Monday, 20 November 2017

Bloodshed and Plunder at the Sunrise Brewery

The Sunrise Brewery at Centerville
The five of us decided to have a skirmish game this time, i.e. one figure represents one man (and not 20 as usual). We thought we might play an event in the Forage War in New Jersey in 1777. It began with Harald writing a scenario for it.

Harald's Scenario

Situation on 12th November 1777

Preliminary Note

Our intention was to simulate an operation similar to those fought in the Forage War in New Jersey in 1777. The actual situation, however, is as fictitious as the order of battle.
For our simulation (ratio 1 : 1) our idea was
⧫that Rebel forces have already been attacking units of the Crown inside the borough of
Centerville, who are carting away confiscated victuals for the sustenance of the Main Army around New York,

⧫while those forces positioned near the Sunrise Brewery in northern Centerville are endangered in their fighting capacity,
⧫more Rebel forces are assembling in the
township of Alphaville two hours’ march to the north,
⧫and Crown forces are ready in the bridgehead of
Rocky Beach three hours away to receive the transport of victuals and to ensure their ferrying to Long Island.

General Situation

Until the end of October 1776 the campaign in New Jersey had not yet led to a decision. Both sides started with their marches into winter quarters at the beginning of November.
The British Supreme Command decided to leave behind strong security forces along the Raritan River and at the same time to retreat in a fast retrograde movement towards the New York area. However, strongly depending on supplies from New Jersey, namely on hay and oats for fodder of the horses, this decision meant taking a high risk.
The Continental Army under Washington, endangered in its existence by the ending period of enlistment on New Year’s Eve, was on its way to winter quarters west of the Delaware River; selected units – especially from New Jersey and New York – were to hold a security line Trenton – Princeton – Bound Brook.
The Rebels in New Jersey – originally not being in a majority – gained further support from former Loyalists and from those parts of the population that had hitherto stayed neutral in the political dispute. This political change of mood was especially bolstered by requisitions of the British troops, ensuing in excesses.
Among the units of the New Jersey Militia feelings of revenge towards their Loyalist neighbours and soldiers of the Crown strengthened fighting power[1] as well as a sense of duty and the wish for personal gain at the cost of their neighbours. These militias distinguished themselves by interrupting movements along lines of communications, and by activities against single posts, and especially against efforts to gain requisitions.

Opening Situation

This sketch of the British surveyors turned out to be inaccurate:
both, Allmyer’s Lake and
Hunchback Mountain are much larger, and the distances between Whitewater Creek Bridge and Blueberry farm and between Blueberry Farm and the defenses at Rocky Beach much shorter.
The landscape from Centerville in the foreground towards Rocky Beach in the far background
Centerville/New Jersey November 12, 1777, 11:30AM. It is cold and still foggy, now and again there is a light drizzle.
Landscape around Rising Sun Tavern (centre of the Table)
A detachment of Crown forces, commanded by Colonel Smyth-Bollard[2], is foraging[3] in a region of three hours’ marching distance between Centerville and Rocky Beach. The men of this detachment know that they will go to winter quarters at the end of this campaign.
In Centerville elements of this detachment in company strength, under the command of the Hessian Major von Bock[4], consisting of one platoon each from the Hessian regiments Erbprinz and Trümbach as well as from the Brunswick regiment Riedesel, have just finished the requisition of victuals and fodder and are about to march back, the transport vehicles having just started to move on the road towards Rocky Beach.
Opening situation at Centerville
(Behind the church you can see the attacking Americans)
Suddenly, while the Hessian platoon of the Trümbach Regiment in the northern part of Centerville was assembling near the Sunshine Brewery, shots could be heard from a group of bushes in the north. Among the first casualties are the commanding lieutenant and the sergeant. A corporal attempts to rally the surprised detachment and to make them fire back.
Americans attacking the Hessians in northern Centerville.
At the same time a force of about 50 Rebels is storming towards the main cross-roads at Centerville, where the platoon of Brunswickers is just lining up in marching order. Major von Bock and the Brunswick Lieutenant Krause are trying to change the formation and react.
In the southern part of Centerville where the second Hessian platoon of the Erbprinz Regiment is assembling shots are fired.
East of Centerville, at a distance of about 2 kilometres, the detachment has got its reserve: a detachment of British light dragoons, one of British light infantry, Hessian jaegers, and a 3-pounder cannon. Colonel Smyth-Bollard chose to stay put with these elements.
A second party of the detachment, in company strength as well, consisting of platoons from British infantry regiments is requisitioning in the south at a distance of two hours. A last report from this section was received by Colonel Smyth-Bollard about four hours ago.
In the bridgehead of Rocky Beach, three hours away to the east of Centerville, British forces in battalion strength protect the ferry to Long Island, and are ready to receive Colonel Smyth-Bollard’s detachment for the passage of lines.
On the side of the Rebels first militiamen of Center County have assembled in Alphaville, as there had been rumours already two days before, on  November 10, 1777, about the activity planned by the Crown. The local commander, Brigadier General William Maxwell[5] was moreover able to stop single groups of convalescents who were on the march to their units in the region of Bound Brook, and to persuade them to stay with him for the time being.
Yesterday,  November 11, 1777, news arrived that a strong detachment had left the enemy bridgehead at Rocky Beach. The militia of the county were alerted, and the inhabitants were warned. The same night ‘Scotch Willie‘ gave orders that three of his companies under the command of Colonel Samuel Hammersmith[6] were to march to Centerville, the assumed aim of the Crown troops.

