Monday, February 27, 2017

New Fife & Drum/Minden Forum Is Created

Fife & Drum Hessian Musketeers. Click picture to enlarge the view.

New Warmgamer Discussion Forum
I have decided to take a hand at trying out a discussion forum for primarily Fife & Drum/Minden Miniatures as well as topics related to the Seven Years War, French & Indian War, War of the Austrian Succession and the American Revolutionary War (or AWI, if you will).

Fife & Drum Forum

A forum is only as good as its members and their level of contribution to discussions or the creation of topics, so we shall see how this goes. Hopefully the forum will have some legs and get up and running very quickly.

I will start populating the forum with some topics and threads for discussion. Please click on the link above, pay the forum a visit, and feel free to start your own threads or contribute to existing ones.

I look forward to seeing many of my regular blog visitors in the Fife & Drum Minis forum.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Battle of Akasha in the Sudan

Colonel of the Camerons regiment surveys the terrain. Click picture to enlarge.

Thursday evening I travelled to Bill Protz's house in Wisconsin so that we could play a "small game" using our 54mm toy soldiers for the Sudan campaigns. I call this game "small" only because I did not bring all of my toys on the road with me to Bill's house. I learned that it is not too difficult to transport the toy soldiers, so I imagine that we will have more games on Bill's large table set up.

I was particularly eager to have another 54mm Sudan game so that I could use my brand spanking new Cameron Highlanders from Heritage Miniatures in the UK. They had never been battle tested so it was with a little bit of trepidation that I included them in my order of battle (you know what always seems to happen to new war-game regiments the first time that they are in a game - they perform miserably). I am happy to report that the Camerons and a supporting company of the Black Watch performed admirably and with much grit and excellence.

Let us now get on with the story telling.



We called the scenario the Battle of Akasha, taking place during Kitchener's Omdurman Campaign in 1898.  If you have a copy of the Osprey Campaign book 29 on Omdurman, you will see a very nice map on page 30 that provides a nice overview of where things are.

Akasha is near the end of the railroad line that the British built to make the hauling of supplies much easier. The railroad tracks by-pass a long section of the Nile River, south of the second cataract, that is vertually unnavigable. The Dervish, commanded by atman al-Azraq, are attempting to blow up a section of the railroad track to disrupt the advance of Kitchener's army. Kitchener has dispatched a small force of Camerons, Black Watch, Camel Corps and the Naval Brigade to protect the section of track between Akasha and the town of Firket. The commanding general is a certain General Shearing, rather than our usual friend, Major General Pettygree.

General Shearing watches developments in the battle through his binoculars. The Camerons are to his front.
The rest of the story will be largely told through picture captions.

A view of the battle field from the British point of view. They occupy the village  of Akasha, largely in ruins. In the distance, one can see the village of Firket, as well as a hoard of Dervish.

Britsh naval brigade defends the right flank of the British army in Akasha.
Sailors are posted atop the ruins to keep an eye on any Dervish movements.

The Camerons, Black Watch and a company of Camel Corps comprise the right flank, which will be the spearhead of the attack.
Let us now look at the Dervish deployment:

Dervish cavalry and foot advance towards Akasha.
Dervish work detail hauls a wagon full of gun powder that will be used to blow up a section of the railroad track.

A band of Dervish advance up the railroad tracks looking for a place to lay down explosives to blow up the track.

The left side of the Dervish deployment. Camel mounted scouts look for signs of the British.

Beja riflemen hide in the wooded area in front of the Akasha ruins.

 The battle begins as the left side (from the British point of view) of the Dervish army launches an attack on the Camerons and Black Watch.

The Dervish warbands are spotted by the Camerons, so they deploy into a battle line supported by two Gatling guns and a Screw Gun.
Here they come! Steady lads, mark your targets.

Most of the Dervish/ Beja/Hadendoa/ Fuzzies were rated "fanatical" for this battle. This basically means that when they roll a saving throw for casualties from British fire, anything but a "1 or a 2 "  on D6 saves them, making it very hard to kill them off. This allows the Dervish to close in for melee with the British. Several times I was heard to say (or was at least thinking it), "how the heck do we kill these guy when nothing seems to stop them?" I would imagine that quite a few British soldiers said the same thing in the real battles.

My Highlanders were blessed with good dice rolling and won all of their melees, causing the Dervish to either run away or fall back six inches.

In the two pictures below, we can see the first melee with the Fuzzy Wuzzies/Beja/Dervish against the Camerons. As the Dervish closed, I began to think that my firepower could not knock them down, as they seemed to save everything on their saving throws. Fortunately, the Dervish did not attack with enough war band, only two unsupported groups charged, making it easier for the British to fend them off in the melee. The Black Watch Highlanders, on the far right, were well positioned to charge into the flank of the Beja and cause them to rout. 

