Sunday, September 9, 2018

AWI Campaign Battle - Hobkirk's Hill

Annotated view of the initial set up of troops at Hobkirk's Hill.
(CLICK ALL PICTURES TO ENLARGE)

Turn Eleven of the South Carolina Campaign produced a significant battle near the British base at Camden. With one more game turn left in the campaign (Turn Twelve), the Americans decided to take a large risk and attack the British stronghold at Camden. Baron DeKalb commanded the American army of 6SPs and decided to go for it, knowing that General Cornwallis' army was too far away to come to the assistance of Lord Rawdon, who defended Camden, also with 6SPs.

The Americans had the opportunity to add from zero to three militia regiments, based on a D6 die roll. DeKalb rolled his dice well and added two militia regiments, giving him a total of 8SPs to 6SPs for the British team.
A sort of "Devil's Den" on the flanks of Hobkirk's Hill.

The British commander, Lord Rawdon, was not aware of the militia reinforcements for DeKalb's army, so figuring that he had better quality troops, he decided to attack the Americans, who were deploying for battle just outside of Camden on a small rise of ground known by the locals as Hobkirk's Hill.

DeKalb deploys his American army on Hobkirk's Hill.


British Order of Battle - Lord Rawdon commanding
Left Wing - Major John Hamilton
Queen's Rangers (provincials)
North Carolina Loyalists (provincials)
55th Regiment of Foot

Right Wing - Lt. Colonel Nisbet Balfour
4th (King's) Regiment
5th Regiment
27th (Inniskilling) Regiment

Reserve Forces -Lord Rawdon
2 x 3-pound cannon
1 squadron of 17th Light Dragoons/British Legion Dragoons
Ferguson's Rifles (provincials)

American Order of Battle - Baron DeKalb commanding

Right Flank - Smallwood
1st Maryland Continental Regiment
6th Maryland Continental Regiment

Center - Lt. Colonel Huger
1st South Carolina State Regiment
2nd South Carolina State Regiment

Reserve Forces - Baron DeKalb
1st Virginia (held in reserve)
1 x 6-pound cannon

Left Flank - Major Caswell
Winnsboro Militia

Additional Raised Militia
Caswell's Mounted Infantry
Spartanburg Militia

The battle commenced with some long range artillery fire from the Continental 6-pounder, which took a bead on the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment, inflicting 4 casualties over the the first two turns. Some minor skirmish fire (from individual stands of figures) created some smoke but few casualties.

By Turn Three both sides had shaken out into parallel battle lines and were marching into musket range. Balfour's right wing advanced quickly towards Hobkirk's Hill, hoping to catch the Americans in a tangle before they could form battle lines. His right flank was covered by Ferguson's Rifle, however, they were pushed back by Caswell's large militia regiment from Winnsboro. His left flank was hanging in the air because he had advanced faster than his supports in Hamilton's brigade.

Annotated positions of each regiment as the battle lines come into close range.


The American artillery and skirmishers continued to prey on the Inniskillings, who had taken 5 cumulative casualties and routed on Turn Three. Since they ran through the 5th Regiment, located directly behind them, that regiment's morale was downgraded to "Shaken".

On Turn Four things started to go south for Hamilton's brigade on the British right flank as the Spartanburg militia emerged from the woods and delivered a point blank volley into the face of the Queen's Rangers, which went "Shaken". Back with Balfour, the Rifles fired at the Winnsboro militia and made them go "Shaken", but the Inniskillings continued their rout and were removed from the game. Well, that was not a good turn for the British side.


The Spartanburg militia advance to the edge of Gill's Field.
Turn Five: The Americans won the first fire initiative on this turn, so the Queen's Rangers (with bayonets) decided that it would make sense to charge the Spartanburg militia (no bayonets) and dig them out of the woods, which would secure the left flank of the British battle line, commanded by Hamilton.

Queen's Rangers try to charge the Spartanburg militia (left) but are repulsed
and fall back through the North Carolina Loyalist regiment, resulting in both units in Shaken status.

Well at least it seemed like a good idea because the Queen's Rangers should have been able to  slaughter the militia due to the bayonets versus no bayonets situation and all they had to do was pass their morale test. The Spartanburg militia passed its morale and decided to hold its ground and fire another volley into the green-coated QR lads, inflicting 2 more hits. The Rangers went "Shaken" on their morale test, which required them to fall back 8-inches rather than to close and fight with the militia. Hamilton's 55th Foot took a volley from the 1st Maryland Continentals and took two hits. They licked their chops as they were finally able to fire back at the enemy and mowed down 4 of the Marylanders, who went "Shaken" from the effect.


