Sunday, 14 June 2015

War of 1812 War Heroes; John Norton

Probably the most unsung hero of the War of 1812 is John Norton. He was a Mohawk chief in the Niagara area and was present at many actions in the Niagara.

He was half Scot and half Cherokee. Without him Queenston Heights and Stoney Creek would probably both have been lost.

Queenston Heights; after Brock was killed, Norton with 300 warriors, kept the Americans pinned to the heights and under constant fire. His warriors' war cries kept thousands of Americans from crossing the river. By the time the British reinforcements arrived the Americans were exhausted.

Stoney Creek; in the night time attack at Stoney Creek Norton led 30 natives to attack the rear if the American encampment while the British main force attacked the front. This was the turning point of the war, Norton's natives terrified the Americans and much if their forces dispersed.

Chippawa; though the British lost this battle, Norton's natives as well as the Canadian militia were the last off the field.

Lundy's Lane; He lead a contingent of natives.


Tecumseh has been viewed as a war hero in the War of 1812. I actually believe he hurt the overall war effort by threatening the British unless they fought on his terms. Overall native allies were instrumental in the defence of Canada, but John Norton and other leaders helped Canada not hurt it.

From Richard Feltoe's the Flames of War;

The British were forced to fight two unwinnable battles by Tecumseh and his natives. The result was the loss of all of their forces in South Western Upper Canada at Fort Stephenson and especially Moraviatown. Proctor actually fled the field before the Americans even attacked at Moraviantown. He knew they were being forced to fight an impossible battle.

Other Sources; Osprey's "Tecumseh" and Pierre Burton's volumes. 

Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Myth of the Militia Myth

I have read about the militia myth in many sources. It persists as an idea today though I have read other sources which don't agree.

The Militia Myth holds that Canadians believe;
1. Canada would have been lost if not for Canadian Militia 
2. That Canadians are taught in school that the war was won by mainly militia 

There are giant problems with both of these.  Canada would have been lost without the militia. Canadians are not taught the militia myth in school.  Also, the majority of active troops in Canada were Canadian up until 1814.

There is even revisionist history happening now as well.

In this article the author claims that the British and Indians were the ones defending Canada; not really the Canadians. He also says that Tecumseh was defending a British retreat at Moraviatown. Proctor was slowed by Tecumseh's followers and was threatened by Tecumseh. John Norton was the native leader more instrumental in defending Canada.

The natives defending Canada were important, but there were never anywhere near as many natives involved as militia. 

Forces in Canada in 1812 to 1813
1. 13 Batallions of British regulars 
2. 1 regiment of British Cavalry
3. Several Batteries of Guns
Total; 8000 men

Canadian Regulars and Irregulars
1. 5 Battalions of Fencibles (regulars)
2. 8 battalions of Select Embodied Militia (Provincial Regulars)
3. 1 Battalion of Upper Canadian Militia (Provincial Regulars)
4. Several troops of Cavalry (Provincial Regulars)
5. Several volunteer gun batteries, plus artillery "car brigades" (horse artillery)(Provincial Regulars)
6. Provincial Marine (Ferried Supplies)
7. 600 to 800 Voyageurs
8. Indian Department; Around 50 men, often Metis who worked closely with Native Allies
9. Caldwell's Western Rangers; These were Roger's Rangers previously. There were about 100 of these organized into two units. These may have included black and native soldiers.
Total; 10000 men

Canadian Militia
1. 10 000 Upper Canadian Militia (2500 active at a time)
2. 60 000 Lower Canadian Militia (15 000 active at a time)
3. 10 000 Maritime Canadian Militia (2500 active at a time)
Total; 20 000 men active at any given time 

Natives Involved in the War
1. Tecumseh's Western Natives; 3000 total (numbers ranged)
2. Mohawks and Other Canadian Natives; 1000 total
Total; 4000 men

The truth is that all of these branches were necessary to defend Canada. British regulars did kill and die more than the other groups, but they could not have been successful without Canadians and natives.

In 1814 around 50 more British line battalions came to North America. After two years however, they were probably unnessary to defend Canada. By the end of the war British forces were occupying parts of Maine, Alabama, New York, and Michigan. They had also burned Washington. They failed to capture New York or New Orleans. The Americans had driven the British from South Western Upper Canada.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Wargame Balance in the Black Powder Era

  I have been gaming for 28 years off and on. My favourite era is anything black powder. The strategic elements and uniforms are my favourite for gaming. I originally started playing with my father on a permanent 14 by 8 table with almost 4000 1/72 Napoleonics. We mostly developed our own rules, heavily influenced by Featherstone's books. Each battle we played we would have to adjust the rules for one branch of the army or another.

  My group has been playing 28mm Napoleonics, 7 Years War, and War of 1812. We have been using Musket and Tomahawk for smallish skirmish games, and General De Brigade for large battles. I highly recommend both rules sets. I have also heard Sharpe Practice is good but haven't played it. I tried Lasalle, but it was not for me, too fast, units disappeared easily, and did not come back, maybe for really big or fast games it's ok.

Balancing Troop Types
  General De Brigade has great rules for infantry, cavalry, artillery and skirmishers. They recommend 1 man equals 20 for Napoleonics, with 1 cannon equals 2. For the War of 1812 they recommend 1 man equals 10, and 1 cannon equals 1. The biggest battery you can have in GDB is 4. The scales for cannons would be way too many cannons IMO, we are usually have more like 1 cannon per 4 for Napoleonics and 1 per 2 for 1812; sometimes I will do 2 models for every 3 cannons. Cannons would often be in reserve in battles as well so it may still make sense.  For 1812 I change the scale for each battle to match my units of 24 to 48; 1 man equals 5, 8, 10, 15 or 20. If you have smaller units you probably need even fewer cannons. 

  I was reading about rate of fire for cannons for each Napoleonic nation. The French not only usually had more cannons than their enemies, they fired each cannon twice as often as other nations on average! Cannons win battles. But having too many of them becomes unrealistic and can ruin the balance of the game. In the War of 1812 batteries of cannons on both sides were almost always between 1 and 4 guns. So depending on the scale we are using a 4 gun battery will be 2 or 3 guns usually. 

  Skirmishers are tricky to make balanced to. If they are allowed too much freedom of movement they can do unrealistic overpowered maneuvers. 

  Cavalry too is hard to balance. In GDB they successfully charge about half the time which seems about right. When they don't charge they might rout the field, but they will more likely just retreat to their own lines. They usually win vs infantry not in square so that also seems right. 

  Infantry is the easiest to balance, and everything else has to balance with them. I like a morale system which allows troops to fall back before they just flee the field. Again GDB does this well. I'm sure there are other great rule sets out there that I haven't played.

Starting Positions and Orders
  I figured out what happened in the two big What If? battles. The American troops won both, I think in part because the British started deployed on neutral ground (not particularly defensive positions). This allowed the Americans to concentrate their forces and deploy their artillery where it was needed while avoiding the British guns. I would not change the What If? Scenarios, as the British were lead by Prevost who was a cautious defensive commander. Still that is how most battles looked, one side awaiting an attack by another.