Battle of Brandywine Creek, 11th of September 1777

Jonathan Freitag has hosted a number of American War of Independence games by Zoom, and this was my second. It was also the first in which I took overall command of the Anglo-Hessian forces at the 11 Sep 1777 battle of Brandywine Bridge as General Knyphausen (a Prussian). Despite some of the earliest toy soldiers I remember seeing being Britains AWI 54mm, this period is not one that I have a great deal of experience of, but it didn’t stop me forming a plan that would see the Crown deploy artillery centrally, then assault the two fords after preparing both areas with a bombardment. Steven Churchus, Ian Lowell and Graham Evans took the Rebels.

The game was set up to compel the Crown forces to attempt to take objectives on both sides of the river. Knyphausen’s orders from Howe in 1777 were to “amuse” the Rebels and persuade them that the full army was in front of them, whilst Howe flanked General Washington via Jeffrie’s Ford to the north of the battlefield. In reality, Knyphausen  spent a lot of time demonstrating in front of Generals Wayne and Washington, as Maxwell was driven back on the Rebel left (south) wing. I didn’t think that would go down well with a Zoom wargame audience, but it took time to march forward on the northern (left) flank with the Nottingham Road, which gave the artillery time to clear the Rebel artillery off the east side of Brinton’s Ford (mislabeled as Chadds on the picture).

Two things delayed the roll out. On the Crown’s right flank the Rebels had deployed forward of the river and Brinton’s Ford, and had conducted an aggressive defence. My artillery, that I had placed in the van of the left wing deployed in what I thought was a hex by the side of the road, but proved to count as being on the road. We did not resolve this problem until the middle of the game, by which time my left wing had slogged laboriously across fields north of the Nottingham Road to reach the enemy at Brinton’s Ford.

This gave me plenty of time to sweep away Rebel artillery and infantry covering the ford, and gave the rebels some hard choices regarding defending forward in full view of the artillery, or on rear slope positions. A bold rebel battalion that attacked the guns from overlooking central heights was blown away by the massed firepower of all four batteries, after which, the light guns were detached to support the right flank.

The right wing was having a hard fight, assisted by some positively demonic die-rolling on the Rebel side from Graham Evans as General Maxwell, but Richard Lindley as General Grant managed to swing the battle back into his favour by dogged persistence and the late-arriving light artillery. I could not have told you in any detail how the battle went on Richard’s flank, but he called for, and received artillery to swing the balance in the nick of time.

Back on the left flank, an early attempt to capture the ridge overlooking the ford by dragoons and light infantry was seen off convincingly. The position was not held strongly enough though, so a bombardment reduced the key Rebel battalion down to a third of its original strength, and then a determined bayonet charge swept the southern edge of the hill clear.

At this point, the evening wound to a close, with the game finely balanced in terms of victory points for objectives held, but the Crown forces poised to sweep over the ford against a weakly held position. Full marks go to Jon for successfully wrangling the usual sack of ferrets that we call the Monday Night Wargames Group, and for providing an enjoyable game.

Thoughts that occurred to me after the game are as follow:

  1. The rules should allow for artillery traveling on a road, and deploying in the road hex without blocking the road to following troops. This represents the artillery battery pulling off the road to form up in line
  2. I felt that I and other players had too much control of where units could move and deploy. I’m used to forming a plan then executing it, rather than micro-managing units with the ability to form up on a 360 degree frontage. That may just be a penalty of playing a zoom game where the umpire or his handlers move everything, but the movement track of some battalions would have been familiar to anyone who has studied Brownian motion of smoke particles.
  3. We are learning as a group not to butt in with helpful suggestions during another player’s move. This ensures that the amount of “over there, no, there!”, “where, here?”, “no, there!!” is kept to a minimum. I wonder if giving row and column references for hexes would reduce confusion, as on a board game?
  4. Richard and I were able to discuss our battle plan in chat without it impacting on the other players or the umpire.”Show the Rebels cold steel!” was my favourite order.
  5. The constraints of the Zoom format, with Jon having to do all the moving and wait for individual die rolls and movement faff meant that we got about 7 moves in. That was the length of time that it took me moving at full speed across the board to reach Chadd’s Ford. The rear of my column was still only halfway there. So a slow-ish pace was simply a result of the Zoom format rather than any defect in the rules.

Top two photos copyright Jonathan Freitag, used with permission. Last, uncredited from Ebay

One can get into all sorts of tangles in labeling the two sides. I have gone with Crown forces and Rebels. Others use Loyalists and Patriots. https://www.ushistory.org/March/phila/brandywine_1.htm gives a useful description of the battle. Mel Gibson is not a reliable source! “Freedom!!!

