Wednesday 1 April 2020

Dacre's attack on Ferniehurst, 1523

In the middle of last month I visited Stuart,,  to continue our series of Renaissance Rampart battles. Following our games at the end of last year focusing around Suffolk's 1523 campaign in France we decided to fight an Anglo-Scots battle this time. Once again we turned to Hall's Chronicle for inspiration and found a campaign under the Earl of Surrey and Lord Dacre that was taking place in 1523 while the main English army was campaigning on the continent.

Dacre's attack on Ferniehurst, September 1523

With Henry VIII's renewal of war with France in the early 1520s Scotland had to be taken into account. Following the death of James IV at Flodden by 1521 Scotland was under the regency of John Stuart, Duke of Albany. When England had invaded France under the Earl of Surrey in 1522 Albany had attempted to lead an army across the border but as the English responded and levied an army under the Earl of Shrewsbury to meet them the force lost heart, not wanting a repeat of Flodden, and withdrew.

Prior to England's larger invasion of France in 1523 Surrey, now returned from the continent where the Duke of Suffolk would take over, led a chevauchee style raid into the Scottish borders to ensure the Scots were kept quiet during the French invasion and cause enough chaos to discredit Albany's regency. This was a raid against Scottish strongholds that achieved little other than the capture of Cessford Castle. In September of 1523 Surrey led another raid with Lord Dacre, Warden of the English West March. While Surrey took Jedburgh in a vicious assault Dacre was despatched to sieze Ferniehurst castle held by the border lord Andrew "Dan" Kerr.

Ferniehurst was surrounded by woodland and rough terrain where a fierce fight took place before the siege could begin. Hall states:

"Duryng whiche time he senty lorde Daker of Gyldersland to a strong hold of Doncar called Fernhurst, the whiche castle stode very evil to come to, for the wayes wer hylly, stony and full of marishes, and the Scottes had bent their ordinaunce that way: yet for all that the Englishmen so fiersly set on that they gat the Castle, notwithstandyng that the Scottes fought valiauntly, and many of theim were taken, as Dan Car the lorde, the lorde of Grandon and divers other which were there taken"

The games were played using our modified Lion Rampant rules. Stuart took command of the English while I was in charge of Kerr's force of Borderers. All the photos are from the games and reading the captions is the best way to follow the action.

Ferniehurst Castle, home of the Kerr Border family. The Scots deploy in secret at this end with the English assaulting through the woods, again in secret, from the other.

The Assault on Ferniehurst

For this scenario the English had to attempt to clear the field of Andrew "Dan" Kerr and his troops. The stream, hills, rocks, trees and foliage were set out to show the "evil" terrain and counted as difficult terrain in the game (see the photo above).

To represent the chaos in the terrain “battered” markers were used to represent each unit. We wrote down in secret which unit each marker was for. Three "Dummy" counters were allowed per side, just to add to the confusion and give us both a chance to keep the other guessing. A unit was revealed either by an enemy unit attacking or shooting it once it was within 8” of the marker or by an enemy unit simply moving within 3” of it. Retinue leaders could not apply their morale bonus until revealed and all counters could "move" activate on a 6+ and move 6” until they were revealed. If units wanted to “reveal” themselves earlier, for example if the Retinue Leader wanted to give his leadership benefit, they could do so by declaring this when they activated. Once “revealed” a unit did not disappear again.

The retinues were as follows:

Dacre's English

2 Units of Foot Knights ( one is Lord Dacre and his retainers)
1 Unit of Garrison Archers                 
1 Unit of Garrison Billmen                               
1 Unit of Shire Archers                       
1 Unit of Border Horse                     
1 Culverin                                               
1 Organ Gun                                       

Dann Kerr's Scots

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Dan Kerr)                     
1 Unit of Foot Knights (Lorde of Grandon) 
2 Units of Border Horse                                                                                           
1 Unit of Garrison Archers  (Borderers)       
1 Unit of Garrison Bill (Borderers)
1 Culverin                                                             
1 Organ Gun                                      

The action begins when English billmen advance into a Scots organ gun and Border horse on the English left flank.

On the other side of the marshy ground English Border horse ride into some tough Borderers armed with polearms and a Scots field gun, the Scots having "bent their ordinaunce that way".

Dacre's men counter with a light field gun that has been manhandled through the rough terrain.

