Sunday, 13 April 2014

American War of Independence Campaign - The Story - Part V

Turn 16

Admiral Hood arrived to the east of New York with two 64 gun ship of the line escorting merchantmen containing a battalion of Scots to New York.

In the meantime, Howe considered his options, he felt under pressure to act, and was aware that Washington was camped to the south-east of New York, and no doubt building more fortifications. Howe was very concious of his casualty rate, and desperately wanted to catch Washington in the open.

Please see below shot from Berthier showing the positions of some of the key units at the end of turn 15. I have added markers so you can identify the units. I believe if you click on the picture you will see a full screen.

There was a Spanish squadron at sea off the Chesapeake, it contained the 120 gun vessel, a 74 and a 36 gun frigate. This squadron was under the command of José Solano y Bote, and was in contact with De Grasse, although the time for messages to pass between the two admirals was lengthy.

José Solano y Bote

Washington was content to keep Howe 'bottled' up until the French arrived in the game, he had no idea of the current position of De Grasse, but had been in communication with them. He intended for the French to march north and join him for a decisive battle with the British.

Neither side seem to pay any attention to the south. Cornwallis was staying put - holding the key town of Yorktown, and Washington seemed content to screen any advance that may occur using Nathaniel Greens force which was sat patiently in the town of Washington, between Yorktown and Baltimore.

Green had around 4,000 troops, a mixture of militia, woodsmen (riflemen) and regular troops. Washington was wary of his militia fighting in the open, so was content for Green to stay where he was for the moment. Stragglers from the Brigade ousted from Yorktown by Cornwallis had re-grouped and were keeping a wary eye on the British. There moral was, understandably shaky, and they would likely scatter if Cornwallis approached.

Meanwhile, despite his best efforts, Cornwallis had only managed to recruit a couple of battalions of militia and a squadron of horse from the Loyalist population. These were poor replacements for the troops sailing north to New York.

This was the turn that Howe decided to act. He was going to take his main army south, leaving New York practically defenceless and march to Philadelphia. He was hoping that Graves would arrive with the troops from Yorktown, and they, along with the newly arrived Scots would garrison the city.

He marched out heading south. Meanwhile the French were close to landing in Baltimore.

The campaign was entering a new phase.

Turns 17 - 19

The below map outlines the positions of the key units at the end of turn 19

Rochambeau had arrived in Baltimore and despatched De Grasse to bombard and blockade Yorktown. He sent Voimenil with 600 infantry and cavalry to scout to the north toward Philadelphia, and tried to identify the current status of events in America. He had been at sea and was not up to date on the intelligence picture.

Washington decided to withdraw south, and delay Howe as much as possible. He believed Howe was heading for Philadelphia, but was not sure. He was unaware of the French landing.

Meanwhile, Howe had sent instructions for Graves to ascertain the status of Cornwallis at Yorktown, and to conduct raids with marines, and bombardments at the key ports along the Chesapeake. This was designed to keep Washington off balance and disguise his true intentions.

Turn 20-22 - the final acts

Howe pushed south and was determined to take Philadelphia, he heard rumours that the French were about, but did not believe them. Washington would have to stand and fight to prevent the loss of Philadelphia? The closer he got to the city, the more panic was caused, to the point that Rochambeau (who had left Baltimore and was marching north toward Philadelphia) found himself encountering downtrodden patriots scurrying south to avoid the British army. He still did not know where Washington was, or indeed what his intentions were.

On turn 22 Howe caught Washington in the open - see the battle report for more detail:

AWI campaign - The battle of Surridge Farm

The AWI campaign is still going strong, and a key battle happened on Tuesday evening. Howe caught Washington in open field for the first time, something Howe has been trying to achieve since the first engagements

The battlefield. The British will set up on the end of the table closest to the camera

Washington found himself a few days to the north of Philadelphia, and only had time to build one redoubt. He put his two batteries of guns in this defensive position, and contemplated his plan.

Howe had approaching 8,000 troops, a mixed bag of British and Hessian regiments. He had a brigade of guards and grenadiers - which would play a key role in the events which followed.

Washington was keen to give Howe another bloody nose, similar to that dished out in the previous battle at Cormacks Creek, and determined he would fight. His troops, including a brigade under General LaFayette, formed line, and waited for the British approach.

Washington rallies his troops as the British form up

General Howe about to inspect some Hessian line infantry
From the start, Howe showed his aggressive intent and marched in a broad line toward the American lines.

A Hessian Brigade marches swiftly along the road toward the American centre

Washington outnumbered Howe in cavalry, but neither side managed to get them the room to manoeuvre, this was going to be an infantry battle.

Hessian Jagers move through some heavy woods on the British right flank

General Johann Stim brigade closes in column toward some woods on the British left flank. They are surprised by General Stephens 3,000 militia hiding in the densely wooded area.

Stim was later shot in the stomach, and seriously wounded, played no further part in the battle.

In the centre, 600 Highlanders punch a whole in the American lines

A battalion of British guards enters the fray

They close on the American regulars

Slightly blurred, but more and more weight is brought to bear on the wavering American lines

Stephens militia is pushed back, then routs
The battle was, for the first two hours a hard fought affair, and Washington was pleased with his boys, but suddenly, the American moral collapsed in the centre, and this sent shock waves across the American lines, and it turned into a rout. Washington narrowly avoiding capture, unlike his colleague LaFayette who was captured by some Highlanders.

