Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Learning Experience with Pike & Shotte

As all of you surely know, my title for this blog entry is a smoke screen. "A learning experience" often implies the salvaging of a bad situation. Or as I told my daughter this morning: "No experiment is a complete failure; it can always be used as a bad example." (One of Finagle's Laws. That's fodder for another blog... someday... soon... later.) Anyway, last Saturday, Martin and I took the field again with our Pike & Shot era armies. Martin has a 30 Years War French army that wears an Imperialist mask while I field a Swedish army made up of units from my attempt at an Irish Confederate army of the English Civil War. It was a true "learning experience" since I got my proverbial tukus handed to me.

In truth, both of us thoroughly enjoy this period and have found Warlord Games' Pike & Shotte rules very satisfying, playable, and enjoyable. This outing, we doubled the size of the regiments, fielding cavalry at 4 bases large (making them from 12 to 16 figures with the exception of the skirmishing cavalry like Martin's Carabiniers and the Swedish light horse.) and the infantry units 8 stands of shot and 4 stands of pike. It was an experiment and I feel it worked just fine. The units looked good and were not very manoeuvrable, which fits the period. 

I won the toss and had Martin deploy one of his battaglia first. The battle field was a bit constricted with hills and trees but there was plenty of manoeuvre room in the centre and on one of the flanks. I had my three infantry battaglia and the medium guns. My cavalry deployed to the right in two battaglia, mostly harquibusiers (medium cavalry with some armour, advancing at the trot) with one regiment of cuirassiers (heavy armoured cavalry who advanced to fire in caracole or rank-on-rank pistol fire) and one of Finnish Hackipelli (crazed Finns advancing at the gallop with ferocious intent.) On my left was a small battaglia of skirmishing cavalry, dragoons, and a unit of harquibusiers for support. Martin's infantry and heavy guns stood the centre, the bulk of his cavalry on his left facing mine, and a battaglia of Croats, dragoons, skirmishing Carabiniers, and one regiment of harquibusiers. (Martin and I are responsible for all the photos this week.)

the table, looking from my left flank

Imperialist dragoons, harquibusiers, and Croats on the far left.
The round base is the battaglia commander.

Swedish dragoons, harquibusiers, and skirmishing Reiters.
The cardboard houses make a great farmstead.

Martin's centre

The same from another view.

My centre - with the Scots and Irish regiments
The infantry advanced very slowly. To be honest, I was afraid of Martin's guns. My cavalry moved on the right flank to meet Martin's, most of which turned out to be cuirassiers and Wallenstein's body guard (armoured lancers... yeech!) The dragoon/Reiter flank just stared at the Croats and their compatriots for much of the game. Things turned foul for my cavalry early, with the cuirassiers and the Hackapelli dying rather quickly. Bravely, but quickly.

Harquibusiers ("Sieg oder Todt!"), Hackapelli, and cuirassiers

Martin's cuirassier-heavy cavalry line

Using the hill to his advantage, Martin had more room to deploy and so, to flank me.

With the Hackapelli and cuirassiers crushed, the rest of my cavalry try their best.
The fight see-sawed a bit on the cavalry side while I tried to deploy my infantry to a wider front. Somewhere around this time in the game, Martin explained the "facts of life" of the game to me, and I'll share that with you later. In any event, I began to advance my infantry regiments, using my commanded shot as a hinge between the infantry and the cavalry wing. I was attempting to spread my front battaglia out and bring up the reserve battaglia and I found the terrain a bit more constricting than I expected.

My Swedish Yellow and Green Regiments watch the Imperialists in the distance.

The Green Regiment attempts to deploy left.

Martin bring on the pain.

As the Imperialist regiments approached, I felt the Green regiment had deployed enough.

Of to the right, the Daleigh Regiments backed by the Blue regiment finds itself in  desperate hand-to-hand combat
with Martin's commanded shot turning my right flank. My medium guns stood idle for the whole game.

The Yellow regiment mixes it up with some Imperialists.

The dice behind each unit keep track of casualties. Both Martin and I have taken damage.

From Martin's vantage point.
We both decided to mount our command groups on round bases. They're much easier to distinguish this way.
Soon Martin collapsed my cavalry flank and had destroyed 5 out of 7 regiments. Not long after that, he wiped out my skirmishing Reiters and surrounded the supporting harquibusiers. The centre was still in doubt but with both flanks crushed, I felt I had to concede. It was a tough game and a fairly fought one.

Lessons learned (aka the Facts of Life)

  • With TYW Swedes, the shock troop are the infantry, not cavalry. Both the pike and shot are qualitatively superior to their Imperial counterparts. The guns are not as scary as I had thought originally. So now I have to think nasty, snarl-y infantry with cavalry support and follow-through. As Martin put it, "Stop leading with your chin." I may use some simple references and add Galoglaich regiments to the Swedes since Gustav Adolf is said to have had some in the battles in Livonia (or so I'm told.)
  • I want to field my Irish army for O'Neill's rebellion but I've got to consider how to do that with arquebus armed Kern, the range being so much less than muskets. They'd never stand in an open field battle, but if I can drag the battle into rough terrain, I have at least an even chance. Galoglaich, Bonnachts, Kern, horse boys, Irish chain mail-armoured cavalry... yeah, I'd like to see that.
Croat light cavalry of the Imperial army.
Swedish Reiters and harquibusiers on Kevin's nifty plowed fields.
He found a door mat at the dollar store for $1 and cut it up. Looks good to me!

