Rob staged an English Civil War refight of the battle of Cheriton (29 March 1644) at the War Room on Sunday, using his splendid 28mm figure collection and house rules.
The battle pitted Sir William Waller's larger Parliamentary Army of the Southern Association against a smaller Royalist army led by the Earl of Forth and Sir Ralph Hopton, in a struggle for dominance in Hampshire.
Fighting for Parliament were Brian, Trevor, Doug, Mal, and Tim, with Phil as their C-in-C. The Royalists comprised Pete, Alex and Richard.
Both sides were set up historically along two hills, with hedges and the village of Cheriton on one flank and a large wooded hill on the other. They could, however, change the location of one brigade during the set up phase. Nevertheless the Parliamentary side had to take the Royalist hill to win the game.
Mal began an advance with his cavalry on the parliamentary left flank against Alex’s royalist horse, which also moved forward.
In the centre, Trevor started moving the infantry forward, while Doug did likewise with his dragoons on the parliamentary right – another unit of which was already in the wood on the hill.
Alex’s dragoons on the royalist right began to skirmish against Mal’s horse, and proved pesky throughout the game. Artillery fire on either side proved to be less effective, however.
Parliamentary infantry brigades made a significant advance in the centre, towards the royalist infantry on the hill.
Mal’s and Alex’s cavalry clashed on the parliamentary left, which led to both sides losing a general. Alex’s cavalry brigade routed and was later removed from play, but Mal’s ended up shaken.
Doug’s second unit of dragoons continued to move up the wooded hill, while his first unit was deployed on the edge of the wood facing Richard’s royalist left flank.
Parliamentary infantry was now edging towards the royalist battle line, with Brian approaching Pete’s regiments, and Trevor moving on Richard’s units.
Alex’s other cavalry brigade moved towards Tim’s parliamentary horse near the village of Cheriton.
To advance to contact, Brian had to manouevre his orange regiments out of the way of the continuing clash between Alex and Tim’s cavalry.
Meanwhile, Alex initially sent in one regiment of horse from his remaining cavalry brigade against Tim, with two held back.
Two of Trevor’s regiments went into close combat against Pete’s infantry on the royalist-held hill. Unfortunately, one of them ran away before closing. The other closed in but took seven hits.
The leading infantry regiment in Trevor’s brigade facing Richard was also taking losses from two of Richard’s regiments deployed in a cross-fire position.
More of Alex’s cavalry was committed to two separate melees against Tim’s horse, and routed two of Tim’s regiments in one action as well as killing his commander. But Alex lost the other melee and lost two of his own cavalry units. Both Tim and Alex pursued their respective opposing fleeing units.
Mal now managed to advance his cavalry to secure the parliamentary left...
...just as Doug ascended the hill held by Richard’s veteran musketeers on the royalist far left.
In the centre, meanwhile, Brian’s blue regiment entered the fray in support of Trevor’s infantry.
However, after conducting repeated assaults, the parliamentary centre was starting to falter... Brian’s blue regiment routed as did Trevor’s regiment in contact with Pete’s infantry, and another from the third brigade - on the right. Three parliamentary battalions had now been lost in short order.
Trevor moved up his two remaining units on the centre-right against the royalist battle-line. His green regiment was still in contact with Pete’s line, and both units in the fight lost their generals.
Brian advanced with the two orange regiments and managed to rout Pete’s white regiment in a close combat.
Parliament now held the advantage on their left: five of their cavalry units survived, against Alex’s one of cavalry and one of dragoons. In the centre, each side had been reduced to five infantry regiments apiece, but the royalists were standing firm.
Things now rapidly unraveled for the parliamentary army. Trevor’s two remaining battalions on his right continued to press their attack but were duly routed by Richard. The green regiment fighting Pete in the centre also gave up the ghost soon after.
Brian, following up after routing Pete’s white regiment, moved up his two orange battalions but they were now all that was left of the parliamentary infantry.
Doug had been firing on Richard’s infantry, but now failed a morale test and had to withdraw his dismounted dragoons on the parliamentary right flank.
Thus ended the game.
The game was over by 3:15pm, with Waller duly mullered and the parliamentary infantry decimated, even though the royalist cavalry had been almost wiped out. Until turn six, though, it was uncertain who held the advantage.
A postmortem discussion revealed that the parliamentary infantry had not been well coordinated, should have lined up against the royalist infantry better, and could have used double movement to get in more quickly. These failures allowed the royalists to fight off each battalion as it came in piecemeal. Packing in three lines of foot into a relatively narrow centre also negated the parliamentary numerical advantage.
Thanks to Rob for umpiring a visually spectacular and gripping game, and hospitality. Our refight was short but satisfyingly decisive, and reversed the historical outcome, while reminding us how crucial it is to deploy effectively for an attack.