Monday, October 16, 2017

AWI Battle of Cheraw Report

Battle of Cheraw - July 1780
(Click/Double Click to enlarge)

I solo played the meeting of Gates' American army with Cornwallis' army at Cheraw, South Carolina over the weekend. The action resulted in a crushing British victory over the Americans, who lost half of their army during the battle and the disengagement from the battlefield. Both Gates and Cornwallis started the battle with 8SPs (strength points). Gates lost 4SPs and Cornwallis lost 1SP (from battle casualties).

Both armies were divided into three brigades of infantry, varying from 3 to 4 units plus a small amount of artillery. The battlefield was mostly light woods with only the roads being in the open.

Please refer to yesterday's post  (  Battlefield Map ) which depicts the tabletop map of the game, the list of troops in each brigade, and the deployment of the respective British and American brigades.

Brigade Deployment Map (double click to enlarge).

Gates decided that it would be better to attack the British before they had the time to deploy into their battle line, than to just sit back and await the British attack. Two of the three British brigades arrived on the tabletop from separate roads that eventually met at a crossroads in the center of the table. Gates sensed that a vigourous attack towards the crossroads could defeat the British brigades in detail.

American Swedish 4-pdr drops trail in the road and sweeps the crossroads with cannister and shot.

Unbeknownst to the American commander, who was taking lunch back in town at the Savage Swan Inn, a third brigade of British light infantry was working its way through the woods and around the left flank of the American deployment. A brigade of three militia battalions were posted on the left to stop such an eventuality.

Horatio Gates dines at the Savage Swan Tavern while the battle commences.

Two of the three militia battalions on the American left flank spring an ambush on the British Converged Light Companies, who are traversing the woods and trying to attack the American left flank.

The American battle plan was actually a very sound one, although not reflected in the eventual American loss. The Pennsylvania Brigade pitched into O'Hare's British brigade before Phillips' British brigade could reach the crossroads. The latter was hotly engaged by the Virginia brigade on the American right wing.

Phillips' British Brigade arrives on the lefthand road.
The Queen's Rangers lead O'Hare's British Brigade onto the table on the righthand road.

O'Hare's Brigade shakes out into a line of battle before it can reach the crossroads.

Phillips' British Brigade on British left wing shoots it out
with the Virginia Brigade on the American right wing.

The two sides got into a heavy firefight of close range musketry, with the Americans giving as good as they got. At one point it looked as if Gates might pull off a victory when, on Turn 4, the Queen's Rangers routed from the center of the battle line, opening up a huge gap. The British regiment to its left, the 4th Regiment of Foot, also went "shaken" from the American fire. If the Pennsylvania Brigade could exploit this gap, then victory could have been the prize.

The Pennsylvania Brigade of Continentals engages O'Hare's British Brigade near the crossroads.
The 1st Virginia (green coats) drives off the Queen's Rangers and advances into the gap created by their rout.

Phillips' fills the gap left by the rout of the Queen's Rangers by bringing
the 27th (Inniskillings) Regt. up to the crossroads.

Another view of the action between O'Hare and the Pennsylvanians.

However, the British began to pile up a string of "first fire initiatives" on Turn 5, Turn 6 and Turn 7 and the cumulative effect began to tell on the American regiments. In my rules, one side gets to fire first (based on an initiative die roll on a D10) and it follows that the other side must first pass a morale check and remove casualties received on that turn before it can fire back. This caused the American fire to diminish considerably, by virtue of fewer numbers of men firing back,  by the third straight turn of losing the first fire. 

Rout of the 2nd Virginia opens up a huge gap in the American center. Gates tries to rally the regiment.

OUTFLANKED! The 1st Pennsylvania Regiment's attrition from casualties shortens its frontage, resulting in its left flank being over-lapped by the British 5th Regiment.

The 1st Maryland Continentals were held in reserve for most of the game,
but now is their time to  support the Pennsylvania Brigade before it crumbles.

SURROUNDED! The 1st & 2nd Pennsylvania regiments are outflanked and virtually surrounded. Only the 1st Maryland regiment, coming up behind the Pennsylvanians, gives them anything but a small hope of extricating themselves from the battleline.

The Pennsylvania Brigade was shot up and shaken to a regiment. The length of the brigade's line began to shrink and this allowed the opposing British brigade of O'Hare overlap the Pennsylvanians. With the American left wing militia caving in to pressure from the Light Brigade and the Pennsylvanians near collapse in the center, I deemed that the British were going to win the battle and so I stopped the game prior to Turn 8.

On the far right flank of the American position, the 4th Virginia (green hunting shirts) and 3rd Virginia (in the smoke) have routed the British 55th Regiment and now have a wide open British left flank to attack. However, it is too late as the rest of the American army is either routing or retiring from the battlefield.

I decreed that each side would loose Strength Points, or "SPs", based on the total number of casualties divided by 30, with 30 being the average size of regiments in the game. Additionaly, the losing side, the Americans, would lose SPs for any unit that was either Routing or Shaken at the end of the game. I reasoned that such units were in no condition to escape capture by the British. As a result, the British lost 1SP from attrition while the Americans lost 4SPs from attrition or capture.

Gates had to decide whether to retreat north over the border and back to his base at Hillsboro, or take the least likely escape route to the east, towards Kingston/Little River and the Atlantic coast.  With information that Tarleton was in the rear burning down Hillsboro, and the liklihood that Cornwallis would pursue the Americans northward, Gates grabbed the option of retreating to the east. This would put the Americans out of supply, but they had three campaign turns to get back into supply before attrition started to set in.

Needless to say, Lord Cornwallis was rightly miffed when his pursuit met up with Tarleton, coming south on the same road from Hillsboro. This meant that somehow Gates had avoided the British pursuit and likely capture of his remaining SPs.

With the battle of Cheraw over, it is now on to Turn 8 (August 1780) of the South Carolina Campaign.


  1. You realize, of course, that I will have a hard time concentrating on "real life" things this evening after reading this, right?

    Best Regards,


  2. When you say,"In my rules, one side gets to fire first (based on an initiative die roll on a D10), do you mean that during the Initiative Die roll the Brits won and chose to fire first rather than move first? I'm trying to make sure I understand your playsheet correctly. A magnificent looking game by the way. I really admire your terrain.

    1. Yes, that is correct. The British chances of winning the die roll was enhanced by a +1 that I assigned to Cornwallis for being the general. This is entirely optional if you don't want the scales tipped in the British favor. IIRC, this only was a factor one time during the game. I rolled two D10 - red and blue - simultaneously each turn.

  3. Jim,
    Great looking game and I guess most enjoyable to play. This campaign has become a must read for me.

  4. Wonderful selection of photos of what looks a brilliant game, I wish I was playing in it. Top photo is super but only spoiled by those awful lifebelt markers that seem so popular! Is it time to clean up DAF's games with a more subtle system of casualty markers such as the numbered dial method?

    1. Its easy to make your own markers. I show how on our groups blog:

  5. Wonderful looking game and full of action. Like others, I'm really enjoying reading this game and seeing how it all unfolds.

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