Stephen finds himself without a paddle…
I kept this a small game, using my own rules.
The Union are on the advance and have discovered Confederate troops in position on a hill overlooking a creek.
The Union troops are given the order – engage the Confederate troops and take the position.
The Union had two small divisions of three brigades each plus artillery. The Confederates had just the one division, though a sizeable one, with five brigades and artillery.
The Confederates were deployed with the artillery atop the hill so they had a good field of fire. The infantry were positioned at the bottom of the hill along the line of the creek. The Union divisions each had two of their brigades up front with the third brigade in reserve.
On the first turn the Union moved forward. The guns started unlimbered so moved slowly, and I decided to move the infantry with them to keep the line together. But the Confederate artillery rolled really well, and one of the Union brigades took (light) damage. So it was obvious that if the Union infantry moved slowly with the artillery they’d spend longer getting pounded by the artillery, so on subsequent turns they left the artillery behind, but that was OK since the artillery had now moved into effective range.
The Union right flank had been loaded with a single division concentrating on the extreme right – just the one Confederate brigade facing them, but a second in position to turn to offer support. This left the other Union division to contend with the middle and left flank. The fact that the middle was fairly open meant it was always going to be a difficult proposition. The two Union brigades going up the middle also had the artillery from both divisions to support them, however, although the Union artillery was in range of the Confederate infantry brigades at the bottom of the hill the Confederate artillery was at long range, which made counter-battery fire ineffective. Conversely, as the Union infantry advanced they put themselves in effective range of the Confederate artillery.
You can work out what happened. Needless to say, even before they reached the creek, the lead Union brigade took withering fire from both the artillery and dug-in infantry. Exit one Union brigade.
This left the two Union brigades in the middle/left to split either side of the farm, with one now taking up the fateful position in the centre against all and sundry, and the other on the extreme left facing just a single brigade.
On the right flank the two opposing forces came into musket range and let rip at each other. The Union advance had been slowed due to the rocky ground delaying one of the brigades, and this time it was obvious they should advance together to support each other or else be destroyed individually.
Back in the centre the inevitable happened again – the Union brigade there took heavy fire from both infantry and artillery. Discretion was the better part of valour, so they were pulled back out of musket range so they could rally. The Union artillery moved up so they could fire at the Confederate artillery, scoring a good hit.
There was only one way the Union was going to win this – take it to a charge.
And that’s what they did. On the right flank the order to charge went in and two Union brigades went forward. The Confederates fired their muskets, hoping to blunt the charge. But in it went and the Union troops won and pushed the Confederates back, but lacked the oomph to pursue them.
Emboldened by this, the Union brigade on the left took the hint, fixed bayonets, and charged in as well. Not so effective this time – the Confederates did counter-charge and pushed them back across the creek.
Meanwhile, in the middle, the Union brigade had pulled back to rally. The artillery of both divisions turned their barrels to the Confederate artillery on the hill, hoping to silence them.
Again, the Union brigades on the right went in and charged, again pushing the Confederates further back up the hill. Only now, sensing victory, they managed to follow-up on the charge and in they went again and swept away the Confederates on top of the hill!
But the middle was once again turning into a killing field, for both sides. The Union artillery annihilated one Confederate brigade, and the unlucky Union brigade who had rallied had been sent back in – they would not be coming back out.
And then, on the left, the Union brigade that had charged found itself taking musket fire. The combination of being bounced by the Confederate infantry and then the musket fire was enough – they were routed and left the field.
At the end of the turn, both sides had taken enough loses to lose! Although the Union left had taken the hill they did not have enough strength left to chase off the rest of the Confederates, and there was not enough Confederates left to truly hold the hill securely.
A draw was called.
In the end the Union did better than I was expecting. I thought they might get a good drubbing. The fault I made was trying to engage the Confederate troops on a wide frontage. The middle ground was very open and it should have been obvious that any troops advancing through it would suffer badly. What I should have done is load the left flank the same way I loaded the right flank, and brought the Union artillery together to keep shooting away at the centre.
Instead I wasted two Union brigades marching up the centre just to get obliterated for nothing. I would fully expect the officers of those brigades to come up to me afterwards and tell me exactly what they thought of me.
And I wouldn’t blame them.