Friday, 7 August 2020

Fighting for Liberty, 1685

The full title of the latest from Helion's Century of the Soldier series is “Fighting for Liberty. Argyll and Monmouth's Military Campaigns Against the Government of King James 1685".

I’ve read a bit about Monmouth’s rebellion and remember fondly the kids’ Sunday evening series The Pretenders (not the Roger Moore one!) from 1972 when we had Harlech TV, but know next to nothing about Argyll.

The book (The 57th in the series!) follows the usual tried and tested Helion format, starting with the background to the political situation that led to elements of the ‘British’ establishment plotting to overthrow the unpopular, despotic and Catholic King James II. This leads neatly into a detailed account of the landings and progress of the rebellions in the West Country and the West of Scotland and the Government’s (ie James II’s) ruthless  response to both. The narrative is richly punctuated with excerpts of contemporary correspondence, and the bumpy courses of both campaigns are allowed to unfold in a readable and engaging way. I was left with thinking that Monmouth and Argyll were very close to success. As I’ve just said, James’ attempts to thwart the rebellion before it even started were draconian to say the least, but clearly unsuccessful in preventing the invasions. The progress of both Monmouth and Argyll’s campaigns are explained clearly, as are the various skirmishes and battles. We don’t just get a narrative written from the perspective of the main protagonists ( from both sides) but one covering the planning, recruitment and organisation of the armies, the logistics and sense of tension in the country that built up while James’ camp struggled to get a grip of the situation. Obviously the book devotes a great deal of space to the events leading up to Sedgemoor and the battle itself, and does so in great detail. The author also devotes an interesting chapter to James’ cold blooded and arguably less than judicial retribution against the rebels. Such was life in 1685. 

As we have come to expect, the book contains 16 pages of beautiful colour plates by Patrice Courcelle, of soldiers and colours, as well as many very useful maps and black and white illustrations and orders of battle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and can recommend it highly.

Monday, 3 August 2020

This week ........ I gave myself a fright! The Italian Wars collection on parade

I completed my fourth Spanish Colonella this week so I reckoned it was time for a little (?) parade. Primarily so I could take stock of what I have and what gaps if any require filling, ideally without having to buy any more little men. It might have started off being just for my Spanish but I thought what the hell and took all the figures out for the photo shoot. It’s clear I seem to have gone completely over the top, but if there was one benefit of the lockdown, or Great Confinement, its this. The photos are in no particular order.

The Venetians. A couple of infantry units to do.

A view along the lines, with the Spanish nearest the camera. Six more Jenittes almost done for the Spanish. 

My Swiss. I need some more. I really do. I have enough spares for another  large block of pike and some shot.

The French army closest to the camera. Sadly I could do with some more, especially Gendarmes and Gascon crossbowmen. 

My far too many cannon. 

The French again

Papal forces. Just about complete.

The Venetians again. Lots of Stradiots on the right.

The figures are a right old mixture of TAG, Perry, Foundry, Eureka, Steel Fist, 1st Corps and Old Glory. There’s even some Mirliton. Bound to have forgotten someone. Almost all the flags are Pete’s Flags. I’m still plugging away through a modest “200 or so” (in case my wife reads this) figures. A few crossbowmen, Swiss and Landsneckts plus some more Gendarmes and lighter cavalry.

I don’t feel awkward about posting about my growing collection in whatever project I’m currently working on, any more than I do about anything else about my involvement in this super hobby. I am seriously fortunate to be able to enjoy the resources I have available. 

Sunday, 2 August 2020

A few more for the Italian Wars

These units came to the end of the production  line this week and have gone off to join their respective factions to fight over Italy. First of all are six Eureka mounted 'archers.' While I've not really decided upon how to use these in a game I thought making them Neapolitan was as good an idea as any, to reinforce my Spaniards. Anyways, these are lovely castings so deserve a place somewhere in my collection.

Next is a block of 36 French pikemen with some arquebusier skirmishers to their front. These are Front Rank Figures, and I wish I'd not mixed all the different figure poses in the unit. But they're done now. I deliberately chose dark sombre clothing to go with the black and white flag of Piemont. 

I quite like the arquebusier figures. All the castings are from Front Rank's Wars of the Roses range, but I reckoned the older style armour wouldn't be out of place with a unit of French pikemen from the late 15th century. 

Monday, 27 July 2020

French Revolutionary Wars Campaign - Breakout from Courtrai goes into extra time.

It’s extra time in this important grudge match between the Hapsburgs and the French. It’s still all in the balance and could go either way. Many of the units have become pretty battered after a dozen or so turns of fierce fighting and both sides have deployed their ‘finishers’ leaving no available reserves to tip the balance either way. Conrad von Bredow's Death Ride from last time had overrun or driven off two entire brigades of French, including some of their best infantry and almost half their cavalry. Would this success be exploited? Well, read on to find out. Anyone needing to be reminded of the state of play at the end of the last session can click Here.

As usual the photos will tell the story of how the final stages of the game unfolded. Campaign time it was now noon, and the armies had been at it since 5.30 am.

Gridlock on the road to Inglemunster.  The French were getting very close to the road and the Austrian baggage train.
The Austrians were suffering from gridlock on the road to Inglemunster, and were in danger of buckling under the relentless assault by the French.

