Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Alphaville Disaster

November 21st, 1778

Preliminary Note

We wanted to simulate a battle
  • in which a surprise attack of the Rebels on units of the Crown Forces at Alphaville has already resulted in the exchange of musket and gun fire,
  • while other units of the Crown at Badger’s Drift 2 hours away are being threatened by more Rebel forces,
  • where the quality of Rebel forces has increased, since the winter quarters at Valley Forge in 1777/78 can be regarded as a turning point in the professionalizing of the American army.
The situation is as fictitious as the order of battle. Wherever it feasible, information was gathered from: Greg Novak, The American War of Independence, A Guide to the Armies of the American War of Independence (number 1: The Northern Campaigns); Old Glory, without year.

General Situation

Until the beginning of November 1778 the campaign in New Jersey had not come to a decisive end yet. Both sides are at the plannin stage of going into winter quarters.

The British headquarters are preparing the decision, either to go into winter quarters at the positions held up to now, in spite of concern about the necessary supplies, or to quickly start a withdrawal action towards New York.

General Washington is reluctant to go to winter quarters, hoping to beat the Brits in their withdrawal movement decisively so that this late achievement will further the morale of his troops, and at the same time strengthen the will of his political masters to persevere.

Map of the region
As part of the security measures for the Crown forces in the region Maidenhead – Prince Town – Cranberry – Allenstown, a German Brigade is stationed at Alphaville southwest of Prince Town, and a British Brigade at Badgers Drift about two hours’ distance to the west.

Both brigades are at the moment unsuspectedly attacked by strong Rebel forces.

Between Alphaville and Badgers Drift there is a partly dense and impassable forest, extending towards Prince Town in the northeast and Maidenhead in the southwest. There are no through-going north-south connections that can be used by vehicles unless via Prince Town and Alphaville. Towards Maidenhead there are only paths leading through the wilderness.

The population are still neutral in their attitude towards the conflict.

Initial Situation

It is 10:00 hours on 21st November 1778 at Alphaville. The recent days were rainy, the ground is soaked. The nights were frosty. The temperature is relatively chilly with scarcely 9 degrees Centigrade. The morning mist has not yet completely dissolved.
North, east, and south of that hamlet flat grassland is predominant, stretching for about 3 kilometres. There are only isolated tree and bush groups. In the west towards Badgers Drift there is a wide strip of forest which is partly dense and impassable and partly semi-open woodland. The surroundings of Badgers Drift are similar to those of Alphaville.

The German Brigade at Alphaville was able to stop the surprise attack of the Rebels. Their first brigade consisting of five battalions, is in combat with the Brunswick Musketeer Battalion von Riedesel and the Hesse-Cassel Grenadier Battalion von Minnigerode drawn up in line. The Hessian battalion Erbprinz is halting to the south of the place as reserve.

The British Brigade stationed at Badgers Drift has been alerted by its pickets that Rebel forces are approaching the place, presumably in the strength of a brigade.

Guidelines for the units

  • GE Brigade: in and around Alphaville, engaged, and keeping its reserve at the ready.
  • 1st US Brigade: north of Alphaville, engaged.
  • 2nd US Brigade: follows the 1st US Brigade, and may carry out one of the following operations:
    1) attack the right wing of the GE Brigade: 1 or 6 dice eyes, or
    2) attack the left wing of the GE Brigade: 2 or 3 dice eyes, or
    3) attack the left or rear of the GE Brigade in an envelopment movement : 4 or 5 dice eyes.

    UK Brigade:in and around Badgers Drift, may carry out one of the following operations:
    1) defend the place at all costs: 1 or 6 dice eyes, or
    2) defend the place with elements and block the passable part of the forest: 2 or 3 dice eyes, or
    3) defend the place with elements and support the GE Brigade at Alphaville: 4 or 5 dice eyes.

  • 3rd US Brigade: north of Badgers Drift may carry out one of the following operations:
    1) attack the UK Brigade directly: 1 or 6 dice eyes, or
    2) attack the left wing of the GE Brigade after crossing the forest: 2 or 3 dice eyes, or
    3) cross the forest and attack the UK Brigade after an envelopment movement: 4 or 5 dice eyes.


Troops of His Majesty King George

CoC: LtGen Eamus Fergyson

Excellent commander: experienced and exemplarily courageous

UK Brigade: Brig Henry Hopper-Smythe

Average commander: arrogant and disloyal
5th Regt of Foot (16 figures)
9th Regt of Foot (16 figures)
71st Regt of Foot (32 figures)
Det of 16th Light Dragoons (6 figures)
one 6pdr cannon, one 4pdr galloper gun
GE Brigade: GenMaj Karl Albrecht v. Bumsdorf

Average commander: narrow minded, but a good tactician
InfRegt v. Riedesel (24 figures)
InfRegt Erbprinz (26 figures)
GrenBtl v. Minnigerode (20 figures)
two 6pdr cannons

