Monday, 25 July 2011

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!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 22 July 2011

AWI campaign - campaign newspaper

The campaign continues and is now at turn 9

Campaign newspaper for turn 5

Click the above link for newspaper

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Monday, 4 July 2011

Saturday, 2 July 2011

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.