The Advance on Leith: Battle

Looking down from the Commonwealth gun positions on Arthur’s Seat, The header photo shows their foot beginning a methodical advance toward the Scottish positions.

A couple of housekeeping notes: I am following Peter Page’s scenario as closely a possible but I have, of necessity, an extra column of boxes on the southern edge of the board. It is not part of the playing area. The trees, sheep, geese and added vegetation are only for show and do not affect game play.

The English plan is straight forward, punch through the Scots defenders and secure the approach to Leith. Lambert, confident that his experienced Commonwealth army can easily push aside the newly raised and generally untried Scots, he leads his horse and foot forward. His confidence is further bolstered by the knowledge that the Lord General while be along shortly with his powerful brigade of horse to pursue the remnants into the Forth.

<All the following photos may be enlarged by clicking>

The Commonwealth foot (Monck) and horse (Lambert) move straight into the attack. The very aggressive Lambert gets his regiment well ahead of his brigade but stops short of charging home. (Based on the Scenario I made a deployment error in some of the Scottish troops which is discussed in “thought” at the end of the post -d_guy)
A critical incident early in the battle: Lord Leven’s Brigade (foreground), nominally commanded by his teenage son (but under the strict tutelage of an experienced officer), first charges Lambert with his lancers, then administers the coup de grâce with his lifeguard. Lambert’s regiment is destroyed (although the general manages to escape back to his brigade). Note: I exempt a lifeguard unit from the rule it must automatically pursue a broken enemy -d_guy.
In the slight pause as Lambert recovers, Innes’ brigade moves forward to establish a line at the hedges south of Jock’s Lodge. To stiffen this defense, Campbell of Lawers’ (black saltire on yellow) veteran foot secures the right flank.
Cromwell’s brigade of horse now enters the field from the east along the line of the Berwick road.
Monck brings his brigade into musket range of the Scots at the hedge, while Lambert redoubles his attack, throwing Whalley’s Horse at Lord Leven’s weak brigade and Fleetwood’s at Innes’ untried infantry.
Before Whalley’s horse can contact Leven’s, they manage to pull back (OK, this was not a legal move, at least they way I did it – as we shall see, however, it doesn’t really matter – d_guy). The untried leading regiments of Innes’ brigade manfully hold the line as Lawers’ regiment pours volley after volley into the Commonwealth foot. Lambert, currently in overall command, begins to realize that he has a substantial fight on his hands.
Whalley’s and Fleetwood’s catch and demolish Leven’s brigade and are off in pursuit.
The musketry is now continuous along the front but, having taken substantial casualties, the Speyside men of Innes’ foot (white saltire on red) are beginning to waver.
To the left Cromwell’s brigade advances as a group but draws a ten chit, making it very difficult for individual second moves!
The major now commanding the General of Artillery’s foot realizes the full extent of his difficulties. To his front are both battalions of Monck’s foot and he without even a hedge for protection. Worse, approaching on his exposed flank, is a full brigade of Commonwealth cavalry. Desperate times, desperate measures. He orders the charge. So surprised are the English, that their ragged volley does nothing and the Fifeshire lads are in among them in a trice! Three unsaved hits and Monck’s first battalion breaks!
Colonel Innes extracts his own heavily damaged regiment and replaces them with Forbes of Leslie’s (yellow saltire on green) who even manage to get off a volley as they come into the line. Innes’ Brigade, considered the weakest in the army, is fighting like a cornered tiger. In the distance, Montgomrie’s brigade of Scottish lancers arrive on the scene, perfectly positioned to take the Commonwealth infantry in the rear.
At the opening of turn four the Commonwealth forces continue with disastrous chit draws. Cromwell manages to get Lilburne’s horse forward but with a draw of 10 decides to bring up the rest of his brigade first. A draw of 1 (twice!) ends his turn. Not to be outdone, Monck draws a 1 for his first activation attempt! The sheep, stunned into catatonia by the battle, lock up their legs and prepare to collapse.
At the end of turn four, the Commonwealth foot is in dire straights, with the Scots continuing to have everything go right. In the foreground Innes’ (joined by Gleneagle’s) form a line to face Cromwell’s approaching cavalry. At the same time, the General of Artillery’s foot moves out of Cromwell’s way as Montgomrie’s lancers bear down on the hapless English foot. Running low on ammunition, Campbell of Lawers’ foot (black saltire on yellow) charges and routs Maulever’s depleted second battalion (red flags).
Turn five begins with the English having given up eight of their thirteen victory points and the Scots six of their twelve. Things continue to go poorly for the English when Monck orders his attached battalion (red flags) to charge Forbes of Leslie’s foot behind the hedge. His activation fails and the replay is even worse.
Cromwell moves forward his remaining horse but is again stymied attempting a second activation (the second time he has drawn double 1’s!).
General Lambert manages to rally his brigade from their pursuit of Leven and enters the field. The English now have five regiments of cavalry in position to make a mad dash through the earthworks guarding Leith.
The Scots don’t fair much better in turn five, although their lancers inflict some damage on the Commonwealth foot. Colonel Innes fails to rally off a disorder from his own foot regiment.
The charge of the English horse: Cromwell’s first regiment takes out Innes’ foot and turns to pursue. It is clear that that pursuit will take Gleneagles in the flank. Working systematically, he now moves his second regiment into position to charge into the flank of Forbes of Leslie’s infantry. Before attempting second activations, he makes a fatal mistake. He orders his third regiment to charge the General of Artillery’s foot. It fails to activate (yet another 1)!
General Lambert charges Gleneagles with his now exhausted horse but they fail to accomplish anything. Adding insult to injury, Colonel Monk once again fails to activated his depleted and disordered infantry brigade.
If the Scots can now destroy the remnants of of Monk’s foot they will win the battle. It is also obvious that if given a second chance Cromwell will likely overwhelm their own infantry with flank charges. The Scots attack everywhere with renewed ferocity. Sir John Browne’s veteran lancers, their lances lost or shattered, their pistols empty and their horse blown, charge Monck’s exhausted second battalion and by swords alone, break them.
The remnant of the English foot, Maulever’s first battalion, is then assaulted by Sir Charles Arnott’s lancers from the rear and by Campbell of Lawers’ foot from the flank. They can not withstand the deluge and break with Colonel Monk being taken prisoner. The battle is over, the English giving up fifteen victory points to the Scots loss of nine.
In the foreground the Commonwealth cavalry departs toward the East, leaving behind over two thousand men and a battery of guns.

