The Battle of Breed’s Hill (or ‘Bunker Hill’), 17th June 1775: The Refight

In my last post, I presented the late Mark Hayes’ scenario for the Battle of Breed’s Hill (commonly known as the Battle of Bunker Hill, thanks to confusion between the names of two adjacent Bostonian hills), but didn’t have time to post the full after-action report, so here it is.

As discussed last time, there is a Bunker Hill scenario in both editions of the main British Grenadier! rulebook written by the author, my good mate Eclaireur, but Mark’s work added a wealth of new detail to the action, so I decided to go with Mark’s version of the battle (sorry Eclaireur!).  That said, I did make one mistake in transcribing Mark’s notes onto the map; I placed Knowlton’s regiment at the wrong end of Stark’s line, so I’ve now corrected the map here and in the scenario.  There was also a mistake in the original orbat when we played it, so the AAR shows two 20-figure battalions in the fleches, whereas it should have been three units (one of 16 figures and two of 12).

Note also that Mark didn’t make any comment regarding the deployment of Stark’s two artillery batteries, so I just placed them on the flanks of his line.  Feel free to stick them wherever you want within Stark’s deployment area.

Above:  The Calm Before the Storm.  This was the best I could do with the fortifications very kindly loaned by Phil Portway.  The fort itself looks fine, though the gateway should be mid-way along the parapet, according to the Page Map.  However, we didn’t have suitable terrain-pieces to make the flêches, so had to make do with a straight length of parapet.

Above:  The view from behind rebel tax-evader lines.  The forces of monarchy, order and stability mass in the distance.  The green patches on the left are areas of soggy ground, where clay was extracted for making bricks (the brick kilns themselves being in the middle of the British start-line, though I don’t have any suitable models).

Above:  Stark’s brigade masses along the ‘rail fence’.  According to Mark Hayes’ research, this was actually a stone wall, topped with rails and with another fence immediately in front, with the gap between the two stuffed with hay, so it was a significant obstacle.

Above:  The British have decided to ignore Stark’s fence-line position and instead decide to throw everything against the redoubt, supported by the artillery firing from the high ground to their rear.  On the right, Howe has ordered the Light Infantry Battalion to disperse into skirmish order, to screen the advance of the Grenadier Battalion and a battalion formed by the combined 5th & 52nd Regiments of Foot.

Above:  On the left is Pigot’s brigade, consisting of the 38th Foot (yellow regimental colour), 43rd Foot (firing at the redoubt), the 1st Battalion of Marines (in the left-foreground) and a detachment of Light Infantry (skirmishers).  They also have a battery of 6pdrs, but the guns presently lack ammunition.

Above:  As the British approach the redoubt, Gridley’s Battery and Frye’s Regiment open fire.

Above:  On the British left and as 12pdr rounds whistle overhead, the 43rd disregard the paltry rebel artillery to open a lively fire upon the defenders.

Above:  On the right, the swarm of British Light Infantry causes considerable disruption among Frye’s men defending the projecting ‘wing’ of the redoubt.  Concerned that Frye might be wavering, both Prescott and Putnam ride over to steady the troops.

Above:  Howe urges the 5th/52nd and Grenadiers onward to glory!

Above:  Observing the distant British movements, Stark remains unengaged.  He sends a request for orders, but with Putnam embroiled in the firefight for the redoubt, there is no reply.

Above:  In the flêches, the Massachusetts Militia stand ready to counter any British move around the flank, but as the firefight intensifies in Frye’s sector, that looks to be increasingly unlikely.  These lads carry the famous ‘Bunker Hill Flag’ that was known to be carried by the Massachusetts Militia on the day.

Above:  In British Grenadier! rules, hits from fire initially become ‘Disruption Points’ (DPs), with three DPs being the maximum.  DPs can also be accrued from movement, passing through rough terrain, crossing breastworks, etc.  Any hits on a unit that already has three DPs then become permanent hits.  Frye’s Regiment defending the breastwork, here has two DPs, as indicated by the two dots on the marker.

Above:  Putnam and Prescott ride forward to steady Frye’s beleaguered regiment.  In British Grenadier! a unit can rally off DPs at the end of the turn, provided it has remained stationary and not in mêlée.  Units of Line class may then rally off 1 DP, while Elite class units may rally off 2 DPs.  Units of 2nd Line class may rally off 1 DP, provided they are not in a position that could be charged next turn.  Attached Brigadiers and/or C-in-Cs will also rally off 1 DP each.  Militia Class units therefore absolutely require an attached general in order to remove DPs, hence the personal intervention of both Putnam and Prescott.  This of course, carries with it some personal risk for those generals.

