American War of Independence Campaign - The Story - Part II
The Campaign had not started when the first edition of the Yorktown Times came off the press. I have had to use paint to get the original PDF in a readable format. I apologise if it looks disjointed.....
It was felt by all parties, including the umpire, that this could be a defining moment in the campaign.
|The declarations were verbatim from each player - Jerusha Van Etten is a real name taken from the time|
Turn 1-3 (1st to 9th May).
These first three turns involved some initial declarations of intent by both sides, and manoeuvring of Forces in the south. Cornwallis, in company with Tarleton, was marching toward Yorktown, and unbeknown to them, in a race with Nathaniel Green to reach the port first.
At Yorktown were 2,300 militia under the command of General Sumter. They were frantically building fortifications, and counting the days until the inevitable British assault.
At sea, Admiral Arbuthnot sailed from New York, in his flagship, the 90 gun London, escorting two merchant vessels, with the frigate Flora in support, he was bound for Yorktown, with instructions to assist in it's capture, and bring to New York, 3 of Cornwallis's best infantry battalions. The 4th rate, Adamant, remained in the approaches to New York harbour as guard-ship.
Washington, in company with LaFayette marched out of Philadelphia, north toward New York. A few miles to the southwest of New York, General Lee, and his brigade of observation, started to build fortifications. He completely disregarded a written order from Washington to withdraw from his current position. LEE was in command of around 2,500 troops and cavalry. Washington and LaFayette had between them 3,600 troops.
General Nathaniel Green was marching toward Yorktown, in a race against the British.
The French Admiral, Destouches, in command of two ship of the line, and a frigate, was mid atlantic, sailing west, to reach the American coast, then with orders to sail north toward New York, and engage the British, if on favourable terms.
Turn 4 (10th to 12th May)
Cornwallis closed in on Yorktown, beating Greene to the city, the battle of Yorktown would be fought on 13th to 15th May (turn 5). It was touch and go if Greenes force would be able to support the beleaguered defenders of Yorktown. He marched on in the vain hope.
To the west of Philadelphia, were 750 Indian warriors under the command of Brant, and in allegiance with the British. They were tasked to skirt close to Philadelphia, and then move north to New York. Scouting and reporting on enemy formations and movements.
Washington, unaware of the Indian threat, had decided to protect Philadelphia with two Brigades, one with the continental troops under Gates, the other of militia under Stephen. This was fortuitous, because, if left undefended, Brant and his warriors would have raided Philadelphia. In total, just under 6,000 troops defended the city.
Turn 5 (13th to 15th May)
The battle of Yorktown. Greene was just too far away to intervene, and within four and a half hours, the British had captured the town, along with over 300 hundred rebel prisoners. The victory was at a cost, Cornwallis had suffered 171 casualties.
This turn, Gen Stephen sighted Brant, and immediately sent riders to Washington and Gates. He withdraw, as ordered toward Philadelphia.
An account of the battle of Yorktown
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.
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 ".
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.
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 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.
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 militia battalions shouting encouragement to the men.
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.
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.
Yorktown, and it's harbour was now in British hands, as was the campaign newspaper - The Yorktown Times
|The campaign map - Google maps with the free Berthier campaign manager software|
Turn 6 (16th - 18th May)
This turn saw Greene withdraw from Yorktown toward Baltimore. He assessed (quite rightly so), that his force of militia, American rifles and a small contingent of continental troops, approaching 4,600 men would be no match for Cornwallis, particularly in fortifications. Besides, he had no artillery.
Greene was fearful that Cornwallis would continue his advance, and push northwest toward Washington, Baltimore and then finally, Philadelphia.
Cornwallis took editorial control of the Yorktown Times, effectively controlling the news that appeared in the paper, scrutinising and editing articles. He even used the fear of the native Indians to scare the population around Philadelphia.
Some of the content in the paper, initially caused confusion, and worry in the American senior command.
Howe, very conscious of Lee in his position southwest of New York, watching his every move, decided, in the flush of victory at Yorktown, to eject Lee from his fortifications, and dispatched a strong force of some 6,000 troops from New York, under the command of Von Knaphausen and Stim. The force included some of the best troops available to the British. Inexplicably though, Howe left his 18 pounder cannon in the city.
