Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Comment on the Tactical Rules

The battles were fought using the 1st Edition of Volley & Bayonet by Frank Chadwick. All of the cavalry were on regimental bases, which made them very fragile (one hit/regiment).

If I were to fight the campaign again (and we did, sort of), I would put the cavalry on brigade bases. This is mostly because the doctrine of the time was already migrating to the use of cavalry brigades as opposed to regiments. This was in large part because of the recognition of two factors. First, that individual regimental strengths varied widely, depending upon the success of the Colonel-Proprietor. Second, that cavalry was best used en masse. Dragoons, however, would be on regimental stands because my reading of the literature of the period indicates that this was the way it was usually done.

Now the 2nd Edition of the rules is out, Volley & Bayonet, The Road to Glory. I would use these the next time the two sides face off. When will that be? Well, there was another campaign that followed the one I'm currently detailing, a campaign that emphasized scouting (one side didn't). That will get detailed later.

A word on armies/rules/&c. All of my Marlburians are for V&B. I've tried various other rules for the period, and like V&B for its subtlety and simplicity. Long gone are the days when I felt complexity gave a better game.

I saw this in a game of Wagram I read about using the rules Two Hundred Years Ago. This club lovingly painted up every battery, battalion and regiment from that battle. They rented a hall. They laid the troops out. They got through three turns(!) and then had to pick up. I read the rules and concluded that a simple time-motion study precluded ever doing anything with them aside from small actions.

Historically most wargames rules work best with small forces. This is partly because the foundations of the hobby were from (mostly) WW2 gaming, and there you didn't think of divisions, the gamers who had been through that war thought in terms of companies/troops and battalions (at the highest level). Scotty Bowden changed that with Empire 1. Suddenly my 1:20 Napoleonic army (2 divisions) became two corps! I felt like a corps or army commander, not a glorified regimental commander. And part of Scotty's secret was a time-motion study that simplified the mechanics. But even so, by the end of a battle spread over three or four of our days, we would be so exhausted that we'd just say "throw the dice and we'll look it up if it's close."

Years ago I did Alte Fritz, a 1:75 set of Seven Years War rules. I simplified the mechanics as much as I could, and you could handle a reasonable sized battle on the table. The largest we did was 35+ battalions and 60 squadrons on a side. That was an epic fight that took a good part of a day. Clearly improvements could be made.

Jeff Cox and I took the DBA concept and did Little Big Battles. There a player could handle a corps without a problem, often two. And Jeff and I did one epic battle where we had multiple corps each. But the average player had no problem handling even the extra-large Austrian corps of 1809. The secret was a close attention to time-motion, and the DBA concept of rolling morale and combat results up as one throw.

The only other set of rules that I've enjoyed for large actions (what I prefer) are the V&B rules. I confess that my first experience was very negative, but that was partly because the guy putting the game on at Enfilade! was a nice guy who didn't know the rules all that well. Jeff and I tested them by trying our best to abuse the daylights out of them. It left a sour taste in our mouths.

I went back a few months later after an ACW V&B game. True, I was hung out to dry by my Army Commander (I had Sickles Corps on Day 2 of Gettysburg), but so was Sickles, partly through his own folly. But I cobbled together a line after the initial shock, and managed to fall back in some order and pull more of my troops out of the fight than Sickles (or after he was wounded, Humphries) did. And what was going on felt like what I'd read. I decided to give the rules another try.

I did, and my Marlburians all went on V&B stands. I also mounted my 1813 Prussians for V&B, but haven't touched my 1806 French or any of my SYW troops. We'll see about what happens in the future.

Why didn't I try Napoleon's Battles? I did, and it makes an interesting story. Jeff and I were at a local hobbystore, and the guys there were putting on the Battle of Teugen-Hausen (1809 Campaign). Jeff took the French, and I was given a corps of Austrians. The main Austrian force deploys on a ridge, and my corps was coming up through some woods on their right. The French (Davout's troops) assaulted the ridge, carried it, and swept the Austrians aside.

Jeff didn't just power into the Austrians in a Napoleonic style banzai charge, get mangled, and then have to fight hard with his second division to hold his line while the Austrians massed on his flank. This was unheard of! Instead he massed his forces, and pinned the Austrians in front while trying to turn their left flank. Unheard of! In fact one of the guys who normally gamed with the rules dismissed Jeff's flank attack as something that couldn't work because "the end battalion will simply face". So Jeff got behind the Austrians and hit them from three sides. Their line folded at once.

I took one look at this, and at too many French for my columns of march to hold back. So I used my Advanced Guard division to punch the French back while everyone turned around and marched away. The Advanced Guard division fell back as a mobile rearguard, and after a couple of bad experiences the French followed up cautiously.

The same guys were going to put on Wagram using these rules, and they called me about a month before. They wanted me to take an Austrian Corps because I was "a careful, cautious commander". For some reason this sends my friends into paroxysms of laughter. I declined politely.

I didn't like the feel of Napoleon's Battles (just like I didn't like Piquet). Call it personal preferences. I have not tried Sam Mustapha's Grand Army. For now I'll stick with V&B, and if I want SYW, Age of Reason. For Napoleonics...right now it's a reworked Empire 2, or Guard du Corps. Negotiations are on-going (there are other games involved). We'll see what happens.

Action at Swede Hollow

The Fall Campaign (continued)

The Action at Swede Hollow


Three days after the Battle of Arlington, the commander of the Allied Army made the decision to cut his way out of the mountains. His decision came as a result of careful pondering (and discussion with the referee). He had the following unpalatable facts on his plate:

  1. the nearest "safety" was in Sedro Wooley (at least), 83 miles away by his current route;

  2. if he turned east at Concrete, it was over 400 miles before he could be "in supply";

  3. he had precious little food;

  4. he had almost no ammunition, except that carried in the pouches of a few regiments not engaged at Arlington;

  5. he had no artillery;

  6. he had several thousand unorganized men looting, marauding, and eating everything in sight;

  7. the French were sure to get to Sedro Wooley first, blocking him in the mountains (he could not see how to get an organized force through the mountains back to Bellingham - referee input, isn't going to happen);

  8. the French were pursuing him with cavalry (one regiment) and infantry (at least two regiments) - referee observation, he finally began scouting;

Based on the above, his choices were few:

  1. he could surrender - unacceptable;

  2. he could force march to Sedro Wooley and try to cut his way out;

  3. he could try to go west over the mountains and back to the coastal area - no. This would destroy the army.

  4. he could turn on his pursuers.

Of these choices, 2 and 4 were the most "reasonable". But Option #2 meant he would have 83 miles to go with a starving army. The French would have plenty of time to get there first and dig in. He would then have to assault prepared defenses covered with artillery. His chances of winning under those circumstances were nil.

Option #4 offered his best chances. Now that he was doing scouting (he had cavalry superiority), he was learning all sorts of things. One of the more interesting things was that his pursuit consisted of two infantry regiments, 1/1st Germans and 2/1st Germans. He concluded that a bayonet assault would do the trick, and so ordered one. But the units picked for the assault would also be the ones that had ammunition, just in case (as referee I informed him that his chances of winning any given round of combat decreased by not having ammunition, though I didn't tell him by how much - all hits he made would be subject to saving throws, and his opponent got a +1 on his chances to hit).

The Pursuing Force

The pursuing force were left in the hands of the referee with orders to "keep after them, but don't get in over your head". I asked about "digging in every night". The French commander wanted to know how long it would take, and I said "a couple of hours, at least, maybe more". As this would mean the Allies "got away" (his words), he said no, don't. Just "keep close". So I decided that the troops pursued, camped every night with a picket line out, but didn't take "extraordinary" precautions. They did clash repeatedly with the Allied Cavalry, but those were a lot of "facing and staring" contests.

The Fight at Swede Hollow - The Forces

The ground at Swede Hollow broadens out (sort of), stretching all four pursuing German battalions out so they covered the entire front. The 2/1st Germans were on the left with their left flank resting on the stream, the 1/1st Germans were on the right with their right flank resting on steep and heavily wooded (cavalry proof) ground. There were pickets from the Atrasos Cavalry in front, but the bulk of the regiment was behind the German infantry (they were on the left as the ground was "suitable"). Both German regiments had both battalions in line. They were, after all, "sweeping up" the Allies.

The Allies coming down on them were in two columns of three Dutch regiments each, followed by the English. The Allied commander also decided to push a force past the Germans on their left, cross the stream (if they could find a ford) and try to turn the enemy flank. This force consisted of the following regiments: Huegenot, Dalrymple, Murray, and the Frambozen Cavalry.

The assault columns (from front to back) consisted of regiments:

Left Column Right Column
Grosch Koninck
Amstel Westmalle
Grootdefeatfontein Kofferdam

Referee decisions:

  1. all casualties would be permanent, though most would be "fugitives";

  2. this would be played in half-hour turns, though the ground scale would not change;

  3. I would roll 1d6 for surprise: 4 - 6 meant the Germans were alerted and could go stationary, 1 meant total surprise and the German regiment was disordered;

  4. Once a unit was ordered in, the player had no control over it, the unit would "keep advancing";

Swede Hollow - The Fight

The Allied commander gave the order to advance at 12:30. I rolled for surprise for each column: I threw a 3 for the right column, and 5 for the left column. The flanking column was ordered forward at the same time, but I did not have to roll for surprise just yet.

1:00 AM Turn

Grosch attacked the 2/1st Germans. Grosch went disordered (the Germans were already disordered), and Grosch took a hit.
Koninck attacked the 1/1st Germans and were disordered. Koninck took a hit and fell back.

1:30 AM Turn

Amstel attacked the 2/1st Germans. 2/1st Germans took a hit and the Germans were forced back. Westmalle attacked the 1/1st Germans. Both were disordered. Westmalle lost the melee result throw. Huegenot came to the stream and forded it well behind the 2/1st Germans. Atrasos Cavalry were now mounted and ready for action.

2:00 AM Turn

Grootdefeatfontein attacked the 2/1st Germans just as Huegenot came at them from the rear. Dalrymple crossed the stream. 2/1st Germans took a hit and routed from the melee. They ran into Huegenot and Dalrymple. Most of the regiment threw down their weapons and surrendered (referee decision). Kofferdam attacked the 1/1st Germans, and took 2 hits(!). Clearly the 1/1st Germans were not to be trifled with tonight. Kofferdam routed and was removed.

2:30 AM Turn

1/1st Germans were now outflanked. They pulled back into the trees and sacrificing their stationary status. Amstel came at the 1/1st Germans. Both sides took a hit. Both sides rolled on the morale dice (three times) before Amstel backed away. Atrasos Cavalry fell back, along with fugitives.

3:00 AM Turn

1/1st Germans broke contact (nobody could reach them), pulling back uphill deeper into the trees. Westmalle, Amstel and Koninck faced them and made a flank guard. Everyone else "kept moving".

4:00 AM Turn to 6:00 AM Turn

The Allies flowed down the valley like a torrent. The battle was over, but the Allied player was enjoying this too much and insisted we continue.

6:00 AM Turn

Atrasos Cavalry clashed with the 1st British Cavalry at Oso. No casualties on either side, the British fell back on the melee result throw. Dutch regiment te Paard comes up and deploys to the flank of the Atrasos Cavalry.

6:30 AM Turn

Atrasos Cavalry falls back before being flanked. The Allied pursuit rolls on.

8:00 AM Turn

The Allies reach Arlington. The 3rd Germans have already fallen back to west of Arlington. Referee rules that the battle is over.

