Friday, 27 September 2013

Randolph's Ferry - Turns 20-27

Turn 20 was a night turn - we have some rules for re-deploying at night but unless there is a hotly contested area we don't often need to employ them, preferring to negotiate and horse trade to get what we want - and of course attempting to behave realistically !  All morale and  ammunition levels were fully restored, a few new orders were allowed to reach their destinations, but no strength point recovery was permitted.

Cleburne's division, roughly handled by McCook's Corps at Mount Zion Church, was able to retreat across the slopes of Black Elk Mountain and go into reserve near Franklin. McCook himself drew up a new line menacing the Reb's left flank, to which Bragg responded by extending his entrenchments westwards on the Mountain and transferring Wheeler's combat-weary troopers to the extreme left.

Midnight behind Confederate lines - looking NE from Bragg's HQ at Franklin
towards the Union lines at Mt. Zion Church.

The Rebs catch some uneasy sleep in the fortifications at Rane's Farm.

Wheeler's threadbare cavalry division watches Leggett's Mill for any
sign of an enemy flanking manoeuvre.
McCook's corps spends the night west of the Church, looking like they
mean business for the morning.
As the early morning mist began to clear on November the 11th, Ian started to put the new Union battle plan into motion. To my surprise McCook stayed put, and it was Crittenden (augmented with one of Thomas' Divisions) whose corps launched a heavy attack on the extreme Confederate right. To much Southern amusement it was Palmer's 'green' troops who were first to come up against our entrenchments. No need for embarrassing detail - let's just say those Ohio farm boys really know how to run . . . .

Crittenden's corps forms up to attack south of the Conrad House .....

..... and benefits from a timely tactical card.

Battle is joined - a Federal corps level attack in echelon. Palmer in the
foreground, Van Cleve just beyond.

Green troops against entrenchments ? It's not going well .....
Wood's division is the last to strike the Rebel line.

A bloody close-range firefight ensued with both sides having plenty of artillery in position to add to the carnage with cannister. As you would expect, our rules make it slightly harder to hit men in entrenchments, and there is a bonus to their morale die rolls. This is not an insurmountable advantage if you have large numbers of troops to throw against them - which Ian certainly had - but he just didn't have luck on his side and the attack faltered quickly. Union brigades with 'assault' orders could not maintain good enough morale in the hail of fire to press home with the bayonet.
On the opposite flank the bulk of Thomas' Corps is moving to support McCook and it seems likely that Rosecrans plans to attack there next if Crittenden fails.

General Thomas (centre) pushes the divisions of Fry and Negley westwards.
None of these brigades have been engaged yet.
- Click to enlarge -
Situation : Turn 27 : 11:00 am : Day Two
(Union reserve artillery batteries now distributed among corps)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Randolph’s Ferry – Turns 15-19

The action now focused on the area around Mt. Zion Church where McCook’s corps had been ordered to assault the Rebel line. It was at this point that Dave chose to reveal that Cleburne’s division, defending the church, was his one ‘veteran’ division. This didn’t unduly worry me as our rules don’t give any advantage to veteran troops when deployed in defence and the Confederates had orders to stand.

Mt. Zion Church - the focus of action for the remaining daylight hours.

I was quietly confident that McCook’s boys could dislodge the unsupported Rebel division as they had an advantage of over 2:1 in numbers. The men closed to within 300yds of the enemy line and both sides loosed off deadly volleys of musketry whilst my two artillery batteries poured canister into Cleburne’s right flank. My leading brigades now declared their intention to ‘ASSAULT’, this meant a further volley from the enemy followed by an assault morale throw. Willich’s brigade of Johnson’s division successfully drove off Colquitt but Sill’s brigade was held despite the presence in the front line of Phil Sheridan the divisional commander. Sheridan was my only ‘A’ grade commander on the field and as a result of taking this risk he was carried away cursing with a ball through the leg.

Sill's brigade in the foreground failed to dislodge the enemy brigade opposite them. Sheridan's command stand has a red 'broken' marker next to it to show that he has become a casualty - this changes the divisional command grade from an 'A' to a 'D'!
This card was useful during the volley firing phase of combat.

 The Confederate line starts to waver.

Further volley’s and assaults followed over the next two turns but eventually the Federal weight of numbers told and Cleburne’s ‘veteran’ division dissolved into a sea of grey clad fugitives running for the safety of Black Elk Mountain. However, it was now the turn before nightfall and too late in the day for McCook to exploit his stunning success.

