Monday, 20 May 2013

Freedonia shoots! Freedonia almost scores!

Imagi-nations again! This stuff is a load of fun. Martin, Andy, Beth, and I ran our respective troops out on the board at the Hamilton Road Games Group. Since it was the May 2-4/May Run/Victoria Day weekend, the numbers were down at the Group, but no matter! Fun was to be had and fun was had.

Beth had never played these rules before and wanted to try them. (Warfare in the Age of Reason) I must admit that I hurried through some troops for her army but it was worth it. She fielded the Scots/Cossack coalition of Gallifrey under Generals Bulba, Blastov, Stuart, Montrose, and the Doctor (#4, yes, that one. cf photos). Martin set out the troops of the Serene Republic of Rationalia under the command of Philospher-King Karl Mar X and General N. Guells. (A republic with a king... Hmmmm. Martin's been working on his thesis for grad school 'way too long!... Tovarich.) Andy's Frankenschweiners marched under the watchful eyes of Count Frankenschwein himself, and Generals Ziffle, Zuckerman, and Karloff. My own Saxe-Freedonians were under the command of the Grand Elector, Rufus I Glüwürmchen with Generals Belesarius, Heinzelmenchen, and Hartman as divisional commanders.

First off, we realized that there were 'way too many figures on the board. Lesson for next time. Still we faced off and moved to contend over two of the three villages on the table. Beth and the Gallifreians were on the left with the Army of Saxe-Freedonia to the right. Andy's troops faced me while Martin's troops, reinforced by a brigade of Frankenschweiners stood across from Beth.

(Photography by Beth and Andy with a few taken by me.)
The table from the side of Right, Honour, Virtue, and Justice.
(If this doesn't get some comments, nothing will.)

The dastardly troops of the County of Frankenschwein and the Serene Republic
of Rationalia

Beth's commander - the Fourth Doctor with his TARDIS
Those guy(s) are always larger than life.
(25mm Black Tree design figure from the Doctor Who range.
I bought a 25mm TARDIS model and they threw in a random Doctor figure.
Beth was thrilled when it turned out to be Tom Baker!
The little TARDIS is a chunk of pained wood mounted on a penny.)

Something new! Beth's army included a Jacobite clan unit just to see how it would
work. The unit is double sized and will be re-based. I discovered later that I had enough
Scots around to make 5 such clan regiments. Martin calls them the Highland Buzz Saw.
Although the table groaned with the weight of figures, both sides moved toward each other. Sadly we never really came to grips because of time constraints. Beth was her usual aggressive game self and sent her cavalry out to meet Martin's horse. It didn't turn out well. Beth's light dragoons met Martin's guard cuirassiers while one of his black-uniformed Todtenkopf Hussars flanked her. The light dragoons were beaten and routed and took the Cossack dragoons with them, although the Scots infantry stood fast.
Martin's cavalry advances.

The trap is closed. General N. Guells accompanies the hussars while the
Philosopher-King Karl Mar X neglects the proletariat and leads the aristocratic
Guard cavalry.
Andy and I dueled a bit and I realised that he faced me with his guard, his grenadiers, AND Martin's grenadiers! I confronted him with the Freedonian Dragoons, the Hesse-Bruder Hussars, and the Adelfahne Trabantenkorps (Guard armoured cavalry) along with two field guns and three freshly-painted militia battalions - Battalions Groucho, Chico, and Harpo. I was a bit out matched. Still the grenadiers had to form square to face my cavalry and did defeat them. The terrain was a bit too tight to really deploy my horse well.
Plus, newly painted troops, new dice, bad weather, ...  grumble, grumble, excuse, excuse.
Rationalian grenadiers form square to hold off the Freedonian cavalry.
Frankenschweiner and Rationalian Grenadiers advance side by side.
There is more than a "whiff" of conspiracy here!
Freedonia's less-than-best.
The Combat Pioneer regiment (conscripts in green), Militia battalions Harpo
(white) and Groucho (in purple). General Belisarius herds them forward.
Battalion Chico is barely in the picture.
The game took longer than expected, but we had to see how the Clan regiment worked! Beth charged into the town as a Frankenschweiner unit advanced. Martin's dragoons hit the flank again. None of it was pretty since we were in a town and all fighting is at a -3 to your number of dice. From now on, we keep the Clans in the open and up-hill if possible.
The Clan regiment roars into town to the skirl of the pipes.
M'Gregor abu!!!