The larger of the two Dervish warbands piles headlong into the righthand company of the Camerons. A company of Black Watch (in grey tunics) will swing to the right and hit the Dervish in the flank.

The larger band of the Dervish attack gets charged in the flank by the Black Watch.
 A smaller Dervish band (made smaller by Gatling gun fire and British rifle volleys) on the left have no success in crossing the zariba that the Camerons have thrown in their path. Some Gatling gun support is well appreciated.
Another view of the melee.
The Naval Brigade, on the other hand, did not fare so well against the Fuzzies, who overwhelmed them over the course of two or three game turns.  It would have been helpful if the sailors had some supporting Gatling guns. The sailors started with 23 figures, adjusted to 31 given that the officers count as 3 figures during melee.

On the British right, the Naval Brigade is handled roughly by an attacking mob of Dervish. To the left, just barely within the picture frame, you can see a young fellow named Winston Churchill. You can also see Colonel Burnaby waving his sword in the lower left, behind the line of sailors.
The result was the rather humorous site of one sole man, Colonel Burnaby, running for his life away from the Beja band of warriors. Fortunately for Burnaby, a very lucky man today, the British drew the first movement card from the deck of cards. This enabled Burnaby to make a hard right and run to the safety of a company of Camel Corps in the rear of the British lines.

The Naval Brigade is wiped out to the man, except for Colonel Burnaby, who has to flee for his life towards the ruins. It looks like the Fuzzies will run him down and end his story for good. The picture reminds me a bit of the movie, "The Naked Prey" in which Cornel Wilde attempts to flee from an angry group of African natives.
The Fuzzies occupy the vacated town of Akasha and capture the British colours. Just barely visible, at the bottom left side of the picture, a company of the Camel Corps turn around and face the enemy. 

The Dervish cavalry support a mob of fanatical warriors. It looks like they are headed towards the Black Watch on the right side of the British battle line. The left hand company of Camerons, supported by one of the Gatling guns, makes a rash move forward to occuppy the high ground, but the other two companies hang back to support the Black Watch.
The Dervish realize the futility of attacking the strong British line, and so their cavalry break off and return to Firket. The Dervish infantry also halt their forward movement, thus ending the Battle of Akasha.

The battle, as seen from the Dervish perspective. At least two Dervish war bands, maybe more are running away from the deadly firepower of the Highland Brigade.

The British cavalry brigade (21st Lancers and some Egyptian Lancers) has been wandering aimlessly around the flanks of the Dervish army (actually, we kind of forgot that they were there and so they went unused during the battle. Maybe it was just as well as the cavalry was in a good position to shore up the rear and keep the Beja warriors in Akasha from any further attacks.

It was a very enjoyable game for the players of both sides. I think that the rules accurately reflected my understanding of warfare in the Sudan. The rules make it hard to kill of the Fuzzies, who are rated as "fanatical" warriors. They have a better chance of saving themselves during the saving roll phase of the game. This is based on accounts of the battle of Tamai, in which the Beja would appear to be shot down, but then they would get up and hurl themselves toward the British squares.

The Beja riflemen were difficult to deal with.  They were picking off sailors with relative ease, but because they were in "open order/skirmish order", they were hard to hit.

It seems that every British brigade needs at least one Gatling gun or similar machine gun if it is to withstand a Dervish charge. A bit of good die rolling also helps. As for the Dervish, I think that they need to coordinate their charges so that several warbands hit the British line at the same time. Their piecemeal attacks were relatively easy to fend off, from the British point of view.

My Cameron Highlanders performed admirably in the game. They won numerous melees and caused three Dervish warbands to run away. My company of supporting Black Watch also performed well, noting their timely charge into the flank of the attacking Dervish. My Highland Brigade only lost three figures for the whole game!

I completely forgot about my brigade of Imperial cavalry, consisting of 18 of the 21st Lancers and 12 of the Egyptian Lancers. I had intended to have them roam around in the rear areas of the Dervish army, but instead they were unused. Perhaps it was just as well, for the cavalry were well-positioned to block off the Fuzzies who had broken through the Naval Brigade and could have threatened the rear of the British army.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I'm Doing Cowpens!

Tarleton's British Legion figures from Fife & Drum Miniatures. Click pix to enlarge.

Last night it was fish or cut bait time as I had to choose a couple of scenarios for my games at this year's Seven Years War Association Convention. The Convention will be held in South Bend, Indiana again on March 30, 31 and April 1st, 2017.