Order of Battle and Losses
1/1st Germans..........M5,EFD,PT,NE....[ ][x]
2/1st Germans..........M5,EFD,PT,NE....[x][x][x]
Atrasos Cavalry........M5,HVY..........[ ]

Grosch.................M5,EFD,PT,NE....[x][ ]
Amstel.................M5,EFD,PT,NE....[x][ ][ ]
Grootdefeatfontein.....M5,EFD,PT,NE....[ ][ ][ ]
Koninck................M5,EFD,PT,NE....[x][ ][ ]
Westmalle..............M5,EFD,PT,NE....[ ][ ][ ]
Huegenot...............M5,EFD,PT,NE....[ ][ ]
Dalrymple..............M4,EFD,PT,NE....[ ]
Murray.................M5,EFD,PT,NE....[ ][ ]
Frambozen Cavalry......M5,HVY..........[ ]
1st British Cavalry....M5,HVY..........[ ]
te Paard...............M5,HVY..........[ ]

French - 3,000 men present, 2,000 casualties from all causes
Allies - 12,000 men present, 2,500 casualties


Nothing really surprising here. The Allies had the force to make this work, and they were just going to keep going until they broke through. However it might not have happened. It all depended on the surprise roll. Clearly the commander of the 1/1st Germans did what he was supposed to. But the commander of the 2/1st Germans really didn't have much of a chance. When the Huegenot Regiment came at them from behind, they were surrounded, and it was only a matter of time.

As an exercise, it was interesting. I'm not sure I would care to try it again. The victory conditions would have to be carefully crafted (look at the casualties the Germans inflicted). What was refreshing was that the Allied commander kept his overall goal in mind: get through, don't stop to wipe out the Germans. Get the army out. Thus this could be marked down as an "educational" opportunity. We'll see if he makes anything of it.

Part 2 - The Fall Campaign

The Fall Campaign (continued)

The situation

The Allies are in a pretty mess. Their main army is retreating from the vicinity of Arlington, falling back in some disorder up Route 530. Only the Danes are still in the area, and they are marching north as fast as they can, accompanied by a host of stragglers, knocked loose from the ranks by the Battle of Arlington. There is a German regiment at MacMurray, one at Conway, and one holding the approaches to Fidalgo Island (one battalion) and blockading the very small garrison of Anacortes (with the other battalion). There is no field artillery (captured at Arlington), and the only cavalry is the Danish Cavalry regiment Bryggeri. Things couldn't get much bleaker.

Actually, they aren't. The Allied authorities in Bellingham and Vancouver found three more infantry regiments to send south, Leff, Palm, and VanZandunz. When coupled with the two of the three German regiments in the area, and the four Danish ones, a semi-respectable field force of 10 regiments, 12,000 men can be assembled (one German regiment will stay to watch Anacortes).

The Danish Commander Decides

The Danish Commander (the player who had commanded the Allies at Clear Lake) was the ranking officer in the area. He had a number of choices to make. When I asked, he listed them for me as these:

  1. Retreat everyone to Fidalgo Island;

  2. Mass in Burlington with the cavalry watching Sedro Wooley;

  3. Spread the troops around, two regiments at Conway, two regiments at the east end of the Mount Vernon Bridge to Fidalgo Island, two regiments north of Mount Vernon, and a detachment of some kind at Sedro Wooley.

I asked him for his decision. He asked my input. I told him that, speaking as the politicians, he should defend everything, or, failing that, he should mass everyone in Burlington to defend the approaches to Bellingham.
After some thought, he ordered Option #2:

  1. The Danes to retreat to Sedro Wooley, break the bridge, and move to Burlington, the cavalry would watch Sedro Wooley and fall back on Burlington if pressed;

  2. The Germans at MacMurray to join with the Danes;

  3. The Germans at Conway to stay where they were for one day, then to fall back to Fredonia if pressed or threatened;

  4. The Germans watching Anacortes and the approaches to Fidalgo Island to stay there;

  5. The Dutch regiments from Bellingham to march to Burlington.

His plan (when pressed) was to defend the direct route to Bellingham, and yet leave something to watch Anacortes. He figured that when things settled out, that place could still be taken. He also figured that any force that marched up the Skagit River to fight the Main Army would have its flank threatened by whatever he put at Sedro Wooley.

The French Pursuit

The French were trying to do a number of things:

  1. Pursue the beaten Allies toward Darrington;

  2. Round up the fragments of the Allied army (the Danes) headed north;

  3. Seize the road from Sedro Wooley to Concrete to trap the main Allied Army in the mountains;

  4. Seize Mount Vernon

The map here to the left will help sort out some of what everyone was considering. But keep in mind that the Allies had few supplies (and little ammunition), they had 83 miles of mountain marching from Arlington to Sedro Wooley, and they could expect to fight a battle at the end of it.

A few minutes of pondering these objectives will show that few of them are mutually exclusive. You have to have enough force to chase the Allies, and get enough force to Mount Vernon, and yet move fast enough to get to where you want to go, and.... The French Commander had already sent a force up the river after the Allies (1/1st and 2/1st Germans and the Spanish Atrasos Cavalry). He then ordered the following movements and dispositions:

  1. The bulk of the cavalry and the Aquaviva Dragoons to go to Mount Vernon to seize the bridge;

  2. After reaching Mount Vernon, one cavalry brigade to press up US 20 to find the Allies;

  3. Advance on two fronts:
    1. the Right Wing French to pursue the Danes. They will probably head directly for MacMurray and then Sedro Wooley. This force will attempt to bring them to battle and destroy them.

    2. The Left Wing to advance up the main road through Conway to Mount Vernon. They will try to seize the crossing over the Skagit at Mount Vernon, head-off the Danes, and, perhaps, snap up any of the German units in the area.

  4. The Spanish infantry to follow the right wing;

  5. The 3rd Germans to occupy Arlington, the 2nd Germans to occupy MacMurray.

The French commander concluded that these measures should be sufficient to bottle up the Allies and bag the whole lot.

The Allied Commander Ponders

The Allied Commander was in a bad situation, and he knew it (after a brief conversation with the referee). He had lost a lot of men and all of his field artillery, and he was trying to sort out what to do next. He had a force pursuing him, and he had very little in the way of supplies. Most of his wounded (except the walking wounded) had been captured, so the army he had left was mostly fit to fight (sort of). He had an 83 mile march ahead of him, on mountain roads with little food or supplies. And he knew the French would be waiting for him behind fixed defenses when he did show up. He didn't fancy making a series of frontal assaults on redoubts. It hadn't worked at Mount Vernon, why would anyone think it would work now? He studied the roads, trying to find a way out. The only one he could see was to continue to Concrete, then take US 20 over the mountains, and then turn north. The trouble was, assuming he did that, and assuming he could find the food, and assuming he could then either get far enough north as to get on a road that led him back to his bases (and that would avoid the bad weather, how much of an army would he have left? (Referee answer: none, but I didn't tell him that. I did tell him that it was 408 miles, and it was autumn, and let him draw his own conclusions). That meant he had to try something else. He weighed the possibilities and came up with an answer.

The New Allied Plan

First, the Allied Commander took stock of his forces to see what he had to work with. It was not encouraging. Then he shifted a few things around, and ordered his troops to turn and march back to Arlington. He knew he had the 1st and 2nd Germans behind him, he figured a night bayonet assault should chase them off. And then it would be a forced march to Arlington to gather whatever food he could find, followed by an escape. As turned in to me, the plan was:

  1. Night bayonet assault to cut through the pursuing German regiments;

  2. Force march to Arlington to find food and anything else lying around (such as ammunition);

  3. March north on the main road to Conway;

  4. Cross the river at Conway (by bridge or ford) and march to La Conner and north to Fidalgo Island;

  5. if possible, continue past the Fidalgo Island crossing and get to Burlington;

  6. if he couldn't get to Burlington, either turn on to Fidalgo Island, or proceed to Chuckanut drive.

Referee's Reaction

Well, on the ballsy scale, this had to rank right up there. I had to do the terrain for the night bayonet attack. What with one thing and another, I would play the part of the commander of the Germans. Then I would see what happened. This, I concluded, would be interesting (a much over-used word).

The Plans put into action

The first two days after the Battle of Arlington, the Allies slowed to 4 miles/day. The French moved to MacMurray, and then on to Sedro Wooley. The Danish commander, by ordering forced marches, managed to get to Sedro Wooley with the Allies hot on his heels. There was a spirited little action at the Sedro Wooley bridge, but the French commander decided not to push it. The Danes had gotten away.

The German regiment at Conway saw the French Army descending on them, and pulled back to the little redoubts on the west side of the river left over from the Spring Campaign and rebuilt during the initial actions of the Autumn Campaign. The French commander dropped off two infantry regiments (both Blesois regiments) to watch them, and continued north. He had a brigade of cavalry and the Aquaviva Dragoons with him. These troops stormed across the bridge at Mount Vernon, and ran into the new Dutch regiments. These troops were on the hills just north of Burlington, and were basically unassailable by the forces on hand. Their regimental guns bombarded the French troops, so the French fell back to just south of Burlington. The French Craupad Cavalry Brigade was sent to Fidalgo Island to watch anything in the area.

The Allies struck on the night of the third day after the Battle of Arlington. Surprise was complete, but the fighting was fierce. The referee decided to style this as the Action at Swede Heaven. The Atrasos Cavalry covered the retreat, at least until daylight, when they rallied at Oso. They made a front that slowed the Allies briefly, until the Dutch Cavalry regiment te Paard and the English 1st Cavalry came up. After a cavalry skirmish Atrasos withdrew. The 1/1st Germans had been cut off when they made a stand north of the Stillaguamish River. After some fighting, they were contained, and bypassed. Now they withdrew deeper into the hills and sat for a day, finally emerging after the bulk of the Allied army was past. They did grab up a few stragglers, but that was all. The fate of the 2/1st Germans was a bit harsher. They had been overwhelmed in the fighting, but fragments managed to fall back with the cavalry. Most of the fugitives made their way to Oso, where they surrendered after the retreat of the Atrasos Cavalry.

The stream of fugitives alerted the 3rd Germans that something was amiss. They tried to set fire to the accumulated stores, and then fall back across the battlefield of Arlington, taking refuge on the heights to the west of the battlefield. There, in the late afternoon, they were joined by the Atrasos Cavalry and the remnants of the 2/1st Germans amounting to about two companies worth of very disorganized men. The Allied cavalry raced into town with pre-emptory orders to fight any fires and secure the area. The first infantry on the scene were moved north over the Stillaguamish River as a flank guard, while the rest helped put out the fires. Most of the stores were saved, and the Allied Army dined well that night.

The French...React(?)

Contact with the troops at Arlington was interrupted by the Allied attack. But the French commander didn't get word that something was amiss until the next day. His first reaction was to send cavalry south to find out what had happened. He had spread his cavalry far and wide, it would take at least a day to get anyone south far enough to find out anything. So he sent infantry patrols as well. They ran into Allied patrols at Pilchuck Creek, and a brief skirmish erupted with almost no casualties on either side. A few travel-stained soldiers from 1/1st Germans came into the lines after the clash. The local commander sent out additional patrols that night. There were an awful lot of Allied soldiers where there shouldn't be. He sent that information, and the men from the 1st Germans north. At the same time couriers from the Atrasos Cavalry picked their way north along the old highway. They got across the river at Milltown, and within a couple of hours their reports were in the hand of the French commander. The entire Allied army was present at Arlington. This wasn't a feint (the reports from the Germans had made him think so). The officer on the heights west of Arlington had spent some time patrolling and gathering information on the Allied units present. Except for some critical ommissions, this was the entire Allied army. A few might still be on the road to Darrington and Concrete, but probably not that many.