Howe was aggressive, and kept up his attacking momentum, using his superior troop quality to decisively beat his opponent.

Washington was visibly crushed, and almost surrendered the campaign..........

The End:

The campaign effectively ended at this point, the American main army was crushed and had received a major blow to moral. The French force was too small to stand against the British alone, and after a considerable delay on the part of the umpire, the campaign was closed down.

I for one really enjoyed running the game, and as stated in earlier posts on my blog, I felt it brought about a different wargaming experience on the tabletop, the battles appeared to play out in a more 'realistic' manner. The players were looking for the long game, rather than a one off battle.

Even the battles themselves were unique, they were on occasion odd, and not something you would set up for a one off game.

I have to apologise to Rochambeau, who never got to the table top, but he must take some satisfaction in playing a key role in the flavour provided for the game.

Would I run a campaign again? - absolutely. I will leave for the individual players to decided if they would join in again.

As for the winner - I think it is quite obvious to the reader don't you?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Somewhere in Belgium - Mid May 1940

Today saw a mid morning wargame with bacon and egg sandwich reinforcements with SWF.

We played a 15mm Rapid Fire meeting engagement.

Unusually the table was spilt down the middle with a single bridge in the centre. The unusual aspect was that the river would not separate the two forces, but would split the battlefield.

The view from the Allied side.

The bridge was the main points scoring terrain piece, although there were four other points which would also allow scoring.

I sent the Northumberland Fusiliers racing to the bridge.

The Northumberland Fusiliers were a mixture of light tanks, scout cars, and carriers carrying machine gun teams or Boyes AT rifle teams. They were quick, but light.

They were backed up by a Belgian 25mm Anti Tank battery

It was not long before a company of Panzer II's moved swiftly onto the table...

They were soon joined by a second Panzer company

I had 700 points to spend, whilst SWF had 800, but a hundred of those had to be spent on aircraft. I chose an infantry heavy force, with a speedy element. My Force was known as LePoitier Force. They were fighting elements of Kampfgruppe Von Spier.

The Hq of the Northumberland Fusiliers, along with machine gun teams and a Boyes AT section take up position in ruins near the bridge.

Soon other German tanks are spotted on the left flank across the river...

German infantry started to make an appearance. At this point I felt quite comfortable, the Brits and Belgians had secured the bridge and a nearby building (a total of 25pts of the 40 available).

I was though, concerned about the number of Panzers on the table - 30. I did not have much AT capability on the table at this point.

If SWF took out my AT battery, I would be in serious trouble.

More Infantry approached the centre and my right flank.

Neither of us knew had any idea of what the other purchased, although I knew the Luftwaffe would make an appearance. I had some big targets held in reserve off table, and was almost certain they would attract attention...

The Panzers approach the Hq of the Northumberland Fusiliers (secure in the damaged building ahead).

The Panzers closed on the bridge. The firing on both sides was ineffectual to a point, but the Germans did manage to take out five Vickers light tanks and damage several of the British carriers to no loss of their own.

I had no choice but to play my trump card, a company (15) of Char1 bis tanks. They secured another objective, which gave me 30 points of the 40 on the table.

Sculking between buildings to avoid air attack.

A French Infantry battalion arrives, along with the Force commander - Gen Maurice LePoitier.

They even had some trucks. Gen LePoitier was in the lead truck. Note how close the Panzers are in the background.

Soon the Luftwaffe appeared an immediately attacked the French armour. At this point I was relatively happy with my plan. But on hindsight I had made a grave error. I should have put the French infantry battalion where the tanks were and vice-versa.

No hits were scored - much to my relief.

Meanwhile the Germans were busy destroying my transport and caused a major casualty near the bridge.

General LePoitier is killed when his lorry is struck by a German shell.

A captures Somua makes an appearance.

Soon the Char1 bis company attracts attention and a number are lost through 88mm AT fire.

Bloody 88's.

Bloody manoeuvrable 88's

Meanwhile a company of Panzer III's make an appearance. Due to my error, the Char 1 bis never fired a shot, they were more of a 'threat in being'. Frustrating nevertheless less.

SWF was running rings around me, and my force.....

In a desperate move, and somewhat mimicking the ' charge of the light brigade ' I sent some light forces to Harry the 88's which were keeping my heavy tanks out of the battle. For a brief moment SWF looked worried.

Would Lady Luck smile down on me?

Meanwhile, a Nothumberland Fusilier with a Boyes AT rifle (and some guts behind it) scored the first German casualties of the game.....

So far I had lost: 5 Vickers light tanks, 10 lorries, another five carriers were damaged, and several Char 1 bis destroyed. This compared to the five heavily damaged Pz38's SWF had received. This did not include the 90 odd infantry casualties (British/French/Belgian) - which included the General either. Not a single German infantryman had been lost.

You will note that the battle was not going well for the Allies.

The Kampfgruppe commander seemed satisfied.

Meanwhile after causing fifteen casualties to the 88 battery, the forlorn hope was quickly surrounded and destroyed - 10 Vickers, and 10 Dingo scout cars and crews were destroyed.

The French second in command looked on with a large frown on his Gallic brow.

German infantry secure five points worth of terrain.

A French infantry company seek cover behind a wall.

Others march toward the bridge, unaware of the disaster unfolding around them....

The British grimly hold onto a key building..

The battlefield showing the allies surrounded on three sides, with minimal AT support. I threw in the towel and withdrew. The Germans won the day with superior tactics, and kit.....