During the night,
➣three weak companies could be formed. As ordered, Colonel Hammersmith started his march south towards Centerville, in order to meet any enemy forces and to beat them when they were still foraging, and 
➣the soldiers of the Continental Army in company strength could be reinforced with two weak militia companies to act as reserve. If necessary, they were to intercept transport trains between Centerville and Rocky Beach.
➣In addition, Brigadier General William Maxwell had asked for reinforcements from the neighbouring counties. This had already been done on  November 10.
On  November 12, Colonel Hammersmith reached Centerville only by 10:30AM, because he had got lost during the night march, and his march had been additionally slowed down by the hesitant behaviour of his vanguard.
Approaching the compound of the Sunrise Brewery, they discerned soldiers in blue coats who were busy loading wagons. Hammersmith decided to split his forces into three attack groups, one for the northern part of the borough, one for the central cross-roads, and one for the southern part, to envelop Centerville on the western side in order to attack the enemy who was presumably preoccupied with requisitioning. He couldn’t be sure of the situation, though, because he lacked proper reconnaissance.
He impressed it upon his company commanders -
➢Captain John Broadhead of the northern attack group,
➢Captain George Stricker in the centre, with whom he would stay himself, and
➢Captain Edward Hand of the southern attack group -
to attack as fast as possible, without firing a shot and shouting loudly. He hoped in this way to rout the enemy and seize the transport train.
This plan had not completely succeeded though by 11:30AM: 
➢At the Sunrise Brewery, a Hessian sentinel discovered shapes in the bushes who did not answer his challenge, but opened fire. In consequence an open order firefight evolved between both parties.
➢At the crossroads the Rebels came across the Brunswickers who were assembling to form a marching column. The militia opened fire at once, without having been ordered to do so.
➢In the south of the place, the men of Captain Hand were able to sneak into the rear of the Hessian company, but also opened fire at once, hearing the firefights at the central crossroads and in the north.

Guidelines for the further development

Tino throwing the dice, supervised by Horst.
Before starting with the simulation proper, the further development is decided upon by the throw of the dice; for each group of forces in the following order: 
Firefight at the Sunrise Brewery:
After the deaths of their lieutenant and their sergeant the Hessians panic and flee: dice 1 or 6.
Led by their corporal the Hessians exchange fire with the enemy for two rounds without results; from the third round onwards the result is decided upon by throwing the dice: dice 2 or 3.
For one round the Hessians exchange fire with the enemy without result. A firefight follows, the success of which is decided by throwing the dice: dice 4.
The Hessians attack the Rebels and rout them: dice 5.
Later at the Sunrise Brewery – depending on the outcome of the development described above:  
The winners of the firefight
will keep discipline, follow the orders of their commanders, and will continue taking part in the battle: dice 1 or 6
will have to be re-arranged, possibly protected against the temptations of the brewery, and will therefore become inoperative for two rounds: dice 2 or 3,
will succumb to the temptations of the brewery, and will become helpless for four rounds: dice 4 und 5
Attack at the cross-roads in Centerville:
The Rebels rout the Brunswickers at once, because these are in the process of re-formation, and put them to flight: dice 1 or 6.
The Rebels wage a firefight for one round, the result of which must be decided by throwing the dice: dice 2 or 3.
The Brunswickers counter-attack at once, are however repulsed by the Rebels: dice 4.
The Brunswickers counter-attack immediately, and throw the Rebels back: dice 5.
Militia pursuing the fleeing Brunswickers they have routed by their precise fire.
Attack in the south of Centerville:
The Hessians panic when fired upon from behind and flee: dice 1 or 6.
The Hessians wage a firefight in close order, the success of which is to be decided by throwing the dice: dice 2 or 3.
A part of the Hessians wage a firefight in this round (success to be diced), and other parts rush to aid the Brunswickers: dice 4.
The Hessians retreat to a position south-east of Centerville, to enable the wagon train to move away, and to receive the Brunswickers and hinder the Rebels from pressing on: dice 5.
The Hessians in the south of Centerville resisting the Rebel detachment.
Movement of the wagon train on the road south-east of Centerville:
The vehicles remain together, their movement out of Centerville is successful in spite of the firefights in Centerville: dice 1. or 6
The wagon train gets into a state of disorder, the movement out of Centerville is retarded by one round: dice 2 or 3.
Single vehicles sheer out and try to get away on their own, while the majority of the vehicles continue marching: dice 4.
There is panic in the wagon train; the attempt to establish order again takes two rounds: dice 5.