The situation was now "clarified". The French commander decided that if he couldn't trap the Allies in the mountains, he could trap them elsewhere. He resolved to march south to at least Conway, and block the Allies there. He reasoned quite simply: they would have to attack to get through him, he would not have to attack at all. He had a chance to trap the Allied army and destroy it. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. He issued orders that all troops were to gather at Conway for battle. He did detail that a force of two regiments was to dig in at MacMurray, along with the well-traveled Aquaviva Dragoons. He didn't want anyone escaping that way, and the units involved, Chef de Fer and Royal Boullibaise should be able to fight perfectly well from defenses despite their weakened condition.

The Forces Gather

The one thing the Allied commander lacked was time (the French commander lacked this, too, though he didn't realize it). After a rest and a meal (and an important re-supply of ammunition), he had his men on the road north of Arlington (Route 9) before first light. A rearguard was detailed to keep the bivouac fires still burning. The Allied commander's plan was simple. March to Bryant, then west to the main road, then north to Conway. Then he'd cross there to Fir Island. If he moved fast enough the next place anyone could block him would be west of Mount Vernon.

Referee's Note - now we had another foot race, again to Conway. For being a town consisting of a tavern, a grain silo (very small), a motel and a couple of stores, plus that all-important bridge, it was amazing how it kept figuring in the decisions made in the campaign. The French regiments of Blesois were there already. There orders were to hold until relieved (I'd asked for orders for them). On the face of it, the French are closer, but they're scattered, and orders have to go to them (at 5 mph - average courier speed). The Allies are more concentrated, and the commander has told me he wants "forced marches". Interesting may be an over-used term, but it is accurate.

Narrative Resumes The commander of 1st and 2nd Blesois had a good idea of what was coming - the entire Allied army. He considered his situation - not good. He did not see many options, not given his orders. He had a couple of redoubts, and he knew help was coming (the courier got to him quickly). He put his men in the redouts, dug the rest into the hamlet, and prepared for a last stand.

The Stand at Conway continues in the next part.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Losses At Arlington

Battle of Arlington

The Battle of Arlington

                 Order of Battle:
English English Foot exh: 14 Lt. General Sir Percy Poundflesh
Lord Lovaduck’s.........M6,PT,EP,BN [x][x][x]
100-Acre Wood Frstrs....M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
d’Escoigne-d’Escoigne...M5,PT,EP,BN [x][x][x]
The Buffs...............M5,PT,EP,BN [x][ ][ ]
Lord Rakehell’s.........M5,PT,EP,BN [x][x][x]
Bartleshire Yeomanry....M5,PT,EP,BN [x][x][ ]
Lestrade’s Rgt..........M5,PT,EP,BN [x][x][x]
McAlpin’s Fusiliers.....M5,PT,NE [x][x][x]
H.M.O.R.L.EB.5th.Fus....M5,PT,EP,BN [x][ ][ ]
English Cavalry exh 3 General Sir Humphrey Passingas
1st Regiment............M5,HVY [x][ ]
Buffs/Irish Mtd Fus.....M5,HVY [ ][ ]
d’Escoigne-d’Escoigne...M5,HVY [ ]
English Artillery exh 1
Light Gun...............M5,PPA [x] captured
Dutch Dutch Infantry exh 16 General the Elector von Hesse-Lickenboot
Van Kofferdam...........M5,PT,EP,BN [x][ ]
Grosch..................M5,PT,EP,BN [x][ ][ ]
Amstel..................M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
De Koninck..............M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
Huguenot Regiment.......M4,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ]
Limbeek.................M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ]
Hoegaarden..............M4,PT,EP,BN [x][ ]
Westmalle...............M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
Grootdefeatfontein......M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
Kriek...................M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
Dalrymple (Scots).......M5,PT,EP [x][ ]
Colyear (Scots).........M5,PT,EP [x][x]
Murray (Scots)..........M5,PT,EP [ ][ ]
Dutch Cavalry exh 4 Lt. General Minor Picadillo
Dopplebock Cavalry......M5,HVY [x]
Trippel Cavalry.........M5,HVY [x]
Frambozen Cavalry.......M5,HVY [ ]
te Paard................M6,HVY [x]
de la Gruyere Cavalry...M5,HVY [ ]
van Emmenthaler Cav.....M5,HVY [ ]
Bluntschli Cavalry......M5,HVY [x]
Dutch Artillery exh 2 Major van Klickenhammer
Medium Gun #1...........M5,PPA [x] captured
Medium Gun #2...........M5,PPA [x] captured
Medium Gun #3...........M5,PPA [x] captured
Total = 75 hits = 37,500 men
French Right Wing exh 9 General Pain-grillé
1/Intendant General.....M5,PT,EP,EFD....[x][x][x]
2/Intendant General.....M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
1/Blesois...............M4,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ]
2/Blesois...............M4,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ]
1/Chef de Fer...........M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ]
2/Chef de Fer...........M5,PT,EP,EFD....[x][ ]
Royal Boullibaise.......M4,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
Germans exh 7 Lt. General von Struttenmarsch
1/1st Germans...........M5,PT,NE,EFD....[ ][ ]
2/1st Germans...........M5,PT,NE,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
1/2nd Germans...........M5,PT,NE,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
2/2nd Germans...........M5,PT,NE,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
3rd Germans.............M5,PT,NE,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
Left Wing exh 9 Mestre-de-Camp Pollo e Vino
1/Croissant.............M4,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ]
2/Croissant.............M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
1/Navarre...............M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ]
2/Navarre...............M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ]
Provisionaire Genl......M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
Grenadiers..............M6,PT,NE,SHK,EFD[ ][ ][ ]
Procurer General........M4,PT,EP,EFD....[x][ ][ ]
Maison du Roi exh 2 Lt. General Le Comte d'Langoustine
Maison du Roi...........M6,HVY,SHK......[x][ ]
Grenadiers a cheval.....M6,HVY,SHK......[ ][ ]
Line Cavalry exh 3 Mestre de Camp Margrave von Schnecke
1/Courvoisier...........M5,HVY..........[ ]
2/Courvoisier...........M5,HVY..........[ ]
Duc d’Absinthe..........M5,HVY..........[ ]
French Artillery exh 2 Major van Marteau
Heavy Gun #1............M5,PPA..........[ ]
Heavy Gun #2............M5,PPA..........[ ]
Medium Gun..............M5,PPA..........[ ]
Spanish Spanish Foot exh 11 General Lope de Vaca
De Vaca.................M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
La Mancha...............M5,PT,EP,EFD....[x][x][ ]
Dulcinea de Tolosa......M5,PT,EP,EFD....[x][ ][ ]
De Borracho.............M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
Governor General’s......M5,PT,EP,EFD....[ ][ ][ ]
Torta...................M5,PT,EP,EFD....[x][ ][ ]
Don Juan................M4,PT,EP,EFD....[x][x][ ]
Spanish Horse exh 3 General The McTavish of McTavish
Atrasos Cavalry.........M5,HVY..........[ ]
1/Governor General’s....M6,HVY..........[x]
2/Governor General’s....M6,HVY..........[x]
Total is 85 hits = 42,500 men

The Battle of Arlington

The Battle of Arlington

The Ground

The ground west of Arlington is flat, broken only by South Portage Creek (dry on the day of battle). There was high ground on both sides of the flood plain forming the battlefield. To the north was the Stillaguamish, to the south there was just open ground. There was a knoll behind each line, both sides put artillery on their respective knolls. The infantry engagement took place north of Portage Creek (for the most part), while some infantry, and all of the cavalry, was to the south of the creek.

The Plans

The French Plan envisioned a hook with the left wing turning the Allied flank and advancing into the town of Arlington.

The Allied Plan was to press the French all along the front and use the superior numbers and quality of the Allied infantry to beat the French.

Referee's note - though the Allies thought they outnumbered the French, and they did in terms of troops in theater, the French brought more men to the battle. This was a rude surprise to the Allied commander. Both commander's plans were...not well thought out, as will appear in the narrative below.

French Deployment

French Foot

The French Foot was divided into four columns. With the exception of one Spanish regiment, the various national contingents were kept as separate columns. By dividing his force this way, the French commander said he wanted a certain amount of flexibility. He had some idea of the consequences of the Exhaustion rule, and thought this was a nice division between exhaustion and rallying.

1st Column - French (right to left):
1st Blesois, 2nd Blesois, 1st Chef de Fer, 2nd Chef de Fer, Procurer General, 2nd Intendant General, 1st Intendant General

2nd Column - French (right to left):
Provincial Grenadiers, 1st Croissant, 2nd Croissant, Provisionaire General, Royal Boullibaise, 1st Navarre, 2nd Navarre

3rd Column - Spanish (right to left):
La Mancha, Don Juan, Borracho, Dulcinea de Tolosa, de Vaca, Torta

4th Column - German (right to left):
3rd Germans, 1/1st Germans, 2/1st Germans, 2/2nd Germans, 1/2nd Germans, Governor General's

French Cavalry

The French Cavalry was divided in terms of quality rather than nationality. Thus Governor General's Horse served with the Maison du Roi.

1st Column (right to left):

1st line: Grenadiers a Cheval, Maison du Roi, 1st Governor General's

2nd line: Santiago, Atrasos, 2nd Governor General's

2nd Column (right to left)

1st line: 1st Bartillart, 2nd Bartillart, Crapaud

2nd line: Absinte, 1st Courvoissier, 2nd Courvoissier

French Artillery

The French heavy guns were deployed on the knoll behind Royal Boullibaise (behind the second line). The French medium guns were kept limbered between the Germans and the French 2nd Column.

The French Army was deployed with the 1st Column in the front line with the Spanish to their left. The French 2nd Column formed behind the 1st Column, with the Germans behind the Spanish. All cavalry was massed on the French right flank. The 1st Cavalry Column was deployed to the right of the cavalry, with the 2nd Cavalry Column to their left, both columns in two lines.

Allied Deployment

The Allied commands were divided up by Nationality. After rereading the Exhaustion rules, the Allied commander decided to go for large forces that would be harder to exhaust. The other side of this is that rallying disordered units becomes very difficult when the action becomes general. This contributed to the Allied problems in the battle.

English Foot (right to left) in one line
Lovaduck, d'Escoigne-d'Escoigne, Bartleshire Yeomanry, Buffs, Rakehell, 5th Fusiliers, Lestrade, 100-Acre Woods Foresters, McAlpin's Fusiliers

Dutch Foot (right to left) in two lines

1st line (left of the English): Hoegaarden, Amstel

2nd line (behind Hoegaarden and Amstel): de Koninck, Huegenots

2nd line (behind the English): Dalrymple, Colyear, Murray, Grosch, van Kofferdam, Grootdefeatfontein, Limbeek

Dutch Horse (right to left)

1st line (next to the foot): Frambozen, van Emmenthaler, Dopplebock

2nd line (behind 1st line): Trippel, Bluntschli, de la Gruyere

Anglo-Dutch Horse (right to left)

1st line: te Paard, d'Escoigne

2nd line: 1st Cavalry, Buffs/Irish

The Allied Cavalry was deployed to the left of the Dutch Foot, with the Anglo-Dutch Horse on the far left flank. The English Foot was one command. The Dutch Foot were one command except for the regiments of Hoegaarden, Amstel, de Koninck and Huegenots, who formed a separate command. The cavalry were divided into two commands: Dutch, and Anglo-Dutch. The English Artillery was with the Scots (Colyear). The Dutch artillery was between the Dutch commands in the second line.

