Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Queenston Heights --- Part II

With the gracious permission of Mr. Peter Mykusz, a videographer at the reenactment, I'm sharing his video with all my readers. Mr. Mykusz's website is  www.tributevideo.com. Whether that is his personal one or a business, I'm not sure, but I'm sure his video is well with seeing.

When you get to the speakers, which include the Lieutenant Governour of Ontario, various members of Parliament, a speaker on the history of Black Canadians, representatives of the Six Nations, and others, the gentleman in the full uniform (including a feathered bicorne) is a direct descendant of General Sir Isaac Brock, visiting from Australia.

For your enjoyment...


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 "...you 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!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Another shameless plug

It appears that the CBC was watching the Queenston Heights reenactment, but it was not the news. The comedy show, "This Hour Has 22 Minutes", covered the battle. In any event, it isn't a bad coverage, although it is comedy.

Look for me at about 0:45 standing off in the trees and taking a flash photo while the Six Nations warriors begin to "loot" the "dead." Then look for my son (in his lighter blue fatigue cap) at the point where the host of the segment, Shaun Majumder, takes a "fake hit" and "fake dies."


Monday, 15 October 2012

Queenston Heights... you shoulda been there!

1000 uniformed reenactors...
15,000 spectators...
Canadian Forces honour guard for the lieutenant governour, members of Parliament, representatives of the Six Nations peoples, and other dignitaries...
A free dinner...

This, along with other things, was the reenactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights. The special thing about this was the reenactment took place on the site of the battle 200 years to the day after the actual battle. Special honour was given to General Sir Isaac Brock, British military commander and governour of what was then Upper Canada and is now Ontario, more or less. General Brock died in the battle and is buried at the monument there. To be honest, the actual battle site is too crowded for a reenactment, but so was the soccer-esque field it took place on.
In the reenactment, there were SO many Crown troops that they had to take turns taking the field. The US troops were "recycled" at least once for each unit. It should be noted that a huge cheer went up when the reenactors of the Six Nations warriors took the field. The speakers at the ceremony at the monument said -rightly- that the small number of warriors saved the day for the Crown.
People came from far and wide. On the US side, I met reenactors from Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and South Carolina! the crowd was so huge that many people could not take photographs since people were lined up 5 and 6 deep and only the first two rows could see.
Me? I had a great seat. My left knee (recently and tentatively diagnosed with a torn meniscus) decided to not enjoy the event so I stood behind the lines and guarded some "Baggage." (A bag of cans of pop, snacks, and other sundries the officer didn't want to lose.) I took photos with my little camera, which was overwhelmed by the distance and smoke. I edited some of the photos and now I'll pass them on... as well as a few I  may have stolen from various sources... with the best of intentions, of course!

The reinforced 17th US Infantry awaits orders to enter the field. This is my outfit. Some other folks were folded into the unit, including some of the "Pittsburgh Blues."

The 22nd US waiting as well.

A mixed group of regulars from various units and some New York militia.
The gentleman in the white linen jacket came up from North Carolina!

One of the best known officers on the field. I don't have permission to use her name, but she knows who she is,
as do many of the reenactors. She's one of the most knowledgable people around on the subject of the US forces
in the conflict. She serves often as an officer of light infanty. I guarded her baggage.

The 17th on the firing line. The 17th US has two reenacting groups holding the name -
one from Erie, PA and the other from Ontario.
Lots and lots of British regulars and Canadian militia (white brassards on civilian clothes)
... and THIS is just the beginning! The vanguard, as it were.

Skirmishers exchange fire. My son is in this unit, but he's down the line somewhere.

Colonel MacDonnell is carried from the field. General Brock got the same treatment a short while before. MacDonnell took command of the Crown forces when Brock was killed and he died leading a charge in the same manner as Brock.
{Lousy picture quality, I know but you get the idea.}

Here are the US skirmisher that "shot" Brock! My son is kneeling just to the standing NCO's left. He's in a fatigue cap.
When "Brock" advanced leading the charge, this combined group was loaded and fired.
Rob wants a t-shirt - "I shot Brock."

The Six  Nations warriors take the field... to a mighty cheer from the crowd.
They literally had to break through the crowd to get into the field.

The skirmishers of the 16th, 17th, 19th, and 21st Infantry and Volunteers troop off the field to be "recycled."
My son -in his fatigue cap- is visable just to the left of the volunteer in the light brown shirt.

The US firing line

More (and blurred) Six Nations Warriors and troops from the British Indian Department

See all that white stuff on the ground? Spent cartridge papers! Lots of powder was used. Then the fireworks went off!
Sparks rained down on my son's unit and everybody scrambled to cover their musket muzzles. They were all loaded and one spark down a barrel would have been a nasty and dangerous surprise! The brown humps to the left of the photo are covering ground charges. Very atmospheric, they make noise and propel peat moss onto anyone around.

Asquith's Rifles, a Maryland Militia unit (actually up from Maryland) exchange fire with the Natives.
Plain shakos, green hunting shirts with red fringe make for a colourful outfit.

