Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life; currently concentrating on a re-fight of the entire Peninsular War, but with the odd foray into ancient, medieval and WW2 battles.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

ECW Campaign: August 1643

The English Civil War: August 1643

The Earl of Manchester was appointed as Generalissimo of the Eastern Association.  He takes over the Siege of Newark, subordinating Meldrum and Groby to himself.

Royalist sympathizers in Manchester petitioned the King to send forces to free their city from the tyranny of zealots.  Their associates in Chester joined in the call, begging the King to support the towns and cities of the Northwest against zealotry and intolerance and anarchy.

Prince Rupert marched on London via. St. Albans, quickly overrunning the hastily-levied defenders of the city who were quickly killed, captured or dispersed.  The garrison of London quickly closed the gates and manned the walls and called for the help of the Earl of Essex.  He abandoned his siege of Oxford and marched to London via Reading.  Prince Rupert blocked him and the two armies clashed at the Battle of Feltham; although the Royalists perhaps had the better of the fighting in that they inflicted more casualties, Essex succeeded in forcing the Prince to retreat and abandon his attack upon London.
King Charles, after considering but rejecting plans to attack Waller around Hereford-Gloucester or Brereton in the Northwest, decided instead upon a bold attack on the Earl of Manchester's army which was besieging Newark.  Manchester tried to withdraw in front of the King's army, but was brought to battle and defeated at Long Bennington.  The remnants of Manchester's army then fled post-haste into The Fens.
Cavendish continued the Royalist offensives, moving to relieve Chester.  Brereton decided against offering battle, instead retiring towards Blackburn.  Later, Brereton moved into Yorkshire and captured Bolton Castle.
In the Southwest, Bedford moved to Bodmin, and Goring withdrew to St.Austell.
Waller did not move, preferring to train his Foot.  Hopton moved to Oxford to take control of the garrison there.
John Hampden brought the siege of Basing to a successful conclusion.




The North:
 





Royalists:
Newcastle at Carlisle with 3000 Foot, 1500 Horse
1000 Foot garrison Newcastle
Ethyin at York with 1000 Foot
1000 Foot garrison Preston

Parliamentarians:
Fairfax at Hull with 2000 Foot, 750 Horse
Brereton at Bolton Castle with 3000 Foot, 2250 Horse

The Midlands:
 

Royalists:
Cavendish at Chester with 4000 Foot, 2250 Horse
King Charles I at Newark with 6000 Foot, 3000 Horse
1000 Foot garrisoning Shrewsbury

Parliamentarians:
Waller at Worcester with 3000 Foot, 1500 Horse
Manchester in The Fens with 6000 Foot, 1500 Horse

The South:

Royalists:
Rupert at St.Albans with 8000 Foot, 3750 Horse
1000 Foot garrisoning Gloucester
Hopton at Oxford with 2000 Foot, 750 Horse
Goring at St. Austell with 3000 Foot, 750 Horse

Parliamentarians:
Cromwell at Chelmsford with 3000 Foot, 750 Horse
Essex at London with 10000 Foot, 3750 Horse
1000 Foot garrisoning Reading
Hampden at Basing with 2000 Foot
Massey with 1000 Foot at Bristol
Bedford with 5000 Foot, 2250 Horse at Bodmin

Game Notes:
A very important month, as the Royalists launched three important offensives.  Prince Rupert came quite close to being able to attack London and with his ability to assault cities, might just have carried it off.  As it was, the Parliamentary forces were able to relieve the city and push Prince Rupert away, although at some cost.  The King's effort to relieve Newark was more straightforwardly successful, since he relieved the city, caught Manchester's retreating army and defeated it.  Cavendish also successfully relieved Chester.  Overall, the situation seems to have tilted in the King's favour except in the South, where the slow but relentless advance of Bedford and Hampden have secured almost the whole south coast for Parliament.  The key thing for the King will be to decide where to launch his next offensives: at London, at Hull and the North or Southwest to retake the important recruiting areas of Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

ECW Campaign Battle 09: The Battle of Long Bennington

King Charles, having left command of the main Oxford Army to Prince Rupert for his attack upon London, moved to Shrewsbury to take command of the smaller armies of Sir Rupert Vasey and the Earl of Forth.  Initially he considered that he might strike at Brereton or Waller, but decided that Sir Charles Cavendish's army was strong enough to deal with the former on his own.  A strike southwards towards Gloucester and Cardiff to drive back or defeat Waller looked tempting, but on further consideration, he realized that a strike against the larger Parliamentary army currently besieging Newark was feasible.  The numerical odds would be even but the King was confident that the greater training and experience of the Royalist Horse would give him a crucial advantage in the upcoming campaign.

