My Return to the AWI: The Battle of White Plains, 28th October 1776

As previously mentioned, my recent return to Seven Years War wargaming has meant that it’s all been wall-to-wall tricorns, muskets, red coats, lace and pointy-headed Germans around here.  I felt I needed a break and what could possibly be better than the TOTALLY different American War of Independence…?

A recent conversation with my mate Antony Oakley got me digging through the hard-drive, looking for photos of our last AWI game; the Battle of Germantown, which we played all the way back in December 2009 (see my last post).  That then prompted me to dig out my old 28mm AWI collection, which started life in 2005, when Mike Hickling (who then ran the manufacturing and sales side of AB Figures here in west Wales) gave me a couple of spare packs of Wargames Foundry AWI figures.  These lovely, characterful figures were crying out to be painted…

Jase Evans and I had been mulling over ‘doing something in 28mm’ for a while and this then lit the touch-paper… This also coincided with my mate ‘Eclaireur’ publishing the first edition of his superb British Grenadier! rules and Perry Miniatures starting their superb AWI range.

Within six months we’d painted over 30 units between us and others soon joined the project, meaning that we were able to play some of the larger battles such as Monmouth and Germantown.  With Eclaireur, I then also got involved in massive refights of the Battle of the Brandywine (at the National Army Museum, Chelsea) and the colossal Battle of Long Island (at the equally-salubrious South Mimms Services on the M25).  Having then reached the pinnacle of AWI gaming, I moved on to other things and my AWI collection went back into the box and remained there until last Thursday…

As mentioned last time, all of the flags in my AWI collection are faded; some rather badly, so I’ve been engaged on a major-reflagging exercise and this time I’ve varnished the bloody things to prevent a repeat performance:

As the title says, for our ‘Return’ game I chose the Battle of White Plains, which was fought on 28th October 1776.  This scenario is the first scenario in Eclaireur’s British Grenadier! Scenario Book #1 and is a nice, small, club-night-sized game, with an interesting mix of unit types and troop qualities, so is ideal for giving the rules (and my memory) a good workout.

Gen. Sir William Howe.jpg

Lieutenant General William Howe

The Battle of White Plains was one of a series of battles fought within what is now New York City.  Lieutenant General William Howe’s British-Hessian army had captured Long Island in August 1776, but Washington’s army managed to escape across the water to New York City (which was then limited to the southern tip of Manhattan Island).  In September Howe launched an amphibious assault on Manhattan, but despite capturing New York City, he again allowed Washington’s army to slip away.  Howe’s pursuit of Washington was held off at Harlem Heights, thus allowing Washington to escape for a THIRD time, across the water to the Bronx peninsula.

Formal painting of General George Washington, standing in uniform, as commander of the Continental Army

Lieutenant General George Washington

By the time Howe, stung by criticism of his lethargic offensive, finally crossed over to continue his pursuit of the rebel army in late October, Washington had fortified a series of lines across the northern end of the peninsula at White Plains, securing his flanks on the Bronx River to the west and a group of lakes to the east.  However, Chatterton’s Hill, on the west bank of the Bronx River was only lightly defended and offered Howe a way to outflank Washington’s main line.  A combined British-Hessian force under the Hessian Lieutenant General Leopold Phillipp von Heister was therefore ordered to cross the river, take Chatterton’s Hill and outflank Washington’s lines.

Lieutenant General Leopold Phillip von Heister

However, the Hessians were delayed by a broken bridge and while Oberst Johann Rall’s Hessians conducted a repair, Washington used this valuable time to move an additional brigade to that location, though they were still sorely outnumbered by the Crown forces.

In the meantime, Major General Alexander Leslie, commanding the British half of Von Heister’s force, discovered a practicable ford further downstream and without waiting for authority, crossed over and supported by a large mass of artillery firing at long range from the eastern bank, launched an immediate assault on the rebel position.

Being heavily outnumbered and generally outclassed by the British-Hessian opposition, this is an impossible scenario for the Americans to win outright.  The American scenario-objective is therefore to inflict more casualties than they suffer.  Simply inflicting more casualties will be considered a draw, while inflicting one-third more casualties than they suffer will be considered an American victory.

