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The Battle of Guilford Courthouse, 1781


The American War of Independence, Black Powder, 28mm

The only way to entice Bill Gilchrist in these days is to ask him to run a Black Powder game. So, that’s exactly what we did. Also, as we hadn’t played an American War of Independence game for a while, we opted for that. I left it to Bill to choose the battle – he likes refights – and he chose Guilford Courthouse. this is a favourite of mine, partly ’cause I wrote the Osprey Campaign book on it, and also ’cause I’ll be revisiting the battlefield at the end of the month. I thought it was a bit ambitious, with its multi-layered lines of defence, but we decided to give it a go. The battle of course, was fought near Greensboro, North Carolina, with the British attacking an American army that was arrayed in three lines. The first two consisted of militiamen from North Carolina and Virginia, supported by riflemen, guns and cavalry. In reserve were two brigades of Continental regulars and more guns. In any refight this is a tough nut to crack for the small but professional British force. Anyway, we played the game using a fairly historical order of battle, on an 8×6 foot table, with the British deployed along one of the two shorter sides. Mark, Peter and I played the British, Bart, Campbell, Donald and “New” Michael commanded the Americans, and Bill umpired. We British players began with an “O Group”, when we decided to try something radical. Instead of the usual frontal attack we opted to mass everyone on our right flank, and try to “blitzkrieg” our way through the rebel lines. The idea behind this was that we got no kudos for killing off militiamen – only the enemy regulars. We counted on the poor command levels of the American militia to pin them in place while we waltzed around them. That at any rate was the novel plan. Actually, it all started to go wrong from Turn 1. We failed two of our three brigade command rolls, and the army stayed put. Pretty much the same thing happened on Turn 2, but we eventually got rolling, and started piling the pressure on the rebel left flank.Then, Bart rolled some pretty amazing command rolls, allowing him to move the bulk of his North Carolina militiamen to the threatened sector. So, rather than bypassing the rebel line as we’d planned, we landed up getting drawn into a fight in the woods. Well, that was OK. Man for man we could make mincemeat of these militiamen, and so we weren’t too worried.Peter’s Hessians drove the supporting riflemen and Lee’s Legion troopers back, and we gained control the high ground on our right flank. We seemed to take turns in failing our command rolls, but eventually my brigade – Websters – swung onto our left flank beyond the first rail fence.
My firepower had already seen off two rebel militia units. the rest decided to charge me. this was typical Bart, but he bit off a little more than he could chew. He charged home, but I beat him in hand-to-hand combat and routed his unit. That’s them in the centre above, with the white regimental colour. Then the next one tried the same, and this time it was beaten by British firepower. the plucky 33rd stood fast throughout all this, while the 23rd and the attached lights cleaned up the remaining pockets of riflemen and enemy cavalry. So, that only left a gun, which was seen off by the British Legion cavalry, after a less than successful first charge attempt. Up ahead though, things were getting hairy. Peter’s Hessian von Bose regiment emerged from the woods by a rail fence, to find it lined with American regulars. What followed was really a final reel of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid moment, with everyone blazing at the Germans. they survived one turn, but finally succumbed to a failed morale test. That showed us that the way forward was blocked. If we wanted to make headway, we needed a Plan B. The thing was, Peter’s 71st Highlanders were just about to get in the same mess, or rather they would have if they werren’t charged by Virginia militia. These were duly routed by the Highlanders, and bought us time to redeploy, to march diagonally through the woods to come round the right flank of the waiting American line. Meanwhile the Guards Brigade were pretty much doing nothing apart from being held in reserve for the grand attack. Back in the centre, I’d cleared the last of the militia from the woods, and was moving up in support of Peter. That though, is where we ran out of time. the umpire declared that dusk was coming, and this was the last turn. So, the game fizzled out with the rebel regulars still wholly intact. Out only loss was the Hessian unit, and we’d seen off three of the four American militia brigades, while the fourth was in pretty bad shape.That though, wasn’t enough for a win, and although Bill declared the game a draw, we’d preserved our army – a result – but so had the Americans. So, a wasted opportunity, thanks to being too fancy in our footwork! It was a great game though – and we’ll revisit it again some time – any try something completely different! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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