Fife & Drum Miniatures is a range of 1/56 scale figures (approximately 30mm in height) sculpted by Richard Ansell, and is devoted to the American War of Independence. The figures may be purchased from Der Alte Fritz through this blog, using Paypal for payment. Click on the page tabs for Crown Forces, American forces and artillery equipment to see pictures of the individual figures.

Winner of the "Best Historical Miniatures Range of 2011" by The Miniatures Page.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Battle of Cooch's Bridge Sept 3, 1777

British Brigade of Guards advance with Jagers covering their right flank.

This is the first of many AWI scenarios that I intend to develop and post on the Fife & Drum Miniatures blog. While the blog is intended to be primarily a vehicle for promoting my miniatures, I want to augment it with wargame scenarios for AWI battles. I will endeavor to keep adding historical content to this blog, so please stop in for a visit periodically... and if you are not a "follower", then please click on the "follower" button on the top left hand corner of this page so that you can keep up to date on the new content that we will be posting.

Battle of Cooch's Bridge, from Campaign to Valley Forge by John Reed.

Given that Fife & Drum Miniatures are intended to cover the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777, I am interested in all aspects of the campaign and all of the actions, encounters and battles, no matter what their size. Cooch's Bridge was the first encounter between Howe's British army and the advance guard of Washington's forces in Delaware. It is also a very small encounter, involving no more than about 700 Americans and perhaps an equal number of British light infantry and Hessian/Ansbach Jagers.

The Osprey book on the campaign: Philadelphia 1777 by Justin Clement gives us the following order of battle for the opposing sides:

Americans (Brigadier General William Maxwell)

700 to 800 light infantry, marksmen drafted from various Continental regiments

British-German Forces (Lt.-Colonel von Wurmb)

Ansbach and Hessian Jagers - 400
1st Light Infantry Battalion - unengaged
2nd Light Infantry Battalion - 550 (Reed says that it was the 2nd Btn that got lost in the swamp)

* Boatner's Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (page 283) indicates the presence of some amusettes attached to the jager contingent.

This encounter appears to have the makings of a fun skirmish wargame. Using a 1:10 ratio of figures to men, the Americans would need 70 to 80 figures and the Allies would have 50-55 British Light Bobs and 40 Jager figures. 

The Osprey book on the Philadelphia campaign indicates that Maxwell's force was augmented by 1,000 Delaware and Pennsylvania militia, but none of the sources that I have read mention the presence of any of the militia. So I would assume that the militia were not involved in the action.

The 1st British Light Infantry battalion attempted to outflank the American position on Iron Hill, but they got lost in the swamp and morass that lay to the north of Christiana Creek and thus were never engaged in the fight. A battalion of British Grenadiers were also part of von Wurmb's advance guard, but the rapid advance of the Allied light infantry forces left the Grenadiers far behind and so they too were not engaged in the fight.

Background  (from Boatner):

"To harass the advance of Howe from Head of Elk, Maxwell's Light Infantry took up a position near Cooch's Bridge (or Iron Hill). This place was on Christiana Creek about five miles NE of Elkton, Maryland. On September 2, 1777 Washington warned Maxwell that the enemy would move in his direction the next day. About 9 o'clock the morning of the 3rd the advance guard of Cornwallis' "grand division" was fired on by Maxwell. Lt. Colonel von Wurmb, commanding the leading elements of jagers, brought his amusettes into action and then drove the Americans back by an envelopment and bayonet attack against their right. Maxwell was forced out of several delaying positions. The British light infantry came forward to support the Germans, and although the Americans delivered  several close, well-directed  fires, the running fight soon degenerated into a running flight back to Washington's main body on White Clay Creek, some four miles north of Cooch's Bridge.

Baurmeister says the Americans left 30 dead, including 5 officers, but evacuated their wounded. Ward accepts this figure, but mentions Montressor's figure of 20 American dead left on the field, and Marshall's estimate of 40 American killed and wounded. Enemy losses were 3 killed and 20 wounded, according to Montressor, or 30 killed and wounded according to Robinson.

The recently adopted Stars and Stripes is said to have made one of its earliest appearances in this battle."

Howe had landed his army at Head of Elk, in Maryland, on August 26, 1777 concluding a months long voyage that began in New York harbor on July 23rd, with a brief detour up the Delaware Bay, followed by a back track to the Chesapeake Bay and a subsequent landing in Maryland. The first units to land were part of Cornwallis' elite division of all the Light, Grenadier, Guards and Jagers and over the next several days, the balance of Howe's army landed and a perimeter was secured. The few American militia in the vacinity took off as soon as the British first wave landed.

On August 28th, the British advance guard took up position on Gray's Hill, which overlooked the Head of Elk. From there, they could observe some of the Americans atop of nearby Iron Hill. Howe and his staff spotted a group of American officers and it was thought that the party include General Washington himself.

On September 3rd, the British at last moved forward with Cornwallis' vanguard departing from Aikin's Tavern a few miles south of Iron Hill. This force, as noted above, consisted largely of the British light troops and jagers. The road traversed through a wooded area, making the ground perfect for ambuscade and Indian-style fighting. The first fire commenced around 9 AM and a running firefight began as the American fell back toward Cooch's Bridge. Evidently, the Americans soon ran out of ammunition and the British lights went after them with the bayonet. Since most of the Americans either had rifles, which could not use bayonets, or they had so few of them for those armed with muskets, they were no match for the British and the Jagers once their ammo had run out.

At some point during the battle, the 2nd Battalion of Light Infantry attempted to outflank the American position at Cooch's Bridge, but they got mired in the Purgatory Swamp (aptly named it seems) and did not arrive until after the battle was well in hand. Had they been able to successfully complete their maneuver, then Maxwell's entire light brigade might have been captured.


  1. Thanks for going to the trouble to give us this account and map. As I've reached 1777 in my own (10mm) version of the AWI I'm interested in more when you have time please.

  2. I used to live near here. I always thought it would make an interesting skirmish.

  3. I am going to have to see if I can make a Muskets & Tomahawks game out of this.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. World of the Common Soldier
    (Master List of Articles and Monographs)

    John U. Rees
    136 North Sugan Road,
    New Hope, Pa. 18938
    Phone: (215) 862-2348

    Subject Headings
    Book Reviews
    Campaign, Battle, Combat, and Operational Studies (1775-1783)
    Women Following the Army (1775-1783)
    Letters, Diaries, and Order Books
    African-American Soldiers (1775-1783)
    Military Musicians (1775-1783)
    Enlistment and Conscription (1775-1783)
    Miscellaneous Subjects (1775-1783)
    New Jersey Brigade (1775-1783)
    Regimental, Battalion, and other Unit Studies (1775-1783)
    Miscellaneous Military Material Culture (1775-1783)
    Transportation (1775-1783)
    Soldiers' Shelter (1775-1783)
    Soldiers' Rations, Food Preparation and Cooking Utensils (1755-2000)
    Brother Jonathan’s Images

  6. See also

    World of the Common Soldier
    (Master List of Articles and Monographs)

    John U. Rees
    136 North Sugan Road,
    New Hope, Pa. 18938
    Phone: (215) 862-2348