The Battle of Yorktown

Two of my secret wargaming friends are engaged in an American War of Independence campaign. I am the umpire with the assistance of Berthier Campaign Manager.

I have to be coy with the wider details of the campaign so I do not give any information away, so I will stick to the battle.

The battle was between an American Brigade under the command of Brigadier General Sumter, and the British under the command of General Charles, Earl Cornwallis.

Charles, Earl Cornwallis pictured above (he looks strangely like one of the participants in the campaign).

Sumter found himself behind the safety of fortifications constructed over the previous 9 days. However, he had no artillery and only four battalions of militia to face the veterans of Cornwallis, who outnumbered his command by nearly two to one.

His orders were concise, " Defend Yorktown ".

Thomas Sumter pictured

The American commander, because he was defending, and in fortifications, deployed first. He chose to anchor his fortifications around a high hill to the north eastern portion of the tactical map.

Tactical map - top is north

The scenario was the first battle of AWI played by the American commander, and he was up against it. I was also a little nervous, it was not the kind of scenario to set up for two players, all the American commander could do was wait for the British onslaught...............not the most exciting and tactical rich environment for your first SYW game, but hey, isn't that what campaigns are all about?

Equally, I was unsure how the British would fair, they only deployed 4 x 6 pounders on the table, so breaching the fortifications would be down to infantry assault.

I really did not know which way the battle would go.

The British deployed, Tarleton and his British legion on the British left flank, Cornwallis and his troops on the centre and right.

The British then advanced. The game was on...........

The British commander manoeuvred his forces and his main axis of attack was on his left flank, using the centre and right flank forces to pin the Americans in their fortifications.

A good strategy, it prevented the American player from moving units to reinforce his vulnerable line. All he could do was use Sumter to raise moral - something he did to great effect.

The British Legion attack on British left flank

In the centre, Cornwallis used his artillery on the high fortifications, and moved three battalions of troops to a short distance from the enemy, but out of musket range. A silent but visual sign of threatening intent.

Meanwhile, the British right flank attack was developing, and a fearsome fight it was. Sumter found himself riding between the two fortified milita battalions shouting encouragement to the men.

The British pressed on and eventually, 3 hours into the battle, forced the first American troops from their positions. The American commanders face said it all, he was tired and knew the game was up...." if only I had a reserve and some artillery " he thought.

The positions just prior to the first American unit crumbles

The second American position held on for a little longer

Eventually, both militia units on the British right flank crumbled and surrendered the positions, which were soon captured by Tarletons men, but at a cost. Several British units were so fatigued after the battle, they had to be rested and took no further meaningful part in the battle. Testament to the defence put up by the American militia.

Tarleton was forced to lead his troops from the front.

The British had broken through the American lines, and it was only a matter of time before the whole Brigade was destroyed and all the defensive positions captured. The Americans fought on for another hour and a half before finally succumbing to the British onslaught, but not before they drove back and stalled a rash charge by a British infantry battalion on the British right flank.

A hard fought battle, and I do wonder what an extra militia battalion, and some artillery would have done for the American defenders.

Yorktown, and it's harbour was now in British hands, as was the campaign newspaper - The Yorktown Times

Click here for copy of last newspaper (turn4)

The above was produced before the battle which took place on turn 6.

Further battle reports will be posted as and when they take place.


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