Sunday, 21 October 2012

Black Rock 1813 or 2012

This Saturday, I planned an 1812 raid scenario for the Hamilton Road Games Club. Andy pointed out that he had an old wargaming magazine with such a raid in it, a copy of Practical Wargamer from about 15-20 years ago. I had originally intended to do an Atlantic coast one, a raid on a coastal town in Maryland or Virginia, but here was all the information I'd need for the raid on Black Rock, NY in 1813. Not being one who enjoys re-inventing the wheel, I took it. And it was fun. This scenario was based on an actual raid in 1813.

Black Rock, NY, across the Niagara River from Fort Erie, ON, was a major supply/staging base for raids and advances of American troops on the Niagara frontier. Just north of the town was a Navy yard, barracks, and blockhouse. In the summer of 1813, Crown forces - men of the 41st and  49th regiment of foot and of the Lincoln Militia, raided the Navy yard and Black Rock. The commander was on Lt. Col. Bisshopp of the 41st, but one Lt. James Fitzgibbon of the 49th bluffed the American militia out of their position in the town and "permitted" them to run off, along with Major Adams of the New York Militia. The raiders began loading provisions onto their boats, but Lt. Col. Bisshopp decided to add numerous barrels of salt to the shopping list. He promptly left to watch for the expected counter attack from Buffalo and was shot in the leg and is unable to move on his own. Fitzgibbon commands about 15 regulars. Other important characters include:
  • Ensign Winder, 49th Foot, who is beginning to take a boat full of provisions and troops back to Canada.(15 regulars)
  • Captain Saunders, 41st Foot, who is accompanying Lt. Col, Bisshopp with a handful of troops, when the Colonel is shot. (6-8 regulars)
  • Sergeant Kelly, 49th Foot, who with his 5-6 men, is drunk, and is watching the events from the tavern when he hears gunfire and hears that Bisshopp is shot.
  • General Porter, NY Militia, was awakened by the raid and escaped in his night clothes. He attempts to rally the scattered militia (in his dressing gown) and meets up with a relief column from Buffalo, commanded by:
  • Captain Cummings, NY Militia, leading a large column of half-trained recruits to recapture Black Rock. (70 militia)
  • Major Adams, NY Militia, who has been gathering the scattered miitia garrison of Black Rock and meets up with General Porter... on a horse... in his night gown. (35-40 militia, 7 militia gunners)
  • Young King and Farmer's Brother, Seneca tribal chiefs, who join the counter-attack in order to make a name for themselves, win the approval of the Americans... and pick up stores, supplies, and whatever in the confusion. (20 braves each.)
  • In addition there were two sections of the Lincoln Militia, about 12 men each, who were in complete, paniced rout.(three red chips) One was on the dock and would grab one or both boats if they did not rally. The second was coming back to the town on Buffalo Pike in rout and would take boats if not rallied.
  • Lastly 6-8 troops of the 41st were withdrawing (two red chips) down the Buffalo Pike just behind the second section of militia.
Robby took command of the Senecas, I had the NY Militia. Martin had Lt. Col. Bisshopp and Captain Saunders. Andy took Fitzgibbon, Winder, and Kelly. I think their command structure was more flexible than the Americans. I almost forgot: any communication between the militia and the Indians had to be in writing, because of the language problems.

Here's a view of the set-up. (Andy, Martin, and I all took photos.)

Looking at the table from the table's "north east" Young King and his warriors entered through the forest in the foreground. General Porter and Major Adams entered on the road beyond the yellow house on the left. Captain Cummings and Farmer's Brother entered on the far side of the board and took the road from Buffalo through the woods.
The British and Canadians were in the town and up the road to Buffalo at the far end. The redoubt was abandoned.
You can see two boats on the wharf and Ensign Winder's boat out on the river.
Ensign Winder's boat makes for the Canadian side. This was his starting position. The Ensign himself in at the tiller.

Lt. Col. Bisshopp and Captain Saunders, and their patrol are at the edge of the woodline. The Colonel is wounded here.
Sargent Kelly and the Soused Patrol are at the bottom right of the photo, confused by brandy and the time-stamp.
Lt. Fitzgibbon, his men, and some of the routed Lincoln Militia are on the wharf. The other Lincolns can be seen near the Tudor-style building. The retreating regulars are on the rubber road in the foreground. The houses on the wharf are considered to be warehouses.

Colonel Bisshopp writhes in agony further up the road in this photo,
while other members of the 41st beat feet for the boats.
Despite being drunk as a lord/skunk (you choose), Sgt. Kelly and the boyos grab a hand cart they found outside the tavern to transport the Colonel to safety.

