Saturday 21 December 2019

The Last Christmas Post

Well this is a busy week for me, what with Christmas, my birthday on the 29th and then our wedding anniversary on 30th December, swiftly followed by the New Year.

By common consent this looks like the last of these I will see, but you never know I didn't expect to get this far.  I will keep posting and gaming for as long as possible, it would be great to reach the spring.  I would however, like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your good wishes and encouragement over the recent months.  I can assure you they have been greatly appreciated and uplifting.  

I have really enjoyed running this blog and our sister site 'All Things Jacklex' and taking pictures (maybe too many on occasions)  and it has been a source of some pleasure that so many of you have enjoyed them.  You will have to put up with them a little while longer!

So a very Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Some extracts of the aftermath of Waterloo written in 1817

About 25 years ago or so I bought 2 volumes of the History of the Wars from a second hand book shop in the Charing Cross Road in London.  The spines were in a poor state and the covers were detached on both volumes.  But they were printed in 1817 and contained amongst a host of other things, first-hand accounts of the Battle of Waterloo and unusually, the aftermath.

I promised myself that I would get them bound and repaired and they sat on the self and I would open them to get information on naval engagements were I would find ships names, captains and number of guns and crew. 

Finally, even though I have the big ‘C’ I decided to get them bound as a last Christmas present to myself.  I managed to find a bookbinder in a small town outside of London who wasn’t going to bankrupt me for repairing the books and was enthusiastic to work on them.

I now have them back and thought I would share some extracts of the aftermath of Waterloo which perhaps we are inclined to overlook. 

Although these are accounts of Waterloo they probably hold true for many of the battles of the early 19th century where warfare involved large numbers of troops.  These are just a few of the many descriptions.  The numbers may or may not be right but again come straight from the books.

‘The field of battle the next morning presented a most melancholy sight.  About 45,000 dead all of whom had been stripped naked and perhaps the same number of wounded whom as yet it had been impossible to remove lay crowed in a narrow space.  Near 25,000 horses, dead or wounded lay mixed with their former riders and increased the horrors of the scene.  It was not so much the ghastly wounds which had deprived them of life which disfigured them their mangled remains.  But these had been further trampled by the cavalry, crushed by the artillery and torn to pieces by the continued showers of bullets vomited forth over the positions.  The number of dead upon the field of battle, said an eye witness could not be numbered.  It presented on the 19th, said one who saw it, a spectacle like an army asleep.’

It continues

‘For many days several thousand carriages, and many peasants from the surrounding countryside, even as far as Mons, were employed in burning or burying the dead.  The task was not only loathsome, but dangerous and the Prussians were absolutely forced to compel them at the point of the bayonet.  To avoid infection from the corrupting remains, the peasants first dug large pits, and then, by means of large hooks, dragged the bodies into them.  The country for several miles, presented the appearance of one continued large groups of hillocks, so thickly was its surface covered with large graves in which hundreds of bodies of men and horses were thrown together. In one acre of ground a beholder counted 40 graves thus filled with dead’. 

‘The weather having become dry after the burial, the wet mould, which had not been thrown over them to sufficient depth cracked from the heat, and opening , shewed, in  some places their ghastly remains.’

‘Notwithstanding the burning and burying, the smell from their putrid carcasses was insufferable and a pestilential gale continued to be wafted over the surrounding countryside from this theatre of death.  For many days the number of carrion flies which fed on the dead bodies was dreadful and most annoying to those who visited the spot.’

‘It is said that some soldiers absolutely lost their reason from the remembrance of the dreadful scene’ (an early account of PTSD?)

At Houghmont every tree in the wood seemed as if blighted and were pieced with cannon-bullets.  Some were pierced with 20.  The branches were broken off and destroyed. Immense graves and dreadful heaps of ashes, the remains of burnt bodies, marked the fatal spot.  Broken swords, helmets, torn epaulets and sabre sashes, bathed in blood shewed how furious and destructive the battle had been here.  Mixed with these were seen the flaring red poppy, rearing its head among the fresh dug mould’.....’Soldiers caps, pierced with many a ball helmets, cuirasses, tattered clothes, cartouche boxes, military decorations, crosses of the legion honour.  French novels, German testaments, packets of cards, letters from lovers to the object of their affection, from parents to their children mangled bodies, legs, heads in helmets intended to protect them, and arms strewed in fearful confusion lay along these bloody fields’

