Saturday, 27 September 2014

Rebel Yell and Yankee Cheer

anAndy and I decided to play an American Civil War game at the Hamilton Road Gaming Group this Saturday. Martin had gone to his ancestral home for the weekend and Bear gladly laid aside role-playing to be the Southern gentleman he'd like to be. As a pleasant surprise, Mark showed up and played. So Bear (or I should say "Beauregard") and I handled the Confederate forces while Mark and Andy controlled the Union which was made up of only Zouaves! We used our home-brewed ACW variant of Iron Ivan's This Very Ground. All photos are by Andy.

Beauregard and I won the roll and moved first. Each player had four units of infantry and a cannon. We set up 12" from the table edge and moved in. I faced Mark who advanced in march column with one unit in skirmish order holding the forested edge of a plowed field. Andy moved over an abandoned camp ground toward a small woods and pond with a farm house and summer kitchen across a small road. Beauregard advanced toward that farm house with one unit on his far right to observe and block a similar unit of Andy's in those woods. I advanced toward a fence line with two units and the cannon and advance on my far left with two unit to the edge of a wooded area.

My troop advance in loose order through a group of cows who have broken into the field. They're just window dressing. Mark's cannon missed my troops and he claimed a cow got in the way. We called "BBQ!" and he said I had to cook since he brought the meat. He didn't say if he wanted it Texas-style, Carolina-style, or Cajun-style.

Bear/Beauregard's first unit comes up to the pasture wall, having been ignored by a more mannerly group of cows.
The sheep and the dog in the foreground are minding their own business as well.

Mark's Zouaves take up a position at the rail fence. The left hand unit soon went prone.
So, Padre Mike: more Zouave envy?
From then on it became a fire fight. Three of Andy's unit and his cannon exchanged fire with Bear's three units. Bear's cannon was slowly being man-handled into place but found the way blocked by a bog. Some counter-battery fire began and Andy lost three of his five artillerymen on his gun while Bear lost three of his four gunners, leaving the intrepid gun captain to load, aim, and fire the field piece,

Andy's gun shows itself in action with a reduced crew while two of his Zouave units clamber over the rail fence into the fenced-in wooded area.
Mark and I exchanged fire over the small road. One of my units, deployed in close order, had had enough and charged the Union troops in front of them. That surprising melee lasted three turns! It see-sawed back and forth until all I had left was my drummer and his sword while Mark had an officer and one rifleman. His other two units kept firing at my unit in the woods until it was whittled down to the officer only. Yet neither unit broke in morale!

A view over the plowed field at the firing lines. The close order Confederate unit at the far end of the line was soon to charge the Federal defenders of the fence line. The loose order unit in the woods kept getting shot at by the other Federals and finally found itself down to one man left by the end of the game.

More fire fights through the farmstead. The summer kitchen on the left was in Rebel hands and was filled with Southern infantry. This is as close as the troops on this end got to each other.

Meanwhile in the woods on the far end of the battlefield, Andy's flank guards eyed Bear's troops and both just stared at each other. Yes, units were tied up for the whole game but neither unit turned the other's flank.

In the end, Andy and Mark confessed that the Union battle plan was to sweep away my troops in a right hook to hit Bear's flank while holding Bear's attention with Andy's troops. This didn't happen. Although I was seriously slapped around a bit on the north side of the battle field, I did bloody Mark's (military) nose and kept him from sweeping the flank. I was cautiously advancing with one unit which could have flanked his prone unit if I hadn't been concerned about an attack on that unit's flank by a line of Zouaves in the woods far in front of me. Both my cannon and Mark's were intact and could have added to the party had they not been screened by our own troops. We decided that neither side could do much and called it a day.  Following this we sat and discussed a plan Mark has for a future game which might include heavy fortifications, amphibious landings, and unlimited infantry for the attacking force. Sounds good but probably won't be realised until after the Christmas holidays.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Seven Years War with Black Powder... again... again.

Although I set out a blog yesterday, I discovered this morning that I had missed some photos that really were quite good. Andy had taken a bunch and I had missed posting them. So here we go.

A close up of my midsection with the accompanying Freikorp hussars and the Death's Head Hussars of the Prussian army.

Andy and Martin's French cavalry deploys.

