Saturday, October 15, 2011

From the Archives: A battle from the future of Faraway & Oberhilse

It occurred to me this morning, that I have archival material from the future of Faraway that show what the uniforms will look like in 1861. Doesn't mean that there can't have been a major shift in the 1840's, just look at the fashion havoc wrought by King William IV in 1832 with his attempt to put all British units into red. (I note that the artillery and Rifles escaped that one) .

Obviously, there are some factual errors in the following background blurb, for example, there is no mention of the hereditary Queen or the FTC and Faraway is described as a break away republic. I think we can guess the source of that information. This does call for more research as to whether Faraway did indeed become a Republic in 1849 or perhaps a Constitutional Monarchy?  

In the mean time, here is the first battle report ever written about a battle in Faraway. I believe it was  first published in 2001 after a wargame fought during a visit of good friends from Virginia. I have left it intact and not attempted to correct details where they differ from what is now accepted as fact. The miniatures are 54mm, the rules used were With MacDuff to the Frontier. The scenarios is the Island Battle from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargamers. Note the artillerymen in the first picture, this is the only clue as to their dress as they do not appear in the battle. I believe that the New Dundee Highlanders may have been formed in 1842 so perhaps we will see it in action again within the year. 



Oberhilse & Faraway

I'm always on the look out for less well known campaigns to recreate so I was pleased recently to come across a Charlesburg University Press publication:  "Russell's Dispatches from Oberhilse and Faraway: A European View  of the Border War 1861-1863" . Up until then I hadn't realised that William Russell had covered this little known conflict but this book is a wealth of information and has become my main source of information for a new wargames campaign.


I won't bore everyone with a long history but I figure a short intro as to the origins of the border war are in order for those who aren't familiar with this area. Leaving aside the question of whether or not St. Brendan visited the island on one of his voyages, we can pass on to mention that the Danish Vikings were the first to settle in what is now known as Oberhilse and that despite various charters from the Stewart's to their supporters (I have a copy of one such granting lands to Black Angus MacFarlane and there may be some validity to the claim that the name Faraway commonly applied to the Western Shore dates back to the MacFarlane grant), generally Denmark's title to the region was not disputed.The discovery of gold in the Rawdon Hills in 1821 led to  an influx of Irish, Scottish and American immigrants and in 1849, discontent with lack of civic rights for "outlanders" led to a revolt and the establishment of the Republic of Faraway. Denmark of course had her hands full with the Shleiswig-Holstein War and when Great Britain recognized the break away republic and pledged support, Denmark gave in and granted them independance with sovereignty over the Western half of the mainland.


Hardcore nationalists in Oberhilse felt betrayed by this settlement and never accepted it. When they were quietly approached by members of the newly formed Fenian organisation who felt that seizing Faraway would provide a good base for their campaign for irish independance, they gladly took the opportunity to strike a blow at the hated British and allowed armed camps to be formed along the border and on some of the islands just off the coast of Faraway. From here the Fenians proceeded to raise and arm troops while sending agents across the border to forment dissent amongst the large Irish population. The Faraway goverment reacted by appealing to Britain for aid and in August of 1859 a small expeditionary  force arrived and a joint operation was launched against the Fenian camp on what is now known as Rebel Island.

This operation was the basis for the first wargame in my campaign. If you want a well written, colourful, account of  the battles and skirmishes of this war, "The thick blue mass tipped with lead" and so forth, I refer you to Russell's dispatches. My own account of our wargames will cover the forces and set up with just a brief description of the highlights. Following the usage of the time, I will refer to the British and Faraway forces as "Red", the Danish and Oberhilse forces as "Blue" and pure Fenian forces as "Green". 


Dundee Highlanders marching past Governor General & Lady Beaverbrook on their way to embark for Rebel Island. 

Red Army

OC:  Brigadier Daniel Johns (John Daniels Jr.)
2ic: Colonel H MacDuff (Ross Macfarlane)

  • Ft Henry Guards (Officer, colour, drummer, 7 bayonets)
  • Ft Henry Guards  (Officer, colour, drummer, 7 bayonets)
  • 11th Hussars (Officer, trumpeter, 4 sabres)
  • 17th lancers (Officer, 5 lances)
  • Naval brigade  (Officer, 9 ratings,  field gun and rocket)
  • Scots Fusilier Guards (Officer, colours, drummer, 5 bayonets)
  • Grenadier Guards (Officer, Drummer, 6 bayonets)
  • New Dundee Highlanders  (Officer, Piper, 8 bayonets)
  • Lawfordton University College Rifles (Officer, 5 bayonets)
All troops were regular with all but E,H & I being steady. The cavalry was impetuous, the Rifles are Light Infantry. All infantry was armed with muzzle loading rifles.

Pandora leading her Volunteers into action on Bighil Heights.

Green Army

OC:  General Jack Daniels (John Daniels )

  • McAlpine's Fusiliers (Officer, colours, 8 bayonets)
  • O'Reilly's Regiment (Officer, colours, 8 bayonets)
  • O'Carroll's Chasseurs (Officer, 5 sharpshooters)
  • Harper's Battery (Officer, 4 gunners, field gun)
  • Farrel's Fenian Dragoons (Officer, Bugler, 4 Light Horse)
Colonel "Annie" Pandora (Pandora Daniels )
  • New Waterford Volunteers (Officer, 9 irregulars)
  • Tipperary Tigers (Officer, 9 Irregulars)
A,B,C were regular light infantry, C were also sharpshooters,  E was irregular light horse, F&G were irregular light infantry. All troops were armed with muzzle loading rifles.