The Clans' original starting position along with  the Highland regulars and the
First Nations light infantry on loan from Robby's army.

The Clan hits the Frankenschweiners but is being flanked by one of Andy's Dragoon units.
They are all in proper red uniforms... to show how the monster works!!
In the centre, Beth and Andy traded volleys and the Irish Legion and the Archbishop's Own took damage, but gave as good as they got. The Pandours Pavkovic had to fall back because of the advance of formed troops in front of them. My side of the board was split by a small village and My rifle-armed Jägers pecked at Andy's light infantry until they were replaced by his Guard battalion. Andy's artillery on his far right claimed some successes but all the other guns never really got into action.

Night (or curfew) fell... mercifully. And lessons were learned.

  • Don't try to push an elephant through a keyhole a/k/a don't try to put too many troops through a small area. If it's too small for me, it's a bottleneck for them as well. Grab it, hold it, and move elsewhere.
  • Too many units and not enough players makes for a cumbersome game. We need to learn limits.
  • I unlimber my artillery far too early.
  • Keep the clans on the lever or on a hill if you can. (There's a plus for charging down-hill.) You also need more than one clan to make it worthwhile. Beth's army will probably include Regular Highlanders, Clan highlanders at 16 figures apiece, Cossack cavalry - both regular and irregular, other regular cavalry, and some sort of light infantry. In the 7YW period, light troops are more of an annoyance than a game winner.
So now, more photos.
Some of Martin's Todtenkopf Hussars. He has two regiments of them.

The Frankenschweiner left flank before the game began.

The Native allies - Turtleburpers and the Galoshicolla

Beth's light dragoons and the Cossack dragoons (in red)

Frankenschweiner line infantry and light infantry behind

The Grand elector with the reserve - grenadiers and guards (in blue)
Frying Pan & Blanket makes a Conestoga waggon set and I HAD to get one.
There's another to be assembled and painted.

Frankenschweiner heavy artillery

Freedonian heavy artillery and howitzer.
Guns are sold with limbers and gunners are a separate pack.

The ox-drawn Conestoga waggon. I see a supply train raid scenario coming!

Scots in square - facing Rationalian cavalry.
Not sure what is next. You'll just have to look in when I write next!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Backus-Page House 1812 Weekend

The Backus-Page House and Museum in Wallacetown, ON holds an education day every year for grade 7 and 8 students. Last year, our group did not participate for a number of reasons, the foremost of which being schedule conflicts. This year, we were in the thick of things. On the Friday Ed Day, Beth and Katie portrayed "Camp Wives" or "Laundresses" at our tent camp. I drilled the "Mini-militia" and a few other fellows - Andy, Kevin, and Tyler - portrayed Canadian Militia ambushing my American militia unit. Rob was to be there but a special assignment at his school kept him out on Friday.
Basically, I teach the students to tell left from right, to come to shoulder arms, to fire their "muskets" (wooden shapes), to march, and to "charge their  bayonets." (Imaginary bayonets, that is.) I try to give them a taste of military life during the Warof 1812. It's all pretty crude and rudimentary; some groups have fun, some resist and talk back. What gets them each and every time is the ambush. The students see the ambushers but don't expect them to actually fire their muskets - using blanks and elevating over the students' heads. The girls shriek and the boys laugh once they get used to the noise of the blanks.
Our training and ambush force - Kevin, Andy, Tyler, and myself - wearing sergeant's insignia!

 "Your OTHER left!"   "If you're comfortable, you're doing it WRONG!"
"Don't call me 'sir'! I work for a living!"

Our station was a double one, having 30 minutes. Still I had to check the time once in a while.
As I said, some of the groups got into it, some took it as a joke and flounced around. I attempted to get all "sergeant-y" on them with more success in the morning than the afternoon. A few of the students found the firing of cannon too upsetting by another station and had to sit out with upset stomachs. I guess I've been reenacting long enough that I hardly notice cannons firing, let alone musket fire. The one exception is the siege gun - a 24-pounder - at Fort Erie, which would make anyone sit up and take notice.

