Saturday, December 6, 2008

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.

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