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By smacdowall, Feb 11 2017 04:07PM

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.

By smacdowall, Dec 15 2016 04:59PM

Last weekend saw a return to what we are beginning to call The Wars of James II. Between several of us we now have a good collection of 28mm miniatures spanning 1657-8 campaign in Flanders, when James commanded as the Duke of York, through to the fighting in Ireland when he attempted to regain his throne in the 1690s.

Smaller scale miniatures allow for the spectacle of a big battle with the plenty of room for manoeuvre on a normal sized table. You can do the same in 28mm if you have space for a huge table. Fortunately, thanks to Gary Kitching, we had the space, the miniatures and the enthusiastic players to do this.

Following the True King’s spectacular victory over the Williamites at the Boyne earlier this year, he had to once again defend his divine right of rule at Aughrim. His position was strong with foot formed up in the centre on high ground protected by a boggy stream lined with hedges.

The Williamites massed their horse and best foot on their right flank hoping to force a crossing over a causeway towards a ruined castle and the village of Aughrim. The Jacobites had been expecting the main attack to come on the other flank where the ground was more open. Consequently most of the Jacobite horse were on that flank while the causeway was relatively lightly defended by detachments of commanded musketeers supported by a few squadrons of horse. King James immediately gave orders to transfer several squadrons of his best horse from the right flank to reinforce the left.

The Danish contingent advanced on the Williamite left, forcing back the Irish dragoons who had been sent forward of the boggy stream to delay their advance. The Danes had only intended to feint on that flank but as the Jacobites pulled back they concentrated their forces to push across the boggy ground and close in.

Expected the decisive fighting to take part on the two flanks, the Jacobites thinned out their centre, holding the hedges with relatively inexperienced Irish levies. The better battalions were placed on the ends of the line to support the flanks

Taking advantage of this the English foot surged forward, forced a way across the bog and over the hedges to drive off the Irish defenders. It looked as if they would break through the centre and split the Jacobite army in two. Fortunately King James (who was present on the field after his victory on the Boyne, which was not the case in the historical battle) had drawn off several battalions from his right flank to reinforce the centre.

One of these Jacobite battalions was able to size the opportunity presented by a gap in the enemy line presented when the Danes drew off to the far left wing of the Williamite line. They surged forward to lap the flank of the English and pour a devastating fire into their flank. This, combined with a timely charge by the King’s Lifeguards, not only restored the centre but drove the enemy back over the bog. Now it was the Williamites who had a hole in their centre. The victorious Jacobite battalions could then either swing around to engage the Dutch to their left or march straight through the gap to loot the enemy camp. Naturally they chose the latter option.

The action on the Jacobite left flank was hard fought and confused. The lines broke up with individual units engaging in melees which flowed back and forth with advantage going to the Williamites. For a moment it looked as if the Jacobite left would collapse as the enemy Horse managed to force their way across the causeway. In the nick of time reinforcements arrived which King James had switched from his right flank. These were just enough to stabilise the situation on the left.

The Dutch Guards achieved initial success against the left side of the Jacobite centre, despite the fact that they were held off for several turns by the Irish levies opposing them.

By the time the Dutch broke through King James had been able to re-position his foot guards to intervene. They charged forward full of élan. The Dutch held them for a turn but when Sarsfield’s Horse joined the fray they were thrown back.

The battle was over. There was now no chance for the Williamites to take the position. It had been a very hard fought affair and on several occasions it looked as if William of Orange’s men would break through.

The Jacobite casualties
The Jacobite casualties

The Jacobites suffered very heavy casualties, most of them Irish. All of the Irish battalions had been driven from the field as had half of the dragoons and several squadrons of horse. The Williamite casualties were comparatively light but despite their initial successes, the intervention of King James’ reserves had restored the situation in all sectors and made it impossible for William to dislodge the valiant defenders of the true King and true Religion.

Time to take ship for England!

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