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"Col. Washington's Quaker gun" Topic

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Private Matter04 Dec 2015 5:55 a.m. PST

I thought this was an interesting event from this day in 1780? I pasted this directly from

"A force of Continental dragoons commanded by Colonel William Washington–General George Washington's second cousin once removed–corners Loyalist Colonel Rowland Rugeley and his followers in Rugeley's house and barn near Camden, South Carolina, on this day in 1780.

After nearly a year of brutal backcountry conflict between Washington and the fierce British commander Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, Washington had retreated to North Carolina the previous October. Commanded to return to the South Carolina theater by Brigadier General Daniel The Old Wagoner Morgan, Colonel Washington still lacked the proper artillery to dislodge the Loyalists. He told his cavalrymen to dismount and surround the barn. While out of Rugeley's sight, Washington's men fabricated a pine log to resemble a cannon.

This Quaker gun trick, named so because Quakers used it to be intimidating without breaching their pacifist vow of non-violence, worked beautifully. Washington faced the cannon toward the buildings in which the Loyalists had barricaded themselves and threatened bombardment if they did not surrender. Shortly after, Rugeley surrendered his entire force without a single shot being fired.

When informed of the pacifist victory, General Charles Cornwallis, commander of the British armies in America, informed Tarleton that Rugeley's performance ensured he would never rise to the rank of brigadier. A few weeks later, Tarleton would himself face an even worse humiliation at the hands of General Morgan during the devastating Battle of Cowpens. The harrowing civil war for the hearts and minds of the Carolina backcountry had finally begun to favor the Patriots."

How can you Wargames something like the affect of the Quaker gun on morale?

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Dec 2015 6:10 a.m. PST

If the game you play has a morale mechanic, it's pretty simple. You either provide the ability to force an extra morale roll or provide a bonus/penalty to some established morale value in the game.

I don't often play games with morale mechanics built in to them. If this is going to be a bluff, I would prefer it to be a bluff. With hidden force status and victory points systems that award for surviving forces, you can create a lot of situations like this.

So you bring a unit to the table but your opponent doesn't know exactly what its capabilities are, they have to make a call with incomplete information (what Rugeley did) and you are taking a big risk they won't bite (what Washington did).

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2015 6:33 a.m. PST

Some rules require a morale check for "first time under artillery fire" – so maybe allow the Quaker Gun to force one such morale roll in a game.

zippyfusenet Inactive Member04 Dec 2015 6:42 a.m. PST

How can you Wargames something like the affect of the Quaker gun on morale?

This historical scenario makes a poor wargame, because the random effect of the fake (or real) cannon determines the outcome of the game.

If Rugeley sees the 'cannon' and fails morale, he surrenders, game over. If Rugely passes morale, then you have a skirmish game that Washington can't win – unless the cannon turns out to be real, in which case, again, Rugeley can't win. It's a poor game, because neither player can do much to influence the outcome. One dice roll determines everything.

In designing games, it's best to keep the impact of random events colorful, but minor, so the players don't feel frustrated and dissatisfied.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2015 6:58 a.m. PST

Zippy is right.
It's going to be a very short game regardless.

45thdiv04 Dec 2015 7:01 a.m. PST

Also a bad scenario because no shots were fired.

I say make a diorama and then you are done. :)

Private Matter04 Dec 2015 7:39 a.m. PST

I would agree that this one scenario would make a very dull game, however, I am always interested in how misconceptions of an opponent's capabilities has shaped the outcome of a battle. And how can that be modeled on the tabletop.

CeruLucifus04 Dec 2015 9:12 a.m. PST

Also I think you are missing the significant factor in that historical example. It's not this:

Washington's men fabricated a pine log to resemble a cannon … Washington … threatened bombardment if they did not surrender.
It's this:
Washington … corners Loyalist Colonel Rowland Rugeley and his followers in Rugeley's house and barn … Colonel Washington … told his cavalrymen to dismount and surround the barn.
Rugeley's force was surrounded. Most wargames rules allow a surrounded force to be removed from play (due to annihilation, surrender and capture, etc). Depending on the scale, the mechanics may require putting the surrounded unit under fire, causing casualties on it, making one or more morale checks, etc, but eventually it fails its morale check and either surrenders, or attempts to retreat into the enemy force and is captured.

