Monday, February 4, 2019

Loyalists in the family tree!

I found another surprising branch of my family tree yesterday. Not through, but while reading Volume 3 of Patrick O'Kelley's highly informational series Nothing but Blood and Slaughter: The Revolutionary War in the Carolinas.

The books in the series are a wellspring of inspiration for small unit actions that can be played out using Rebels and Patriots. I haven't been reading cover-to-cover from Volume 1, the first three volumes are all nearly 600 pages each! Instead, I've been flipping through the books stopping at skirmishes that stand out as possible games. My efforts for the upcoming year—barring any "Oh look! Shiny!" moments—is to work on AWI units for the Southern campaign 1780-81.

As I was perusing the aforementioned tome, I came across a skirmish that took place on March 6, 1781 at a place called Wiboo Swamp where Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox," fought a short, sharp skirmish with forces under British Lt. Col. John Watson. I was going over the OOBs and something caught my eye. The bulk of the British forces were several companies of light infantry drawn from Provincial regiments. The captain commanding the light company of the 4th New Jersey Volunteers bore the interesting name Jacob van Buskirk.

Loyalist light infantryman
Van Buskirk isn't a common name. In fact, it's a made up name coined by my 9th great-grandfather who came into this world as Laurens Andriessen in 1630 in Slesvig Sonderjylland, Denmark. When he was 25, he migrated to what was then New Amsterdam. He married a Dutch widow, Jannetje Jans, in 1658. They bought land in Bergen County across the Hudson in what later became Hackensack, NJ. As a Dane living among Dutchmen, he figured it was a good idea to Dutchify his name. Since he lived in a wood near a church, he decided henceforth he would be van Buskirk, "from the church in the wood."

My grandmother's family were van Buskirks, so whenever I come across the name, I figure we must be related. Sure enough, Jacob van Buskirk is a distant cousin (second cousin 6x removed). I trace my lineage through Andries Laurens van Buskirk, who was Laurens' eldest son, born in 1659. Jacob traces his lineage through Thomas Laurens van Buskirk, Laurens' youngest son, who was born in 1668. Some generations later, Thomas' line stayed loyal to the crown while my line adopted the patriot cause.

Battle of Eutaw Springs
Jacob served in the 4th New Jersey Volunteers in the campaign in the South. Apart from Wiboo Swamp, he also shows up as commanding the light company of the 4th during the siege of Ninety-Six, some other skirmishes, and the the Battle of Eutaw Springs, where he was wounded. There's no mention of Jacob van Buskirk or the 4th New Jersey Volunteers in the other volumes, although vols. 1 and 2 show the involvement of the light company of the 3rd New Jersey Volunteers and the 2nd New Jersey Volunteers were at Charleston in 1782.

Remains of the star fort at Ninety-Six
Jacob survived the war, but as a loyalist, he wasn't exactly welcome to remain in the new republic he'd tried to strangle at birth. So he emigrated from New Jersey along with his father Dr. Abraham van Buskirk. They settled in Nova Scotia where Jacob was a merchant and later justice of the peace. He died at Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1834. He married but had no children.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Hardtack Hill: Rebels and Patriots AAR

Bill Stewart and I played Scenario A from the Rebels and Patriots rules today. It was sort of a spur of the moment thing, but we both had a free Saturday, so...

I've just started painting a pile of Sash and Saber Johnny Rebs; Bill has had a pile of both Blue and Gray completed for a while, all mounted in the 3-2-1 scheme. I think he did them originally for The Men Who Would Be Kings, so they were at hand for our first game of R&P. I went with the Rebs and Bill went with the Northern Aggressors.

I brought the terrain to The Panzer Depot just off the highway in idyllic Kirkland, WA. and set up a table with a central ridge and some walled/fenced fields, some spots of trees, and a patch or two of brambles.

Hardtack hill field of battle
We needed an objective marker to place at the top of the ridge, which neither of us thought to bring. We rummaged through whatever terrain bits were stuffed in the shelves in John's back room and came up with a small box model, which could represent anything from non-weevilly hardtack to non-rancid beef to a flask or two of "Who hit John" or "Pop-skull"—something men would gladly die for. Hence the fight has come down in history as "Hardtack Hill" for the hated blue-bellies and, in keeping with the ACW tradition of two names for the same action, "Cracker Box Ridge" for the Lost Cause crowd.

The cracker box
We rolled up our officer traits. For my officer, 2nd Lt. Jubal Tardee, I rolled 4-5 "Ballroom darling," which gave me a once-in-the game shot to add 3" to any successful move action. Bill rolled 3-1 "Unlucky" (a.k.a. "Dead meat"), which gave him a -1 on officer casualty tests. I won the initiative roll and chose defender, setting up on the South end (apropos) with Bill on the North.

The Yankee right wing
I went with big battalions: 3 x Line Infantry, Large unit (one being veteran) and 2 x Skirmishers (one being good shooters, one being aggressive). Bill's forces were 4 x Line Infantry (one veteran) and 3 x Skirmishers.

My right flank
Bill went first and advanced towards the hill, I doing the same on my turn. I managed to get one of my skirmishers right up to the cracker box and held to my position. My other skirmishers advanced on my left and engaged one of Bill's skirmishers.

Holding the hill
I don't know better, so putting my skirmisher right up on the hill top was a classic case of leading with my chin. Bill was more cautious and massed troops below the ridge line.