Action Commences

10 AM Turn

French - Everyone advanced on the enemy (10"). Bands played a spirited selection of airs.

Allies - The Allied line advanced 11". The Hoegaarden command was pivoted to the left to present a refused flank.

11 AM Turn

French - The French commander noted he overlapped the English line on his own left. He advanced the Spanish to melee, with La Mancha getting on the flank of Lovaduck's and firing into their flank. d'Escoigne-d'Escoigne broke, opening up a gap in the Allied line and isolating Lovaduck. The rest of the French infantry held, going stationary. The French cavalry advanced to melee the Allies, only the Grenadiers a Cheval holding out to one flank. The English line recoiled with heavy losses. In the cavalry scrum, 1st and 2nd Bartillart and Crapaud were destroyed, rendering the entire French line cavalry exhausted. The French 1st Cavalry column was thrown back on morale throws.

Allies - The Dutch line cavalry advanced to engage the French 2nd line, only to be thrown back. te Paard and the rest of that part of the Anglo-Dutch column advanced on the French Guard 2nd line cavalry sending the French horse reeling. At the end of the turn the Spanish Horse and French Line Horse were exhausted. In the infantry fight, the English fell back to straighten out their line and try to get fresh units in the front line. Desultory fire continued on this flank.

Referee's comment - This incident in the battle did not sit well with the referee, not because of the tactics, but because of what happened. See the Referee's Notes from this battle for further comment.

12 PM Turn

French - The Spanish surged forward again, and once more got around the English line, smashing Lovaduck from front and flank, and flanking the entire English line. In the center the French advanced, engaging the rest of the English. The fighting was heavy without a clear winner on either side. The cavalry fight died down, with both sides busy rallying.

Allies - The English counterattacked, shoving the Spanish back with heavy losses (to the English). The Scots advanced to form a new flank (refused). While Dutch cavalry rallied, the Anglo-Dutch cavalry advanced, chasing off the French opposite them.

Referee's comment - This was the one valid Allied attack with their foot. The Allied player seemed upset that the English didn't sweep all before them by virtue of their being English, and seemed really annoyed that it was the Spanish who were doing him the most harm. He clearly did not like rules that did not give a "special advantage" based upon Nationality.

1 PM Turn

French - the Spanish and Guard Horse fell back precipitately, forming column and marching away to the west. The Germans advanced behind the Spanish while the Spanish reorganized their lines. Firing continued to rage in the center as the English counterattack spent itself. The English Foot went exhausted.

Allies - the Dutch cavalry attacked the French 2nd line horse, only to be thrown back with severe losses (they went exhausted). The Anglo-Dutch cavalry reorganized (i.e. they got back under command/control).

Referee's comment - the Allied commander has now received an education about flanks. The French commander managed to parlay a small advantage (an overlap) into a tactical success due to aggressiveness, and the Allied commander's ignoring his flanks.

2 PM Turn

French - the French Guard Horse re-entered the battle, deploying on the west edge of the battlefield. Anyone trying to turn the flank of the French foot would have this cavalry on their flank. The Provincial Grenadiers and 1st and 2nd Croissant refused a flank, forming behind the dry slough that crossed the battlefield right here. Elsewhere, the Spanish and Germans advanced together, turning the Scots flank and shoving them back hard. Other German units renewed the advance in the center, putting more pressure on the Allies.

Allies - the Scots were pulled back yet again to form a new flank. The Hoegaarden command came under pressure from the Germans and was pulled back. Generally the Allies now had one line of foot.

Referee's comment - Initiative now resides strictly with the French. Their mounted arm is in a sorry way, but their foot, especially the Spanish, are well on the way towards winning this battle.

3 PM Turn

French - 2nd Governor General's advanced unhindered into Arlington (winning the battle). Meanwhile the Germans and Spanish meleed the Scots and the remnants of the English, routing them all. They had now clearly flanked the entire Scots/English/Dutch line. The Germans continued their pressure in the center, preventing any detachments to that flank.

Allies - the cavalry was pulled back to form a new front facing the foot. The foot was pulled back as much as possible (6") and the right flank was refused yet again. Grosch and Kofferdam counterattacked (with Hesse-Lickenboot at their head) throwing back the 1st Germans in a rout en echelon, and unhinging the Spanish and Germans long enough that the rest of the foot could begin to march away.

4 PM Turn

French - things were in a real mess with troops all intermingled, and command and control all messed up. The troops stopped while they were sorted out and command and control were re-established.

Allies - the Allied foot broke contact and marched away.

Referee's comment - A debatable pause by the French. He is in a position to totally smash the Allied army, but the French player was getting confused about who was in which command, and so paused to straighten it all out and get everyone back in line. Keeping the pressure up might have yielded much bigger results than had occurred so far.

5 PM Turn

French - the French lines advanced, with troops joining 2nd Governor General's in Arlington. North of the town fresh troops were seen in earthworks, so the pursuit was called off.

Allies - there was no clear retreat route away from the battlefield, and the army headed east in small groups, passing south of Arlington and seeking the safety of the hills.


The French had cut the Allied retreat route, so the referee ruled that there were "substantial" Allied losses from straggling. The Allied army retreated through the night, trying to reach one of the fords over the Stillaguamish River. French pursuit over the river was stopped by the Danes holding the bridge over the river, while the Danish horse covered the main road west of Arlington. Some French troops pursued along Route 530, intercepting Allied troops near Trafton, which led to a brief action.

The Danes held until the next morning, when they withdrew, blowing the bridge behind them. The main route was forced in the morning, and French troops were sent north towards Conway. The cavalry were ordered to try to reach MacMurray.

Battlefield Casualties

Allies - 8,500 men out of 37,500 (22.67%)

French - 4,500 men out of 42,500 (10.58%)


To quote a French general of another war, "Well, sire, you have had your battle, and it is a lost one." The Allies were going to get only fragments back from this battle. To a large extent, this battle decided the campaign. There were still things to decide (siege of Anacortes), but that would settle itself out as minor notes to the crescendo of this battle.

From set-up to take-down, this battle took 3.5 hours, including 2.5 hours of actual playing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Battle of Clear Lake

The Embarrassing Little Affair at Clear Lake

Pre-Battle Narrative

While the main armies were contending with each other west of Mount Vernon, the commander of the Allied forces at Sedro Wooley nursed his grievances. His part in The Plan had been clear, he was to occupy Sedro Wooley. He had done so. That he had been a day later than expected, that his troops had marauded through friendly territory, that the enemy had gotten away from Sedro Wooley and broken the bridge south of town, those weren't his concerns. He had done what he had been ordered to do. Was that any reason to take troops away from him?

He had just been ordered to send virtually all of his troops back to the main army, but he had been specifically ordered to stay in Sedro Wooley. From being a column commander with an important and difficult role in the campaign, he had been reduced to an outpost commander lacking enough troops to even defend his own front. He felt the injustice keenly. And he resolved to do something about it. If he forced his way over the Skagit River at Sedro Wooley, and planted himself firmly astride the enemy line of supply, he would have won the campaign in a single blow. And if his Commander bungled his operations around the fringes of the Sound, as he suspected was all too likely to happen, then the only logical replacement would be the enterprising officer at Sedro Wooley who had performed brilliantly despite being hampered by his superior.

He studied the maps of the area, finally finding a ford well upstream of Sedro Wooley at the very small town of Hamilton. He would march upstream to Hamilton, force a crossing if necessary, then march on old roads down to Clear Lake. From there it would be a short two mile walk to put himself firmly astride the enemy line of supply. He pondered the risk, then issued orders. If he moved fast, he could accomplish this before anyone realized what he was up to.

The French commander opposite Sedro Wooley was the commander of the Spanish Aquaviva Dragoons, Colonel Don Juan de Amore Apropriado (a gallant Spanish gentleman). He had his men constantly patrolling between the bridge at Sedro Wooley and Mount Vernon. He even had a few enterprising men slipping across the river every night to keep tabs on the Allied camps. So it was no surprise when the Allied infantry suddenly drew three days of rations and were seen in the evening light to be filing east from Sedro Wooley.

He pondered crossing the river and seizing the town. But the Allies had left a battalion behind, more force than he could evict with a handful of dragoons. He considered other options. The Allies were clearly up to something. They could be going upriver to Concrete, but why? There were three possibilities: first, they could be going to exact contributions of food from the up-valley people; second, they could be part of an elaborate feint designed to draw the dragoons out of position; or, third, the Allied commander could be trying to outflank the dragoons and force a crossing of the river.

These all made sense, though he thought #3 was a bit of a reach. But he could send patrols up the river on the French side and see what was going on. He had no doubts they could move fast enough to get ahead of the Allies. After all, his men were mounted, the Allies were on foot. And, further, he was only sending patrols, not an entire marching column.

An hour after the first Allied soldier started east, patrols of the Aquaviva Dragoons slipped eastward into the darkened hills to shadow them.

At midnight the situation changed. Allied infantry swarmed across the ford at Hamilton and formed up on the south side of the Skagit river. After some confusion, guides found the right roads, and the men marched southwest. When the last troops were across, the Allied commander ordered a halt to let the men rest. Dawn was still a couple of hours off, and he used the time to consult with his guides. By the map he still had 12 miles to go, 12 miles of rugged mountain marching. He decided that he could make better time during the day, so he would wait until daylight before resuming.

Don Juan was now convinced that he had a real problem on his hands. He had at least 4,000 Allied troops bearing down on him, and the only help he could count on would be a few troops he might be able to coax out of Mount Vernon. He sent several couriers off to lay out the situation as he saw it, and plead for at least a battalion of infantry. But even if they marched the moment they received the message, the earliest they could possibly arrive would be mid-morning. In all likelihood they would be even later than that. Until then, everything was going to depend upon the weapons his men carried. In the predawn darkness he rode east and southeast, looking for good defensive terrain.

Dawn lit the sky, and the Allied commander got his men moving. He could hear a distant murmur from somewhere to the west; to his trained ear it sounded like an engagement of some kind. He dismissed it because there was nothing he could do to influence that battle. But secretly he was pleased. If there was a battle going on, it meant his commander had miscalculated in some way and had run in to the French troops. That could lead to all sorts of problems, possibly even a disaster. And if a disaster happened, who could they turn to but the officer who had succeeded when everyone else had failed?

Don Juan found the right battlefield for his dragoons in the woods southeast of Clear Lake. His right flank was protected by a lake. His left flank was open, but the woods he was in were very thick and the ground was steep. He was on slightly rising ground with a stream to his front and clear communications to the rear. The road the enemy was using ran right through his position. It was better than anything else his men had found. He issued orders, and the men began throwing up a hasty little breastwork, just a few logs and bundles of limbs piled one on the other so they had some protection. After all, he had just a few hundred dragoons against 4,000 infantry, and he needed every advantage he could get.

The hours crawled by, and the Allied infantry struggled towards Clear Lake. The sounds of battle to the west grew sharper and sharper, then finally dying away. The Allied commander began to worry about his holding troops out of that fight. But if he could seize the crossing at Sedro Wooley, it would negate whatever mistakes his superior had made. He stressed that to his officers. Heartened, they urged their men on.

Contact was finally made just after noon. The Allied force came marching up the road towards Clear Lake with just a few pickets out in front. The men crossed the creek by a small bridge and started up the slope. As they did so, all hell broke loose.

