Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Monmouth Courthouse, 18 June 1778

On the Sunday after Christmas I made a visit to Perry Miniatures HQ in Nottingham in the company of Eclaireur, author of the "British Grenadier!" rules, to refight the early stages of the Battle of Monmouth on the Perries' vast table. Here are some photos together with a short summary of what happened. Alan and Michael Perry played the Americans, whilst their mate Chris and I started off the Brits. EC joined in later as the Hessian commander, Von Kospoth, once the British reinforcements arrived. Most of the figures belong to the twins, with a few from Eclaireur's collection and a couple from mine (which I bought along just so I could say they'd fought on the Perries' table).

Monmouth was one of the largest battles of the AWI and falls into 2 BG scenarios - the early stages, which are essentially a surprise attack by the Americans under General Charles Lee on the British baggage train and rearguard, and the later stages in which the returning British main force attacks headlong into the Yanks after Lee has suffered a severe lack of nerve and Washington takes personal charge to restore the situation. So the immediate objective of this "early stages" scenario was for the British to hold off the Americans long enough to save the baggage train, but the Britis are also seeking to hammer the Yanks once their reinforcements arrive. It is an "encounter" scenario, with reinforcements arriving for both sides at various stages in the battle. The British are on the backfoot until the 5th/6th turns, by which stage their reinforcements begin to arrive and the tables can be turned if the British attack aggressively and manage to push the Americans back. The scenario was developed by Ronan the Librarian/Supercilius Maximus and appears in the second BG scenario book, which will shortly be published by Caliver in the UK. The scenario contains various optional special rules which are designed to replicate the conditions on the day, such as movement and casualty rules to simulate the effects of the extreme heat.

Here are the opening positions, with the baggage train screened by two battalions of light infantry, the loyalist Queen's Ranger and the British 16th light dragoons (both mounted and dismounted), but outnumbered by two American brigades which have suddenly appeared at the edge of the table.

The light infantry deployed to hold up the Yanks as the baggage train hurried as fast as it could towards the other side of the table. As it happened, the Perries managed to tie these two units up with various impressive looking threats which never materialised, so the two light infantry battalions were not as effective as they should have been. What I should have done was swung the light infantry up against the Americans who were advancing on Monmouth and thrown the cavalry out to deter any flanking movement by those American units that were seeking to outflank the position.

The Americans quickly charged the Queen's Rangers which were holding an orchard outside the town of Monmouth. The ensuing melee was lost by the Americans and the lead battalion's retreat precipitated a brigade morale test. That went very badly for the Yanks and the entire brigade fled back to where it had started from - this fight in the orchard was an early turning point in the battle, as the Brits were in severe danger of being overwhelmed.:

Eventually the British reinforcements arrived just as more American brigades were arriving on the table. Whilst the British left was still weak, with the Americans now reformed and coming back for another go at the orchard, I threw the grenadiers brigade straight into the attack, with EC doing the same with von Kospoth's Hessian grenadiers brigade.

Unfortunately, I failed to co-ordinate the grenadiers' attack properly (not helped by some poor dice rolling which quickly brought them up to 3 Disruption Points quite quickly). The lead unit found itself exposed and received murderous fire - it failed a morale check and retreated all the way back to the baggage, now safely within British lines. I can perhaps take some comfort in the fact that Clinton when ordering the grenadiers into the attack didn't seem to care much for co-ordination either: he is reported as having shouted "Charge, grenadiers; never heed forming!" (a remark which caused an incensed grenadier officer in the 45th Foot to describe Clinton as behaving "like a Newmarket jockey"). EC's Hessians fared better with their firing, and for a moment it looked like these German auxiliaries might carry the day. By this point the British had also finally brought up some much needed artillery (most of the game was fought with the Brits having only one 3-pounder, as opposed to several batteries of American guns).

The battle for Monmouth town had now resumed, with the Americans doing a bit better than the first time and slowly forcing the Loyalists back. I had suggested a tactical withdrawal to tighten up the British line, but Chris and EC (quite rightly) felt that as Clinton was now on the offensive the Brits should hold their ground; if grenadiers were routing on the right then honour demanded no thought of abandoning the left. Here a skirmish line of dismounted light dragoons attempt to hold back Durkee's brigade.

Initial rolls on the ensuing mellee suggested that the Americans might take the orchard, but at this point time was called (after about 5 hours' play). The Brits had saved the baggage train but failed to break through the American lines on the right. A couple of British regiments had taken heavy casualties, notably the grenadiers and light infantry, whilst the American losses seemed pretty light. So probably a "tactical scenario win" for the Brits but a "strategic battle win" for the Americans; or rather that's what the battle looked like at this point, but of course there was much more of it left to go.

"British Grenadier!" produces a very tightly contested game, in which luck plays an important part as well as generalship. As always, careful command and control was vital - the British reinforcements had no orders when they arrived and I realised that Clinton, the C-in-C was busy trying to assist rallying off DPs on the British left when he was more urgently needed to hand out orders on the extreme right. I then failed to keep the grenadier battalions in column whilst advancing towards the American lines,which would have reduced the number of DPs they accumulated. By adopting a funny echelon formation I also allowed the Americans to rout the lead battalion and the brigade was lucky to survive the ensuing morale test. But then on the day the grenadiers took a pasting, and the mechanics of "British Grenadier!" tend to reproduce historically accurate results unless you think long and hard about what you want to happen and plan carefully. That said, the Americans did much better under the command of the Perries than they did under Charles Lee.

Just so I can show that they were there, here are my British dragrope men taking a break from hauling a Perry gun:

It was a highly enjoyable day. Many thanks to Alan and Mike for their hospitality and to Chris for gamely putting up with my crappy dice throws (and for picking up the rules very quickly).


Dave said...

That's how I throw dice too.

Still fun though !!


Anonymous said...

what a wonderful day, jealous....of course.
two more american regiments on the painting table, 11th virginia and the 2nd new hampshire. any suggestions on there flags ?

Nigel B

Giles said...

Nigel - if you click on the "American infantry" label (the labels are right at the bottom of the front page) you will find posts on both those regiments. The flags are fairly well known and you can buy them from GMB (and probably others).

Steve said...

...jealous doesn't describe it - what a brilliant way to end the last year! Thanks for your kind words about Saintonge, but too be blunt they don't hold a candle to your painting! :o)

Anonymous said...


Happy New Year!


Allan (AJ) Wright said...

Wow - this makes my Monmouth game looks like child's play.

legatushedlius said...

Green with envy, but a great battle report!

Anonymous said...

Wow Giles - what a grand day out in Nottingham you had! Truly inspirational.