Meanwhile back at camp, Beth and Katie were doing the camp work and making some mighty tasty chicken stew. Their role is to teach about what was done in camp and what the women did on campaign, including the rations, the pay, and the life in camp. They try to impress upon these 13-14 year-olds that facts that at their age, the girls would most likely be married and the boys would be preparing to enter the army or navy. This is always a moment of enlightenment for them. ("You mean we wouldn't be in school?" "No, you'd be raising babies or learning to march. How do you like them apples?")
Katie tends the fire with a kettle to make tea.

Katie and Tyler's son set out the toy soldiers - made from clothes pins.
Tyler's father made them when he was reenacting, now another generation has them.

Katie and Tyler work on the fire. This is a Saturday photo and the black iron
Dutch Oven contains the beginnings of macaroni and cheese,
done Thomas Jefferson style.
Among the other education stations were artillery, candlemaking, rope making, a blacksmith, a glimpse of the life of the Native peoples, a small sail boat (on a trailer), and period songs and stories.
The Royal Artillery and the Provincial Marine discuss cannon.

Your humble author takes five... with a cup of tea.
At lunch time, there was a weapons demonstration for the students.
Here White Turtle (aka Aaron) prepares to show the crowd how a hatchet
fares against a bayonet, as Tyler fixes his bayonet.

Make ready! Aim! (or "Present!" if you serve the Crown) FIRE!

On Saturday and Sunday, the grounds were open for all visitors and vendors arrived as well. More reenactors came in and there were two skirmishes each day. They were planned out as much as possible before-hand, but as usual things end up botched or slightly botched. Saturday morning, the Native scouts brought word of an advancing Yankee force, whose pickets soon appeared and headed toward a "farm house" where they terrified and terrorised the women folk. The Native warriors and the British Indian Department came on and a skirmish developed, the Americans being pushed back with the Natives and the BID in hot pursuit. Rob ran out and was tomahawked by Aaron.
Saturday's troops of the Republic - Kevin, me, Rob as corporal, Tyler, and Andy.
I'm carrying a stick - a baton-of-office- as Kevin was borrowing my musket.

Oh, yes! The artillery got into the act. Three cannons...

White Turtle comes to report the Yankee advance.
Ignore the cannon crew; they "weren't really there."

Tyler and Rob recon the house.

... terrorising the women folk.

The regulars, the militia, and the Kentucky Volunteers enter the fray.
As a good sergeant, I offer encouragement and helpful suggestions to the men with the guns.

Captain Roy of the BID does the same, but with cold steel.

Tyler, Rob, Kevin, and Andy on the firing line.
The afternoon skirmish added a cannon to the US side. Rob was captured by the First Nations warriors and roughed up by White Turtle and Many Strings. A truce was finally called and we received Rob back from the Crown forces in exchange for... a granola bar. I told Captain Roy, "Eat this, Captain. You get a little whifty when you're hungry." Later on, I got a Snickers® bar and did this again at a planning meeting.

Sunday morning, -while it was 4° C - I was working so Rob was sergeant as the US forces chased off the BID and the Native warriors as the Crown forces held the top of the hill.  Since Andy had to be elsewhere and I was at work, some reenactors exchanged their BID clothing for US militia or Canadian Volunteer uniforms. (These were Canadian who served the US Army as guides and light infantry, in their grey roundabouts and top hats with green turbans. Raiffe -on the far right- is in that uniform.) Both Katie and Beth were quite busy with the public so there appears to be only one photo.
Captain Roy is taken off into captivity by the Kentucky Volunteers while Sergeant Rob
looks on proudly. I was told by many people that he did a fine job as sergeant.
The afternoon skirmish took place close to the public. The three cannons set up on the hill and the American troops were lounging behind a rickety breastwork made from a few log benches. After the bombardment, the BID came in from the right and the Native warriors from the left. We all got hacked down by clubs and tomahawks - all made of very realistic looking foam rubber, and we died -like men- to a man. Aaron came back, "scalped" me, and took my glasses to see what sort of magic these things were. Thus ends my term as sergeant. Again, Beth and Katie were working with the public at the campsite, so no photos, sad to say.

