Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Raid! Part One
Autumn, 1781: General Lord Cornwallis's army was blockaded at Yorktown, its back to the sea. As the American rebels and their French allies pressed close, a single mortar emplacement atop a low rise of ground close to the British lines was proving something of a nuisance to their rear areas. Cornwallis ordered its capture and destruction.
Gathering together a small raiding force, Lieutenant Lord Hugh Pettifogg, seconded by Lt Banastre Mirleton, gathered two sections of grenadiers, 6 under each officer. The foggy morning of 5th September covered the British approach until, at a little outside musketry range, they burst out of the mist. Lt Mirleton led the 1st Section on the right; as overall commander, Lt Pettifogg retained 2nd Section under his own hand.
The lightly held American outpost was surprised, but soon collected themselves for a stout defence. The mortar, haply loaded already, would get just one shot off before the enemy were under its minimum range. The battery commander, Sergeant Daniel Boondock decided to take his chances with that shot, then send off a runner for help whilst he and the rest of the mortar crew (one man) helped the 3-man picquet defend the post.
This was my first 'test' of the OMOG One Man One Gun rule set. I decided there would be no particular finesse to this action: a storming of an outpost, with the defenders hoping to hold out until help arrived.
Sergeant Boondock set the match to the mortar, the powder (despite the overnight damp) ignited, the shell flew into the air. No one knew where it came down. There was no explosion. To British relief, and American chagrin, the shell proved a dud (Would you believe it: rolled a '1'). At once, Bombardier Miles Long set off to the main lines. Sergeant Boondock grimly observed the steady approach of the enemy grenadiers.
Once the enemy came within range (I took this to be 12"), the picquet's three muskets opened fire felling a man from Mirleton's section. The grenadiers responded, ineffectually at that range. Behind revetted earthworks, the Yankees could laugh at long range musketry. On the other hand, all the gunners could do was wait: their pistols would be useless until the enemy got much closer.
Nothing loth, the grenadiers closed the range, losing two more of their number (one each from Mirleton's and Pettifogg's sections), until at last they were close enough to hope to inflict some hurt of their own. Sure enough, one musketeer fell, but casualties among the attackers were mounting.
Early exchanges: one grenadier is down but there is no chance at this range of damaging the defenders in their works.
Closing the range. By now the Grenadiers had lost three...
... before a lucky shot dropped on of the defenders.
Surging up the slight slope, Mirleton's command burst over the earthwork and thrust through the embrasure. Their bravery cost them two more men, but their impetuosity carried them through to put the remainder of the picquet to the bayonet. At once Sergeant Boondock and his remaining gunner legged it.
Far ahead of them was their fellow gunner, running to seek help.
Just then, that help arrived. Hearing the continual popping fire and the gunner's raucous calls for help, the ever-popular Major Horatio Styles rode in, gathered as many volunteers as he could betimes, and set off for the battery. Arriving upon the scene, he found the battery already overrun, the mortar crew beating a hasty retreat, and British grenadiers swarming over the earthwork.
'The Redcoats shall not have that mortar for a trophy!' cried the Major, 'Who's with me?'
This narrative will be continued in another posting, but here is a convenient place to pause. This was very much a 'first pass' to try out the rule set in a fairly unsophisticated frontal attack upon a defended earthwork. It certainly proved no pushover for the grenadiers, even at more than two to one odds, losing 5 men whilst inflicting 3 and driving off the rest. It is too early to state an opinion on the OMOG rule set, except to say they are playable enough!