Title: SARATOGA - the Battle of Freeman's Farm, 1777

The year is 1777 - General "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne's expedition to cut off New England from the rest of the rebellious American states has reached the clearing of Freeman's Farm.(1) The lines of redcoats form up around the farmstead, whilst a redoubt has been rapidly thrown up on their right. They steadfastly await the Americans advancing from out of the woods in front of them.

This webpage illustrates a miniature wargame, based loosely on the two battles that have come to be known as Saratoga. Most of these images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

  Before the storm.

New Zealand wargamers Paul Crouch, Steve Sands and Roly Hermans, had recently bought a copy of the British Grenadier rules, and were determined to try them out. One Sunday afternoon the three of them finally managed to get some time off together, and this is the game that ensued.

This closer view of British redcoats from General James Inglis Hamilton's brigade around the farmstead shows some of the amazingly detailed 28mm miniature soldiers and terrain owned by Paul.

  British lines around Freeman's Farm.

The scenario rules for this battle state that the troops of Brigadier-General Simon Fraser's brigade can only leave the confines of their redoubt on the British right after a throw of double sixes. "I never get double sixes," says Steve, throwing the very first dice of the game - you guessed it, double six!

So Fraser's light infantry and an artillery piece emerge from the redoubt in the first move of the game, throwing the American plan into disarray before they even start moving.

  British redoubt.
On the American side, Roly commands General Enoch Poor's brigade of infantry and artillery. The scenario calls for them to enter by a road on the left of the American position. But instead of heading diagonally towards the British (visible in the distance in this photo), the threat of Fraser's troops making their sortie out of the redoubt means that the Americans have to change their orders to make a right turn and form their lines more to the centre.
  Poor's columns advance down the road towards the waiting British..

Poor's brigade has now been joined by that of General Ebenezer Learned, played by Paul. Meanwhile, General Benedict Arnold and his aide can be seen in this photo, directing the commencement of the assault on the British line. Unfortunately, another double six means that Arnold is lightly wounded, and so has to temporarily leave the table.

You can also see the amazingly realistic ground-cloth that Paul inherited from the late Jim Shaw. Thrown over a piece of carpet underlay, which in turn is draped over strategically placed objects, it gives a realistic rolling ground effect.

  The Aerican advance in the centre.

After moving their line back slightly to form a better defensive position around the farm, the British lines stolidly await the American attack, with some loyalists skirmishing to their front. The redcoats' objective in this scenario is to hold the farm position.

All the figures used in this game belong to Paul. They include castings from Front Rank, Foundry and Perry Miniatures. The exquisite flags are mainly by GMB Design.

  The British line awaits the onslaught.

Slowly, inexorably, the American lines advance towards the British. Because of the extended maneuvering that Poor's brigade has had to do to avoid Fraser's light infantry and artillery, it takes quite a while to reach this stage of the game, so we "fast-forward" at this point by doubling a few moves to bring the troops into action.

Movement distances in British Grenadier are randomised, and generally must be taken the full amount. This makes coordinating an attack quite difficult, but true to the period.

  The lines close.

Finally the first regiments of the assault charge forward.

The mounted officer in the background is not just for show. These rules have an innovative system where units earn 'disruption points' from movement, firing and melee. The more such points, the harder it is to do anything. Generals can help units shake off these points, but only one unit per move, so they have to pick and choose. Thus mounted officers realistically gallop to and fro all over the battlefield


American troops in hunting shirts form the second line.

Under these rules, an attack needs to be well supported, as the disruption points can cause havoc to the first line. On the other hand, you don't want the second line too close, as they have to move their full distance, so can actually collide with the rear of the first line, causing even more disruption!

  The second American ine in support.

The American regiment on the far left has defeated a British battalion and forced it back. But the British battalion on the right holds out valiantly, whilst General Burgoyne dashes up to bolster its defence. Here yet another double six is thrown, but Burgoyne survives and it is his ADC who is killed.

In the foreground are Colonel Daniel Morgan's riflemen and light infantry, who have been in front needling the British lines all during the big American assault. Now they can pull back out of the way to let the line infantry do their job.

  The British line holds.

The Americans have only succeeded in pushing back one British unit, when to their right they hear the beating of drums as Baron von Riedesel's Hessians arrive on the battlefield, thus extinguishing any hope of the Americans forcing the British out of the Freeman's Farm position.

So in our game the British win. This would possibly have had a major effect had this happened in the real battle. It was the British surrender at Saratoga that finally induced the French to take part in the American War of Independence. In our game, this might not have happened ....!

  The Hessians arrive.

This overview of the battle shows how the game progressed. You can see where Fraser's men issued out of the redoubt at the very start of the game, and how they forced Poor's brigade to make some complicated manouevres instead of directly attacking Hamilton's position. Meanwhile, the British backstepped to form a better defensive line closer to the farm, and then the subsequent huge American assault on the centre took place. Right at the end of the battle, the Hessians arrived on the British left to cement their victory.

  Map of the battlefield.

The players - Paul Crouch (Generals Learned and Arnold), Roly Hermans (General Poor) and Steve Sands (British/Hessian), all members of the Kapiti Fusiliers Historic Gaming Club in Paraparaumu, New Zealand..

Want to comment on our site? We would love to hear what you think!

Footnote (1): "Gentleman Johnny" -a nickname given by Burgoyne's soldiers in tribute to his humanity in the days when soldiers were trained like dogs ... Burgoyne was ahead of his time ... and insisted that his officers treat them as thinking human beings and they should not be subjected to the brutal corporal punishments of the time ... and so the name was coined.

back to top

  Paul Crouch, Roly Hermans and Steve Sands.

Want to comment on our site? We would love to hear what you think!

This site designed by Roly Hermans. Visit his other (just as spectacular) wargaming websites:

- Battle of Guilford Courthouse (in conjunction with Paul Crouch)
- Last of the Mohicans (in conjunction with Paul Crouch)
- Roly's Wargames Cabinet
- Gettysburg
- My 18th Century French Army
- Valeur et Discipline (Napoleonic French)
- Confederation of the Rhine
- Websites for Wargamers

And don't forget to visit our club site, also designed by Roly Hermans, the Kapiti Fusiliers Historic Gaming Club.