It was a good little event, although the weather did not cooperate. As we were taking out tents down, it began to hail... in May. That's okay - it snowed a little bit when Beth and I were mowing our lawn on Monday. Welcome to South-western Ontario! If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes! The folks at Backus-Page House cannot be blamed for the weather, and everything else went fine. They served an excellent dinner on Saturday evening, of roast beef, rolls, potato salad, and other vegetable salads. For dessert... apple crisp, cooked on the fire by my wife and daughter, rhubarb crisp baked elsewhere, and other taste treats.
The staff and volunteer of the Backus-Page House and Museum are to be complimented on a great event. They worked very hard and in my opinion, it went well. They told us reenactors when they wanted the skirmishes and let us do the planning and let us do our thing! What else could you ask? I hope to be back next year.
Tyler's son - one happy warrior! He was busy shooting zombie coyotes.
Best not to ask.

My wife, Beth and I in full gear. I couldn't do this without her!
She sews! She cooks! She bakes! She plans!
She still tolerates me after 25 years of marriage.
She is amazing and I love her.
 On a last note, the stick I carried as sergeant was my Dad's keep-the-dogs-away-on-my-walk stick as he got to be close to 90 years old. In World War II, he was a master sergeant in the US Army. In some small way, this weekend, I was "the Minstrel Boy", an Irish musician and "his father's sword he has girded on..." I suppose I carried that stick in memory and in honour of Harold Goldsworthy, Major, US Army Reserve (ret.), who has passed on.
The BID keep up a hot fire with Sergeant Mike at the near right.
This week - at the games club: "Imagi-nations" again. Freedonia on the march!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

The First Siege at Fort Meigs

From May 1 to May 9, 1813, the timber fort, Fort Meigs, at what is now Perrysburg, Ohio, was under siege by a force of British regulars, Canadian militia, and First Nations warriors. This "first siege" consisted of bombardment of the forts by  6, 12, and 24 pound field pieces, a 5.5 inch howitzer, and 5.5 inch and 8.5 inch mortars as well as infantry attacks by the 2,200 men under General Proctor. Garrisoning the fort were US regular infantry and artillery and militia units from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio. The siege was lifted when General Proctor received word that York, Ontario (Now Toronto) had fallen and US troops might be moving up behind him. As "second siege" followed in July (July 20-28), but this appears to be less effective, because of the lack of heavy artillery for the Crown forces.

This past weekend saw the 200th Anniversary of this first siege with a large reenactment at the fort. The original fort was abandoned in 1815, so the fort as it stands today is a rebuild. The only thing left of the original is the so-called "grand traverse," a long mound erected to protect the defenders from bouncing cannon balls. The Old Northwest Military History Association was host to over 600 reenactors from the USA and Canada. The ONMHA "garrisons" the fort with reenactors who serve as both infantry and artillery.

An aerial view of the modern reproduction of the Fort. This appears to be a photo
taken during the modern reconstruction. The blockhouses and palisade are incomplete
and the traverses are missing.
My family and I set up camp as a cook's tent and we were joined by the Herb's and Haves'. On the field, we were folded into the other group the reenacts the 17th US, who are from Erie, PA. The 17th was one of the Regular Army regiments at the fort during the siege.
The combined 17th... I'm on the far left, Robby has his back to the camera in a soft cap.

The Ontario contingent of the 17th...
Jonathan, John, Josh, Robby, Andrew, Matthew, and Lyle.

Robby and I in our uniforms... sewn by Beth!
Friday evening saw a cannonade from the fort and from the "British" batteries across the Maumee River.
The Fort Meigs gunners and US Volunteer gunners make ready.

The crews at one of large batteries.
Saturday, the fort was open to the public and the place was hopping. We had a reenactment of the battle that led to Dudley's Massacre, in which a number of captured Kentucky militiamen were made to run the gauntlet and were killed. (We didn't reenact the gauntlet; no fun there.)
Shoulder arms!

