Saturday 1 October 2016

Battle of Mountjoy Manor - June 1778

Last weekend the Rejects gathered in the shed-o-war for some American War of Independence action. Postie had his massive 28mm collection out on the table along with some pretty impressive terrain including several buildings by GrandManner. However the game started with hardly any Americans on the battlefield and the British, not unreasonably, suspected a trap. 

The British are marching towards Mountjoy Manor where Sir Henry Clinton hopes to have a restful evening. However American Militia have taken over the area first. They have occupied the grounds of the house, protected by a wide unfordable river with just two crossing points. A 2nd division of Americans - this time regular troops - heads towards the further crossing point but the combined force is less than half the size of the British. The confidence and aggression of the Americans suggest they have more troops in reserve somewhere so the British respond cautiously to protect their flanks as they deploy for battle.

Order of Battle
British - CO Sir Henry Clinton (John)
  1st Brigade c/o BrigGen Leslie
      Queens Rangers - Trained (20 figs)
      2nd new Jersy Volunteers - Trained (12 figs)
      Pensylvania Loyalists - Trained (12 figs)
      Maryland Loyalists - Trained (12 figs)
      Light Gun - Trained (4 Crew)
  2nd Brigade c/o MajGen Grant
      7th Line (Fusiliers) - Veterans (16 figs)
      23rd Line (Fusiliers) - Veterans (16 figs)
      27th Line - Veterans (16 figs)
      64th Line - Veterans (16 figs)
      Medium Gun - Trained (4 Crew)
  3rd Brigade c/o MajGen Stern
      Van Woellworth Grenadier Regiment - Elite (20 figs)
      Kryphausen Fusilier Regiment - Trained (20 figs)
      Jagers (Rifle) - Elite (12 figs)
      Light Gun - Trained (4 crew)
  4th Brigade c/o Col Meadows
      2nd Light Infantry Battalion (Cobined Lights)
      3rd Grenadier Infantry Battalion (Combined Grenadiers)

American - Maj General Charles Lee (Surjit)
  1st Brigade c/o BrigGen Dickinson - New Jersy Malitia
      1st New Jersey - New Hampshire Militia - Militia (12 Figs)
      2nd New Jersey - Connecticut Militia - Militia (12 Figs)
      3rd New Jersey - Rhode Island Militia - Militia (12 Figs)
      4th New Jersey - North Carolina Militia - Militia (12 Figs)
      Light Gun - Militia (4 Crew)
  2nd Brigade c/o BrigGen Weedon
      2nd Connecticut CLR - Trained (20 figs)
      6th Virginia CLR - Trained (24 figs)
      8th Massachusetts CLR - Trained (20 figs)
      Riflemen (Rifle) - Elite (16 figs)
  3rd Brigade c/o BrigGen Poor
      1st New Hampshire CLR - Trained (20 figs)
      2nd New Hampshire CLR - Trained (20 figs)
      Lees Additional CLR - Trained (16 figs)
      Medium Gun (4 Crew)
  4th Bridage c/o Col Irvine
      2nd Pennsylvania CLR - Trained (16 figs)
      5th Pennsylvania CLR - Trained (16 figs)
      7th Pennsylvania CLR - Trained (12 figs)
      10th Pennsylvania CLR - Trained (12 figs)

Initial deployment. The British on the road march towards Mountjoy Manor. The Americans hold the Manor, its surrounding gardens and control the bridges...but little else can be seen of the American army. 

Looking down the road towards Mountjoy Manor.

Loyalist units lead the way.

Followed by British Line Troops

My German 3rd Brigade brought up the rear. 

American New Jersey Militia hold the house and surrounding parkland and contest both Bridges crossing the river. 

The Militia deploy to hold the Bridge, but they don't threaten to cross it. 

Meanwhile a lone unit of Skirmishers crosses the ridge line, out of command and seemingly far from any other American unit. This screamed 'vanguard' to the British and from the very beginning of the game we fully expected a large American force to appear across this range of hills. 

In response to this anticipated threat we immediately moved off the road. Deploying troops to hold the Militia at the Bridge, the rest of the British line troops begin moving across the table roughly in the direction of the Americans crossing the stone bridge (seen on the right of this photo). Meanwhile my Germans move to protect the flank of the army. 

Several turns of gunfire and the American militia have fallen back. Some units have fled the field, some are so weakened as to be no longer effective as fighting units. 

The British advance in good order.

The Gun crew at the Bridge continue to 'snipe' at any Militia unit unwise enough to reveal itself. 

My German Brigade forms up and begins to push the American skirmishers back. I'm still expecting a massive American army to come charging over the hill, but so far nothing has appeared. 

My Jagers reach the top of the hill and begin to exchange fire with the American Skirmishers. This moment would later be a bone of contention (the details of this shameful  episode are recounted in the discussion at the end of this post)

The British continue to tighten the noose on the Americans...where the hell are the enemy! Even the 2iC of the Americans (David) is wondering when the rest of the army will put in an appearance. 

Other than some long range artillery fire very little has happened by this stage and we have been playing for over three hours already. 

Now the lone American Brigade begins to exchange fire with the advancing British. If the Americans don't bring on their reserves soon we will have destroyed the Americans piecemeal. 

Smoke from volley fire soon becomes a hindrance to line of sight and adversely effects return there is an advantage to winning the initiative and firing first. 