So after a little bit of noodling about the convention games, I decided that it was time to change up the usual games and get back to running some AWI games, using the Fife & Drum Miniatures for the American Revolution.

 I settled on running Cowpens all day on Friday and then my Winter Trenton scenario on Saturday.

Cowpens is a small game scenario that should realistically accomodate no more than four player in the game. The downside is that this does not allow many convention goers to participate in the game. So I decided to run the Cowpens game virtually all day Friday in one continuos stream.  One of the versions of the Cowpens game might be to run it as a SYW small action between the Austrians and Prussians at a little place called "Kuhstahl" (do you get it?).

Cowpens features the destruction and demise of Banastre Tarleton's independent command at the hands of Daniel Morgan and his mixed force of militia and Continentals plus a handfull of cavalry. Tarleton's army of about 1,000 men included the vaunted and feared British Legion.

The one problem for me is that I don't have any painted British Legion figures on hand, other than some samples mounted on single bases. The obvious solution is to paint the British Legion ahead of the convention. With about five weeks or so to go, I think that I can complete 24 cavalrymen divided into two squadrons of twelve figures.

So last evening I spent some time gluing the arms to the British Legion figures and cleaning up the horses just a tad. Most of the BL cavalrymen have a separate weapon arm (swords of pistols). It doesn't take too much time to do the assembly work: this consists of drilling out the existing hole in the torso, just to ensure a clean bonding, placing a small bit of epoxy putty into the hole, and then finally gluing on the arm. Then I let this sit overnight to let the expoxy putty harden.

Below are pictures of some of these bad boys: 24 figures to be exact.

British Legion (24 figures in two squadrons) castings are prepared and ready to be primed with grey primer.
One of the squadrons will consist of walking horses with the riders either hacking or shooting pistols at some unfortunate Americans.

The "Charging Squadron"
The second squadron consists of 12 figures charging at the full gallop. Tarleton's favorite tactic seemed to be just charging into the enemy and then hacking them down if the broke and ran.

The "Hacking & Shooting Squadron" for close in work.
Today, I glued the riders to the horses, adding a small ball of epoxy putty to the underside of the rider to create a stronger bond between rider and horse. I will let the figures harden overnight and give them a coat of grey primer tomorrow. Then two days hence, I can start painting the first squadron.

I will post updates through each stage of the operation so that you can follow the progress of the British Legion.

I will also need to add six to ten Continental 3rd Dragoons commanded by William Washington. Fortunately, six of them are partially painted already, which gives me a bit of a head start on the unit.

Monday, February 20, 2017

French Field Bakeries and Logistics

Construction of a typical field bakery, model by Ed Phillips. Click pix to enlarge.

I was reading a book titled "The French Armies in the Seven Years War" by Lee Kennett (Duke University Press, 1967) and came across some information about the French system of logistics, in particular the section about field bakeries. The one thing that really struck me was how the movement and placement of the field bakeries had such a substantive impact on the maneuvering of the French army on campaign. More on that in a minute.

I also found a short passage from memoir of Comte d'Estees and the account of the Marquis de Valfons, both on the Battle of Hastenback on July 26, 1757. The booklet was translated and published by the late James J. Mitchell (formerly the editor of the Seven Years War Association Journal prior to his untimely passing).

Valfons' account mentions an incident prior to the battle. M. de Chevert was making a reconnaissance in force around the left flank of the Hanoverian position on July 25th. After an examination of the Hanoverian position, Chevert sent Valfons back to the headquarters of Marshal d'Estrees, the commander of the French army at Hastenbeck, to give an account of the news that Chevert believed that there was an opportunity to attack the rear of the Hanoverian position on the Voglesberg.

I found M. the Marshal who, after having listened to me, told me, "Monsieur, I do not want a battle; pray M. de Chevert to withdraw his corps by the left beneath one that M. d'Armantieres command and for both to rejoin the army.

I insisted on the advantage to be lost in abandoning ground which the enemy would certainly take hold of during the night, all was of no use, his response was always "Leave!" Finally, counting on his goodness and the friendship which he had for me, I took him aside and said to him:

"Monsieur la Marechal, my attachment and appreciation embolden me to represent to you that you will be doing a great harm with respect to your army if you defer an operation which appears certain. Audacity, as you know, is the appendage of the Frenchman, and we should not allow his courage to cool."

He gently listened to me.

" Oh well! You are going to extract from me my secret; my convoy of bread is another 4 leagues from here and we don't have any other. When one fights, one could be beaten, and I don't want that the army should disperse for lack of sustenance. See you tomorrow morning when the convoy arrives."

