Skirmish at Fort William Henry – King William’s War, summer 1696

Fort William Henry, perhaps the most synonymous name of the French and Indian Wars of the 18th century, was in fact to host clashes between the French and Indian forces of Louis XIV, the Sun King, against the old enemy, England. The fort however was not that of Last of the Mohicans fame but rather an outpost on the coast of the Atlantic, Pemaquid, on the central Maine coast, much less famous than the fort yet to built on the shores of Lake George.

King William’s War, the conflict between France and England in the new world was the first French and Indian War, 1689–1697. The recently established the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company was competing with French traders in Canada for the lucrative fur trade adn this was not welcome. This encroachment caused the French to incite the Abenaki tribes of Maine to destroy the rival English post of Pemaquid and attack frontier settlements.

When war in Europe broke out, the War of the League of Augsburg, the French and British continental conflict spilled over into the unsettled colonies of North America and Canada, where locally raised forces waged war against one another for 8 years.

 

 

So sets the scene for our clash pitting a raiding French and Indian force down the Maine coast toward the British seaside port at Fort William Henry.

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Forces

This small clash would be a 200pt game, fairly small for Muskets & Tomahawks but still enough to produce an interesting narrative and short sharp clash. For this game we are using my Flintlock and Tomahawk lists and rules which are essentially the same as King Phillip’s War, fought only ten years earlier. The three card play option was used as we think this provides a nice planning element to the game, making the card play a little more interesting rather than random activation.

British

  • x1 Provincial Officer, Captain Kawler.
  • x3 County militia units, armed with flintlock muskets and drilled, each 8 figures strong
  • x1 Iroquois indians, 6 figures strong

French

  • x1 Irregular Coureur des Bois Officer, Capitan Nigre, with the scout & native trait.
  • x 2 Coureur des Bois units, armed with flintlock muskets , each 4 figures strong
  • x2 Abenaki indians, 6 figures strong, all bloodthirsty, braves.

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Scenario

The scenario both sides were assigned was the Defence scenario for the British and the Scouting scenario for the French. This meant the British needed to keep the French forces more than 4″ from any buildings on table and the French needed to move into each quarter of the table and ‘scout out’ that area by having a unit/marker there at the end of a turn. With the the terrain laid out and objectives assigned the scenario was set…

…A French raiding party is moving down the Maine coast towards Fort William Henry; their mission, to scout out any enemy indian settlements they encounter and report back to commandant Frontenac. If they are able to make an impact by infiltrating the enemy village and driving away the villagers then so much the better. For the British, news of the raid has been quickly passed to Pemaquid. The town militia has been called out to defend the friendly praying indian village and drive off the enemy raiders.

 

The table is set. The British reinforcement edge to the left, and French entry edge to the right. Terrain is obvious , all the wooded areas being classified as ‘light cover’. The two buildings block line of sight and the hill naturally enough does as well.

 

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Town Militia! Some newly painted militia from Front Rank marching out for duty! They deploy within 4″of the buildings to make the indian folk safe from French transgressions.

 

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A closer look – these are painted in the style I mentioned in a previous post ie using the Front Rank 17th century range of figures painted in drab colors. They came up very nicely and look the part.

 

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A shot showing the French right / British Left flank. The ‘M’ markers are hidden French Indian and Irregulars moving cautiously toward the revealed Iroquois indians approaching the wood down the track.

 

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The French push up and are spotted by the Iroquois – Abenakis in the lead, Coureur des Bois in trail.

 

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With the left flank ‘secured’ by the Iroquois the militia await further developments in and around the village.

 

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The first crackle of musket fire is heard. The Iroquois open fire on the Abenaki but with no effect.

 

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The Iroquois (fortuitously) quickly reload (their activation card came out next) and are ready to fire again.

 

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The Abenaki respond in kind, shooting as ineffectively as the Iroquois, not before however, the French Coureur des Bois push forward up to point blank range, hoping to get in a crisp deadly close range volley and ‘see off’ the enemy natives..

