Saturday, March 31, 2012

American revolution: battle of Guilford

The american revolution is not my pet period, but I find coming back because of the excellent Battles of the American Revolution series of games written by Mark Miklos and published by GMT. The rules are light, smooth and fast, and manage to be so without sacrificing much realism. Gameplay rarely bogs down and the system scales well to different engagements.

Last time I got thoroughly beaten at Brandywine so I was hungry to even out the score. Simo picked the battle of Guilford court house from his collection, which we haven't played yet. To be honest, between us we have so many unplayed hex & counter battles that there rarely comes a need to revisit an already played battle! We randomised sides, and I ended up with the continentals. Again. Trying to fend off elite english troops with poorly armed and motivated militia was something I was painfully familiar with from Brandywine, and this, as I've understood it, is THE militia centric battle of the American Revolutionary War. (Disclaimer: I know this period rather poorly so please excuse me for any mistakes and misconceptions. You can correct me in the comments section.)

Opening setup from Vassal.
 I forgot my camera home, so I had only my phone to take pictures. That's why they're even more crappy than your average handheld snapshots of plexiglass covered hexmaps in poor lighting. That's why I loaded up the Vassal setup for the scenario so that you could make out at least something. Comments are also embedded into the pictures. All photos are taken from my perspective, and I was sitting at the top of the map, so imagine the Vassal map upside down to orient to the photos.

In the scenario, about 2000 English troops march onto the area, where the 4000+ Continental troops have already taken position in three defensive lines. There are three victory locations but the main objective is to break the opposing army. The Continentals cannot start moving with their main forces before word of the English attack has reached them and are even then geographically restricted in their movements.

The English column was headed by none other than Banastre Tarleton, whose infamous acts had already earned him the nickname "the bloody". Continental cavalry was posted on both main roads leading towards Guilford court house and Tarleton picked the long route to see if he could lead some troops to threathen the Continental flank. He encountered Marquis De Bretigney, a hapless French nobleman and his dragoons, with expected results. The Marquis soon found himself captive to the English, and Tarleton lead his dragoons as well as some Hessians to the Continental left flank.

On the other road, Henry "light horse Harry" Lee was expecting trouble with some dragoons and riflemen. They got more than they bargained for as the main English column lead by Charles Cornwallis, the english commander! The man who would be the father of Robert E. Lee sent a courier to Nathaniel Greene at the court house, and prepared to stall the English column.

Robert E Lee's father leads a stalling action against he English column.

The English proved too powerful to stall much, and Lee's cavalry and the riflemen were scattered in disarray to the surrounding woods. However, when out of harms way, they regrouped and prepared to put pressure to the column's rear and eliminate any stragglers.

Greene got word of the attack and as his brain had been invaded by a Finnish wargamer from the 21st century, decided to order his well placed troops to assume a new defensive position to the front. I didn't want to just sit there and wait for my opponent to come, so I advanced to a stream ahead where I could at least get one terrain modifier point for defense (you don't get any for woods and fences).

The Continentals advance to meet the English column.

 Greene also heard of Tarleton's little flanking maneuver and decided to go and meet him with a couple of regiments of Continental regulars. He sent the best of the regulars to bolster the militia line against the English column. As Tarleton saw he would be facing more than just milita, his brave advance was halted. He took a defensive position at a stream and waited.

Tarleton hesitates.
The English arrive to the militia line in column.
 The English kept a quick pace and marched in road column almost to the Continental line. Their formation was vulnerable there for a moment but with a magnificent display of drill and discipline, the English deployed into a line before the Continentals could capitalize on the situation (the English got to move twice in a row because of an initiative shift). The English struck in two powerful groups across the stream to weak points in the Continental line. The defenders were no match 1:1 against the better quality English and retreated back.

The English did make a slight blunder. They brought their guns into their right flank without infantry support, and the Continental rifles were quick to exploit the situation. They flanked the battery in the cover of the woods and overran it.

The Continentals concentrate their attack.
 The Continental line was not going to survive against the two strong English concentrations so they converged on the weaker of them in an attempt to rout them piecemeal. The colonists halfway surrounded their enemy, attacked with twice as many men and spearheaded the attack with the best troops the Continental army fielded, but it was no use. The English held, recombined their forces and forced the Continental forces back. The defenders retreated across the clearing to form a second defensive line, this time bolstered with guns.

Meanwhile, Greene had been pressing Tarleton with everything he had. The redcoats were beaten back time and again, but time and again they regrouped without appreciable effect. They did lose ground and were in no position to threathen the lone victory location they were trying to get to.

Greene presses Tarleton.

Lee's dragoons and the accompanying riflemen had been fighting hard against a rearguard left by the English but the redcoats were just superior in a one-on-one fight and Lee's forces were eventually scattered.

The beginning of he last turn.
 Even though the English had only lost one battery and one small regiment during the battle, and the Continental militia was more or less shattered, the Continentals had the upper hand in army morale. The English had been moving up and down from high morale to fatigued for a while due to some small defeats which had disordered some of the redcoats. The Continentals had managed to retreat in good order into a new position with artillery support, and so Cornwallis decided not to push on. Instead he heard the noise of battle from his rear where sporadic fighting was going on between Lee's dragoons and English rearguard and disordered main line troops. Cornwallis ordered his troops to go and assist, scattering what was left of the Continentals in the rear.

As a last action, seeing the English retreat, the Continentals advanced to retake the victory location across the clearing. The battle ended as a draw with the English having a two point lead due to all the Continental casualties.


  1. Hi, nice post, and nice battle...we have played it in our club with figrines), result was similar!
    I'll come back...

  2. Glad you liked it. AWI must be a nice period to game with figures as there are lots of smaller engagements to fight.