Apologies to regular readers for my lack of blogging; I can only blame Lockdown inertia combined with an increasingly dodgy rural broadband service as so many neighbours seem to call on the bandwidth with home working, home study by zoom or just plain streaming films and TV. This post tries to catch up on our alternative history mini-campaign in the Summer of 2019 and, if you wish to, you can read the previous post (Evening and overnight deployment) and from that back track through whole mini-campaign.
Failing that here is a Very Quick Recap:
August 1756 - A British corps-sized force under the Duke of Marlborough has invaded the French island of Vestisle with the aim of disrupting a large gathering of Jacobites who are training, under French auspices, to try another attempt under "Bonnie" Prince Charlie on the English throne. A big battle (Bellune Hill) has taken place across the middle of Vestisle island from around 1200 midday to 1420 in which an outnumbered French and Jacobite army has just about held off Marlborough's corps but had to give up vital ground. Both sides suffered fairly horrible localised casualties and, according to my campaign rules, needed to pull back at least one map square (500 metres) apart to recover. During the evening of my actual wargaming weekend (10-11 August 2019) the 5 players and I worked out the arrival of significant reinforcements on the island for both sides and how to deploy them on the evening of 10th August 1756, overnight, and up to dawn (0600) on 11th August.
Time did not allow formal maps to be made so the best I can offer is a couple of nice photo views at the start of the day and a photo of the magnetic counters on my campaign map. Blue are the French and Jacobites and Red the British, Hanoverians and Hessians. We had to use both the 12 x 6 foot main table and the 4 x 3 foot smaller one in the room upstairs.
|The players, from left: British - Ken Marshall and Dillon Browne; French - Guy Barlow, Graham Ward and Graham Cummings (Graham W. opted not to play today as he had to get back off to London earlier than planned)|
|The smaller table with a corner of the Jacobite camp from which the clan battalions intend to counter attack along with the Grenadiers coming from Bellune town. The loyal Scots facing from Bellune Hill are hoping to keep them bottled up.|
Before we could start, and as we cleared away the breakfast things, I had to tackle Guy about the exact positions of his "characters"and a key unit in the city. We have met some of them before but Prince Charles Edward Stuart was an obvious target for the British raid, and Guy had acted throughout the mini campaign like his historical French counterparts and treated Charlie as a dispensable liability. The only trouble was that Charlie was now accompanied by a bigger group, some of whom mattered, and Guy decided they would all be sheltering in the Town Hall (Hotel de Ville):
Prince Charles Edward Stuart
Laird Jamie Fraser of Lallybroch (military adviser) -
Donald Mactavish (Charlie's manservant and fixer)
Le Duc de Vestisle
Le Chevalier Dumonnaie (Chief Secretary of the Treasury in Paris)
Madame Florence Dumonnaie (wife of the Chevalier and "admirer" of Charlie)
Charlie's dalliance with Madame Dumonnaie the previous day over "lunch" in "Le Canard Malpropre" tavern had created a certain bond which I guess encouraged Guy not to separate out his characters even though he had the chance. It was significant that the chaos in Abrantes caused by the British landing had allowed Charlie to volunteer his, er,... sword, to protect her while her husband had checked that the Government gold was safe in the casemate of the stone bastion at Abrantes harbour.
The other choice for Guy was how to dispose of the Abrantes Citizen's Militia in battalion strength which had assembled on the Saturday, and Le Duc de Vestisle had instructed to defend the city. I'm not sure whether it was the inscrutability of his profession or just the "morning after the night before" and several bottles of excellent Malbec.......but Guy was adamant the whole lot should defend the West Gatehouse area of the decaying city walls. This was despite my subtle Games Mastery attempts to suggest that putting all his eggs in one basket might not be wise. You see, I already knew what the instructions were from Ken for Captain Cochane's companies of sailors who had successfully infiltrated the city during the night and Guy had left some other key points unguarded.
These elements were to prove of great significance later. Here is the text of hand written orders I got from Ken the evening before:
"To Captain Cochrane RN, from The Duke of Marlborough
Thank you for your report and intelligence on future operations.
I intend to seize Abrantes on the 11th. Although I cannot provide an accurate time I expect to be in a position to attack around 11 am.
If you are successful in infiltrating the town your primary tasks are to send companies to:
- Silence the bastion battery and search and secure it
- Search the Hotel de Ville
- Search the Town Inn cellar
- If you can locate the Duc de Vestisle and capture him to use as a bargaining chip even better
- Target the South and West perimeter walls and residences with gunpowder from 11am which may ease our attack" (by distracting French troops? CG)
As GM it was my task to interpret this as Captain Cochrane and it was a tall order with the remaining companies of sailors and would have to be done incrementally. Ken had thought well ahead and assembled Cochrane's little corps to include a mixture of Scots, Gaelic and French speakers so I determined that during the night they blagged their way to infiltrate carefully round the town square and await the passing through of the French infantry on the morrow. More on that later.
|At dawn there were a lot of French infantry in Abrantes City awaiting the passing of the Elite Cavalry corps so they could emerge|
Another important point to decide was what would be the start time of our on-table manoeuvres? As it "dawned" on each team that 6 am would not see the newly arrived troops far from their night bivouacs it became a kind of mental race in their minds to visualise how far the enemy would get if we opted for say 8 am to try for formal battle lines. Rather than play a metaphorical game of scissors, paper, stone it was mutually decided that we would set up as at 6 am and let normal game play determine the outcome of forming up positions. So the initial photos give an idea of how scrappy this appeared to the protagonists, especially the Allies who still had several brigades off table.
