Sunday, 2 October 2016

My Wargaming Week, 2nd October 2016

Obviously some of this week was taken up with finishing the Royal North Carolina that I recently posted about. 

This weekend I made a start on a unit of loyalist militia to round off Rawdon's brigade for Camden:

 

Early days, but I'll tinker with these through the week and see how far I get. Then it will be over to the "grand plan" and I will get my 1775 British on the table for a combination of refreshing old painting, adding new figures and rebasing. I am giving myself a whole year to do these, rebase my Minutemen and expand my collection of native warriors. It should all be quite manageable.

I have also read through the latest AWI release by Osprey, covering the campaign and battle of Cowpens 1781.

 

I bought mine for my Kindle, so can't say too much about the colour pictures, but otherwise it is well illustrated and the maps seem clear and helpful.

The description of the battle itself also seems decent and is well fleshed out. This is much more useful to the wargamer than the fairly cursory battle description in the Camden volume. 

I do take issue though with much of the remaining text. It is very much like reading a book from 20 or more years ago. The portrayal of the commanders is stereotyped to the level of parody. Greene and Morgan are faultless heroes and military geniuses, Tarleton is a moustache-twirling neo nazi and Cornwallis something of a well-meaning fool. I really thought that AWI scholarship had moved beyond this...

The authors fail to identify or explore the very difficult relationship between Greene and the militia. Mention is made of the militia being compelled to give up their horses to create impromptu dragoon units but not the effect this had on militia attitudes. Only a few weeks later, following Weitzell's Mill, many militia turned their back on Greene and he had to rely on wholly different militias to fill out the ranks at Guilford Courthouse. Examples such as this give the whole book a partizan, lop-sided view of people and events and it is much the poorer for it.

There are further oddities and inaccuracies in the text, too numerous for me to list here in detail but an example is a caption for a picture of the 71st who are described as becoming good troops under Cornwallis' command such as at Brier Creek. However at BC the 71st weren't even under Cornwallis' as this campaign was commanded by Augustine Prevost. 

One theme picked up a few times is Tarleton's defeat at Blackstocks. It is great of the authors to identify this often overlooked action and it does show how Tarleton's impetuosity got him into trouble. The book however, reports the defeat as being somehow remarkable which I find difficult to understand. At Blackstocks Tarleton charged in despite being outnumbered against an enemy with its back to a river so unable to skedaddle. The outcome seem quite unsurprising and has a lot in common with Cowpens itself. 

Overall it feels as if the authors' research into the militia is top notch but the remaining research and writing is lazy and too reliant older secondary sources. 

I am intrigued by a comment that following the defeat at Cowpens the 71st no longer wore facing colours. I haven't heard that before; but really don't know how far I can trust the text.

The unit sizes in the OOB also feel a bit off at times, although the authors do note that this is a thorny issue. Being limited by the size of an Osprey book they are unable to expand and it would be unfair to criticise further.

So, in summary I recommend this for its description of the battle and for some good illustrations. I strongly recommend that readers look elsewhere for information about the events of the campaign and about the characters involved to gain a more rounded view of them and their actions. 

Cheers!

2 comments:

Dale said...

So are you saying the Kindle version does not have pictures, or that you are using the black-and-white Kindle, so you don't see color?

Steve said...

Black and white, and relatively low-res. Will look ok on the PC using the Kindle app I'm sure.