Category Archives: American Civil War

Move Swiftly, Strike Vigorously!

Having been held by a determined defence along Praxton Creek on the 23rd August General Lee gave Major General John Pope the slip during the night and flanking the Union position continued his advance north. Pope, ordered the Union army north trying to keep his army between Lee and Washington. Lee for his part was spoiling for a fight and with his army relatively concentrated turned on the 25th of August to strike advanced elements of the Union Army of Virginia.

With Confederate scouts reported the Union forces were generally strung out in line of march. Lee determined to strike swiftly, with a portion of his Army of Northern Virginia attacking two Union divisions. While it was true the Union divisions had the advantage of high ground Lee was determined to retain the initiative. His army was divided into two commands of corps size, one under Longstreet and the other under Jackson. For the forthcoming engagement Longstreet would be able to call upon four divisions, some ten brigades. Jackson would support this with two further large divisions, another eight brigades. Stuart would also add his small cavalry division to the attack. In all General Lee would be able to commit some 30,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and over 72 guns to the attack.

Above and below the Confederates approach the Union forces deployed on Weaver Ridge around 3pm. From left to right are Anderson’s, Jones’ and Ewell’s Divisions. Union forces on the ridge are the 1st and 2nd Divisions from McDowell’s III Corps, Army of Virginia.

Lee moved his army forward in three general bodies. Anderson’s Division would pin the two Union Divisions in place on the wood covered high ground locally known as Weaver Ridge. At the same time Jones’ and Ewell’s Divisions would slide to the right before moving against the exposed Union left and line of communications.

Above Confederate artillery, comprising rifled and smoothbore guns, form a massed battery of 36 guns and begin to bombard the Union left. Simultaneously the Ewell’s Division begin their attack moving swiftly forward. Forno’s Brigade attacks Union guns while Lawton’s Brigade is advancing astride the Kylertown Pike, the main route of advance for Union reinforcements. Five additional brigades extend the Rebel right.

The divisions of Hood, Kemper and Stuart, all relatively small and forming the Confederate left flank, move from the Rebel left and advance on Weaver Ridge from the left, flanking the position. Below, the Confederates advance against the Union right, holding the extreme Union right of Weaver Ridge.

By 5pm the Union reinforcements were arriving. First to deploy was Siegel’ I Corps. No sooner had they deployed these two Union divisions faced another attack, under the watchful eye of General Lee. Below, the Forno’s, Toombs’ and Jones’ Brigades are in the foreground while in the distance Early’s, Lawton’s, Trimble’s and Drayton’s Brigades attack.

While Lee was in the thick of the fighting Jackson moved along the line encouraging troops of Ewell’s Division. “Move swiftly, strike vigorously! These Yankees will break!” Despite the rapid Confederate advance additional Union reinforcements were now pouring on to the battlefield, primarily from Heintzelman’s III Corps, Army of the Potomac. Now increasingly outnumbered the Rebel attack on the right began to stall. Lawton’s Brigade was first to crack. Below, the Rebel brigades in a sea of blue around 6pm.

Meanwhile in the centre, the Union 1st Division had earlier abandoned the safety of Weaver Ridge and advancing through the cornfields attacking the Rebel centre. Below, two Union brigades, along with US Sharpshooters advance on Armistead’s and Mahone’s Brigades, both part of Anderson’s Division. Mahone’s Brigade, shown below on the Confederate left, suffered heavy casualties over two hours of desperate fighting.

Yet Longstreet was feeding in troops. Three Confederate Divisions crossed the south branch of Otter Creek about 5pm. Below, in the foreground, is Hood’s Division, which comprises Hood’s Texan and Whiting’s Brigades. In the distance Kemper’s Division, comprising Kemper’s Brigade and that of Jenkin’s Brigade. Between them are Fitzhugh Lee’s and Robinson’s cavalry brigades from Stuart’s Division.

Now, around 6pm, the exposed Union Division in the Cornfield, is hit from two directions. In the rear by Hood’s Division and from the front by Garrett’s Brigade from Taliaferro’s Division (Jackson’s Corps) and Wright’s Brigade from Anderson’s Division. Hood’s Texans in particular gave the Yankees a surprise, attacking with great élan. Below, the Union 1st Division defends the Cornfield.

While the action in the Cornfield plays out the two brigades of Kemper’s Division attack the final Union brigade holding the Union left supported by Fitzhugh Lee’s dismounted cavalry brigade at 7pm. The combination of all these attacks on the 1st and 2nd Union Divisions were disastrous. Both divisions were driven back in disorder having suffered crippling casualties.

However, Union reinforcements continued to deploy including extending the Union right. Below, two Union infantry brigades prepare to counter-attack while Pleasanton’s cavalry, some three brigades form behind the northern branch of Otter Creek.

Further along Weaver Ridge the shattered Union centre began to be reinforced by another Union division around 8pm. With light fading Longstreet ponders a further attack. Anderson’s Division is itself however nearly exhausted. Any final push would need to be by Hood’s Division, on the left, or Stuart’s dismounted cavalry far left.

On the Confederate right, below, the attack by the southern brigades had stalled earlier and now prepared to face a possible Union counter-attack. Ewell’s Division was exhausted though Jones’ Division remained fresh. Several disordered Union regiments can be seen on Weaver Ridge.