Above:  Within the main redoubt, Prescott’s Regiment (here depicted by a red-coated unit) and Bridge’s Regiment (in the foreground) remain largely unengaged, except for some desultory long-range musketry.  However, that is all about to change…

Above:  On Morton’s Hill, the British artillery has been hammering away at Frye’s Regiment.  However, as the Light Infantry climb Breed’s Hill the guns are forced to switch their fire to Prescott’s Regiment on the left.

(The single 6pdr on the right represents the Howitzer Battery, which should have two model howitzers, but my collection lacks sufficient/appropriate models).

Above:  The Grenadier Battalion, resplendent in bearskin caps, follows in the wake of the skirmish screen.

Above: Risking life and limb, Putnam personally inspires Frye’s Regiment to stand their ground.  Putnam is actually my George Washington, complete with headquarters flags.  I really do need to paint an alternative American army commander base!

Above:  Pigot’s brigade is struggling to push forward in the face of stiffening American fire.  The 43rd in particular, are starting to suffer significant losses and Pigot rides forward to steady them.  On the left, the Light Infantry detachment is pinned down by effective fire from Robinson’s Detachment of American skirmishers.  Unwilling to wait any longer for the Light Infantry to make headway, the 1st Marines move forward, intending to push on through the skirmish screen.

Above:  Over on the right, the 5th/52nd Foot have already passed through their skirmish-screen and soon become engaged in a vicious, short-range firefight with Frye’s Regiment.

Above:  Almost the whole British line is now poised to launch its assault on the redoubt, though stiff fire from the defenders is making it difficult for the British to coordinate their attacks.

Above:  Urged on by the senior commanders, Frye’s Regiment pours a withering hail of fire into the 5th/52nd Foot, cutting down around 20% of their number!

Above:  However, the Americans aren’t getting it all their own way, as the 12pdrs fire at Prescott’s Regiment, smashing whole sections of the parapet and bowling down files of men…

Above:  The 38th and 43rd follow up with a pair of devastating volleys (three double-sixes in a row!).

Above:  The astonishing weight of fire suddenly poured into Prescott’s Regiment cuts down scores of men, leaving half of them dead or wounded!  The surviving officers attempt in vain to hold the shocked survivors, but to no avail.  The survivors flee from the fort, the officers among them!

Above:  The departure of Prescott’s Regiment leaves a yawning gap on the parapet between Sam Gridley’s tiny battery and Frye’s Regiment.  Bridge’s Regiment is unengaged on the flank, but will take a little time to shift across to the threatened parapet.  In the meantime, Sam Gridley’s gunners will have to hold as best they can.

Above:  Frye’s Regiment, already heavily engaged, is in no place to plug the gap!  Prescott orders one of the unengaged regiments from the flêches to enter the redoubt, but that too will take time to achieve.

Above:  However, Fortune is fickle and she now smiles on the defenders, as the 5th/52nd Foor break and run!

Above:  The Grenadiers , who should have been closely supporting the assault, have been delayed by a combination of bad terrain, bad luck and long-range harassing fire from Stark’s light artillery, which causes a steady trickle of casualties.

Above:  Stark, seeing the British attack starting to waver, decides that he can’t wait any longer for orders to come from Putnam and instead orders his brigade to attack the weakened British right flank.

Above:  Astonishingly, the 38th and 43rd Regiments completely fail to take advantage of the open goal before them and instead continue their cautious advance up the slope to the glacis.  The 1st Marines meanwhile, push through the rallying Light Infantry to join the assault.

Above:  Frye’s Regiment once again becomes the focus for large numbers of British skirmishers and loses a few men, though fires yet another devastating volley, cutting down a number of their tormentors!

Above:  To the rear of the parapet, Doolittle and Brewer move their militia into the redoubt.

Above:  Bridge meanwhile, has managed to form his regiment into a new line, facing the empty parapet.

Above:  Robinson’s Detachment meanwhile, continues to be a major thorn in the side of the British left flank.  However, help is at hand for the British, as Clinton’s brigade (63rd Foot & 2nd Marines) has arrived and is marching to join the assault.  The 6pdr Battery has also finally received its ammunition and is marching to support the British right flank against the new threat posed by Stark’s advance.