Massing below the hill
On my right, Bill and I traded shots between one of my big line units and one of his skirmishers. Neither of us had an advantage since I was behind a stone wall and Bill was skirmishers. After a couple turns of making smoke and noise, we'd both lost two figures leaving him with 4 survivors while I held on with just 16.

Firefight on the right
In yet another case of leading with my chin, I sent one of my big line units into the brambles on the east end of the ridge. I figured that the cover would help me, but it became something of a hornet's nest. Bill's units below the ridgeline there had formed close order and he was in a fine position to blast away at me. Two of his units hadn't fired previously, so I took the full brunt of first fire (+1) and volley (+1). I survived for three turns, becoming broken at one point, but managing to rally. Size matters (it ain't the motion, it's the meat that makes your mamma wanna rock) and the big units can take a lot of punishment before they evaporate—or to paraphrase Adam Smith, there is a great deal of ruin in a large unit. In my case, it took three turns of ruin before I failed the critical test that put me into rout. But all the while I was getting shellacked, Bill had three units tied up shellacking me.

The hornet's nest hangs on (for a while)
The men in the hornet's nest weren't the only Bonnie Blue heroes on the table. The skirmishers I threw up on the hill top to hold the cracker barrel held and held. They took shots from a line unit and a skirmisher unit and held fast. They even took friendly fire when Jubal Tardee rolled snake-eyes for activation and sent some of Birmingham's best bullets into their backs for a loss of 1 figure (figures I'd roll well with friendly fire), but they passed morale.

"Give 'em hot lead, bo—oops!"
It wasn't until turn 6 that the combined fire of several of Bill's units—the ones clearing the hornet's nest now had a new target—that my gallant skirmishers went poof.

Heroes of the Confederacy
Lt. Tardy finally made the top of the hill, thanks to his +3" miracle move, and was adding a bit of fire to the gunfight that had been between my two skirmishers and Bill's units below the hill. I decided that trading shots with Bill's skirmishers on my right was a waste of time and not central to the victory conditions of the battle, so I moved them 12" towards the hill thanks to rolling boxcars on my activation and getting "At the double!" Bill's skirmishers tried to follow, but had a few failed activations that kept them from pestering me.

Preparing for the Yankee attack
My fire on the western end of the hill was taking a toll. Bill's skirmishers were never quite able to do serious damage to me, while I steadily picked off one or two figures a turn. Soon, Bill saw some units disappear. First one of his line and then the skirmishers. Nevertheless, he was massing other units on the center and (my) right below the hill.

A whole lotta bluebellies forming up
Jubal Tardy and his boys were holding on and my reserve was formed up just below the ridge when Bill's bluebellies came atop it. This was what I was waiting for and I charged my line unit up against Bill's officer's unit. In a bitter fight, we wound up tied, but he was pushed back because he didn't have a defense bonus. In the post-melee check for officer casualty, "Dead Meat" got wounded and taken off the field.

Before the charge
My victory was short-lived, however. Bill struck back with a charge on his turn. I lost the ensuing melee and rolled "3" for my morale test. Already being disordered, this put me into rout and another unit went poof.

The end on Hardtack Hill
By this time, I had just two units surviving. It was turn 8. The hated Yankees had held the cracker box for two turns, but nowhere near the five turns my skirmishers had held it. We called it there. We'd both taken a lot of losses. We tallied our losses wrong, but it turned out the same result anyway. Instead of counting points lost, we counted figures. I lost 14 points, Bill lost 8 (I think: 1 line unit and two skirmishers). We had each inflicted 33% loss on the other, but I'd held the cracker box for 5 turns vs. 2 for Bill. End result: Me at 4 points honor, Bill at 1.

Jubal Tardee, while losing half his company, has covered himself in glory and advances to 14 honor points, well on his way to a full lieutenancy—if he doesn't get shot out of the saddle in his next action. Of course being mentioned in dispatches may have a downside. The general may be none too displeased to learn that that prize ass Tardee has got his company shot to pieces over a few stale crackers.

Post mortem

The game played very well. Past familiarity with "rampant" rules (and TMWWBK) helped smooth the newness edge.

Bill's minis are beautiful. It was nice to get them into the game. Hopefully, I'll have my own Johnnies to push around the next time I play ACW.

Contra objections I've heard, the morale rules work very well. It's possible, with a bit of lucky rolling, to hold a position against heavy odds for long enough to affect the game. The fact that cumulative loss doesn't weigh against you makes it easier to pass morale tests. You can take a beating over time and still stay viable. Once you hit permanent disorder, however, things go pear-shaped soon.

Firing is more effective than fighting. The odds of hitting/killing are better and there's no downside. You do, however, have to attack to take a position. It's not too easy to just shoot someone away. Most of our units traded shots for several turns before a unit gets hurt too bad or destroyed. The hornet's nest lasted three turns with 36 dice of shooting (at 3+ and 4+) being rolled against it.

Big units are worth the 1 point you spend for them. Barring any catastrophic morale rolls, you can take a lot of damage and stay in good shape for a long time. The unexpected survival of my skirmishers on the hill was an anomaly. By rights they shoulda been blowed to bits by all the Yankee bullets (and a few imported from England on the last blockade runner) that flew their way.

Of course, regular sized units means more of them. Bill had 7 units to my 5. That meant 24 more dice coming in than going out in the firefight. Even though I won on honor points, in the end Bill held the hill and the crackers and still had 4 units to my (much battered) 2.