Monday, July 31, 2017

Cavalry Skirmish at Fisher's Crossing

British light infantry arrive to support 16th Light Dragoons skirmishers.

The two armies (Webster's British - 7SPs and De Kalb's Americans - 10 SPs) have come into contact along the Catawba River in northwest South Carolina. Prior to the action, however, there was a considerable amount of pre-battle scouting and skirmishing going on behind the scenes. Today's post depicts the cavalry skirmish that took place prior to the battle. 

Francis Marion and his band of South Carolina Mounted Militia had been posted ten miles ahead of De Kalb's American army. Marion's orders were to locate Colonel Webster's British and alert De Kalb of their arrival.

Please read the picture captions to follow the action as it unfolds. You can also click and double click on the pictures to enlarge them for easier viewing and examination. Most of the terrain was built by Herb Gundt and all of the figures are from the Fife & Drum AWI figure range.

Marion's Mounted Militia head for Fisher's Crossing, riding on the road from Winnsboro, SC , from the south

Francis Marion divides his mounted militia into two troops, sending one troop (left) up the Great Wagon Road to scout the British, while the second troop (center right) trots up the Winnsboro Road and deploys at Fisher's Crossing.

A troop of British 16th Light Dragoons slowly feel their way down the Great Wagon Road, looking for signs of the rebels. Note how the skirmishers are sent out in pairs, one loading as one fires. Note also the formed rear support of dragoons, providing a fall back point for the skirmishers in case they are attacked.

British Light Dragoons (left) and Marion's Mounted Militia (right) square off and trade shots in the middle of the Great Wagon Road. They mostly miss their targets as it is difficult to have accurate fire while mounted on a horse.

Francis Marion conveys the news of the British arrival to Major General Baron De Kalb on the ridge overlooking the Catawba River. Cavalry commander William Washington looks on.

Marion returns to Fisher's Crossing lead a troop of his mounted militia, now reinforced by a troop of the 1st Continental Dragoons.

With the arrival of the Continental regular cavalry, Marion orders his men to dismount and take up a position along the fenceline. The mounted figures behind the militia represent the regiment's horse holders.

The 1st Continental Dragoons arrive and immediately charge into melee with the British 16th Light Dragoons on the Great Wagon Road.

While the action heats up on the Great Wagon Road, a new threat arrives on the Winnsboro Road.

A full squadron of the British 16th Light Dragoons could outflank the American cavalry,  but a troop of 1st Continenal Dragoons advance down the road, in skirmish order, to try to delay the arrival of the British cavalry. 

The respective mounted skirmishers drop back and out of the way as the formed  squadrons of cavalry hack away at each other in the middle of the Winnsboro Road.

A closer view of the second cavalry melee.

British Light Infantry arrive on the Great Wagon Road and press forward towards Marion's dismounted milita, posted at the crossroads.

Deployment of Marion's forces at the crossroads.

Elements of the 1st Continental Dragoons also dismount and add to the American line along the fence. The British Light Companies come on and are staggered by a well-timed volley from the Americans. The Light Companies fall back down the Great Wagon Road to await the arrival of more infantry.

Note how the British light companies were only probing the American line and then they fell back to reorganize once the rebels had revealed themselves. There was no point in just charging into the militia when their mission was simply to find out where the rebels were. The heavier infantry fighting would come later in the day.

Colonel William Washington leads the 3rd Continental (Baylor's) Dragoons over the Catawba Bridge heading towards the sound of the guns.

The 16th Dragoons Rout! They are pursued down the Winnsboro Road by the 1st Continental Dragoons. Washington's 3rd Continental Dragoons attempt to cut off the fleeing British horsemen.

William Washington's regular Continental cavalry wins the melee along the Winnsboro Road and chases the British dragoons away. However, upon sighting a column of British infantry marching up the road towards Fisher's Crossing, Washington sounds the recall and his dragoons retire back towards the Catawba River to protect the bridge crossing.This allows the rest of the American cavalry and militia to retire across the river in good order.

The cavalry have done their job, there is no need for them to stand and fight formed British infantry at this time. That is the job of De Kalb's Continental infantry.

Another British threat looms from the western road from Winnsboro - the British infantry brigade has arrived at Fisher's Crossing!

