Shiloh – Crisis At Pittsburg Landing

Recently, while considering it was time to organise a game for a Friday evening, it occurred to me that the 6th and 7th of April was the anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh. Spurred on by this realisation I set about organise a refight on one of my regular Friday evening gaming slots. A few emails later we had four players available for a multiplayer game covering the first day.

Shiloh is ideally suited to an evening game. What is the appeal, well there are several. Firstly of course the forces are modest, each army comprises around six or so divisions with some 45,000 Confederates around 48,000 Union troops excluding the Army of the Ohio. Then of course the terrain, with woods covering most of the battlefield, creates a very different battlefield. Finally of course is the game balance. Despite the fact I have refought the battle many times it continues to provide challenges. Interestingly the Volley & Bayonet scenario was new to a couple of players which would add further interest.

As mentioned the scenario features a battlefield predominately covered with light woods, with a few clearings. In the northeast is Pittsburg Landing, located on the banks of the Tennessee River. The Rebels advance from the south and initially have an ability to potentially destroy two Union Divisions posted forward in unsupported positions. Then, pressing forward, they may well destroy the remaining elements of the Union Army of the Tennessee. But time can also slip away for the Rebels, in part due to the troops being raw recruits and are therefore difficult to manoeuvre. The battle, well the first day at least, starts at 7am and runs until the end of the 7pm turn.

  

In our refight the Confederate commanders, A.S. Johnston and Beauregard, determined to deploy west to east and attack on a broad front, rather than an attack from the southwest. As a result the divisions of Sherman and Prentiss were engaged frontally in strength soon after 7am, as shown above. It seemed likely that both divisions would be driven back quickly.

  

Prentiss’ Division, above, managed to deliver a withering fire on the attackers, and by 8am had recovered from their initial surprise. This division would continue to perform valiant service despite being eventually surrounded by two Rebel divisions. 

  

Indeed, it was around 10am before the Prentiss’ Division finally succumbed to repeated attacks and broke. In the process however Ruggle’s Division, from Bragg’s Corps, had been also been driven into exhaustion. A costly result for the Confederate centre.

Shermans Division lining the Shiloh Branch, a small creek that meandered its way east from the west table edge, wavered as Rebel artillery deployed in the trees supported by Rebel infantry. 

  

The casualties quickly mounted. Likely to be outflanked on his right flank Sherman was soon forced to retire his now collapsed division. Having retired around 1200 yards the remains of the division formed up again in an effort to delay the advancing Rebels. There efforts were in vain as Rebels soon poured through the woods. 

  

Two brigades evaporated at first contact, another routed further where it was finally rallied.

Meanwhile Union forces further north had been moving south with the aim of forming a defensive line lining the road that passed near Duncan Field east. This road was sunken in places and as such offered a degree of additional protection. Below, the general situation.

  

The Union extreme right was held by McClernard’s Division who formed part of his division in a right angle, on a knoll, in an effort to prevent the Rebels attacking down the line. McClernard’s Division can be seen below. The Union brigade, left foreground with a red disorder marker, is the remaining brigade of Sherman’s Division.
  

No sooner had the troops of McClernard’s Division deployed than Rebel forces arrived in strength. The angle of the Union line was, as expected, the focus of the Rebel artillery. For the next three hours 12 cannon, a mix of rifled and smoothbore pieces from Clark’s Division bombarded the Union positions, supported by Rebel musket fire.

However, the Rebels were reluctant to assault the well formed Union centre which stretched from just west of Duncan Field to just east of Sarah Bell Field and the Peach Orchard. While Rebel troops deployed opposite, screened by woods, the Confederate commanders moved troops to the flanks.

On the Confederate left Hardee’s Corps, effectively a division, moved around the Union right and advanced towards Tillman Creek. All that prevented a breakthrough here were the remains of a single brigade from Sherman’s Division. The Union position here looked fragile until Lew Wallace’s Division appeared on the Hamburg-Savannah road around 1.30pm. Grant planned to deploy Lew Wallace’s Division along Tillman Creek, the centre stream running generally north to south below, to block the Rebel flanking action. However, another threat was developing on the Union left.

  

On the Confederate right Wither’s Division, from Bragg’s Corps, moved slowly towards Dill’s Branch crossing several streams that slowed the division’s advance. While two Union Brigades were withdrawn from the centre it was clear that Wither’s Division was going to capture the now undefended Pittsburg Landing. As a result Lew Wallace’s Division, the 3rd, was ordered to secure Pittsburg Landing. It looked likely 3rd Division would face attacks from two directions.

