Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weitzel's Mill

As I've said, I don't get a chance to actually play very often. In fact, these photos represent the last time I did get to play - way back in March. It was a fun game, though.

My old-school AWI fellow aficionado Big Jon brought up some of his redcoats to take on my patriots in the Battle of Weitzel's Mill. This was one of the precursor's to Guilford Courthouse. A description, shamelessly copied from another site:
The situation of Cornwallis was full of peril. The country around Hillsborough was speedily stripped of provision by his army, 18 and he found it expedient to fall back and take a new position upon the south side of the Allamance, west of the Haw.

On February 27, Brig. Gen. Henry Lee and ?? Pickens, with their respective forces, joined the main body of the American light infantry, and the whole corps crossed the Haw, a little below the mouth of Buffalo Creek. Greene, with the main army augmented by the North Carolina militia, crossed above Buffalo Creek the next morning [Feb. 28.], and encamped between Troublesome Creek and Reedy Fork. It was an ineligible place; and, hoping to gain time for all his expected re-enforcements to come in, Greene constantly changed his position, and placed Colonel Williams and his light corps between the two armies, now within a score of miles of each other. Tarleton occupied the same relative position to the British army, and he and Williams frequently menaced each other.

On March 2, the latter having approached to within a mile of the British camp, Tarleton attacked him and a brief but warm skirmish ensued. This encounter was sustained, on the part of the Americans, chiefly by Lee’s legion and Preston’s riflemen. About 30 of the British were killed and wounded. The Americans sustained no loss. In the mean while, Greene’s constant change of position, sometimes seen on the Troublesome Creek, and sometimes appearing near Guilford, gave the impression that his force was larger than it really was, and Cornwallis was much perplexed. Well knowing that the American army was augmenting by the arrival of militia, he resolved to bring Greene to action at once. On March 6, under cover of a thick fog, he crossed the Allamance, hoping to beat up Williams’s quarters, then between that stream and Reedy Fork, and surprise Greene. Williams’s vigilant patrols discovered the approach of the enemy at about eight o’clock in the morning, on the road to Wetzell’s Mill, an important pass on the Reedy Fork. Lee’s legion immediately maneuvered in front of the British, while Williams withdrew his light troops and other corps of regulars and militia across the stream.

A covering party, composed of 150 Virginia militia, were attacked by Webster, with one thousand British infantry and a portion of Tarleton’s cavalry. The militia boldly returned the-fire, and then fled across the creek. The British infantry followed, and met with a severe attack from Campbell’s riflemen and Lee’s infantry. Webster was quickly re-enforced by some Hessians and chasseurs, and the whole were supported by field-pieces planted by Cornwallis upon an eminence near the banks of the stream. The artillery dismayed the militia, which Williams perceiving, ordered them to retire. He followed with Howard’s battalion, flanked by Kirkwood’s Delaware infantry and the infantry of Lee’s legion, the whole covered by Washington’s cavalry. The day was far spent, and Cornwallis did not pursue.

It was claimed the British were not able to follow up the victory due the Americans’ superiority in cavalry. Tarleton, however, later criticized Cornwallis’ not continuing and resuming the action. Col. William Preston’s and Col. Hugh Crockett’s Virginia militia left Greene’s army after the battle based on the charge that Williams deliberately exposed them to protect his Continentals. The check forced Greene: “to retire over [to] the [north side of] Haw river, and move down the north side of it, with a view to secure our stores coming to the army, and to form a junction with several considerable reinforcements of Carolina and Virginia militia, and one regiment of eighteen-months men, on the march from Hillsborough to High Rock. I effected this business, and returned to Guildford court house.” Greene to Washington, 10 March 1781. Tarleton states the Americans lost 100 men killed, wounded and taken, while the British suffered 30 killed and wounded. Joseph Graham, who was present, gave American casualties as 2 regulars killed, 3 wounded and between 20 and 25 militiamen killed or wounded. Boatner speaks of each side losing 50. Webster, as he passed over Reedy Fork with his men, almost miraculously, escaped being shot by some of Campbell’s riflemen -- who had been posted in a log hut close by -- only to be mortally wounded at Guilford Court House a few days later.

In essence, our replay was a classic case of trying to cover too many river crossings with not enough men. In the photos, you can see my outnumbered dismounted dragoons valiantly trying to hold the redcoats at bay. But over there is Jon's large column marching to hit this weak point, and his artillery positioned on the hill where he could hit almost anything with impunity, me having no artillery to fire back. All-in-all it turned out about how one would expect: He made it across, but I made him pay for it.

Oh, as for rules, we use the The British Are Coming! Easy to grasp and play, they have always given us a good game, and the outcomes are always about what we would expect. It's not difficult to translate almost any battle into the context of the game. Now that summer is winding down, and eventually outdoor activities and car work will slow down with it, I can get another game in. But at this rate, it will probably be after Christmas!

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