The Battle of Cormacks Creek - AWI campaign battle

A warm July Sunday evening saw a major battle to the southwest of New York between Von Knaphausen's Division, and troops led by none other than Washington himself. This is part of an ongoing AWI campaign, so I have to be vague with the wider details and background to the battle.

Suffice to say, both Von Knaphausen and Washington thought that a decisive victory to either side might decide the outcome of the campaign itself..........

The American camp and entrenchments

American forces had been watching New York from afar, unmolested by the British garrison. The Kings forces had even afforded them the courtesy of time to dig in. How gentlemanly.

The American position was to the southwest of the city, and gave the watching rebels an insight into British intentions in the north. It was only a matter of time before General Howe ran out of patience and took action.

A birds eye view of the table - looking NE

Up to this point, British and to some extent, American eyes, had been focussed on the battle for Yorktown. Now that he felt that this position was secure, Howe considered the north. He acted quickly, and in typical fashion, aggressively.

Howe dispatched a Division of British and Hessian troops under General Von Knaphausen with strict instructions to remove the rebels from the position. Just to be safe, Howe saw that Von Knaphausen was given command of some of his best troops.

The British player was confident, fortifications or no fortifications, he had the quality of troops, and superior numbers to get the job done quickly. His tactics had given a major victory at Yorktown, and with that experience, he was content that the battle was in the bag.

Click here to read campaign newspaper

However, it soon became evident, all too evident, that Howe had either misread, or even worse, ignored, some crucial intelligence about American movements and intentions.

This even included a captured message giving details of forthcoming rebel movements, positions, and even the commanders involved.

The British player is not the first, nor will he be the last commander to misjudge the intelligence picture.

On this occasion, it was very nearly fatal.

Meanwhile General George Washington had been forced to march north to meet up with his forces at a little location called Cormacks Creek (please do not try and find this on a map - it is a made up name for the recording of the battle, Fog of War you know).

He was fully aware of the British army that had marched from New York, and had used his cavalry to monitor it's movement towards Cormacks Creek and his Brigade of Observation stationed there.

Washington arrived during the early morning, just before the British turned up. Washington quickly went to work preparing his defence. He had a plan, and it involved taking a calculated risk.

Washington prepares the defences

Shortly after 8am in the morning, the ominous sound if fife and drum was heard approaching the American positions from the northeast. The battle was joined.

Confidently, the British prepared their lines, with the major thrust being directed toward the American left flank, while British artillery shelled the American guns imbedded within the entrenchments.

The main thrust of the British advance was through the woods, and against the rebel left flank as you look at the table

It all began so well for Knaphausen, clearly (he thought), with overwhelming numbers, he would make short work of the rebel position, his troops moved quickly through the woods and onto a clearing to form up.

It was at this point the 300 men of the 1st Continental Light Dragoons intervened........

Washington had dispatched them to his left, with the intention of skirting round the British flank, toward the rear of the British formations, " Draw as many of the enemy that you can, away from their main axis of attack " he ordered.

The British Foot Guards found themselves having to form a square as the American Dragoons closed to a menacing distance. A nearby Hessian Regiment moved to give them support. At a stroke, two key units were removed from the assault - without a shot being fired.

On the British left flank, two Hessian line infantry stood stock still, looking splendid in their sharp blue uniform. They had two tasks, protect the artillery, and, tie the American defenders to the entrenchments opposite. As an insurance, the 16th Light Dragoons sat menacingly nearby on a low hill.

It was within an hour of the battle commencing that things started to frustrate Knyphausen.

The 16th Light Dragoons came under artillery attack at long range. He had to move them out of range, which took longer than expected, and effectively removed their threat. The Hessians on the same ridge started to come under a withering fire from the second American battery, causing, small, but consistent casualties.

He discovered that his Jaegers had been issued with the wrong type of rifles, and were being forced to fight as heavy infantry rather than in open order (umpire error in Carnage and Glory programming) (as an aside read this interesting article)

In addition, the march through the woods, and the heat (weather conditions on the table top) were beginning to slow his assault. Add to the mix, the commanding Officer of the 15th Regiment of Foot failing to act on an order to assault the enemy in nearby fortifications, the British player found himself in a quagmire, and it was readily apparent that his (the players moral) was being affected.

He started to look despondent. A stark contrast to earlier optimism.

Meanwhile, Washington found his position under an increasingly aggressive attack by the British. His position was becoming increasingly precarious as more and more British units closed. He took some comfort in a decision made during the deployment phase of the battle.

Unbeknown to the British player, Washington had gambled on a Brigade of infantry and supporting Dragoons conducting a flank march around from the east and to enter onto the northern part of the table - effectively behind the British.

These units were due to achieve this by 8.45am.

At 8.45am a note was delivered to Washington, to his dismay it stated that the flanking troops were finding the going harder than anticipated, and they would not enter the table until 9.45am.

Washington hung on, in a desperate attempt to trap the British. Meanwhile, the British player was struggling with his own moral. The Americans were making it more difficult than it should be. He was worrying about casualties.

Now, the player taking the role of Knyphausen never, and I mean never, worries about wargaming ' casualties '...............

I put this down to ' the campaign effect '.

As the umpire, it was fascinating to watch the 'moral ascendancy' of the players move one way, then the next.

Slowly, and after a successful assault by some Hessian Grenadiers - driving American light infantry from a redoubt, the British player moral began to improve.

The timing of this could not have been better, for at 10am, 1hr 15mins late - the flanking Brigade marched onto the northern edge of the table, and threatened to split the British force in two, and destroy it piecemeal.

A blurred picture of the American flanking Brigade

I am convinced that if this unit had arrived at the designated time, or just after, the British player would have seriously considered surrendering, his moral was that low.

However, it was still a massive shock for him, and it was only then that he figured the 'intelligence picture' out -
" I am up against Washington, arn't I ".

For a couple of turns, Knaphausen seemed like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Washington, however, was like the cat that had got the cream.

Then, quite suddenly, Knaphausen seemed to get a second wind (and it was nothing to do with the pickled gherkins he had been scoffing earlier). He moved the ' out of position ' 16th Dragoons, who were now fortuitously ' in position ' to screen off the American flanking Brigade, and turned his very tired gunners and artillery to face them.

He pressed home the attack on the American main position. The British were once again in the ascendancy.

Washington knew the game was up.

The flank Brigade had arrived too late and was too far away to prevent the inevitable defeat of the units in the entrenchments.

The Americans withdrew from the battlefield - leaving a relieved Von Knyphausen with a minor British Victory.

It was a close run thing, for both sides, each of whom, at some point had victory in their grasp.

I love campaigns!

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