Saturday, 21 January 2017

English Civil War Battle Report - Battle of Marston Moor - 2nd July 1644

Rules, Deployment and Scenery

For those who love their details (I am one) the battlefield was a decent sized 16ft long by 6ft wide, with the figure scale being 28mm.  We played across it, with the deployment matching the historical order of battle – both sides having opted for strong cavalry wings, and the infantry and ordinance in the centre.  For the Royalists the centre was made up of the infantry of Henry Tillier and Sir Francis Mackworth (also commanding Newcastles whitecoated foote), while the right wing of horse was under Lord Byron.  Byron was supported by a forlorn hope of two regiments of foote led by Colonel Thomas Napier, while a dash over to the left wing of horse revealed Lord Goring in charge of horse, dragoons and musketeers.  Facing the Royalist foote were the Allied infantry under Crawford and the Earl of Manchester for the left centre, and Baillie (Scottish) for the right centre.  Cromwell took charge of the left wing of horse (facing Byron), and Sir Thomas Fairfax the right wing facing Goring.  Prince Rupert led the Royalists, while the Earl of Manchester and Alexander Leslie of the Scots led the Allies.

The battlefield was a little sparse for my imagination, and so a village grew on the Allied table edge, a windmill appeared, and a couple of small hills to provide variety.  The ditch that ran across the battlefield only ran across the front of Byrons horse due to lack of ditch scenery.  Both sides deployed their troops, and then the Allied forces, as was the case historically, began the ball using the Pike & Shotte rules.  Victory would nominally be the Allies if they could drive the Royalists from the field, while the Royalists sought to prevent this, and break half of the Allied brigades to split the Alliance in the North.  In an attempt at introducing some fog of war the players had to communicate tactics only through the use of handwritten notes.  This sadly did not really affect the game, but the replies Prince Rupert sent throughout were entertaining enough to include.

Prince Rupert:  “Send for more port!”

Our Players:
For the dashing, brilliant and exciting (Christmas-supporting) pro-royalty party:
Chris Fazey – Prince Rupert (General) & Goering (Royalist horse – left flank)
Dave Astbury – Henry Tillier (Ruperts foote – infantry centre right)
Dennis – Lord Byron & Colonel Thomas Napier (Royalist horse right & 2 foote regiments ‘forlorn hope’)
Rick – Sir Francis Mackworth (Newcastles foote - infantry centre left)

For the dull, boring, drab dressing puritan-supporting and Gaelic speaking party:
Aidan – Earl of Manchester, Crawford, Oliver Cromwell (Parliamentarian General, Allied foote centre left & Allied horse left flank)
Michael – Baillie & Lord Fairfax (Scottish foote – Allied centre right, Parliamentarian foote – Allied centre left reserve)
Paul – Leslie & Sir Thomas Fairfax (Scottish General, & Allied horse right flank)

The full battlefield, with the Royalist left (Goring) facing Fairfax nearest.  Also many of the players - from the far left to right: Paul, Michael, Aidan, Dennis, David and Prince Ruperts orderly Ben.

Fairfax's horse.

The infamous coach of the Earl of Leven.

Sir Thomas Fairfax.

Cromwell's horse.

Prince Rupert's lifeguard.

The Battle

Cromwell Strikes!

And so to battle, and having deployed copious amounts of troops, and taken a fair few pictures using the newfangled device of ye mobile phone, the fighting could begin.  At least it could on the wings.  To the right of the Royalist line Cromwell led his horses forward at a canter, pulling up just short of the ditch.  Lord Byron, eying the enemies superior numbers warily, decided his best bet would be to wait beyond the obstacle in a reversal of the historical actions, only for Cromwells horse to leap across it and drive them back in disarray.  Byron’s men rallied and fought back, and with Colonel Napiers foote regiments causing a bottleneck in this part of the battlefield, and the fighting bogged down as the troopers hacked and slashed from stationary horses.

Prince Rupert to Henry Tillier: “Bring me some village girls and walk the dog”.

Cromwell pushes his horse forwards to the ditch.

The Glory And Fall Of Goring

No such constrictions on space over on the Royalist left, where Lord Goring threw caution to the wind, damned the enemies superior numbers and charged, charged, charged!   Sir Thomas Fairfax’s horse came forward to meet him, and there was more than enough room for a swirling horse melee or six to occur on that side of the field as Royalist and Allied horse regiments charged, counter-charged, and withdrew to charge again.  Fairfax was unable to bring the full weight of his numbers to bear, and Goring’s men managed to clatter into the flank of a number of the enemy horse, giving the cavaliers the edge, and driving the first of two Allied horse battalia on that flank back and off the battlefield.  The second of Fairfax’s battalia soon moved in to try and return the favour however, and they would eventually triumph, with Goring’s horse scattered, but not before they had been dealt enough of a blow to remove them from any further fighting for the day.

Sir Francis Mackworth to Prince Rupert: “Going to advance into the hedgerows.  Mackworth.”
Prince Rupert: “That is obvious – do not bother me with trivialities”. 