Above:  However, Stark’s advance has been slowed somewhat by having to climb over their fortification while under long-range heavy artillery fire from Morton’s Hill.

Above:  Stark brings his left-flanking battalion in to form a brigade reserve.

Above:  Although the 5th/52nd Foot are in retreat, the rest of the British line is finally poised to launch a single massive attack on the redoubt.  Howe meanwhile, rides over to steady the Grenadiers.  What happens next will decide the day!

Above:  With Howe’s attention fixed on getting the Grenadiers to move forward, the 5th/52nd Foot rout!

Above:  The 43rd Foot, having already suffered heavy losses from Gridey’s artillery and now seeing friendly troops routing, decide that have also had enough and join the rout!

Above:  With the 38th Foot pinned down by fire, the 1st Marines launch a desperate charge on Gridley’s artillery.

Above:  However, the Marines have already suffered considerable disruption thanks to Robinson’s skirmishers and as they reach the parapet, a whiff of grapeshot from Gridley’s 3pdrs cuts great swathes through their ranks!

Above:  With a third of the Marines cut down during their charge, they too join the rout, fleeing past the startled 2nd Marines!  With two-thirds of his formed units now fleeing for their lives, Brigadier Pigot loses his nerve!  The survivors of the 43rd Foot and 1st Marines disperse and flee in panic to the boats that will carry them back to safety!  The 38th Foot and the left-flank Light Infantry detachment meanwhile, fall back from Breed’s Hill, leaving Howe’s right-flanking brigade alone on the slope of the hill.

Above:  As Doolittle’s Regiment fills the redoubt to their rear, Bridge’s Regiment finally regains possession of the parapet and the redoubt is safe!

With Pigot’s brigade broken, Howe’s Grenadiers still struggling to make headway and Clinton’s Brigade still some way off and needing to re-order its ranks, the British players’ personal morale was finally broken and the day was conceded to the cowardly, ditch-digging tax-evading colonials!

In the immortal words of King George III:

You’ll be back, soon you’ll see
You’ll remember you belong to me
You’ll be back, time will tell
You’ll remember that I served you well
Oceans rise, empires fall
We have seen each other through it all
And when push comes to shove
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love!

So humming that little ditty, we row back to Boston, to drown our sorrows in Mr Danson’s pleasant little tavern.  It’s strange, but everyone there seems to know our names… Anyway, Cheers!

Scores On The Doors

My thanks to Mike, Chris and Trevor for a great game in good company (though Chris might have lynched me as a warning to others, had I rolled a fourth double-six in a row…).

At the end of the game, the Americans had lost Prescott’s Regiment (50% losses (8 figures) and routed), but their only other loss was a single figure from Frye’s Regiment!

The British on the other hand, had lost the 43rd Foot (50% losses (8 figures) and routed), the 5th/52nd Foot (20% losses (4 figures) and routed) and the 1st Marines (one-third losses (6 figures) and routed).  In addition, the Grenadier and Light Infantry Battalions had each suffered 15% losses (3 figures apiece) and the 38th had lost a single figure.  In other words, a little more than three times the American casualty rate AND we failed to take the objective…

Models & Painting

The models are 28mm scale figures, being a mixture of Wargames Foundry and Perry Miniatures, all painted by me except for one unit of Americans, painted by Jase Evans.  Flags are by GMB Designs.

Thanks again to Phil Portway for his very kind loan of earthworks.

More AWI coming soon…

This entry was posted in 28mm Figures, American War of Independence, British Grenadier! Rules (AWI), Eighteenth Century, Games. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Battle of Breed’s Hill (or ‘Bunker Hill’), 17th June 1775: The Refight

  1. Willz. says:

    Fantastic 18th century wargaming eye candy, beautiful figures and terrain.
    say hello to phil Portway from me I have not played against him since 2013.


  2. Steve says:

    Excellent account, and so close – it went all the way to the end… I’m interested, how does British Grenadier model the command friction I see in the game report??

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Steve! 😊 Eclaireur adapted the ‘disruption points’ (DPs) system from a much older set of rules called ‘Loose Files & American Scramble’. It’s briefly described in the account above, but units can accumulate DPs due to rolling 1 or 2 on movement dice*, by moving through poor terrain or from hits. 3 DPs is the maximum. DPs then count as negative modifiers to firing, combat and morale. Units with 3 DPs cannot charge and can even be charged by skirmishers. Knowing how and when to remove DPs is critical to success.

