Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Battle of Noswego, a fair and accurate depiction of the action drawn from details of Col. Shaw's dispatch. The Edinburgh Currant June 4th 1757.

Our (pseudo) FIW campaign rolls on and has thrown up a couple of interesting questions.

The last battle was a contested river crossing. It started out well for the British, who had managed to assemble over a two to one advantage in numbers.

It didn't end so brightly.

The American rangers who had been so badly cut up the day before, were used to scout the river at night and then to spearhead an attack across a ford. 30% odd casualties and no sleep for 48 hours will sap anyone's morale. I think Cian has seen "The Last of the Mohicans" a bit to often, so they refused to fight and quit the field.

The British infantry marched forward to pin the French at the bridge while the cavalry hammered across the ford to cut off the French line of retreat. The French cavalry charged them, then feigned flight and managed to the get the British cavalry to charge right under the guns ensconced in the town, which made hash of them. The survivors were then charged by the remaining French cavalry and wiped out, the British second in command being taken captive.

The French then started to pull out of the town onto the heights behind under pressure from the remorseless tide of redcoats streaming across the bridge. The sight of every English atop a horse, that wasn't being led away captive, streaming away from the town did little for their morale and the advance slowed.

This gave the French time to pull out of the town and re-establish their guns on the heights. As the redcoats dressed the line, a stray roundshot struck General Lord Ponsonby's aide, Captain Simpson, killing the poor man and driving a fragment of his scabbard into Lord Ponsonby's side.

The noble Lord recovered himself after a brief moment and began to give directions to the battalions drawing themselves up in expectation of a rush on the heights. A heavy rain had begun to fall, fouling the powder in the pans and rendering the use of firelocks a chancy business. It was decided that the French would have to be driven off with the bayonet.

Carried by several Grenadiers of the 17th, Lord Ponsonby was giving orders to that effect and that especial efforts were to be made to take the French cannon, when he was treacherously and deliberately targeted by the French gunners. A roundshot crushed his right arm and side completely and he fell mortally wounded.

His subordinate, Col. Shaw took command and lead a charge up the hill by the 17th, the 22nd and the 28th Regiments of Foot. Colonel Anhalt had ordered a general retreat at this point and those French regiments that could were withdrawing in good order. However, a desire by the French gunners of the Batterie Du Courcelle to do more execution lead them to tarry too long and they were were unable to move the guns in time because of the exceeding wetness of the ground.

The guns were taken by men of the 28th (Colonel Bragg's) Regiment of Foot, which along with approaching nightfall marked the end of the battle.

All in all, it was a good game with some real turns of fortune. Cian had said that his objective was the enemy guns and though it cost him dear, he did take them. Dave managed to extricate his force with only minimal casualties (one regiment of Light Horse and the Batterie du Courcelle).

The battle does leave me with some questions though.

- Cian has captured a battery of four French guns, which are probably low on ammunition, having been heavily engaged all day. How likely is it that British gunners could successfully use British ammunition in French guns?

Naturally of course, this depends of what sort of guns they are, but lacking any accurate information (I really should have made this a Napoleonic campaign, i.e. something I know) I've said that both sides are using six pounders.

- How badly is the Pyhrric nature of the victory going to affect the British army? The French army lost a battery which will harm its prestige, but otherwise accomplished miracles.

I actually think this is a battle where both sides can claim some sort of victory, odd that, I didn't really think those happened.

Ponsonby's dead, but he was a new commander and not one that the army were particularly attached to. His successor, Col. Shaw, is a regimental officer and better known, if not as skilled.

The French did not manage to discommode the British infantry, the backbone of the army, in any way. They, in the words of one observer, "Stomped forward like bayonet wielding terminators and took the guns.". Maybe I put too much stock in Wellington's experience, but having your cavalry mauled doesn't seem to have broken British armies in the past. Cian was also so dismissive of the Americans combat refusal, that I'm not sure its going to affect the army's morale much...cripple its ability to scout and leave it prey to marauding Indians, yes, but that's for another day.

Cian is currently trying to work out if he should have Captain Morgan (the Ranger leader) hung for cowardice or have some of them flogged. I've pointed out that both are illegal, but he's still mulling over it. I reckon if he does, it'll most likely lead to the dissolution of the unit and his other American auxiliaries and angry protests from Colonial governors.

Dave, the French player, in an act worthy of "Operation Mincemeat" "accidentally" sent Cian his orders while replying to my email.

The false orders stated that the French having interrogated Col. Frazer were preparing for a sudden and crushing counter attack, in the hope of forcing the British onto the defensive so as to buy time.

Dave's actual orders were for his forces to fall back to the defensible feature and to start digging in.

The ruse did not have the hoped for result as Cian, assuming it was a genuine mistake sent Dave an email informing him that he hadn't read the orders and was deleting the mail.

Shabby Nazi trick or legitimate ruse de geurre?

Who can say, though honesty as the best policy is working for Cian, who seems intent on driving north as quickly as possible.


  1. "Don't hang them or cut off their fingers,
    That's wasteful as well unkind,
    For a hard-bitten south country poacher,
    Makes the Best Man at Arms you can find" (R Kipling - Saxon and Norman)

    Sufficient parallels, I think.

    As for shabby tricks, huh, what else do you expect from our neighbours across la Manche. The British commander acted honourably (if foolishly).

    All in all, though, it sounds like a good game and that a good time was had by all - which should be the aim of the game.

    Well done all, and good luck!

  2. you wrote:
    leave it pray to marauding Indians,
    Mow, as a part Cherokee (most Americans are part something, for sure), I'm honored, but I think the Brits would do better to pray to something else that they not be preyed upon?
    (yep, one an English teacher ...)
    Anyway, what rules did you use?
    When I had them, Drums on the Mohawk from Bill Protz was a useful set ...
    sounds like a fun game!

  3. ..hah - an excellent write up!

    Legitimate ruse de guerre say I...

    As for Cian & the Rangers - "Lions lead by donkeys"... 'nuff said! :o))))

  4. We're using a heavily modified version of Clash for a Continent, a boardgame reviewed in the most recent issue of Battlegames. The campaign system is free kriegspiel a la Paddy Griffith leavened with Featherstonian courier rules and Harman style officer casualties.

    It's simple, plays on a small board (30 inches by 18) and is quick enough that we can get two games in, dinner and a pint down the pub. in an evening.