Monday, 22 February 2016

The Battle of Bemis Heights (7th Oct 1777)

A British Grenadier Refight

Hessian Troops man the redoubt
The last couple of weeks have seen us have another game with our AWI toys, one of my favourite figure collections. I was searching through my books for a nice biggish scenario to refight but kept coming across the same problems, lack of cavalry, lack of Native Indians and lack of Queens Rangers (the battalion and cavalry versions), in my collection.

All of that ruled out my initial choices (I was eyeing up Monmouth), not to put down the battle but the only one I could see that a) had enough stuff in for 4-6 players and b) didn't include the above troops was 2nd Saratoga. It certainly has refocused my AWI painting queue but then I have had the horses done on 12 British Light Dragoons for over a year so its my own fault.

Poors' Brigade advances
The scenario is taken from the wonderful American War of Independence Scenarios 1 Book published and available from Caliver Books in the UK, a great book (there are three more in the series) and ideal for any rule set.

I made some minor alterations to the orbat, the odd figure here and there, just to fit in with the way the figures are based. I also added an additional American Brigade by splitting Poors' Brigade in half (I can hear the gasps from the purists !), this was to allow the players to command their own troops and for the ultra purists the figures in our collection are general AWI troops and not specific to the Campaign.

As a bit of fun I live tweeted the game on, would you believe it Twitter. A pic at the end of each turn as we played and there was some decent interaction. You can follow on @yarkshiregamer.

Morgan moves on the British flank
Historical Background

After his failure to break the Americans at Freemans Farm Burgoyne the British Commander spent a couple of weeks pondering his next move. On the day of the battle, he took a strong recon force out to probe the American lines and do a spot of foraging at the same time. The reaction was swift and forceful from the Americans and Burgoyne was forced back onto his pre prepared positions. At the end of the action the Brits had lost 800 men and several guns, 9 days later the 6000 men of the force surrendered, a black day for the British and a turning point in the war.

Phillips repositions to counter Morgan

Map and Set Up

A fairly straight forward battlefield, a large hill with 2 redoubts forms the anchor of the British Line there are two fenced field complexes along with a good amount of open woods.

All the British start on table as shown, Fraser should be spread out along the front with a skirmish screen in front.

For the Americans Poor starts on table (for our version Poor and Scott), roll 1d6 for Morgan and he arrives on turn 1 on a 5 or 6, turn 2 on a 3 or 4 and turn 3 on anything else. Learned comes on behind Poor with a 1d4 turn delay.

The Americans needs to push the British off the table causing as much damage as they can whilst the Brits need to hold the hill line.

Fraser falls back from the woods keeping Poor under fire


Gen Benedict Arnold C in C Excellent

Brig Gen Morgan 1st Brigade Excellent
11th Virginia (Rifles) Elite 20 Figs
Dearborn's Light Btn Line 20 Figs
Morgans Skirmishers Elite 8 Figs

Brig Gen Poor 2nd Brigade Average
1st New Hampshire Line 18 Figs
2nd New Hampshire Line 20 Figs
3rd New Hampshire 2nd Line 16 Figs
2nd New York 2nd Line 16 Figs

Brig Gen Scott 3rd Brigade Average
4th New York 2nd Line 16 Figs
1st Conn Militia Militia 24 Figs
2nd Conn Militia Militia 20 Figs

Brig Gen Learned 4th Brigade Average
2nd Mass Line 24 Figs
8th Mass Line 24 Figs
9th Mass Line 24 Figs
1st Canadian Regt 2nd Line 24 Figs
Learneds Skirmishers Line 8 Figs

Conn Militia on the move

Lt Gen Burgoyne C in C Average

Brigadier Fraser 1st Brigade Excellent
Frasers Skirmishers Line 6 Figs
Foragers Line 6 Figs
1st Light Infantry Elite 16 Figs
24th Foot Line 16 Figs

Major Gen Riedesel 2nd Brigade Average
Hesse Detachments 2nd Line 20 Figs
British Grenadiers Elite 16 Figs
Pausch's Artillery Line 1 x 6pdr
Reserve Artillery Line 1 x 12pdr
Howitzer Section Line 1 x How
Williams' Artillery Line 2 x 6pdr

Maj Gen Phillips 3rd Brigade Average
1st British Detachments Line 16 Figs
2nd British Detachments Line 16 Figs

Col Berryman 4th Brigade Poor
Hesse Jagers Elite (Rifles) 6 Figs
Hesse Grenadiers Line 16 Figs

The Thin Red Line
Our Refight Feb 2016

We used British Grenadier rules for our refight, a set we are all fairly familiar and happy with, being from the same stable as our Napoleonic and SYW rules is great in someways, the basics flow freely although we do find ourselves quoting rules quite confidently only to find they are from one of the other sets.

Morgan advances
The Americans got Morgan on table on the second turn and Learned on turn 5, Poor advanced from the base line initially engaging Fraser who gradually fell back from the woods into the fields in front of the hill. Part of the Brigade stayed with Fraser the rest advanced towards the main British Line followed by Scott, this break up of Brigades would cause command issues later in the game for the Yanks.

The British didn't stand still, well aware of the threat to their flank, Philips repositioned his Brigade quickly putting one Battalion either side of Berymans redoubt securing that flank whilst the Artillery moved itself back onto the hill and into the other redoubt for a better field of fire.

Fraser starts to threaten the Americans flank
It was the British who were doing the damage as the Americans pushed forward, one British Battalion threw double 6 on firing two turns in a row which considerably slowed Morgans advance down.

In the middle Learneds Brigade had joined the mass of American troops as they advanced, subtle is wasn't as a double Brigade column developed and moved towards the hill. Riedesel saw his chance and wheeled to take the advancing column in the flank, supported by parts of Frasers Brigade who were comfortable in their skirmish with Poor.

Charge !!!
The game came to a head on turn 12 as the Virginia Rifles charged the redoubt held by the Hessian Grenadiers, a 4 on the firing for the Hess boys and a narrow melee roll saw the Grenadiers pushed back out of the feature. A victory for the Americans then ?

Victory ?
Sadly for them it was a no, the rest of the turn was a disaster, the units behind Morgan were taking fire from 3 sets of guns and two battalions, one from the flank. Added to that the British Grenadiers had joined the fray and were pouring fire into one of Poors units. The Morale phase clinched it as two entire Brigades went into retreat or rout.

No defeat
Learned was stuck in the fields having to refuse their battalion flanks for safety and would soon be surrounded leaving Morgan on his own unsupported in the redoubt surrounded by British troops and Guns.

A close run thing but a British victory, a cracking game too and one we would certainly consider revisiting.

Next up is a Spanish Civil War battle around the University in Madrid.

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