Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Skirmish at Ambridge September 1642

The day after Prince Rupert clashed with Parliament's men at Powick Bridge, a much less well known encounter between the rival forces took place at Ambridge in Borsetshire.

A small but mobile Royalist force under the command of Colonel Rufus Dancy had spent the previous week cautiously probing the outlying villages and manor houses in the environs of Borchester. Some 700 strong, all of whom were mounted excepting 200 musketeers assigned as commanded shot, they had crossed the River Am south of Ambridge and raided Loxley Cross the day before. Dancy, a veteran of the wars on the Continent, now determined to head back to his base at Felpersham with a view to encouraging his patron the Earl of Grantham to march on Borchester without delay.

There remained however, the small problem of escaping the attention of Parliament's forces. The pillaging of Loxley Cross had been reported to the Parliamentary Governor in Borchester, Edward Dighurst, and almost a 1000 men of the town's garrison had marched out with a view to cutting off Dancy's retreat. Commanded by Colonel Nehemiah Dewhurst, nearly 600 mounted troops, supported by 400 musketeers of Dighurst's own regiment of yellowcoats, confronted Dancy south of Ambridge.

 Here the two forces can be seen facing one another at a distance of just under a quarter of a mile. It is nine o'clock in the morning of 24 September 1642, a warm, sunny, early autumn day.

The river Am, some fifty yards wide at this point runs from south to north. The road from Hollerton to  Ambridge runs to the west of the river and parallel with it. The Parliamentary forces are drawn up to the north, their cavalry deployed in the open fields on their right, with musketeers and dragoons across the Ambridge road and lining the hedges of the enclosed fields to their left.

The Royalists are not fully deployed, their cavalry, trained to reserve fire and to charge home at the gallop  in the Swedish fashion, are still forming up opposite the enemy horse. On their left, some 200 dragoons and 200 musketeers are preparing to advance on the Roundhead infantry in the enclosed fields.

The Royalists have the first bound and are eager to close with their foes. Their cavalry extends into line and presses forward at a steady trot, coming to a halt some 300 paces from the Parliamentary horse. On the right the musketeers and dragoons commence a steady advance. Dewhurst's men are similarly keen for a fight, their enthusiasm perhaps evidence of their inexperience. The horse move forward at a steady trot and fire a series of volleys with carbine and pistols at extreme range.

 The effect of the Parliamentary fire can be seen on the Royalist ranks. On the left their cavalry have suffered some disruption as the more inexperienced men flinch from the rebel fire. On the right there is an exchange between the musketeers and dragoons of both sides that again disrupts the Royalist formation.
Sensing the fight could go either way, Dancy seizes the initiative and exhorts his men to charge at the gallop. On his extreme left flank two troops of horse outflank their enemy while on the right his own troop of cuirassiers charge home where the Parliamentary line is at its thinnest.
The fight is short but fierce. The shock of the Royalist charge is everywhere successful in breaking the Roundheads with the exception of one troop that stubbornly fights on on the left of the Royalist line. Everywhere else the cavaliers are triumphant, although a lack of discipline does lead many to charge through the enemy ranks instead of wheeling to finish off their defeated foes.
Seeing their mounted comrades put to flight, many of the Parliamentary foot lose heart and throw up their hands in surrender.

There is little doubt about the result. Dancy has lost only a handful of men, largely to Parliamentary fire in the first few minutes of the fight, whilst Dewhurst flees the field with fewer than 200 of his cavalry and dragoons. As night falls another couple of hundred foot make their way in twos and threes to Ambridge, demoralised by their first taste of war. Some 400 mounted troops and half as many foot are unaccounted for, the majority wounded and prisoners of the Royalists, although it is feared their are several score dead.

The above is my first attempt at a 100 point DBR game on a 2" x 2" board in normal scale. The deployment zones are 150 paces from the flanks and 200 paces from the rear edges. The terrain is pre-set, as is the season, by the context of the campaign. Rolling for attacker and defender gives the defender the choice of which edge to choose as his base edge.

Their were 12 elements on the Parliamentary side defending (1 x Gen Pi (I), 6 x Pi (I), 4 x Sh (O), 1 x Dr (S)) against 10 Royalist (1 x Gen Pi(S), 5 x Pi(F), 2 xSh (O), 2 x Dr (O)). The game only lasted two bounds each with Parliament breaking on their second bound. I diced for post game casualties as per the suggestions on p27 of the DBR rules.

Immediate thoughts are this format has some potential. I may tweak the army lists a little as I doubt all Parliamentary dragoons were graded Superior at this stage of the war. Similarly I think their is scope to grade some of the shot as Inferior to reflect lack of training and equipment. It's too quick to make for a satisfying multi player game but played solo and written up during and after the game it makes for a relaxing afternoon. I have spent longer drafting this post than actually pushing tin and rolling dice though!


  1. Charming little game, and a good collection of figures too!

  2. Perhaps Colonel Dewhurst should have considered a more protected position for his horse? A greater number of enclosures, where his commanded shot and dragoons could be deployed, would surely have meant the Roundheads could have caused much discomfort to those cavaliers as they approached.