Colonel Alexander McDougall

Above:  The opening situation from behind the American position.  Colonel Rufus Putnam’s small militia brigade has managed to dig in on top of Chatterton’s Hill, along with Captain Alexander Hamilton’s small battery of six-pounders (just two guns, represented by a single model).  Colonel Haslet’s excellent battalion of Delaware Continentals are deployed further forward, along with the 1st Connecticut State Levies deployed as skirmishers.  The recently-arrived brigade of Colonel Alexander McDougall has taken post in reserve, behind the hill.

Being the senior officer present, McDougall has taken command of the entire force, leaving his second-in-command to lead his brigade.  McDougall is here represented by my George Washington group, complete with headquarters flags (I really must paint a new American army command group for those battles where Washington wasn’t present!).

In the distance, at the far left corner of the table, Rall’s Hessians wait for the bridge repairs to be completed.  On the heights next to them, Brigadier Samuel Cleaveland’s artillery begins its bombardment of Chatterton Hill.  On the far edge of the table, Major Maitland’s British-Hessian advance guard brigade begins to skirmish with Haslet’s men.

Colonel Rufus Putnam

Above:  Colonel Rufus Putnam’s brigade consists of Brooks’ Massachusetts Militia Regiment (18 figures, Militia class), who are dug in behind hasty fieldworks, alongside Hamilton’s New York Artillery (one 6pdr gun, Line class) and Graham’s New York Militia Regiment (9 figures, Levy class), who are deployed as skirmishers.

In the foreground are the massed Continental light companies from McDougall’s brigade, deployed as skirmishers.

The fieldworks themselves are a fairly minor affair, providing some cover from fire, but only really being a ‘speedbump’ to assaulting troops.

Above: McDougall’s brigade consists of four battalions of infantry; the Maryland (18 figures, Line class), 1st New York (12 figures, 2nd Line class), 3rd New York (16 figures, 2nd Line class) and 19th Continental (12 figures, 2nd Line class) Regiments, plus the massed skirmishers (8 figures, 2nd Line class) and Hamilton’s battery, which has been attached to Putnam.

I (in the role of McDougall) decided that it was madness to send this brigade up onto the hill or down the left flank, as they would be hammered by the great mass of British artillery firing across the Bronx River.  I could keep them in reserve as a counter-attack force, but instead decided to send them around Putnam’s right flank and from there attack the British left flank as they attacked Putnam.

Colonel John Haslet

Above:  Colonel John Haslet’s Delaware Battalion was arguably one of the best battalions in Washington’s army at this stage of the war.  They were certainly one of the best-dressed, with blue coats, red facings, white smallclothes and yellow hat-lace (they are depicted in the painting at the top of this article, during the earlier Battle of Long Island).  Nevertheless, I did mix in a few soldiers wearing hunting shirts and slightly more disorderly dress, as well as some different colourings of smallclothes and some without hat-lace.  I painted the flag myself.

I think this was the last AWI unit I painted (in 2008 or 2009).

Above:  Brigadier Samuel Cleaveland’s artillery, positioned on high ground east of the Bronx River, opens fire on Chatterton’s Hill.  Nearest the camera is a battery of 12-pounders (3 guns, Line class).  For scenario purposes, this battery is immobile.  On their left is a battery of 6-pounders (3 guns, Line class), which is mobile, but can’t cross the River Bronx, which makes their mobility somewhat moot.  The 6-pounders therefore unlimber and join the long-range bombardment of Chatterton’s Hill.

Oberst Johann Rall

Above:  Oberst Johann Gottlieb Rall’s Hessen-Kassel brigade waits on the eastern bank of the Bronx River, for the broken bridge to be repaired.  Rall’s brigade consists of three regiments; Grenadier-Regiment ‘Rall’ (32 figures, Line class), Fusilier-Regiment ‘Knyphausen’ (32 figures, 2nd Line class) and the Leib-Musketeer-Regiment (24 figures, 2nd Line class).

These regiments were still using their regulation, dense three-rank drill, so are represented by one-third fewer figures (24, 24 and 18 respectively) and the Americans gain a +1 bonus when shooting at them, though the Hessians count their full roster strength when firing and fighting.  They also have to halt and re-order their lines whenever they accumulate two or three Disruption Points (DPs).