By 7PM, the convoy was within one league and so M l"Estries gave Chevert the go ahead to organize his attack on the Hanoverian position on the following morning (July 26th).

So often we critisize French generals for their deliberate actions on campaign, and yet, when one drills a little deeper, the problems of logistic reveal the true nature of d'entrees command decisions.

Kennett's Analysis

An army of 100,000 men consumes 200,000 pounds of flour each day. The 75,000 horses in Germany  required during the Winter months a total of 8,818,636 rations - some 70,000 bales of hay and 4 million bushels of oats. To supply 100,000 men with bread, some 40 ovens were needed; often materials were in such short supply that houses had to be demolished to obtain the brick, and the installations required as much as two weeks to build. The Austrians and Prussians developed portable iron field ovens which were very successful, but the French preferred to adhere to the system of baking their bread in brick ovens. [ this suggests many ideas for wargame scenarios that center around either the construction of brick ovens, attacks on the bread convoys, or raids to acquire the necessary bricks for oven building].

Commonly the bread ration was issued every four days, the bread being edible for about nine days after baking. The rations were delivered to the army by convoys. The field ovens were generally placed about three days' march from the grain stores and two more days march from the army. It must  be said to the credit of the minitionnaire that the bread supply never failed disastrously in the Army of the Lower Rhine. It should be added, however, that time and time again troop movements were cancelled for the very purpose of preventing such a failure. [this is an interesting revelation that explains the events at Hastenbeck on the day before the battle on July 25th 1757]

This can be seen quite clearly during the summer of 1759 . Contades wrote from Corbach on June 10 that he had planned to advance but the that the ovens at Corbach from which the bread was to be drawn would not be ready for some two weeks because of the lack of materials. (Contades mentions that the army could be supplied from the ovens installed at Marburg, but could go no further, as it would be a distance of 18 leagues, the maximum distance as outlined in the French military regulations). 

The Corbach ovens would be completed on June 24 and the first rations from this installation could be drawn on July 28, after which the army could advance again. New problems arose for more ovens needed to be built at Cassel and Paderborn and the army could advance 18 leagues beyond Paderborn providing the ovens could be put into operation by July 6. The army continued to leap frog forward from one set of ovens to the other, until it encountered the enemy at Minden.



Monday, February 13, 2017

Diesbach Regiment in French Service

Swiss Diesbach Regiment - Minden Miniatures. Click to enlarge.

The other day I received a package of figures from Leuthen Studios, containing a 30-figure battalion of the Swiss Diesbach regiment in French service during the SYW. I am very pleased with the brushwork provided by Ioannis' team of painters and hope to get the full battalion based and flagged soon so that I can show you pictures of the unit in full fig, ready to go.

It looks like I will be adding a SYW French army to my collection. My only other unit is the Cuirassiers du Roi, but that is certain to change during 2017.

Toy Soldier News

A couple of weeks ago I attended a "trunk show" hosted by Treefrog Treasures. The show was in a nearby town so I decided to drop in and see what was new in the toy soldier realm.

I purchased the Rolls Royce armoured car, shown below, not because I'm planning on gaming WW1 in the desert, but rather, the model was just too darn beautiful to pass up. This is one of those things where you just know that if you don't buy it now, it will be gone when you have made up your mind that you want it, only to find that someone else purchased the model.

I have added a Trophy Indian Sikh figure and a palm tree to provided some perspective on the size of the vehicle. I really like this model and it will go on display in one of my library shelves. It will never be in a wargame though.

Rolls Royce armored car, WW1 desert campaigns, from John Jenkins Design. Click to enlarge.

I found a long lost box of Trophy 54mm Pathans last week whilst doing some clean up in the Closet O' Lead (moving things out of the shelves so that I could put plastic parts bins on all of my shelves to hold the excess Minden and Fife & Drum stock).

I had given the Pathans up as a lost box of figures. I knew that I had them a long time ago, but could never find the box that they were stored in from my last house move 12 years ago.

Trophy 54mm Pathans, returned from the Land of the Lost. Click to enlarge.
Next Toy Soldier Game on February 23rd at Chez Protz

Bill and I decided that we should have a smaller Sudan game with our toy soldiers on a week night. So on a Thursday afternoon, I will pack up a square of Highlanders (which have never played in any of our wargames with toy soldiers ) and a hoard of Dervish and make the one hour drive to Chez Protz, where we will have a smaller game played on a larger table. It should be a lot of fun. As I understand it, the British army contingent will be providing protection for a gang of railroad track layers - this will allow us to use Bill's model railroad set up as part of the wargame. Yikes! I am looking forward to this game very much.