry most of all, stands like the rocks from which his infantry are descended, and braces for the inevitable impact.
Now we come to the great climax, the point at which the fate of the day hangs, the coup de main.
Vandamme launches his infantry forward, up the slopes of the hill and into the waiting muskets and bayonets of the stoic peasant infantry. Rome’s brigade, Schaeffer’s brigade, and Capitaine’s brigade in a wave, forward for France, forward for l’Empereur! Rome is up amongst the guns that did so much damage to Berruyer, this canister not so devastating, perhaps aimed more for a saddled armored cavalryman than a sweating, crouching, grognard. He is through! At the jager, boys! But the jagers have seen the elephant too and they have not raced up a hill and bayonetted and clubbed their way through a hail of grape. Rome’s men recede, like the wave they were, back down the hill.
Schaeffer never makes it up, rolling volleys of musketry and the determined point of a battalion bayonet charge force him, too, to recede like a wave upon the sands. But Capitaine, yes Capitaine sweeps forward and takes the volley but presses on. Here it is French bayonets that are sharper and Russians who stumble back. But it is a lonely triumph and the 47th Jager levels its muskets for the next round.
Milhaud too launches a final push. All eyes are on Farine’s brigade of veteran cuirassiers. Over the debris of previous struggles, broken caissons, dismounted guns, broken horses, and bloodied comrades, they surge. They first meet the survivors of Astrakhan and push them aside to crash headlong into the Military Order Regiment. Here, under the hot Polish sun, they duel like the champions of Greek mythology, hacking, slashing, twisting, turning, neither giving nor expecting quarter. In the end, they separate, as if by mutual exhaustion, each having lost half their number, staring numbly at the destruction they had wrought.
Gerard, assessing the situation critically, issues the order to withdraw. Raevsky will live another day. Vandamme will curse the Cossacks at the campfire this evening. Honors of audacity and valor to General de Brigade Farine and his troopers, and to the 57th Ligne, to the Military Order and to Hetman Platov.
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.
The Great Summer Army arrived in Northumbria in 870. Promptly there was trouble. One of the raiding earls decided to have a bit of fun. But he ran into one of the local earls at the river Oxno.
The east wing of the Northumbrian army held the bank of the river which had a short stretch east of a plank bridge that was fordable. To the west half of the raiders, who had come all the way from Kiev for a Brittanic holiday, had managed to work across the stream and faced off against a force of mercenaries from the Saxon plains.
The Rus immediately sent a force along the river to try to help secure the bridge. A valiant group of Saxons, led by Njal, raced to intercept. The plains of Kiev are more vast than the plains of Saxony and, on this day, Njal found himself the last man standing, his entire retinue killed. With one last invitation to the Valkyries he charged to his death against a dozen Rus.
Meanwhile the Norse leader sent his large command in two assaults - one across the bridge and one over the shallows. The Northumbrians, outnumbered, fought desperately but vainly as the northern steel cut deeper this day than that forged in more southerly climes.
The Rus, too, on the further west flank, triumphed in a wildly swirling melee, their massive two-handed axes splitting many a shield.
In the end the Earl of Northumbria fell with his men at the foot of the bridge and the Saxons bought their passage back to the mainland, what few remained, with the gold they had been paid by their vanquished employer.
There was much feasting by the few Rus and Norse survivors on the rich cattle and sheep of the earl's lush holdings.
Game played using 25mm figures and home rules by Chris Anderson.
A group of Wyandot chiefs asked to parley with the British garrison of Fort Sandusky. However, Private Smallwood had run all the way from Detroit to warn the garrison, led by Lieutenant Luckey, of this very stratagem that the same Indians had attempted at Detroit. Forewarned, Luckey spurned the chiefs who then retreated to the woods which encroached to about 80 yards from the blockhouse that served as the “fort”. Luckey, with only 13 men, declined to garrison the supply shed which, due to the time of year, was almost empty.
The Wyandots began to lob flaming arrows at the blockhouse and the garrison fired back at the well-hidden natives. Chief Tall Deer did dispatch two braves to take possession of the supply shed. Their dash from the woods to the shed and then a shimmy through the window was met by a fusillade from the blockhouse. Both warriors arrived unscratched though the war feather worn by Slinking Dog was clipped by a ball just an inch or so from the warrior’s head. A half hour later two more braves, weeing this as the only way to count any coup, repeated the action. However, this time, Abel Straight, resting his musket on a firing port from the second floor, got a good bead and his bullet cut a sharp groove in the hindquarters of the second brave as he dove through the storehouse window.