The Earl of Manchester largely shared the King's diagnosis and when approached, lifted the siege and attempted to retire.  However, the King, showing some flashes of brilliance, moved too quickly for the Parliamentarians and forced the Earl of Manchester to turn and fight near Long Bennington as he moved south from Newark...

The Forces:
 

King Charles (Average)



Sir Rupert Vasey (Poor):
18 bases Veteran Horse (S), 10 bases Raw Horse (S), 1 base Raw Dragoons
2 bases Veteran Foot (SH)
1 Gun

Earl of Forth (Poor):
10 bases Raw Foot (SH)
3 Guns

(28 Horse, 1 Dragoons, 12 Foot, 3 Guns)

Earl of Manchester (Poor):



Sir John Meldrum (Poor):
10 bases Raw Horse (D), 1 base Raw Dragoons
8 bases Raw Foot (SH)
2 Guns

Lord Groby (Poor):
6 bases Raw Horse (D)
2 bases Veteran Foot (SH), 6 bases Raw Foot (SH)
3 Guns

(16 Horse, 1 Dragoons, 16 Foot, 5 Guns)

The Set-Up:


The Parliamentary Right - Horse, Foot and Guns defending the hill

The Earl of Manchester (foreground) in front of an enclosure in the centre of the Parliamentary line

The Parliamentary left-centre: the Earl of Manchester put his veteran Foot to hold the line between the Parliamentary Centre and the Horse on the Left

The Parliamentary Left

The battlefield, Royalists coming from the bottom, the Parliamentarians occupy the central enclosure and then the line of hills and the second enclosure to the rear (top)

King Charles personally commanding the Royalist left wing, composed entirely of veteran troopers

The Parliamentary centre is commanded by the Earl of Forth, facing the forward Parliamentary position

Sir Rupert Vasey commands the Royalist right, composed of Horse

The view along the lines from the Parliamentary left (bottom-right) towards the Centre and the Right; Royalists are on the left, but with the forward enclosure jutting into that line.
 The Battle:

The Royalists started the battle by advancing on their Right

Notice Vasey's troopers (right) flowing around the enclosure - Vasey moves his reserves up to cover his flank with the enclosure

Manchester advances some of his foot battalia to check Forth's movements around the enclosures

The Earl of Forth brings his Foot into musketry range to engage the Parliamentary defenders

Vasey orders his leading brigade of Horse to charge...and they refuse (see the shaken markers)!

Luckily for the Royalists, the other brigade does charge home up the hill into the defending Foot and Guns.  The slope negates to an extent the Royalists' advantages in skill and experience

Mixed results: the Parliamentary guns are overrun, but the the raw Foot drives back the veteran Horse down the slopes

Some surprisingly effective artillery fire halts the advancing Parliamentary Foot

The Royalist Horse on their left charge up the hill once again, and this time get the better of it!

The Parliamentary Horse advances into the shaken Royalist Horse brigade; with mixed results, one troop of Royalist Horse is pushed back further and is on the brink of breaking (centre) but the other two Royalist troops managed to push back the Parliamentarians, despite being contacted whilst disordered

And soon those Parliamentarian troopers are routed!  As, to be fair, is the third troop of Royalist Horse too (top-left, just leaving the picture)

A closer look at that success

The Royalist Horse manages to rout one of the battalia defending the hill

The Parliamentary Horse reserves on their right flank are thrown into battle, with some success

A closer look, as the Parliamentary Horse rout another troop of Royalists (top-left)

A Parliamentary Foot battalia moves up to restore the position on the hill on the right flank

Another Parliamentary Foot battalia catches some pursuing Royalist Horse in the flank: the unexpected fire throws the Royalists into total confusion

The Parliamentary Foot holding the hill once again and drive the Royalist horse back to its foot