The freikorps hussars have fallen back while the Death's Head hussars had broken and evaporated by going toe-to-toe with French heavy cavalry. Here two regiments of infantry turned to face a flanking threat... which seems to have disappeared.
The French brigades are all over the field with only one Prussian infantry brigade to oppose them, or so it seems.
Well, one should be enough.
A French battery threatens a dragoon regiment and the over-all commander while a Prussian freikorp regiment goes up against the French line. There were other troops there.
The little red bead meant the unit had used it's first fire special rule. This could only be used once.

Now the gun is gone and so are the dragoons. Von Zeiten attempts to rally the cuirassiers
and the Prussian infantry appears to be giving as good as they get.

French grenadiers and the cavalry reserve advance late in the game.

The Prussian grenadier brigade (in the foreground and the line infantry including some fusiliers continue their advance.
I'm really getting to like the Black Powder rules. They're simple, playable, learnable, and flexible; all virtues for rules in my book. Although the rule writers poo-poo playing the War of 1812 in their comments on history in the main rules (they'll pay, they will!), I think that the Napoleonic suppliment (Albion Triumphant) and the SYW suppliment (The Last Argument of Kings) provide plenty of ways to game in that specialized period. I may find out  in a few weeks. 

Lastly, when Beth and I went to my aunt's funeral, I got a chance to refresh my soul a bit by driving through the part of the Alleghenies called the "Kittitinny" which is a Lenni-Lenape word meaning "the endless mountains." Here's a sampling. It's nice to see in the day, but less so at night in a construction zone with heavy traffic.

On the Interstate going north from Hazleton to Scranton
The mountians go from horizon to horizon. The chain extends from Quebec to Georgia.
Our GPS can show us the elevation; here it's 1540 feet.

Looking at the hillside outside of the supermarket. I was raised this sort of view all around me. There was a strip mine less than a kilometre from my house... and our home was heated with a coal furnace.
Once again the GPS give us our elevation on the way back to Ontario near the New York-Pennsylvania border.

... and we gathered provisions that are unavailable in Canada. Tastykakes are a Philadelphia product and Little Debbie snacks come out of Pittsburgh. (They ARE available in Canada.) Lance crackers are not found north of the border. Birch beer is a carbonated soft drink/soda/pop that uses birch root rather than the sassafras used in root beer. It's an aquired taste but on I really enjoy... and again, one not available where I live in Canada.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Seven Years War with Black Powder... again.

This blog entry is quite late but unavoidably so, due to a sudden death in my family. My wife and I made the trek from Southwestern Ontario to Scranton, PA for my aunt's funeral. She was the last of my mother's siblings and passed on at age 91 in her own residence. I had spoken to Mary Frances just last week and I'm glad I did.

Still, before I left, I did play a game with Martin and Andy at the Hamilton Road Gaming Group. I pushed Prussian while they handled the troops of France. It was an interesting game. I was sure early on that I was going to bet badly beaten, but things evened up after a while. In the end, I had to retreat and leave the French in possession of the field.

We used Warlord Games Black Powder rules and Martin and Andy took all the photos.

Early in the game... I've already had my light cavalry and light infantry cut to pieces.

the view from the satellite.

The staging tray with some reinforcements and some casualties.
I came onto the table quickly with a regiment of hussars and a regiment of freikorps light cavalry as well as a unit of light infantry. They were all quickly disposed of by the French cavalry. I probably should have either kept them from attacking the heavier French cavalry or held them back for a later entry and rushed the flanks. Live and learn, I suppose.
My Prussian line infantry followed and held up under the pressure of the French. Eventually I was worn down and the first line of units were beaten back although the second held firm.

Another view of the entire field.

Andy brings up the French lines.

As I watch (and get my grenadier brigade ready), Andy continues his advance.

This hurt! A French gun enfilades the Prussian dragoons. In Black Powder, enfilade means double dice thrown.

As seen from the Badyear blimp.  The evil, nasty enfilading cannon... The advance of the French infantry... Von Zeiten leading the cuirassiers to battle...
I wasn't watching my flanks so Andy brought up a cannon and enfiladed a dragoon regiment. By this time, the victorious French cavalry had been shot up by the Prussian infantry and had retreated. (In the photo just above, the French horse is hovering behind the French infantry, but in front of the reserve grenadier brigade.) Because the Prussian foot is superbly drilled according to the rules, they stick around longer and will do more things than the average French unit. Still I had lost my light brigade, had one line brigade in retreat, and was having my heavy cavalry kicked around. When half of my brigades were broken and in retreat, the game was lost and I withdrew... to fight another day!

