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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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!!!“