Melfordshire Aflame

I have been negligent in posting of my Renaissance gaming activities of late, despite the fact we have actually been playing a reasonable number of DBR games. In attempt to rectify this situation I have decided to post a couple of photos and a brief description of our most recent encounter. Having travelled the Renaissance world, experiencing colonial engagements in Africa and the East, we returned during March to the green pastures of England to continue the campaigns between Royalist and Roundhead. In the last two games I have fielded a Parliamentary Army of 1643 while my opponent Royalists.

In the first such encounter I suffered terribly for my decision to field a considerable number of horse against the Royalists. As was historically illustrated repeatedly during the early part of the war, Parliamentarian horse could simply not stand the concerted cavalier charge. Indeed, in our first game both my Lobsters as well as other Roundhead were ridden down by the Royalist rabble. The rout was so quick, and so definitive, there was hardly a battle to record!

Last night our forces once again took the field. This time a fascinating engagement took place where both commanders were presented with some interesting challenges on and around Wrotham Common.

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Lee & Meade at Hazel Run

Continuing what seems to be an American Civil War theme, I’ve recently posted a report of one of our recent Friday evening Volley & Bayonet encounters. Using armies based on the Bristoe Campaign of October 1863, we deployed the figures for what was a most enjoyable game. Enjoyable from a game perspective, but equally interesting from an historical perspective.

To place it in some context just outside of Fredericksburg are the battlefields of Chancellorsville, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. The last two cover Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign – where Meade commanded much of the Union army. Unlike the Campaigns of 1862 here Grant, despite being fought to a standstill, just wouldn’t break off. Instead the Union army slipped east, eventually ending around Petersburg.

For me this most recent fictional battle reminded me of the impacts of the terrain and the resolve the commanders had to damage the enemy army. In our game our “Wilderness”, despite being much smaller and of course meaning the field was considerably more open, had a similar impact. Further, like the actual battles at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, casualties were horrific.

You will find a summary of Hamstrung at Hazel Run, our fictional game, in my Volley & Bayonet section. For those interested in a summary of my visit to the Wilderness Battlefield posted a couple of years back, it can be found here.

Fredericksburg

This week I’ve been reminiscing a little on my trip in September 2015 to several American Civil War battlefields on east coast. Some readers may even recall a series of articles I compiled back then as I travelled from one battlefield to another. My aim was not to post an in-depth record, but rather my thoughts each evening, as I contemplated the day. Given I was visiting battlefields each day even a small delay would mean I would get behind. As a result several battlefields failed to gain a mention at the time. One of those battlefields that failed to be recorded at the time was Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg holds a fascination for me. In part due to Burnside’s promotion after Antietam and part due to the complexity of the problems associated with such a crossing. Yet despite this I haven’t recreated the battle on the table top, though it continually beckons.

Prior to my visit it had been suggested by a couple of people that there was little to see at Fredericksburg as the field had been built over. To a point they were correct, but from another perspective I feel they were wrong. Indeed, I wish I had allowed more time at Fredericksburg.

My first stop when visiting National Battlefield Park sites is the visitor centres, in part due to a small fee at a number but in edition to collect a copy of the excellent park maps. These maps provide a few key points in what is typically a driving tour and tend from these points it is often worth striking out on foot. In the case of Fredericksburg I had earlier visited the other park office at Chancellorsville – four battlefields are administered by the same area and map. However, with another park office next to the Sunken Road another visit was called for. I’m so pleased I did.

While waiting to ask a question I was rewarded with a very informative explanation of the gentle slope from the Marye’s Heights and the Sunken Road to historic Fredericksburg being delivered to two visiting Americans. The park officer in question was explained how to view the streets leading up towards the Sunken Road and how, using parked cars, you could see even today the swale (or depression) which provided valuable but critical cover for the Union troops. I was impressed! Yet again the park staff are a wonderful source of information.

If you are visiting Fredericksburg there are a couple of things you really must see. Of course you must spend time at the Sunken Road, and consider both the original wall and reconstructed areas. An original section of the wall is shown above and a close up view of Innis House below. From this area you can also view the swale, or depression, that provided critical cover. While in the area take the short stroll to the nearby Confederate artillery positions. A simple map from the park office provides guidance.

After, a visit to Chatham Manor is required. Located across the Rappahannok River, on the Stafford Heights, the building provides good views of Fredericksburg and equally impressive Union siege guns deployed to provide supporting fire for the Union troops crossing the river.