McCook's corps are now firmly in possession of Mt. Zion Church.

Playing this card wasn't enough to save the Rebs!

Cleburne's division are shaken...

...and then start to run away!

Meanwhile Rosecrans had continued to concentrate his forces and Thomas’ corps was now in the area of Hendrick’s farm where he could easily support McCook or move to the centre or left as required. Rosecrans had also decided to withdraw Barnett’s exposed artillery from Laurel Heights as it was losing the contest with the entrenched Rebel artillery on West Ridge.

The Rebel artillery reserve on West Ridge were particularly effective in counter-battey fire against my guns on Laurel Heights causing a 'tactical withdrawal' to a position out of range.

Thomas' corps move up to support McCook.

 The arrival of two gunboats at Randolph's Ferry - these each have the same combat effect as a rifled battery but are currently out of range of the Confederates.

The next turn is a ‘night’ turn and both commanders will get to make some minor adjustments to their lines. This scenario does not allow for any SP recovery over night so all casualties will be carried forward into day two although all units will recover to good morale.

The situation just before nightfall at the end of turn 19 (click on the image to zoom in).

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Randolph's Ferry - Turns 10-14

The second game session saw 5 turns played, taking us to 3:30pm on day one. Strategic movement, logistics and the ‘big picture’ are what make 6mm games appealing, so the fact that no serious combat is likely to happen before day two is not a problem !  Rosecrans has discovered that no military plan survives first contact with the enemy, and has scribbled up a storm of new orders. As Ian's opponent I am not privy to either the original orders or the new ones - but I am aware of rushing Union couriers, chaotic countermarching, traffic jams .... and grunts of despair accompanying each command test die roll ( always gratifying to hear). The chain of command involves die roll tests at every level, and with the usual surfeit of ‘C’ grade commanders, the Army of the Cumberland is an unwieldy juggernaut.

The only real action has been between the Divisions of Kennet and Wheeler, whose cavalry were embroiled in  back and forth skirmishing at the Conrad House for most of the day. By 3:00pm they had fought each other to a standstill with heavy losses all round, and both sides withdrew. The Rebs just about had the best of this encounter despite Ian playing one of our new experimental tactical cards :

The dismounted action lasted for several hours.

One of the new Union tactical cards,

I had slightly confounded Ian's expectations by opting for a static, entrenched defence ( I am not usually a great fan of  shovel-based warfare !). The scenario gave General Bragg enough time to heavily entrench a line more than two miles long, stretching north west from the fields of Ranes Farm up across West Ridge to the wooded slopes of Black Elk Mountain.

The Ranes Farm fieldworks - Black Elk Mountain and
Leggetts Mill in the far distance.

Massed Rebel batteries dug in on West Ridge. Entrenching takes three whole
 turns and can only be done out of enemy artillery range.

The extreme northern end of the Confederate trenches - Gibson's Brigade
 on Black Elk Mountain.

To the north, at Mt. Zion Church, I had rather recklessly pushed forward Cleburne's Division with an order to 'threaten the Union disembarkation zone' and 'take advantage of any weakness in the enemy deployment'. When subsequently revealed, Ian found these orders hilarious - McCook's entire Corps left the riverboats and marched straight at Cleburne, threatening to isolate and engulf him. I resorted to our initiative rule ( which allows a local commander to attempt to 'downgrade an army order that has become inappropriate or dangerous' ) and Cleburne successfully altered his 'engage' stance to 'hold'. After a flurry of couriers, he eventually recieved an order from Bragg allowing him to retire to the west.

Cleburne's men -  facing forward, but moving backwards !!

Federal artillery on Laurel Heights deployed within range of the Confederate rifled guns on West Ridge and fell victim to our new 'counter-battery fire' rules ( no, we didn't actually have proper rules for this before !). The Rebs managed to roll a 6 which not only eliminated 2 strength points  from one Union battery but blew up a caisson and deprived them of 2 ammunition points as well. Great rules.

 Federal artillery comes under fire from it's Rebel counterparts.

The Union army continued to fan out and roll across the Tennessee farmland towards Franklin. At 3:00pm, Fry's Division of Thomas' Corps was the last unit to come ashore at Randolph's Ferry.

Clockwise : 1] Looking southeast across the Union line of advance.
                    2] To the rear of Laurel Heights.
                    3] McCook's Corps pushes towards Mt. Zion Church.
                    4] The Union supply train prepares to move out.