Major John Maitland

Above:  Major John Maitland’s British-Hessian advance guard contacts Haslet’s American advance guard.  In the earlier part of the campaign, Major Maitland had been Commanding Officer of the combined 2nd Light Infantry Battalion and some sources state that this was the Honorable John Maitland of the Marines, who in October 1778 became Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, 71st Highlanders (shown in the portrait on the right).  However, other sources state that he didn’t arrive in America until 1777, so this could be a different Maitland.

Maitland’s advance guard consists of the 3rd Light Infantry Battalion (12 figures, Elite class, comprising the massed Light Companies of the 15th, 28th, 33rd, 37th, 46th, 54th & 57th Regiments of Foot), the 17th Light Dragoons (8 figures, Line class), two companies of Hessen-Kassel Jäger (12 rifle-armed skirmishers, Elite class) and Grant’s Company of the New York Volunteers (3 skirmishers, Militia class, described in the original scenario as ‘Tory Scouts’).

Above:  Maitland’s Hessian and Tory skirmishers push forward, though initially get the worst of their firefight with the Connecticut State Levies skirmishing in front of them.  Maitland could opt to deploy the 3rd Light Battalion in skirmish order, but elects to keep them formed in close order, to increase their impact in the assault.  However, they soon become a target for Hamilton’s battery.

On the right, Rall’s Hessians have finally completed their repair of the bridge over the Bronx River.

Above:  The Patriots hunker down behind their breastwork and wait for the Lobsters to come to them.

Above:  Mc Dougall’s infantry swings to the right.  However, they clearly need to practice their drill, as battalions collide and disrupt each others’ lines!

Above:  American skirmishers deploy forward to engage the enemy.  However, in doing so, some of them unwittingly mask Hamilton’s artillery!  Forcing him to temporarily cease fire.

Above:  Cleaveland’s guns are a fine sight as they hammer away across the valley.  However, the range is long and they have very little effect on Hamilton’s dug-in guns or Putnam’s infantry.  They switch their fire to the much closer groups of skirmishers…

Above:  The 3rd Light Infantry push on up the hill, screened by Grant’s Company of New York Tories.  However, they are coming under intense skirmisher and artillery fire and the tiny group of Tories isn’t providing a very effective screen!  As they get closer, Hamilton orders his gunners to load grape…

In the foreground, the Rall Grenadiers have crossed the bridge and begin to deploy on Leslie’s right.

Above:  On the left, the Hessian Jäger continue to have surprisingly little effect on the Connecticut Levies.  However, the 17th Light Dragoons feel their sap rising as the Delawares appear to their front… The trumpeter sounds the Charge!

The Delawares level their muskets and fire a rippling volley into the foolhardy horsemen.  Some of the Connecticut Levies also fire a few rounds into the mass of horseflesh… Astonishingly, the 17th Light Dragoons are completely unscathed and swords raised, charge into the blue-coated line!

Above:  The complete ineffectiveness of their volley has clearly taken the Delawares unawares and their line becomes unsteady just as the enemy cavalry charges home [in game terms, they had not only fluffed their volley, but now also fluffed their ‘Being Charged’ morale roll, incurring two DPs, which act as negative modifiers during melee].

Above:  The much-vaunted Delawares are given a thorough malletting by the Light Dragoons and lose half their number as they ignominiously retreat from the combat.

Above:  Having used up all the available ones during firing and melee, the Delawares now pick up the available sixes during their retreat move and collectively break the All-New England 500-yard Sprint Record…  Nevertheless, the Delawares soon rally and move forward once again.

Major General Alexander Leslie

Above:  Major General Alexander Leslie’s brigade now arrives in rear of Maitland’s advance guard.  Leslie has four infantry battalions; the 5th Regiment of Foot (12 figures, Line class), the 28th Regiment of Foot (16 figures, Line class), the 35th Regiment of Foot (16 figures, Line class) and the 49th Regiment of Foot (16 figures, Line class).

As it happens, I don’t have any of these regiments in my collection, so I’ve just used four random regiments (the 38th, 43rd, 52nd & 63rd Regiments of Foot).  These lads are all in the regulation 1768 Pattern uniform, but in reality the British infantry were largely wearing cut-down coats and slouched hats by this time.  I’ve got a few units wearing that style of dress, but I need to get more.  Any excuse…

Above:  With the Hessians having little effect on the rebel skirmishers, the 49th Foot (here played by the 38th) advance in close order to push them back.

Above:  Maitland watches the advance.

