Monday, November 28, 2016

Playing wings of war with my son

   Typical game with my son, Nathaniel.  Sort of explains our approach to the game.

Me:  Ok, see this plane.  It was flown by the famous ace Voss.  This is how he painted his plane, and this was a special insignia he used...

Nathan:  Hey Dad, my plane is behind you, and here are my cards shooting at you.

Me:  Oh!  Well down I go, let's play again.  This time this plane was flown by the ace David Putnam.   I painted his plane based on a photo and....

Nathan: Dad, I am behind you again....

Me: Oh drat!

This weekend was Nathaniel's 21st birthday. He very seldom asks for anything, but he wanted to see a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game (his second favorite NFL team). Since we would be down in Orlando to visit with her mother Janine got two tickets to the game.  On the fifty yard yard, row six from the front for Nathan and I.    We just got back and it was a outstanding  game.  Thank you Janine and  Happy Birthday Nathaniel!

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Narrative of a Light Company Soldier's Service in the Forty-First Regiment of Foot (1807-1814)

   Shadrack Byfield (sometimes Shadrach) was a British soldierwho served in the Light Infantry company of the  41st Regiment during the War of 1812. He the author of a memoir of his wartime experiences, A Narrative of a Light Company Soldier's Service, published in 1840. This work is notable as one of the only accounts of the war written by a common British soldier.

Born in Bradford on Avon to a family of weavers in 1789, Byfield enlisted in the Wiltshire Militia in 1807, aged eighteen. Two years later, he volunteered into the 41st Regiment and was sent to join the regiment in North America, serving in Lower Canada and at Fort George in modern-day Niagara-on-the-Lake prior to the outbreak of war.

    He saw much service during the War of 1812;   the Siege of Detroit, the  Battle of Frenchtown (where he was wounded in the shoulder), the Siege of Fort Meggs, and the Battle of Fort Stephenson.  Byfield narrowly escaped capture after the British defeat at the Battle of the Thames and later rejoining elements of his regiment in the Niagara area. He participated in the Capture of Fort Niagara and was at the Battle of Lundy's Lane.  At the Battle of Conjocta Creek, an unsuccessful British raid on 3 August 1814 his left arm was shattered by musket ball. Byfield's forearm was subsequently amputated and he was invalided back to England, where he was awarded a pension from the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1815.

Byfield returned to Bradford on Avon and married but was prevented from working at his trade as a weaver because he required use of both hands to operate a loom. However, according to his memoirs, a design for an 'instrument' came to him one night in a dream; this contraption enabled him to work at a loom with just one arm, allowing him to provide for his family.

   Byfield published a memoir of his wartime experiences in 1840. Although some sources speculate that he died in 1850 more recent research suggests that Byfield actually died on 17 January 1874 in Bradford, aged 84.

   Shadrack Byfield's Narrative provides a common soldier's perspective of the War of 1812.  Because of this his humble account has  been republished numerous times in many editions.  Byfield has often been portrayed as the archetypical 1812-era British soldier by modern historians.  John Gellner, who edited Byfield's memoirs in 1963, asserted that his story "could have been told by any one of those humble, patient, iron-hard British regulars who more than made up in discipline, training and bravery for their lack of numbers."  Byfield is also the protagonist in a 1985 children's novel, Redcoat, by Canadian author Gregory Sass, which presents a heavily fictionalized account of his military experiences.

An online edition of his narrative is available here:

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

Loose Files and American Scramble rules

   For my Rev War gaming I have been using these rules since they came out in the 1980's.  Written by Andy Callen they appeared in the first issue of Wargamers Illustrated and are now available throughout the internet on various sites for free.

   What attracted me to the rules when they came out were the at that time ground breaking use of disorganization points or DP.  This represented temporary problems with the battalion or regiment.  The number of DP's effect combat and firing and too many would cause your unit to disappear from the board.  Better trained units could remove DP's quicker, while poor units needed brigade or higher commanders to help out.  DP's cause you to loose a die for firing, and negative for combat.  Get too many (maximum of five per unit) and additional DP's cause casualties which means you remove whole stands.  I like this since units stay on the table longer, and you can pull back a unit and redress ranks and return it to the fight.

   Games run like this.  Start of the turn you have retreats and rallies from end of last turn.  You adjust morale for units effected. Again better trained units weather misfortune, lower grade units can fall apart. Commanders ride about trying to help out regiments in trouble (remove DP or inspire by adding +1 to die roll).

   Next is small arm and artillery firing.  Units can either fire or move but not both, unless they are skirmishes.  So you have to plan accordingly.  Infantry throw a d6 per stand of three figures.  Hits are a 6 on your die roll, which cause a DP.  Fire at skirmishers or troops  undercover and you half your total of dice thrown.  Remember this is long range musket and rifle fire.   Artillery is a little harder with plus and minus to roll for a hit.

   Next is movement.  Units throw  average dice to move.  A house rule I use is regiments must move full die roll, unless you point out a terrain objective like a hill or fence to stop at.  In addition another house rule let's units within a brigade roll once for each unit.  Skirmishes can fire and move, regular infantry either fire or move.  Slippery fellows those skirmishers.

