Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Bunker Hill, 17 June 1775

Mark Spackman was visiting from Australia and that gave me an excuse to actually put on a game (a rare event these days). Mark is part of the Melbourne wargaming community and helps out at Eureka Miniatures; as the Eureka site shows, Mark is also a pretty mean painter. The choice was Bunker Hill or White Plains, and I chose the former simply because it was a less complex game and lended itself more readily to a relaxed (and rather boozy) Sunday afternoon. It was Mark's first game of "British Grenadier" so he took the British side. Bunker Hill is an excellent game for learning the rules - it shows how well the movement and command systems work. I like playing the Americans in this battle because the tactical decision-making, which I'm never any good at, is minimal. The only terrain I have consists of TSS tiles which I specifically bought to make up the Freeman's Farm battlefield, so here they are completely functional and you have to forget about the stream on the right hand side. The marsh is from Realistic Modelling, fortifications from Snapdragon Studios and Hovels. The fencing is by Last Valley. The scenario is contained in the "British Grenadier" rulebook itself, rather than the first scenario book. All the American forces begin on the table, whilst the British acquire a couple of 6-pounders in the 8th turn and Clinton's brigade (comprising the 63rd Foot and 1st Marines) shortly thereafter.

Mark put his two brigades on "assault" orders and just went for it. The British battalions quickly accrued disruption points ("DPs") by passing through the marsh and rolling some "ones" on the movement dice (I mark DPs through the use of stone cairns - bits of bark painted grey and mounted on pennies). As soon as the Brits came in range the American fire took its toll. By the time the lead units reached the redoubt they were all on 3 DPs and so had to stop and redress the ranks before attempting any charges. In the photos above you see the British first wave advancing, with Pigot's brigade of the 38thFoot and 43rd Foot on the left and Howe's brigade of the 52nd Foot, Grenadiers and light infantry on the right, and the Rebels awaiting their fate.

The first British regiment to try a charge into the redoubt was the 38th. Unfortunately on the initial movement roll the regiment failed to reach the redoubt - the Brits had lost their nerve at the final moment. That gave the Americans the opportunity to respond immediately, and a blast of grape from the American 3-pounder caused heavy casualties; the British failed their morale test and retreated. Perhaps the Americans were inspired by the exhortations of Reverend Ebeneezer Mudde.....

The light infantry found themselves exposed at the fleches to the east of the main redoubt. Taking fire from three American units, both to the front and in enfilade, they took severe casualties, failed the subsequent morale test and also retreated (exactly what happened to them in "real life"). The Brits were having the worst of it, but at that point Mark rolled a double six for the 12-pounders on Moulton's Hill and I threw a very bad "risk to general" throw, which resulted in Colonel Prescott being carried from the field mortally wounded. The tide then turned. Continued well-aimed fire from the 12-pounder battery quickly had the American regiments in the redoubt taking casualties and some high rolling from Mark enabled the 52nd Foot to break into the redoubt, quickly followed by the 38th (in the interests of keeping the game moving, retreating units were allowed to recover quickly). With the Grenadiers moving up in support it became clear that the British were going to carry the day without even needing Clinton's brigade, now landed on the beach and moving up to the battle. The 43rd were moving round the flank of the redoubt and would eventually have cut off the American retreat.

Mark had two regiments in the redoubt but having suffered almost 50% casualties they were in no position to do anything other than trade volleys with the American units I had kept in reserve and which now replaced the men who had run from the British assault. Given the low strength of the Brits, causing casualties even against militia was difficult. The 38th managed another lucky charge, but the melee was unresolved - even in the jaws of defeat the Yanks were putting up a splendid fight. The pics below show the final positions, the field bathed in the glow of the setting sun.

Mark had achieved a better than historical result for the Brits, but at horrendous cost. The 38th, 52nd and light infantry had lost over half their strength, although the Grenadiers and 43rd were relatively unscathed and Clinton's brigade was not even engaged; so casualties were significantly lower than they were in "real life". The Americans suffered far fewer casualties and were legging it from the field to hide and fight another day. We went easy on regimental and brigade morale throws, which may have had an impact on how the British reacted after the 38th and light infantry had broken. But the way the battle developed was relatively true to life - in "British Grenadier" the British are not invincible, and pushing them on in a disrupted state will lead to serious problems. Charging into the redoubt needs a lot of luck and careful coordination. Units can only charge if the brigade commander is in base-to-base contact, which created difficulties for the light infantry as they found themselves unable to charge and simply trading volleys, much to their cost. Many thanks to Mark for such an entertaining day!


Greg Sapara said...

Wonderful battle report Giles! You've inspired me once again!


Steve said...

Good to see the little guys being used... far too lovely not to be marching across the table top on a regular basis!

Allan (AJ) Wright said...

Too much fun. It's always good to get the boys out in the field.


AWI War Gaming said...

Thanks for the battle report, you have an awesome blog for a rookie like me, and it was fun to see bunker hill played out.

Currently I am working on figs for Freeman's Farm (I'm the British) and should have them on the table this spring finally.

thanks for the inspiration