Sunday, August 28, 2016

BIG Battles using Sharp Practice - The Battle of Cowpens 1781

Less than two weeks before the Wyvern's Annual all dayer and this year we are taking Sharp Practice up a level.

One of the best things about gaming in a club enviroment rather than the mid-week kitchen table experience is the ability to bring several players together on a far larger gaming area. Over recent weeks many us have played Sharp Practice with a single force. But could this be scaled up to a larger battle keeping everyone engaged and retaining the original feel of Sharp Practice?

Carl at the club has a massive AWI collection which needs a good outing every now and again and with several players willing to take part. The challange was to find an encounter that played to the strengths of Sharp Practice and gives everyone a full days gaming experience rather than having people playing a bit part or having nothing to do for long periods.

Battle of Cowpens, January 17, 1781

After much consideration and flicking through the bookshelf The Battle of Cowpens 1781 seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

This encounter has several elements which make it perfect for Sharp Practice.
  • Around 1000 combatants per side.
  • Both sides experienced faltering morale which they need to recover to get back in the fight (Shock.)
  • A number of seprate bridgades of which could have a separate commander and force morale.
  • A limited amount of Cavalry on both sides, but scope for extra's (Support points).
  • Well known Big Men Lt Col. Tarleton of the 17th Light Dragoons and Colonel Daniel Morgan of the Continential Army. Both of which have a significant part to play.
  • A table layout with lends itself to Deployment Points within the rules.
  • An encounter played over a narrow frontage with the option for strength in depth which allowed players to be engaged all day and reach the centre of the table (Always a must on BIG games.)
Account. The war in the southern colonies had become something of a stalemate, neither side having sufficient strength to hazard full out offensive operations.
Tarleton had made his reputation in the southern colonies as a ruthless and impetuous commander. Pursued by Tarleton, Morgan determined to make a stand by the Broad River. He selected a simple position on two low hills in open woodland in the expectation that Tarleton would make a headlong attack without pausing to devise a more subtle plan. Morgan was correct in his assessment of Tarleton’s actions.

Map of the Battle of Cowpens
Morgan placed the Georgia and North Carolina militia in front of his line with a further screen of riflemen to their front. His main line was on the first and higher hill and Washington’s dragoons were placed behind the hill. He had no guns.
If my workings are correct the American commander should be able to field 3 Separate Infantry forces and 1 Cavalry force.

Tarleton marched his force onto the battlefield and attacked immediately.
I have browken the Loyalist command down into three core sections, one made up of regulars, one of Loyalists and a cavalry command.
Tarleton's first move was to send the 17th Light Dragoons to disperse the riflemen. The dragoons were driven back by accurate fire.
Tarleton formed his infantry line and began the advance; the Light Infantry on the right, the infantry of his legion in the centre and the 7th Royal Fusiliers on the left. 

Troops of light dragoons flanked the foot. The reserve comprised the 71st Highlanders and the cavalry of Tarleton’s legion.
Image result for battle of cowpens 1781

Morgan’s riflemen opened fire on the British line and made a point of shooting down the “epaulettes” (the officers), before falling back behind the main American line.

A troop of light dragoons pursued the riflemen and were attacked and driven back by Washington’s dragoons.

As the British foot attacked, the 71st Highlanders extended the line to the left, outflanking the Americans. The American line withdrew but in good order. The British line lost its cohesion as it hurried to pursue the Americans who halted and gave fire before Washington’s dragoons again attacked, this time in the rear of the British line.

The Americans went onto the offensive and the British line was overwhelmed. The 71st continued to fight until finally forced to surrender. Only the Royal Artillery gunners fought until they were all killed or wounded.
Tarleton fled the field with the remnants of his column, the cavalry of his legion having refused to charge from the reserve.

The British lost 39 officers and 60 soldiers killed. 829 were captured. 12 Americans were killed and 60 wounded. The Americans captured the British baggage and the colours of the 7th Foot.

Converting the battle to Sharp Practice - Scenario Defence in Depth.
The British must capture the American Primary Deployment Point.
Each side holds 7 command cards and may not deploy more than 12 Big men.

British Force.

