Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tarleton's Quarter Revisited

As I mentioned last week, I've just finished Matthew Springs book, "With Zeal and With Bayonets Only." Springs' work is intended to dispel commonly held beliefs about the formations, and battlefield philosophy of the British army during the American Revolution.

I think there are some basic points that Springs makes that can be easily be summed up in a little list:
1. The British generally fought in open formations with spacing of 18 inches between files rather than the Continental norm of 6 inches. This allowed them to move more quickly through difficult terrain, but made it more difficult to effectively dress lines and and maneuver with other regiments. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are few. American regiments also tended to fight in these formations.
2. Light infantry units tended to be the numbero uno elite regiments. These troops, nicknamed "bloodhounds" were the most active, usually operated on a flank, and in the absence a cavalry arm, became the pursuit force after a broken or retreating enemy.
3. British units in the American Revolution generally did not volley with American untis. It was first fire and then charge with the bayonet.
4. In the American Revolution, the first fire was terrifically important. Because it was typically the best loaded round in a firefight, it would be the best prepared. One great volley fired in defense could completely undo a bayonet charge, as at Cowpens.

In my own rules set for AWI, Tarleton's Quarter, it presumed that the British formations at Cowpens were not unusual. Springs states that they were common, and the British only rarely adopted close order. This may mean a rethinking of the rules, and perhaps eliminate the need for them. I am considering ordering a copy of British Grenadier, which is wildly popular. If they don't do the trick, I may instead go back to Loose Files, which at least treats the unique conditions of fighting a war in America as a unique experience.

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