Referee's Notes

This was done as a mini-campaign while the main battle at Fredonia was raging to the west. See the map to the right. The Allies were approaching from the right edge of the map, and the Dragoons were deployed behind the line of breastworks running vertically on the map. The lake is just off the lower edge of the map, but the ground between the end of the breastworks and lake is very steep and filled with fallen trees.

The campaign system was right out of Charles Grant, though the scouting system was from On to Richmond. The trouble is, one commander sent out patrols, the other commander didn't (guess which one). The Allied commander, who was treating it like a board game, walked into an ambush. He had three linear regimental stands, and was facing an enemy of unknown size in a draw. He had neglected to do any scouting, so he had no idea what he might be walking into, or what force he was facing in front of him. When he did make contact, the odds were against him.
He had thick woods and a stream to cross, going uphill. Admittedly it was against skirmishers, but the situation did not look good. His men were piled up behind him, and it would take time to sort everything out and get a proper attack going. Add some mishandling of troops, and the situation was one that could get out of hand in a hurry.

Game Narrative Resumes

12:00 turn

Allied phase The leading Allied unit, Van Kofferdam, moves into contact with the French dragoons, stopping when contact was made (per the rules they may not be in contact, so stop ½" away).

French phase French troops advance and melee Van Kofferdam. Morale - Van Kofferdam fails, being disordered by the woods and in march column. Allies throw 1 die, hitting nothing. The French throw and cause a hit. Van Kofferdam, being already disordered, routs, running back through the other two units and pushing them back, and causing a disorder on each.

1:00 turn

Allied phase The Allied commander decides to deploy. Everyone has a disorder on them, the lead regiment, Van Kofferdam, is routed. He rallies them. At the end of the turn everyone is deployed with disorder on them. The Allied commander isn't sure what is in front of him (he neglected to study the listing of enemy uniforms he had). He decides to find out by simply marching up to it. That will happen next turn as he sorts through the traffic jam.

French phase The French sit in their hasty works and crack jokes at the Allied expense.

2:00 turn

Allied phase Grosch advances up the road, now deployed for battle. They stop just in front of the French works, and open fire. A 3, they miss. The Dragoons fire back. A 6, a possible hit. The Allied player rolls a saving roll, and fails it, a definite hit.

French phase French sit in their hasty works and hope their reinforcements show up. They shoot, and miss. The Allied return fire misses.

3:00 turn

Allied phase Advance to melee! The Allied infantry is already disordered, and attacking the French in their hasty works in the woods. They check morale. A 4, a failure. They are already disordered, so they rout. The French check morale: a 2, they're happy as can be.

French phase Even though the urge to smash the Allies is there, the French commander keeps in mind that he has skirmishers against formed line. He stays in his works and waves his flags defiantly. His only positive action is to send yet another courier off, pleading for help.

4:00 turn

Allied phase This isn't getting anyone anywhere. He has two units with permanent disorders on them and has lost 2 SP with nothing to show for it. He sends Amstel to his right to outflank this position. They can only move at half speed, so this will take a while. In the mean time he pushes Van Kofferdam back into musket range of the French to pin them in place. He fires, hitting nothing, but neither do the French with their return fire.

French phase As expected, here comes the flanking maneuver. Well, it was a nice little fight. But it will be at least next turn, maybe the one after that before the Allies can do anything (the woods and the hill makes them move 3" per turn.). With nothing else to do, he fires. A 4, nothing. The Allies return fire, also a 4. Nothing.

5:00 turn

Allied phase Ponderously the Amstel wheels so they can charge the French in the flank. In the meantime the desultory fighting over the hasty works continues with no hits on either side.

French phase Sunset is at 7 p.m. The French commander knows he can't stay here, but he is sure he can keep the Allies amused until 7 p.m. by falling back and making a new fight. Reluctantly he pulls his men out of his works and marches west. He doesn't mount up.

6:00 turn

Allied phase At last! They're gone! Amstel occupies the hasty works and presses west. They see the French occupying the hamlet of Clear Lake, but can't get to them to engage them. They also see two battalions of blue-clad infantry, the medium blue favored by the German infantry in French service, not the dark blue worn by the Germans in Allied service. That changes things. Clearly the opportunity is gone. The Allied commander fails to notice that the way is clear for him to march north to the bridge at Sedro Wooley. Instead, he turns his men around, picks up what wounded he can, and falls back.

French phase Don Juan was never so happy as he was the moment he saw the first infantryman from the 2/2nd Germans show up. He mounts his men and pulls back behind the Germans. Everyone has seen the Allies pull back, but nobody knows if this means they will resume their attack in the morning, or if they are conceding defeat.

7:00 turn

Allied phase The Allied commander puts his men into column and marches east, back the way he came. Stragglers lose themselves in the woods. He won the engagement, sort of, well, he held the field of battle. That has to count for something. He marches 2 miles, and then camps. He decides he will cross the river in the morning. In the mean time he will have plenty of time to compose his report on this reconnaissance in force. Yes, that's what it was. Just probing the enemy's positions on the south side of the river. And somewhere, in the paperwork, he'll muddy the trail on his losses.

French phase The French send a few patrols to keep an eye on the Allies. Everyone else makes camp and starts telling stories about their bravery during the day. One troop of dragoons marches back to the broken bridge at Sedro Wooley to remind the Allies who owns this side of the river.

Orders of Battle:


Aquaviva Dr ..........M5,EFD,PT,SK [ ]

2/2nd Germans ........M5,PT,NE,EFD [ ][ ] unengaged


Van Kofferdam ........M5,PT,EP,BN [x][x][ ]

Grosch ...............M5,PT,EP,BN [x][x][ ]

Amstel ...............M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]

key: x = casualty


French losses were insignificant ("an officer reported an epaulet shot off").

Allied losses. On paper the Allies lost 4 SP, which works out as 1,000 men. As the French did not follow up, the referee ruled they recovered 50% of their losses and all of their routed. Their net loss was 250 men out of Grosch and 250 out of Van Kofferdam. Both regiments initially lost their regimental guns, but as the French did not follow up, they stopped and collected them as they retreated.

Return to the top


This was a nice little "affair" that was a sideshow from the main action happening a few miles to the west. It was a frustrating day for the Allied commander. He wasn't sure how much he had opposing him. He compounded it by not scouting, and walked into an ambush, which cost him one regiment (don't play against a late modern era gamer who knows the rules, and, more importantly, understands how to do an ambush). He then got his second regiment bloodied, though in fairness, with line troops against skirmisher he had a good chance to win that one (the breastworks made the difference, otherwise it's no contest).

It was just bad luck on his part. Then, having tried to bull his way through, he now sought to outflank the position. Again, a pretty good idea. But the trouble was, he was in heavy woods on broken ground, which reduced his movement to 3" per turn.

He had a time limit and he just couldn't get it done in the time. When he saw the regiment of infantry deploying in front of him, he stopped. His command wasn't exhausted, but they were close. And he would be disordered, with cavalry (he wasn't sure they were dragoons as he did not know the enemy uniforms; he saw mounted people and that was enough) on his flank. It was better to call it off, cut his losses, and leave. One thing I did ask him, and, no, he never thought of putting two regiments side by side and trying to bull through.

The French player was very happy with the whole thing. He had lucked out in the one serious attempt at combat, but wasn't going to complain. This was a much better end to the whole thing than he'd thought it would be.

Final notes: the mini-campaign part took 30 minutes to do; the battle took about 20 minutes to do. If I had it to do over again I might try a different scale. But maybe not. This one worked pretty well as it was.

The Battle of Fredonia

The Battle of Fredonia

That Confusing Mess in the Flattest Land in the World

Preliminaries to the battle

Both sides had frittered away troops on various tasks-all of them important, so neither side brought their entire force to bear for this fight. See below for the

Order of Battle.

The Allied Army moved southwest from Burlington on two roads. The leftmost road was taken by a column of infantry, consisting of the Dutch. The right column, advancing half an hour earlier, contained all the rest of the cavalry, the British infantry, the rest of the guns, and the wagon train. Their job was to make contact with the forces guarding the approaches to Fidalgo Island. The troops marched slowly and quietly. The night was cool, there was little dust-it had sprinkled briefly in the hours before sunset. Battalion commanders had torches carried at the head of each battalion to help the men keep on the road.

The French crossed the river at Mount Vernon, and spread out, their cavalry moving rapidly southwest to cut off the forces at Conway. Their infantry, preceded by a single vedette of cavalry, marched directly west to re-open the route to Fidalgo Island, and to incidentally try to capture La Conner. The French commander had the idea of snapping up these forces, then sweeping around the right of the main Allied army and forcing it to give battle in unfavorable circumstances. It was a quiet night march, broken only by the sound of feet, a bit of dust, and the bobbing of torches at the head of each battalion.

The Battlefield (such as it was)

The land to the west of Mount Vernon is a flood plain. Years of tillage and the existence of small sloughs or watercourses, had eliminated any dominating elevation. The ground was as flat as nature and the human hand could make it. The only breaks were the tree lines and the previously mentioned watercourses. As it was late in the season, most of the latter were fairly dry (including Dry Slough, mentioned in reports by both sides only for the irony of its name). The deepest slough found a soldier could splash across without risking getting more than the top of his boots wet. The most dominating feature of the battlefield, at least for the first two hours, was that it was pitch black. There was no moon, it was partly cloudy and dawn wasn't even lighting the horizon. By the third hour visibility was a theoretical few hundred yards, less actually from powder smoke. By 6 AM the sun was up, there was a slight breeze, and visibility approached normal. In to this darkness both armies were about to descend, to flail at each other with lethal intensity in the flattest place anyone had ever seen. In this map, the Allies approached on Highway 20, and the French on Highway 536. The town of Fredonia is on the left edge of the map. North is up.


At 3:30 AM, before the pre-dawn twilight had even begun to backlight the mountains to the east, advanced pickets of both infantry columns ran into each other when they met where the road from Burlington met the road from Mount Vernon. There was some initial confusion-this road was supposed to be clear. Both sides attempted to maintain quiet-orders were to keep the noise down. Troops on both sides were taken prisoner. Orders were garbled, confusion worked its way up the chain of command. Officers pushed forward to find out what was going on.

Both sides had reported their opponents as minor patrols, however unexpected they were. But within a few moments someone raised the alarm, guns flashed. The infantry regiments behind each set of pickets quickly hustled up to lend their weight to the problem. Troops piled up on the road, so officers began to try to find their own way through the mess. Bullets whistled through the air, men were hit, officers shouted for order, melees broke out. Within minutes things were completely out of hand. The only thing anyone knew was that the enemy was in front of them. From the reports they could not number very many. A few more troops could make all the difference. And the troops were at hand.

4:00 A.M. Turn (visibility ½")

French Turn - the leading regiment 1/Blesois, deployed and advanced to contact the leading Allied unit (Dutch Hoegaarden). Both passed morale (the Dutch threw a 1!). Melee - the French scored 1 hit, the Dutch none (the Dutch were still in column of march). The Dutch fell back. 2/Blesois deployed alongside 1/Blesois, with 1/Chef de Fer moving up on their left. 2/Chef de Fer deployed next to the road, but couldn't advance any further.

Allied Turn - the Hoegaarden regiment was out of it for the moment. But Limbeek and Huguenot were at hand. They were quickly deployed and sent ahead in the darkness. Murray (Scots Brigade) came up as well. Contact was made. Everyone passed morale. Limbeek scored a hit on 2/Blesois, and Huguenot scored a hit on 1/Chef de Fer. Limbeek took a hit in return. Melee results showed Limbeek fell back. But 1/Chef de Fer fell back as well.