Below, the Union 3rd Division arrive in Pittsburg Landing, next to the Tennessee River, in road column while Wither’s Confederate Division approach from the south. Dill’s branch separates them.

  

Meanwhile the Union Divisions positioned south along the sunken road were to undertake a limited offensive. Rebel brigades had throughout the afternoon continued to attack McClernard’s Division. These attacks were always limited and aimed at isolated Union Brigades. By 4pm an opportunity presented itself and two Union Brigades attacked across Duncan Field, shown below, towards Stephen’s Rebel Brigade moving west. Stephen’s Brigade, from Cheatham’s Division, is shown having retired from combat and is now disordered.

  

Driven back soon Forrest’s dismounted cavalry were engaged. 

Between 6pm and 7.30pm more Union brigades advanced. Below, Bowen’s Brigade is attacked by Union artillery and Tuttle’s Brigade from WHL Wallace’s 2nd Division. Duncan Field is in the foreground, viewed from the northwest.

  

However, it was at Pittsburg Landing that the decisive action would occur. From 5pm Rebels surged forward. From the south Chalmer’s Brigade and artillery from Wither’s Division crossed Dill’s Branch and advanced on the landing. Simultaneously Rebel brigades from Hardee’s Corps advanced from the northwest. Below, the situation around 6.30pm. A Union brigade from the Army of the Ohio has just deployed providing critical reinforcements.

  

The fighting surged back and forth with Beauregard leading attacks while Grant steadied troops. Beauregard fell mortally wounded directing one attack which despite his bravery was driven back.

Below, around 7.30 as darkness enveloped the field two of Lew Wallace’s brigades, assisted by troops formed in an ad hoc brigade attempt to drive out Rebels of Chalmer’s Brigade. Both Lew Wallace’s brigades had failed morale checks yet despite this the last rebels were routed from the confines of Pittsburg Landing. The landing was secure allowing the movement of the Army of the Ohio across the Tennessee River during the night.

  

The butchers bill had been significant. The Union Divisions of Sherman and Prentiss had been eliminated while McClernard’s had collapsed as a fighting force. Rebel divisions had also been decimated. Cheatham’s and Wither’s Divisions had collapsed, while Ruggle’s Division had been exhausted by the mornings fighting. Johnston ordered his army to retire, battered but operational.

The scenario was played out on a table measuring 1.2m by 0.9m. The figures here are all from the Heroics & Ros 6mm ranges and are based at half scale. Each inch on table represent 200 yards. Union forces were from Jon’s collection while the Rebels are from my own. 

White Oak Creek – September 1862

The following report is of a fictional American Civil War engagement set in September 1862. Both armies comprised 3000 points. Using the Road to Glory Scenario System the game found the Union army concentrated with the burden of attack having Card 13 “Returning Detachment – Right” while the Confederates had Card 4 “Advance Guard – Echelon Right”. Figures are 6mm Heroics & Ros.

As a gentle breeze caught the flags of the four brigades of Hood & Kemper’s Divisions General Lee arrived on the field of battle. As instructed Longstreet’s Divisional commanders had deployed astride the Boonsboro Turnpike. It was almost 2pm. Three brigades were positioned in the cornfields near the junction of the Turnpike and White Oak Road, while the fourth brigade deployed slightly to the left rear covering a gap between the cornfields and a wood to the left. Apart from two cavalry brigades, deployed further along the turnpike as an advanced screen these, were the only troops immediately available. To their front Union forces were massed and advancing.

Directly to the front was Hooker’s I Corps, comprising Doubleday’s and Rickett’s Divisions as well as French’s Division from Sumner’s II Corps. Moving towards Confederate left flank, and likely to cross the swampy White Oak Creek via White Oak Road was Sedgewick’s Division, also from II Corps. Threatening to cross White Oak Creek to the east of the Boonsboro Turnpike was Porter’s V Corps. McClellan was well concentrated and with the Rebels thin on the ground he planned to press his advantage.

However, delay soon crept in. During the next three hours Confederate reinforcements arrived and as they did they were progressively deployed into the line which now expanded east and west of the cornfields. However, such was the pressure the normal corps structure was dispensed with. Jackson for example had divisions on both flanks and this would greatly complicate Confederate command and control.

Above Union troops are on the left, Confederate on the right. Sedgewick’s Division is in the foreground astride White Oak Road.

While Union infantry in the centre were reluctant to advance through the cornfields Union artillery soon concentrated north of the cornfields where it dominated the area. Below, the Union troops start to form up. The Cornfields are on the right with the high corn obscuring the Rebel infantry.

Once deployed Union gunners focussed on Confederate artillery. In a prolonged engagement the Confederate gun line in this sector was decimated.