 

 

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A quick overview at the end of turn 1 – the Iroquois and Coureur des Bois can see each other at the closest of ranges whilst the supporting Abenaki still are reloading their muskets (puff of smoke in the woods). In centre field the militia hold steady not yet moved by the musketry fire from the woods to the left flank, unsure of the French hidden markers ‘M’ in the main centre wooded hill.

On the French left a further hidden marker pushes forward, now with both closest quarter fields scouted. At this point both sides are on track to achieving their primary mission.

 

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Turn 2 erupts with another crack of musketry from the Iroquois. This fire is more accurate, it being at point blank range, and the Coureur des Bois take a loss with a man down -“…sacrebleu!..”. The gamble to push up and get the first shot in did not work. Not too happy about it they rapidly retire (flee) back to the safety in the wood, opening up some distance between themselves and the hail of lead, their turn ended.

 

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Not to be outdone, the supporting Abenaki then let off a volley of their own – crack! The Iroquois lose a man and also beat a hasty retreat (flee) back toward safety.

 

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Meanwhile, centre field, the militia is prompted forward by the platoon sergeant, as Captain Kawler is still off-table marching to the sound of the guns with the reserve. This aggressive push locates one hidden marker as a ‘dummy’ but reveals the other as a group of indians in the woods…aren’t they always!

 

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Wasting no time the old sergeant calls for his men to take aim…

 

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“…Fire!!…” with a deadly volley the Indians, despite hiding as best they can, suffer three hits bringing down all men but one…un, deux, trois!! The remaining indian ran for his life quick smart, not to be seen again. Luckily the raid commander, Capitan Nigre, escaped any injury but could not otherwise make his presence felt to stop the last man running…not that he really could!

 

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Whilst the militia were dishing out out some British justice the Abenaki indians got their blood up and pushed forward, passing up the opportunity to fire and rushed the village instead. They hoped to drive off the Iroquois and the villager indians themselves, securing a major victory for their commander if the game were to end at the end of this turn.

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An overview of the end of turn 2 – at this point the far picture shows the Abenaki within 4″ of the village and the near picture shows an as yet unseen hidden marker, both units in the remaining two quarters to be scouted. This meant the French commander had achieved his primary goal of scouting out all four quarters of the table as his units have been in each quarter at turn’s end for the last two turns. Meanwhile the off-table British forces had still not arrived, including the force commander, Captain Kawler.

In addition, the goal of the British is to keep the French away from the village by game end, should that occur at the end of turn two. To check if the game ends a 2d6 is rolled and if a 2, 3 or 4 is rolled then the game would end. In this case a 6 was rolled and play proceeded to turn 3, the hoped for ‘end game’ by the French player not occurring.

 

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A good end of game position for the french should that have occurred – which it did not. Now the Abenaki indians are in the open and need to either hang on for a full turn or scoot back into the woods to evade any potential counter attack…back to the skulking way of war me thinks!

 

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The commencement of the third turn saw the worst outcome for the Abenaki indians. The town militia smartly ‘counter marched’ into a firing position and prepared a crisp volley for those plucky Abenakis.

The next card pulled saw the French Irregulars act and the Coureur des Bois put out some sharpshooting shots of their own…

 

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…two militiamen fell, but their formation and unit size kept their morale steady and the line held.

 

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With that the militiamen then opened fire…but it was a rushed and shoddy volley by any measure (look at those dice!).  Every shot missed much to the delight of the French commander and the Abenakis!…

 

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…their good fortune wasn’t to last however. For the loss of one indian the second militia unit fired and forced the Abenaki to retreat to the woods and seek shelter as they failed their morale test. Suitably encouraged the Iroquois pursue the Abenaki into the woods to drive them off and get a scalp or two.

