FEAR NOTHING BUT GOD
THE WESTERN RISING OF 1685
South East Essex Military Society (SEEMS)
Most people know the last battle fought on English soil was Sedgemoor at the end of Monmouth's disastrous campaign to seize the crown. You might not be familiar with the whole campaign or indeed how close James, Duke of Monmouth, came to altering
the face of English history completely. The game presented by SEEMS this weekend is an attempt to reproduce the campaign on the tabletop.
At the time of Charles II death, James, Duke of Monmouth, was the popular Protestant hero of English imagination, and widely supposed to be Charles' illegitimate son. He was currently exiled in Brussels following the 'Exclusionist' plotting of the 1670's. James, Duke of York, the brother of born Charles, and an unpopular Catholic, despite a period in exile himself, was the declared heir to the
throne. The newly crowned King James II wastes no time, he ordered Monmouth's immediate arrest. Monmouth's choice is either to remain in exile in Europe, dodging assassination attempts by James II's agents, or to return to England, place himself at the head of a popular rebellion as the great Protestant hero and reclaim his rightful throne from the Catholic usurper.
The Protestant faith revolves around the idea that a man may make his own contract with God, without using priests as middle-men. As such it became wildly popular . with the middle classes of Yeoman farmers, artisans and other professionals. It was not so popular with the King and his Tory, land-owning, supporters, who felt that making your own contract with God might lead to questioning the contract between the classes that gave them the position and wealth they enjoyed.
The new King, James II was insecure. As a Catholic king he depended on a largely Protestant army and ruled a predominantly Protestant country. For James, Duke of Monmouth there were a number of possibilities for starting a rebellion, but the best seemed to be a landing in the West Country. In 1685 Monmouth lands at Lyme Regis and organises the volunteers that flock to his standard into 5 regiments.
His army enjoys early success over the Militia and Royal forces (at Bridport, Shute and Ashill), and forces a crossing over the River Avon to encamp the rebel army just outside Bristol (at Keynsham). However, faced with a gathering Royal Army, Monmouth decided to retreat. As Monmouth retreated, the King's Army followed close behind. Monmouth's army made a spirited stand at Norton St Phillip but after a strong fight Monmouth retreated to Bridgewater.
With his army starting to lose heart, Monmouth makes a brilliant night attack on the Royal Army camped at Sedgemoor but a tactical blunder allows the Royal army to snatch a victory and the rebellion breaks up. Monmouth flees but is captured and later executed, his followers suffer the 'Bloody Assizes' under one of James II's most notorious servants, Judge Jefferies.
Three years later William of Orange responds to English Protestant dissatisfaction and
invades England in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. This time the Royal army does
not fight, James II flees to the continent and William becomes King of England, establishing the Hanoverian House.
We are fighting all the battles of the campaign this weekend, along with other battles that were possible depending on the outcome of the historical battles. We considered three options for re-fighting this campaign:
Free-Form, where the players have the general situation and armies at the start of the campaign, but are then free to behave as they like. While fun, this rapidly leaves reality behind.
Strictly Linear, where the players fight each battle in turn, allocating victory points to determine an overall winner. This follows the history closely but perhaps leaves too little scope for the players to make decisions. In particular, Sedgemoor is almost impossible for the rebels to win on the table, leaving the poor rebel player with the feeling of marching to inevitable defeat.
Linear Options, this allows decisions at significant stages of the campaign where those decisions lead to a logical outcome in historical
The latter approach was chosen. This then led us to consider the choices and objectives facing the commanders and these are shown on the attached table. After each battle's outcome unit's losses are partially restored, morale is adjusted and the table reset for the next battle of the campaign.
Bristol and London are the two fictitious battles, based on Monmouth's clear historical
objectives. Seizing Bristol would give Monmouth new arms and troops, seizing London would win the campaign. Failure at London would probably have led to a
pursuit back towards Bristol with an eventual stand and perhaps one more chance for the Rebels to win and re-assault London.
However it is assumed that Monmouth's army would not have withstood two
failures on London and if they lose a second time
Monmouth's army is destroyed. Given that no battles took place at Bristol or London in reality, the scenarios for these are semi-disguised versions of other well-known battles that appear be appropriate.
Our rules are home-grown and based on the DBM/DBA formula. We've found these offer a fast game with some genuine tactical decisions.
The South East Essex Military Society (SEEMS) has been going since the mid-seventies and is based near Southend. We meet weekly on a Wednesday night with the infrequent weekend game. We also exhibit at most wargames shows in the South East - you may have seen some of our previous games.
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