Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Incident at White Creek Bridge

Report of a Defile Battle (Skirmish Game)

We are a group of five boys - between 26 and 80 - who call themselves "Study Group for Historical Simulation" (with a twinkle).
On March 22, 2014, we met  for a day's game in a school hall near Bonn.
We wanted to test whether the set of rules we are developing, was to be used for a skirmishing affair.
Our idea is to have rules that imitate historical reality as closely as possible, and at the same time allow a not too complicated process of gaming. Usually our troops are rated at 1/20. This time we wanted to play with a rate of 1/3 (as it turned out it could just as well have been 1/1). There was no problem that our rules are not in their final state as we do not play against each other, but act as an assembly of War Gods who discuss controversial points while playing the game. It usually is great fun - exchanging bits of historical knowledge, and bringing together our different points of view, and experience of life.
Three of the War Gods at work
(In "reality" the bridges would be further apart - but our arms were too short for that)
In the beginning there was a map and a scenario outlined by Harald, a retired staff officer of the German Army (guaranteeing for military competence, I would say).
The map for our scenario
The idea was to have a British foraging column march back to its winter quarters in October 1778, Rebels trying to stop them at the stone bridge across White Creek. A purely fictional scenario, not a historical incident.
The road from the settlement towards the bridge across White Creek. Some farm buildings beyond.
The British force, under the command of lieutenant-colonel Hopper Smyth (20th Foot, an average officer), is to escort a train of 30 wagons and a herd of approximately 40 cattle. It consists of
  • 1 weak battalion of Loyalists (240 men),
  • 2 companies of the XXth regiment of foot (100 men),
  • 1 company of Butler's Rangers (about 60 men),
  • a small detachment of Queen's Rangers (50 men),
  • some Hessian Jagers (20 men),
  • and 15 XVIth Light Dragoons.

Advancing British forces, reconnoitering infantry on the flanks
The Rebels are commanded by Colonel Alexander who already served in the French and Indian War and has already gained reputation as a competent leader. His forces initially consist of the dispersed Westmoreland County Militia (800 men),
  • only about 60 of which are present at the bridge to try and block the British column at this bottleneck, more men arriving by and by, some harassing the British as snipers in thickets next to the road.
  • Two hours later a regular Continental regiment (300 men with a battalion gun) will turn up, alerted by militia men on its way to winter quarters.
Attack of the Continentals
This at least was our initial idea. As it turned out there were also some Indian scouts on both sides, some hostile civilians who disliked the Crown forces because of past atrocities, and some enraged riflemen from the neighborhood.
We met at 9 o'clock in the morning in the rented school lobby.  Our first activity was carrying tables into the room and outlaying our landscape with buildings and rocks, the creek, and vegetation. After having installed the civilians in their appropriate places, we sat down and admired our work.
The farm buildings at the foot of the bridge (beyond you can see the light green square of the fatal corn field)
Some militia men using a wagon to block the bridge, and the advancing rangers on the other side.
At the beginning the small force of militia present at the bridge were easily driven off by the avant-garde of rangers, which were later enforced by the light dragoons. A small bridge-head was established by the British. So far things had gone as planned by their commander.
But then the tide turned. Dragoon messengers sent back to the advancing main force with the wagon train and lots of cattle, were shot at by some riflemen from the bushes next to the road, and killed.
And some of the rangers sent out to reconnoiter a corn field to the left of the bridge, never turned up again because they were met by a party of Indians hidden there, who knifed them silently (as the dices decided). When troops marching at the front of the main body of the British, came across the body of the dragoon on the road, the column came to a halt.
The dragoon lying in his blood, victim of the vicious sniper in the foreground
(Sometimes little things turn out to have grave effects!)
The cautious British commander had the wagons and cattle draw up in the center of the settlement they were passing, and sent out some light infantry to reconnoiter the countryside on the flanks. Then he rode to the front himself, accompanied by a substantial body of infantry, leaving the halting forage wagons and animals with a guard under the command of his deputy officer. Very precocious you might say. True: He didn't know what was in the bushes left and right of the road and had to bring the goods in his possession safely to winter quarters.
Wagons and cattle drawn up in the settlement
However, he didn't know either what was ahead of him. Meanwhile, favored by the loss of time, the regular Continental infantry regiment with its guns had turned up. It formed into a column on the road and attacked. With heavy volleys and well aimed gun fire (so the dices told us), they drove the poor rangers back over the bridge, with heavy losses. That was it.
The situation suddenly looked rather hopeless. It seemed impossible to make a break-through over the heavily defended narrow bridge.
There were two more bridges on the right and the left. However the British only had heard rumors about this, and who could trust the civilians telling them. Who was a loyal citizen telling the truth, and who a lying rebel luring the British into an ambush?
The farmer's bridge, being crossed by American militia to outflank the British on the road
One of the bridges was a flimsy farmer's bridge only to be reached through by a sunken road between rocks - a rather fatal defile. Especially as more Americans were advancing towards this spot. And the other one a well constructed covered bridge near Fredrick's Mill which was occupied by American militia. And further down the road was a lake dominated by a rebel gun-boat, which would fire at the marching column - should it come that far.
The gundalow-infested lake next to the road from Fredrick's Mill Bridge
Poor British commander - officier sans fortune. Of course, later historians would know better. As did the Gods of War, who decided that the British cause was lost. Besides it was 6 o'clock in the evening meanwhile, and they had to clear things away, and refurnish the school lobby for Monday morning's peaceful life.
Fredrick's Mill - a Rebel stronghold?

1 comment:

AJ (Allan) Wright said...

Lovely game. I particularly like the mill model