The French gun in enfilade with 8- count 'em - 8 casualties on the dragoons. A break test was called for and once again, discretion proved the better part of valour.
Yes, I rolled an eleven which means the regiment evaporates.
Martin required me to point out my shame, which I did... because it's only a game!

Why they like to take my photo, I'll never know. I think my opponents wanted to show that the cavalry had evaporated and Von Zeiten's cuirassiers were in retreat.
At one of the other tables, Wayne and Kevin returned to Ypres for more WWI work including gas and shell holes and other terrors. At the third table - back by the windows - role playing was the order of the day. The HRGG provides a place for a number of games to play. Some of us do historicals most of the time and we come early and set up close to the room's door since figures look so nice and draw people's attention. Any one can bring any game any Saturday and offer it to those assembled. It works best if players use the HRGG's Facebook group ahead of time to say what they intend to offer. That give people choices.

Wayne and Kevin set out the Germans and Canadians in this Great War punch-up. I think the day-glo yellow football-mortar bomb belongs to one of Kevin's children.

Dice, troops, and gas - what a way to spend the day!

"Let me just pick up the casualty caps and get them out of your way."
I get beat more often than I win, but I'll keep playing. As Andy has said "Any day you get to play is a good day."
My personal motto remains "Anybody can grow up; it takes a real man to be a boy all his life."
(That applies to women as well.)
So just for fun, I add this:

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Backus Mill event - a hidden gem

This past Saturday saw Croghan's Company, 17th US Infantry turning out for the event at Backus Mill, ON. This place has the honour of being one of the mills that the US raiders could NOT find during the War of 1812 so it was not burned. There's been a small event here for a number of years and it was fun to be part of this year's event.
Our company was well represented - Tyler, Lyle, Kevin, Andy, Jared (our pioneer/corporal) and myself as sergeant. Beth, Tina, Naomi, and Connor rounded out our contingent as camp personnel. We served as "light" infantry with the troops of the 16th Infantry under Lt. James while Major Phil was overall commander with the Canadian Volunteers and the IMUC (Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada as Connecticut militia) and Captain Roy of the Tennessee Volunteers (the BID under a different name) handling the skirmishing infantry. As before, Beth took the photos I'm using here.
The day began a bit rainy but it got better during the day. In the morning battle, the US forces took a tavern and a cabin and had to chase off the Crown forces - the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles, the Royal Scots grenadiers, and two or three other Crown contingents including a small force of native allies. Andy and I took the cabin and had to disarm a few women sheltering there. One came at us with a wooden knife! We ended up fighting up and down a small slope. In the morning, the forces of the Republic prevailed. Actually it was too wet from dew to die, although Lyle was "shot" and the surgeon's mates dragged him off for treatment of his wounds.

A detail of the photo that follows - James gestures for another unit to close up on our flank. Lyle lies wounded while I move to check on him. Jared and Andy stand in the back rank, with Kevin, Jim (of the 16th), Tyler, and Steven (also of the 16th) keep up a hot fire. There's plenty of musket smoke for everybody.

Here you can see the "line" - the IMUC and the Canadian Volunteers led by Phil in the plumed chapeau behind them. The surgeon's mates stayed in the treeline although you can see one of them charging forward to take care of Lyle.

We stood on lose order and fired and fired and fired. I fired about 21 shots without a misfire.
That must be some kind of record!

Jared in his pioneer kit. He had his newly acquired axe across his back (the head in it's sheath can be seen just behind his arm.) He also carries a mallet and a bill hook on the same belt as his "belly box." The heavy cloth apron completes his kit. US pioneers wore a cloth apron while the British pioneers had a leather apron.
The afternoon's fire fight was a contest through the valley with the US with their back to the crowd and the Crown forces coming down the opposite hill. We were told by command to take casualties and have multiple men pull the out of line to the surgeon so the the line would shrink and shrink.

The Regulars! The 17th lines up with the 16th just behind them in the US camp. In the afternoon, we tried an experiment - the whole unit went out in hunting shirts. A while ago, the unit received a bunch of hunting frocks that had been used in the filming of a documentary on the War of 1812 in western Ontario. We decided to use them since there is documentation of the 17th being outfitted in white frocks due to supply problems. We all found them quite comfortable although we'll wear the blue coatee as the weather permits.

