Monday, December 26, 2016

1691 - The War of the Two Kings: Aughrim

Williamite foot and horse move to seize the Attibrassil Bridge and the village of Kilcommadan.
The period of European warfare from about 1670 to 1763 holds great fascination for me. In fact, I haven't been this engaged in learning about a historical period for probably the last 25 years. This is the period of transition from pike & shot warfare to the innovations of Napoleon. It was a period of constant, though in many cases limited warfare; a period where cautious generals avoided open battles and great ones sought to force it. It's a period filled with interesting personalities, fascinating campaigns, and dramatic battles.

Williamite center crossing the bog to attack the Jacobite piquets at the base of Kilcommadan Hill
The War of the League of Augsburg, or Nine Year's War, was a continent-spanning conflict between the France of Louis XIV and the combined powers of the Grand Alliance, made up of England, the Dutch Republic, Austria, various German states, Spain, Scotland and Ireland. Pretty much the rest of Europe got tired of Louis throwing his weight around, and decided to do something about it. As you might expect, the French - who were the European superpower of this period - didn't take kindly to this and resolved to cause trouble.

Williamite horse and dragoons moving along the causeway toward Aughrim and the Jacobite left
Just prior to this, the English decided that bringing back the Stuarts as kings might not have been the best plan. William of Orange, Protestant stadtholder  of the Dutch Republic and husband of the daughter of the English king James II, Mary, was also an avowed foe of Louis XIV. Louis and the Stuarts had made a secret treaty, and James II was not just a hedonist but a radical Catholic. In 1688, when a bunch of disaffected Protestant English nobility and gentry asked he and Mary to replace James II, William packed up the formidable Dutch army, crossed the channel, and sent James packing.

William's Danish Foot, supported by Dutch cavalry, takes Kilcommadan
James II was not the most stellar of English monarchs, but he was popular with Catholic factions in both Ireland and Scotland. On fleeing England, James managed to raise an army of Irish and English loyalists in Ireland, supplemented by French "advisors," a small French fleet, an artillery train, and a few French regulars. This kicked off the "War of the Two Kings," essentially a side conflict to the Nine Years War and William and James duked it out in Ireland. Aside from a slew of minor fights and skirmishes and a number of sieges (a feature of warfare during this time), there were also two big battles. Both of these, the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and the Battle of Aughrim in 1691 are still well-known and events of political significance in Ireland yet today. Aughrim was the largest battle ever on Irish soil.

Bitter fighting on the Jacobite right as the Williamite try and capture Kilcommadan Hill
Thanks to Slitherine's Pike & Shot game and the efforts of one very prolific scenario designer/modder (Paul59) it's possible to re-fight these battles with a very compelling engine that's easy to learn and quick to play. Even better, Paul59 has taken the time to create amazingly detailed maps, OOBs, and even uniforms and standards in his scenarios. With P&S being based on the Field of Glory Renaissance rules, these scenarios are about as close as you can get to a 17th Century tabletop miniatures battle without the space requirement for the table or needing to paint armies for hours.

Despite the failure of the attack on Aughrim itself, the Williamite forces storm over the hill, putting the Jacobites to flight
The number of impressive community scenarios for Pike & Shot continues to grow. I think Paul59 himself probably releases a new one almost weekly. Aside from a pretty complete treatment of the Nine Year's War he's also done a great series on the Great Northern War, as well as a few stand-alone scenarios, like Pavia. While I could still wish to see leaders added to the game as they've been added to Pike & Shot sequel Sengoku Jidai I have to say I'm still very impressed with the flexibility of this game and the efforts of modders like Paul59 to bring coverage of a historical era I'm particularly fascinated with.