Eventually a fire arrow caught in the roof of the blockhouse creating a small, stubborn fire which gradually, but very slowly, consumed the roof. Once the fort was afire the Wyandot withdrew deeper into the woods, out of sight and Luckey’s men ceased their desultory fire. Two natives had been slightly wounded.
The spirits of the garrison were raised when they heard gunfire erupt to their north along the narrow path from the lake. Major A. D. Vance was leading a relief column from Fort Erie, seven companies. Vance had disembarked from his canoes and immediately deployed his command in two lines, the trail from the landing to the fort neatly bisecting them and allowing a place for the good major to ride his horse in comfort in the middle of his command.
On the right or west side of the trail two companies of Highlanders deployed in front and two companies of the 44th Line formed behind. To the east side the ranging company of Captain Forrest and the militia from Erie of Captain Moss made up the front line with the “city” militia from Albany of Captain Downs alone in the back line.
Two warbands of Shawnee and another two of Delaware with a small band of Mingo waited in ambush for the relief, having watched it make its way along the river and setting up patiently in a most opportune place between the landing and the fort where there would be maximum opportunity for coup and minimum chance of loss.
Chief Howling Wolf sprang the ambush on the relief column when it was still a mile or so from the fort. Mostly from surprise the Highlanders were stung by the sudden scattered fusillade and fell back in some disorder behind the advancing line companies.
Lieutenant Cohannon in the center now came face to face with Keoqua’s band of Delaware’s. Faced with the much more resolute redcoat line of bayonets, Keoqua fell back to leave the Mingo band of Chief Red Jacket in contact. Cohannon took a ball in his left hand as Red Jacket’s band opened fire from their ambush positions. Enraged, Cohannon ordered his men to charge.
Up a small rise and through the light underbrush the redcoats met the Mingo, surprised by the audacity of the whites. The cold steel of the bayonet, projected from the distance of a musket barrel, proved significantly better than a hand-held war club. The Mingos were decimated with 20 killed and another 20 racing pell-mell in disgrace for the loss of only 4 redcoats wounded.
But now Cohannon had outstripped the rest of Vance’s command. He would stay on his small rise for the next hour taking the shots of Keoqua, who had reformed, and various other small parties of natives, being gradually reduced until finally forced to withdraw to the landing spot as the rest of the British command dissolved.
Moss led the left wing forward and quickly ran afoul of Stalking Lynx’s band of Shawnee. One of the first shots killed Captain Moss but the company, wise to the ways of woodcraft, knew their best hope was to stay together. While the Albany militia cowered behind them the valiant farmers and trappers from the Erie region held their ground, only falling back when they perceived a threat to their open left flank.
The ranging company cautiously filled the gap between Moss and Cohannon engaging elements of Stalking Lynx’s, Keoqua’s, and Wolf Claw’s bands. They maintained their cohesion which allowed Cohannon and Moss to eventually withdraw without too much loss. However, they failed to exploit Cohannon’s destruction of the Mingo and failed to materially support the militia who, for most of the battle, had a slight numerical advantage.
On the far right Howling Wolf’s warriors displayed by far the best marksmanship of the day and the British regulars of Captain McManus displayed the greatest stoic bravery. McManus’ 40 man company suffered over 50% losses, including the valiant captain, struck in the shoulder and ear as he steadied the line. With the loss of their leader the redcoats fell back through Sergeant James Wallace’s company of Highlanders. Wallace was more fortunate than the captain – the bullet that found him buried itself in his pocket testament, sparing his breast.
In the end, Howling Wolf’s band collected 21 scalps and another 39 men in McManus’ and Wallace’s companies were nursing wounds by the time they had made it back to the landing site.
Vance, seeing his right shattered and unable to get further than Cohannon’s small rise, ordered a general withdrawal. Fortunately for Lieutenant Luckey, Vance abandoned two barrels of rum at the landing site and the natives spent that night celebrating their victory and counting coup, deciding the next morning that it was too difficult to attack the fort and returned to their villages.
Rules: A Continent in the Balance. 25mm
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..