Fairfax and Goring clash.

Sir Francis Mackworth's letter writing division.

Mackworths' foote advances into the hedgerows.

Scottish foote and ordinance.

Lord Byron counter attacks Cromwell.

Fairfax's second wave before its rough handling by Goring.

The Allied Foote Advance

In the centre the Allied foote, with its superior numbers of men, pike, muskets and ordinance, was ordered forwards, only for the Scottish foote to blundered horribly, and head backwards with cries of ‘Home! Home! Home!’  A second consecutive blunder order nearly finished the job, but instead sent the Flodden grey wave moving forwards instead.  Sir Francis Mackworth had moved his Royalist foote into the hedgerows in front of his position on the left-centre of Ruperts line, and began trading fire with the advancing Scots, while to his right Henry Tilliers foote held their position within the hedgerows and did the same to Manchester and Lord Fairfax’s infantry.  The Allies swiftly tired of this, particularly when a rainstorm (special rules card) dampened their spirits, and did the same to their powder, and once they were close enough they charged in to contest the hedgerows at the end of a pike! 

Prince Rupert to Sir Francis Mackworth: “ Dear Grunt, weather report required – does this darned drizzle benefit them or us?  I have an experiment with seaweed going on”
Sir Francis: “Benefits them more at this time.  Battered seaweed sounds good for lunch. Mackworth”
Prince Rupert: “Idiot”.

Parliamentarian infantry moving up.

The Push Of Pike

Initially this push of pike went well for the hedgerows defenders, but the Allies were now bringing up their ordinance to fire at close range, and their numbers began to tell.  One of the Allied brigades under Baillie broke, but it was soon replaced by more Scottish infantry moving up from behind.  Goring’s remaining troops; musketeers and dragoons, put up a sterling resistance on the left of Sir Francis Mackworths foote, but they broke at the same time as the Allied dragoons, and the remnants of the Royalist left was gone.  Sir Francis Mackworth tried to extract his foote from the hedgerows where they were now in danger of being outflanked and overwhelmed by the Scottish infantry, but with the enemy pressing hard only the whitecoats of Newcastles foote managed to disengage and make it back successfully to the protection of the walled enclosure behind the lines.  The remains of Mackworths foote gradually fell to pieces under the sustained pressure from the front and to his left.  Henry Tilliers men faired little better, as the wave of Allied infantry kept coming, and he now had an even more dangerous threat to his right.

Sir Francis Mackworth to Prince Rupert: “Pulling back Newcastle’s foote to the walled enclosure to fulfil historical last stand obligations.  Earl of Leven ran your dog over with his coach.  He wouldn’t say sorry”.
Prince Rupert to Oliver Cromwell (following the latter’s unrecorded dog-related taunt): “Dear Cromwell, I hope your hamster chokes on its feed.  A curse on ye!  L. R. xxx”

Newcastle's whitecoats see the way the winds blowing, and head for a defensible walled position.

Push of pike!
Prince Rupert's ADC is not amused about how the battle is going for the Royalists.

Henry Tillier.
The centre of the battlefield, seen from the Royalist side, with Mackworth's foote to the left, and Tilliers to the right.

Prince Rupert lamenting the loss of his dog!

Royalist infantry under Henry Tillier under heavy pressure.

Mackworth tries to extract his foote from the Scottish attacks, but fails.

The Allied Horse Break Free

Lord Byron’s horse had broken.  Forced back and decimated by Cromwell’s disciplined charges the Royalist horse couldn’t stand, and Napiers forlorn hope was being hit from the side and front by Allied foote began falling back only to turn into a rout and vanish altogether, leaving Cromwell free to attack Tilliers right flank just as holes began to appear in his centre, and his men began to flee the field in great numbers.

A quick assessment of the battlefield showed that the Royalist cause was lost – both wings of horse were gone, Mackworths infantry were making heroic delaying last stands, and Tillier was losing men aplenty and about to be rolled up by Cromwells marauding horse.  The Allies had followed history and won the battle!

Cromwell's troops, having disposed of Byron, pile into Tilliers flank.

The end is nigh.

Post-Battle Analysis

A quick word here because the battle is now several weeks ago, and details fade, but overall the scenario worked how I thought it would.  The Royalists were always up against it due to the Allied forces numerical superiority, but then it was 28,000 to 18,000 men in the actual event.  Forced on the defensive, apart from Goring, they gave a good account of themselves, with Goring decimating the stronger horse wing of Fairfax for the loss of his own battalia’s, while Cromwell eventually wore down Byron, and followed history to turning inwards to attack the infantry of Tiller.  The Royalist infantry, under heavy pressure from the front already had gaps a plenty in their ranks, and wouldn’t have survived the horse attacks. 

A clear Allied victory!

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing battle! Splendid table and minis and great report...I especially like the infamous (but beautiful!) coach, Sir Francis Mackworth's and Prince Rupert's vignettes, wonderful!!