In the area around the Boonsboro Turnpike Union infantry were more aggressive. Porter’s Corps were soon pressing the Jones’ Division frontally while simultaneously other brigades advanced through an area of dense woods against the Rebel flank. While Ewell’s division extended the line Rebel infantry and dismounted cavalry countered in this dense forest.

The fighting was brutal. Eventually however the butternut lines surged forward and Morell’s Union Division broke to the rear.

On the turnpike itself the battle had become equally desperate. French’s Division supported by corps artillery extended Porter’s line. Before the division was fully deployed a series of attacks were launched by Confederate brigades. First to attack were Hood’s Texans supported by Early’s Brigade. Initially showing promise the attacks were repulsed by determined Union defenders.

Then other Union brigades counterattacked. Soon additional brigades, both blue and grey, were engaged east of the cornfields. As the lines surged back and forth however it was Doubleday’s Division that was first to break. Yet Confederate casualties limited Confederate abilities to exploit the advantage.

Around 6pm Richardson’s Division, though late to arrive, finally crossed White Oak Creek and added its three brigades and 12 heavy Napoleons to the battle. The Union line had held.

On the Confederate left Union advances were disrupted by a combination of forests and Taliaferro’s Division. Here Union brigades were soon on the defensive and slowly the Confederates pressed their advantage. A series of rolling attacks were placed, including two charges by the Stonewall Brigade. Despite these attacks, it was not until 9pm that Sedgewick’s Division finally broke.

As night finally fell a tally of the battle was taken. Four Union divisions were exhausted or collapsed with two more all but exhausted. Only Richardson’s Division was fresh. Yet Confederate casualties were heavy. Ewell, Kemper and Stuart’s Divisions were all exhausted though the last two were small. Taliaferro’s & Hood’s Divisions were still capable of attack but seven hours of fighting had taken a heavy toll. Lee had gained a victory but at a terrible price.

Repulse Along the Rappahannock

The following report is of a fictional American Civil War engagement set in August 1862. As is often the case we developed the scenario with the card based Road to Glory scenario system. Both armies comprised 3000 points. The Union players used Card 13 “Build-up Echelon Left” while Confederate forces used Card 15 “Returning Detachment -Right”. This placed the burden of attack with the Confederates, by a small margin. Figures are 6mm Heroics & Ros.

The previous day Union screening forces along a section of the Rappahannock river were driven back allowing Confederate troops to cross. Lee pressed the retreating Union forces who on the morning of the 23rd of August reformed in the vicinity of Praxton Creek, just north of Rappahannock Station. By 2pm General Lee deployed only a small portion of his forces in the area. Some 28,000 infantry, 2000 cavalry and some 54 cannon. Organised into six divisions these troops represented those formations immediate available. The other formations of Lee’s army were unlikely to arrive by sunset. The exception being Ewell’s Division of Jackson’s Wing and his artillery reserve of 24 guns. However, Ewell’s division of 7000 men organised into four brigades, was at least three hours from the field. Facing them, separated by the meandering Paxton Creek, were elements of Major General John Pope command. With Union forces initially outnumbered Lee determined to maintain pressure, despite being aware that Union reinforcements would soon arrive.

Praxton Creek lay around 2400 yards from Confederate lines and generally ran from the west to the east. Opposite the rebel centre was Stone Bridge. West of the Stone Bridge, extending to the Union right, Paxton Creek become considerably marshy while to the east its banks were firm though lined with numerous trees. The marshy western section significantly restricted rebel options as the marshy creek would significantly hamper movement of artillery needed to support any attacks.

After deliberation Lee decided his forces already deployed would make a general shift of to the right and attack the Union centre and left. General Jackson was confident the Union forces would cross the Paxton Creek and General Longstreet’s divisions would then be able to attack parallel to the creek. However, such a move would extend further the distance Ewell’s Division would have to cover before reaching the area of the engagement. It was hoped that a road running parallel to Paxton Creek, and behind Confederate lines, would compensate somewhat for the distances Ewell’s powerful division would need to cover.

By 4pm the Confederate troops were generally repositioned, with the exception of Hood’s and Kemper’s Divisions. These divisions, having been on the Confederate left, had been slowed by crossing Older’s Branch, a small creek which flowed into the western section of Paxton Creek.
Confederate preparatory attacks opened on the flanks rather than the centre. On the right three brigades of Taliaferro’s Division advanced to engage elements of a Union division thrown out forward of Paxton Creek. Two of his brigades were soon engaged in an extended firefight in a wooded area while additional brigades extended further to the right.

