Saturday, September 10, 2011

Battle of the Clouds...

Those of you with long (long!) memories may remember that I was much taken by the one of the games at Salute & Warfare in 2008 that depicted a little known "what if" scenario from the American War of Independence based on the Battle of the Clouds.

I've posted pictures I took of the game again throughout this post (click on them for a considerably bigger view) but I was interested enough to go away and do some further investigation as I'd not heard of the battle before... I've been meaning to post this for ages and have finally got round to it after having my interests re-piqued by the previous jaeger post!

THE BATTLE OF THE CLOUDS - 1777

Overview

The Battle of the Clouds was an engagement set during the Philadelphia Campaign and was almost fought on September 16, 1777..... free smileys

After their victory at Brandywine, the British Army had remained encamped near Chadds Ford when news reached the British commander William Howe that the defeated and weakened American force was less than ten miles away. He decided to finish the job off and struck camp immediately to engage the Americans. When Washington learned of Howe's plans, he prepared for battle...


So - what happened???

Washington re-grouped his forces of about 10,000 men on a defensive position in the South Valley Hills, with his right flank resting on Boot Tavern & his left flank on Three Tuns Tavern... Now if I was in the infantry at the time, that sounds like an ideal defensive position - between two pubs! The position was three miles long and was strong, especially in the center.

Howe's army numbered about 18,000 and advanced in two columns. The largest commanded by himself & Cornwallis numbered about 13,000. The other was lead by Lieutenant General Knyphausen (I'll leave you to do the maths free smileys).

Cornwallis lead one column toward White Horse Tavern, while Knyphausen's column set out at dawn accompanied by General Howe up the Wilmington Pike toward the Boot Tavern. Knyphausen advanced against the right flank of the American position. His advance was lead by the Hessian brigade commanded by Colonel Carl Emil Kurt von Donop. This brigade included all the Jaeger's and Hessian Grenadiers...

At Turk's Head, Howe set another column consisting of the Guards Brigade under Captain Matthew along the Pottstown Pike toward the Indian King Tavern.

Washington sent an advance force under General Anthony Wayne to slow the British progress on the Chester-Dilworth Road. At about 2:00 pm, his men encountered the advance jäger units of the Hessian column under Count Von Donop near the Boot Tavern. These forces began skirmishing, and the Americans very nearly captured von Donop when he became separated from his main column with a small company of jägers.

Grenadiers were sent to reinforce the jägers. These units formed an advance line against Wayne, who had taken a position "on high ground among some cornfields." The jägers, were skilled in "irregular fighting." They fought from behind fences and in fields and woods. At the White Horse Tavern, they "had an opportunity to demonstrate to the enemy their superior marksmanship and their skill with the amusettes [click here for a fascinating read on these very light field pieces used by the jägers, and a first hand account of this specific action in the battle!]." (Does that description of the jägers performance/role sound familiar though?!) After an exchange of fire, the Americans fell back into to a dense forest, "leaving behind a number of killed and wounded."

The main British column met with Wayne's Pennsylvania militia on another road at around 3:00; the militia gave way in a panicked retreat, suffering 10 killed or wounded.

On a high ground just west of the White Horse Tavern, the British formed a line of battle. Washington was forced to withdraw to "a valley of soft wet ground, impassable for artillery." About this time, Matthew's troops pulled up on Knyphausen's left. They were unopposed and had a clear path into the exposed American flank. Washington attempted to withdraw the army north of the tavern.

This withdrawal was just getting under way when it began raining and the Heavens opened.. a Hessian jäger captain Johann Ewald described it as "an extraordinary thunderstorm, [...] combined with the heaviest downpour in this world." "It came down so hard that in a few moments we were drenched and sank in mud up to our calves" (Major Bauermeister - Hessian Officer)

The British army halted its advance, although Knyphausen ordered the jägers to engage the enemy. They rushed forward, swords drawn since their muskets were inoperable due to wet powder, and capture 34 men. The jägers reported losing 5 killed, 7 wounded, and 3 captured in this action.

The storm continued well into the next day.

The British were forced to construct a make-shift camp (having left their tents behind that day), and Washington, significantly outnumbered and with tens of thousands of cartridges ruined by the rain, opted for a tactical retreat leaving Wayne's Pennsylvania division of 1,500 men and four guns with orders to harass the British rear*.

Howe's army found it nearly impossible to follow Washington over the rutted, muddy roads. The decision was made to wait out the storm, then move toward their objective (Philadelphia).

The game at Salute and Warfare considered what might have happened if the rain had held off - could Washington get his army away to fight another day??

Further reading:

http://johnsmilitaryhistory.com/clouds.html
http://www.ushistory.org/march/phila/clouds_1.htm
* Wayne's force was surprised and defeated at the Battle of Paoli, and the British were free to occupy Philadelphia.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks Steve, I had started looking into the possible battle at the time you first posted, but then got distracted by other things.

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  2. Nice post Steve!

    (The word verification for this comment is 'comaturd')

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  3. Great post, I really enjoyed this read and the very nice photos, thanks Steve.

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  4. A great AAR for a poetic battle!
    Regards
    Rafa

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