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.