Background image is Les Dernières Cartouches (The Last Cartridges) by Alphonse de Neuville

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Recreating Bound Brook: A Preview

Johann Ewald's map of the Bound Brook action (Wikimedia)
I'll be running my first re-creation of the Bound Brook action this weekend. The original engagement was almost literally a walk over for the British; I hope the ideas I've come up with make it more challenging and interesting for both sides while still retaining a sense of what the historic action was about.

To recap quickly, the Bound Brook garrison was an American post in advance of their main winter cantonments. It was being used to support New Jersey militia raids on the British lines and attacks on British foraging expeditions. The British assaulted it partly to destroy its usefulness as a forward operating base and perhaps partly in hopes of drawing the main American army, or a portion of it, into a general engagement.

The gradual escalation of the Forage War and the seeming intelligence domination of the battlefield by the Americans had left the British in the Jerseys, like Frederick the Great when operating in Austrian territory, completely in the dark as to enemy strengths and locations. To begin with, the vastly underestimated the forces they would face in small-war operations. When they sent a company, a battalion of American appeared. When they sent a battalion, it was attacked by a brigade. By the end of the winter, then, they were prone to employ overwhelming force in any operation, no matter how small. So this attack was planned to feature four converging columns totalling almost 4,000 men to attack an outpost that they expected to have only 1,000 men in it (in fact, by April 13th, the American garrison had shrunk to 500 men).
The assault force easily overran the post, though failure to coordinate the columns perfectly meant an uneasy start to the action for the initially unsupported jaegers. The failure of coordination also meant that the bulk of the Americans escaped, rather than being captured. The British then left the area before the American relief force, a division under MG Nathanael Greene, came up. It's not clear if that force was sent to contest the post with the British or just to reclaim it once they had departed; the British had brought neither guns nor engineers, so it is unlikely they planned to hold the position once captured.

The Area of Operations: The highlighteds areas are (New) Brunswick and Raritan Landing ("Old Bridge") in the SE, where British troops were based; Bound Brook in the center, just E of Bridgewater; and Baskeridge (or Basking Ridge), where Greene seems to have been posted. (Wikipedia)
I'm going to give the Americans a force stronger than what defended the post historically, and Greene will be waiting in the wings. I'll give the British access to the same forces that they had historically and let them plan their attack (I hope to even have some facsimiles of period maps). I'll then inflict some of the same uncertanties on both sides that attended (or could have attended) the historic event and see what result we get. Given the size of the forces (10-15 units per side: larger than our last game, a bit smaller than a "regular" C&G game), we may be over quickly and have time for a replay, or it may prove a full game.

Another view of the AO, with highlights, from a Hessian map of the theatre. (West Jersey History Project)