|Opening positions. North is to the left.|
|First contact is in the woods, lower centre.|
|This is what Grant and his wing could 'see' in the fog.|
Smallwood's Militia is just off to the right ... unobserved!
|On the Colonial left (top of map) a big gap had opened|
up between the two militia brigades, but Smallwood had made
the crossroads just beyond Frankford Creek
|Knyphaussen receives a 'this is what you can see'|
report from the umpire. His formations (red and
green units) visibility is down to 1 hex in the fog. He is
aware that he engages 2 militia brigades (blue) in the woods
|Chew House becomes fortified (yellow counter)|
and Grenadiers arrive at the Tavern (top right)
|The British have been pushed back into Germantown|
and (top right) the militia are ready to meet The Guards
before their Grenadiers can get into position
|Washington's army fully engages the British line|
|The British army is stretched, though 2nd VA find|
themselves surrounded at the southern end
|An offer from Washington|
Lord Stirling, knew of the battle raging at the town and knew that Washington would likely send any reserves in support of that fight. Never the less, having identified a weakness in the British line, he pressed on, attacking directly ahead, where the Hessian Grenadiers, alone, were defending this section of the line, guarding part of the encampments - this had the potential to become a critical turning point.
Leaving nothing to chance, Lord Stirling led the assault up the heights and pushed into the Hessian Grenadiers, forcing the defenders back and dispersing them and gaining possession of part of the British camp.
Washington had indeed asked Sullivan to use his 2nd Pennsylvanian brigade to advance towards market Square from the west if possible, in order to support Greene’s assault on the town from the east, but had added that failing that, he should join Lord Stirling at the heights.
Fortunately for Lord Stirling, Sullivan judged that he could not reach Market Square without first getting involved with British 4th Brigade, who had Knyphausen with them and which appeared a risky proposition. Instead he ordered the brigade south to directly support Lord Stirling's assault on the heights, an attack that offered some prospect at least of defeating the British left wing decisively.
Sullivan’s Pennsylvanians fell in beside Lord Stirling and attacked British 3rd Brigade, but those defenders were well organised and motivated and the attack faltered, with the Pennsylvanians retiring to the woods at their rear.
This left 3rd British brigade free to counter-attack Lord Stirling, who had just captured the camp. They even roped in a handful of the scattered Hessian Grenadiers to join the attack, but they were exhausted and they suffered heavy losses as Lord Stirling’s North Caroliners stood firm at the encampment. This was indeed becoming the pivotal moment of the battle
|Colonial assault on the British left wing|
His New Jersey brigade moved on Rittenhouse’s Mill to pin the Hessian Brigade and Jägers, while Armstrong Sent Irvine (militia) forwards again, to support them, though Potter was unable to assist as they were still sorting their ranks out after being previously disordered. The attack successfully pushed the Hessians off the ridge and pressed them against Schuylkill River at the Vanburen’s Mill crossing.
The Hessians counter-attacked the militia, regained the ridge and pushed Irvine back into the woods, with an hour and a half's fighting leaving them pretty much in their starting positions. Of the assault against the British left, it was only Lord Stirling's North Caroliners that had managed to both take and hold ground, but crucially this was in a key area of the battlefield (victory location) and the British did not have a free reserve to counter Lord Stirling's gains.
The rest of Sullivan’s Division was situated further back around Chew House, recovering after being hit hard and suffering heavy losses in the earlier fighting. Maryland fell back onto Kelly’s Hill, where Washington assisted the unit to recover it’s morale and stragglers. Sullivan likewise tried to assist his 1st Pennsylvanian Brigade to recover, but they were heavily disorganised from so many losses, that had particularly decimated the junior officers.
On Washington's left, Smallwood had wanted his militia to return to Frankford Creek and engage the Guards, but he could get neither brigade to move. Forman was still reorganising after heavy losses, while Smallwood’s brigade were replenishing their ammunition after several hours of continual action. However, he was satisfied that within the hour, his two brigades were ready and better prepared to take the fight to the enemy and that they posed a significant threat and distraction to the British flank.
Germantown and particularly Market Square was a prime objective for Washington. The responsibility to take Market Square now fell fully on Greene’s shoulders. Without Sullivan's 2nd Pennsylvania Brigade joining in the attack from the west, he would be striking from the eastern side alone.
He attacked with 1st Virginia, leading in person and drew some support from 2nd Virginia, who were already in the southern end of the town, but who were disrupted and low on ammunition. He also had the promised artillery support on Kelly’s Hill.
The attack pushed British 1st Brigade and Grant out of the town and Market Square once again changed hands as 1st Virginia took the ground. In this encounter both Grant and Greene each had very close encounters from enemy musket fire, but were luckily unscathed, though one had a clean musket ball sized hole through their hat, serving notice of the fickle finger of fate.
At the same time, 3rd Virginia attacked the pickets at the woods below the town. The fighting was intense with the defenders refusing to budge and the casualties increasing, but after an hour of fighting, the pickets as a formation were destroyed, they had just lost too many men, though 3rd Virginia had also suffered badly, but at least remained as a cohesive force.
The British were under great pressure with the Colonials now in Market Square and also up at the camp, though the British infantry brigades were largely intact and remained formidable.