In the center of the battlefield, both sides were in musket range now and the veteran 6th Maryland Continentals advanced down Hobkirk's Hill and fired into the 4th (King's) Foot (of Balfour's brigade). To the left of the 6th Maryland, the 1st South Carolina state regiment also fired at the 4th Foot, which took a total of 2 hits combined from the two American regiments, but still became "Shaken" as a result. Fire not so good, mate. The 4th levelled their muskets and made the Americans pay by receiving back 6 hits!

Smallwood's Maryland brigade atop Hobkirk's Hill. The 6th Maryland, in grey hunting shirts,
 is shown in the foreground, the 1st Maryland, in blue, is in the background.


The 2nd South Carolina state regiment fared no better than its sister regiment, receiving 5 withering hits from the British 5th Foot, resulting in a "Shaken" dice roll. Thus in one turn of close range fire, the British inflicted 17 hits on the Americans, receiving back only 6 hits, and causing two American regiments to go "Shaken".



South Carolina brigade (right) and Balfour's brigade (left) close within close range.
Turn Six: good fortune seemed to favor the Crown Forces, for they won the first fire initiative on Turn Six so they were well-positioned to follow up on the success in the previous turn. Rallies come first in my rules and the 6th Maryland and 1st South Carolina recovered their morale from "Shaken" to "Good". The Queen's Rangers, the North Carolina Provincials and the 4th (King's) Regiment were all restored to "Good" morale status.

The Americans decided that charging would be a better idea rather than standing their ground and getting shot down by British close range musketry. The 4th (King's) Regiment probably thought that it was a bad idea because they were charged in the front (1st Maryland) and flank (2nd SC) by the Americans. The King's Regiment passed its morale test, despite their bad situation and so it was now time to rumble into melee.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. The 4th Regt. is hit front and flank and rout.

Caswell's Mounted Militia mounted up and began a concealed move through the woods to support the right flank of the 6th Maryland. The Spartanburg militia continued to hold its ground along the fenceline facing the Queen's Rangers. The QR regiment decided that they had seen enough of the Spartanburgers and so they fell back in good order so as to support the 55th Foot. 


The Mounted Militia sneak through the woods looking for an opportunity to charge.



The North Carolina Loyalists decided to try their hand at dealing with the Spartanburg boys by firing at them with a large handful of 6 dice. They whiffed! Old Sparty fired back and knocked off two of the Tarheels, who were confused and "Shaken" by the whole affair and probably a bit embarrassed at being bested by mere militia troops.

Spartanburg militia repulse the North Carolina Loyalists for the second time.

Now it was time to resolve the melee between the two American regiments and the 4th King's Regt. As expected under such long odds, the 4th routed after taking 6 hits in the flank from the 2nd South Carolina regiment. Lord Rawdon now had two routed regiments of British regulars and he had a sour taste in his mouth from the whole business of this fight.

Turn Seven: This looked like it could be the pivotal turn of the game because the the rout of the 4th King's regiment created a gaping whole in the center of the British battle line. Aren't all holes of the gaping variety? Dang nabit, the Americans won the first fire initiative again and so the Spartanburg militia continued to make a name for themselves by firing into the flank of the 55th Foot, hitting 3 figures and adding a fouth hit on the nearby North Carolina Loyalist regiment. The 55th took two more hits from the two Maryland Continental regiments, for a total of 5 hits on the turn. The 55th passed their morale. Huzzah, huzzah for the bully 55th!
The Maryland brigade overlaps the right flank of the 55th Regt.
Back in the center of the field, the 1st South Carolina sought to exploit the gap created by the 4th Foot, but they failed to take notice of Ferguson's riflemen who picked off two of the gamecocks, causing THEM to rout. Now it was the American battle line that had a yawning gap, which is more severe than a gaping hole, from what I understand. 

Balfour's British brigade (on the right) face nothing but open space in front
of them due to the rout of the 1st South Carolina regiment.

The Spartanburgers continued to be oblivious of their mounting casualty list and passed yet another morale test. What would it take to get rid of these pesky militia? In years ahead, historians would tell the tale of Old Sparty and opine that the bullets were flying so fierce that it seemed that they were in a veritable "hornets' nest". As the smoke began to settle a bit on the battlefield, it appeared that Lady Fortune was now flirting with the redcoats. First the Americans and now the British, can't this dame make up her mind?

