Hated Spy

Last night we played a scenario of Sharp Practice set in the American Revolutionary War.

In December of 1781, Benedict Arnold, now a British General invaded Virginia in an attempt to disrupt the State’s support of General Greene’s forces in the Carolinas.  With a force consisting mostly of Hessians and Loyalists, Arnold landed unmolested in Portsmouth and preceded to raid up the James River until he reached and burned the new capital at Richmond.

Returning to Portsmouth, Arnold turned his attention to securing the deepwater port. This meant defending not only the town but also a redoubt on the road to Portsmouth from North Carolina called Fort Murray (Great Bridge) and Kemps Landing.  Arnold was hard pressed to defend all of this and to maintain his anti-partisan orders with his small numbers.

Virginia was suffering her own challenges.  The state was embarrassed by how little defense they had been able to muster to defend their capital and their fort on the James that was intended to be impassable (Ft Hood) proved little more than an annoyance.  Now, two months later both Generals Muhlenberg and Nelson had raised some militias but mostly they sat and watched.


This interim period, while Arnold sat in Portsmouth is filled with the sorts of actions that make the new campaign style in Dawns and Departures come alive.  The British are constantly moving their forces around their three main garrisons as well as harassing the inhabitants, looking for partisans, destroying American material of war, and foraging supplies and horses.  Two of the main forces of Arnold’s command are the Queen’s Rangers and Ewals Hessian Jagers.  Not only are the colorful and interesting troops both both Simcoe and Ewald have left memoirs which detail some of the action.

The American are more difficult to get specifics on and were mostly just militia forces, but they are under the command of Captain Amos Weeks who appears to be something of a local “swamp fox”.  Probably a relocated Conneticuit man, Weeks was leading a hit and run partisan campaign based out of the Dismal Swamp.

Our scenario was fictional, though it was built around a real event.  Ewald fought at James Plantation in a failed attempt to capture Weeks.  Weeks had been warned of their intentions by a young lady living in Portsmouth.  Our scenario was the rescue out of the rule book.  Some of Simcoe’s rangers had caught Polly and were holding her in the tobacco barn at James’ Plantation as a spy.  They are awaiting Ewald’s return to take possession of her.  In the Meantime Capt Weeks tries a brave rescue.


The Americans had a secondary deployment not far from the tobacco barn, and Weeks had his best troops, Some Virginia State men deployed there amongst the outbuildings of the plantation.



A small group of Rangers try to hold off the Virginians


The first of Ewald’s men to arrive were the skirmishers of the Queen’s Rangers who in a frenzy of spirit disregarded their orders and surged forward at some american militia skirmishers.  Their sargent, deciding that it was better to take advantage of the situtation that to try to regain their control ordered rushed them forward and the devastated one to the two goups.  The others would continue to fight on in a fire fight that continued for most of the rest of the battle.  Both sides fought bravely and hard, but the Ranger Sargent continued even after having been wounded twice.


When Captain Ewald arrived, he ordered one group of Jagers to help the Ranger skirmishers and then threatened the Princess Anne County Militia who were attempting to hold the American route of escape.



The Skirmishers fight by the Quarters while the Militia holds near the Barn

The militia fired a powerful first volley into Ewald’s Jager screen, sending them running but after that the firing between the main forces seemed to be having little affect.   For much of the game the advantage of momentum seemed to be going tpo the Americans and the British force morale was wavering.  Some of this was bad luck of card pulls, some of it was lack of familiarity with the rules some was just bad dice.  The Americans, seeing that the British Force Morale was collapsing decided to change their priority to that.  Figuring that if the drove Ewald off then they could take as long as they like to save Polly.

The British than through it all on one mad die.  They used their “Thin Red Line”.  This allows the British to fire a volley and then rush in with extra movement.  The caused some shock, but the movement left them just an inch short of their target!  It looked like their cause was lost, they were down to 2 or 3 force morale and inch from their target at the end of that turn.  We almost stopped playing, with the opinion that the British cause was lost.  It was decided to play one more turn, and miraculously the first card was Ewald!

The superior abilities of the Rangers saved them now.  Both groups of Militia were routed right off the table and a constant barrage of Bad Things Happen rolls took the Americans right to a complete collapse.