Knyphausen had wanted to hold the line at the ridge, while having his 3rd and 4th Brigades push forwards to attack Lord Stirling’s North Caroliners, so that he could get a defensive line pushed forwards and anchored on the woods, giving the wing greater depth and providing some safety for the camp, but he had since found himself reacting with 3rd Brigade against the North Caroliners who were already on the heights and he together with 4th Brigade were hemmed in at Germantown and fully engaged there as they worked with the right wing to try and recapture the Market Square.
Grant likewise was fully engaged at Germantown, with 2nd Brigade and the Dragoons now getting drawn into the fray to support Grant and 1st Brigade recover the town. He had sent an order out to the Guards to reform and to make their way onto the Germantown road. He intended to bitterly contest a defensive line that would be anchored along that road.
His Dragoons in their first encounter, tried to oust 1st Connecticut from the woods below the town, but failed, while 2nd British Brigade, 1st Brigade and 4th Brigade made a combined attack against 1st Virginia at Market Square. The attack was overwhelming and lesser troops would have routed, but Greene kept his men together and conducted an orderly retreat, Market Square was back in British hands, but it was not enough, with the encampment captured and held firmly by Lord Stirling, the British had lost the day.
Pursuit 1400 hours to 1700 hours
The British began to make an orderly retreat towards the Tavern on the Germantown Road, that would allow them to fall back upon their line of communication.
Lord Stirling with his North Caroliners pursued British 3rd Brigade, trapping them against Schuylkill River and forcing them to surrender. This intervention also blocked the Hessian Brigade's path of retreat, who with the help of nearby 2nd Brigade and some Grenadiers tried to fight their way out along the river line, which they did.
On the British right, the Guards had to repeatedly turn and fight off Smallwood’s militia who were moving onto the British right flank to cut the Germantown Road and prevent the escape of the British army.
|British 3rd Brigade (red) are trapped against the|
Schuylkill River and surrender. The escape route
of the Hessians (green) is now blocked.
By 1700 hours, the fog had returned and the battlefield was getting a tougher place to operate in, but as a final act of victorious confidence, Lord Stirling with North Caroliner and New Jersey, caught up with the retreating Hessian Brigade and put them to rout.
As the gunfire subsided, the British forces finally managed to escape, with the Guards and Dragoons working together in keeping Smallwood’s militia away from the British escape route.
At Chew House, the isolated pickets had no choice but to surrender to Sullivan’s Pennsylvania and the fighting was all over.
And so we had a major colonial victory at the end of the British Combat Phase of the 1230 turn due to Lord Stirling still having control of an encampment hex, which is a sudden death victory condition, as is Colonial control of Market Square, which passed hands several times, but was a place that the British always managed to recapture before the end of their Combat Phase.
Although the game had technically ended on an instant win, there were three more turns that could have been played and so I played them out just to see how successful a British retreat might be.
The boardgame has a very small footprint and the counter density is very low, making this an ideal game for an umpire to keep set up over several days and move around the house as the domestic situation required. The landscape is interesting enough for some nuanced play to come out and in the fog rules, some of this terrain takes on a different character, usually making it more difficult to operate in. The small runs become equal to creeks in combat during fog, which hurts attackers and helps defenders, so these brought some interesting touches to local incidents.
The role of umpire put me in a privileged position of seeing opportunities gained or lost as players worked from an information flow from other players and also on what they could actually see. I allowed a visual range of 3 hexes, increased to 4 if on a hill and of course things like the high ground and town blocked line of sight. Because of this, each gamer will have had a slightly different perspective on the battle and will have been hungry for more information and will also have had a sense of isolation. This blog post is the first occasion for each of the gamers to see the bigger picture and to recognise what their actions did to the course of the battle.
One of the game mechanics that helps put some inter-play between the two sides is that if the attacker does not attack all of the units in their zone of control (read adjacent), then the non-attacked units at the end of the combat phase can launch their own counter-attacks, but their strength is doubled and on a combat chart that uses differentials, that is a biggie. It discourages unjustified ganging up and creates a lot of locally important moments, with some units attacking an enemy that they may rather avoid, simply to prevent that double strength jab back at them.
The militia have some nice simple modelling rules. In the open, they have to test against their rather low morale before they are allowed to come adjacent to an enemy unit, but when in woodland they don't and they can also skirmish in woodland, so they can engage with a reduced risk to themselves.
The combat values are interesting. You will note that in general, Colonial regulars are strength 7, while British brigades are at strength 8. On a straight one on one attack, this gives the Colonials a slight disadvantage with their attacks going in on the minus 1 (-1) column, so both sides are frequently looking for that small positional advantage they might get from terrain or supporting units to improve their chances.
Once you add into this the problems of units flipping to weaker sides or becoming disrupted, then quite a wide range of possibilities come out of local situations, which brings a lot of interest to play.
Units do get a chance to recover from disorganisation and even cover some lost strength, but they cannot be adjacent to an enemy and in the latter case, they must always pass a morale test - something the British force generally finds easier to do.
I am really pleased to have got involved with this. It does need time to service it, but it provides a unique gamer experience that will really have you thinking about our approach to command and control in our games.
finally, I would just like to that the group that joined in. They freely gave their time, kept up with the tempo of play and fully entered the spirit of what the game was trying to achieve - thank you everyone.