The British advance becomes a little more cautious as the two sides close together, both sides waiting for an advantageous initiative roll before doing anything drastic. On the right one British unit in skirmish formation starts to climb the hill to flank the American line. 

The wider view showing the advancing British lines. Ian's troops have moved away from the bridge having successfully held back the Militia around the house. They now advance on the left of the British line. In the Centre John, our commander, maintains a disciplined advance. The units closest in this shot are my Germans now preparing to advance onto the hill but still cautiously expecting more American units to appear at any moment. 

A British line unit (seen here between the tape measure and the paper) advances across the hill toward the very edge of table. Now at last the American reveal themselves, Two whole Brigades are 'hidden' behind the hill and Surjit has been told he can move them on the table and fire in the same turn. His 'master plan' is to unleash a surprise volley on the British with infantry AND artillery. Thankfully the umpire does not allow the guns to be moved and fired in the same turn, much to the chagrin of the American commander. 

Two Brigades of American appear out of thin air! To be fair we knew this was going to happen, the American army on the table was far far too small and there had to have been reserves somewhere. What we didn't realise was that their arrival on the battlefield was entirely in the hands of the American commander. It was entirely Surjits decision to hold them back for so long. While this did give us an unwelcome surprise, it also mean his units had nowhere to go if they were pushed back! 

Down in the Valley the infantry battle rages. Volleys are exchanges and a few melee are resolved. British volley fire is better than the Americans but the American units are bigger (20 figure compared to 16) and can absorb more damage. 

Surjit surveys his tightly packed forces and is presumably wondering how to fit them all in, My Germans prepare to hit the American flank but the real fight is in the centre.

British units push up the hill and hit the Americans where they can. The melee is inconclusive with both sides seriously mauled by the encounter.

In the last turn of the game (dusk was fast approaching and the last turn of fighting had been reached) and my Germans decide to launch an last ditch charge into one of the American units. My troops are Elite, now its time for them to earn that title. 

The final turn of the game and the British win initiative. A final volley rips across the front line but the large American units absorb the damage. 

Meanwhile, in almost the last act of the game, my charge rips into the American line unit. We both take damage but after two rounds of hand to hand fighting the American units breaks and Rout's right to the edge of the table. In their efforts to escape the regimental flag is captured. Maybe these last few points will swing the game to the British?

The final positions with virtually the entire American army with their backs to the edge of the battlefield. 

This was a very uneven battle for most of the game. Surjit decided to keep the bulk of his army hidden off table, behind a ridge of hills for a 'surprise' attack when the British got close enough. I think most of us thought he had kept these troops out of the game far too long but there was method to his madness. Numerous one-on-one rules clarification conversations were had between the American commander and the umpire Postie (we lost count how many!) so Surjits decision was at least in part directed by these discussions. In short the American hoped to be able to launch a surprise move onto the battlefield, unleashing a massive volley into the flanks of the British who would hopefully be tackling the American division crossing the river.

On the British side we knew instinctively as players and commanders that we were not facing the whole American army. Defending their position with just Militia and one Brigade of regular troops was madness so there had to be more troops to come. One hint of this came in the form of a single skirmish unit that appeared across the range of hills way outside of command range...this was no random unit but the scouting vanguard of a much larger force. Consequently the British deployed knowing exactly what to expect. My Division of German troops were flank guard bringing up the rear of the column but in the best position to pursue the American scouts and push onto the ridge line.

Normally when we use flat levelled hills the rule is that for the sake of simplicity any unit on the top can see down all sides of that hill. In other words there isn't a theoretical ridge line blocking line of sight. Indeed this very ruling was enforced earlier in the game when one of the American Militia units accidentally manoeuvred itself onto a hilltop revealing itself to artillery fire from a gun positioned on the far side. So when my skirmishers got on top of  the long ridge line we naturally assumed that we could see down the far side. However it seems that we hadn't gone far enough on the hill and therefore didn't see the two Brigades of Americans hiding in the open behind the hill. This ruling gave the American players a chance to set their 'not-much-of-a surprise' surprise attack across the hill. In the end the American trap wasn't quite as devastating as they had hoped but none the less the British players were not impressed. There comes a point where all players have to accept the Umpires decision and move on - which we did - but it could have derailed an otherwise good natured game.

As the game came to a close it was hard to see which side had the points advantage. Both armies still had a lot of fight in them but with daylight failing the two antagonists would have to break off and fight another day. Certainly the British controlled the battlefield and the Americans decision to throw all their army into the fight only at the very end of the game had arguably shielded them from higher casualties. They were also in a precarious position with any routing units having virtually no room to retreat in. However the British have by this stage taken damage to virtually all their regiments, although their higher moral means they are less likely to break any time soon.

The points are added up and a narrow British Victory is declared. I think most of the players would agree this is a fair outcome given that the Americans do not control the battlefield and are bottled up on the very edge of the table. However we (the British Players) have had to work hard for our victory and have spent as much time on the other side of the games table as we have on our own side. 


  1. What a spectacular table! Intense and beautiful looking battle...

  2. What a fabulous looking game. I love seeing so many AWI units on the field - I still have a long way to go to catch up!

  3. Great report Lee, When I popped my head in the door there was quite an atmosphere!! Don't usually get that in the shed!

  4. Very impressive game, can I ask what set of rules you used?? Really enjoyed the battle report and photos.


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