Wednesday, November 19, 2008

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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