Rebel island as seen from a hot air balloon as the action begins.
 The general layout of the island can be gathered from the accompanying photos.  Red had a choice of  3 beaches, one to the East, one to the Southwest, 1 right under the guns of Ft. Daniels. There were sufficient boats to land the troops in 5 waves,  the waves appearing every 4th turn. The waves were selected as laid out above. Gen Jack Daniel's men were encamped in an earthwork on the Western end of the island, Pandora and her Volunteers in billets in New Waterford and the Tipperary Tigers billeted in Farmton in the south.
The game began with the Dragoons departing for their daily patrol of the island heading east from Fort Daniels through New Waterford, while the 1st wave came ashore at Souwest beach, hidden by a screen of trees and the lower slopes of  Bigill Heights.

The fight begins.
The Buildup 
By the time the Dragoons stopped to chat with local inhabitants, frolicked on East Beach and finally topped the crest looking down onto Souwest beach, the first 3 waves of Red troops were ashore and running out of dead ground to hide in. At the same time as a courier was sent galloping back through Farmton and over the saddle, sounding the alarm "The British are coming, The British are coming" (sad but true),  an alert sentry in Ft Daniel spotted the first company of Fort Henry Guards emerging from the woods and sounded the alarm.
Bluecoats spilled  from the fort forming a skirmish line along the creek and up into the hills while the gunners quickly (2 6's in a row) wheeled the gun from its position overlooking North Beach to face the attackers. Brigadier Littlejohn ordered the cavalry to sweep away the enemy skirmishers as the rattle of musketry disturbed the morning's peace.

The Hussars chase after the scattering sharpshooters.
Garry Owen Hail!  
Hearing the bugles ring out from behind the musket smoke, the Fenian skirmish line fired one last hasty volley and scrambled back towards the fort or up the grassy slopes of Bighil Heights. Incredibly one of those bullets, flying high, reached back and plucked the unfortunate Brigadier Littlejohn from the saddle. As his aides gathered round the stricken general,  the 11th Hussars emerged through  the lingering smoke and seeing only the sharpshooters climbing the slopes, spurred after them.
Despite the uneven, rabbit hole strewn hillside, the Hussars caught up with the fleeing Fenians and laid nearly 1/2 of them low in a running fight . Seeing Pandora and her Volunteers emerge from behind the crest to cover the sharpshooters, the Hussars spurred forward yet again but a burst of musketry from the volunteers and cannon fire from the fort tore into them  and sent the dazed remnants staggering back to the beach where they spent the rest of the day tending to wounded men and blown horses.

Irregulars firing from cover.
As the hussars retreated, the 17th lancers spurred forward, but, falling foul of the rabbit holes, they too were gunned down , only Col. Flashinpan and 1 trooper making it back down the slopes to the beach where they hastily re-embarked.

Come Out and Fight!
As the cavalry charged to glory, MacDuff took  command as best  he could. The Naval Brigade was now up and he ordered them to bombard the fort  while a company of Scots Fusilier Guards moved up into line. After a sharp exchange of fire, the Fenian gunners were driven away from their guns and  the British infantry which had been standing under a peppering long range fire from the fort and from the slopes of Bighil Heights, prepared to advance.

HMS Invisible  covers the retreat.
On  the right, a company of Fort Henry Guards reinforced by another of Grenadiers was trading fire with the Tigers and dismounted Dragoons. Despite the steady conduct of both companies it was soon seen that standing in close order  trading fire with an equal number of  skirmishers was not going to win the day. (esp when rolling fistfuls of ones )

Beating up their men's muskets, the British officers ordered bayonets fixed and led them forward into a withering blast of musket fire which laid low the colour party and 1/2 of both companies. The red coated soldiers fell back, rallied and advanced into another furious hail of fire then broke and ran covered by a handful of Grenadiers.

Billy Russell covers the retreat in a different manner.
Thank Gawd for the Navy.  
The last wave of troops was not quite up yet and  the command was badly scattered with only 2 companies in the main battleline but with the enemy artillery silenced, it was now or never if an assault was going to go in.  Slowly the Red line moved forward under a hail of  rifle fire from the fort. Then, suddenly  a blaze of fire came from the flank where Pandora and her crack shot volunteers had crept forward along the slopes into close range. In an instant the British line was a bloody shambles  and reluctantly MacDuff ordered a retreat to the boats covered by the Dundee Highlanders and the boys of the College Rifles.

For a moment it looked like the Fenians would press their advantage but then like a deux-ex-machina, HMS Invisible appeared bristling with guns, and the Fenians crept back to cover. (Actually it was deux-ex-machina, it was bad enough the British got drubbed in the opening battle (very traditional wot?) I wasn't about to allow them to be annhilated !) .


  1. Ross Mac,

    It was a great pleasure to read this battle report from the early days of Oberhilse & Faraway.

    All the best,


  2. Thanks, the sad thing is, I still have almost all of these figures but they very rarely get out.

  3. Bob, I'm glad to hear that, I certainly enjoyed resurrecting it.

  4. I am really enjoying this - tell us more!

  5. Hi Ross

    Excellent read. A good combination of pictures and text.