The wagon train on its way towards Rocky Beach.

Considerations concerning the further development

The situation at the different groupings of forces could develop as follows, and could be decided by throwing the dice if necessary:
Realization of the situation by Colonel Smyth-Bollard with the reserve:
  Colonel Smyth-Bollard hears the noise of battle and reacts: dice 1, 3 or 5
   Colonel Smyth-Bollard does not hear the noise of battle: dice 2, 4 or 6.
   Major v. Bock sends a messenger to Colonel Smyth-Bollard: dice 1, 3 or 5.
   Major v. Bock omits sending a messenger to Colonel Smyth-Bollard: dice 1, 3 or 5.
The British reserve at Rising Sun Tavern.
  Brigadier General William Maxwell wants to
reinforce Colonel Hammersmith in Centerville with his reserve: dice 1 or 6,
use his reserve for intercepting the wagon train at a short distance from Centerville: dice 2 or 3,
use his reserve for intercepting the wagon train not far away from Rocky Beach, taking into account time and distances: dice 4 or 5.
Realization of the situation by the forces in the bridgehead of Rocky Beach:
The commander in the bridgehead is briefed about the situation by Colonel Smyth-Bollard, as far as the latter is informed about the development in Centerville; he decides to send out troops to receive the vehicles and the returning forces outside the fortifications: dice 1 or 6.
The commander in the bridgehead is briefed about the situation by Colonel Smyth-Bollard, as far as the latter is informed about the development in Centerville; he decides to receive the vehicles and the returning forces without leaving the fortifications: dice 2 or 4.
  There is no timely information of the commander in the bridgehead: dice 3 or 5.
The defences at Rocky Beach

Order of battle

Size on that day

Crown forces

Detachment of Maj v. Bock

Platoon from Rgmt Erbprinz (Hesse-Cassel)
(right flank)
1 officer, 20 musketeers
Platoon from Rgmt Trümbach (Hesse-Cassel)
(left flank)
1 officer, 20 musketeers
Platoon from Regt Riedesel (Brunswick)
1 officer, 20 musketeers
(about to leave)
7 wagons (1 drawn by oxen),
3 carts (2 drawn by oxen)

Reserve commanded by Colonel Smyth-Bollard
(near Rising Sun Tavern)

Detachment of British Light Dragoons
1 officer, 8 dragoons
Detachment of British Light Infantry
(2 Bn LI and British Legion infantry)
2 officers, 32 men
Detachment of Hesse-Cassel Jaegers
1 officer, 25 jaegers
3-pdr canon
Hunchback Mountain)
1 piece

Bridgehead at Rocky Beach

British Infantry
2 officers, 60 men
Hesse-Cassel Grenadiers
2 officers, 36 grenadiers


Detachment commanded by Col Hammersmith

Militia of Captain Broadhead
2 officers, 50 militiamen
Militia of Captain Stricker
2 officers, 50 militiamen
Militia of Captain Hand
2 officers, 50 militiamen