The Rebels

CoC: MajGen Charles Lee

Good commander: enterprising, but impulsive
1st Brigade : BrigGen John Glover

Excellent commander: experienced planner and good leader

14th Continental Regt (16 figures)

Warner’s Add. Continental Regt (6 figures)

2nd und 3rd  New York Regt (26 figures)

Sherburne’s Add. Continental Regt (16 figures)

two 8pdr cannons
2nd Brigade : BrigGen Enoch Hampton

Average Commander: pedantic and cautious
1st und 2nd Pennsylvania Regt (24 figures)
1st Rhode Island Regt (16 figures)
Hanover Associators (29 figures) 
Chester County Associators (31 figures)
3rd Brigade : LtGen William Irvine
Unexperienced commander

18th Continental Regt (24 figures) 

4th [and 5th] New York Regt (28 figures)

13th Virginia Regt (24 figures)

Proctor's Westmoreland Battalion (24 figures)

one 6pdr cannon

Battle Report 

The distance between Alphaville and Badgers Drift turned out to be very long (2 hours’ march). This resulted in two separate battles, and the absence of the CoC at both theatres.

Badgers Drift in the foreground and Alphaville in the far background (too far apart)
The CoC stationed with the British Brigade at Badgers Drift, the courageous and experienced LtGen Eamus Fergyson, made a fatal mistake when he decided to ride to Alphaville to see for himself how things went there with the German Brigade. Obviously he didn’t trust the “Hessians” too much after the disaster at Trenton. Being absent both at Badgers Drift and at Alphaville, spending the time travelling from one place to the other, he missed the whole affair. When he finally approached Alphaville he was met by the retreating units of the German Brigade!

LtGen Fergyson riding toward Alphaville with an escort of 20 Light Dragoons
So let us have a look at Alphaville first to see what happened to the German Brigade.
The American CoC MajGen Charles Lee (i.e. the dice) had decided that the 1st Brigade would continue attacking Alphaville directly, and that the 2nd Brigade would attack the left flank of the German Brigade in an envelopment movement.
The German Brigade at Alphaville
The fire fight between the 1st US Brigade and the Hesse-Cassel Grenadier Battalion von Minnigerode and Infantry Regiment Erbprinz was extremely heavy. Temporarily the attacking American troops broke. But after a short retreat they were able to regroup and attack again.
Reserve of the German Brigade in Alphaville (Infanterie Regiment von Riedesel)
It was bad luck for the German Brigade, owed to the clever decision of the American commander to attack the left flank, that the German reserve consisting of the Brunswick Infantry Regiment von Riedesel were not able to support their Hesse-Cassel colleagues. Stationed inside Alphaville they had to face west where the 2nd US Brigade showed up.

Attack on Alphaville
The 2nd Brigade attacking the left flank of the Germans
 Meanwhile the counter-attack of the Hesse-Cassel grenadiers and musketeers was repulsed by disastrous American salvoes resulting in a devastating amount of casualities (damn those dices) and causing an unorganized retreat. The two Hessian artillery pieces proved to be a nuisance misfiring all the time. Although the Hesse-Cassel retreat could be stopped at the outskirts of Alphaville (as the dice told us), all was lost when the Brunswick regiment − being outnumbered − was forced to retreat. This resulted in a general withdrawal of the German Brigade from Alphaville, covered by the remaining grenadiers. The American forces took Alphaville, which meant that the British line of defence was  shattered and the withdrawal to New York inevitable. A veritable defeat.
The Hesse-Cassel granadiers covering the retreat
Now let’s look at the other side of the forest. There, at Badgers Drift things went different. The success there, however, was without relevance to the general situation of the Crown Forces.
The Scots at Badgers Drift
The approaching Rebel reghiments

When part of the Americans of the 3rd Brigade under their inexperienced commander LtGen William Irvine attacked Badgers Drift directly and not with all units – one of them held back as a reserve –, they were repulsed by the British.
The American attack on Badgers Drift
Instead of holding the place and sending a part of his troops to Alphaville to support the Crown Forces there, the British commander Brig Henry Hopper-Smythe gave order to pursue the enemy, not caring for the directive to defend Badgers Drift. Again he gave an example of his notorious arrogance and disloyalty (as the War Gods decided). Of course, this was made possible by the absence of LtGen Eamus Fergyson, who was on his long ride to Alphaville.
British light infantry and galloper gun deploying for their attack on the left flank of the Rebels

The order of Brig Hopper-Smythe for the 4pdr galloper gun and the light infantry to outflank the Americans, resulted in routing the American forces, which started to withdraw. Without question, this was a tactical success and a local victory at Badgers Drift. However, such an isolated success worked against the idea of British operations, the main directive being to hold a defensive line.
British counter attack at Badgers Drift
Anyhow, the main mistake of the Crown Forces fighting at Alphaville and Badgers Drift had been the location of their forces too wide apart to be able to support each other effectively. So they lost the Battle of Alphaville after all.

The Council of the War Gods decided that they had learned a lot about the American War of Independence again.
Discussing Counsil of War Gods