Thoughts on the Game (for the few readers interested in such things!😄)

The scenario seems fairly well balanced. The opposing armies are about the same size but the Commonwealth is much superior in experience. The Scots have the advantage of fighting in defensive positions and, while the foot is mostly raw and untried, they have a three to two advantage in numbers. The Scots horse are of better quality than the foot although holding no numerical advantage over the English. They are all lance armed, however, which gives them initial hitting power equal to the Commonwealth horse.

Adding melee weapons (AKS markers in the Celtic Fringe proposed rule extension) to one of the Scottish foot regiments in each brigade obviously is an advantage to the Scots. Peter made an adjustment to the proposed rule but one supported by history. I like that he made the two AKS (in this case halberdiers) a brigade resource. I added them to the extreme flank regiments, the General of Artilley’s on the left of Innes’ brigade and to Campbell of Lawer’s on the right of Lawer’s brigade. This, incidentally, makes Lawer’s veteran foot the most powerful foot unit on the board. Using the AKS to bleed off an unsaved hit allowed each regiment to be very effective, destroying between them (with some help) three Commonwealth foot regiments. This is likely too powerful an effect. In the original proposed rules there is a trade off in lowering unit size to accommodate the melee weapons (AKS) marker. Still, I commend Peter for giving this a try!

As Peter has pointed out making the steep slope squares of Arthur’s Seat passable only to Forlorn Hopes makes them a “side show” to the main event. For the Scots, it provides a near impassable anchor for their right flank (a pretty good simulation of the defenses Alexander Leslie, Lord Leven quickly put in place to defend Edinburgh in the actual campaign). Actually using the limited forces allowed in the area is greatly discouraged by the command structures of both armies (as Peter intended, I think). If I replay this again with my own more granular tactical rules I’ll have the guns and supporting forces each in their own brigade (with a couple additional skirmish musketeers pieces added in). I might also add the two AKS to the Scots brigade.

Speaking of the command structure, the Scots have another advantage, five field officers to the English three. Both sides have two commanded cavalry brigades but all the Commonwealth infantry where in a single brigade. This magnified the effects of a failed activation. An interesting variant would be to promote Monck to Major General of foot with each two battalion regiment becoming a brigade. Monck would command one and a Colonel the other. Having an “unassigned” Commanding General (David Leslie) also imparts some advantage to the Scots.

There is some leeway in the Scottish deployment and I confess I made an error in following the scenario setup. Innes and Leven’s Brigade should have been deployed about three boxes further to the east (toward Southmains). This error allowed the Scots to “steal” a move on the English. Given the subsequent problem the Commonwealth had in activating their brigades this error was probably minimized. Had I been playing an actual opponent, I am sure the English player would have vociferously objected to the Scots deployment. 😀

Deciding where Cromwell should enter the field is a critical decision. To me it seemed clear that coming up the Berwick road was the clear choice. The ground is very open and there is generally (the position of Leven’s weak cavalry brigade not withstanding) a clear shot at the Scots’ left flank. It would be interesting to randomize the entry point.

Many thanks to Peter for this very playable scenario and to Paul as well for the AAR’s (and pics) they provided of the play throughs in New Zealand.

Likely I will now move back to looking at Alford (1645) but MAY first play out a mini-scenario of the above to resolve the fighting on the slopes of Arthur’s Seat.

5 thoughts on “The Advance on Leith: Battle

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