5:00 A.M. Turn (visibility 3")

French Turn - both Blesois fired at Huguenot to no effect, Huguenot hit 2/Blesois. 2/Chef de Fer deployed and fired at Murray. Murray returned fire, no hits. 1/Navarre marched up and deployed to the right of 2/Chef de Fer. 2/Navarre deployed refused to the right of 1/Navarre. 1/Chef de Fer was rallied.

Allied Turn - General Overbore was up on the scene, providing command/control. He rallied Hoegaarden, then put Colyear and Dalrymple to the left of Murray and sent them at the end of the French line. Dalrymple got around the flank, all three regiments concentrating on 1/Blesois. Blesois stood their ground heroically (no hits) and fired back (to no effect).

6:00 A.M. Turn (visibility 12")

French Turn - Because it looked like 1/Blesois could be charged in the flank, they were pulled back. No sense in letting the Dutch roll up the line. 2/Blesois had to shift to the left as well. The French line temporarily looked like an arc. 1/Croissant was deployed to give a second line (mainly because they couldn't reach the front line, and there was no room on the right due to the river). Scattered firing from 2/Chef de Fer, but no hits on either side.

Allied Turn - the entire line advanced to pound the French. In the exchange of fire the Dutch took 3 hits (1 each on Colyear, Murray and Huguenot), and inflicted 1 (on 2/Navarre). Limbeek was rallied.

7:00 A.M. Turn (normal visibility)

French Turn - General Pain-grillé was now up as well. He thought the Allies couldn't stand an attack, so he ordered the entire line to go advance at the Dutch and roll them back with superior numbers. The French line (from left to right) was: 1/Blesois, 2/Blesois, 2/Chef de Fer, 1/Navarre, 2/Navarre, 1/Croissant. The second line was 1/Chef de Fer, and 2/Croissant. The whole line rolled forward to engage the Allies in melee. Morale checks put a disorder on 2/Chef de Fer, 2/Navarre, Murray and Huguenot. Nobody was stationary. Hits were scored on: 2/Chef de Fer (1), 1/Blesois (1), 1/Navarre (1), 2/Navarre (1), 1/Croissant (2), Murray (1), Colyear (1), Huguenot (1), Hoegaarden (1). Murray, Colyear and Hoegaarden fell back on the Allied side. 1/Croissant fell back, as did 2/Blesois and 2/Navarre.

Allied Turn - Still in melee, Dalrymple put a hit on 1/Blesois, took one itself, and fell back. Huguenot and Hoegaarden each took a hit and fell back. English units appeared more than a mile away, moving towards Fredonia from the west (this certainly changed things).

8:00 A.M. Turn

French Turn - The English were in the left rear of the French. This could be potentially embarrassing. Though the Allies were falling back, there was no cavalry on hand to turn their defeat into a disaster. And now the French felt compelled to fall back. So they did. Additional troops were marching up from Mount Vernon. Now they were turned around and marched back to town. The French straightened out their line and faced the English as well.

Allied Turn - It was at least one hour before the English could intervene, but the Dutch could use the respite. General Overbore began rallying units and straightening out the line. Firing died away.

9:00 A.M. Turn

French Turn - The main column was now marching to the rear. The worst hurt regiments changed to column of march and moved away. That left three regiments (1/Navarre, 2/Croissant, 2/Chef de Fer) as a rearguard. Instead of staying to be squashed, they simply marched south towards Conway.

Allied Turn - The French were out of reach. The Allies considered pursuit. Going towards Mount Vernon looked useless. That column could get over the bridge before anyone caught them, and there was enough force on the far side of the river that nothing could be done (charging across a bridge lined with guns and artillery did not seem wise). Pursuit to the south stopped very quickly when French cavalry was seen. Instead the battlefield was policed up.

Immediate Aftermath

The French force marching back to Mount Vernon arrived there amidst much confusion. The bridge was prepared for demolition. The force that marched south attacked Conway. The Allied force there was prepared for the attack, but when the commander saw troops moving down to bottle him there (and he expected an attack from Mount Vernon), he abandoned his position. He moved into the high ground south of Conway. He was cut off, and desperately began seeking help. The French force crossed the river at Conway and (amazingly enough) marched back to Mount Vernon. Gratefully the Allied units slipped back down from the heights and reoccupied the town. The fury of the French commander when he found this out can be imagined (they may not be speaking to each other yet). The Allied hold on Conway basically made Mount Vernon untenable, and he was going to have to evacuate the town. He began sorting through the mess, finally getting troops started towards the rear.

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Dutch 15,000 present; 3,000 casualties

French 18,000 present; 2,500 casualties

Dutch (15,000)

Dutch Infantry exhaustion 11
De Koninck ...........M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
Huguenot .............M5,PT,EP,BN [x][x][x]
Limbeek ..............M5,PT,EP,BN [x][ ][ ]
Hoegaarden ...........M5,PT,EP,BN [x][x][x]
Westmalle ............M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
Grootdefeatfontein ...M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]
Kriek ................M5,PT,EP,BN [ ][ ][ ]

Foreign Troops exhaustion 5
Dalrymple (Scots) ....M5,PT,EP [x][ ][ ]
Colyear (Scots) ......M5,PT,EP [x][x][ ]
Murray (Scots) .......M5,PT,EP [x][x][ ]

French (18,000)
Right Wing exhaustion 9 General Pain-grillé
1/Intendant General ..M5,PT,EP,EFD [ ][ ][ ]
2/Intendant General ..M5,PT,EP,EFD [ ][ ][ ]
1/Blesois ............M5,PT,EP,EFD [x][x][ ]
2/Blesois ............M5,PT,EP,EFD [x][x][ ]
1/Chef de Fer ........M5,PT,EP,EFD [x][ ][ ]
2/Chef de Fer ........M5,PT,EP,EFD [x][ ][ ]

Left Wing exhaustion 9
1/Croissant ..........M5,PT,EP,EFD [x][x][ ]
2/Croissant ..........M5,PT,EP,EFD [ ][ ][ ]
1/Navarre ............M5,PT,EP,EFD [x][ ][ ]
2/Navarre ............M5,PT,EP,EFD [x][ ][ ]
Provisionaire Genl ...M5,PT,EP,EFD [ ][ ][ ]
Provincial Grenadiers M5,PT,NE,Shock [ ][ ][ ]

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What a confusing mess! The battle swayed back and forth a bit, with very little order, at least at first. The Dutch were definitely getting the worst of it when the English arrived to change the situation. Fighting with EFD/PT troops is difficult! They aren't near as nimble as later troops (no surprise). There was no cavalry present, which changed things, and, curiously enough, nobody went stationary. I expect that will change in future battles.

Both commanders were unprepared for the way the battle developed. One was a lot more aggressive than the other (the French commander). This could have gotten him in trouble, but he lucked out with the melee dice. Their tactics were bull-headed, there was only one attempt to turn a position. This could cost them in the future.

The battle didn't really decide things. What changed the strategic situation was the failure of the French infantry to stay in Conway. That would have kept the lines of supply open and probably captured the Allied troops there (referee ruling). As it was, the way was now open for an Allied advance through Conway. The French would have to fall back farther inland. Unless some sort of action could be generated in the rough ground, the next stop was Arlington.

The battle took about two hours of player time.

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Background to the Coastal War

A handy primer: Ober-Sitzenflesch is basically French, with a Spanish contingent (Spanish Netherlands). Saxe-Schweinrot represents the Maritime Powers, Dutch and English.

The campaign represents the sum total of my Marlburian forces at the time. I used Volley & Bayonet, 1st Edition. This means the foot is on regimental stands, and the horse is on brigade stands. Dragoons, being dismountable in this period, are on regimental stands with a skirmisher stand that can take their place. Foot are worth 3 hits per regiment (1500 men); cavalry brigades are worth 3 hits per brigade.

Most of the foot on both sides varies between M4 and M5 (those are morale grades), with one M6 on each side. Most of the horse are M5, with a few M6. All foot (with one exception) are Partially Trained with Poor Muskets.

The battlefields are laid out as I saw them by driving to them and looking around; I live just north of Seattle about 20 minutes, and my brother lived in Sedro Wooley at the time, and I would look at the battlefields as I drove up to see him. My job takes me back and forth around Arlington and Oso, so I had time to actually walk those battlefields. Some of them, like Freedonia, are river delta and flood plain, and are literally as flat as pool tables.

I did find people at a local game store to tactically command the battles. I refereed.

That done, now let's look at one of the battles. That comprises the next post.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Great Coastal War

What follows is an account of the war between Ober-Sitzenflesch and Saxe-Schweinrot. First will be an overview, followed by more detailed studies. The maps (northern Puget Sound) will give a general idea of the maneuvers of this campaign.

Note - none of the hyperlinks are active yet. Those will be filled in soon.

The Northern Sound War


The Stragegic Situation

To anyone familiar with the state of internal affairs in the Allied Coalition, a continuing state of war was no surprise, even after what had happened during the Spring Campaign. Despite what had happend, the Allies were firm in their goals. They were still determined to wrest control of the very fertile Skagit River delta, and just as firmly determined to capture Anacortes and Whidbey Island and thus establish themselves as the controlling power in the lower sound, they recognized that the French might not willingly acquiesce to a debasement of their power. To that end the Allies decided that they would secure their desired fruits of conquest by military means.

War, raw bloody war, that would do it, and so they set about raising an army. Regiments were called in from Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley, the rolling hills north of Bellingham (the fortress city that guarded the southern border), and other points farther in the interior. Cavalry was mustered, infantry ordered and drilled, and artillery accumulated. In fine, everything was put together to assure the Allied possession of the the Lower Sound.

The French were well aware of the Allied build-up. They tried peaceful negotiation, they tried subtle diplomatic pressure, they tried everything they thought reasonable and prudent. Nothing worked. In the end they decided that the only thing left was to call up the Army. Regiments were called up or hired, and the whole array was drilled and marched to the theater of war. There they massed south of Conway, preparing for the expected Allied attack. At the same time they started construction of defensive works at Mount Vernon.

The Allies High Command demanded the French demolish the defenses they started building at Mount Vernon. When that didn't work, the Allied ambassadors immediately issued a joint declaration of war, citing "threatening defensive preparations" as the causus belli. They announced that they had no choice but settle the issues between them and the French by the use of the military. (The Allied logic was as follows: the French were building fortifications. The only reason they would do this would be to free up regular troops. And the only reason they would be
freeing up regular troops would be if they were going to use them for an attack on the Allies. Thus, by this logic, the Allies had no choice but to go to war to forestall an attack).

Referee's Note - I recruited two players (initially, they each recruited one more) to command the armies. I did not tell them very much of the campaign rules. Both played Warhammer® Ancients quite regularly. Both thought it would be interesting to try a "different" period. But the way it worked was simple. They issued their orders, I carried them out. I would also give them reports, but only upon request. A lot of their orders came by E-Mail.

Both armies undertook extensive training regimes. The cavalry, which had always maintained their level of proficiency, was ready in a few weeks. For the infantry, though, it was a daily diet of drill, firing practice, more drill, and more firing practice. The fancy evolutions of the prewar army were forgotten as leaders emphasized the drill and tactics they had found applicable on the modern battlefield. In three months both armies were in some form of shape and ready for the Autumn Campaign.