      * Elite and Line units roll Average Dice for movement, while 2nd Line, Militia and Levy units roll D6. The number rolled is the distance moved, which makes coordination difficult and means that worse troops accrue more DPs when trying to manoeuvre.

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  6. Les Haskell says:

    The battle should be called the Battle of the Charlestown Peninsula. Bunker’s Hill was the key position and was where the troops were initially ordered to entrench. A decision was made by another officer to put the redoubt further forward in the untenable position on Breed’s Hill. Ultimately, the battle was for control of Bunker’s Hill and after the British took possession of it they were able to emplace artillery there and were firing on the American militiamen entrenching on Prospect Hill and most of the line in front of Cambridge.

  7. Les Haskell says:

    Big fan of anything “Bunker Hill”. The front plate on my car is a Bunker Hill flag. My 4th ggf Caleb Haskell was there in Captain Ezra Lunt’s Company of Colonel Moses Little’s Regiment (Newburyport militia and minutemen). According to Caleb’s diary and testimony from an inquiry on General Putnam’s location during the battle I figure the regiment showed up from camp in Cambridge after the battle was underway and Charlestown was burning and was deployed piecemeal along the line from the left of the redoubt, in the fleches, and all the way over to just right of the rail fence and Stark’s men. According to a narrative account, Lunt’s Company was held in reserve and acted as part of the rear guard after the redoubt was overrun.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Excellent! Sadly, I’ve only ever been there while playing ‘Fallout 4’. 😉

      I wish Mark Hayes (who wrote the original scenario) was still with us, as he’d have loved this. 🙂


    • Les Haskell says:

      The narrative account of Lunt’s Company being held in reserve comes from the preface to Paul Lunt’s diary and seems to have been written by an enthusiastically patriotic local (ie. from Newburyport) editor. He goes on to say that Paul Lunt went with Arnold on the expedition to Quebec, but if he had read the diary he would have noticed that Paul actually did not. Caleb did, though, and wrote about it in his diary. He gets smallpox and gets court martialed along the rest of his company (Captain Samuel Ward’s/Lt. Col. Christopher Greene’s Battalion) after their enlistments expire at the end of December. After being forced to reenlist and avoiding “stripes” (a whipping) they get to hang around outside Quebec until May.

  8. Les Haskell says:

    Just for fun, here are excerpts from Caleb’s diary (I bought a hard-copy off Amazon and found a pdf online):

    June 16th, Friday.
    This morning I went on guard. In the evening a party were ordered to Bunker’s Hill in Charlestown to entrenching.

    June 17th, Saturday.
    This day begins with the noise of cannon from the ships firing on our men entrenching on Bunker’s Hill. The firing continues all the fore part of the day; but one man killed. We were alarmed at Cambridge; heard that the enemy were landing in Charlestown. The army set out. We found the town in flames, and the Regulars ascending the hill; the balls flying almost as thick as hailstones from the ships and floating batteries, and Copp’s Hill and Beacon Hill in Boston, and the ground covered with the wounded and dead. Our people stood the fire some time, until the enemy had almost surrounded us and cut off our retreat. We were obliged
    to quit the ground and retreat as fast as possible. In this engagement we lost the ground and the heroic General Warren; we had 138 killed and 292 wounded. The loss on the enemy’s side were 92 commissioners [commissioned officers], 102 sergeants, 100 corporals, and 700 privates; total, 994.

    June 18th, Sunday.
    Early this morning were employed making cartridges and getting in readiness for another battle. A large reinforcement came in from the country. At noon we were alarmed again. Marched to Prospect Hill which we were fortifying; were ordered to halt and wait for orders from the General. Marched back again; had orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march at the first notice. The enemy kept a continual firing upon us at Prospect Hill, which we are fortifying. At nine o’clock in the evening received orders to go down to the hill, march to headquarters. Received new orders to go back to our quarters and hold ourselves in readiness.

    June 19th, Monday.
    The daylight comes on with the noise of cannon from Bunker’s Hill and floating batteries discharging at us on Prospect Hill, which continues all day. The enemy set the upper end of Charlestown on fire. We mounted picket guard.

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