Friday, 16 May 2008

A Redcoat reminisces

I think that most of AWI regulars of a certain age originally became interested in the period thanks to Airfix and the “Washington Army” and “British Grenadiers” packs of 1/72nd soldiers, mine were supplemented with the Napoleonic range and drawing on inspiration from films like “Waterloo”, “Northwest passage”, “Drums along the Mohawk”, “The Alamo” and “The Buccaneer”, also armed with my imagination I set about playing soldiers with Uncles, Grandad and my Father.

The older I got the more interested I became in military history, my first endeavour with metal was the Hinchcliffe and Minifig English Civil War when I was about fifteen, soon it was WWII with 1/300th scale. Dropping my interests with figures I pursued more adult past-times from the ages of 16 – 23 but still having an interest in all things military, around 1988 I met up with another chap who had the same interests as myself, Front Rank English Civil War were our first 25mm collection which was closely followed by Front Ranks AWI....... and the rest as they say is history.

We have put on various demo games since 1990, the first was The Battle of Princeton, by this time we had become interested in re-enactment and signed up with “SAR” (Society of the American Revolution) as members of the 37th Foot, the first demo game was fun as we had members of the 3rd New York and 2nd Rhode Island groups commanding Washington’s army and the 37th in charge of Mawhood's brigade. Between 1990 to around 1998 we were demo game regulars at the Colours and Warfare shows, one year we staged a Crimean game, owing to work constraints we have had to put on hold some of the games planned and have not been at Colours since the show moved to Newbury, we have however staged two WW1 games and two generic AWI games at the Warfare (Reading, Berkshire).

During 2003 and 2004 we even staged a couple of games in conjunction with the National Army Museum, the 2003 game was “Spencer Ordinary", I prepared the game using my figures and information supplied from Brendan Morrissey's knowledge of the engagement, we fought the game on a 1:5 ratio, I now have raised the Queens Rangers to fight the same engagement on 1:2 ratio using Front Rank and Perry Miniatures figures, rules set has always been "Rebellion in the Colonies" by Peter Helm, printed in 1989, with some of our changes though. The army list used is really the Novek books, we use the listed returns of the Novek books to raise regiments. Presently we re-basing and tidying up all our old Front Rank figures to mix in with the Perry/Foundry stuff, the 37th no longer participates in UK events as we have all became older (wider in some cases) and tied down to our responsibilities, however we have not yet written ourselves off.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Musgrove Mill

Apart from having to work my visit to the Carolina’s was quite relaxed, having finished grafting one morning I decided to visit the “Musgrove Mill” state park which was about 35 miles from where I was staying in Spartanburg, SC.

On arrival to the park I managed a chat with one of the park rangers who was quite informative, the park being only a state park does not have the resources as say one of the national parks however I did enjoy my visit.

The visitors centre has a few exhibits relating to the period and a fibre optic diorama of the battlefield which relates to the actual engagement fought at Musgrove Mill, with a audio explanation of the fight of August 18th 1780.

An Edward Musgrove purchased a tract of land on either side of the Enoree River and by 1774 he was quite well established with a house and mill which was primarily used for “Grist” but was also used as a saw mill.

The South Carolina back country at that time was frontier land and heavily wooded, adjacent to the house which was at the top of the incline up from the river was the wagon road, the crossing as expected would be known as Musgrove Ford. There are only the ruins of the old Musgrove house that exist today as the house was mysteriously burned down during the 70’s, there are some information panels placed around the park. The area of the battle is on the Northern side of the Enoree River with the visitors centre and ruins on the Southern side, the park are hoping to gain enough funds to be able to link up both sides with a trail running up to the area of the battlefield.

The map shows the current extent and future plans of the Musgrove Mill site, the battle site was more open than the current area, the ford was just below where the highway 56 bridge is, the road in 1780 crossed at this point, the ground falls away downhill from the visitors centre and foundation ruins of the Musgrove House, the track follows roughly where the road would have been down to the Enoree river, crossing at the ford the road would slowly rise up hill towards an open area where the engagement was fought, looking at the optic diorama map in the visitors centre gives a good idea of the lay of the land, the road was open on both sides which I suspect allowed a little more freedom of movement than being confined by the woods on either side.

By August 1780 a small loyalist force had established a camp and base of operations in the vicinity of the Musgrove House owing to the road crossing and good conditions that were offered for recovering soldiers, there were around 400-600 loyalists of varying troop quality “garrisoned” here, Edward Musgrove was in fact a neutral. A group of 200-300 Patriot militiamen rode to strike what they thought was an equal number of Loyalists at Musgrove Mill on the Enoree River. Instead, they found themselves badly outnumbered, the Tories having been joined by 300 provincial regulars from the nearby British post at Ninety Six. Retreat was impossible, a frontal assault suicidal. So the Patriot forces took a strong defensive position and lured the Loyalists into a fierce fight that turned into a near rout after the British attack collapsed when they lost their commander.

I spent around 3 hours in the area and quite enjoyed my visit, must admit that it is my intention to return to Musgrove Mill one day when they have the park as per their proposed plan.

A Travelling Redcoat