North Tyrone – Ireland – November, 1641

I have been reading about the early days of the Irish Rebellion of 1641 and want to try using some of the ad hoc combat pieces I’ve been putting together. Historically the insurgency (led by members of the Catholic gentry) had long been planned and began on October 23, 1641. Almost immediately there was a near  spontaneous uprising by Catholics  throughout the country. The insurgency and uprising flowed into each other but without good control or planning and with a myriad of objectives not all of which were compatible with one another. Because of the very confused situation, I will need to take a good deal of historic license to put together a coherent wargame.

The insurgency had the initial (and limited) goal of taking several of the government fortified places (for negotiation purposes) and was largely successful. However, it failed its chief objective of overthrowing Dublin Castle (due to a premature discovery of the plot), thus leaving the government leadership intact. The parallel popular uprising generally took the form of small groups of Catholics attacking smaller groups of Protestant families (often single households) and, in the initial stages at least, both groups knew each other and had lived peaceably together for years. As the rebellion grew the encounters became more violent and bloody. What began as an attempt to simply seize goods (and often property and loan documents that were considered unfairly or illegally acquired) took on a life of its own and evolved quickly into something that apparently no one had anticipated. I will leave the professional historians to sort out all of the causes and motivations involved.

I am focusing on north-central Ulster for this particular wargame and presuppose a largely Protestant village (English and some Scots) that I’ll call Ballamoy which has been warned of an impending raid by a strong catholic force. This force has only recently been organized and is still lacking in military supplies (and discipline) with only a few firearms. By late November some of the small government garrisons in the north are beginning to form the core of what will become the Anglo-Scots Laggan army but they are as yet very weak. The English gentry in and around Ballamoy have been preparing for the possibility of a raid  for nearly a month and are now  beginning the evacuation of the area and forming a militia of sorts. Requests for help have also been sent to Derry and Coleraine.

The road running north through the village of Balleyeasca

The road running north through the village of Ballamoy

The best intelligence (obtained by Sir Hexham Babbington’s wife from one of her Catholic milkmaids) is that the enemy forces will approach from the south across the long plain that serves as the community’s common grazing area. Sir Hex is the only man in the region with command experience in the military (a stint with the Swedish army some ten years ago) and it has been his efforts that have propelled the preparations over the last several weeks.  A man given to romantic posturings, he quickly pens a love poem to a woman he had met during his brief stay in Helsingborg more than a decade ago, followed by a set of terse instructions to his wife should “he fail to rise from the battlefield”.

The village of Ballamoy lies along an important north-south road near the Foyle river valley and its immediate area can be quickly surveyed by dividing it into three more-or-less equal regions.

The southern approach to Balleyeasca with terrain features marked

The southern approach to Ballamoy with terrain features marked

The road runs across the southern plain, between two hills (Grove Hill and Church Hill) and into Ballamoy proper. The red lines indicate the beginning of the up-slope to each hill (and require a mandatory stop for any piece that encounters them). As the road approaches the village it is closely hemmed in to the west by a rough field (now in stubble from the recent harvest) and a hedge. Any hedge requires a mandatory stop and movement through rough fields is reduced. A low wall guards entry into the village. Just to the east of the settlement is Caerbannog Bog which is impassable to any movement. The church (Protestant) on Church Hill has an impassable rock face to its west and a strong stone wall on two sides.

The village of Balleyeasca with terrain features marked

The village of Ballamoy with terrain features marked

More rough fields and hedges lie north of the village tightly constricting the road until it reaches Ballamoy Bridge which crosses a small stream (usually called simply “the stream”). While fordable along its length it does require a mandatory stop unless crossing on the bridge.  To the north of the stream is Town Hill, a wooded prominence over which the road runs. All wooded areas (in dark green) force a movement reduction but do provide cover. Between Caerbannog Bog and the rough field to the east of the road are two small ponds called “The Big Sink” and the “Little Sink”. They are also impassable (although pieces may be able to maneuver around them).  The gray area underlining the village of Ballamoy (and the church) indicates that any pieces within receive a cover bonus.

The road running north out of Balleyeasca with terrain features marked

The road running north out of Ballamoy with terrain features marked

Across from Town Hill is another, steeper hill known as North Pass Hill. A small stream (fordable but mandatory stop) flows between these two hills to join “the stream” west of the bridge. Any hope of help will come down the road from this direction.

I am now playing around with the force make-up for both sides and figuring out the objectives. Once I have the Orders of Battles completed and the scenario set I’ll post on this subject again. It’s fun to take a break from working out how to wargame actual battles!

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