The Reiters and harquibusiers take on the Croats and the Imperial harquibusiers while the Imperialist dragoons take the farmstead to provide flanking fire.

After chasing off the Reiters and destroying the harquibusiers, the Imperialist right flank gathers for a picnic!

Meanwhile on the back porch at home, Pooka our beagle suns himself.
"We were wolves once, wild, crafty, and free. Then we saw that you had couches."

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Road to Culloden

 This past weekend saw a rather different sort of reenacting event. After long and meticulous planning on the part of the developers, the Scotish Jacobite War/rebellion of 1745 was reenacted at the Backus Page House Museum grounds in Wallacetown, ON. Beth and I were able to go out to the event on both Saturday and Sunday. Beth was a volunteer for the museum and I was a reenactor, kitted out as an irregular Scots militiaman on the Crown/Hanoverian side. (More folk want to be Jacobites than "Government" at these events. In previous events, some reenactors came out as French since the French sent some troops to the Highlands during this conflict. They sent Scots and Irish, so no big surprise there.)
The grounds of the Museum are a great place to play. Originally dedicated to showing the agricultural life of southwestern Ontario at the time of Confederation, the Museum has also hosted other events, such as a War of 1812 education day for local students. This summer, they'll be hosting a "time line" event with reenactors coming out in the kit of troops from about 1750 to 1950. I'll blog that one when it takes place.
On Saturday - which was a nice breezy day in rural Ontario - an number of reeactors turned out, with the Jacobites out-numbering the Government forces. The public came out in fair numbers and everybody who was there appeared to enjoy themselves.

(Photos are courtesy of my wife, Jaimee Claeys, and Bard Judith. If I have missed someone whose photos I've used, send me a note and I'll make it right.)

First some Jacobites -- Our friends, Dan and Tom as a clansman and a clan chief who stood as chief of Clan Maclachlan,and he had the clan banner to prove it.

Nick and I discuss the dog's summer "puppy cut" with a mutual friend.
Nick is an Anglican canon, recently retired, I'm a Lutheran pastor, and our friend is the church musician
and youth minister at a local Roman Catholic church. His dog isn't into dogma.

Sheep! Lambs brought by one of the Jacobite fighters. He brings them out to any number of events.

Our good friend, James and one of his boys. James is dressed as a troop of the 60th of Foot, the Royal Americans.
This outfit was recruited in North America and contained quite a few German settlers from Pennsylvania. The officers were mostly German, Swiss, and Dutch... and maybe an Englishman here and there.

James and Jonesy with their respective followings.

Andre, the overall Government commander.
He usually commands the Crown artillery, but this weekend he was made supreme commander.
For some unspeakable reason, he named me infantry commander.
I'm still drunk with power.

Our friend Dan in a belligerent mood. You get a good view of the targe here. He also carried a musket for the battle.

Safety check for the Government muskets. With 4 militiamen and 3 regulars and a gun crew with a 3-pounder, we were
out-numbered, BUT not out-played. We had a load of fun and put on a great show for the public.

The forces of the Crown before James and Jonesy showed up. Nick is in the uniform of the 15th of Foot who fought at both Culloden and Quebec. The militia are in the simple red jacket of the Sutherland Independant Company.
I'm too irregular to discuss.

The Noon Gun. The gun cres demonstrated the firing of a cannon. Note the ammunition box is kept at quite a distance from the gun itself. Ball is never fired, but the cannon still takes 2 ounces of black powder - enough to make a nice "Ka-Boom!"

As Andre fires the cannon, the "powder monkey" shows the proper way of protecting one's hearing.
NEVER stick you finger in your ears. That inceases the pressure on the eardrum. The best way is to cup your hands in from of your ears to direct the sound past your ears. If you want to go further, open your mouth to equalize the pressure inside and out.

Engaging the public for questions and answers. You can also see the length of the musket and bayonet.
(I'm 6' 3" or 190.5 cm)
The best question of the day: "Do you know of Brown Bess?"
The answer: "She's right here, in front of you... with her bayonet."

Lunch! Open to both public and reenactors. Hunger knows no era!

A "pur Helan' wretch" pledges fealty to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Of course, that wretch is actually one of the planners and
the all-day voice/MC of the weekend, our friend Shaymus!

His Highness, Charles Edward Stuart, speaks to the crowd. Shaymus is on the far right while Mike, head of the Prince's Life Guard glares at possible assassins.

James and his daughter go shopping.

4 and 20 Blackbirds - purveyor of cakes, cookies and fine lemonade.

The fencing master explains both fencing techinques and various types of swords.

The gun crew's powder monkey. The charge is carried to the gun in the red leather carrier on her hip.

