Champion Hill, May 1863

The Battle of Champion Hill was the pivotal battle of Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign and Confederate defeat at Champion Hill would result in the siege of Vicksburg and the loss of the city which critically overlooked the Mississippi River. Yet for all its strategic importance the Battle of Champion Hill remains a relatively underrated engagement infrequently studied and even more infrequently refought on the wargames table. We always here of refights of Gettysburg or Antietam yet Champion Hill, for many, is unknown.

The following is a short summary of our refight of the battle. The scenario is based on that in the Volley & Bayonet scenario book “Battles of the American Civil War”. I have updated the scenario a little as a result of my own reading and by viewing various maps, though the latter have often proved contradictory. The scenario starts around 10am with the Rebel forces generally deployed in their historical positions. Two Union divisions are deployed forward on the Clinton Road not far from Champion Hill. Additional Union divisions are advancing on the Clinton, Middle and Raymond Roads, though their arrival will take time and be spread over the course of the day. Eventually some 22,000 Confederates would be deployed against 32,000 Union troops.

The initial Union forces on the Clinton Road include Hovey’s and Logan’s Divisions. Around 10am Grant orders a tentative advance towards Champion Hill with Logan’s Division moving to the right in an attempt to outflank the Rebel positions. Neither Union division was ordered to bring on an early engagement, rather Grant was determined to deploy as many of his troops before taking the offensive.

Elsewhere Osterhaus pushed his division along the Middle Road where it soon became entangled in the rugged wooded ground that lay several hundred yards east of the crossroads, which marked the intersection of the Clinton and Middle Roads as well as the Ratliff Road that followed the high ground southwest. Below, the general situation in the north with Confederate positioned on Champion Hill and Osterhaus advancing on the crossroad via the Middle Road.

As something of a counter to Osterhaus’ advance along the Middle Road Pemberton continued to move Bowen’s Confederate Division towards this section of the battlefield. Historically as the troops moved passed Pemberton’s Headquarters, located at the Roberts House along the Ratliff Road, the stirring sound of ladies singing “Dixie” was heard. Designed to encourage the advance of Bowen’s 5,000 strong division one wonders if the same occurred as the miniatures marched past in our refight? Either way Rebel morale seemed high.

On the Raymond Road Smith’s and Blair’s Divisions, part visible above, marched with singularity of purpose towards the Rebels deployed astride the Raymond Road where the road rose towards the southwestern, and much lower end, of Champion Hill. Here Loring had deployed his three brigades of his division along the wooded ridge that generally followed the Ratliff Road. Below, a view of Loring’s Division with Union forces just visible across Jackson’s Creek.

Around 11am Smith began to deploy and began an intermittent bombardment of the Rebels using the greater range of his rifled artillery. Over succeeding hours Blair’s division would extend to the right.

By 1pm, and with no communication from Grant on the overall operation, McClernard ordered a probing advance against Loring’s left with Blair’s Division. He hoped that this would pin Loring’s Division in place should Grant determine to attack. However, no sooner had one brigade crossed Jackson Creek that it received a swift Rebel response. But it was not from Loring, rather from a portion of Bowen’s Division.

It will be recalled that Bowen had previously moved north to reinforce the flank of Stevenson’s Division facing Grant. Deployed near the Middle Road, and not as yet occupied by Union forces, Bowen now dispatched one of his brigades south, specifically that of Brigadier General Martin B Green. Green’s brigade, comprised of Arkansas men, drove into the flank of Blair’s Division, in particular Smith’s Brigade which comprised regiments from Illinois and Missouri. Despite a determined resistance Smith’s Brigade fell back. Blair caught off guard initially now however ordered a strong counterattack. Yet despite the attack comprising two fresh brigades, and supported by artillery, the Union attack was thrown back by Green’s single Rebel brigade. Clearly the tunes of Dixie had bolstered morale! Now, as the Union brigades were forced back in disorder Loring’s three brigades launched a series of attacks decimating Blair’s Division. Below, Blair’s Division is attacked by Loring’s three brigades.