There was no doubt General Lee was pleased with his troops aggressive spirit and determination to advance. The Southerners had fought hard and pressed the Yankees at every turn. One Union Division had collapsed and another exhausted, giving Pope grave concern. However, yet again the hoped for destruction of the Union forces was not complete. The Union army had held.

The scenario was of course another fictional encounter developed using the “Road to Glory” System with each army comprised of 3000 points. The Union commanders had selected “Advance Guard – Echelon Centre #5” while the Confederate commanders selected “Returning Detachment – Reserve #20” and therefore had the burden of attack. Miniatures are all from Heroics & Ros 6mm range, with the Confederates from my collection while Jon provided the Union forces.

Across the Rappahannock – 1863

It has been a while since I’ve posted here so I thought it opportune to post a short summary of our most recent game. This time with a lack of photos the report is somewhat brief. The encounter was a fictional American Civil War engagement developed using the Road to Glory. Each army comprised 3000 points but the card system ensured a very challenging game as troops arrived over the course of the game. In game turns the Union commander opted for a low card, Advance Guard Left #2 but with only a small portion of his army it would be several hours until the Union forces were deployed. The Confederate commander selected Returning Detachment #18. Only two divisions were not on table and even these would arrive before any Union reinforcements. 

Lee’s army, having given the main Union army the slip, had crossed the Rappahannock in two groups. Under his immediate command were two Corps. II Corps, under Ewell, was concentrated and elements of A.P Hill’s Corps would be on the field soon.  Lee, aware of the situation seized the initiative and ordered a general advance.

The Union forces on the field were well to his right. Therefore all his divisions would echelon to the right and attack. They would have insufficient time to form up in direct support but rather advance to the right in succession.


Rhodes’ Division, Lee’s largest at five brigades, would advance from the centre and attacked at an angle the Union left. Adam’s Brigade showed much valour as it swept forward and into the Union line in an area known as the angle, where the Union line sharply turned 90 degrees. The initial attack was supported by two artillery battalions, and later Dole’s Brigade. To Adam’s right Daniel’s and Iverson’s Brigades advanced in support. They formed a dramatic picture as they advanced through cornfields into rifled musket range of the blue clad enemy. Having exchanged musket fire soon these two brigades would surge forward. As some Union brigades crumbled others realigned in a desperate attempt to halt the Rebel attacks.

In the coming hours additional Union divisions deployed and were thrown into line, extending the Union line and forming the Union centre. As they deployed elements of Johnson’s Confederate Division and artillery aligned opposite some 800 yards distant. The Rebel artillery here, drawn from several divisions eventually comprised some 50 cannon and outnumbered the Union guns.

Above, the Rebel centre as the gun line begins to form. A portion of a large wooded area is visible on the left.

A large wooded area covered the Union right. Additional Union reinforcements, drawn from three Union Divisions, deployed in the open as elements of two Confederate divisions pressed through the woods. Early’s Division advanced on the left while three brigades from Johnson’s division provided support on their right. A vigorous exchange took place, with the Rebels forming in parts along the wood edge while in other areas attacking through the woods Union Brigades that had advanced into the woods. In time the initial Rebel advantage here was lost and as the battle continued several butternut brigades were forced back deeper into the woods.

Meanwhile, on the Confederate right, Rebel forces continued to focus their attacks on the Union left. Heth’s Division, having marched rapidly by road to the far Rebel right deployed to attack.

Below, on the right, the brigades of Pettigrew and Archer prepare to attack the disorganised Union left. Daniel’s Brigade has just completed a successful attack on the angle. The resulting retreat by the Union brigade holding the angle has disordered several other Union brigades. The large field in the foreground contained a large cornfield and slowed the initial Rebel advance.

For a time Heth’s Division looked set to sweep the exposed Union left from the field. However, Union forces, yet again, extended the line before the Union line could be broken. Indeed, Union forces now overlapped Heth’s Division and in turn advanced tentatively against the Rebels. As casualties mounted Pettigrew’s and Archer’s Brigades were driven back.

As darkness bought peace to the battlefield Lee realised he had no other option but to retire. His attack had not achieved the result he had hoped for. While Union forces had suffered heavy casualties his outnumbered army and his gamble, had failed. Yet the Army of Northern Virginia remained ready for battle…

Gaines Mill, 27th June 1862

Gaines Mill is for me a fascinating battle and one that I have been hoping to play for sometime. It has been made even more interesting by my recent visit to the battlefield.

It of course is set against the Peninsula Campaign and the Union advance on Richmond. With Lee taking the field the Confederate forces undertook a series of troop movements and battles that unhinged the Union forces arrayed in front of the Rebel capital. Gaines Mill, fought on the 27th of June found Lee launching the largest Confederate attack of the war, with some 57,000 men in six divisions. In the early afternoon, A.P. Hill ran into strong Union forces deployed along Boatswain’s Creek. This swampy stream, slopes and hasty defences provided a major obstacle.

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The resulting attacks resulted an intense battle, the largest of the Seven Days and the only clear-cut Confederate tactical victory of the Peninsula Campaign. While McClellan had already planned to shift his supply base to the James River, his defeat unnerved him and he abandoned his advance on Richmond. This scenario was created by Andy Nicoll and Jim Nevling and can be found here.

For those interested my visit to the battlefield is documented here. For additional reading I would highly recommend Stephen Sears “To the Gates of Richmond” which describes the battle well and places it in the context of the Peninsula Campaign.

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.