Watching Von Knyphausen's division march from the city, Howe sipped his port, and returned to his sumptuous banquet. Sweet is the taste of victory.
Cornwallis meanwhile, remained behind his defences in Yorktown, awaiting further instructions.
So far, the British operations had gone to plan.........
At sea, off the mid eastern coast of America, DesTouches, with is two 74's, and 36 gun frigate, came within a hairs breadth of the British convoy under the command of Arbuthnot, heading south to New York. However, neither side sighted the other, and what may have been a campaign changing moment never happened.
Turn 7 (19th to 21st May)
Washington and Lafayette were marching swiftly towards Lee, and were well informed of Von Knyphausen and Stim leaving New York. Although reported by British intelligence, and by Von Knyphausen, Howe himself, seemed oblivious to the approach of Washington.
Meanwhile, feeling a little exposed, and fearing a third Britsh army, not yet accounted for, Washington was a little more careful. He scoured his reports and messages, and came up with a daring plan in an effort to trap Von Knaphausen.
He dispatched Lafayette to flank around behind the British, and he himself joined Lee for the defence of Cormacks Creek (position 58).
The scene was set for the battle of Cormacks Creek. The numbers were roughly even, but the British troop quality was superior.
Turn 8 (22nd to 24th May)
The battle of Cormacks Creek was a frustrating, and sobering battle for Von Knaphausen, he was caught by surprise by the flank march to his rear by LaFayette, only some nifty defence work, and an aggressive attack by a battalion of Hessian Grenadiers saved the day. A minor British victory, which saw both sides surrendering the battlefield.
The British lost 171 casualties, the Americans over 450, with some 370 being prisoners.
An account of the battle of Cormacks Creek
A major battle to the southwest of New York between Von Knaphausen's Division, and troops led by none other than Washington himself. Both Von Knaphausen and Washington thought that a decisive victory to either side might decide the outcome of the campaign itself..........
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Knyphausen found himself in a quagmire, and it was readily apparent that his 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 either Stim or Knyphausen, 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 battle until 9.45am.
Washington hung on, in a desperate attempt to trap the British. Meanwhile, the British commander was struggling with his own moral. The Americans were making it more difficult than it should be. He was worrying about casualties..
Slowly, and after a successful assault by some Hessian Grenadiers - driving American light infantry from a redoubt, the British 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.
It was a massive shock for Knyphausen, and it was only then that he figured the 'intelligence picture' out, he was facing Washington, and his main field army.
Knyphausen acted, 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.
Meanwhile, Admiral Graves arrived a week or so to the east of New York with the 98 gun, Barfluer and three 74's and the sloop, Falmouth.
To the south, about a month from Baltimore, arrived De Grasse. His flag the massive 110 gun Ville de Paris, an 80 gun, three 74's and a 36 gun frigate escorting a troop convoy carrying the 5,000 troops of Rochambeau.
The French had arrived in the campaign................
At this point, the British were playing a relatively patient game. Howe had his plan, and it was sound. He was strengthening his command in New York with a view to the drive south to capture Philadelphia. He was also playing some very clever mind games with the Yorktown times. He did have Washington second guessing him.
Meanwhile, Washington was expecting a third British army to pop up and cause him problems, he just could not locate it. He hoped by demonstrating near to New York, he would keep the British bottled up until the French arrived on the scene. Part of this plan was the bombardment of New York by Des Touches. Game wise the bombardment would have negligible effect, but making the British player feel under pressure, and under siege? - I think it would have the desired effect.
Obviously, there was no third British army. I think the mind games from Howe clearly had some effect on Washington. Equally, Howe was perhaps missing a trick on an immediate advance to the south.
Washington was cutely aware of the difference in class between the British and American troops, in two battles he had lost over 800 troops, the British had lost a third of that, and that was when he was behind fortifications - he knew that a straight up battle on open ground would probably only go one way.
Howe, was concerned about casualties, and would only receive one further British infantry Battalion during the course of the campaign (not including the poorly trained loyalist militia recruited in Yorktown).
Both sides considered their options.........
To be continued.....