Use our forest tree sets and your imagination to implement some of the tips we set out on these pages to help you ramp your games up to more adventurous and exciting levels.   

In this section, comparisons are made between the fighting tactics of well trained and disciplined soldiers accustomed to fighting in open spaces and the practical and cunning tactics of partisan frontier dwellers, or bush fighters.   This information is largely based on research into the heavily wooded regions of North America, from the time of the French and Indian Wars, the American War of Independence, through to the American War of 1812.  

The French Canadians became expert at irregular warfare under the tutelage of their Indian native allies.  These tactics were later incorporated into the English military system, most notably by Robert Rogers of Rogers' Rangers whose American companies influenced the shape and character of Britain’s American Army.  By the time of the War of Independence, even Britain’s Hessian (mercenary) allies were trained to take cover in wilderness fighting.   

These observations are also based upon universal truths and are just as relevant to Ancient times when the Roman Army fought the tribes in Western and Central Europe, and the Middle Ages, given some variation in social customs and the use of weaponry through the ages. 

 


 

 

 Different Kinds of Fighting Tactics

 

Conventional military units or town-based militias were less conversant in bush or hit and run partisan style tactics than fighters living on the frontier. 

Fighters living on the frontier were familiar with rugged terrain, bush craft and fighting tactics such as using tree and ground cover to minimalise casualties.  In contrast, continental or European warfare was often fought on open ground.  It required companies of soldiers to form in rows in order to fire volleys of shot into an enemy’s ranks and create maximum damage.

 

In past times, military units entered into and passed through heavily wooded regions as a solid unit that could readily deploy into a defensive position when under attack.

 Soldiers would be wary and possibly fearful of an alien terrain that held unknown dangers. 

This was an era of superstition when the forests depicted in European folklore/fairytales could be dark, mysterious and dangerous places.  The woodland Indians became the bogeymen of the dark forests of the New World until the British found their measure and developed their own alliances with the Iroquois League of Six Nations during the French and Indian War.

 By the time of the 1812 War between the fledgling United States and British Canada, Britain's Indian allies only had to give a war cry to create panic amonst the poorly trained troops of the enemy's army.

Even rowdy (and out of sight) Scottish Highland troops were recorded as having unnerved the enemy with a war cry, thinking they were about to be attacked by the dreaded Indians.  

 Unlike troops in other armies, British soldiers were trained to execute the commands of their officers in silence during engagements.

 

 Military units travelling in columns did not usually give chase to random attackers, as individuals or small groups breaking away from a column would be quickly captured or killed.

Small attacks against a larger force could be used to distract and disorient an enemy prior to an attack with a larger force - possibly close by by and hidden from view.  They could also slow down the movement of an enemy force prior to a major attack, and weaken morale.

 

Native Indian tribes, rangers and frontiersmen would usually employ the use of tree cover as strategic cover, while maintaining close contact with their comrades during fighting.  

Rangers with rifle/musket, such as Rogers' Rangers, would fight in pairs.  One man loaded, while the other fired at a mark or target.

 

A bush-fighting unit such as rangers or Indians would most likely travel in single file with scouts fore and aft, and on the flanks.

This would ensure that they were forewarned of an ambush ahead, and that an enemy unit was not trailing them from behind.

 

Scouts were the eyes and ears of small units and large forces.

Their job was to observe and report an enemy presence without making their presence known, or engaging the enemy.

 

On more open ground, a trained unit of soldiers being charged by cavalry would form a square.  A 'square' formation provided a defence against attack on four sides and prevented the enemy from attacking the vulnerable flanks or exposed sides of a unit.

 

Single shot firearms and bows and arrows were generally used at close quarters to ensure optimal effect within heavily vegetated areas.

A projectile might be deflected by any number of non-targeted obstacles.  

Practices under normal conditions used for hunting food were similar to those used in war.  A sure shot of an animal at close distance ensured that there would be food on the table.  During war, a wounded enemy could be no less dangerous than an unwounded one, unless a fighter(s) wanted to take prisoners.

 

Prior to the late 19th Century, the black powder smoke from firearms could reveal the position of snipers.

Palls of smoke generated during a heavy battle could further obscure vision in dimly lit forest areas.  Smoke could be used to obscure movement for either attack or retreat.  

It could blind a unit, affecting its judgement, causing confusion and possibly panic.

 

Trees acted as windbreaks. 

Within a thickly wooded forest, gunpowder smoke could linger in the air for a long time without being dissipated by a breeze or wind. 

In more open ground, breezes would clear the air more readily.

 


 

 

Entertaining Reading on this Subject

 

A great story on the theme of American Colonial Adventures is:

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, published by Arcturus Publishing. The classic story of the French Indian War and the capture of the English Fort William Henry by the French.

The movie of the same name, with Daniel Day Lewis, provides an excellent visual reference point to this story.

 

In the Osprey illustrated histories you might try:

American Colonial Ranger, The Northern Colonies 1724-64, Gary Zaboly, Osprey Warrior 85.

Montcalm's Army, text by Martin Windrow, Colour plates by Michael Roffe, Osprey Men at Arms.

Tomahawk and Musket, French and Indian Raids in The Ohio Valley 1758 by Rene Chartrand, Osprey Raid 27.

The Swamp Fox, Francis Marion's Campaign in the Carolinas 1780 by David R. Higgins, Osprey Raid 42.