|The now "Dashing" Lt General de Barbier stands by the French mercenary Battenburg brigade holding the farm and ground immediately in front of Abrantes|
|French, Irish, Swiss and Scots Elite infantry continue the French line westwards with Legion de la Morliere Dragoons, Grenadiers and Fusiliers holding the extreme right flank|
0600 11th August 1756 - Opening Movements
The French Grenadiers and Bellune Militia came out of Bellune town on the extreme right flank of the Loyal Scots. The battalion of Frasers came down the slope of Bellune Hill to try to block them and exchanged fire. This was the start of the small "private" game between Dillon as the Loyal Scots and Graham Cummings commanding his beloved Jacobites currently still in the camp. (Below)
|The reinforcing French brigade can only cross the ruisseau via the bridge which limited Graham's tactical options|
0620 - Consolidation of the French lines/success for Jacobite cannon
The French Guard/Elite Cavalry had reached the critical left-centre gap and deployed into 5 regimental lines with Jubarbe's remaining regiment; but in front of them Lauzun was fully engaged. The Lauzun Grenadiers and light battery inflicted significant casualties on Pitt's leading battalion and broke it. In return one of Hardenburg's Hanoverian battalions scored 3 hits on the French Marines. Elliott's and von Trump's Allied heavy cavalry were sizing themselves up now for a more difficult fight than they had expected. In addition Favert's French infantry brigade in reserve was beginning to cross the bridge. More French reserves were able to begin deploying too as the infantry brigade began to emerge from the South gate of the City.
|General view over the main table during Move 2|
|Unit 25 is the 23rd Fusiliers, broken by fire from the Lauzun Grenadiers and light gun. Five large regiments of British and Hanoverian heavy cavalry mass beyond Pitt's British infantry|
|A French brigade (St Germain's) emerges from Abrantes City's southern gate|
|The Grenadiers de la Morliere are looking increasing exposed as foot and mounted Jagers circle around this flank|
0640: French hold at Left Centre and start of Jacobite counter attack
Unfortunately for Guy and Graham this turn the brigade of 5 large French Guard cavalry regiments rolled a 1 for command initiative and were limited to just changing formation. This left Major General Elliott's cavalry free to attack, but Joubarbe's single regiment held them at bay; both sides suffered 4 hits and had to retreat.
|Joubarbe's single regiment tries to hold Elliott's cavalry brigade.....|
|........and forced the front regiment back, but also had to retreat itself|
Lauzun's Grenadiers and artillery continued to hold back Pitt's British infantry for the moment but Hardenburg's Hanoverians were virtually free to choose how to manoeuvre in the open area to their front. Ken clearly was worried about the proximity of the Jacobite camp to his flank and angled the two end regiments along the road facing Bellune town and away from Lauzun's troops - as seen in this general view below.
More Allies now advanced up the Cassatte Valley towards Abrantes - a brigade of German musketeers in three lines. On their left flank Stengel's brigade of Prussian heavy cavalry now arrived on the table. On the French right flank the Comte de la Morliere consolidated his line under the delaying attack by his Grenadiers but at the cost of them now having suffered 4 hits and were forced to retreat back to his lines.
|By the Farm it can be seen that one of Battenburg's regiments is in retreat. The Elite cavalry have all changed to two ranks lacking orders to advance at the moment and St Germain's French infantry begin to deploy out of Abrantes.|
|The German brigade advances up the Cassatte Valley and those Grenadiers de la Morliere have held back the tide for a while|
On the French left flank things looked a bit better as Fraser's Loyal Scots broke under concentrated volley fire leaving the Bellune Militia and Grenadiers free to begin reclaiming Bellune Hill. Campbell's Loyal Scots moved confidently forward to try to block the gate of the Jacobite camp having recognised their arch enemies, the MacDonalds, as the front defensive unit there. But the MacDonalds were keen to charge and opened the chevaux de frise gates in readiness........
|"Dillon, I'm really sorry that I'm rolling so many 5s this morning....."|
|Fraser's battalion has dispersed and Montgomery's Scots move forward to try to stem the flow of Grenadiers towards Bellune Hill|
|MacDonalds confront Campbells at the camp gateway|
Stocktaking - 3 great shots of the participants during Move Three as they all have dilemmas to solve:
At the Jacobite camp gateway the deadly clash between old enemies resulted in victory for Clan MacDonald, and the Campbells were repulsed back to the woods. Montgomery's fared even worse against the Grenadiers, losing 5 Hits which forced them right back up Bellune Hill, but they were not quite "done for" with our local amendments for large units.
|French Grenadiers and Militia follow the retreating Montgomery battalion while maintaining a good line|
|The Campbells retreat back to the woods though the MacDonalds have also had to retreat temporarily from the gateway|
|Above and below: Hanoverians block the road to a Jacobite resurgence and British Foot and Hanoverian Guards fall foul of the Lauzun Hussars and Grenadiers|
|St Germain's Brigade continues to come out of Abrantes one battalion at a time|
|At the moment it is looking like a neat standoff at the head of the valley but up on the near ridge fire fights are breaking out|