 

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Whilst the militia were distracted engaging the Abenaki near the village the remaining group of Abenaki indians quickly moved from their concealed position out behind the militiamen in a bid to race to the village and sack the buildings, drive off the villagers, perhaps spook the militiamen and ‘steal a victory’.

 

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Whilst Capitan Nigre keeps watch from the wooded hill, the Abenaki make a bold rush behind the militiamen’s back. The final position shown shows the last position the indians made by the end of the turn….this bought on the end of turn three and a roll to check for the end of game and possible reinforcements to arrive.

With the skirmish building to a climax the end of turn roll is made….snake eyes! (a 2 is rolled).  This was below the required score of 7 or more to push the game into a fourth turn, thus ending the game!!

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So ended the skirmish at Fort William Henry.

Obviously ending the game at this point allowed us to put our last stamp of narrative to the game.

To see what would have happened if the next turn was played we rolled for the arrival of the reinforcements for the British – they arrive! It now being clear that with the right flank French forces driven away and the lone Abenaki now able to see the march of another militia unit to their left (the British arrival edge) and no commander anywhere nearby, Capitan Nigre being safely ensconced in the woods, the brave but now somewhat vulnerable Abenaki tribesmen headed for the hills. The villagers remained safe and the militia kept the village under control and free from enemy attack.

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In the wash up, both sides achieved their mission goals ie the British to keep the French away from the town and the French to scout out the battlefield. They both achieved their missions. The sideplots for neither side were achieved. The British one involved a mad commander that would have limited his life expectancy had he been on table – lucky he never arrived! The French commander needed to get inside a building and remain there at a turn end to achieve his goal, which he didn’t do.

So a draw it is!

 

The game itself took about 20-30mins to setup and about 2 hours to play. Obviously the small force total made the set up to play time a bit disproportionate. The same game at 400 points probably would have been a bit longer but much more active. These small games are quite good. I think 300 points might be a nice fit.

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As to be expected, Muskets & Tomahawks works perfectly for King William’s War this being the first French & Indian War. Queen Anne’s War which followed saw the introduction of yet more clashes and force types for both sides so that the conflict starts to take on the look and feel of the much more well known war in King George’s time (1754-1763)…lots of interesting history and gaming here…a very good book to give you excellent background and scenario ideas is here…recommended!

 

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Here are those lovely militia again…nice one Captain Kawler!

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9 thoughts on “Skirmish at Fort William Henry – King William’s War, summer 1696

  1. Excellent looking game. I have been running KPW games in Canada and at Historicon using modified M&T rules, they have worked well.
    Can I ask where you purchased the Indian civillians please. A couple look like Foundry, are the others Pegasus? For my KPW game this year at Historicon I modified some female figures from the Foundry Old West Mexican packs and some of the Perry Carlist Wars civilians.
    Cheers,
    Graham Wilkinson

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  2. HI Graham,

    Glad you liked the post. The civilians are from the Redoubt Miniatures range.

    http://www.redoubtenterprises.com/shop/?page=shop/flypage&product_id=2753&category_id=980fefc5e33e8baf422791208f2bb39f

    http://www.redoubtenterprises.com/shop/?page=shop/flypage&product_id=5471&category_id=980fefc5e33e8baf422791208f2bb39f

    The redoubt range Indian Civilian minis are a wee bit small but are fit for purpose and have a variety of poses – recommended.

    Cheers

    Happy W

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  3. Wonderful AAR as always, Wanderer! Question about the Border Wars book. Are there any maps in it? In other words, is there any reason to get a paper copy as opposed to the Kindle version?

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    • In the last paragraph of your AAR, you linked to a book called The Border Wars of New England. I looked it up and found it on Amazon for kindle, and I was just wondering if I’d be missing anything by getting the digital version instead of paper.

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  4. I only have the digital copy of the linked book. I’m not sure what the Kindle version has but the free linked book gives you all the info on it….I’d grab that one first 😉

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