Ready to march off/

The surgeon watches a patient lose his lunch. It was just a demonstration for the sake of the crowd.

A mixed group of native allies, Caldwell's Rangers, and volunteer militia skirmish ahead of the Crown forces.

The Tennessee Volunteers exchange fire with the Crown skirmishers.

The skirmish line of both sides pushed each other back and forth.

Now the main lines came into play with orders to engage in "independent fire."
The Crown lines can be seen to the far left of the photo.

Guess who's musket NEVER did anything but flash in the pan all afternoon? Yep, mine.
The damp air got to it between battles. Here you can see Jared's pioneer tools and the hunting frocks for the unit.
Your blogger, Jared, Lyle, Kevin, Andy, and Tyler from left to right.

Nope, still won't fire. I dumped a lot of powder that afternoon.

Jared took a hit and Kevin and Tyler saw him to the surgeon. Then Major Phil was wounded and a truce was called in order to remove the wounded. Once that was done, the fighting resumed. All of our muskets were misfiring at least half the time. I shared my cartridges with the section since my musket wouldn't fire at all. At one point, the native allies and their hangers-on were to our right. I saw White Turtle pull his hatchet and prepare to charge. I warned Andy and Lyle and they fired in unison as the charge came up. Two shots! Four or five men fell! Who says "Buck and Ball" doesn't work?
The fight went back and forth and finally a parley was called. Both sides formed up and the dead/wounded rose and took their ranks after the lament for the dead was played. We saluted each other and were then dismissed.

This, my friends, was one fun battle.

The Crown forces' acting sergeant-major gets the Glengarrys into line. The IMUC are reloading.

The Canadian Volunteers square off against the Crown Regulars. There MAY have been more US troops than Crown forces. I didn't count.

The surgeon and his helpers remove a wounded soldier.

... and treat his wounds. The surgeon also carried a bucket of ice water around. Quite refreshing!

Jared is wounded. Kevin and Tyler were to shortly take him to the surgeon.

"Don't take my arm!" he cried. "Don't take my arm!"  A good dose of rum is in order.
Phil was recently promoted to major by the rather nebulous command authority of the US forces, who use President Madison's name. So we say congratulations! We can still see you from space!
Major Phil's adjutant couldn't duck the musketry fast enough and took ill with lead poisoning.

Jared awaits his turn for treatment.

"D'yer t'ink he's dead?" "No, I'm not!"

The rest of the 17th holds the "fence line." To call it a fence is really being quite kind.

I'm just coming back from a mission of mercy. White Turtle was laid out by a volley, and later a Volunteer came and smacked him with a hatchet (a rubber one) because he was stil breathing. When White Turtle rolled, his loin cloth became -shall we say - less modest. I walked over and blocked the public's view while he rolled to a less "full moon" position. His legging are visible to the far right of the photo.

The surgeon had a LOT of business. Here Mike from the Volunteers brings in a wounded comrade.
Following the battle, most of us signed up to take part in the "Court Martial" demonstration. Three British troopers were to be court martialed for various offences. We joined in for a short "company punishment" demonstration which Kevin and I had hastily cooked up and improvised.

Captain Bob hears the charges. Desertion, Drunk and disorderly, and disrespect to an officer.
The fellow in the shirt doesn't see impressed, but his was a flogging offence.

The captain assesses the evidence and has the drummer and the Irishman from the 49th Foot put in irons.

The gentleman shows the cat-o'-nine-tails. As he explained, the whip was kept in a bag and was only brought out for punishment, which means you "let the cat out of the bag." The third soldier was to be given 100 lashes and was taken out and strung up on the tripod.

I explained to the crowd the difference between a court martial and "company punishment."

It appears that Kevin stole a goose and so was given extra duty, confinement to quarters, and stoppage of rum for one week. He tried to defend himself and his gentle sergeant explained that the punishment was so much

Kevin, who really is a good actor, looked duly repentant and Corporal Jared marched him out to his extra duty
 - guarding the school house door while the courts martial were in session.

A little more information. It was a schoolhouse after all!

The leg irons -attached to those logs- are placed on the soldiers' ankles. They then had to carry the log around with them for the length of their sentence.

Extra duty under the corporal's exacting eye!
This is a good little event and I thank the organisers and the hosts for our entire company. Up next for reenacting of the War of 1812, Fanshawe Pioneer Village in October.