Simultaneously Rebel cavalry on the left, Robinson’s cavalry brigade of General Stuart’s cavalry division, advanced and engaged raw Union cavalry in the open ground northwest of Stone Bridge. General Stuart having been ordered to demonstrate against the Union right was determined to press the enemy. In hindsight his attacks were pressed with too great an élan. As a result Robinson’s Brigade fell back in disorder while Union cavalry and infantry pressed forward. Such were the determination of these attacks that Stuart’s cavalry division was forced back in considerable disorder.

Between 3pm and 5pm several additional Union divisions deployed on to the battlefield, reinforcing the Union centre. Bolstered by these new divisions Union forces now outnumbered Confederates forces, though a number of Union divisions were recently raised and therefore poorly drilled. Lee therefore decided to press the Union troops further, hoping to gain advantage in a fluid battle. Just prior Rebel attacks being set in motion three Union divisions crossed Paxton Creek. Brigade after brigade crossed and formed on the south side of the creek. It would seem that General Pope has a more aggressive nature than General McClellan had demonstrated during the Peninsula Campaign.

Longstreet reordered his divisions and ordered a general advance. Anderson’s Division went directly forward supported by 24 cannon and extended to the right and echloned back by three further brigades of Jones’ Division. These formed a line 100 yards north of Widow Wyatt’s Farm and extending east through the Wyatt cornfields. In the ensuring attacks both Armistead’s and Wright’s Brigades were thrown back, as was Toomb’s Brigade from Jones’ Division.

Below, the situation after the failed Confederate attack in the centre. Paxton Creek can be easily distinguished.

By 6pm yet more Union troops had crossed Paxton Creek further stabilising the Union position. General Pope was extremely active encouraging his troops who remained vulnerable to determined attack.

Around 7pm Confederate troops surged forward in an attempt to dislodge the Union forces and roll up the line. In all seven brigades were thrown in to the attacks.

The grey and butternut brigades on the right were first to go in. Garrett’s Brigade, while disordered in the advance, routed a Union brigade causing a chain reaction impacting a division. However, other Union brigades held their ground. While southern patriots fought with great determination they were unable to dislodge the Union line now well supported by artillery. Even Hood’s Texans, who had demonstrated such determination at Gaines’ Mill, failed to break the Union line and were themselves forced back.

On the extreme right other brigades of Taliaferro’s Division were now pressed by a slow but methodical Union advance, as shown below. While Ewell’s division had shaken out into line it’s delayed arrival and the time taken to deploy from road column to field formation restricted the impact these troops would have on the battle.

By 9pm and with darkness enveloping the battlefield further Confederate attacks were no longer realistic. Indeed, Union formations were themselves advancing with determination. Casualties have been significant, especially on the Confederates. Anderson’s Division has collapsed as a fighting formation and would need to be rested before further action. Both Jones’ and Taliaferro’s Divisions were near exhaustion following several hours of combat. Lee had clearly been repulsed along the Rappahannock by Pope, but the campaign was young…

Korbitz, 21st September 1759

There are a few excellent Volley & Bayonet blogs on the Internet, one is the Seven Years War blog run by Fabrizio Davì called the Torgau Project. Here Fabrizio documents his research and army building, in 6mm. Recently Fabrizio has posted a four part series on the scenario and mini campaign for the Battle of Korbitz which is now packaged up as a full scenario and published here. To set the scene I will hand over to Fabrizio.

At the beginning of September 1759, a Prussian relief corps under Maj.Gen. Wunsch was sent to counter the Austro-Imperial invasion of Saxony: despite arriving too late to prevent the Dresden surrender, it recaptured however most of northern Saxony. With the help of a corps commanded by Lt.Gen Finck, Wunsch recaptured Leipzig: the two reunited corps marched then on Meissen. To counter them the GFML prince Friedrich von Pflaz-Zweibrücken, commander-in-chief of the Reichsarmee, left 16 battalions to garrison Dresden and marched with his army, reinforced by the Austrian corp of Hadik to attack them. The whole operation was supervised by Field Marshal Serbelloni.

The plan was to fix the Prussian left wing in front of Meissen with the Reichsarmee whereas Hadik was to flank the Prussian position with his corps. The Wunsch wing contained the Reichsarmee ineffective attack: in the meantime Hadik attacked the Finck wing. The approach march of Hadik wing was delayed by the very poor terrain conditions and Hadik asked repeatedly to call off the attack. However Serbelloni ordered to proceed and Hadik troops arrived piecemeal on the battle scene.

To continue with the background and see the full scenario click here or visit the Scenario Section of this site.