Above: As does Leslie…

Above:  In an effort to clear Hamilton’s line of fire, McDougall’s skirmishers had wandered too far to the left and consequently come within grapeshot range of Cleaveland’s 12-pounders!  The cover afforded by the rocky terrain offers only scant cover as a quarter of their number are shredded by grape!  Shocked by their losses, the remaining men retreat behind Chatterton’s Hill, though retreat soon turns to rout and they flee the field.

Above:  Following their sabering of the Delawares, the 17th Light Dragoons manage to control their blood-lust and quickly rally.  To their front, the rebel 3rd New York Regiment appears and engages the Light Dragoons with ineffective long-range musketry.  The Hessian Jäger move quickly to screen the cavalry from any further fire.

Above:  The British infantry clear the woodland and push on up the hill.  However, they come under heavy fire from Hamilton’s artillery and Brooks’ Massachusetts Militia and start to suffer losses.  British orders require them to only engage the enemy with musketry and NOT to assault the enemy position, though their fire is proving ineffective against the dug-in rebels!

Above:  Concerned by the potential threat of enemy infantry appearing on the British left, Von Heister orders Rall to halt his deployment and instead directs him to take his brigade along the road to the left flank.  While the ‘Rall’ Grenadiers sort themselves out, the ‘Leib’ Regiment and the ‘Knyphausen’ Fusiliers march to the left.

Above:  As the British infantry close on Putnam’s brigade, the 49th Foot and 3rd Light Infantry are suffering increasing losses from rebel fire and are doing precious little in return.  Von Heister sends orders for them to go in with the bayonet, but it seems that the orders are not getting through!

Above:  “Pour it on, Boys!”  Putnam places himself directly in the line of fire, behind the breastworks with the men of the Massachusetts Militia.

Above:  In the meantime, McDougall’s brigade continue their manoeuvre to the right, but have become thoroughly disordered by the move, so McDougall and his 2ic attempt to personally take control of the situation.  In the meantime, the Connecticut Levies, threatened by the marauding light dragoons, fall back through the Continental lines to reform at the rear.

Above:  Having rallied from their earlier combat with the Delawares, the 17th Light Dragoons charge again, this time against the 3rd New York Regiment.  The charge takes the New Yorkers completely by surprise and they fail to fire a volley at the charging cavalry!

Above:  The 3rd New York make a brave stand, but are quickly overwhelmed and are forced to retreat.  Like the Delawares they lose around half of their number in the melee.

Above:  The 17th Light Dragoons become disordered in the melee and fall back to rally.

Above:  With the situation on Chatterton’s Hill threatening to get out of hand, Von Heister, Leslie and Maitland all converge on the position to take direct control of the engaged units.

Above:  Unlike the Delawares, the 3rd New York fail to rally following their tangle with the light dragoons and are soon fleeing northward!

Note that like the Delawares, these chaps are actually painted in the uniform recorded for the 3rd New York during this period, which was generally grey with green facings.

Above:  The 17th Dragoons try their luck once again against the Delawares, but this time are badly shot up and refuse to charge home!

Above:  At last, Von Heister manages to get orders through to Leslie and Leslie personally leads the 49th forward against the entrenchment!  However, the 49th are again shot up by Brooks’ militia and stop short of the earthwork.  The 3rd Light Infantry meanwhile, steadfastly refuse to advance into the teeth of Hamilton’s guns.

Above:  The view from the American side of the entrenchments.

Above:  Graham’s New York Militia skirmishers have fallen back behind the lines to rally, though are closely followed up by the British 5th Regiment of Foot (here played by the 52nd Foot with the buff regimental colour).  The 5th Foot threaten to outflank the American line, but have also managed to mask their own guns (not that the guns have achieved very much)!

Above:  Rall’s Hessian brigade continues its march to the left flank.

Note that I don’t have the correct units for this formation, so the ‘Leib’ Musketeers at the front of the column are represented by the ‘Donop’ Musketeers and the ‘Knyphausen’ Fusiliers are represented by the ‘Lossow’ Fusiliers.

Above:  Oberst Rall waves them on their way.

