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The Battle of Trenton, 1776


The American War of Independence, Black Powder, 28mm

This was a very seasonal battle. The real battle was fought on Boxing Day (26 January), and so it seemed appropriate to refight it between Christmas and New Year. So, it was the nightafter Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Outside the house though, General Washington and 2,400 rebels were on the march through the snow, and heading for Trenton. What followed was less of a battle and more of a large skirmish. In the real attack the 1,500 strong Hessian garrison in Trenton was largely caught by surprise, having celebrated heavily on Christmas Day. In our game we presumed the same thing happened, but the response time of the garrison was variable, based on the luck of the dice. Their objective was to get off the table. Ours – as the American rebels – was to capture Trenton, and kill or capture as many Hessians as we could before the game ended. The end time was also variable, based on a die roll known only to the Hessian commander Col. Rall, played by Dougie Trail. The Americans were divided into two divisions under Generals Greene and Sullivan. In Greene’s force, Stephen and Sullivan’s brigades (under Bart Zynda) were sent off on a flank march around the town, to cut the Hessian line of retreat. As Greene I commanded Mercer and Fermor’s brigades, who spearheaded the assault. Following up behind me, and on my right were the three brigades of Sullivan’s division, commanded by Michael Schnieder. My assault was held up by a Hessian gun, but while one regiment faced it, the rest of Greene’s troops bypassed it and marched into the town.They could do this because the Hessians reacted incredibly quickly to the alarm being raised. Rather than fight through the streets of Trenton they decided to pull back as fast as they could, leaving two sacrificial light gun batteries and some skirmish troops to delay our advance. This tactic worked pretty well. we had to cross a creek, and then deploy into skirmish order or march column to work our way through the town. All this took time. The gun deployed to halt Greene’s Division caused two hits before it was charged and overrun. By then the leading American troops had reached the eastern edge of the town, where they say the Hessian infantry withdrawing as fast as they could. The Americans gave chase, and the game developed into a pursuit, rather than a town fight.Meanwhile Bart’s two brigades had successfully completed their flank march, and crossed the creek just east of the walled orchard in the centre of the table. His job was to prevent the Hessians from reaching their friendly eastern table edge. Unfortunately for us rebels the Hessian commander rolled good movement dice, and swung troops into place to face the threat to his flank. By then the rest of the Americans were coming up, forcing the Hessians to stand and fight, in what was now a right-angled front line, facing Bart’s men, and the troops commanded by Michael and I.The firefight that followed achieved little. Both sides blazed away, but scored no telling hits. The Americans had a distinct superiority in numbers, or rather they would have, but two of Sullivan’s brigades were late nto the table, and were still to the west of the town,. Even though Michael ordered them to follow the flanking route forged by Bart, we doubted they would reach the fight before the end of the game. Sure enough they had barely started moving when Dougie announced the time was up. The game was supposed to last ten turns plus the roll of a D6. He rolled a “2”, so at the end of the eighth turn the game came to an end.We – the rebels – had captured Trenton, but Rall’s Hessian command was still in the field, and hadn’t suffered any serious casualties, apart from his light guns and skirmishers, who were overrun. However, he couldn’t withdraw from the table, as American troops were pressing him on two sides. So, the game was declared a draw. The Americans won a moral victory, for capturing Trenton and forcing the Hessians to retire, all at the cost of minimal losses. The ‘key difference between this and the real battle was that the Hessians survived – 900 of them weren’t forced to surrender, so were free too fight another day. Michael’s scenario is a “work in progress”, and we played it knowing he wanted to teak the timings and the victory conditions. That said, it worked pretty well. If the Hessian players hadn’t rolled so well for the alarm and for the game length, then history would probably have repeated itself. It was a fun game, and a nice way to end the gaming year – the 47th and last game of 2014. I hope we get the chance to refight this next Christmas, and this time we’ll snare those German foxes!

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