Captain Cummings leads the relief force from Buffalo. Most of the troops were untrained militia. When they were fired upon they hid in the woods FOR FOUR TURNS!!!! Martin insisted on calling this unit "the Buffalo Mob" so I knee-capped him, threw him in the trunk of my car, and dumped him in a ditch outside of Tonawanda, NY. Serves him right.

Young King, in the blue cape, leads his Senecas to assist the Americans... maybe. The real twist in this scenario was the the Native warriors were on the AMERICAN side.
Kelly and the boys are far up the street. The routing Lincolns are in the middle.
Fitzgibbon's men of the 49th prepare to stem the tide.

 With my relief force from Buffalo stalled, cowering in the forest FOR FOUR TURNS because someone fired on them and missed and Adams' militia slowly reentering the village, Kelly detached two men to see the Colonel to the boats while he and the rest took up a place behind the rail fence outside the tavern. They fired on Major Adams' unit but were soon charged by Farmer's Brother and the second group of Senecas. Two rounds of bayonet vs. hatchet and knife saw all the British laid out and scalped. Then the other regulars at the edge of the wharf fired on the Senecas, who's courage broke and they took cover in the tavern. Robby rolled for their discipline and they stayed firm, out of the alcohol. Meanwhile, Fitzgibbons used the recovered Lincolns to load the boats, bucket-brigade style. Young King's Senecas entered a warehouse and took a number of useful items, 8 braves filtering away with goodies. (The Senecas proved to be the most effective troops on the US side.) Ensign Winder was busily rowing his boat back to shore to pick up troops and to provide a floating fire support.

Young King's warband enters a warehouse and begin to shop. The small playing cards were used to randomize order of movement. Each unit had a card and when the corresponding card was turned over, it was their turn.

The battle outside the tavern - Kelly and his few vs. lot of Senecas with tomahawks and knives.
The white rings mean that the men were drunk. The rule set has a "Liquid Courage" rule which lowers marksmanship, raises courage and makes movement speed random.

The end of the skirmish - a foregone conclusion

Colonel Bisshopp being carted off -- literally. I think Sgt. Kelly took the photo; hence, the blurred image.
Major Adams' milita force returns to the town, but not effectively. They formed in double line, advanced down the street, and finally failed morale and fell back in rout.

To add to the merriment, Andy set a warehouse on fire. I asked "Do you have flame available?" Andy answered "Well, flintlock muskets?" (the " dunce" was unspoken but understood.)

In the end, the reinforcements from Buffalo were advancing very cautiously. General Porter and Major Adams' forces were falling back, although the gunners continued to head toward their cannon. Young King's warband hovered around the warehouse and Farmer's Brother's braves made threatening gestures toward the departing British. Colonel Bisshopp was taken off in a boat. Lt. Fitzgibbon got away with most of the salt barrels. Ensign Winder provided fire support and held off some of the advancing US  troops then turned for home. Sgt. Kelly died and is mentioned here. {Moment of silence... ... that's enough for a drunk toy soldier.} Martin cast off all his boats and then found one redcoat skulking in house. He waded out into the river... and was never heard from again.

The game held some surprises. If the force from Buffalo hadn't been terrified of one musket shot, it would have been a different game. If Young King's braves hadn't made off with "gifts" from the warehouse... If the Lincoln Militia hadn't rallied on the wharf... There was a lot more tension in the game than I expected, more twists and turns than I supposed there would be. Since Andy owned the magazine, he knew the scenario, but even he said he couldn't be sure how it would go. It was a fun time and we could play it again. I hope to do a similar thing for an Atlantic coast raid, as I said above.

A few more photos:

The "bucket brigade" system of loading supplies in action. Andy is a veteran of the Canadian Air Force and worked in supply. Is there any wonder this worked so well?

"Last Rites" for a fallen militiaman. Martin ran the Parson over from the church to do what he could.

The fire spreads and there are still plenty of barrels to be loaded.
"Citizens of Black Rock; Return to your homes... while they're still there!"
Major Adams and General Porter (mounted) lead the advance to the rear while Farmer's Brother's warband heads for the wharf.
"Are we forgeting something, Mr. Winder?" "Not bloody likely!"
... and he was never seen again.

This never happened in the game, but it made such a cool picture, I had to take it!


  1. What a great batrep!!! A very enjoyable read. I've just posted a Raid on Blackrock batrep too! But mines a FIW hypothetical game.

    1. Thanks, Ray. I saw and enjoyed your blog entry as well. I even said to myself "Wow! Did Ray steal a march on me?" I think Black Rock has been absorbed into modern Buffalo, at least from what I can see from Fort Erie when I'm there.