US Rifles on the left, US Volunteers on the right, "Brigade Music" in the middle.

Preparing to leave the parade ground for the battle.
Since my wife and daughter were our photographers and were left to tend the fire, I don't have many photos of the Saturday engagement. The Regulars came to the rescue of the Kentucky Militia, and we withdrew after a spirited exchange. We left the fort over one of the battery walls and struggled down a steeper hillside that had been covered by abittis until a few years ago. Then we marched ("Route march! Break step!") up a dry, rocky creek bed to face a lot of dead Kentuckians and regular light infantry as the First Nations warriors "looted" and "scalped" them. I pealed off to walk back on my own rather than face the creek bed and hillside again. (Yes, I am lame in more ways than one.)
From another source... the US Regulars advance.

From another source... We  prepare to fire. We're already loaded.
Saturday evening, there was period dance. I attempted but failed at the Virginia Reel as both of my knees and my back protested. The fort also supplied a little free beer for the reenactors.
Beth and I prepare to leave camp for the dance. Our medals are 1812
Bicentennial medals given to reenactors, only to be worn on period clothes.

Katie, in the green hunting frock, dances with a Royal Artilleryman.
It got rather chilly that evening!

Fiddlesix, a local period music group, kept things lively.

Carrie, Robby, Mark, and Bryce converse at the dance.
Sunday saw more visitors and another reenactment. This time the US troops left by a gate... like gentlemen! Since I started reenacting in Ontario, I'm used to seeing at least twice the number of redcoats when compared to the American blue. This event was the opposite.
The 19th US Infantry advances as light infantry. Robby is in the far file in  his flat cap.

Caldwell's Rangers, a Crown unit, skulking. This unit tended
to fight alongside the First Nations warriors.

The 19th and the 1st Rifles keep up a hot fire.

US Light Artillery, an elite unit. I was truly impressed.

State of New York Militia

Our Mohawk friend, Many Strings, loading while prone. That's not easy.

"Load in quickest time!" I wore my white cotton roundabout on Sunday
as it was warmer than Saturday with less wind.
Many Strings prepares to take the battle to the enemy
with his (silicon rubber) tomahawk.

Awaiting the order to advance.

"The front rank will kneel!"
I had to switch place with my friend Lyle since some arthritis keeps me from such things.

This chieftain was pretty impressive.

Lyle had  "fallen" so I moved up to the front rank.
A fallen First Nations warrior hold a handful of grass to his "wound."

I'm slow but I'm in the line. Lyle is prone behind me, grassing his wound.

Caps off to honour the memory of all the fallen.

Tami, one of the hosting group, provided commentary at the battle.
She usually turns out as a sergeant of artillery, but a broken foot
kept her out of the battle..
All in all, it was a good event. I was told this was larger than average for the Fort Meigs events, which is not surprising considering it was the Bicentennial of the siege. The whole thing was well handled and I'll continue to compliment the organisers, especially Tami, Marty, "Lieutenant Dan", and Gus, who had his university exams the next day. My thanks to Ed - the 17th sergeant, Olly - who captains the 22nd and took on our youngest as his runners, Betsy - who graciously took Robby into her light infantry unit, and Colonel "Fightin' Rob" who orders the whole thing.
A few extraneous photos:
The only thing worse than packing might be re-packing.

Katie in her period gear.

The Boy gobbles macaroni and cheese made in the style of Thomas Jefferson,
who brought the dish over from France. Made with milk, cheese, and flat noodles

Katie embroiders in camp while Robby loiters on one of the traverses.
He spent a lot of time on that rise and left his shape in the soil.

I have taken "the King's Pineapple" and I'm being inducted into the Royal
Hawaiian Immigrants. ("King Kamehameha's Own") There are no rules, no
command structure (and appearently no standards), but I have to make a period
workshirt out of the most vile Hawaiian shirt material I can find.
I'm honoured. I'm humbled. I'm sick to my stomach.

Matthew and Josh served as runners for the 22nd US Infantry.
According to their report, they died gloriously!
Our next big reenacting gig should be Stoney Creek in July although there is an 1812 education day and small event this weekend and a World War I education day in Mississagua in a few weeks. Summer will be busy.