By 3pm Blair’s Division had collapsed and any chance of an offensive along the Raymond Road was lost.

As stragglers from Blair’s shattered division poured back across Jackson’s Creek, intent on saving their lives, Grant finally decided to unleash his attack in the north. For several hours he had been building up his forces and engaging in a long range bombardment of Rebel forces on the crossroads, where you will recall the Clinton and Middle roads converged. Now at 4pm the Union divisions in the north began their advance. The attacks comprised two parts.

The first centred on the Rebel left which stretched generally northwest along the Middle Road towards the Bakers Creek crossing. The attack by two brigades of Logan’s Division fell on Lee’s Brigade, of Stevenson’s Division. Lee’s troops, comprising five regiments from Alabama, were unable to halt the advance and were soon driven back. Below, two brigades of Logan’s Division attack Lee’s Brigade.

Simultaneously Osterhaus ordered his brigades forward the 1st Brigade, under Brigadier General Theophilus Garrard. This brigade fell on the right flank of Stevenson’s Division formed around the crossroads. The position was held by Cumming’s Brigade who, being subjected to a ferocious fire from rifled musket and artillery, were also forced back. Below, Garrard’s Union brigade on the right, surges forward.

Stevenson tried desperately to hold the line but the weight of the Union attack was overwhelming. As troops retreated cohesion was lost. Sometime after 5.30pm, having suffered unprecedented casualties, Stevenson’s Division collapsed. Casualties were particularly high among Cumming’s and Reynolds’ brigades. Below, the position of the Rebel positions around the crossroad just prior to Stevenson’s collapse.

Bowen now tried to reform a new line but Carr’s Division was now engaging them frontally while Osterhaus troops pressed their flank, seen below.

Unable to repel their opponents initial attacks or disengage, Bowen’s two brigades surged forward in desperate but unsuccessful counterattacks. By 6.30pm the division had collapsed and with it any hope of Rebel victory.

Pemberton, with no other option, ordered the retreat towards Vicksburg. True to history Loring began to retire his relatively unscathed division. The battle had taken a very different path to the historical engagement, yet the result was mostly the same. Stevenson’s and Bowen’s divisions were decimated while Loring’s Division, who failed to support the action in the north, was mostly untouched. That said Loring’s determined action about the Raymond Road had provided a bloody repulse to the overconfident Blair. Now with Rebel forces falling back on Vicksburg the critical siege would soon be underway.

The game involved four players, one Confederate and three Union. Each Union commander commanding the troops advancing along one of the three roads. The miniatures are all from Heroics & Ros 6mm ACW range and are based for Volley & Bayonet half scale, where 1″ represents 200 yards. Each game turn still represents an hour. Terrain is mostly homemade with trees and fences from Irregular Miniatures.

Wellington’s Anglo-Allied Army

With Napoleon’s forces assembled for the Hundred Days Campaign it was time to progress the Allies. As I have previously mentioned I have in the past refought Waterloo in 6mm using Volley & Bayonet. However, the move to denser basing decimated my previously formed Anglo-Allied army. Therefore, like the French, significant painting and basing was required to rebuild the army.

I have been slowly working over a number of months on reforming the Anglo-Allied forces. However, over the last couple of weeks, the last infantry brigades were finally completed. As a result with most of the army complete, or at least the lead pile exhausted, it seemed timely to review progress.

Wellington’s army at Waterloo was centered around his British and King’s German Legion contingent, a mixture of regular and veteran units. Of these troops around half of the British troops were Peninsular veterans with these concentrated in some five brigades and supplemented by a further two brigades of foot guards. These were bolstered by some four brigades of Hanoverian militia. At Waterloo these brigades were formed into four infantry divisions plus a small reserve.

Above and below various British divisions. All miniatures are by Heroics & Ros. Each infantry base measures 1.5″ square and represent a brigade.

