Moving on from James Stuart's early career at Mardyke (1657), yesterday the Royal Army encountered Monmouth's rebels in a re-creation of the Battle of Sedgemoor (1685).
Taking the role of Colonel John Churchill, I was officer of the watch as the Royal Army prepared for a restful night. After a quick look out over the drainage ditches towards the village of Chedzoy, I retired to my into my tent certain that we will catch and crush the rebels the following day.
At an ungodly hour of the morning I am awaked by a sentry reporting noises. As I go out to investigate, taking a troop of dragoons as escort, I hear shots and then see our piquets galloping out of the night gloom. The night gloom being admirably represented by a dark blue sheet which separated the playing table so that neither side could see what was going on more than a few feet away.
Narrowly avoiding capture by a troop of Lord Grey’s rebel horse, who suddenly emerge form the darkness, I have my trumpeter sound ‘stand-to’ and beat a hasty retreat over the drainage ditch known locally as the Bussex Rhine.
Our men stumble out of their tents trying to get their bearings in the early morning haze, mist and gloom
Unbeknownst to me, on the other side of the table hidden by the ‘sheet of night’ the full rebel force is advancing on us in two columns, the Duke of Monmouth on the left and Lord Grey on the right.
As our men rush to form hasty firing lines the enemy are only a few yards away!
On our far right a devastating volley in unleashed into Dumbarton’s regiment out of the dark. Many men are killed, others run and it takes the Earl of Feversham’s brave personal intervention to steady them.
Taking command of the Coldstream Guards, with the First Foot Guards to their right, I push across the ditch with as dawn breaks, intending to blast the rebels away from the centre of their line with our superior musketry.
Unfortunately the enemy give as good as they receive while the Duke of Monmouth joins their ranks to keep them steady.
Forgetting about the fearsome scythes carried by many rebels, I order the guards to fix bayonets and close in for the kill, supported by a troop of Horse Guards.
The rebel line holds steady while the Royal Horse Guards are driven back. It had been a mistake to move into close quarters as inevitable superior discipline would have won a prolonged fire-fight. Now committed I had no choice but to continue fighting at close quarters.
The enemy foot on our far left also hold firm in face of repeated attacks while my supporting battalions become bogged down as they stumble across the drainage ditch. While I am busy fighting in the centre, Kirk’s Lambs and Trelawney’s Regiment are unsure of my intent so they halt, awaiting further orders.
Despite the superior training and mounts of our Horse and Dragoons, they take a mauling from Lord Grey’s Horse supported by a small battery of light guns.
Eventually the superior discipline and training of our men in the centre overcomes the valour of the rebels. Worn down they break and flee. Monmouth goes with them doing his best to rally them but without success.
When the routing rebels reach Chedzoy, Monmouth is advised to flee the field and save himself. This he does. Although the rebel units on the flanks still hold firm, with their centre blown apart and Monmouth gone, the rebel force disintegrates.
It was a great scenario designed and umpired by Gary Kitching with his troops gracing the table. With a relatively small number of troops there was plenty of scope for two players on each side. Although a rebel defeat was probably inevitable there were enough unknowns to keep it gripping right to the end.
The rebels did much better in this game than they did historically. The breakthrough in the centre eventually won the day for us but as one more comfortable commanding cavalry I made a mistake in fixing bayonets to get stuck in so soon. A better tactic would have been to wear the enemy down in a protracted fire-fight and then clear them away with a timely charge. By getting stuck into the combat my reinforcements were unable to get into the battle. The rebel commanders, on the other hand , deployed well and made the most of their lesser quality troops.
The rules we used were my Close Fire and European Order (17th C version) which are available as a free download here.
I doubt that Judge Jeffreys will take the valour of the rebels into account at the Bloody Assizes. I only hope that the executioner’s axe will be a little sharper than it was when the historical Monmouth met his end.