Steve ordered his infantry to assault the French redoubt. The first attack was driven back.

A brigade of Austrian dragoons made a belated entry onto the battlefield.  They had been occupying Inglemunster but were summoned by Colberg to assist in the breakout. A brigade of hussars didn't receive the orders to return to Courtrai as they were almost 40 miles west at the town of Roeselare, in contact with the Anglo-Hannoverians.

French heavy cavalry had just lost their commander to a 'destiny' roll, and found themselves in combat with Austrian cuirassiers. Amazingly, the latter were ill served by the dice and were ultimately broken. However the brigade survived its faltering brigade test.

The two units of retreating Austrian uhlans. It was all very unfortunate for the Austrians really, as up to that point they were in the ascendancy. The dice had truly turned against them.

Dave had two position batteries attached to his grenadier brigade. They spent almost the entire game limbered up with nowhere to go as a result of the previously mentioned gridlock.

Despite this golden opportunity the Austrian heavy cavalry were unable to roll up the French infantry and were forced to withdraw.

A large gap had opened in the centre of the table.

The wholly anachronistic Polish Legion pressing hard against the Austrian line.

The Poles charged the Austrians and drove them back. At the same time the Austrian heavy cavalry and uhlans failed a 'faltering brigade' test and fled.

Retreating Hungarian infantry. The brigade this regiment belonged to was demoralised as half its units had dispersed.

The lack of space for the Austrian grenadiers to deploy is evident here. 

A second attack by the French captures the redoubt. The defenders broke and the entire Austrian 3rd brigade, together with the 2nd failed faltering brigade tests and ran.

The Austrian dragoons seemed less than enthusiastic, and were slowed by the terrain.

Two brigades of fleeing Austrians.

Dave unlimbered his position batteries to cover the grenadiers and bombard the French in the captured redoubt. 

The French were able to take on the Austrian grenadiers almost one at a time with superior numbers. Two grenadier battalions attempted to retake the redoubt but were forced to retreat. The others were taking heavy losses but just about holding their own.

At this point Conrad decided that the army and the campaign would be best served by retiring back into Courtrai as the attempted breakout had clearly failed. Campaign time it was 2.30 pm so we'd had a leisurely 15 turns over three Saturdays. Half the Austrian army was fleeing back to Courtrai. Casualties had been heavy, including the loss of many guns. I played through the retirement to see which Austrians would make it back to the safety of Courtrai. I decided that with French skirmishers within 6" of the baggage there was no way it would escape capture and return safely to Courtrai. The Austrian dragoons pulled back, covering the retreat of the 4th brigade, wisely not engaging with the French cavalry. The grenadiers found themselves cut off, and three battalions  and their supporting artillery were captured, as was their commander. Two battalions made it back to Courtrai. 

So, a decisive French victory, albeit a very costly one. The remains of the Austrian army are now trapped in Courtrai, licking their wounds. Fortunately many of the fleeing troops had headed for Courtrai so some if not all units would be able to reform, at much reduced strengths. The Austrians had also lost four batteries of artillery which will be hard to replace given that two of the lost batteries had only just been brought up to strength after the defeat several days ago on the other side of the river.

The French lost heavily despite their victory. One infantry brigade was ridden down by the Austrian cuirassiers and two regiments of dragoons were dispersed by the Austrian uhlans. The army reserve of four elite battalions of combined grenadiers and ex-regular chasseurs were particularly  badly hit. In fact many battalions were close to their dispersal point by the end of the combat. 

The technology worked well and certainly added to the fog of war. This in some way explains the strange moves of the grenadier brigade which managed to get itself totally out of position and unable to take any part in the battle until the very end, by which time it was too late. The baggage train also got in the way of the Austrian defence and perhaps ought to have halted to wait until victory was certain or if not, that it wasn't too far from the city to return. The Austrians were very unlucky that their impressive cavalry charge couldn't be exploited, but c'est la guerre I guess. It was a good plan let down in its execution through lack of support and some odd manoeuvring, with more than a pinch of good luck for the French.

As far as the campaign is concerned the Austrians in Coutrai are out of it for a while but other Coalition forces are still in play. In every likelihood we shall find ourselves locked in battle again, very soon in fact. Will the French be able to exploit their success or will they crumble under the relentless pressure of facing fresh Coalition forces?

Friday, 24 July 2020

Italian Wars Mounted Crossbowmen

These half a dozen figures are Perry metal riders on Perry plastic horses from their Late Medieval light cavalry box.  I painted these over the past three days in short bursts of energy and I’m quite happy with the end result.

The last picture shows another battery of especially  useless artillery to go with my collectively pointless artillery train. Fun though. I might add a couple of extra figures to the base as it's not quite busy enough.

I do fear that when I rekindled interest in this project thanks to the lockdown I forgot all the unpainted and painted figures I already owned in the depths underneath my table when buying more figures. I may well have quite enough metal to keep me busy painting for many months, but I mustn’t let it interfere with the odd continuation project like finishing some more French Revolution and War of 1812 figures and making a start on my 1/2400 Dutch Wars ships. Oh, and the 1/72 Spanish Succession figures.