Scots Border horse in the foreground ride down the English while English Borderers can be seen in the distance.

The first fighting in this game started on the two flanks, outside of the terrain that was "hylly, stony and full of marishes". On the English left flank a detachment of Dacre's bill, bow and foot knights ran into a Scots Organ gun which was supported by Border horse and foot knights. This combination proved too much for the English and they were defeated fairly quickly, being pushed back by these combined units.

On the English right it was the opposite. The Scots had pushed a field gun into the rocky ground to defend the castle but the English had also wheeled a gun up. With archers in the rough terrain and with Dacre's Border horse riding around the flank this force of English soon knocked out Kerr's gun and moved in on the castle. A force of tough Borderers armed with polearms checked this advance for a while but the weight of numbers was against them.

The "lorde of Grandon" and his men at arms engage with English gentlemen who are leading the asault through the woods.

Outside Ferniehurst some Border archers are pushed back by the ferocious English assault.

A force of Kerr Borderers is surrounded in the woods but continues to fight on...

...while on the other side of the woods the Scots have outnumbered the English and hold their ground.

A sentry in the castle looks out onto the bitter fighting in the surrounding countryside.

The English hold the woods and launch volleys of arrows at the Scots.

It seemed the Scots had left the castle itself weakly defended. A group of Borderers armed with bows  attempted to fight off the advancing English centre but they were soon over run by the ferocity of Dacre's assault. The axis of the fighting swung with the Scots holding what had been the English left flank and the English pushing in on the right. The group of stubborn Kerr Borderers on the English right continued to put up stiff resistance but were eventually over run in the rough terrain.

The centre of the battlefield now became the main scene of the action. Dan Kerr emerged only to be caught out by an organ gun which Dacre had ordered his men drag over the rough stony ground. His retinue survived the volley of shrapnel and Kerr himself launched into a melee in the out buildings of Ferniehurst. A unit of Kerr retainers armed with pikes pushed some of the English bill back but Dann Kerr was captured in a brief melee with Dacre and his bodyguard. The morale of the Kerr force shook, with some of the Scotsmen fleeing through the marshy terrain to avoid death or capture.

Help was on hand for the defenders and with the Scots pike rallying, more Border archers emerged from Ferniehurst and the remaining Scots forces began to break the morale of the advancing English. The fighting in the rough terrain had taken its toll on the English units with many of them breaking in quick succession. Dacre and his retinue were left surrounded and with his troops running back into the rough terrain he sounded a retreat.

The surrounded Scots Borderers are finally defeated.

Dann Kerr himself emerges from the castle but walks straight into a hail of shot from an organ gun Dacre's men have pushed up to the fortress.

In an attempt to prevent Ferniehurst falling Kerr retainers armed with pikes launch a counter attack on the advancing English.

In the melee Lord Dacre (shown here under Poynings arms) clashes with Dan Kerr and the Scotsman is captured.

Despite his capture, Kerr's retainers and men at arms fight on. The dead and wounded litter the marshy ground.

Scots men at arms escape the battle by wading through one of the streams in the woods.

More Scots archers have emerged from the Castle. Dacre is surrounded by the remaining Kerr forces.

"Dacres men sayd that the devil was sene amongest them"

After taking Ferniehurst all was not well for Dacre and his troops. We return to Hall:

"and so the lorde Daker returned with his prisoners, and then he was ordained to kepe the watche that night wiche set his watches & his wardes surely. In the night sodainly CCC good geldynges brake out of a pasture, whiche were in custodie of the sayd lord Dacres campe, and as beastes wodde and savage ranne as though they were in array of battail, whereof the noyse in the night was so great, that the  armye sounded alarme, the horse still in array ranne to the cape, where the erle lay and bare doune many persones in their waye, and so sodainly ranne away whether it was unknowen: the lorde Darcres men sayd that the devil was sene amongest them"

For this scenario the English were deployed amongst their Wagons on one side of the field. The "geldynges" were represented by 3 bases of cattle (we didn't have any bases of horses) which were placed in the centre of the table. The English were allowed one unit that acted as normal from the start of the game, termed the Watch.

To rouse the rest of the camp the Watch unit had to make an attack (ranged or hand to hand) on the Scots to identify them and then return to the camp perimeter. If they made it back to the camp all of the English could then activate the following turn.