As the armies gained in numbers, the generals on each side studied their maps of the area, the Allies with a view to attacking the French, the French to defend themselves. The map to the right shows the general theater of campaign, and will serve as a handy reference during these opening moves. But, in essence, the French held Mount Vernon, with videttes north of Burlington and Sedro Woolley. They also held most of the major ports in the area. The Allied army, mustering near Bellingham, felt obligated to drive the French out of the Skagit river delta and secure that area for itself for the winter. That, in a nut shell, was the strategic genesis behind The Plan.

If the French could be driven farther south (which is off the lower edge of the map), so much the better. To this end, while their armies readied themselves for the campaign by marching all over ground north of Bellingham, the Allied politicians and generals engaged in an extended series of planning sessions to iron out the details of the campaign.

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Good Plans

Good Plans are Simple Plans. It does not follow that Simple Plans are Good Plans. Nor does it follow that Bad Plans are Complex Plans, but it certainly seems that way. It is unfortunate that when plans are proposed to higher authorities, complex plans will often win out over simple plans. The reasons for this are many and varied. Undoubtedly the foremost reason is that the higher authorities know that military matters can be very complex, and so they think, logically, that military plans must be complex. A more cynical appreciation is that complex plans are more dazzling, and like all bright and shiny gewgaws, appeals to the kind of minds that go into politics.

No general reminds them of the other adage: no plan survives contact with the enemy. Political leaders don't want to hear that. They believe, right or wrong, that you can plan out a successful military campaign to the last button and flint. When they look at plans, they want to see plans like they see in civilian life--one politician likened it to planning a building, with everything laid out, one thing inevitably following another. They want to see completeness, they want to see an end result. They have nothing but contempt for the general who tells them: "We will hit the enemy and see what happens." That is not the way it is in Politics, and, politicians have been assured, war is just politics carried on with the a little more violence than normal.

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The Plan

The Plan
that the politicians blessed was complex. It grew out of two things: a desire to avoid shoving troops south into what appeared to be a grinder, and the paucity of roads in the initial campaign area. It also capitalized upon the local command of the sea, though that was a condition everyone recognized was open to some dispute, and not really valid south of Fidalgo Island.

The Objective of The Plan was the conquest and occupation of all the desirable ground in the Skagit River Delta before the autumn rains shut things down. This would mean fighting at least one battle with the French, but the Plan envisioned doing this only after dividing the French into smaller groups. That way superior force could be brought to bear in each battle, and the French comfortably crushed.

To accomplish the Objective, four forces were set in motion. We will examine them one at a time, in the order in which they were expected to contact the enemy.

  1. First, the Fleet would transport three infantry regiments and two regiments of cavalry to capture Stanwood. This would be a naval descent, and it was hoped to seize the town by coup de main. The regiments would garrison the town, while the cavalry would launch a raid on the main supply line of the French army only a few miles away.

  2. Second, a day later, the Fleet would land a force of two infantry regiments as close to the bridge to Fidalgo Island as they could. Their job would be to capture the bridges granting entrance to one of the many local islands and set up defenses to repulse any enemy attack. These islands would serve as an advanced base for the army, a thorn in the side of the French, and, possibly, an advanced base for the Navy. The commander of this force was not told that his troops were really a feint.

  3. Third, on the same day as the forces landed on Fidalgo Island, two regiments of cavalry and four regiments of infantry would descend on Sedro Wooley from the north. They were to capture the town (note, due to poorly worded orders, the all-important bridge was not mentioned).

  4. Fourth, two days after steps two and three, the main force, the rest of the infantry and cavalry, and all the artillery, would move directly south on the high road, headed right towards the main French army. If the diversions had worked fully, the French would be scattered trying to re-open the road to Fidalgo Island and Anacortes, facing the Allies at Sedro Wooley, and trying to re-capture Stanwood. Even if the diversions worked only partially, the French would not have their full force present, and could be defeated by superior numbers. And if the diversions had not worked at all, then the French would have their flank turned by the troops from Sedro Wooley and would be defeated and driven south in wreck and ruin.

In essence, then, the Plan was for a series of blows that were designed to catch the enemy off-balance. The Plan was bold, it was detailed, and it was clever. The Plan was examined by the High Command. It was pronounced to be Good. Great praises were heaped upon the officers who had devised such a clever plan. The defeat of the enemy was held to be certain, though privately every senior officer conceded that if it just chased the French south out of the Mount Vernon area that it would have achieved a level of success as well.

It is, perhaps, a pity that the French did not get a copy of the Plan so they would know the role they were supposed to play in the campaign.

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The French Plan

At this time it seems only fair to consider the French Plan (yes, they had one). The French had many meetings to discuss their plan. The staff was directed to consider "all" alternatives, not a wise thing to order when dealing with certain literal minded staff officers.

In the three months since the previous campaign ended, the staff surveyed every possible approach that the Allies could use. Each route, down to foot paths frequented by hunters, was examined for food, water, road grade, and security. Each route had a number of defensive positions surveyed. Each route was given its own document listing the way the campaign should be fought, assuming the Allies used that particular route. This was all carefully compiled, and presented to the Defense Minister during his inspection tour in the weeks following the closing of the Spring Campaign.

The Defense Minister, well-trained by his civil servants, duly took the presented documents under advisement. The staff relaxed, suffused by the glow of hard work successfully accomplished…until it was asked what if the enemy came by multiple approaches? The staff resumed their study, trying out every possible scenario involving multiple approaches over every possible route. The paper budget for the staff tripled, then tripled again, then tripled one more time.

What the hey, it kept the staff busy and out of mischief.

The General, of course, had his own plan. But it was not one to gladden the Defense Minister. The General personally surveyed the principle routes near his army, and selected a concentration point that surrendered the ground north of Mount Vernon to the Allies. He stationed aggressive cavalry officers at each major road (he rejected the minor roads as impractical for supply wagons). Their orders were simple: when the Allies moved, these French cavalry units were to go as hard as they could at the Allies in an attempt to gain information. Once they had identified the infantry units involved, they were to fall back on the main body, keeping in contact with the army.

While this was going on, the General would concentrate his troops. He designated one force as his rearguard, and spent a week rigorously enforcing the baggage regulations, sending the jugglers, cooks, clowns (this included some subordinates) and other "impedimenta" to his central concentration well south of Conway. When he had identified where the Allied main body was, he would organize a counterattack to drive them back. Hopefully, though, the Allies would be induced to attack him in his prepared positions in the rough high ground south of Conway.

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Execution of The Plan

There have been many compliments paid to the Allied Army. Precision and celerity of maneuver was not one of those compliments. Bad winds, drizzle, heavy clouds, "driving" officers, lethargic officers ("daybreak in the morning" was interpreted in a different way by each commander), slow wagon trains, bad map reading, poor intelligence, worry about flank security, mud--everything conspired to throw off the Allies careful timetable. It is instructive to look at each Allied force, and consider when they came into action. See the General Map for details of what followed.

The Advance on Sedro Wooley

The first force in action was the column aimed at Sedro Wooley. They came into view early in the afternoon of the 9th. They spent the balance of the afternoon deploying and preparing for a formal assault on the town. Little effort was expended to discover just what was in the town. The commander had been present at the Battle of Burlington the previous spring, and so he assumed that this important post would be heavily garrisoned.

The French commander of the force at Sedro Wooley mustered his single squadron of dragoons and the single section of 3# artillery in the town park. He had little else to do, couriers were already racing south with the news of this attack. As the Allies were deploying, he reviewed this force with all of the solemnity of a Marshal reviewing a large army. Then, when he was convinced that every last button-hook was accounted for, and that all of the officer's had settled their bills with the local establishments (there was later a scandal when it was found that 13 florins 3 were still owed a tailor in the town by one of his officers), he ordered his main body to the south bank of the river. The bridge had long since been prepared for demolition. All the fuses were double-checked. He only awaited the Allied advance.

Eventually, at 6 PM, the Allies advanced. The French dragoon commander fired his carbines, fired the 3# cannon his men had found in the basement of the local ale house, and withdrew across the bridge. The men carefully removed the flooring for the center span behind them. His men, already spread out in individual sections along the river, kept watch through the evening for any attempt to cross the river. There was none. The Allied commander's orders were merely to seize the town of Sedro Wooley. Nothing had been said about the bridge just south of the town.

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Fidalgo Island

The second force was the two regiments landed to cut the road to Anacortes and Whidbey Island. They had been delayed by the force headed towards Stanwood. In one of those farcical events that would not have been believed in a fictional account of the campaign, ships to transport his troops had been requisitioned by the Stanwood force. An unseemly tussle ensued over the transport ships, senior officers wrestling with each other on the docks. Eventually the senior colonel of the Fidalgo Island force, acting on his own initiative, simply occupied the nearest boats he could find, and, with the other regiment following close behind, simply put to see. He decided that success would justify his theft, and that he didn't want to be in close proximity to any senior officer when they found out what he had done.

In the middle of the night of the 9th/10th, a day late, his troops splashed ashore, finding no opposition. They quickly set to work building a pair of redoubts. Dawn found the redoubts complete. The men lay inside, tensing for an attack they expected at any hour. They would have been disappointed to discover that the French didn't learn of this attack for another day, and then only because the regular mail courier didn't show up.

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The Attempted Escalade of Stanwood

The third force had been dispatched for a descent on Stanwood. It had the trickiest approach, and suffered in a way that clearly highlighted every fault with The Plan.

First, the approach was by sea. This made it dependent upon the winds and tides. The winds were light and variable, and the tide was generally against the ships. Ships, the staff had forgotten, could not move with the alacrity and regularity of troops marching on a road.

To reach Stanwood, the approach had to pass one of two choke points. One proposed route took the force through Deception Pass. With any sort of seaway this was hazardous in the extreme. The other route took the force down the west side of Whidbey Island, then north between Whidbey and Camano Islands, before finally reaching Stanwood. French observers could watch the force for nearly the entire length of their voyage. Worse, there were enough French naval forces on hand in those waters to intercept and utterly ruin the approach voyage by this route.

These difficulties were not unknown to the creators of The Plan. The general commanding the force ordered the naval commander to chance the passage through Deception Pass. This limited him to an approach only when the tide was favorable. Worse, he could not get more than a third of his force through the Pass on any tide. He chose to push one of his three regiments through on each tide. What The Plan envisaged as taking two hours, took 18. Nevertheless, he led the first contingent through the Pass and pressed on to Stanwood.

The Plan had envisaged a naval borne coup de main on Stanwood. When the Allied force arrived outside Stanwood on the 12th, they discovered that there was no harbor for them to penetrate in the dead of the night. There were docks, of sorts, the kind used in river traffic. But the weir upstream of Stanwood had been partially closed, reducing the flow of water near the docks. The only approach was through a channel-the defenders had thoughtfully removed the buoys that marked the channel to prevent just such a descent. The attacking force found itself 200 yards short of their goal, with no way to reach it.

The naval commander wasn't without some enterprise, though. Balked at Stanwood, he decided to put his troops ashore where they could do the most good. He sailed north a few miles, and landed a cavalry regiment across a beach on Whidbey Island. While this was in progress he sailed back to Deception Pass. This did two things-it got rid of the meddlesome column commander (he was with the cavalry), and it gave the Allies a presence on Whidbey Island, which might be important in the future. He also considered landing the embarked infantry regiment on Whidbey Island as well. But that regimental commander saw no reason why his regiment should be isolated on Whidbey Island and subjected to who knew what perils. After some argument, the Hesse-Fizzenpop Regiment was put ashore at La Conner.

