By smacdowall, Jan 29 2019 10:15AM
In 1777 General Johnny Burgoyne led the Royal army south from Canada to clear the American rebels from upper New York.
In present day Suffolk I am playing Burgoyne with a small but perfectly formed force of British, Brunswickers and Mohawks that is encamped on the Hudson River together with guns, baggage and camp followers. I am told by our kindly umpire that I need to break through the rebel lines to find a way through to Albany. Intelligence from loyalists tell me that the rebels are strongly emplaced, especially along the one road. I therefore need to find a way around the American flank.
Our plan is to probe forward on our right to find a weak spot where we might break through. To this end Simon Fraser with Mohawks and light infantry, backed up by the 24th Foot, push out on the right, The Brunswickers, their advance led by Jaegers, will do the same in the centre while I hold back the grenadiers, most of our guns and a brigade of foot to protect our camp and be ready to intervene if necessary.
It is not long before Fraser’s men are ambushed by Daniel Morgan’s riflemen and light infantry. A fierce fire-fights ensues but eventually our gallant British light infantry drive them off, our Mohawks not doing very much to help.
Encountering an open field the 24th Foot find it lined with rebel foot supported by a battery of guns. Taking casualties from the rebel artillery they decide to charge across the field with disastrous results.
To Simon Fraser’s left the Brunswick Jaegers encountered a similar open field and are able to engage the rebels on the other side with their long range rifles while the American muskets cannot reach them. A supporting battery of American guns is largely ineffective thanks to counter-battery fire from a well-sighted Hessian battery.
At this point if becomes clear that there are far more rebel troops than we had anticipated. Our only hope of a breakthrough is to concentrate our force on a single point while holding elsewhere. As the Brunswick Jaegers are doing such an excellent job holding the American right, Burgoyne decides to push through on the far right. He sends the British Grenadiers up to replace the decimated 24th foot and shifts the Brunswick foot to reinforce them while the Jaegers hold up the other American Wing.
What we do not know is that there is yet another wing of Americans advancing through the woods on their right towards our camp. As our Brusnwickers shift to their right, these previously unseen Americans shift to their left to follow them, pushing our Jaegers back as they advance.
Our grenadiers fare far better than the 24th Foot, succeeding in clearing the Americans firm the edge of the open field. The Brunswickers do even better, sweeping battalion after battalion of rebels from the field. It is all going beautifully well until the Brunswickers decide to pursue their fleeing opponents and are shot to pieces as the right wing Americans come up behind them.
The troops from the American right flank manage to halt our potential breakthrough but the result of this is that they do not have sufficient force to take our camp which, as we discover later, had been their objective.
Although we players did not know it at the time, we were re-playing the Battle of Bemis Heights (or second Saratoga). The historical battle resulted in Burgoyne’s surrender after the Americans had captured the redoubts defending the British camp. It was the turning point of the American War of Independence.
Our game was a draw. We had failed to break through but we had inflicted heavy losses on the rebels while they had failed to capture the redoubts defending our camp. Who know what would have happened had this been the result in September 1777.
The game was played with Gary Kitching's beautiful 28mm troops using a varient of Andy Callan's Loose Files and American Scramble rules.