Wellington’s infantry were of course critically supported by several additional contingents, specifically the Netherland and Brunswick troops. The Netherland infantry formed the 2nd and 3rd Netherlands Divisions, comprising both Netherland and Nassau troops, as well as small reserve contingent under von Kruse. The Brunswick troops formed just one division and in Volley & Bayonet terms this division contains just two infantry brigades, a cavalry brigade and artillery.

Above, the 2nd Netherlands Infantry Division while below, in the foreground, the Brunswick Division. The 3rd Netherlands Division is visible in the left rear. I’ve used a mix of figures for these units. For those interested a guide to using Heroics & Ros figures to represent these contingents can be found in the Forming Armies section of this site.

Wellington’s cavalry for Waterloo, are organised into four groups. The British heavy cavalry, the left and right wing and the Netherlands cavalry. The heavy cavalry comprise just two brigades, while the left contains three brigades, a mix of Light Dragoons and Hussars. The right wing cavalry has a similar composition though formed in two brigades but is supplemented by the Duke of Cumberland’s Hussars. These being represented by a linear stand. Unfortunately my lead pile is short of two British Hussars, so until these can be sourced the British cavalry will be understrength.

Below, a view of part of the right wing cavalry. In the foreground the light cavalry and behind the two heavy cavalry brigades. These cavalry brigades contain a mix of regiments which I have generally tried to model.

The Netherlands cavalry form a division of three brigades and comprise Hussars, Light Dragoons and Carabiniers. They can be seen below. Unfortunately, their ratings are noticeably lower than the British & KGL cavalry, though not as low as the Duke of Cumberland’s Hussars.

Artillery of the army can be represented in one of two ways. In the Quatre Bra scenario and sample lists in the second edition rule book, most foot batteries are allocated out to infantry formations as dedicated guns. However, in the Hundred Days scenario book, “Napoleon Returns” foot and horse batteries are typically merged. I have opted to have foot batteries deployed as dedicated guns with single strength point horse batteries.

When all the national contingents are assembled, as below, the the Anglo-Allied army provides a colourful assembly with equally diverse morale ratings.

With the Anglo-Allied army all but complete I next have to consider the Prussians. Currently around two corps of Prussians are painted with another two corps to be organised. Unfortunately the next stage of my Hundred Days project will need to wait until an order from Heroics & Ros arrives. Hopefully that won’t be too far away.

A Storm in the Valley 1862 – A Review

Released in 2019 this Volley & Bayonet scenario book is long overdue for a short review here.

The title is the work of Jessee Scarborough and is available from Test of Battle’s website. It comprises around 100 pages in soft cover format which measures 21cm x 28cm. Inside are eight historical battle scenarios and two campaign scenarios. Apart from the front and rear covers all maps and artwork are black and white. The maps are functional and generally clear, though roads and streams on occasion can be hard to determine due to little shading contrast in my copy. Coloured campaign maps are provided electronically.

The author begins with an historical introduction to the campaigns and battles that comprised Jackson’s battles in the Shenandoah Valley and the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. This potted history provides a solid reminder to the reader of the historical situation both from a campaign and battle perspective. It is supported by a useful bibliography for those wishing to explore further.

The section is then supplemented by a chapter by Frank Chadwick outlining the Volley & Bayonet alternate scales which are required for the smaller battles covered by this scenario book. Finally, before moving on to the scenarios, a short section outlines the a number of troop ratings and multi-day rules the last being familiar to most Volley & Bayonet gamers but an important clarification.

The scenarios are effectively divided into two sections. The first considers Jackson’s battles in the Shenandoah Valley. Specifically Kernstown, McDowell, Winchester, Cross Keys and Port Republic, as well as a campaign game covering the Valley Campaign. All are designed to be fought at Battalion Scale where 1” represents 50 yards and one turn 30 minutes. Most scenarios require a table 8’ wide and 6’ deep, with a couple of minor exceptions. The campaign game uses a nodal map which stretches from Staunton to Hagerstown in the north.