   If regiments move to within 4 inches of an enemy they are in close combat.  This represents close range fire and closing to melee.  Both units roll die, add modifiers and compare difference in scores.  Close combat can be deadly.  Evan combats grind up units, while better regiments rout poorer regiments with disastrous results for friends around them.

   One part of close combat that confused players is the British getting +2 for bayonet charge while Americans do not get this.  This represents the British standard tactic of charging Americans without firing first.  For a better explanation please read With Zeal and Bayonets by Matthew Spring.  I like this as it represents the British standard operating procedure.  But, if not carefully managed you get no better then a stand off result which causes a second round of fighting and the British now get two DP's so are fighting at a disadvantage.  Basically the Americans were not impressed, stood their ground and shot you up as you came in.  Lesson to learn is use this against a wavering line.

   I have recently modified the rules for use with 25mms figures and also for the War of 1812.  There is also a link to bring you to one of the many sites where you can down load an original set of the rules

Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day November 11

My grandfather, Edward McNamara from Lexington Massachusetts served with the 101st Regiment (Medical company), 26th Yankee Division in the first world war.  He seldom talked about it, and when he did it was a terrible memory which haunted him.  But  I will always remember his smile when he told me how at 11:00 A.M. on 11th November the guns stopped and he and his friends knew they would live, knew they had survived.  

And as this date is now called Veterans Day I say thank you to my father in law, Aldrich Stevens  who served in the  3rd Ranger Battalion (Darby's Rangers) in the Second World War.  Like my grandfather he too was haunted by the memories of what he saw, experienced and especialy those he lost.   

I remember their sacrifices and hope both have found peace.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

General Porter's 3rd Brigade

   If Ripley was cautious with the lives of his men, Porter was the opposite.  He was a war hawk before the war and championed its execution there after.  Yet his actions seldom met his desire for fame and fortune.

  He was angered over his disgrace at Black Rock, where during the raid he was chased by the enemy from his house in his night shirt.  After Chippewa he felt his militiamen had not received proper credit for their part in the battle.  There he felt they have been treated as “the tools and drudges of the regular troops.”  After Lundy's Lane he would write the Governor of New York, that because his casualties are so low “it will seem that we were cowardly and did not do our duty.”  Ahh, political generals.

   The militia command figure for the 3rd Brigade is from knuckleduster miniatures incredible War of 1812 line.  Although not a portrait figure of Porter it has the feel of the militia General about it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

General Ripley's 2nd Brigade

   Commanded by General Eleazer Wheelock Ripley the 2nd Brigade was composed of the 21st and 23rd U.S. Infantry Regiments. Later, in time for the battle of Lundy's Lane they were joined by the 1st U.S. Infantry regiment. The first two regiments had taken part in Scott's camp of instruction and were exceptionally well trained and had had hard service prior to this.

   While Scott's 1st Brigade gained the lions share of the credit for the campaign, Ripley's brigade fought well.  The 21st Regiment, which he had previously commanded saw sterling service at Lundy's Lane.  Perhaps Ripley being from New Hampshire, one of the New England states against the war worked against him.  He also felt the campaign had insufficient troops for the task at hand and no pool of trained replacements for battle casualties.  For all this he was viewed negatively by both Scott and especially by General
Brown.  This is sad as he fought very well and was much more protective of his men's lives then the other commanders. An interesting "what if" is if Ripley had been in Scott's place at the opening of Lundy's Lane.  How would the battle have developed?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Lady Butlers painting "The Return from Inkerman"  showing the Guard's and 20th regiment after the battle on November 5, 1854.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

British organization 1814

Proposed Organization of the British Right Division. Summer 1814
(Based on historical O.B.)

1st Brigade: (Colonel Scott)
8th (King’s) Regiment
100th Regiment
103rd Regiment
 Royal Artillery

2nd "Light" Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Pearson)
Glengarry Light Infantry Regiment
Volunteer Battalion of Incorporated Militia
 Royal Artillery

3rd Brigade: (Lt. Col. Morrison)
1st (Royal Scots) Regiment
41st Regiment
89th Regiment
Royal Artillery

Unattached :
1st Militia Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Perry)
1st / 2nd / 3rd / 4th / 5th Lincon militia regiments

2nd Militia Brigade (Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton)
 1st / 2nd Norfolk Militia Regiments 2nd York Militia Regiments

19th Light Dragoons
Rocket battery
Native Warriors

My order of battle is based on the British/Canadians who fought at Chippewa and Lundy's Lane.  In addition I have added the 41st regiment which was available in the area but only its light company took part historically.  I blame private Shadrack Byfield's account of his service for this.  The first account I read of a soldier in this war and it's always stuck with me so I had to have the 41st.

  On the other hand the 2nd Light Brigade is historically accurate and one of my favorite due to books on the Incorporated Militia (great name!) and Pearson's biography.  So I had to have them. Since many British units were at the battles in bits and pieces I have brought all regiments up to a table top standard strength. Like the American regiments I use a standard number of stand, which I can reconfigure if fighting a historical battle.

 This command also gives a lot of colorful and fun units like Indians and rockets.  Both of which I will have to create new rules for to reflex their eccentricity on the table.  For the cavalry I will inflate their numbers like I have with the Americans to give gamers something to led in glorious charges;   Or not as is usually the case.