 

11 Comments

Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Horse and Musket

11 responses to “Battle of Brandywine Creek, 11th of September 1777

  1. Jonathan Freitag

    Chris, thanks for taking the time to compose a battle report of the action at Brandywine Creek. You provide a good account of the general flow of battle and a useful critique. I appreciate seeing your post-game thoughts. These provide me motivation to strive to present a more enjoyable game.

    A few counterpoints, if I may:
    The ford at the north end of the battlefield is Brinton’s Ford. Chadd’s Ford is the crossing at the southern end of the map where Graham, Ian, and Richard battled so ferociously.

    While leading with your artillery did provide a traffic jam for Stirn’s advance, the Germans, marching in column, could have reached Brinton’s Ford in two turns by moving in column along the road. Your point about passing through unlimbered artillery while marching in column is a valid one. While the rules currently allow leaders, open order, and limbered artillery to pass through formed units, I will amend this to add march columns to this list. Thank you for bringing this up. This slowed your advance but by end of battle your Germans were at the ford sweeping all before them.

    As for pace, this is a large battle with 20+ BMUs per side. Perhaps this is too large an engagement to expect a fast pace even via Zoom? I try to set up a situation to provide each player with meaningful commands. Not knowing precisely how many players will join, the task of matching number of players to number of commands can be challenging. I tend to plan for maximum expected player count. My work continues on refining my process for battle size and player variability.

    Next time I am up in rotation, I will throw something new your way.

    Thanks for playing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jonathan Freitag

      By the way, Chris, you get high marks for throwing “Brownian Motion” or Random Walk into the post-game thoughts although I do not believe troop movements were guided by these principles with the exception of possibly some of Richard’s maneuvers.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Points taken, Jon. UShistory org wasn’t very clear on the fords, but I will amend the labeling on the map.

        The comment on speed of advance wasn’t a whinge, but was rather developing a comment that I have made before on wargames, where the pressure to come to blows mitigates against the sound deployment of artillery, with a pre-assault bombardment. The infantry should normally only close assault when the enemy line has been thoroughly softened up by artillery or infantry.

        As wargamers, we tend to throw troops in prematurely, to achieve something before the end of the game. As events unfolded, the slow march to contact simulated Knyphausen’s demonstration in front of the enemy, giving the artillery time to do its job, and worked in my favour. I admit though, that I thought that I had overcooked it by throwing the dragoons and light infantry in early, with a later follow up by the bulk of the line. I was keen not to push the infantry down the road too early and thereby risk masking the guns before they had completed their task.

        Thanks again for an excellent game, which provided some interesting tactical challenges!

        Regards, Chris.

        Like

  2. Dale Hurtt

    Grid references will certainly help, but will only increase the ease with which people can butt in so it seems counterproductive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fair point, Dale.

      I think the issues of talking over one another , and not being able to describe a feature on the map are two separate issues though. I doubt if gamers will be adopting radio procedure or military fieldcraft skills any time soon though. 🙂

      Regards, Chris.

      Like

      • Jonathan Freitag

        Having GM’ed these remote games a number of times now, grid references are not needed for efficient play once the players and GM get on the same page. Sometimes this is not an easy task! The GM needs to know which camera the player is using to provide relative orders or designate beforehand that all orders with use a particular reference point (ie. the American player will issue orders from the perspective of the American player as viewed from the American side of the table).

        I still have plenty of room for improving on this facet of the game. On balance, I think we are working through and overcoming these remote gaming challenges well. One year ago, I did not imagine the scope of how much my gaming would change over the next twelve months.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Something different for you, Chris, so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 A nice looking game and a lot of nice troops as well, so well done to all involved! It’s not a conflict I’m all that familiar with so I’ll maybe have to read up a bit on it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Keith

    Having read both Graham and Jon’s views on this engagement, its very interesting to see your impression from the Allied side. I just left a comment on Jon’s blog saying it read to me as though, with two or three more turns, the Americans would have been defeated, and it seems you have the same view. I believe the American strategy in both games, of advancing across to meet the British head on, was a mistake – and only seemed so successful in your game due to what you call demonic dice rolling and I described on Jon’s blog as luck!

    Like

  5. Interesting post and interesting figures.
    Some interesting Brandywine (School of historical painting) references to painter N C Wyeth (who painted “Nationmakers” which sometimes informs my ‘tattered’ figure painting) and his son Andrew Wyeth and his toy soldiers

    Hobby Learning # 1: Andrew Wyeth

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the link, Mark.

    I knew nothing of Wyeth’s background, or even that there was a Brandywine School of Painting.

    Regards, Chris.

    Like

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