Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wargaming Night - GMT Germantown - First session

Initial setup positions
Thursday evenings are wargaming night around here, and this past Thursday David and I tackled GMT's Germantown from their Battles of the American Revolution series. Game scale is an hour per turn, units are battalions with some brigades, 200 yards per hex. Given that I was slightly more familiar with the rules, I took the Americans and David played His Majesty's troops.

American vanguard moving through Beggars Town around 6:20 AM

Germantown was a very interesting battle in which Washington, after the defeat at Brandywine tried to pull off a double-envelopment of Howe's troops in their unfortified camp. The Continental Army attempted a night march in what turned out to be heavy fog in an attempt to surprise the British in a repeat of Trenton. Unfortunately the American army just wasn't well trained enough to pull off this kind of sophisticated attack, and while the British were surprised, the uncoordinated American columns eventually had to break off the attack and withdraw. Despite the defeat, the audacious attack at Germantown combined with the defeat and capture of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga was enough to convince the French court to ally with the rebellious colonies in active war against Britain.

The GMT game adds scenario-specific rules for the fog, and simulates the disruptive effect of the actions of American Major General Adam Stephen, who commanded a division under Nathanial Greene and was drunk during the battle!

Cliveden, also known as the Chew House
As we started our battle, the American vanguard advanced on the pickets of the 2nd Battalion of Light Infantry and a battery of the Royal Artillery, driving them in from their position at Mount Airy and through the streets of Beggars Town. Eventually the Lights fell back to the positions of Musgrave's 40th Foot at the Chew House, a well-built, largely artillery-proof stone building at the southern end of Beggars Town.

Meanwhile a column of Pennsylvania Militia under Major General John Armstrong advanced through the fog along a road on the American right, led by the dragoons of Bland's Horse. Irvine's Brigade and Armstrong ran into Hessian Captain Johan Ewald and the 2nd Jägers at Levering's tavern. The poor militia were no match for the well-trained Hessian troops!

The roughly handled militia lost heavily. Armstrong himself was a casualty - I prefer to think he was captured by the rampaging Germans, and will be traded back sometime in a future prisoner exchange. Leaderless, the militia column will have a tough time accomplishing much for the remainder of the game, I fear!

It's still early in the game (Turn 2!) but American morale, courtesy of British rifle and artillery fire, the loss of Armstrong, and heavy casualties in Irvine's Brigade has already fallen significantly. The British have been driven back from their advanced positions in the center and the 2nd Lights have taken a beating, but that's been more then offset by their success elsewhere.

On the American left, Stephen's division manages to stumble south along the road and engages the 1st battalion of Light Infantry in Betton's Woods. The Light's decide that discretion is the better part of valor and retreat. Stephen though is also apparently taken aback at the sharp skirmish and retreats as well. More Madeira for the General here, lads!

Back in the center, the remainder of Sullivan's division starts to deploy north of the Chew House. This is what I'm trying to avoid:

A bad idea in 1777, and a bad idea in 2017
Working around the flanks of the British position seems a much more productive approach!

Which is what the Americans do, bringing grief to the 2nd Light, driving the 40th Foot back from Paper Mill Run, and sending the Reserve Artillery packing. In the north, Stephen's Division wanders off to the northwest, clearing the way for Greene to attack the 1st Lights. The Virginians send the light infantry reeling back in disorder. David doesn't have a ton on his right to hold off Greene's advance, though he does have two battalions (Queen's Rangers and the Enniskilling Foot) dug in defending the crossing at Mill Creek.

Things are not going well for the Americans on their right, however.

David's Jägers have continued to press the militia at Levering's Tavern. The fight has raged back and forth, with sometimes the militia throwing the Hessians back a hex, and sometime the Hessians advancing - usually more of the latter. At one point Ewald's rushing troops managed to advance themselves so far as to end up surrounded by the Pennsylvanians but were able to extricate themselves with no loss.

While all of that was going on, Kyphausen organized the remainder of the Hessian corps and marched on the fight at Levering's Tavern. So, at this point my low morale, weak militia are about to be face-to-face with a mass of well-drilled and well-led Germans, with no close supporting American regulars. Not a good situation!

We've played through about three and a half hours of the battle. The field is still blanketed in dense fog. I expect that to begin lifting within the next hour, allowing artillery to become a much more significant factor.  Cornwallis also arrives during the next turn with reinforcements from Philadelphia. If Washington is going to win, he'll need to win it soon.

American morale is holding and British morale has come down some. The Brits still hold a pretty significant morale edge.

Is a flank attack across Mill Creek by Greene the best American chance? Check back in a couple of weeks after our next gaming session!

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