Gervases Phillips in the Anglo-Scots Wars states that "The Exasperated  Dacre swore that the Devil himself was responsible, but there can be little doubt that Scottish knives had cut the tethers".

The Scots started at the other end of the table with the objective of moving towards the cattle to "untether" them. They then had to cause as much disruption to the English camp while keeping their own casualties to a minimum. Once a unit reached the cattle it took a successful move activation to "untether" them after which the cattle would automatically move.

Each base of cattle moved 2D6 inches in a random direction every turn. If they passed through a unit that unit took D6 minus their armour value in casualties to represent the stampede. If the cattle base rolled a double on it's random move the "devil was sene amongest them"! A devil marker was placed by the unit. Any English within 12" had to take an automatic morale check whenever a devil marker appeared. The next turn it would dissappear unless the cattle based rolled another double to move.

All English units could activate once the cattle were on the loose. If an English unit could move to a cattle base (rather than the cattle base moving through them) they could capture it and then try to take it back to their camp moving 6" a turn. If they broke or fled they would loose the cattle base and it would move as random again. The Scots could attempt to disrupt the retrieval of the cattle. The Scots units could not capture the cattle like the English units, they could only set them free to run amok.

Dacre's camp, the cattle are to the left.

The retinues were as follows:

Dacre's Camp

1 Unit of Demi Lancers (Lord Dacre) (This unit could not be the watch)
1 Unit of Border Horse  (Stuart designated these as his Watch unit)
1 Unit of Garrison Billmen                                                             
1 Unit of Shire Archers                                                                   
1 Unit of Foot Knights                                                                       
1 Unit of Garrison Archers                                                           

The Scots Raiders

1 Unit of Demi Lancers  (The Border Captain)                                               
2 Units of Border Horse
1 Unit of Foot Knights                                                               
1 Units of Garrison Archers (Borderers)
1 Unit of Garrison Bill (Borderers)                                           

The Scots Borderers advance quietly towards the livestock.

A force of Neville Borderers, the English Watch, is alerted by the advancing Scots.

Borderers clash under a brooding night sky.

This was one of those games that goes terribly for both sides! It didn't take the English Watch long to detect the force of Scots emerging out of the darkness. As the English Border horse made a fighting retreat back to the camp the Scots captain and his mounted retinue reached the cattle and set them loose. As the English camp awoke hearing the noise of skirmishing in the night followed by the sounds of the stampeding livestock all looked to be going perfectly for the Scots.

The tide of the game then turned because the cattle did not stampede into the English camp as intended but rather into the advancing Scots, running over some of the units multiple times! As the Scots were thrown into chaos by their own doing the English advanced in formation. Dacre's archers began to increase the Scots casualties and although "the devil was sene amongest" the cattle on numerous occasions it had no adverse affect on the English force. Perhaps Dacre just conjured up this tale after the encounter to cover up his mistake?

Forcing the English Border horse back the Scots manage to scatter the cattle.

"the lorde Darcres men sayd that the devil was sene amongest them"

The cattle rampage through the Scots lines causing complete chaos and scattering them!

A group of Scots men at arms engages briefly with some of Dacre's Billmen but are forced back. This is the only hand to hand fighting of this chaotic night fight.

Having been completely disorganised by the cattle and coming under a hail of arrows from the now awakened English camp the Scots retreat. They have deprived the English of the cattle but have been completely disorganised in the process while the English remain in formation.

As the Scots raiding party crumbled the dismounted Borderers and Scots men at arms attempted to advance on the English camp. A group of English billmen charged the Scots men at arms who were pushed back in a very brief melee. Under a withering hail of arrows these Scots units then began to withdraw. They had successfully driven off the herd of cattle, which Dacre's men had made little attempt to retrieve, but had been heavily mauled, by English arrows and the hooves of the cattle in the process!

These were a fun couple of games. The hidden unit technique in the first game, while denying us of the opportunity to set the armies out in their full splendour at the start, made for a very exciting and close fight. I think that may be one of the closest games we have had yet where it swung back and forth very quickly. The second game was amusing as it was such a disaster for both of us with neither Stuart or myself really achieving the objectives of our forces. It was also nice to have a chance to represent the cut and thrust of border warfare that was a common feature of Anglo-Scots relations in Henry VIII's reign. I look forward to our next clash of arms whenever that may be.