Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Battle of Brioche

The following is another excerpt from the anonymous journal reporting the  Cyprus Hills Expedition.


"It was a cold, cloudy day as we deployed and advanced on Brioche. The orders had come for each  battalion to deploy two companies in the front and leave two supporting companies far to the rear under cover.

The Constabulary scouted ahead while the Highlanders, Maritimers and Sharpshooters were on the left with orders to take the Indian camp. The first line of Fusiliers was on the right with orders to watch the woods and support the gun. The gun itself opened the ball by firing on the rifle pits surrounding the Trading Post."

The First Assault. Rally Men! Push On!
"From my position with the reserves I had a grand view of the affair. The companies on the left went at the rifle pits with the bayonet, cheering loudly but a hail of fire drove them back. Undaunted they rushed forward again and again till the Prairie was covered in scarlet patches. It was an inspiring but sickening  sight."

"Suddenly, the woods erupted in smoke and Fusiliers began to fall. As our lads returned fire blindly or manoeuvred to better positions, small groups of enemy warriors ran forward around our flank, crouching low, dashing from tussock to hollow, shooting quickly then disappearing only to reappear yards away. Our men were soon pinned down under a cross fire. Even the gallant gun crew were under fire but despite losses they continued to pound the main enemy position."

"A gallant charge by the Lancers drove the enemy back briefly but across the field our men were pinned down and the blood spilled seemed to have been in vain. Suddenly a bugle rang out! 'Withdraw' then 'Supports Forward' ! We rose and moved forward, determined to finish what our friends had begun at such cost. "

Fall Back! Forward the Reserves!
(ed. See notes)
"As we rushed forward to firing positions the noise  rose louder and louder. The gunners had come forward again and were pounding the trading post mercilessly. To our right, we could hear a piper blowing followed by loud cheers. The firing rose to a crescendo then suddenly died away. Glancing over my shoulder I could see someone waving the red ensign from the old farmstead. We were in! Huzzah for the Highlanders! Huzzah for the Farmers and Lumberjacks from New Brunswick! "

One more push boys!

"There was no time to celebrate though. The sun was sinking low and the enemy in the woods seemed as firm and elusive as ever. We could hear the thunder of hooves behind as the Lancers swept around to sweep the Indians from our flank and drive them back. Alas the Indians shot true and men and horses went down in droves. Alas the Gallant Six."

"Again I heard the pounding of hooves but just a galloper not another troop of horse. 'All in! Advance on the trading post with all speed while guarding your flank. The gun will move on its own'."
"The camp is ours! Reform! Advance!"
"Across the open space we could see the Yorks forming up outside the town with Douglas at their head.  'Fix Bayonets! Charge!'  Like furies they doubled across the fields. Bullets rang out not only from the pits but from the edge of the woods  and we rushed to cover them from that quarter."

"From our position we could see the Metis and Indians starting to slip away down a little hollow a few at a time, some mounted, some leading heavily laden carts but with bullets singing around our ears there was no time to stop and consider the matter."

"A final burst of fire another round of cheers and our boys were in amongst the rifle pits! There were a few final parting shots then all along the line the enemy faded away into the deepening gloom of a November evening. We'd done it!"

We're in!
"The excitement of the day was diminished somewhat by the news that the enemy had had just time to slip away with our d.....d dinners! and our RUM! To think, if we'd been just 15 minutes sooner... Oh well. It was real soldiering and we can be proud of our bravery under fire as we tend our many wounded and our dead. Thank God that the latter were fewer than we had feared."

The Reckoning at Widow MacPherson's Storehouse.
"Its nae ma fault yer honour that ye took so long and that bloody priest smashed yer tuns o' demon rum, those that your bloody big guns didn't blow up, nor that hungry men took yer beef and biscuits fer their wee hungry bairns. Ye and the Gentlemen in Ottawa maun pay what ye owe me all the same as I hae stored it for ye and ye must pay for the damage to this house of mine but I'll gie ye a good deal on some sacks of dried peas  I hae in a safe place, since ye've come so far and will be hungry."


  1. Stirring action by Jove, sir! I was thinking as I read this that with certain changes to the generating circumstance, this could almost have been an action in the Land Wars of New Zealand. The more canny of the Maori leaders used to run campaigns of 'strategic offensive, tactical defensive'. They would set up a pa - a fortress - on, let us say, 'debatable' land, and defy the Brit (and later the colonial) armies to take it. Usually the British could be relied upon to give it a crack. As often as not - more often probably - they got a bloody nose.

    Near my home town of Waitara (Taranaki - North island's West Coast) a battle was fought in 1860: Puke-Ta-Kauere. This did not turn out well for the Imperialists. About 27 years ago I discovered a relative of mine was present at that battle: one Lt Dowman of the 65th Foot. Not a direct ancestor - probably a great-uncle.

    At any rate, Maori set up the pa in the area the colonial government (in my view quite illegally and dishonestly) wanted to 'purchase' and were surveying. Turns out there were two pa, one prominently placed with a 'come and get us' look about it, and another hidden, covering a likely 'cunning plan' by the British.

    The attack on the 'come and get us' pa went as you'd expect; and the 'cunning plan' came a gutzer as well.

    If you ever find a copy, recommend highly a trio of novels by New Zealander Errol Brathwaite about the Land Wars"
    'The Needle's Eye' (North Taranaki)
    'The Flying Fish' (Campaign against the 'King' movement in the Waikato)
    'The Evil Day' (South Taranaki, and Titokowaru's campaign to recover lands).
    By today's standards some uncomfortable racial stereotyping, and historically dubious, but fine reads, all the same.

    1. I did do a teeny bit of reading on the Maori Wars in the 90's when I was getting into Victorian Colonial Wars. Lots of inspiration there.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I forgot to add: the Pake-ta-Kauere action was very like the Brioche action, only with the indigenous bearing away the honours.

    I've done some checking, and discover I have reversed the order of the titles of the first two books (but not the campaigns).

    1. Considering that its inspired by Fontenoy its a good illustration how table top teasers and other generic scenarios can work so well, the author boils down the essence of a situation then the player adds a different context and appropriate storyline.

    2. ps technically the Brits lost this one due to the time limit.

  4. What a waste of good rum. Lovely looking game (I need to find more superlatives)

    1. I'm not sure the rum was that good but still a sad waste. No superlatives required.

  5. Ross Mac,

    I real ding-dong of a battle, with the locals giving a good account of themselves in the face of the professionals.

    The 54mm figures do have a certain something about them ... and yours always seem to look great on the tabletop.

    All the best,


    1. Professionals? I'm sure the Canadian militia would be pleased at the compliment.

      But thanks Bob, I think the figures tend to look good in their own right.

  6. Hurrah! A thrilling account. I hope the rum smashing monsters get their comeuppance.

  7. A most enjoyable and imaginative game report with lots of wonderful photos.

  8. Thrilling story, felt like I was there. Much better than a Konstam tale I am ploughing through at bedtime.

    1. Thanks Jim, actual memoirs are my favourite historical reading these days.