British Regulars 1781
Leader Status III (Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton)
Three Groups of 8 Regulars, Muskets. - 71st Highlanders
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 8 Regulars, Muskets. - 7th Foot.
Leader Status I
One Group of 6 Light Infantry Skirmishers, Muskets.
1 Light Cannon - 3 Pdr.
Points 68
Force Morale 11

Provincial Loyalists 1781
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 8 Provincial Regulars, Muskets - British Legion.
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 8 Light Infantry Skirmishers, Muskets - Coverged Light Infantry Battalion.
Leader Status I
Two Groups of 6 Loyalist Ranger Skirmishers, Rifles.

Points 54
Force Morale 10

Loyalists Cavalry 1781
Leader Status II
One Group of 8 Dragoon Cavalry, Impact Cavalry -17th Lt Dragoons.
Leader Status II
One Group of 8 Loyalist Cavalry, Impact Cavalry - Ogilie's Troop.
Leader Status II
One Group of 8 Loyalist Cavalry, Impact Cavalry - British Legion Cavalry
Points 40
Force Morale 11

Support points available - 12

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton
Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton - Commander of the British Field Force.

Amercian Force.

Continental Command 1781
Leader Status III (Colonel Daniel Morgan)
Three Groups of 8 Continental Line, Muskets. - Maryland and Delaware Continentials
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 6 Continential Light Infantry Skirmishers, Muskets - Mar/Del Light Battalion
Leader Status I
One Group of 6 Frontiersmen Skirmishers, Rifles.

Points 59
Force Morale 11

Southern Militia Command 1781
Leader Status III (Colonel Andrew Pickens)
Three Groups of 10 Rebel Militia, Muskets. - 1st/2nd Spartan South Carolina Militia Regiment
Leader Status I
One Group of 6 Rebel Militia Skirmishers, Muskets - Cunningham's Georgia Militia
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 6 Frontiersmen Skirmishers, Rifles - McDowell's North Carolina Riflemen
Points 43
Force Morale 9

Southern Militia Command 1781
Leader Status III (Lt Col. John Howard)
Two Groups of 8 State Line Troops, Muskets - Tripplett's Virginia Militia
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 8 State Line Troops, Muskets - Hammond's SC State Company
Leader Status II
Two Groups of 6 Frontiersmen Skirmishers, Rifles - Gilmore Rockbridge Virginia Riflemen
Points 47
Force Morale 9

Continental Cavalry 1781
Leader Status II (William Washington)
One Group of 8 Continential Light Dragoons, Impact Cavalry - 3rd Dragoons
Leader Status II
One Group of 8 Continential Light Dragoons, Impact Cavalry - South Carolina State Dragoons
Points 26
Force Morale 10

Support points available - 24

Image result for Colonel Daniel Morgan
Colonel Daniel Morgan - Commander of the American Field Force.
So the plans are in place.

The core forces have been posted to the lead commanders allowing them to consider what support points are needed for each commander or whether a new brigade should be formed?

Each side can see what worked on the day and what the opposing sides core forces are, but have no idea what support points will be spent on. Battle plans and support points will be drawn up on the morning of the game over. 

Let's hope the plan survives the opening volley?


  1. A very interesting Theatre is AWI - Cowpens 1781 will be an interesting Scenario for you and fellow Club Mates - look forward to further updates Stuart. Regards. KEV.

    1. Thanks Kev it's been a while since we had a large battle with 3-4 gamers chewing over the generalship before putting toys on the table... Far more satisfying than the short form games when you only have 2 hours mid week...

  2. I'm not familiar with the rules, but after reading your blog post it seems like an interesting game will be had on the day. I hope it all goes well for you all.

  3. Excellent background work looking forward to the battle report 😀

  4. Great idea to scale up SP, this action would work very well. The scenario design notes are very helpful. In planning similar games.

  5. This will make a grand game!
    Looking forward to your AAR.
    It's a battle I've always wanted to play in full using Maurice rules with 6mm armies...

  6. This will make a grand game!
    Looking forward to your AAR.
    It's a battle I've always wanted to play in full using Maurice rules with 6mm armies...