Strong Allied naval forces in Skagit Bay did not go unnoticed by the French. Several French squadrons sailed north to see what was going on. This led to a running scrap that lasted most of the day. The Allied commander was more interested in withdrawing through Deception Pass than he was in securing a naval victory that would otherwise be barren. In late afternoon, as the wind picked up, he withdrew. The French, who had been getting the worst of the encounter, were glad to see him leave.

The other infantry regiments of this force (the two Prussian regiments), along with the remaining cavalry regiment, landed on the west side of Fidalgo Island later that day. The infantry pressed inland enough to secure the beachhead while the cavalry got itself into shape. The next morning the cavalry pressed up against the walls of Anacortes, driving the garrison back inside the defenses. One infantry battalion was left to support the cavalry while the other five battalions marched to the bridgehead held by the first force landed two days before. After some discussion, this force left two battalions behind and marched to link up with the regiment in La Conner. This gave them a total of 9 battalions of infantry. They were in a bit of a precarious position, isolated as they were. But the commander of the force had an idea. He sent one courier back to find the cavalry brigade commander, while another courier picked his way through the back roads to carry word of their success to the main force commander. While these men were carrying their vital messages, his infantry marched 6 of the 8 miles to Conway, and then rested without fires. Then, in the middle of the night, he hurled 5 battalions straight at Conway and its newly rebuilt bridge.

Surprise was complete, nobody had told the two companies garrisoning the town to expect trouble. The bridge was taken intact, troops were pushed astride the main north-south road, and two of the redoubts the French had built on the high ground overlooking Conway were occupied by Allied infantry. The commander braced himself for an onslaught by the obviously aroused French.

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The Main Body

The fourth force was the main body. The Allied commander had tried to regulate his progress by that of the flanking force going to Sedro Wooley. Owing to the narrow mountain roads of the approach march, this was almost impossible. And an enterprising commander in the advance guard pushed ahead, seizing the crossroads and intact bridges at Burlington on the evening of the 10th. The main body came down out of the hills on the next day to discover the French falling back behind a rearguard, and no battle. Undaunted, the main body pressed aggressively forward the five miles to the French position at Mount Vernon. There they paused. The river was unfordable, and the main bridge was so sturdily built it could not be demolished. A quick survey showed fully four redoubts parked at the end of the main bridge, along with another 30 guns set to sweep the northern approaches to the bridge. Attacking here would be a noisy way of committing suicide. So, on the afternoon of the 11th, the two main armies confronted each other at Mount Vernon with no way to get at each other.

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The French Reaction

The French were more puzzled than anything else. The commander of the French received reports of the French at Conway. He reasoned that this was a raid. He had heard rumors of the attempted landing at Stanwood, and decided this had to be a feint. He sent two regiments of cavalry to Conway to investigate matters and chase the raiders off. He was more interested in reports of the force at Sedro Wooley. That force, apparently, was attempting to slip across the river farther east. He ordered his dragoons in the area to push patrols up the river to keep an eye on things.

The day after the capture of Conway he finally rode the few miles south to see the situation for himself. After just one glance he decided that he had an opportunity squarely in front of him if he would only reach out to take it. This Allied force was isolated, and if he could cross the river and drive west, he could cut them off and capture the lot. There was a ford somewhere near Conway that the Allies had used before, but he suspected it was covered by the Allied troops in the town. He knew there was a perfectly good bridge at Mount Vernon that would do just fine. He detailed his German regiments to watch the Allies, gathered up the rest of his force less a regiment of cavalry watching Conway and the Dragoons watching Sedro Wooley, and at 2 AM, crossed the river at Mount Vernon headed west.

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New Plans

The Allied commander had spent two days at Mount Vernon staring across the river at the French. The courier from the south had been very welcome, and the plan dropped into place neatly. He would link up with the force from La Conner, and after a day of organizing things and resting, would advance through the bridgehead at Conway at dawn. That would give him all day to align his troops on the heights over Conway and prepare for a battle he knew his opponent wouldn't want to fight, but would be forced to.

That decided, he had to gather all the troops he could. He needed to thin out his troops in Sedro Wooley, and ordered the patrols sent up river to be called back. That evening all of the troops at Sedro Wooley save three infantry battalions and a troop of cavalry were ordered to make a short march to join the main army at Burlington. He left the four regiments of the Danes to watch Mount Vernon, along with one of his three battalions of artillery. With everything else he turned west, and then south, marching in the pre-dawn darkness towards Fidalgo Island and a link up with the troops there. The stage was now set for the first battle of the campaign, the The Battle of Fredonia.

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Fredonia and Clear Lake

Fredonia was a chaotic affair, and Clear Lake was a frustrating one. Worse was to come. At the same time as the affair at Clear Lake, the Allied Commander decided on a bold stroke. He would strike directly at Mount Vernon with his troops. The only ones immediately available were the Danes: two regiments of grenadiers, two regiments of line troops, and a regiment of cavalry. He also had two battalions of medium artillery that could help.

Unfortunately, the bold stroke that was conceived for the Battle of Mount Vernon was a failure. Things did not go according to plan. But the French pulled out of the city, the Allies occupied it, and the Allies claimed the victory by virtue of occupying the battlefield. The French deployed their army above Conway, the Allies considered an assault. This time there would be no mistakes.

The stage was now set for a big, set-piece battle.

For a brief referee interlude, click here.

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The Maneuver on McMurray

A Change of Heart

The Allied Commander took stock of his forces. The Plan was in utter ruins, but that did not bother him. The French Army was now in front of him, and he meant to hit them a blow from which they would not recover. The British were fresh, the Dutch were a bit shot up, and the Danes currently had low morale (well, M4). And the Germans were busy holding the far side of the bridge at Conway, as well as La Conner. One regiment (Hesse-Fizzenpop) was blockading the approaches to Anacortes.

He studied his proposed battlefield (i.e. he drove over it while returning from Bellingham). To attack he would have to cross a small stream with steep banks fordable nearly everywhere but probably a serious obstacle. Then he would have to advance uphill against the French, who had thoughtfully dotted the hillside with redoubts. And he would have to leave a substantial force watching his left flank because he knew there were forces (reported by the commander from Sedro Wooley) back down that way (estimated at 18 battalions, but surely it couldn't be that big). He read the Reference sheet for the modifiers, and began to think that, just perhaps, the French would hold a lot of the advantages in this battle. Just perhaps it was he who would be smashed, rather than the Allies.

He began thinking about that. All that infantry was in front of him. Now, if they were here, there couldn't be that many troops guarding their flank. If he left, say, the Danes and some of the cavalry near Mount Vernon, and happened to descend on that flanking force in the early morning with everything else (except the Germans), then he could turn their flank. That would force them back, and he could pursue, looking to snap off a piece of them. That sounded a lot better than a massive frontal assault.

He issued the orders at once. The Danes were ordered to keep the fires burning below the heights so as to help the deception (part of the actual orders he issued through the referee). Almost everyone else would make the march to MacMurray and turn the French flank.

The French commander was well pleased with what he was seeing. His front was guarded like it was a moat, and he held most of the advantages. His troops would be stationary, while the Allies would not. He could have cross-fire between his little redoubts. He had cavalry who could counterattack when the Allied infantry wavered. This was looking better and better. The only thing bothering him was the amount of troops massing in front of him. Every time he looked there were more (the referee was telling him what he could see as troops deployed for battle on the flats). He thought of the 18 battalions on his right. He could leave two regiments there, along with the dragoons, and mass the rest on the road below the heights. When the Allies were fully committed to the attack he would hit them with that force, crush their flank, drive them against the Skagit river, and destroy them. Oh, a few would get out through Conway, but he would have the rest.

That sounded good, so he issued the orders. He left the 1/2nd and 2/2nd Germans there, and ordered everyone else to march to where he wanted them. They were to move that night so nobody would see them move.

The Next Move(s)

So here we had the specter of the two forces sliding past each other separated by the hills to the southeast of Mount Vernon. The Germans duly marched. As did the Allies. Dawn brought the Allies face to face with the two German regiments (he had said everyone else, so they brought the Dragoons with them).

The referee ruled that the Germans would not do a fight to the death, but instead pulled back up on the heights and watched the Allied force go by. They sent couriers off to explain what they saw. And then the Dutch were sent up in to the hills after the Germans, who quite sensibly marched away on a side road. The Dutch set up permanent possession of the small town of McMurray.

The French commander was aghast. There went his nice battle. He sent the Aquaviva Dragoons down the road to check things out, while everyone else got on the main road and marched south. We were finally in a "walking war". The dragoons found the Dutch firmly ensconced in McMurray, reported that, and pulled out as a rearguard.

The French commander looked at his map. His next stop had to be the land to the west of Arlington, between Stanwood and Bryant. He could get there and force the Allies to turn to face him somewhere in that area. If he could hit them hard enough, they would have to go back north. If not, well, there had to be some good fighting ground somewhere around Arlington. The only question in his mind was who would get there first?

The Decision for Battle

The Allied commander arrived in Bryant near sunset. His men were weary. They had marched from around Mount Vernon to Bryant, 25 miles, almost without stopping. The army was in no shape for a fight. But he forced some of the regiments onward, grabbing a crossing over the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River at Arlington. That kept his options open, in case he wanted to move farther south. But for now, it was time to rest his army. His men made camp between Bryant and Arlington.

The French commander sent cavalry patrols into Arlington. They clashed briefly with the Allied Advanced Guard. Other cavalry patrols, riding the Stanwood-Bryant road clashed with Allied cavalry. The French commander considered the reports, and decided to give battle. He would attack Arlington, and bottle the Allies up north of the Stillaguamish River.
His army wasn't as tired as that of the Allies, and they had just been reinforced by three more infantry regiments (Royal Boullibaise, Procurer General, and the Spanish Regiment of Don Juan). His men had had a 13 mile march from the heights above Conway to where the main road intersected the Stanwood-Bryant road. He ordered an early camp. The preliminaries were over, now things would be settled by battle.

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The Retreat from Arlington

The day after the Battle of Arlington the Allied Army managed to get across the Stillaguamish at Cicero, but only because Grootdefeatfontein, Kriek and Westmalle fought a successful action against the pursuing troops of 1/2nd Navarre and the Provincial Grenadiers. There were about 500 casualties (2 hits) on the French, and 250 on the Allies (1 hit on Kriek) before the French withdrew (more Allied troops were on the way).
Once the Allied troops got over the Stillaguamish, they had a variety of bad choices. The Allied commander elected to follow Route 530 through Darrington and Concrete. It was a melancholy retreat, with the bonds of discipline slipping, men and horses going hungry, and deserters slipping away every day.
The French Army sent a force of the 1/1st and 2/1st Germans and the Spanish Atrasos Cavalry up Route 530 to keep up the pressure. Their orders were to avoid action and to fall back a the slightest sign of resistance, but keep up the pressure and drive the Allies. The French Commander sent still other troops to get to Sedro Wooley and other points in an attempt to get ahead of the main Allied army.

The Danish commander north of Arlington now found himself the senior Allied officer in contact with anyone. The French Army was preparing to cross the river and outflank him, and he had positive orders to fall back, resisting the French at every step. Meanwhile the main Allied army would fall back through the mountain valleys to the east. He sent couriers back through MacMurray and on to Mount Vernon, Sedro Wooley and Fidalgo Island, informing them of the situation.
There was nothing to stop the French from seizing Mount Vernon. The Danish commander ordered his troops to march north through MacMurray, with the cavalry leading. The infantry would follow hard on their heels, and any straggler who couldn't keep up would be captured.

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