ACW Vicksburg Campaign Turn 1: The Battle of Bloody Creek

Stephen takes us through the first installment of the 2020 ACW campaign.

At the last meeting we had the first turn of this year’s campaign – an American Civil War campaign based around the Union attempt to capture Vicksburg.

Although the campaign background is historical, the forces are fictional. This is a chance for club members to carve their place in history as great generals and strategists!

Leading the Union corps is Major General John Roche with Generals Kim Heath and Alan Ockleford under his command. In control of the Confederate forces is Major General Mark Harris, ably assisted by Generals Jeremey Claridge and Tony Gibbs.

The campaign works using a map for strategic movement and when a battle occurs we move to the games table. Small skirmishes with pickets and scouts are not gamed and are resolved with a dice role.

Corps commanders were given a pack which included a map, orders of battle, mission brief, and objectives. They would have autonomy to achieve their goal anyway they wanted. Responsibility would fall on their heads.

Each turn a random event card is drawn. The two sides then put together their supply dice (based on how many supply depots they control). These can be used to move brigades up quicker, but are also used for actions such as burning/building bridges and for replenishing broken units.

So Turn One began!

The Union officers were quick to set up camp (in the far corner of the hall) and were promptly goaded by the Confederate players for their studiousness and planning. However, that soon changed when the full scope of what they had to achieve dawned on them – they also soon gave way to planning and plotting! In fact, when it was time to conduct the first move it was the Confederate players who dallied – still pouring over the map and making plans.

Each brigade, battery, and picket is given its own counter. Brigades from the same division can occupy the same square, but divisions are not allowed to mix. The Union set up their supply depot at Grand Gulf on the Mississippi, and deployed their corps in and around that area. The Confederate corps was more thinly spread, trying to protect the towns at Vicksburg and Jackson and the forests in between.

The first few strategic moves were cautious, as you would expect as players got used to how the rules worked and also their opponent’s demeanour.

The Union brigades kept coming up against Confederate pickets which were easily chased off but this also meant the Confederate scouts were able to identify Union troop movements and strength, which gave the Confederates some idea of what was coming. The Union corps didn’t seem to be using its pickets quite as efficiently, preferring to move entire divisions at a time to advance on the Confederates.

There then started a bit of jockeying for position with both sides trying to concentrate their divisions for battle, but one side or the other refusing to give battle until the situation suited them. General Claridge, commanding the Confederate 3rd Division protecting Jackson, started to bring his troops west to support General Gibbs and his 1st Division troops near Edwards Station who were being threatened by the Union 1st and 3rd divisions.

Meanwhile, further west, the Union and Confederate 2nd divisions started to coalesce around Warrenton.

When battle first came it was a surprise – it looked more likely to take place somewhere in the middle near Edwards Station, but in the end it was the two 2nd divisions that finally came to blows outside Warrenton.

Both generals gave the order to battle!

This initial action was a comparatively small affair. This was just as well, since it would give both sides chance to see how the battle rules work without too much at stake.

The Union deployed with their cavalry brigade, dismounted, along a creek. Behind them, in support, was Heselbrigge’s brigade, with the rest of 2nd Division and its artillery in the rear. The Confederates arrayed in line with their artillery protecting the flank and looking over a farm.

Rumour has it that Major General Roche had ordered General Ockleford not to cross the creek and, instead, to take up a defensive position and use the artillery to force the Confederates to either quit the field or attack their positions. It is unclear whether these orders never got through, or if General Ockelford decided to ignore them or if, in the heat of the moment, he acted rashly.

What happened was that the Confederates, realising they would take a pounding from the Union artillery, pulled back into the woods to take up a protected position in cover. This was soon followed by the Union brigades crossing the creek, ahead of the artillery moving up, to take the battle to the Confederates.

Not a good move! Not only did the creek slow the Union advance, exposing them to artillery and musket fire, but they then halted in the open without charging the Confederate line. Realising their mistake, they soon ordered the charge! But it had come too late. Advancing against the dug-in Confederates, and wavering in the open, had exposed them to withering fire.

The result? First victory went to the Confederates who named the encounter The Battle of Bloody Creek.

Time will tell if the Union have learnt their lesson.