(ex-14th Rgt, ex Warner’s, ex 3rd New York)
3 x 30 men
“remnants” of Rebels

The Game

We started putting together 7 tables, each 180 by 70 cm, covered them with our light green cloths, and then positioned the landscape elements, buildings, and troops.
Laying out the table.
As usual we played together, acting as the Council of War Gods, so to speak, and not fighting against each other, only throwing the dice and discussing, which is great fun.
Beginning of the game
War Gods at work
The game began as planned.
The events at Centerville were reported by the local paper, the “Centerville Gazette”:
It can be added that the 20 Hessian soldiers of the Regiment von Trümbach pillaging north of High Street were attacked by militiamen of Captain Broadhead, who fired at them from behind the tombstones of the churchyard, fatally wounding their officer with their first volley. Whereupon the remaining Hessians retreated towards High Street, and were later taken prisoner. There is a report of this event by a local eye-witness:
The ignominious end of a troop of Hessians at the Sunrise Brewery
When driven into flight by the courageous militia of Captain Broadhead attacking from the north, the fleeing Hessians of the von Trümbach regiment took refuge behind the brick wall in front of Sunrise Brewery in High Street. There they came across some casks of lager and ale. Their officer having been killed before, they opened them with the butts of their muskets and got drunk in a very short period of time. Soon being helplessly inebriated they started singing German drinking songs, and were taken prisoner without resistance by our brave militiamen.
Happy Hessians gathered round the opened barrel of lager beer
(the dice signifies the number of rounds they will be in a helpless state)
The result of the fighting in Centerville was that the Hessians and Brunswickers suffered heavy losses. The Brunswickers paid the highest toll: they had about 10 or 12 casualties. And the Hessian company of the Regiment von Trümbach were taken prisoners. So in the end the German troops at Centerville lost about half of their soldiers. On the other hand the Crown forces were successful in so far as the whole wagon train managed to leave the place for Rocky Beach.
The wagon train has left Centerville where the fighting is still going on.
However Colonel Smyth-Bollard had no idea what had been going on in Centerville. He hadn’t heard the noise of battle (decision of the dice) and couldn’t see a thing as he sat peacefully on his horse behind Hunchback Mountain. It must be said that he was somewhat preoccupied by talking to the barmaid of the Rising Sun Tavern, who had been sent out by the landlord with a bottle of wine. Her wide cut décolleté must have distracted him. At least this is what the Council of War Gods thought.
Colonel Smyth-Bollard, safely sheltered behind the mountain, talking to the barmaid,
explaining the essence of heroism to her.
However, when the head of the wagon train reached the bottleneck between Allmyer’s Lake and Hunchback Mountain, he was suddenly called back to duty. 
The two Patriot snipers hidden in a treetop and behind a rocky butt.
Two Americans, acting on their own behalf (the idea of mean War God Frederik), had hidden in a treetop and behind a rocky butt with their rifles and fired at the driver of the first wagon. The poor man was shot from the box, the horses shied and galloped off, overturning the wagon, and the load of two barrels with flour spilled itsr contents by the roadside or floated on the lake.
The situation at the bottleneck near Allmyer's Lake with the overturned wagon
Now Colonel Smyth-Bollard showed his real quality. He rode forward, ordered the Light Dragoons to restore order amongst the wagoners and the light infantry to clear the road and to drive off the snipers. All this was successfully done. The snipers disappeared into the depth of the woods, the wagon was removed, and the dragoons led the wagons that had gone into fields back onto the road. Finally the wagon train continued its way towards Rocky beach.
The wagon train has come to a halt, two teams have shyed and galopped into the fields. The dragoons on the right have been sent out to solve the problem.
The dragoons have done their job, the retreat towards Rocky Beach continues.
The Amaricans are trying to catch up with the wagon train passing the bottleneck at Hunchback Mountain.
For the American cause everything now depended on Brigadier General William Maxwell’s reserve being able to intercept the wagon train on its way to Rocky beach. The dice had told us that the unit was ordered to intercept the wagon train not far away from Rocky Beach
The American attack column at Blueberry Farm tryind to deploy.
They actually managed to enter the theatre in time, crossed Whitewater Creek Bridge and started to deploy once they came into the open behind the buildings of Blueberry Farm. They at once were fired upon by troops of the British reserve stationed behind Rising Sun Tavern, and even worse by the 24-pounder stationed in the field works of Stony Beach. They were forced to retreat among the buildings of Blueberry farm. And the convoy of wagons could continue towards Stony Beach
The 24-pdr in the fortifications of Rocky Beach
The objective of the Crown to collect forage and victuals had been achieved, though at high cost.
The Council of War Gods (Harald, Horst, Tino, Friedrich, and Daniel) supervising the outcome

[1]  “In the January 30th, 1777 edition of the Pennsylvania Evening Post, a correspondent wrote: ‘Many of the inhabitants of Monmouth County who received written protections, are now determined to return them to his Britannic Majesty’s Commissioners in cartridges.’“
[2] Executing his orders Colonel Enoch Smyth-Bollard followed the advice of his brother Abel Smyth-Bollard, professor at King’s College in Cambridge: “In case of unpleasant orders send the Germans; they will always do what they believe to be their duty, and we avoid damage to our reputation.”
[3] This is a contemporary term for “confiscation“ (from the point of view of troops of the Crown) or “plunder” (seen through the eyes of the rebels or owners); and of course vice-versa, if executed by the Defence Committees of the Rebels.
[4] A family ancestor who lived in Hanoverian Einbeck as a master brewer had been ennobled in the 15th century when he had invented an economically successful recipe for beer. All members of the family are said throughout the centuries to have a strong passion for beer brands.
[5] A born Irishman with still prominent accent, called 'Scotch Willie' by his men, he is a historic figure from the Forage Wars.
[6] Hammersmith, a teacher by profession, had acquired broad military knowledge by reading Homer’s descriptions of the Trojan War and Caesar’s Gallic War. Because of his reputation he had been elected colonel of the militia.

1 comment:

95th Division said...

Got here by way of TMP.

Excellent AAR and beautiful table. Really liked your vignettes like Smyth-Bollard and the barmaid.