Friday, 7 January 2022

1776 And All That (Part the Second)

The Battle Prep.:

Having had a good old poke about online looking at period, near period and modern (from Victorian to modern topographical) maps I have come up with a rough sketch map of the area, with which I'm reasonably happy.

On this I have set out what I think is a reasonable position for Gates to adopt, based on the decisions made in the previous post.

Using this map (and as I am "playing" him) I have formulated Burgoyne's general plan of approach. 

Burgoyne will NOT launch a major attack via the town (street fighting is too messy.. Plus he does not want his troops and Indians running amok among the warehouses - he want the town and its supplies intact). Instead, he will move towards the town, then pull most of his force off the Albany/Ft. Edward road and up the track to Cahos Falls (and the Mohawk River  - with its portage and ferry connections). This gives him two practical lines of retreat to his bridgehead if he is repulsed. Here he will set up his main line of battle and his batteries.
From the above map I have cut a "Table Map" (below) scaled to my Wargames Table and covering the area most likely to be affected by Burgoyne's' (my) plan; i.e. the northern flank of gates's position. This terrain will be laid out on the Wargames Table.  

I have allowed Gates to dig-in (basic entrenchments) during the time Burgoyne has been faffing about. This seems fair and in character. it will also make my job (as Burgoyne) harder.

While the rough layout of Gates's defences has been viewed from the high ground north of the Paltroon Creek valley and probed by his scouts, Burgoyne (i.e. me) does not know how exactly how Gates has deployed his actual forces.

Clinton, to the south, is still an unknown quantity. In theory he could "march to the guns" once the battle gets started in earnest. This will be an in-game decision, but would complicate matters as, assuming Gates will have set up some kind of defence to cover himself from Clinton, he would have to fight his way onto the ridge or into the town or even across Normans Creek (or even be really clever and try to outflank Gates by crossing Normans Creek further upstream). To be fair this ought to be fought as a separate action.

The British Battle Plan 

This is a real Gambler's Throw...

The British Plan is to set up their heavy artillery on the northern ridge (using the track to the Ft. Edward road for access) to play on the enemy, while a reconnaissance in force (Light Companies, Jaegers and Indians under Fraser) moves through the woodlands to the west-cum-north-west to feel out Gates's western flank and attract his attention to that point of the field.

When the time is ripe, and gates engaged on his flank, the main force will then make as if to push from the northern ridge, across the relatively open area of mainly farmland in the Patroon creek valley, to demonstrate, and if opportunity allows, attack Gates's north facing entrenchments.

At the same time, with Gates now distracted, two picked regiments will swiftly enter the town and secure the warehouse district (off table). Once the docks and warehouses are secured one regiment may be used to push up to the dilapidated fort and secure that and the defences facing Gates's position. However, that would be a bonus and at the discretion of the officer in command.

We may find the Gates has placed forces in the town. If these are in any strength the attempt to take the warehouses will be aborted. 

Meanwhile a force made up of Hessian and British Grenadiers, under Von Riedesel, supported by a sudden and concentrated artillery barrage, will thrust up the bostals where the two small tributaries of the Platroon cut into the slopes of Gates's ridge, near the north end of the town entrenchment, to take the small redoubt there. 

[There are no tracks actually marked on the period maps, but it seems reasonable to assume that these little valleys would be regularly used to access the top of the ridge from the valley/farmland - see pic from Mr. Google above, looking up towards the ridge - and thus, at the very least, have paths up them.] 

With both his flanks threatened it is thought Gates will likely pull back from his defences facing the Paltroon Valley, possibly allowing these to be overrun by the British by the main force with light losses.

He may withdraw into the town of course, or pull back to his southern (south-facing) defences, and hunker down there.

However, with luck - and bearing in mind Clinton breathing down his neck in the south - forcing him to fall back MAY end with him attempting to withdraw along to the track to Schenectady (and Lafayette) rather than heading into Albany to make a fight of it there. However, this will rely on him not feeling too pressed by the Lights and Indians.

If he takes the Schenectady route he can then be 
harassed by the lights and Indians to see him on his way.

If he simply concentrates in the south then a combined attack by both Burgoyne and Clinton should end him tomorrow. 

If he pulls into Albany this will be a bit of a pain (and a risk to the warehouses?), but the combined heavy artillery of Burgoyne and Clinton on the heights should make him see sense in a day or two.

Gates's Plan:

Not known to me... We can guess at:

First: To preserve his army as a fighting force.
Second: To see off the British.
Third: To hold Albany and prevent the warehouses etc. falling into British hands.

If he succeeds achieving a stalemate there is a light chance that the British may falter, giving Lafayette the chance to come to Gate's assistance in the coming weeks.

Of course, with gung-ho commanders like Arnold in his army he may have difficulties here and there.

Victory Conditions:

I'm a great believer in Victory Conditions suiting the contemporary narrative, not being "points" based, based on the military ideal or some retrospective concept of "aims" as imposed by historians.

With Gates his (unknown to me and to be decided post battle) Victory Conditions will match with the above plan. With Burgoyne self-interest will have an influence on the British Victory conditions...

OK, if Gates pulls out towards Lafayette this will not achieve a decisive victory for the British since Gates's army will likely have suffered few serous losses. However, from Burgoyne's personal point of view this is possibly the best result since it will mean:

1) Burgoyne 
(and not Clinton) will have been seen to have defeated the enemy - and alone, with no help from "sluggard" Clinton.

Burgoyne (and not Clinton) will have captured Albany intact (Yay Burgoyne!).

3) As a result it will be Burgoyne 
(and not Clinton) who will be seen to have given the Rebels a bloody nose, and hence it will be Burgoyne who will be lionised in the newsheets, given a vote of thanks in Parliament, congratulated by the king etc. etc. etc.  Who knows, there may even be a complimentary cartoon to prop up on the mantelpiece... ? Or maybe there's even a play in it..? Here's dreaming....

So let's say British Conditions are:

First: Push Gates from his northern defences and secure the warehouses in Albany, with minimal losses.

Take Albany, pushing Gates aside, and effecting a junction with Clinton.

Third: Drive Gates reeling towards Schenectady and take Albany.

Pre-Battle Thoughts:

This has the makings of an interesting fight. The British plan is perhaps over complex - a real Gambler's Plan - which could go VERY astray. Gates (or at least his sub-commanders) is a bit of an unknown quantity. He may be sensibly cautious. He may be prompted by others to be more aggressive. 

Apropos Burgoyne himself; I first became aware of the fascinating "Gentleman Johnny" at school via a play reading of Shaw's "The Devil's Disciple" (I read "The Sergeant") and, about the same time, an account of Saratoga in my childhood book club copy of "Great Military Battles" by Cyril Bentham Falls. I have yet to read any of Burgoyne's plays, but have seen some of his verse. An interesting guy...

In passing, I stumbled across this somewhat idiosyncratic biography of Burgoyne online the other day.. A little odd, and somewhat dated perhaps, but I found it amusing - plus providing some interesting scenarios in his earlier adventures... 

So.. All I have to do now is finish some scratch-built field defences and set up the table, and we're away.... I will try to make sure the post battle report contains details of the "Decision Process" and C&C Difficulty issues.  Watch, as they say, this space....

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