Above:  Note that Oberst Rall is actually represented here by General von Donop.  Hessian generals in this period didn’t have a prescribed uniform, so wore the uniform of their own regiment, in this case the straw-coloured facings of the ‘Donop’ Musketeers.  The supporting grenadiers are from the grenadier company of the ‘Prinz Carl’ Musketeers, who formed part of the ‘Lengerke’ Grenadier Battalion.

Above:  The ‘Rall’ Grenadier Regiment has finally turned about and joins the rear of Rall’s column, though not before suffering a number of casualties from Hamilton’s artillery.

Again, I don’t have the ‘Rall’ Grenadiers in my collection, so have used the ‘Lengerke’ Grenadier Battalion, which was formed from the combined grenadiers of the ‘Prinz Carl’, ‘Donop’, ‘Wutginau’ and ‘Trumbach’ Regiments.  The ‘Rall’ Grenadiers were an oddity in that they were a permanently-established grenadier regiment, rather than a combined grenadier battalion formed from elements of several different regiments.  The ‘Rall’ Grenadiers also carried colours, unlike the combined grenadier battalions (they’re in my lead-pile and will be painted one day).

Above:  The British-Hessian commanders exhort their men as they attempt to launch a further assault on the entrenchment!

Above:  With the 3rd Light Infantry refusing to get stuck in, the 35th Foot are stuck behind them, unable to manoeuvre.

Above:  Over on the left flank, the Hessian Jäger continue to make life miserable for the Delawares.

Above:  The Delawares reciprocate and along with the 19th Continentals, succeed in shooting dozens of light dragoons out of the saddle!  The 17th Light Dragoons have now suffered 25% casualties.

Above:  Colonel Haslet is right in the front line as he personally steadies the battered Delawares.

Above:  To their rear, McDougall is finally managing to sort out the disorder in the ranks and now hopes to swing his brigade round to the left, to hit the British infantry in the flank.

Above:  However, the British have got their flank attack in first and the 5th Foot seem set to charge!  Hamilton decides that discretion is the better part of valour and swiftly limbers up his guns to make good his escape, screened by the skirmishers of Graham’s New York Militia.

Above:  Rufus Putnam, along with Brooks’ Massachusetts Militia, hold on in the entrenchments as long as they can, but are forced to disengage before they are rolled up by the 5th Foot.  McDougall’s planned flanking movement meanwhile, has died on its arse from a combination of DPs and Rall’s approaching Hessians.

Above:  A last view of the British assault.  The British had succeeded in taking Chatterton’s Hill, but had they suffered greater losses?

Sadly for the Americans, it was they who had taken the greater losses: The Delawares had lost 9 figures, while the 3rd New York had suffered 8 before fleeing.  McDougall’s skirmishers had suffered the loss of 2 figures before they too had fled, for a total of 19.  The British meanwhile had lost 4 from the 3rd Light Infantry, 2 from the 17th Light Dragoons, 2 from the 49th Foot and 3 from the ‘Rall’ Grenadiers, for a total of 11.

This was therefore a resounding victory for the Crown and the rebels only had themselves to blame for daring to take up arms against their rightful king!

All in all, a cracking game, enjoyed by all and we seemed to explore almost all areas of the rules, which was the plan.  We had hoped to do another game tonight, but Andy has cried off sick, so we’re going to postpone until the 22nd, when we’ll refight the Battle of Bunker Hill.

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

8 Responses to My Return to the AWI: The Battle of White Plains, 28th October 1776

  1. Donnie says:

    Cracking looking game and some lovely figures, nice to see.

  2. David says:

    Yes, splendid game and beautiful figures. An amazing number of pictures too, including lots of relative close ups; too many blog reports show only distance shots! Thanks.



  3. Paul smith says:

    Hi Mark

    Great read as usual. Looking forward to Bunker Hill, I was there only last month (well Breed’s Hill to be picky)!

    Cheers Paul

  4. Andrew McGuire says:

    An inspirational batrep, equalling in flavour those in Charge! and The Wargame. (It hardly seems fair to compare the photos.)

    I’m obviously going to have to get my hands on the ‘superb’ rules, as well as some ‘superb’ figures to supplement – more accurately, replace – my current, largely mediocre, assortment.

    God save the King!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Andrew! Yes, ‘Charge!’ was my first inspiration for wargaming (after ‘Callan’) and I much prefer that style of game report to one that dwells too much on the mechanics of the rules (though I have done a bit of that in recent months while trying to explain my SYW rules).

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