Monday, 10 March 2014

Langport Pre game Considerations

We dip in and out of the ECW, we do. I have some fairly large Piggie armies, and a set of rules I like (available top right, - they're called "Victory Without Squares") and the intention to refight all of the battles starting from the Bishop's War through to the end of the Commonwealth, although not necessarily in sequence and I've got Convenanters but no Highlanders so not sure on Montrose's battles.

Phil, in the mean time, has a good selection of figures from a range of manufacturers and does refights for the Battlefields Trust. He uses a version of Advanced Armati and creates the battlefields on slightly re-jigged pasting tables. So far he has done Naseby and Second Newbury (although not in order either). The next one he has been approached to do is Langport, where Goring finally gets a good pasting and it becomes abundantly clear who has the best army across all disciplines, and it's Parliament.

We've talked about this on and off for a few months. Phil has been working on other projects as have I, so it has been all talk and no action on both sides. I've got a number of books that cover the subject, but basically there's one proper historical account. Of the secondary accounts there's a good one in Brooks and in the Battlefield Guide to Battles of the South West. Wanklyn touches on it in his "Military History of the ECW" that he co-authored, but he doesn't provide an account, partly, I think, because he can't verify anything in the Parliamentary main account except the outcome.

Brooks is good as he makes a proper stab at saying why the New Model Army won, other than just generally being better and more up for it. His view is that it also shows proper infantry/artillery co-operation (I think the NMA has better staff work anyway from the beginning, a factor that is overlooked in its victories).

What everyone who knows anything about the battle remembers is that Fairfax gets Cromwell to send three cavalry troops in column four abreast up a narrow lane and across a deep ford to charge Goring's cavalry. Major Bethell duly does this, and effectively breaks all of Goring's army (2,500 horse, c5,000 foot) with about 400 troopers.

The prequel to this is slightly less well known. Goring had covered the ford with musketeers in the enclosures on either side of the road, lining the hedges. Clearly to have forced this with cavalry whilst they were in situ would have been most likely disastrous.

Fairfax therefore sends a strong forlorn hope of musketeers under Colonel Rainsborough (one of the finest men ever to serve his country) to clear the hedges. This attack is supported by his massed guns, who's first fire mission is to suppress and drive off the artillery placed at the end of the lane by Goring to cover the ford.

It looks like the game breaks down into three phases. Firstly there's an artillery duel. Parliament should win that because they've got more guns (Goring sent off lots of his guns before the battle as he didn't think he was going to be attacked. Either that or drunk again).

Secondly there's an infantry scrap as musketeers fight hedgerow to hedgerow, and Parliament force their way across the stream.This is more in the balance. Parliament have about 8,000 infantry and probably deploy about 2,500 musketeers to the fight. Goring uses about 2,000. (These numbers are open to dispute). Concerns before the battle were over Parliament's foot, who had a bit of a rough deal at Naseby. At least that's what everyone always says. I reckon they did okay as a new force in their first battle against the Oxford army foot who were widely seen as the best, most experienced infantry around. By Langport they've had another month's drill under their belts and they've won a major battle. A much tougher prospect. Goring moans a bit about his welsh foot in this battle as not having the stomach for it. For the game I'll deploy the infantry as Skirmish Infantry, but with their parent regiments deployed on the hill behind on both sides. Tempted to give the New Model an extra break point to make them a bit tougher.

Thirdly there's the cavalry assault.; This looks awfully like what Fairfax tries at Marston Moor, - pushing cavalry up a narrow lane and expecting to win. At Marston Moor it goes a bit awry. At Langport it looks like genius. In wargaming terms it's a bit of a conundrum. Firstly we will have to amend Armati as the basic game does not allow for units to change formation,  - eg from line to column for the cavalry. Next we'll have to think about the factors for each side. In the base game the Royalists will have an advantage as they're fighting on a wider front versus a narrow opponent, and the base factors for Royalist Cavalry are good, being the same as the NMA.

It's clear by this point in the war however that Goring's cavalry are losing their edge a bit. Their discipline has broken down as they straggle away from Parliament's army, and they're living off the land a bit more than usual (that's a euphemism for plundering and looting). That might suggest reducing their factors and maybe taking away their right to impetus in a frontal charge. Trouble is you don't want the stack the deck too much, but nor do you want to leave it so open you end up with a refight of the Battle of Langport that shares the name and little else.

Any how, I've set the table out, and sorted the figures. Looking forwards to an epic clash on Wednesday evening.


  1. I visited Langport some considerable time ago... you may be interested??

    1. Thanks. Some useful pictures there for the lay of the land.

  2. Indeed, thanks, Steve - a good set of photos ...

    Re the cavalry fight, Treb, there are a number of ways it can swing ... fatigue, veteran ... and I'm not sure we would give wider against a unit fighting out of terrain tunnel (i.e. it doesn't apply if you have friends covering your flanks)


    1. Just one final thought on the cavalry battle... when I was researching before the battle visit I think I read that the Parliamentary cavalry had deployed from the lane (into line) when they charged.. the contact wasn't in the lane.. I also read that they were veterans, part of the original Ironsides... either way I got two contemporary Parliamentary sources that indicate what they did was way beyond the norm... "Contemporary sources quoted that the attack was so fierce "Gode took away the enemy’s courage and away they run". Lt Col John Lilburne reported that, "I heard the General, Lt General and all the chief officers that saw it, say it was one of the bravest that ever their eyes beheld."" High morale I think!

    2. All good points, both of you. The sources clearly show the NMA were really up for it and had total belief in thremselves.

      The battle is so simple I suspect we may be able to try a couple of combinations this evening.