Crossing the same river twice

Crossing the same river twice

There are two great battles of the ’45 rising that were never fought. This week I’ve had a couple of goes at getting the scenario right for one of them.

Prior to Culloden, in April 1746, Cumberland was closing in on the Jacobite army in Speyside. The Highland Division had been dispersed to the their clan territories for recruits and supplies, with orders to rendezvous at Inverness. The Lowland Division and the cavalry were situated near the coast together with most of the Royal Ecossais, behind the River Spey, the last major obstacle before Inverness. The great unanswered question is why did the Jacobites not contest the river crossing?

The answer is sort of obvious. There were too many crossing points to cover without the Highland Division, and even so, fixing themselves along a linear obstacle would have enabled Cumberland to concentrate at his chosen place and force it with overwhelming strength.

However, it makes an interesting „what if“ battle, if you postulate that Cumberland is unable to bring all of his army to bear and maybe there are Highland reinforcements in the offing.

I based the set up on Stuart Reid’s force description in his 1745 Military history, and the map in Duffy’s „The ’45“. It gave me some thing like this:

Phil was the Jacobites, and had to deploy first as the Eastern bank, where the Government forces were situated, overlooked the Western, so in theory they could see the Jacobite positions. He was allowed to deploy anywhere on his side of the river. Chris, with the Redcoats, had three brigades, including two ersatz battalions made up of Grenadier companies. These were allowed to fight in column, and their confidence level was a known quantity before the game („Fearless“). Chris could deploy anywhere in the first two rows of squares.

Chris opened up by charging his dragoons across the left hand ford.

When the confidence check was made, they turned out to be „Wavering“, and lost the subsequent round of melee. That was a little bit unexpected.

As Phil had deployed set back from the river, Chris was able to wade across the deeper bits unopposed. Meanwhile, both sides rushed troops to dispute the right hand ford.

At the left hand ford, Chris sent in his second regiment of dragoons.

This went better for him, and he broke Phil’s „hussar“ regiment.

However, Phil was able to counter attack with the Prince’s Life Guard, and defeat the other dragoons.

The attack in the centre was having mixed results. One of the Grenadier battalions was shot up badly and broke after a round of melee. Next to them, however, a regular battalion was doing much better.

Chris closed with the Royal Ecossais at the right hand ford…

…and forced his way across.

On the left, Chris was able to launch a charge with his remaining Grenadiers, and they smashed through their opponents.

The right hand ford was secured, as the Royal Ecossais broke.

Chris now had most of his army across and in good order, and had Phil boxed into a corner.

Both side’s reinforcements arrived at this point, with a flanking brigade of Redcoats arriving on the Jacobite right, and similar numbers of Highlanders arriving in the centre. However, it looked like the Jacobites were done for, so we finished for the evening.

It just so happens that Jon F and I had been exchanging emails bemoaning how long it had been since we’d played an on-line game, so I reset the board, and we had another go at the battle the following afternoon.
Chris had remarked that it was confusing having such a narrow stream, so I replaced it with my full-on Bellona river. For this game Jon took the Jacobites, and I took the Government forces.

I started by rushing the left hand ford with a Grenadier battalion. I got across, but at some cost.

I likewise came unstuck on my right, where one of my dragoon regiments was rather blown away.

Having drawn their fire, I sent in another regiment of dragoons. They got bounced, but weren’t routed.
My Grenadiers that crossed the ford were broken after a round of combat, but they distracted Jon enough that I could get my other battalion across to their left. Alas elsewhere I was obliged to open fire at long range in order to try to clear some of the opposition. It wasn’t a very effective tactic.
Jon immediately charged my other Grenadiers with both his cavalry units.

My men bravely saw both of them off, killing a Jacobite brigadier.

I got my dragoons out of the way at the right hand ford, and closed with some infantry.

I now tried to shoot my way across the right hand ford, whilst wading the river to their left.

The Camerons advanced bravely across the ford. Jon’s now weakened infantry battalion gave ground.

Then, inexplicably, Jon tried to clear the right hand ford with a bayonet charge.
He was met by a defensive volley, and then driven back.

I’ve started to cross the river in various places, and my victory at the right hand ford has enabled me to pass my cavalry across behind them, into the Jacobite rear.

The Royal Ecossais are broken. This flank is ours!

The Camerons press forwards (possibly to the skirl of the pipes)

As I emerge from the river, Jon launches a charge. Despite being disordered, my brave fellows deliver a decent enough volley, before prevailing in the melee, where another Jacobite brigadier falls.

On the left I’ve also managed to kill the Jacobite general. And my flanking force has arrived, so Jon concedes. Another Government victory.
Two interesting games. It is a struggle to work out the best way of both attacking and defending, and a good deal of luck may be required. A bit of a tweak here and there and this scenario can go into the new rule book.

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Autor: Trebian / Wargaming for Grown-ups

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