The second section of scenarios explores the Peninsula Campaign and in particular the battles of Seven Pines, Gaines Mill, Glendale & Malvern Hill, the last being combined into a single multi-day battle. Finally the section is completed by a Campaign covering the Peninsula. All these scenarios are designed to be fought using Volley & Bayonet’s standard scale. The tables required are all 6 deep, with Gaines Mill requiring a table 8’ long, Seven Pines 9’ long and Glendale & Malvern Hill 12’ in length.

Obviously these table dimensions are based on using full scale where a stand is 3” wide. If like me you are using an alternate such as half scale the table dimensions are reduced.

The author has used some interesting mechanics in the scenarios. The first is the use of a variable morale system where the actual morale value of the stand is determined by a combination of expected morale value in association with a D6 random factor. This is a radical change to previous scenario books and innovative. Further a random element is also introduced in the reinforcement schedules of the Peninsula scenarios. This has some significant merit as reinforcement delays in the historical battles often significantly impacted the outcomes.

A couple of additional rules are added or clarified. These include the use of mixed artillery batteries and dedicated guns. The last I question as a general rule for the ACW, based on my research of other battles. I also note one variation from the standard Volley & Bayonet rules in relation to contacting stationary infantry. The wording used in the book aligns to the original rule book but not the later Volley & Bayonet official errata. A minor point.

In summary I would highly recommend “A Storm in the Valley 1862” to Volley & Bayonet enthusiasts. It is both well produced and covers some of the less fought battles of the war. The author has taken the decision to introduce some new scenario rules around morale and reinforcements yet remains true to the core rules. It is, in my view, a great edition to the Volley & Bayonet scenario books and a publication that the author should be proud of.

Napoleon’s Road to Waterloo

There is no doubt the battle of Waterloo has something of a draw for me. A dramatic battle that ended the Napoleonic Wars and part of a campaign that could have developed very differently. The Volley & Bayonet scenario book “Napoleon Returns” details the four major battles of the Hundred Days campaigns. Specifically Quatre Bras, Ligny, Wavre and of course Waterloo. I have refought all with Volley & Bayonet and all have provided interesting refights in their own right, despite their variation in size.

Occasionally I hear of other wargamers refighting Waterloo in miniature. Yet these refights almost always ignore the battle of Wavre, no doubt being considered something of a sideshow. Yet David Chandler writes in his book Waterloo The Hundred Days of the importance of both battles. His words describe it well.

“It is important to realise that the climacteric moment of the Napoleonic wars was a double-battle. Waterloo has always received most of the attention, but events ten miles away to the east were also important, if on the smaller scale, and had a considerable effect on the outcome of the main battle”.

Interestingly Frank Chadwick in his Napoleon Returns scenario book allows for the linking of Waterloo and Wavre on a single table and this concept has often interested me. To do this even with Volley & Bayonet a large table is required. At the normal scale where 1” equates to 100 yards, some 18’ in length and 6’ in width. Fortunately, we use half scale with our 6mm armies. Now 1” equates to 200 yards and the battlefields of Wavre and Waterloo when linked together will fit on a more manageable 9’ long table.

As mentioned previously I have refought all the battles of the Hundred Day Campaign individually. However, I have never been in a position to fight these linked battles. It was always a project for “someday in the future”. However, the first lockdown of the pandemic found me thinking of possible projects. So the project of fighting Waterloo and Wavre on one table was conceived.

My project was further complicated as I have moved to denser basing resulting in having fewer, though individually more visually pleasing, stands in my collection. While I have been slowly rebuilding the collection the pandemic clearly provided something of a catalyst to focus my attentions. So over a series of evenings I started pondering options.

How many figures would be required? Well the French have ten corps spread across both Waterloo and Wavre. These comprise 34 divisions. Now, I use Heroics & Ros figures for my armies and having acquired a number of unpainted second hand Heroics & Ros figures I started to organise the miniatures in a detailed stock take. I required 41 infantry brigades, 23 cavalry brigades, 28 artillery battalions, 34 divisional commanders as well as 13 corps and army commanders. It soon became apparent that my previous seemingly uncontrolled purchases could almost provide the required numbers.