The other (right) side of that hill - this too still held by Parliamentary Foot

The Earl  of Forth manages to get one of his battalia into position to mount a successful flank attack on the corner of the forward enclosure

That reserve Parliamentary Foot completes its victory over the Royalist Horse it had ambushed

A successful advance and volley on the right-wing routs another troop of Royalist Horse

At this moment, King Charles unleashes his main assault on the Royalist right; the lead Parliamentary brigade buckles under the pressure, with one troop (second from right) already in rout and the rest becoming disordered

Reserve Royalist Horse begins to mop up the various surviving troops of Parliamentary Horse on the other flank

Fierce fighting rages in the enclosure, but Forth has managed to get another battalia into the farmland: the Parliamentarians still hold on tenaciously

Parliamentary Foot attempt a counter-attack, but are held back by musketry

King Charles' brigade achieves complete success over the leading Parliamentary brigade on the Royalist right flank

A closer view of - on this day at least - the Glorious King Charles

The wider context at this moment on the Parliamentary left

King Charles charges into the second Parliamentary brigade

The fight generally going the King's way, but one troop of Roundheads has defied the odds and routed their opponents (centre)!

A closer look

The Royalist Foot make slow but steady progress in clearing the forward enclosure

With the leading Parliamentary Foot under increasing pressure - but still holding on...

The Royalist Horse on the left employ another brigade to try and clear the remaining Parliamentary Foot from the hill

Casualties and disorder mount on both sides...

Casualties and close terrain cause disorder to mount in the Foot fighting in the centre....

The Parliamentarians continue to throw troops in to stabilize the situation

A close-up of the last triumph of the Roundhead troopers...

But King Charles, leading his troopers, sword in hand, is victorious!

The Parliamentarian left wing has largely disappeared

Easier to see in this shot

The infantry fighting has reached a second point of stability around the enclosures

The forward Parliamentary Foot have bravely held on, despite the pressure on both flanks

The last units of Parliamentary Foot on the right still hold on

The last battalia keeps the Royalist Horse from outflanking the position on the hill, now that the lead elements are at the bottom of the slope

The position at the end of the battle: although the Parliamentary centre and right have taken great punishment, they have held on; but the total destruction of the Parliamentary left has broken the morale of the Parliamentary army - victory to the King!

Another view of the final positions
Game Results: A clear victory for King Charles, with the Earl of Manchester's army having suffered heavy casualties and had one of its flanks turned, with the other holding on by a thread.

Royalist losses: c.1360 cavalry, 430 infantry, 2 guns (later recovered), Sir Rupert Vasey (captured)
Parliamentary losses: c. 1950 cavalry, 1600 infantry, 6 guns, Sir John Meldrum (captured)

Strategically the results have been just as great for the King as the tactical: Newark has been relieved, the Earl of Manchester has been thrown back into East Anglia and the main routes from North to South are firmly in the King's hands, giving him the power to threaten in all directions.

Game Notes: A poor deployment by the Earl of Manchester (okay, me) contributed to the defeat, although given the preponderance of veteran Royalist Horse, it is difficult to see on that terrain what a really secure deployment would have looked like.  It may have been better to forego the attraction of the forward defensive position and only defend the rear hedge-line to create a more compact position and threaten the flanks of the advancing cavalry a little.  That said, King Charles was very careful to develop his secondary attacks to pin the Parliamentary forces anyway, so it may have been the case that, given the terrain generation, there was simply very little that the Earl of Manchester could have done. 
The failure of the initial Royalist Horse attack shows that, even when the odds make it a worthwhile gamble, using the charge mechanism for "Swedish" Horse can still get one into trouble!
Note that flank attacks in enclosures are hard to make work very well, because the moving troops are continually taking shaken levels simply for moving in the enclosure.  This makes successful attacks slow, where possible at all.
Incidentally, although I generally avoid mechanisms which place any pressure on my ability to "role-play", I do make sure that if an army has attempted to evade combat but failed in the campaign rules, then it does have to make an honest attempt to defend its position rather than just deploy on its baseline and walk-off.  I rationalize this by saying that when caught in this way, it must fight to protect its (off-table) baggage and supplies, otherwise the army will lose more from desertion and illness than it would in the actual battle.
So, an interesting and fun game even though the Royalists did win reasonably comfortably.

Rules were the Polemos ECW set, figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Timecast.