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Skirmish at St Jean 1775

By smacdowall, Mar 8 2019 05:00PM

In September 1775 a force of around 2000 rebel colonists (not yet the United States) invaded Canada, led by Brigadier Montgomery. Their objective was to take Montreal and then move on to Quebec. They were checked at Fort St. Jean on the Richelieu River which was garrisoned by 750 men of the 7th and 26th Foot as well as local militia and ta detachment of the Royal Highland Emigrants. Mohawk Indians led by Guillaume, Chevalier de Lorimier, also took an active part in the defence.


The death of Montgomery at Quebec
The death of Montgomery at Quebec

There were a number of small scale encounters during the three month siege which offer good wargaming potential. I devised a game based on the capture of a British re-supply convoy from Montreal by 80 Americans under John Brown. This resulted in a 200 man sortie from the fort, commanded by Major Charles Preston, which in turn was attacked by an American relief force of New Hampshire men led by Timothy Bedel.



Brown's men come under fire
Brown's men come under fire

The game started with Brown’s New Yorkers coming under fire from Lorimier’s Mohawks and local Habitants. Brown’s objective was to keep the captured supplies out of enemy hands. He sent out a skirmish line to hold off the Mohawks to give him time to destroy the supplies rather than attempting to take them with him to his boats on the banks of the Richelieu.


The British column advances
The British column advances

Major Preston advanced along the road, his column led by a company of the 7th Foot (Royal Fusiliers), his right flank protected by a light infantry company and the Royal Highland Emigrants, a company of the 26th Foot (Cameronians) following on behind.



The Americans attack the farm
The Americans attack the farm

Taking fire from the habitants occupying a farm house to the north, Brown detached a small number of men to clear the farm to give time for his other troops to destroy the supplies. This resulted in a desultory fire-fight with neither side inflicting any damage on the other.



The fusiliers deploy
The fusiliers deploy

Preston’s fusilier company deployed to engage the Americans from the south as they were fending off the Mohawks to the east and habitants to the north.



The British light infantry attempt to recapture the supplies
The British light infantry attempt to recapture the supplies

The British light infantry company rushed forward to re-capture the supply convoy but by the time they reached it there was not much of left. Anything of value ended up in the knapsacks of the light infantry who reported back that everything had been destroyed.



The Mohawks attack
The Mohawks attack

Then Lorimier’s Mohawks emerged from the forest...



The Americans head for their boats
The Americans head for their boats

... sending Brown's men off to the safety of their beached boats.



Timothy Bedel's relief force arrives
Timothy Bedel's relief force arrives

Meanwhile Bedel’s relief force had landed and the British had to turn to their flank to face them, giving Brown’s men time to escape.



Steady lines of British regulars
Steady lines of British regulars

Faced by the steady ranks of British regulars, Bedel did not fancy his chances in a close fire-fight. He used a skirmish line of the Green Mountain Boys to delay the enemy to buy more time for the rest of the American force to reach their boats and escape.



The Green Mountian Boys are surrounded
The Green Mountian Boys are surrounded

One company of the Green Mountain Boys ended up surrounded by British light infantry, Mohawks and Habitants. The British accepted their surrender but the dice decided that the Mohawks and Habitants were not so inclined. The resulting massacre ,no doubt, handed the Americans a useful propaganda victory.


We played the game using Andy Callan’s Loose Files and American Scramble rules with a few modifications, reducing the scale to one base of 3 miniatures representing 10 men and 1 inch representing 10 paces. On victory points the Americans won as they had successfully kept the supplies out of enemy hands despite fairly high casualties. Although the British had failed to re-capture the supplies before their destruction, they had reason to feel pleased with the result. They had managed to drive off the Americans and inflict serious casualties without loosing a single man.






2 comments
Mar 8 2019 11:42PM by Ross Macfarlane

The game looks good. Those old 1/72nd figures can still hold their own imo. Nice for once to know that the area of the battle really is as flat as a tabletop!

Given how desperate the Americans were for supplies themselves, I'm surprised you didn't give them some VP's for supplies sent off up river.

Mar 14 2019 06:28PM by smacdowall

Well I did give extra victory points if the Americans managed to save the supplies for themselves. As it turned out, the American player decided saving his skin was more important and so opted to destroy rather than save!

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