Monday, October 10, 2011

Eutaw Springs

Friday afternoon I made the trek down to Flint for an AWI game with Big Jon at Riders Hobby Shop. Days off like that don't happen often for me, so it was a welcome break. We used our standard rules for the period, the venerable "The British Are Coming!" He supplied the British, I supplied the Americans. The bulk of our figures are Old Glory, with Dixon, Front Rank, Foundry and Perry mixed in. (Apologies regarding the photo arrangements, I'm still learning this drag and drop - it doesn't seem to always want to work.)

First, a bit about the actual battle, again shamelessly copied and pasted:

The 8th dawned fair and intensely hot, but the Americans, on short rations and with little rest, advanced in early morning light toward the springs. At their approach the surprised British left their uneaten breakfast and quickly threw lines of battle across the road in a heavily wooded area. Behind them in cleared fields stood a large brick home with a high-walled garden. The woods and waters of Eutaw Creek were on the north. Heavy firing soon crackled and boomed through the shady woods. At first the center of the American line caved in, but while opposing flanks were fighting separate battles, Greene restored the center with Sumner's North Carolina Continentals. The whole British line then began to give, but Colonel Stewart quickly pulled up his left-flank reserves, forcing the Americans to retreat under thunderous fire. The encouraged British shouted, yelled, and rushed forward in disorder; whereupon Greene (according to J. P. Petit) "brought in his strongest force: the Maryland and Virginia Continentals, Kirkwood's Delaware's, and Wm. Washington's South Carolina cavalry . . . with devastating effect." The British fled in every direction and the Americans took over their camp. Only Major Majoribanks, on the British right flank and pushed far back into the woods near Eutaw Creek, was able to hold his unit together. Major Sheridan took hasty refuge in the brick home, Colonel Stewart gathered some of his men beyond, and from this vantage they "picked off" many American officers and men.

Greene sent Wm. Washington's cavalry to deal with Majoribanks, but penetrating the woods with horses was too difficult, so Washington tried to encircle and rout, thus exposing himself to dangerous fire. His horse was shot from under him, he himself was wounded. and his company practically ravaged. When a hand to hand fight developed, a British soldier poised his sword over the wounded Washington, but Majoribanks saw and gallantly turned it aside.

The American battle lines, with General Greene signalling the advance.
In camp, eating the deserted breakfast, and feeling the battle was won, the hungry, thirsty Americans began plundering the English stores of food, liquors, and equipment. Thoroughly enjoying themselves they ignored their leaders' warnings and commands. Majoribanks, realizing the disorder, fell upon them. Sheridan and Stewart pounded at their right, and Coffin came in from their left. The stunned Americans fought this impossible situation bravely, but they were put to flight from the British camp.

The militia out front, with a 3 pounder on the road. Artillery had little impact on the game.

Lee's Legion (at least a stand-in), looking resplendent and ready to go.
After more than four hours of indecisive battle under a merciless sun, both armies had had enough. Casualties were extremely high. "Blood ran ankle-deep in places," and the strewn area of dead and dying was heart-breaking. Greene collected his wounded and returned to Burdell's Plantation. Stewart remained the night at Eutaw Springs but hastily retreated the next day toward Charleston, leaving behind many of his dead unburied and seventy of his seriously wounded. The gallant Majoribanks, wounded and on his way to Moncks Corner, died in a Negro cabin on Wantoot Plantation. He was buried beside the road, but when lake waters were to cover that area his remains were removed by the S.G.P.S.A. to their present resting place at Eutaw Springs Battlefield.
Here come the British.

A key early skirmish in the battle, British light infantry and Carolina militia. The militia got the better end of this one.
Jon and I went at it for nearly five hours before finally calling it so I could get home before the kids' bedtime. We called it a British victory, but it was no sure thing. I could have continued the fight for quite some time, I think, and had the dice gone my way it could have turned around.
Continentals backing up the militia as planned.
Good shot of my militia.

Lee's Legion, ready to force back the British. Not.
Jon took a more aggressive stance with the British than historically, and rather than sit at the fence line and wait for my advance, he came out to meet me in the woods. An early clash saw the British light infantry and my southern militia go at it as skirmishers, with the British eventually withdrawing.

Here comes Washington, finally.
My plan was to do damage I could with the militia, then let the Continentals go in and finish the job, with Lee's legion anchoring my right flank, the river on the left, and Washington's legion going where needed.

Things were looking good at this point...
Then command and control issues took over. And it didn't go well. Washington pretty much sat in the rear, despite my urgings to follow the sound of the guns. And while Lee started an advance, he must have gotten cold feet when he ran into the 63rd (or was it 64th?) At any rate, he stopped cold and eventually got slammed in the flank by some Loyalist cavalry. That pretty much did it. And when my Continentals, who made it all the way to the fence line before being turned back, the writing was on the wall.
There goes Lee's Legion, and pretty much my whole right flank with it.

"Um, you're going the wrong way!"
This was probably the hardest fought games we have ever played. It was basically line up, face off, advance, and go at it tooth and claw. Each side gave as good as it got for the most part. It really came down to command and control, and trying to keep everyone going in the woods proved impossible. So all in all, once again we were pleased with the result provided by TBAC.

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