Saturday, 18 May 2013

Battle of Cutler's Farm - Turns 4-6

9:30 am - game turn 4 on the battlefield. On the Confederate left the flanking manoeuvre rolls on - Hood's division swings round to face south west and deploys across the cornfields, while the long column of Ewell's division creeps up in support. Hood's guns deploy to join with Fitzhugh Lee's horse artillery in keeping the Union cavalry at bay. Desperate to delay the approaching Rebels, Ian has spread Tompkin's troopers too thinly which causes an 'unsupported' deduction from their morale die rolls, and they start to back off.

Hood deploys while Ewell comes up. Both divisions have
aggressive orders.

Fitzhugh Lee in the foreground - in the distance Hood has already begun
 to engage the Union right flank near the Barnes House

Hood's command is in 'assault' mode and Whiting's Brigade introduces the Yankees to the twin horrors of the bayonet and the Rebel Yell. Hood himself is in the thick of it, lending his morale bonus to the front line, until he is badly wounded. But he has done the job - two Federal units break and Butterfield's division crumbles away . . . . . . . .

Fierce fighting in Farmer Barnes' front yard - again ! Off to the right you can see
 the rest of Longstreet's men engaging the Union centre.

Routed Federals stream away from Whiting's brigade - although the Reb
strength point marker shows they didn't have it all their own way!

The battle in the centre was subject to some low combat losses and good die rolls for morale, in true quirky ACW style. With neither side having assault orders this meant they were able to stand and keep slugging away at each other for another hour and a half ! However this kind of stalemate benefits Ian as it gives time for a constant stream of fresh Yankee brigades to come up from Sharpeville. There are always so many soldiers in the Union army !

Union brigades are like buses used to be - there will
always be another one along in a minute !

The centre from the Union perspective - both sides have their reserve artillery deployed here.
 On the ridge in the background you can just make out the silhouette of General Lee!

The centre from the viewpoint of General Wilcox's Confederate division -
 the brigade of a certain George Pickett in the foreground !

Just after 10:00 am General Lee arrives on the field, having been held up on the road behind the supply train. He moves onto a nearby ridge, assesses the Confederate right flank and sends Jackson new assault orders for Starke's division. Lee and Jackson are 'A' grade commanders and Starke is a 'B' and they are all less than a mile apart, making the execution of the order quick enough to surprise Ian who had just nipped out to make a cup of tea!

Lee arrives to get a grip on the situation

Starke's division - in the left foreground Winder has just routed Doubleday's brigade
but in practise the rest of the line is too weak or shaky to make much
use of the new assault orders

General Bayard's dismounted cavalry are swarming round A.P.Hill's flank -
Bayard shown here with his formidable corps commander, John Buford

On the extreme right of the Confederate army, A.P.Hill's troops have more or less been fought to a standstill, hamstrung by the pressure of an entire Federal cavalry division on their flank. At the end of turn 6 the Rebels have 2.5 demoralisation points and the Union 4.5. Still anybody's game !

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Battle of Cutler’s Farm – Turns 1-3

With both the armies deployed on table it was immediately obvious that we were in for quite a fight. In the last couple of big games we’ve played we have been fighting mostly across the narrow (4’) side of the table, in this one we are using the full 8’ width allowing space to deploy every brigade and battery we possess.

Initial deployment - Porter's corps began the game in column of march due to another command mix-up at Pope's HQ. Wilcox's Confederate division is in battle-line in the distance (you'll have to click the images in this post to really see what's going on).

The action began predictably enough in the campaign ‘contact’ square just north of the Barnes Farm. Dave pushed forward Wilcox (who had replaced Kemper as divisional commander after the last battle) to engage Porter as he deployed two of his divisions, supported by the artillery reserve, into line. The Confederates rather wisely shifted slightly to their left to avoid the fire of my massed guns and settled down to a fire-fight rather than attempt any assault. I was concerned however to see Dave’s reserve artillery arrive on table in a position where they could enfilade Porter’s line but I needn’t have worried as a mix up in the Confederate staff work meant the guns were ordered to ‘attach’ rather than combine in a grand battery – a very lucky break for me!

Porter's line viewed from the Confederate side of the table. The Union reserve artillery is in the centre of the line but unable to fire in 'Grand Battery' until the artillery ammunition park is set up. Wilcox's men have understandably veered away from the muzzles of the northern guns.

The Union ammunition park was established on turn 3. Pope has set up his HQ at Sharpeville. Bobby Lee is still off table stuck behind the lumbering Confederate supply train!

Meanwhile Dave had brought on A.P. Hill and Starke from Jackson’s corps fully deployed in a massive battle-line that stretched for a mile and a half across the fields of Cutler’s Farm. I had deployed McDowell to oppose them but with a frontage of just 4 brigades he looked dangerously exposed as the grey tide rolled forward brushing aside the Federal skirmishers.  Fortunately the arrival of Buford with Bayard’s cavalry division on McDowell’s left flank eased the situation lending some much needed support.

 A mile-and-a-half of Rebels! A.P. Hill and Starke move forward across the fields of Cutler's Farm.

This view shows McDowell's 'thin blue line' (left centre ground) awaiting the onslaught of Jackson's men. In the distance you can see Buford and the cavalry riding to the rescue.

Over on the Confederate left Dave was making use of the extra table space available to manoeuvre Hood and Ewell out past my flank. The Rebel infantry were supported by Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry and I had little choice but to retire my own cavalry (Tompkins) as the enemy advanced. However, I had already ordered Butterfield to extend Porter’s flank and he was almost in position to oppose the Confederate advance by the end of our playing session.

Tompkins cavalry are slowly withdrawing in the face overwhelming odds.

Fitzhugh Lee (foreground) covers the flank of Hood's division as he moves forward around the Union right flank. Butterfield's division can be seen (left distance) moving past the Barnes Farm house to extend the Union line against this threat.

After three turns we have the makings of a truly epic struggle on our hands with an active engaged battlefront stretching for two and a half miles and new activity about to start on the eastern flank. We both have forces still off table and likely to put in an appearance in the next turn or two whilst I have the whole of Sigel’s corps just arriving at Sharpeville.

 "We fights mitt Sigel!" - the Germans arrive at Sharpeville after a hard march all the way from Fremont.

 The situation at the end of turn 3 - click the image to zoom in.

When all the forces are finally on table we will be using approximately 2,300 figures in total so it should develop into a very interesting game that will test our generalship to the limits!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Battle of Cutler’s Farm

Following Lee’s move towards the Union left flank we now have another battle about to begin in the area of Cutler’s Farm. So, although our campaign map is made up of 96 squares, we have somehow contrived to bring on the next battle very close to the site of the last one!

 The battlefield - click the image to zoom in.

 Sharpeville - looks familiar eh? 
 The Barnes farm - poor old farmer Barnes must have thought the worst was over!
Cutler's Farm - looking northwest.

 View from the Horner farm looking due west across the battlefield.

The action starts at 8.00am on 2 August 1862 with a contact between Porter and Longstreet just to the north of the Barnes Farm. Unusually in this one the North will be coming in from the South and the South from the North. A victory here would give the Union enough VP’s to win the Campaign so the stakes couldn’t be higher.

For the story of how we got to this point take a look at our individual Campaign diaries Wilderness Tavern and Road to Appomattox.