The British 5th Regiment leads the road column.

The British infantry deploy into battle formation.

With the arrival of British infantry in sight, the Continental cavalry squadrons turn about and trot back to the river crossing, in good order of course.

Colonel William Washington orders all squadrons to reform back at the Catawba Bridge.

Their job largely done, Marion orders his militia to mount up and ride to the other side of the Catawba River. The regular Continental cavalry will take over from here.

Summary of the Action
And so ends the cavalry skirmish and battle that occurred on the south bank of the Catawba River at the little hamlet of Fisher's Crossing in South Carolina.

To recall, the action began with Francis Marion's mounted militia first sighting some British light dragoons along the Great Wagon Road (one of the main roads spanning the length of South Carolina from Ninety Six in the western part of the state, to Catawba Town along the SC/NC border.

Marion sent word back to Major General De Kalb that British forces were moving towards Fisher's Crossing. De Kalb sent Marion back to delay the British scouts while William Washington brought up the 1st and 3rd Continental Dragoons to assume the task of fighting the regular British cavalry.

Both sides fed more and more of their men into the action around the cross roads at Fisher's Crossing. The British 16th LD gained the first advantage, tumbling a troop of the 1st Continental Dragonns back towards the Catawba River. However, William Washington sent in his reserves and restored control over the Great Wagon Road. At around the same time, more British cavalry was spotted approaching on the American's flank from the Winnsboro Road.

Washington sent skirmishers down the Winnsboro Road, forcing the British cavalry to deploy. A skirmish followed on that road and to everyone's great surprise, the British 16th Light Dragoons routed. American jubliance was quickly tempered by the arrival of British infantry on both roads, indicating that the cavalry had done its job and that it was time to extract itself from the fight and retire across the Catawba River.

While the cavalry action was taking place on the south bank of the river, General De Kalb was quietly deploying his army in the dead ground behind the ridge along the north bank of the Catawba River. The American cavalry had screened De Kalb's troop deployment and had he had his army arrayed in battle line, ready to meet the British army along the banks of the Catawba River at Fisher's Crossing.

Coming Next
Our next report will focus on the main battle, later this week.

About the Miniatures
All figures shown in the pictures are from the Fife & Drum range of AWI miniatures, sculpted by Richard Ansell in 1/56 scale (approximately 30mm in height).

Marion's Mounted Militia figures are all conversions of existing Minden or Fife & Drum figures. These figures will soon be put into production and added to the range probably in the Fall 2017.

We will be adding South Carolina Continentals in the Fall of 2017.

About the Terrain
Virtually all of the terrain, including buildings, fences and trees were made by Herb Gundt. The river sections are from JR Miniatures; the stone bridge is from Miniature Building Authority, the road sections were made by me around 1990 and they are still holding up very well after all of these years.  The ground mat was made by The Terrain Guy, sadly no longer in business.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fisher's Crossing

"Confrontation in the Rain - Fisher's Crossing", artwork by Chris Gregg,

Things have been a little hectic around the manse these past few days, due to family related matters, so I have not had the opportunity to begin the Battle of Fisher's Crossing from our South Carolina Campaign of 1780.

In lieu of some battle photographs, I thought that I would post this pen and ink drawing (above) that was created by Chris Gregg. The drawing was originally published in Phil Olley's "Classic Wargamers Journal" in the Spring of 2011. I acquired the artwork from Chris at the recent wargame event at Kenilworth back in June of this year. 

You can check out more of Chris Gregg's work on his  website at:

Chris takes commissions on military subjects and practically anything else, so have a look.

The figures in the artwork reminded me of many of the Fife & Drum AWI figures, such that I nicked the name for the next battle in the South Carolina Campaign.

Before I start the battle I plan on having a small cavalry skirmish to help decide where the respective British and American armies will be located on the table. All too often I have read blogs or forums that talk about the need for dismounted cavalry and cavalry skirmishing figures in general. However, I have never seen such a scenario, or the use of such figures, in any game scenario in the blogosphere.

British 16th Light Dragoons (left) encounter some of the 1st Continental Light Dragoons at Fisher's Crossing.

The 3rd Continenatl Light Dragoons are coming up the road in support.

Another view of the action from the American point of view.