In December 1862 Union artillery was deployed all along the Stafford Heights, but even this section will provide a sample. While at Chatham you will also be rewarded with a visit the the manor and with a reproduction of a pontoon bridge, though reduced in scale somewhat. I understand this was built for the movie “Gods and Generals”.

Below, a period view of a pontoon bridge at Fredericksburg, where General Franklin crossed. All the period photos show a very open battlefield and are ideal for gauging an understanding of how the battlefield today differs from that in 1862.

Having considered the battlefield from the Union perspective I returned to the Confederate lines and traced the Rebel positions from south of Marye’s Heights, via Lee’s Drive to view Lee’s Hill, Howison Hill and south towards Prospect Hill. Unfortunately the trees provide considerable visual obstacles today for viewing the battlefield, however the artillery and slopes ensures the visitor has clarity on the difficulty faced by the Union army in December 1862.

I was particularly surprised by the climb up Telegraph Hill (now called Lee’s Hill) to what was a commanding position and for much of the battle Lee’s Headquarters. Below, a 30-pdr Parrott on Lee’s Hill similar to the one that exploded here.

As we continue towards the Confederate right the ground has generally less height. Eventually we arrive at Prospect Hill which effectively marks the end of the battlefield and was held by Jackson. Prospect Hill is just to the south of Meade’s attack and breakthrough. Hopefully more ground in the area of Meade’s attack, between the Confederate positions and the river, will be added to the battlefield park in the coming years. Certainly I would have valued the opportunity to explore this area in more depth.

Unfortunately for me daylight was almost gone and I had to end my visit here.

If you are interested in reading more on the Fredericksburg Battlefield I encourage you to visit Peter Glyer’s excellent website Mercer Square. Peter’s site provides a range of interesting and very detailed articles on the battlefield. In addition, and in something of a twist Peter was the park volunteer I encountered on my visit to Fredericksburg and who provided such valuable input for my visit. In addition I suggest you visit the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania site Mysteries & Conundrums.

Breaking out the Stukas

Over recent months Ares have relaunched their Battle of Britain aircraft range and as result I took the opportunity to bolster my German and British squadrons. For the Germans I purchased a couple of Stukas and for the British I bolstered the number of Hurricanes.

Unlike the original releases the new aircraft are supplied in squadron packs. Basically, you have the default aircraft and then apply various transfers so that two or three aircraft have a similar camouflage pattern but with different individual aircraft markings. A much improved model for World War II. Of course I’m disorganised and having been focussed on some other projects I’ve yet to sit down and apply the transfers, but I suspect they will add considerably to the overall look.

Anyway, with the aircraft unpacked the last couple of Tuesday evening games have seen the dreaded Luftwaffe in the skies over 1940 Britain.

The Stukas are of course reasonably slow, and not particularly well armed. However add in a couple of Bf-109s and the British Hurricanes have a tough challenge with plenty of potential tactical options.

Above, a close up view of a veteran Hurricane – the new Hurricane model was mostly in the wrong place tonight so didn’t make many photos – except for the first photo at the top of this post. Below, a Hurricane heads in for a kill on a Stuka, only to be engaged by a Bf-109.

We are still clearly novices and our tactics somewhat simplistic. Worse, the Stuka pilots are struggling to locate the targets and complete their dive bombing mission. However, despite all this a very enjoyable series of games.

In the Field with Grouchy

One of the aspects of Volley & Bayonet which I particularly enjoy is the ability to refight the great battles of the black powder period. Over the years I have indeed been fortunate to refight many of these famous battles, including many from the Napoleonic Wars. These include all those from the Hundred Days Campaign.

Over the last week I’ve revisited the smaller battle of Wavre and twice resolved this battle on the table. First playing against Jim, who I unfortunately infrequently manage a Volley & Bayonet game against. You can find an account of the game here.

Then more recently, we refought the battle as a multiplayer game during our usual Friday evening gaming slot. A report of this game can be found here.

Both refights of course had similarities, yet each was different as players all approached the battles from a different perspective, each with their own views of what could be effective. Indeed at one point there was significant debate in the second refight between the two Prussian commanders who had very different styles – one deliberate and one more aggressive.

Few rule sets produce a narrative which is so similar to these great battles. Yet the games don’t become bogged down with excessive detail. Indeed, as I’ve read accounts of the action at Wavre during the week I’m reminded of the similar narrative that could easily be applied to our refights. A fact that even after using these rules for over 23 years continues to fascinate me.