The Battle of Knocknanuss (or Knocknanauss) was fought in 1647 between the Irish Confederates and a Parliamentary army. The events leading up to this campaign and battle were complicated but it might be summarized as the last hope of the Irish Confederacy of building on earlier gains and achieving a decisive military victory which would enable a separate Irish confederacy to dictate the terms of any Irish settlement, rather than in an alliance with English Royalists...
This battle was featured as a scenario in Wargames Illustrated 256. The scenario details were based on using the Warhammer English Civil War set, but I used my favoured Polemos:ECW rules.
There isn't a map with the scenario (grrr!) and there aren't that many online, but since the terrain is pretty simple, I suppose that doesn't matter too much. However, there is a very nice map in Nick Lipscombe's marvellous book, so no real harm done.
The magazine scenario gives the following forces:
General: Viscount Taaffe (Average)
Commanders: Lieutenant-General Alasdair MacColla (Good); Purcell (Average)
3 bases of Veteran Irish Foot (M)
4 bases of Raw Irish Foot* (M)
4 bases of Raw Horse (Swedish)
Commander: Baron Castleconnell (Average)
8 bases of Raw Irish Foot* (M)
6 bases of Trained Horse (Swedish)
1 base of Trained Horse** (Swedish)
General: Baron Inchiquin (Good)
Colonel Temple (Average)
4 bases of Veteran Foot (SH)
1 base of Veteran Foot (S)
5 bases of Trained Horse (Dutch)
Commanders: Major-General Craig (Average), Colonel Bridges (Average)
4 bases of Trained Foot (SH)
4 bases of Trained Horse** (Dutch)
1 base of Trained Artillery
*Polemos: ECW gives some specific rules for Irish Foot, although these are strictly optional. I am not entirely clear whether this should apply to all Foot who happen to be Irish, or it was intended for MacColla's troops only.
** Includes a unit entitled 'Lifeguards'; (very) optionally the Confederates can designate one base as Elite, the Parliamentarians two bases. I am sceptical...
Astute observers will notice that I actually used slightly different numbers of bases in this re-fight. I was slightly puzzled by the order of battle used in the WI article, since the sources are reasonably clear that the Parliamentarians had more Horse, whereas the article gives the Confederacy the advantage here.
The Parliamentary camp is represented on the edge of the table. If any Confederate unit has a clear path to the camp, it must head for it rather than pursue a broken enemy unit.
|The two armies face each other, the Confederates on the high ground (top) facing the Parliamentarians in front of the stream (bottom)|
|A slightly closer view of the Parliamentarian Left (bottom, centre) in front of the stream and the camp (bottom), opposed by the Confederate Right (top)|
|The Confederate Left Wing, with its flanking Horse units slightly refused (right)|
|Facing them is the Parliamentary Right Wing|
|One last view of the overall dispositions|
|The battle begins, ignoring some ineffective Parliamentarian artillery fire on MacColla's Redshanks, with the Horse on the Parliamentary Right advancing (right)|
|A closer look|
|The forward troops meet|
|The Confederate Horse gets rather the better of the exchange, pushing back the Parliamentary troopers|
|Suddenly, discouraged, some of the Parliamentary Horse routs (foreground) whilst others are pushed back (centre-left); the Parliamentary right-hand troops have done rather better though, pushing back their opponents in turn (top)|
|A closer look at that|
|Meanwhile, Inchiquin's infantry have marched up into musketry range and started delivering devastating fire into the Confederate ranks, outmatching them in numbers of muskets and in accuracy of fire|
|Inchiquin's musketeers in the centre prove equally formidable|
|The Parliamentary Horse on the left flank attack and drive back the opposing Confederacy Horse (top) |
|The Parliamentary Foot demonstrate against the Irish Foot|
|Taafe launches a desperate cavalry charge in the centre to drive back the advancing Parliamentary Foot...|
|The Irish Foot on their left advance to try and negate the Parliamentary Foot's fire superiority|
|The cavalry conflict on the Confederate Left becomes more general, as some of the Confederate Horse squadrons rout (top)|
|A wider view of the Confederate Left|
|Taaffe manages to get his horsemen to close, but the Parliamentary Foot stands firm - Taaffe is brought down and captured! The Horsemen try to rally further back up the slope|
|The rest of Inchiquin's Foot hold on similarly against the attack of the Confederate Foot and Baron Castleconnel is wounded and must leave the field...|