I have been so interested in such scenarios myself, to the point that I even created skirmishing cavalry for the Fife & Drum AWI range. You can purchase the Continental 1st Light Dragoons and the British 16th Light Dragoons with both regular action poses and skirmishing poses.

That said, I decided that it was time for me to haul out the cavalry and have a go at a cavalry skirmish scenarior before I undertake the main battle event. I will post pictures of the action within the next several days, God willing and no more family emergencies popping up.

I hope that you are looking forward to this as much as I am.

South Carolina Campaign Update
You can follow the events of the campaign on the Fife & Drum forum at:

When you are on the forum, click on the AWI Campaigns board for all of the threads about the South Carolina Campaign.

Also, feel free to join the forum where we talk about nearly anything that is related to the 18th Century. Lots of hobby related pictures, projects and work in progress pictures and talk are posted on the forum on a daily basis.

There are no requirements to be an active participant nor will you be uncerimoniously kicked off the forum for any reason- decent people just don't do those to others. It's a hobby forum where you can feel free to drop in and take a look ("lurking") and then go on with your day.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Prelude to Battle: Fisher's Crossing

Traffic Jam, circa 1780! Major General De Kalb (in blue) and one of his subordinates (in hunting shirt) argue over who has the right of way as two roads converge in Catawba Town. Arguing with your superior officer is not conducive to career advancement. (click or double click all pictures to enlarge).

The next battle in our South Carolina 1780 Campaign is a medium sized affair with 8SPs for De Kalb's Continental army and 7SPs for Colonel Webster's British army. An SP, or "strength point", represents one unit of infantry or cavalry.  The battle will be fought at a place called Fisher's Crossing in the northeastern part of the state of South Carolina.

De Kalb had crossed the Catawba River, bearing south back towards Winnsboro, the site of his defeat  two months ago. However, when he receives reports that Webster is marching fast towards him, he retires back across to the north bank of the Catawba River.  He has selected a good defensive position with the Catawba River to his front and a low ridge on which he can deploy his army. The ridge also provides "dead ground" that De Kalb can use to hide most of his army from the British line of sight from their likely position across the river at Fisher's Crossing.

The table runs north (bottom of the picture) to south (top of the picture) divided by the Catawba River in the middle of the table. The Americans are posted along the north bank of the river and the British are approaching along the two roads at the top of the picture that converge at a Y-intersection known by the locals as Fisher's Crossing.

The rest of the story will be told view the picture captions.


A view of the battle field. Catawba Town is seen at the bottom of the picture with the road heading south across the Catawba River at a place called Fisher's Crossing. The little town of Fisher's Crossing lies at the Y-shaped intersection at the top of the picture. (Click or double click on all pictures to enlarge the view).

Fisher's Crossing - it seems rather quiet for now...

The Catawba River. De Kalb's Continental army will be posted on the left, attacked by Webster's British, advancing from the right to the left.

The bridge over the Catawba, looking back towards Fisher's Crossing.

Catawba Town, where De Kalb has set up his headquarters.

One of the approach roads into Catawba Town

The town center where everything happens in this part of the world. The building with the dormers is The Swan tavern.
American dragoons move into Fisher's Crossing on a scouting mission.

American dragoons are waiting to see if the he British are coming.

Indeed, they are coming - a squadron of the 16th Light Dragoons skirmishes with elements of the 1st Continental Dragoons in the middle of the town.

A supporting squadron of Baylor's 3rd Continental Dragoons moves forward, led by Colonel William Washington (on the rearing horse).

The Continental army moves through Catawba Town on its way to the front lines. That is General Baron De Kalb on the left ordering one of his subordinates to give way so that the Maryland Brigade can pass through.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Maham Tower is Completed

The Maham Tower along with Fife & Drum AWI figures. Click on all pictures to enlarge.

I spent nearly all day Friday cutting logs, notching logs and gluing the parts together and finished the Maham Tower model in one day. I applied the wall board paste compound and fine grit last evening so that it would be dry today. The bases were completed this morning and so now the model is ready to go for my upcoming siege of Georgetown game in the South Carolina 1780 Campaign.