In late March of 2020 the project got underway, with the initial focus on some cavalry. For clarity I would break the project in to several sub-projects as there are only so many horses, or indeed anything, I can paint in one batch. Due to my previously described rebasing my French cavalry were now low in number. So some of these would be the starting point. Above, a selection of four brigades of Dragoons and four brigades of Cuirassiers. On each base I have modelled at least two of the regiments that were historically brigaded. As a result a mix of facing colours are often visible.

Over following months, in between other projects, further brigades were added including Lancers, Chasseurs, Hussars and mixed brigades of Chasseurs and Hussars.

Above, four stands of light cavalry while below, some Guard cavalry comprising Chasseurs a Cheval and Grenadiers a Cheval.

The infantry needed to be heavily supplemented, again in part because of the denser basing I had adopted, but also the fact I was intending to fight both battles simultaneously.

As with the cavalry, each brigade base measured 1.5” square and I found I could achieve a visual interesting effect by placing around 29 miniatures on a base. For a few I added an artillery model to provide further interest, these modelling dispersed batteries. On others I deployed some battalions or officers in greatcoats, with some variation with greatcoat colour. All new stands included a thick skirmish screen. To provide a greater variation with the existing units, which had slightly fewer figures, all the stands received new labels with divisions receiving a combination of newer and older brigades. This created a themed look but with plenty of variety. Below, a small selection of infantry. You will note I have used earlier standards because the miniatures will also serve in earlier campaigns.

The artillery component was to prove complicated. The older “Napoleon Returns” scenarios have discrete artillery stands, mostly massed at corps level. In contrast the Road to Glory army lists model much of the artillery as distributed to the various brigades – as distributed batteries. After further reading, as well as a couple of 1815 games, I opted for the massed guns defined in the “Napoleon Returns” scenario book, though players can distribute them if they wish. Consequently the artillery park needed considerable reinforcement. Now 18 Line and four Guard artillery battalions formed the bulk of the artillery park. To this must be added six horse artillery battalions, of which two are Guard horse artillery.

While a few of my existing artillery stands were of suitable painting quality most were replaced and all the guns repainted. Horse artillery stands were completely reformed and now include limbers, or at least a limber and a couple of horses, to ensure they are easily discernible as horse artillery. Above, a small sample of foot artillery.

To this of course I needed to add generals. In total 34 divisional commanders and 12 corps and army commanders were required. Again, many of the original stands were retired and new ones added. At half scale each command stand is just 3/4” square with a divisional command stand having one figure, corps two and army commanders three.

Now, after several months of on and off work the French for the Hundred Days are complete. Such a moment requires something of a parade.

Above, those on the left the formations engaged at Waterloo, while on the right, and separated by two woods, those at Wavre under Grouchy.

Above and below the forces at Waterloo at different angles. They are actually arranged in their various divisions and corps.

Below, the three infantry divisions of the Imperial Guard supported by the two Guard cavalry divisions.

Grouchy’s forces at Wavre are markedly smaller with just three small corps. Below, a view of these forces.

If you recall back to Chandler’s quote above there is some distance between Waterloo and Wavre. Further, the battlefield of Waterloo is actually relatively compact. What you have between them is a significant distance which eventually will be filled with Prussians moving from around Wavre to support Wellington. With the forces deployed on a single long table some of my questions about the battle can be explored. We can for example see how few Prussians can be left at Wavre. At the same time Grouchy must apply pressure to slow the movement of. Prussians to Waterloo. Perhaps Napoleon can delay the arrival of the Prussians. Or perhaps the Duke of Wellington can win without the Prussians?

However, before I can answer these questions I must complete the few remaining Anglo-Allied troops and expand the Prussians. Now back to organising the Allies so they can have their time at the painting table.