Monday, 13 February 2012

"Battle of Hannah's Cattle Yards"

I am having an internal debate whether to call this a fictional or historical battle.  It is certainly based upon a real battle of the AWI (the title may have already given away the particulars) however I have decided to play it to a War of 1812 tune - with the forces 'reversed' as it were.

My Seventeen US Infantry representing the AWI British Legion in this game

The potted historical account:The American invasion of Lower Canada made rapid advance chasing the British forces and threatening to catch them as they crossed the Broad River.  Rather than retreating the British commander placed his troops in defensive positions to meet the American advance in a series of defensive lines with the hope that each would weaken the American units until they hit the third and best trained units who would defeat the American forces.  Thus the first line was composed of the Canadian Voltigeurs (a well trained French-Canadian light infantry formation) along with the light companies of the Select Embodied Militia(seasoned fighters).  A full musket range away to the rear was the main body of the poorly trained Sedentary Militia of Lower Canada who were asked only to fire two or three volleys before they could retire to the rear.  Hopefully then after moving through these lines the Americans would be so disordered by casualties that the final line of British regulars would rout them.

By now it would be apparent that the battle is Cowpens.  The American (nee AWI British) deployment can be seen in the following photo.  The American Light Dragoons took the spot of the British Legion Horse, the US Twenty-Eighth Infantry for the poor 7th F, the US Seventeenth Infantry for the British Legion Foot, the US Sixteenth for the veteran 71st Highlanders and the New York Light Dragoons for the British 17th Dragoons on the right flank.
From the American position showing the 28th Inf on the left with the 17th Inf on the right and the artillery placed in the center.  The three lines of awaiting British forces can be seen in the background with the British 19th Light Dragoons on the hill in the far distance. Because of the historical deployment of the British (AWI American) lines some 150 yards from each other, I placed each the furtherest musket range by the rules.  It makes for a very long battlefield!
  The challenge was to see if the rules could recreate the battle or at least if the battle could be played out near what happened historically.
Surprisingly I had to fudge only a little :-) to have things move along.  I might add at this point that the home rules are NOT ready nor will be for public use. I use them as a frame work only. Besides, the dice always dictate the outcome of the game, not the rules, and certainly not the players!

 **I will now only use the  War of 1812 designations for all units**

  I tried to move units as they did historically and as much as the rules would allow them. I placed the American units at extreme musket fire range and allowed them first shot before the American move; again to simulate the effective fire by the Americans in the actual battle.  Apparently 39% of the casualties were officers and NCOs!!  Thus the disruption on the units must have been very significant.  And this was apparent in my scenario as the small contingent of Light Dragoons were stopped in their tracks and routed by the Voltigeurs.  On the American right wing the Light Infantry advanced well and with the New York Dragoon threat saw off the SEM skirmishers with the red-coated New York horsemen in pursuit.  However the 19th Light Dragoons, just like their cavalry representatives of the actual battle, came to the rescue - and rolled the '6' for combat! - and defeated the New Yorkers and saved the militiamen. 
The New York 5th Light Dragoons are a well illustrated unit in the War of 1812 uniform reference books.  Red was apparently a popular color for the militia cavalry of eastern New York.  These boys made an appearance at Plattsburgh in 1814.

My western American frontier militia of the War of 1812 are conversions from the Old Glory Tennesseans of the Texas War of Independence range.  Before I made more extensive research I figured the militia to be, well more 'Napoleonic' with shakos and all.  So I chopped off heads and replaced with extras I had.  While the long huntingshirts are accurate, in reality, most of the boys would be wearing slouch hats or 'top hats' [do check out Kuckleduster Miniatures for some very nice examples]

The American artillery only got off a shot before being masked by the American advance. It played no further part in the battle until it finally and unwisely unlimbered to help the final American push only to be captured by the rapid British attack after the Americans quickly routed
My really big gun artillery. Perhaps the whole gun including wheel size is over scale but I like the look of the mass.  In the battle I was recreating the artillery was only tiny 3 pounders!

With lots of disorder, the American units surprisingly continued to advance (always just enough on the dice roll with modifiers and some help from the General adding his effect to keep the shot up units moving)  Some of the Sedentary militia put in at least one shot into the Americans before being force to retire.
Mid-game overview showing the American advance from the left and the Sedentary militia falling back (center) and the British regulars awaiting the American advance on the hills (upper right) As the game was a historic battle reenactment, it was duly spaced out and devoid of much terrain; I usually keep it much tighter.  One certainly notices the vast stretches of green cloth in photos than in the game in person for some reason. I do not try very hard with my photography; trust me the mat is green (old GeoHex/GameWorkshop ones which are the same flocking as Woodland Scenics Blended Green flocking)in the lighting it seems very brownish.

Now the Americans staggered up to the main line of British veteran regulars (the unit on their right was Virginia Militia but said to be made up of ex-regulars and its actions in the real battle suggest an above class ranking) The Twenty-Eighth was so shot up at 50% casualties that the 16th in reserve moved passed them to meet the British regulars.

My American early war Sixteenth US Infantry pretending to be the 71st British Highland Foot of the American War of Independence
Thus the final act of the battle commenced.  The British veterans after firing a couple of volleys and assessing the American units to be with much disorder, came off the hill. The Seventeenth could not regain order and continued to fall back with the 100th Foot advancing. The 1st Foot in the center swung right to confront the weak Twenty-Eighth. While on the British right, the Canadian militia held firm supported by the reformed Voltigeurs and the 19th Dragoons who had made their way from the far right [this was the historic actions of the Revolutionary troopers but I needed to have them move at maximum distance rather than the usual random movement dice and command rolls] 

The USLD (playing at being the AWI British Legion Cavalry) played the part very well as they took casualties from the same skirmishers who emptied many of their companions saddles in the early stages of the battle and so promptly fled from the field.  This left the Sixteenth Infantry without cavalry support.  Their right flank was threatened by the advancing 1st Foot , they would get no help from the badly shot up Twenty-Eighth and the General was no where to be seen.  Their predicament must have been felt by the dice as it rolled a '1' and had them rout taking the Twenty-Eighth with them.

All the Americans were now in rout or would be captured.  So the game did mimic for the most part, the actions of the historic battle.  The Americans (the British in the actual battle) went right up the middle and paid the price in excessive disorder and casualties.  I played it as Tarleton did.  That it ended the same was fun.


  1. Very nice report, and a great table!

    1. Thanks Phil for the kind comment. Big mortgage for a big table; but such is my devotion to the hobby :-))