So the Quaker gun trick is a terrific historical anecdote but in most wargames, the player with Washington's force had already defeated Rugeley's force by maneuver.

That said, to simulate the Quaker gun trick you would need a set of rules with some mechanic that would make a parley to offer surrender worthwhile, meaning there is a chance the other force would surrender. And revealing part of one's force such as artillery could influence that chance. And then you need something that simulates fog of war to the extent that a player can bluff by claiming units he might have but doesn't which count the same for the surrender check as real units.

And with all that in play, remember how wargamers think. A wargamer with Rugeley's force who knew the rules allowed bluff, would always manipulate the mechanics to try to find out if he was being bluffed. E.g. send out scouts to determine size and composition of enemy force. Or respond to the surrender offer with "Honor demands I cannot surrender without a shot fired. End this parley. Fire your cannon once and then we shall parley again."

So it would never happen in a wargame.

zippyfusenet Inactive Member04 Dec 2015 9:19 a.m. PST

Fair enough.

I frequently lie to my players about the nature of the scenario, the terrain and their opponent's capabilities. I try to make these lies similar to the kind of mis- or dis-information the real commanders might have gotten. I try to make the lies colorful, entertaining, capable of being discovered by means of competent recon and/or common sense, and not such that they'll unbalance the game.

"Col. Poltroun, after a scattering of musketry, your militia scouts have returned to report that the woods on your left are occupied by 3,000 blood-thirsty Heckawi warriors, and we'd better go back to Kentucky because they think they left something cooking on the stove."

"Oh, I may not have mentioned that the patch of high grass on your right is very swampy. Your men can't get through."

"A deserter reports that the town is occupied by a mixed kampfgruppe of KoenigsTiger, Dora Kannone, SS Fallschirmjaeger and Franckenstein monsters."

"Yes, you have a battery of 88s. I'm not going to tell your opponent that you only have 3 rounds of ammunition per gun. Put up a brave front."

Be creative, but not mean. Have fun.

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2015 10:11 a.m. PST

How can you Wargames something like the affect of the Quaker gun on morale?

I've introduced Quaker guns in ACW scenarios a couple times. I just included them in the forces for one side and let the players figure out how to use them. The house rule was that the gun models could not fire and would be lifted off the table as soon as an enemy unit got within cannister range of them. Sometimes the ruse works brilliantly, other times it has no appreciable effect. I ran one Fire and Fury game where a Union force surrounded in a town by an equal Confederate force was cowed into sitting tight because they saw so much artillery; if they'd acted aggressively they probably could have broken the Confederates instead, by concentrating an attack on a single point in the spread-out Confederate lines.

If you like games with card-driven mechanics you can insert special event cards to simulate things like this. That tends to be a bit blander (it's usually a one-time, one-turn event), but if a situation like the Washington/Rugeley standoff is a small sideshow in a larger battle, it could be influential or even decisive.

- Ix

Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2015 10:13 a.m. PST

I frequently lie to my players about the nature of the scenario, the terrain and their opponent's capabilities. I try to make these lies similar to the kind of mis- or dis-information the real commanders might have gotten.


- Ix

Doug MSC Sponsoring Member of TMP04 Dec 2015 10:30 a.m. PST

Just having a real(Quaker)artillery piece maneuvering in the distance for awhile and then pointed at the house/barn may cause the defenders to move their troops into positions where they will have a greater advantage than just sit in the house/barn being fired on and taking casualties, if they know ahead of time that the artillery can blow to bits the structures and slaughter the defenders. This may cause them to send out troops to engage the figures that surround them so they can make an escape. You would not even have to fire a shot from the Quaker gun, which cannot fire anyway.

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