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…

Dinnsdorf 1813 – The Glorious Landwehr

One of the highlights of my week is gathering around my gaming table on a Friday evening and moving troops on the table. Sometimes well intentioned plans for an historical refight don’t eventuate but that’s when a more general points based game is ideal. The Volley & Bayonet “Road to Glory” scenario system is excellent as it creates a scenario with little preparation. Last night’s engagement was no exception. Three of us opted for an 1813 encounter between French and Prussians. Both armies had drawn reasonably high deployment cards. From a game perspective this meant that both armies were concentrated and their commanders believed they each had the burden of attack.

The battlefield was reasonably open with several light woods at various points. The dominating features that marked the battlefield could best be described as follows. On the French left a small hill provided a defensible position which protected the French left flank and the French line of communication. This road continued across the between both armies at a gentle angle, from the French left to the Prussian centre left. Two towns sat astride the road and one would feature significantly in the battle. On the Prussian left a dominating ridge lay equally between both armies.

The Prussians deployed two corps, the II Corps making up the centre and left while the III Corps the right. The Prussians generally had a numeric advantage, their divisions being larger and containing troops of various quality. In contrast the French had the advantage in quality, with generally more well drilled troops, but the number of bayonets in each division were smaller.

The battle opened very late in the August afternoon, with only a few hours of daylight remaining, with a general Prussian advance. On the Prussian left von Preussen’s division advanced to secure the dominating heights. As they did so two French infantry divisions countered. An early cavalry encounter between French hussars and Prussian dragoons caused some concern among the French infantry when the French cavalry collapsed. The French infantry however closed ranks and continued to dominate the musket and artillery exchange between the infantry. After two hours von Preussen’s Division fell back towards the town of Laswitz covered by Prussian dragoons.

On the Prussian right Prussian infantry and cavalry of the Bulow’s III Corps launched a series of attacks on French troops holding high ground and extending to a wooded area. The battle here flowed back and forth until von Hessen-Homberg’s division turned the French position by its arrival late in the day. Below, the high ground on the French left with the Prussian attack gaining momentum.

The French divisions on the left were forced back and were only saved by the arrival of two French cavalry divisions just prior to dusk. In this sector Prussian Landwehr cavalry, much maligned due to their lack of drill, launched a glorious and successful charge against the exposed flank of French artillery left unsupported by retreating French infantry.

In the centre the initial Prussian attacks were launched against the small town of Dinnsdorf from which it was hoped the French centre could be unhinged. Two Prussian divisions formed up in a blocking position to the left of Dinnsdorf allowing 36 Prussian guns to bombard the French opposite. Below, Prussian cannon, supported by infantry, engage the French some 800 yards distant.

Simultaneously two Prussian regular brigades Ziethen’s Division were thrown in to an initial attack against the French defenders of Dinnsdorf. Both brigades were thrown back while Blucher, ever in the heat of action was wounded in the encounter.

Soon another attack was ordered and two further brigades, including one landwehr brigade, closed with the bayonet. The landwehr were successful and secured Dinnsdorf, as can be seen below. In the distance the town of Laswitz can be seen, as well as the dominating ridge on the French right.

Of course the French commander could ill afford his army to be split and ordered a series of counterattacks. Over the course of two hours four French brigades were thrown at Dinnsdorf. Each attack was thrown back by the landwehr defenders, one of which is shown below.

As darkness fell and after just five hours of fighting the armies disengaged.

With the loss of Dinnsdorf the French centre was separated from its left and line of communication. Yet both centries remained generally fresh, though bloodied by the fighting for Dinnsdorf. The French left was hard pressed by the Prussians opposite, but Prussian casualties prevented any further exploitation. For the Prussians their own left had collapsed, opening up their own line of communication to attack, though again French casualties prevented any significant exploitation. Despite the tactical draw however the engagement will long be remembered for the brave and glorious actions of the Prussian Landweht, both on foot and mounted, which was truely glorious.

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.


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.