The book also contains many letters and extracts from British Officers recounting their recollections of the battle.  Interestingly amongst these is the extract from a letter from Serjeant* Ewart of the Scots Greys who took the French Eagle. (*not a typo, the way it is spelt in the book)

‘The enemy began forming their line of battle about nine in the morning of the 18th: we did not commence till ten.  I think it was almost eleven when we were ready to receive them.  They began upon our right  with the most tremendous firing that ever was heard, and I can assure you, they got it as bad as they gave it: then it came down to the left, where they were received by our brave Highlanders.  No men could ever behave better: our brigade of cavalry covered them. Owing to a column of foreign troops giving way , our brigade was forced to advance to support our brave fellows and which we certainly did in style; we charged through two columns each about 5,000; it was on the first charge that I took the eagle from the enemy; he and I had a hard contest for it; he thrust for my groin – I parried it off and cut him through the head; after which I was attacked by one of their lancers, who threw his lance at me, but missed the mark, by my throwing it off with my sword by my right side; then I cut him from the chin upwards, which went through his teeth; next I was attacked by a foot soldier, who, after firing  charged me with is bayonet – but he very soon lost the combat, for I parried it and cut him down through the head; so that I finished the contest for the eagle.  After which I presumed to follow my comrades, eagle and all but was stopped by the general saying to me “You brave fellow, take that to the rear: you have done enough until you get quit of it:” which I was obliged to do but with great reluctance.  I retired to the height and stood there for upwards of an hour, which gave a general view of the field, but I cannot express the horrors I beheld; the bodies of my brave comrades were lying so thick upon the field that it was scarcely possible to pass and horses innumerable.  I took the eagle into Brussels amidst the acclamation of thousands that saw it’.

There are also accounts from Prussian Spanish and other observers at the battle as well of course of descriptions from both the British and French sides.  But these two volumes contain so much more in their densely packed text, the Battle of New Orleans; Nelson’s great naval battles as well as many more much smaller but important naval engagements; and the campaigns in Portugal and Spain.  My only question to myself is why didn’t I get them rebound and repaired years ago?

Sunday 8 December 2019

28mm ACW - A little bit of Everything Game

Well finally felt well enough after Chemo treatment to try our 28mm ‘everything in the pot ACW game’  I took a lot of pictures and I am afraid that you will have to suffer a lot of them. Sorry.  It also represents the last game on my big table in my loft - all dismantled now.  Five flights of stairs in a Victorian London Terrace are proving more of a challenge! Still aim to carry on gaming for as long as I can but will use the dinning table instead.  Also means Jack can join in as the can't do the loft!

Given the Confederates entrenched positions and knowing how difficult these had been to take in other games using Black Powder, we agreed that the Union forces should be further reinforced by another Brigade of 4 regiments of infantry.

The Union forces started with an all out assault Bob relying on speed to try to get to the Confederate raider before she could escape.

The Union cavalry charged forward catching the militia unit guarding the herd.   This was a freshly raised unit and the sight of the Union cavalry struck terror into them only giving them a chance to hit anything with a roll of D6.  Needless to say they missed and were cut down by the cavalry and the herd scattered.  However the gunfire alerted the Confederate forces.

Across the rest of the front the Union infantry hesitated and didn’t make great strides towards the Confederate lines.

On the river the Confederate patrol boat suddenly discovered it was being pursued by 3 Union boats .  Not something I was expecting.  Shades of the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat race.   The Confederate boat couldn’t pull clear enough to turn around to use it’s gun and I just had to keep going towards the raider hoping all the time that Bob’s ships guns wouldn’t sink me!

Whilst this was going on, unaware of the river threat, the main gun on the raider was being loaded and turned to face the threat of the advancing union infantry. 

It was only a lucky shot from one of the Union bow guns that disordered the raider’s gunners that alerted then to the real threat.  In the meantime they had managed to score a direct hit on the 30th New York infantry forcing them to badly fail a Break Test and leave the field.

With his cavalry largely unable to advance further because of the Confederate defences, Bob decided to dismount first one regiment and then the other and engage in a fire fight.  This pinned the confederate forces.

Whilst the raider then reloaded and turned its bow gun to deal with the river boat threat, the rear gun was loaded and turned to face a now growing infantry threat.


