Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Battle of Plattsburg 1843

Somewhere the sun is shining. Sighhhh a hard day for Redcoats. but HOORAY! for the boys in blue!

Today's game was based on Don Featherstone's Action in the Plattville Valley from his book Wargames. The original was set in the ACW and naturally used his rules. It looked close enough for my 40mm Oregon War  and the new, IMPROVED, With MacDuff To The Frontier. (and I was right!)

All line infantry units were 20 strong, rifle units, 12 strong and cavalry units, 9 strong. All units were considered average regulars but the artillery was deemed "Stubborn".

Taking the role of the Confederate side was the Anglo-Mexican army under General Hubert. It was composed as follows:
1st Brigade: 1st Battalion Incorporated Militia, Canadian Fencibles.
2nd Brigade: HM 26th Foot, HM 49th Foot
3rd Brigade: Victoria Rifles, San Carlos Active Militia
Cavalry Brigade: Larson's Lancers, GG Body Guard
Artillery Brigade: Rocket Battery Bengal Horse Artillery, Foote's battery RA.

Taking the role of the Federal side was the American Army under General Ross.
1st Brigade: 1st & 2nd US Infantry
2nd Brigade: Bangor Rifles, 3rd Infantry
3rd Brigade: King Of Prussia Pennsylvania Volunteers, 2nd Illinois Volunteers
Cavalry Brigade: 1st & 2nd Dragoons
Artillery Brigade: Pennsyvania Artillery, Mountain Battery.

The game lasted 10 turns and took a little over 3 hours to play.

I followed the initial moves of the original game and then relied on my own judgement assisted by the occasional die roll as the game went on. Thanks to the blocked lines of sight and the need to push forward, the game proceeded rapidly without incident until Turn 5. (There were a few long range pot shots on T4 iir.) The main deviation from the book at this point was that the Fencibles beat the 1st Foot to the Stone Wall  thanks to a combination of the card draw and variable moves. On Turn 5 all hell broke loose.

  Atop the Green Ridge the Incorporated Militia and 2nd Infantry have started a murderous close range musket duel. The 1st Infantry traded fire with the Fencibles then was hit by rockets and charged by Larsen's Lancers who passed forward through the Fencibles. They can be seen above rallying behind the 1st Dragoons.

As the British infantry pushed up the center and the American Infantry jostled forward in a tight mass on their right, a sharp counter attack by the 1st Dragoons drove the Lancers back. To add injury to insult, the Pennsylvanian gunners turned their sites on the Royal Artillery. 3 hits! The shattered battery was forced to limber up and retreat but rallied just well enough to stay on the field.

On the right, nothing could stop the American juggernaut though the Victoria Rifles did slow it down and bloody it a little.  On the far side of the field the Militia broke and the 2nd Brigade stalled in a firefight. Suddenly the US 2nd Dragoons galloped forward and formed on the flank of the British line. The GGBG moved forward to counter and the tension rose as the card deck was shuffled and the first card for the next turn was revealed.    

It was a black card and the Dragoons swept forward, after detailing a troop to cover the flank. Behind them the Pennsylvanians stormed the Church with its Mexican garrison.  The 1st action for the newly reinforced San Carlos battalion. And the result of all this excitement?

As I sent the Dragoons charging up the hill, it belatedly occurred to me that the artillery might well have been able to drive the redcoats away more safely. Oh well, what are the odds of a flank charge failing? The 1/2 squadron of Dragoons would have to roll three 1's more or less.  Well, two 1's and a 2 as it turned out.  The Dragoons rallied back and next turn the guns blasted the 26th off the hill.  The odds were even better for the Mexicans, but as you can see in the picture, they broke and ran.  That left the charge of the GGBG led by Brigadier Nolan. Alas, as those who followed the Game a Week series of battles might predict, 4 dragoons were more than a match for 9 Bodyguards and a Brigadier.  Bloody Irish immigrants fresh from beating up on Indians no doubt.

There was still a chance. As the British troops rallied, General Hubert ordered an attack on the right. The Fencibles advanced then unleashed a hail of fire on their foe but the return fire was hot and the rockets didn't help either. Quite  a pretty sight as the smoke trail arced up, forward, and then gently curved in a graceful arc right down onto the Fencibles, landing on the Colonel.  The militia which had rallied, just, bravely marched up and shot down Brigadier Zinn of the 1st US Brigade. On the British left the gun deployed to bolster the Rifles but the 3rd Infantry shot down the gunners. In the center, the Brigader rallied the 26th but the artillery broke them again and took down the Brigadier.

  Left to themselves the Rifles broke after a short melee with the 3rd Infantry while without the Brigadier's stern influence, the 49th and 26th Foot both elected to retreat. (Two control checks, two 1's) The leaderless US regiments however, held their ground and broke the Militia again. The GGBG steeled their nerves and made a dash at the Illinois boys as they pressed up to the town but the fiercest volley of the game sent them reeling back and the game was up. Of the 10 Allied units, 5 were broken or destroyed with only the rocket battery and 2 regiments left in fighting shape. Not a single US unit was broken though some were looking a little ragged.

Now this, was how I have been envisaging the Oregon games. HOORAY!  A couple of the HofT games came close but this was spot on and felt more organic. Its odd where one finds inspiration. One major stumbling block was overcome by recalling the WRG  1685-1845 rules trick of 2 hits on a  6. That resolved the dilemma of too many dice or no chance of a drastic result. Giving up the man to man melee and a subtle change to the casualty recovery/morale system lifted some other issues and allowed me to go back to having fire and movement integrated  in an Action phase which was one of the things I always liked.  I dropped or simplified a few other rules and suddenly the game flowed like I always imagined it. Units fell back, rallied and returned to the fray but were not indestructible and needed to be protected while they rallied.

I'm also happy to report that the 5'x6' foot table came through with flying colours. Ample room for maneuver for 20 man units and armies created to match Grant & Asquith scenarios will fit nicely and come to about the right amount of figures for what I want to paint.  The rules should also be scale-able downwards for skirmishes using 1/2 sized units.



  1. Great report - now get back in there and settle those damned Republicans!

  2. Reads like you had a great game.

    So is the newest version of "With MacDuff to the Frontier" complete with all of your revisions?

    -- Jeff

  3. The usual doleful result for the dudes marching from the south (the Plattville side of the table). My Confederates failed to reverse the original result either (posting on my blogspot just over a year ago). Yet its such an even-looking and attractive scenario...

  4. Archduke, I thought I remembered someone running it with Airfix but couldn't remember who. I need to paint another 36 Reb infantry and find some more cavalry.

    It definitely calls to be run again. I think lay of the hills plays against the Rebs, it seems to channel troops and puts the dead ground in the wrong spots for the rebs. But they can win it, I know they can!

  5. Jeff, Yes the posted rules are the ones I used. I'm sure I'll find a glitch somewhere. I need to play about 20 games in a row to work out all the bugs.

  6. Yes sir Gen'l Kinch. We're just going to fall back, reinforce and go at the beggers again.

  7. Ross

    Having looked at this again, I have to say that macDuff'11 looks a lot like MacDuff'98


  8. Ros

    Whoops I think my first comment got lost in the ether. The table and forces look very good, and the battle report is a good sales job for MacDuff'11


  9. Peter, the theory is just slightly different but in practice I think you're right since I rarely played the rules as originally intended in 98! So this is pretty close to what we were actually doing.