|However, the Parliamentary Horse on the Right is in total disarray, with two-thirds of its troops now fleeing as fast as their horses will carry them...|
|The view across the battlefield: the Parliamentary Horse on the left and the Parliamentary Foot on the centre-right are pushing back the Confederates, but the Parliamentary Horse on the right are streaming away from the battlefield...|
|The Confederate Horse on their right are bested and routed by the Parliamentary troopers, and they sweep away some of the Confederate Foot in their flight (top)|
|In the centre, some of the Confederate Horse and Foot have been routed...|
|The Parliamentary Foot in the centre-right are making similar progress|
|However, Castleconnel's troopers have clearly triumphed over their Parliamentary foes, Colonel Temple is captured and Inchiquin's right flank is in very serious danger!|
|A wider shot at this stage of the battle - both sides have had their Right flanks fatally compromised, and both have lost a key leader. A strange sense of indecision sweeps across the battlefield and neither sides soldiers can be persuaded to engage seriously...|
|The open Parliamentary Right...|
|The turned Irish Right (top-left)...|
|The Parliamentary Foot has ascended the slopes but is refusing to advance further...the Confederate Foot and Horse cannot be induced to charge to sweep them down...|
Game Notes: A very interesting outcome, in that both sides' morale failed quite early and more or less simultaneously! Neither sides' remaining leaders were able to induce their troops to charge again. On balance, the Confederates would probably be the side forced to withdraw, but in relatively good order and without any of the dramatic war-changing losses, not least the loss of Alasdair MacColla and his 'Redshank' troops which characterized the original.
Often I use the same broad strategy as the original commanders for these type of historical refights but this time I chose almost the opposite strategy, keeping the Confederates mainly on the defensive, whereas the real battle was characterized by the charge of MacColla's troops to sweep away the Parliamentary Foot and Guns facing them, and then the subsequent collapse of the remainder of the Confederate army. With the artillery rules in Polemos:ECW, there was never much likelihood of MacColla being 'forced' to attack (there needs to be a 5-point swing to inflict meaningful damage on Veteran Foot, and that was just very unlikely at any range where the Foot couldn't just advance and take the guns anyway). Is this a problem with rules calibration - not sure, and I have already moderately changed things to make fire more effective. Perhaps the range modifiers for artillery are just that little bit too severe to reflect its morale effect.
As for the rest of the fighting, there were no great surprises: the Confederates had the rub of the green in some of the cavalry melees, generally foregoing the risks of getting into uncontrollable charges by using the advantage of the slopes to force the Parliamentary troopers into making even odds attacks. Castleconnel's troopers never got out of hand and were thus never forced into the uncontrolled pursuits which past experience has taught me quickly turns victory into defeat for armies possessing the more 'dashing' varieties of horsemen! The quality differential on one flank and the absence of it on the other explain the different outcomes on each flank.
The rules allow the possibility of simultaneous morale failures at an Army-level but I think this is the first time that I encountered it. It actually made my decision not to use 'Elite' troops important, since 'Elite' troops would still have been able to operate on one of the sides, I forget which, and would probably have cleaned up...
I mentioned in the scenario notes that it is unclear whether the average Confederate Foot unit showed so much more elan that they were prepared to charge home in a way impossible for their English opponents and therefore use the Polemos: ECW optional 'Irish' rules. Conversely, I allowed MacColla's men to use the 'Irish' rules but perhaps they should have used the 'Highlander' optional rules? In essence, both optional rules allow these troops to 'charge' rather than advance to contact, with the 'Irish' ability to use ranged musketry combat diminishing and the Highlanders not to use it at all (IIRC). More expert opinions than mine definitely sought...
Anyway, a good time was had by all, i.e. me !, and I am looking forward to getting this back onto the table quite quickly to see if the result turns out differently next time. I am also developing an itch to incorporate the fighting in Scotland and Ireland into a full 'War of the Three Kingdoms' campaign, but still thinking about how to do that...