Side view showing the buttresses and the entry ladder. Rifles pits were added to the front for defense against an enemy sortie.
This picture illustrates the height of the tower  (6-inches) relative to the walls of a fort (3-inches)
After doing a little more reading on the topic, I discovered that the Maham Tower concept , first used to capture Fort Motte, was also used in the seige of Ninety Six as well as at the seige of Augusta. So I should be able to justify its use in any number of game scenarios in the future.

A frontal view of the tower and some supporting rifle pits in front. I added buttresses on two of the sides and a ladder at the rear of the model to embellish the overall look of the model.

Tower Construction Tutorial
The construction of the tower was fairly easy to do. If you owned a set of Lincoln Logs when you were a youngster, then you probably already have the skills to make the tower. At its basics, it is just a matter of stacking up twigs one atop of the other until you reach the desired height.

My original plan was to have a 3-inch square footprint for the tower. So I cut up a lot of 3-inch long logs, forgetting that I would need some overlap on the logs. So I had to go out into the yard again and cut some new logs to a length of 3.25-inches in length. I also sorted the logs by diameter sizes so that they would be easy to find during the assembly process.

It all starts with taking your pruning shears out into your backyard and cutting off some twigs from bushes. I tried to keep the same relative thickness of the "logs" to about three diameters: thicker logs for the base and then gradually smaller diameters for the upper levels.

The first step is to mark out the foot print of the tower on the wood base with an indelible marking pen. Then I layed out some sample logs to see how it would look. I also placed a skirmish stand of figures inside the perimeter to make sure that the figures would fit into the tower's top platform.

Notches were made in the logs using a round rat tail file, which is perfect for the job. The only problem with this is that my wood was still green and surface of the file got clogged up with the wood filings. Eventually, the file's teeth were caked with the wood and rendered the file unuseable, subject to cleaning out the teeth with an Exacto knife.

The wooden stakes or pegs were for decorative purposes only, although they did serve to keep the first layer of logs in place and in square.

I layed out a template on a piece of MDF board, planning on a 3-inch square footprint.

The first course of logs have been layed. I used a rat  tail file to make the notches in the logs. These provide a sturdier model and also replicate the historical method of building structures from logs. The ground stakes are ornamental only, although I would imagine that stakes were used when the builder layed out the dimensions.

After laying down two to three courses of logs, it was time to add the ground terrain to the inside of the model. Since I did not intend to have sections of the tower removeable, it would be impossible to terrain the inside of the tower once it got to about 3-inches in height or higher.

I had to add the ground terrain inside the model early in the construction process. Since my model would not have any lift off sections, it would be impossible to add ground terrain inside the tower once the final levels were glued together. I use a mix of Red Devil Pre-mixed Wallboard Paste, with brown paint stirred into the spackle. Then I add a little bit of water to the pot to improve the viscousity of the material and trowel it on. While the goop is still wet I sprinkle some fine railroad ballast over it.
Notching the logs was relatively easy at first, but as the rat tail file got all clogged up with wood shavings, the task grew harder and more importantly, very tedious. As a consequence, I did not notch any of the logs after building a mid-level platform at the 3-inch height (see below). I figured that there might be a platform or two inside the tower so that the men would not have such a high climb without a place to rest and store supplies and equpment.

The tower construction is now completed and so I repeat the ground terraining with my spackle and fine ballast for the rest of the base. Allow the goop to dry overnight and then finish off with static grass and tufts.

Once the tower reached my desired height of 5-inches with a 1-inch mantle level on the top (to protect the sharpshooters from enemy rifle fire) , it was time to add the ground terrain to the base of the model. As noted above, I use Red Devil Pre-mixed Wallboard Spackle Compound to which I stir in a small pot of acrylic brown paint. Mix the paint into the spackle until it looks like chocolate pudding. You can add a little bit of water to improve the flow of the mixture (a good idea when you are trying to get the spackle into small and tight areas). If you want a more rugged look to the ground, then do not add the water and use the paste as is. Spackle is a wonderful and versatile product that is perfect for basing wargame figures or wargame model.

I am very happy with the outcome of my labors and will have a nice model that will be used in many a battle to come.

As an after-thought, I also made some rifle pits of stacked logs, on separate bases, that I added to the area in front of the tower. I figured that the enemy might want to make a sortie at night and try to destroy the tower, so it made sense to have a defensive position in front of the tower.