Turn Eight - The Grand Finale: Things were about to get exciting my friends, and some stupendous events were about to occur. The Americans won the initiative die roll and elected to move first. What's this? thought the British. Why don't those rebels fire at us first? Do they know something that we don't know?

Indeed they did. Caswell's Mounted Militia had been taking it easy at the edge of the woods for several turns now, and nobody (including Baron DeKalb, their army commander) had taken notice of them. Colonel Caswell observed that the time was ripe for a charge into the flank of the British 55th Foot, which he now ordered.


American mounted militia charge out of the woods
and into the flank of the unsuspecting 55th Regt.

The backwoodsmen came charging out of the light woods, screaming like devils (do devils really scream and if so, has anyone actually ever heard a devil screaming?), swords drawn, and they cleaved into the delicate flank of the 55th Foot. The 55th could do nothing more than rout. 

But wait, there's more!

Caswell rode through the redcoats as an appatizer and now feasted on the main course, the Queen's Rangers, who had thought that they might get to sit out the rest of the battle in the second line. They thought wrong. The QR regiment likewise routed off into the yonder and thus served up the dessert course in the form of a pair of Royal Artillery 3-pounders that were in the path of the charge. The artillery crew were cut down to the last man. Finally, with horses heaving and blown, Caswell's glorious charge had run its full course, however, he had almost single handedly wiped out the left flank of the British army, in the form of Hamilton's brigade.

American mounted militia charge into the flank
of the Queen's Rangers, routing them too.




Let's rub a little more salt into the hyde of the redcoats and watch the Spartanburg militia run off the North Carolina Loyalists for good measure.

Turn Nine - the closing act of our little play:  the Americans won the first initiative which allowed Caswell's Mounted Militia another swat at the British piniata. Their foe this time was the 17th Light Dragoons, also known as The Adults in This Room. They had seen enough of Caswell and counter-charged the Americans. Caswell won the melee, 2 hits to none, leaving the dragoons shaking their heads in dismay as both cavalry units fell back from the fight in disorder.

American mounted militia (left) vs British 17th Light Dragoons (right)


Lord Rawdon had seen enough by now. He ordered Nisbet Balfour to fall back and form march column to get away from the American army. Balfour thought that he was winning the battle on his flank when the order to withdraw came. Lord Rawdon brought him up to speed on recent events and Balfour concurred that leaving the scene was a sound idea. As his brigade marched off into the sunset, the North Carolina Loyalists found themselves very much alone on the battlefield. With Hamilton either dead, captured or missing, they missed the order to withdraw and they wisely layed down their arms and surrendered.

Troop positions at the end of the battle.


Conclusion
What an amazing battle Hobkirk's Hill was, with Baron DeKalb's army crushing Lord Rawdon's British army and significantly boosting the American cause in South Carolina. Rawdon had lost three of his 6SPs in the fight and would lose an additional SP as the penalty for being the losing side in the battle. Conversely, the Americans gained an extra SP as a reward for winning the battle, so now DeKalb was the owner of Camden and an army of 7SPs. 

The battle was also notable for the key contributions of two militia units: the Spartanburg militia and Caswell's Mounted Militia. The Spartanburg boys refused to be routed out of their woods, despite losing nearly 40% of their effectives. Their morale was at the highest level all throughout the game and they fended off two better-trained Loyalist regiments during the battle. Caswell's Charge was just simply the silliest thing that I have seen on the tabletop in quite some time. Words fail me on this.

The fate of Lord Rawdon's dwindling force is unknown, as yet. I would imagine that the road back to either Monck's Corner or Charleston would be swarming with American militia eager to take a bite out of the retreating British. The American capture of Camden also puts Lord Cornwallis' main British army in South Carolina out of supply, so he will only have one turn to find supplies again or face the attrition of 1SP per ensuing turn. However, since Turn Twelve will be the last turn of the campaign, the British supply situation is a rather moot point by now.




11 comments:

  1. Well done Jim, what a beautifully crafted game.

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  2. What an excellent and entertaining report! The game looks wonderful as well!

    Christopher

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  3. Yes! A great way to wake up this very early Monday morning (5:15am EDT).

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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  4. A fine game, despite the result 🇬🇧

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    Replies
    1. I lean towards King George too, so I was surprised by the outcome

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  5. Great looking game, as usual!

    I hope that out version of Hobkirk's Hill on Sep. 29 will be just as exciting.

    Jim

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  6. A great looking game and I enjoyed the write up too.
    Simon

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  7. Beautiful game. I was wondering though, was the round baler really invented back in 1776?

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