The Battle Of Antietam

Stephen takes on the Union in this historical refight.

At a recent meeting we had an American Civil War game – the Battle of Antietam!

Being such a large battle, and the bloodiest in American history, we didn’t do the whole battle. Instead we focused on the action at the end of the day – the Union grab for Sharpsburg.

Our game took place after the battle for Burnside bridge. We set up the brigades as they were after the Confederates had been pushed back and Burnside’s corps advanced toward Sharpsburg.

Taking the Union were Jon Roche (Corps command plus Wilcox and Sturgis’ divisions) and Paul French (with Rodman and Scannon’s divisions). In control of the Confederates were Jeremey Claridge (Jones’ division) and Stephen Tucker (Hill’s division). There was no overall Confederate commander, with the two Confederate divisions (which were much larger than the Union divisions) acting independently.

The Union side also had a large artillery park with three batteries which were under Army command, so couldn’t be moved but would shoot at targets that came in range.

The Union objective was to get a brigade in Sharpsburg, the Confederate objective was to stop them!

Initially, Hill’s division was not deployed – his brigades were busily marching up the road from Harper’s Ferry to bolster the Confederate line. So at the outset the Union outnumber the Confederates. As such, the Union made an advance on the Confederate line. Not so on the southern edge – Scannon’s division was a bit tardy in its approach. Meanwhile, John deployed his artillery in a field, near to the Army artillery park, which would provide a powerful incentive for the Confederates not to counter-attack on that side.

Hill’s division came on, but was hampered in its deployment due to cramped conditions – it was proving hard to fit the brigades and artillery where they were needed.

Eventually the two sides came to blows – Jones’ division to the north around Cemetery Hill facing off against Wilcox and Sturgis, and Rodman (waiting Scannon’s arrival) to the south coming over Centre Hill.

The early part of the battle was going slightly in favour of the Confederates. The artillery to the north was making it hard to take the battle to the Union, so Jones’ brigades and artillery dug-in and pushed back the Union attacks.

On Centre Hill, Rodman came over the top, took a round of musketry, and then pulled back! Much to everyone’s amazement (not, least Burnside’s!). Paul did try to explain this (ahem) ‘cautious’ move.

But maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Because emboldened by this withdrawal, Hill advanced his brigades over Centre Hill and took the battle to the Union with a wild rebel yell. And paid the price for charging the guns.

Equally emboldened, Jones advanced Drayton’s brigade against the Union brigades and artillery to the north. After a round of pummelling from Union Corps and Army artillery they soon regretted it and hobbled back all but destroyed.

In the end our game had a very historical outcome – the battle just fizzled out. The Union didn’t have it in them to continue the push to Sharpsburg and the Confederates didn’t have it in them to counter attack. Like the actual battle itself, it was a no-score draw – both sides had taken so many casualties neither could carry the day.

My thanks to Jeremey and Andy for taking some pictures.

Chain of Command – and no Chain of Command

 

We had two games running at our last meeting.
The first was 15mm refight of the opening clash of the American Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run. The second was a 25mm action using Chain of Command.
In the first game Andy and Jon led the Federal Army against Steve and Mark with the combined Confederate Armies of Beauregard and Johnston.
This used Steve’s 15mm figures and was a third playtest for his home grown, Brigade level rules.  One of the features of this action was the fairly chaotic command arrangements of the newly raised, largely volunteer armies, which arrived over the course of the action.  This means that units from the same command were set up to appear at different points on the battlefield, meaning that many brigades were hard to co-ordinate as they were out of their command radius.

We managed to reverse history with this one with the Federals seizing the high ground and seeing off all of the Confederate attempts to get it back.  Steve’s rules make for an enjoyable and fast paced game and after a few tweaks to fine tune things are ready for another outing!

In our second game fast forward to 1944 and Dave and Pete led their American paratroopers (with some help from an attached Sherman tank)against a position defended by German paratroopers under Alan and John.  Figures and terrain from Alan’s 25mm collection.  Alas the Sherman support was to no avail – picked off in an ambush by a Panzer killer team armed with Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust anti-tank weapons.  These rules can be the source of some nasty surprise if your opponents save up command points to deploy ambushes!