The Rifles close up, with another injured man using his camera to good advantage.

The First Nations' warriors - always a colourful and noisy bunch.
Our good friend, Many Strings, is to the right of the tree, loading.
The 17th countermarchs to the "recycling area." Andy, Nick, and Justin are in the back row - Justin has the corporal's epilettes.

More and more British. My son is "dead" out on the field somewhere. Thank God our casualties can get up.

... and the looting begins. The First Nations warriors often "loot" the fallen for the sake of "colour." One rifleman from Maryland said "A native woman came up and she took my shoes and my knife and my rifle!"
I always say "At least, buy me dinner first!" (By the way, the woman returned all those things.)

Didn't I tell you there were lots of British?

The light infantry covers the beginning of the US retreat. Mark (shako without plate) and Steven (green pants) are kneeling and hoping the ground charges don't go off!

The battle begins to wind down. A pyrotechnician - in 21st Century work clothes - watches.
There's still a few charges to go off.

This was an amazing and historic event. The politicians speeches at the monument ceremony may have gone too long... but they were politicians! The dinner was decent -chicken breast in a sweet sauce, boiled and buttered potatoes, corn, a roll, and a small apple pie - and the price was right! (FREE! Se gratis sit; ilud mihi est! "If it's free, it's for me!") As the Bicentennial goes on, I expect there will be more big events. Fort Erie should be massive this year and next. Then there's Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, the Battle of the Themes, Fort York... If you can, go to see one. Look around for me; I'm hoping my knee will be in better shape by then.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

My dice are evil; my dice hate me.

Having said that, I'll prove my point.
Last Saturday, five of us played a large unit War of 1812 game using the Age of Reason rules. For some unknown reason, I'm having trouble getting the hang of these rules. They appear to work well enough and are in use all around. Maybe I've just got a block for them. Ah, well!

Rob and I took the US side - 10 Regular infantry battalions, 1 Rifle battalion, 4 militia battalions, and 3 cannon. We faced Andy, Steven, and Cecil with 10 Regular British battalions, 2 Canadian Fencible/militia battalions, 2 large Native warbands, and 3 cannon. No Cavalry to be found - pretty much like the actual war.

Both sides advanced to a fence line and exchanged a lot of fire. I had the militia on the left flank facing the Natives and the Canadian Voltigeurs in a large forest. Rob had the rifles and some Regulars in the town on the right. The centre was open fields with light fences. Aaaaand that's where it got messy.

American Militia enter the woods with a field piece in support.

Lots of natives - His Majesty's Native Allies. The figures are "25mm" Old Glory.
I really don't know what "25mm" means any more.
The Centre of the table, although later in the game. The US battalions in the foreground have taken casualties.

The Crown forces at the beginning of the game. The 10th Royal Veterans lead the way on the left and the Royal Scots head up the right column.

The US right from the centre down. Andy says he has to fix the flags of some of the outfits.
 Before too long, my militia began to take a beating and began to crack. Finally the boys from Kentucky took off and took some New Yorkers with them. The other two battalions lost their nerve and slowly fell back. In the centre, my regulars were being chewed up by Andy and Cecil's musketry. As the title of this offering says... MY DICE WERE NO HELP AT ALL!!!! Shooting? Poor. Morale? Almost wretched. Artillery fire? Ineffective. Just reverse those notes for Andy and Cecil's throws. Eventually one of my units broke and I began the exasperating chore of falling back all along the board.

Rob had better things in store on his end of the table. He and Steven held tough, but finally Rob's US Rifles sent the Glengarry Light Infantry packing, but not routed. The rest of the field was a stand-up firefight. Cecil lined up a unit to charge, but the threat remained a threat since the US troops fell back.

A good game, but I really need to learn to play it someday.

The Militia Brigade before they were damaged and seen off.

Some of Rob's forces crossing the grain field. 
All the terrain, figures, and even the table cloth/mat were supplied by Andy.

Cecil's troops at the rail fence.

The action in the town, around the First Church of Plasticville. Rob's US Rifles face down Steven's Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles... and guess who's dice flinched?
US Troops take up positions at the rail fence. The Yellow thingees are casualty caps, courtesy of the McDonald's Corporation and a sharp scissors.

My Militia brigade begins to withdraw... at full speed.

One of my Regular units a few inches from the table edge.

The Canadian Voltigeurs, tasked with stiffening the Natives.
A French Canadian unit, they were uniformed in gray with bearskin caps.
Steven, in his stylish tuxedo T-shirt and bottle of cola watches as Cecil's most adventerous unit charges. I think the US fell back in the face of their aggressive stance.

No games next weekend: The reenactment of the Battle of Queenston Heights will take place... on the actual site of the battle in 1812. I'm hoping the weather holds and my knee feels alright. Rob and I intend to go. We'll meet Andy and Steven there since they're staying with family in Hamilton, ON after the CFL game Friday night. The American reenactors have been asked to stand down on Sunday. That day the body of General Sir Isaac Brock will be reinterred at the battle site, near where he was killed.