Hamstrung at Hazel Run

In September 1863 Longstreet was detached from the Army of Northern Virginia to reinforce the Army of the Tennessee. Likewise the Union army, commanded by Meade, also had troops detached. Lee learned of this and as a result in early October began an offensive sweep around Cedar Mountain with his remaining two corps, attempting to turn Meade’s right flank in what is known as the Bristoe Campaign. Meade turned north and followed. Well, that’s the historic part and from here we delve into a report of our most recent game, set on the 12th of October 1863.

The terrain in the vicinity of Hazel Run was a mix of open farmland and heavily wooded areas. Lee had camped on the southern banks of the Hazel Run with much of his army deployed with their flanks mostly protected by the various creeks, some of which were marshy, that fed into Hazel Run. Lee, now planned to turn early and inflict a crushing defeat at the pursuing Union forces.

Meade, suspecting Lee was dispersed, planned to press Lee’s rearguard eventually bringing on a general action. With limited intelligence he had ordered his advanced elements forward and by 1pm he was near to engaging Lee’s army. His main initial force comprised Warren’s II Corps, of three divisions, two of which were to the left of a large forested area near Widow Payne’s Farm. The wooded area, thick with heavy undergrowth and locally known as Todd’s Wilderness was around one mile in width and an equal distance deep. To Warren’s right was French’s III Corps which comprised only two divisions. Warren, had one division on the right of the Todd’s Wilderness on the Loganville Turnpike, and a further division moving into Todd’s Wilderness.

It was soon apparent to Meade that he was far from engaging Lee’s rearguard. Across the rich farmlands and spreading north of Todd’s Wilderness was Ewell’s Corps of three strong divisions under command of Rodes’, Early and Johnson. Together these three divisions comprised 12 brigades, with Rodes’ division being the strongest with five brigades. To the Rebel right two further divisions, drawn from A.P Hill’s Corps and under command of Heth and Anderson respectively. These divisions were, by 1.30pm, converging on Warren outnumbered forces.

Above, the area of battle viewed from the west. The Confederates are visible on the left (north) and elements of Meade’s Army of the Potomac on the right. Central is the open farmland which includes Widow Payne’s Farm, while behind is Todd’s Wilderness. Both areas are bordered by various streams that converge on Hazel Run to the north. Two divisions of Hill’s III Corps are visible in the left foreground.

Below, a view of Warren’s II Corps in the vicinity of Widow Payne’s farm. General Meade, now aware he is facing Lee’s veterans who are fully concentrated, has ridden forward to ensure his veterans of Gettysburg are well deployed. Two advanced brigades will fall back before the butternut and grey ranks of Lee’s legions. They will then form a line with Warren’s artillery. Warren’s artillery, comprising rifles and Napoleons are visible just prior to their deployment.

Below, elements of Rodes’ Confederate Division move to the attack, advancing through Todd’s Wilderness and across open farmland. Rifle fire is illustrated as the two armies come to grips in the Wilderness.

Meanwhile on the Union right flank the artillery of both armies began to exchange fire across Simpson’s Creek which cuts across the Loganville Turnpike. Initially Union artillery concentrated on the Rebel artillery, but as they were found to comprise a concentration of Napoleons French requested his artillery commander to switch to engaging the Rebel infantry. Here they plied their trade with determination eventually forcing elements of Early’s Division to retire. The Union infantry here are mostly from Birney’s Division.

Meanwhile, back at Widow Payne’s the Rebels we’re pressing forward with determination. Confronted with a fully deployed Union line Lee ordered the deployment of his artillery supported by increasing numbers of infantry, shown below. Clearly Lee was attempting to pin the deployed Union ranks while he worked for advantage in the woods.

Unfortunately for the Rebels Lee lacked the required numbers in the Wilderness. Further, the thick undergrowth made it difficult for the Confederate to press the outnumbered Union infantry. As a result, Lee’s attacks started to stall. Below, a view of the eastern end of Todd’s Wilderness where Prince’s Division was hotly engaged. Prince’s veterans held their ground despite horrific casualties.

Below, a more general view around 3pm when the first of Meade’s reinforcements, Sedgwick’s VI Corps started to arrive. First to reinforce the blue lines were the divisions of Wright and Terry. The creek defining the Federal left flank was marshy and as such created a significant obstacle to Anderson’s Division visible in the left foreground. In the area of Payne’s Farm the green markers denote stationary brigades and artillery battalions while yellow denote those that have become disordered.

By 6pm Sedgewick’s VI Corps was fully deployed and forming up on a line 600 yards behind the original Union positions. Wright and Howe’s Divisions formed the new line and were bolstered by Sedgewick’s Corps artillery, as can be seen below.

Just prior to 7pm the final Confederate attack occurred. Near Payne’s Farm three Rebel brigades launched one final attack on the 2nd Brigade of Terry’s Division. Meade and Lee were both present as the butternut waves moved forward, with a familiar battle cry. They were met by an equally horrific reply – a hail of rifle fire swept which repeatedly through the trees and brambles. The Federal line held, and the Confederates were forced back.

With darkness intervening Lee had to consider his options. Three of his divisions were all but exhausted, having suffered heavy casualties. Opposite Meade’s army was marginally in a worse condition. Two Union divisions were exhausted or near exhaustion, and Webb’s had collapsed. However, Union reinforcements were now fully deployed and overnight more reinforcements would likely bolster the Union lines. Lee had no other choice. He had been hamstrung at Hazel Run, but the campaign was not yet over. Using the cover of night he pulled back and continued his march north covered by his cavalry.

The scenario was of course a fictional encounter developed using the scenario system “Road to Glory”. The Confederate commander having selected the Card 25 “Full Deployment” was concentrated while the Union army was more dispersed it’s commander having selected Card 10 “Build-up Echelon Right”. All miniatures are from my own 6mm collection with infantry based on 1 1/2 square bases.

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