Jamie and Shaymus prepare to demonstrate the care, feeding, and shooting of the fabled
blunderbus... which sounds like a cannon when it's fired.

The Government troops and gun take their place on ridge for the battle. I believe this was to be the battle of Prestonpans.
We were to defend the flag, but James and Jonesy planned to barracade themselves in the outhouse and sell their lives dearly.

The outhouse and the entire mass of Government infantry. Terrifying indeed!

The 3-pounder opens the ball while the militia deploys in open order to the right of the gun.
Jacobite skirmishers can be seen on the far left of the photo.

Reloading all the weapons!

The Jacobite skirmishers try to draw the fire of the militia and the gun.

The regulars give fire.

A diversionary force crosses through the valley below the gun, attempting to flank our position...

... but not if the regulars have anything to say about it!

A view of the field from a distance. The Jacobite diversionary force began far off to the left
and ran across the valley to the woods where they took up a position... hiding behind blades of grass.

The Prince prepares to have his main force of Highlanders charge the Government position.

The Highland Charge puts the gun crew and all the Government forces to the sword.

The Jacobite forces replace the Union flag (which they call "the Butcher's Apron") with the St. Andrew's Cross flag of Scotland.

The victorious (on Saturday at least) Jacobites leave the field.

The forces of King George stand in review at the end of the day's battle.

James' son served as powder monkey for the battle and so he had to "kiss the sponge." Andre "anointed" his cheek with the cannon swab which left a filthy smear on his face. He was supposed to leave it there for 24 hours, but I wasn't going to check. This does mean that he is now a veteran. Huzzah!

On Sunday, Beth went out early while I came out to the site after worship at church. It was an oddly foggy day, but that proved to be "atmospheric" for the reenactment of Culloden. Much needed reinforcements arrived for the Government.

Early in the day, His Highness walked around the site, greeting his people and suffering an attack on his person from one of my militiamen  - who was soundly thrashed by the Life Guard.

The 15th of Foot arrives in force and in style.

Andre briefs the assembled regulars of King George. Two of the fellows were in the uniform of the 28th of Foot -  also a yellow faced regiment. This filled out the King's contingent to 8 muskets and an ensign. Add to that the three militiamen and we could take on anyone!

The day's safety inspection continues.

The perfect family photo!
Matthew, Josh, Andrew, and their father, Lyle. Matthew often serves as a "runner" for officers in War of 1812 reenactments. Sunday he was an ensign (an office with the King's commission no less!) and carried the colours. This might be Andrew's only reenactment of the summer; he's a cadet at the Royal Military College and his schedule is quite full.
You can also see how foggy the site was - even in the afternoon. The stuff continually rolled in off Lake Erie but seemed to go not further inland than the Museum site.

The Jacobite force and their families retreat across the field.

The rear guard with the flag of Clan Maclachlan engages the advancing Redcoats.

The 15th + enters the field.
Justin (on the far left) commanded the "hatmen." He knew the drill manual so I asked him if he would take care of the commands for the Regulars. Andre fed me the commands and I passed the word down the line.

The Life Guard take up a position to hold off the Government advance and to allow the Prince to get to safety.

The line is reinforced.

The regular troops give fire while the militia skirmish to their left.
Some of my militiamen's muskets were being troublesome.

Mine was doing fine with fresh flint.
A fine volley!
Fall back! Save the Prince!

The wives came out to treat the wounded. That was our signal to make a bayonet charge and be - as we were ordered to before the battle started - "right bast@rds" and butcher everyone, women included.  Andre points out targets and militiaman Shawn takes his orders. Appearently at Culloden, there were few surviving Jacobite wounded; the Government forces bayoneted everyone. In the "Highland Clearances" that followed, many Highlanders were sent to Canada and many settled in the area of the Museum, hence the name "Wallacetown."

Andrew picked up a Scots broadsword and hacked a few up. That IS a smile on his face.

The field of battle and the cost of war - never to be forgotton and we'd hope, never to be repeated.

A solemn moment: The piper plays the lament for the fallen and we all remove our head coverings.
Andrew still clings to the broadsword.
The Forces of King George leave the field to pass in review.

Justin, Josh, and Andrew head the column.

Yes, I'm slow, but I got there. Shaymus introduced me as a "not-necessarily-traitorous Scots Militiaman."
It felt like a promotion.

The Prince leads his troops to pass in review.

Dismissing the victorious regulars and militia. Well done, guys!
The organizers hope to have this event yearly after this and they'd like to use the Backus Page House Museum grounds for it. It is a grand place to have such an event and I wouldn't mind seeing this happen. I don't suppose we could order the fog and mist every year, could we?

A few more photos:

Brandi, Jared's wife, and their daughter, who is without a doubt our favourite reenactor!
She was a hit with all the crowd.

Making a friend with a sippy-cup.

"I'm going this way, Mom!"

Note the fog and mist as Shaymus announces the artilllery demonstration on Sunday.

A collage from one of our friends. Too bad it wasn't of a better subject.
Jared and I and the lads of the militia, Tom and Shawn, with Jaimee.

The regulars advance while the militia guards their flank and reloads.