Thursday 19 July 2018

894 AD , Battle of Buttington

In 894, a battle was fought between a Danish Army and an Anglo-Saxon army with Welsh allies near the border of Powys and Mercia. History would record this engagement as the Battle of Buttington which ended in defeat for the Danes and essentially curtailed further Viking incursions in the west. Two Viking armies kept King Alfred occupied a smaller third army; under the command of Danish king Hastein threatened the western lands of Wessex and Mercia. This left Aethelred and ealdormen Aethelhelm, Aethelnoth, and others who were charged with defending various towns and cities to confront the new threat. Together, they assembled a great army consisting of both Saxons and Welsh and caught the Heathen Army near Buttington. The Vikings had built a fortification and were soon surrounded. Besieged for several weeks the starving Vikings attempted to break out but were beaten and put to flight.

A.D. 894. When they were all collected together, they overtook the rear of the enemy at Buttington on the banks of the Severn, and there beset them without on each side in a fortress. When they had sat there many weeks on both sides of the water, and the king meanwhile was in Devonshire westward with the naval force, then were the enemy weighed down with famine. They had devoured the greater part of their horses; and the rest had perished with hunger. Then went they out to the men that sat on the eastern side of the river, and fought with them; but the Christians had the victory.
From the Anglo Saxon Chronicle

The Battlefield
This scenario is a departure from the usual set piece battles, but should nonetheless prove an interesting challenge for the Danish player. The most likely site of the battle is somewhere between Buttington and Welshpool in the county of Powys. Welshpool (Y Trallwng) literally means the ‘marshy or sinking ground’ making Buttington a better choice as a battle site it is set on rising ground and nearby forests provide building materials for the camp. On a side note, Buttington lies astride Offa’s Dyke; built a century earlier this places the earthwork near to the battlefield.  

Regarding terrain features, the Danes are described as defending a ‘fortress’, however DBA 3.0 limits the garrison of a ‘fort’ to one element.. For this scenario we should consider the ‘fortress’ to be an enlarged camp. Its defence does add to combat and its interior is considered good going for movement.

Therefore, the battlefield should be considered ‘hilly’ and would have one difficult hill, two woods with an enlarged camp (3BW x 4BW) to be placed in the centre of the board.

The Armies
The Danes are taken from Book III/40b list which offers eleven blade and a twelfth element being psiloi, bow or berserker. However, considering the state of the Danes after several weeks of siege, their number would be reduced. For this scenario, the Danes total nine elements which mean defeat is reached with the loss of three elements.

The army of Mercia are taken from Book III/24b; however, this sub-list does not have the Welsh as allies. For this scenario the Welsh allies (III/19a) are present as [1 x general (3Bd), 1 x warrior (3Wb), 1 x skirmisher (Ps)] and these replace any three Mercian fyrd elements.

The Danes must break the siege and withdraw their force off any board edge. As the defender they move first, but for this scenario the Danes deploy their troops after the Anglo-Saxons. This offers a slight advantage in selecting a board edge to exit. All movement distance is as per foot type as horses are no longer available. The Danes are defeated with the loss of three elements.

The army of Mercia must surround the ‘fort’ at a distance of 6BW from its walls and for this scenario, the allied army deploys first, followed by the Danes. The Mercian player is free to deploy his troops around the perimeter but the Welsh must be grouped together (allied contingent). The Mercian player should be aware that some troops will be placed beyond command distance. 

Recommended Reading
Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Guttenberg Project (online).

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