Panic was being to ensue on the raider all attempts to get the boilers going were failing and the crew were rushing to try to ward off the advancing Union flotilla.

The noise of the Union light ships guns alerted Col Jackson of the 47th Alabama whose regiment was engaged in a fire fight with the Union cavalry.  Unable to leave the defences, he sent half his men to the river side to fire at the passing Union boats to try to disrupt them.  They managed to Disorder one reducing it’s speed by half whilst the rowers got their act together.

In the meantime all attempts to roll a D6 to get the slaves to revolt were failing but the Union troops kept advancing.  A fresh Confederate Regiment came off the train to prepare to take up position.  Whilst it proved impossible me throughout the entire game to roll any sixes to restart the train’s boiler, I did manage one six to get one of the 2 raiders boilers fired.  I just needed one more six to get the other one going and smash through Bob’s boats!

The Confederate Marines rushed to try to fill the gaps in the centre of the line.

Whilst the defences meant that the Confederates were taking little or no casualties, Bob’s Union force pushed on across the entire front preventing me from moving troops.  Soon the Union the forces had moved to close range and it was only a matter of time before they hurled themselves at the defences.

The final assault came all along the line.

On the river the slower of the Bob’s Union boats found itself exposed at close range to the raider’s main gun.  Needless to say it didn’t survive!

But it was all going horrible wrong. Everywhere except on the one section of defence’s left hand side my forces were pushed back in melees.  Not only did the Militia unit hold, they forced back the 1st US Sharpshooters, and seemed to be doing well against the 80th New York (with the smart yellow flag).  Then it happened! A D6 and the slaves seeing how close their saviours were decided to get involved! One shot and a lucky D6 was all it took to disorder the Militia and the 80th were over the barricade and getting to work. 

There were odd success but not enough one Union regiment was through back , but another took its place.

Worse still the union boats drew alongside the Raider and their crews engaged in hand to hand fighting with the crew on board.

Whilst the crew were rushing to try to see off the river threat a gap occurred in my line which I couldn’t fill and although the Confederate Marines put up a good show against the New York Chasseurs.  Two of Bob’s infantry regiments stormed through the gap and found the undefended side of the Raider and it was all over!

My patrol boat rowed off up-stream to deliver news of the disaster!

For all of the odd bits and pieces I had put out on the table, the rules, with a bit of common sense, worked surprisingly well.  The Union would have failed without the extra Brigade and we allowed the river boats to up their ‘stroke rates’ on 2 occasions to be able to move 6 inches instead of three.  They couldn't reload when this was happening and could only fire every other go.

I never thought it would be so difficult to throw a D6 for the Train and Ships boilers.  We even thought we would change it in the course of the game, so you only had to get above the number on the next roll to help.  That of course was the only time we rolled a six!

It was great fun anyway and good to see everything out.  Jack scratch built the Church, the Rider and the Warehouse building, and some of the Boats.  He also made up the Black Hat regiment in one of the pictures.  The boat crews are from Britannia Models Napoleonic range which head swaps from the Redoubt Naval and infantry range with lapels and braiding cut away.  The union sailors are First Corp, Confederate sailors are Redoubt.  Almost all the other figures are Perry Plastics, with the exception of a few Haitians from Trent Miniatures and a few African Sailors from the Reviresco range.

Sunday 1 December 2019

A Bit More Ancient Nostalgia - Chen's Persians

I published pictures of my Ancient Assyrians which I painted over 45 years ago.  At the time I said that I would try to get my old friend Chensie Chen to take some pictures of his 25mm Hinchliffe Ancient Achmaenid Persians.  Like my Assyrians these were painted over 45 years ago and look like the paint has stood the test of time.  Again, like my figures they have never seen action since the days when we would meet up on a Sunday and somehow use the old WRG 5th Edition rules.

So for a trip down memory lane when wargames figures were cheap(ish)  I give you Chen's rather nice looking Persians.


Can't find these in the Hinchcliffe listing so I am wondering if they were a Tradition figure?

Somehow these lads put up a good show against my Assyrians often beating them.  I think it had to do with the Persian archers having the bonus of being behind shields in archery exchanges; the camels being disruptive and of course things I remember seeing constant arguments in the 'Slingshot' about two handed cutting weapons!