Saturday, 19 October 2013

Randolph's Ferry - Turns 36-41

On the first day of this scenario Ian had to rethink his plans in the face of Bragg's unexpected line of heavy fortifications. He had a major success in driving away Cleburne's division from Mt. Zion Church, and after a bit of a false start came up with an effective artillery strategy -  parcelling out long range guns across the entire front, and deciding to push 12 pdr batteries right up close to our lines in support of any assaults. Crittenden's big attack had failed in the morning of day two, and now it was McCook's turn to put pressure on the Rebel left at Black Elk Mountain.

McCook's men engage the Rebs on the slopes of the mountain.
McCook did not have assault orders as his mission was to keep Bragg occupied while the main Union attack on West Ridge was driven home. But he engaged us ferociously - General Breckinridge was shot dead at 4:30pm as he rode up and down to inspire the thinning grey ranks to hold the line.  Dibrell's dismounted cavalry brigade was soon put to flight, leaving Robertson's isolated horse artillery battery holding off the attentions of a whole Yankee division on the extreme Rebel left.

Robertson's battery - temporarily out of ammo but standing firm
 and seemingly bulletproof !

McCook's corps is now miles from the Union wagon park and re-supply is a headache.
If Ian hadn't routed my rifled guns I would be lobbing shells at this lot !

It was now mid-afternoon and Thomas' corps had struck the Confederate centre and overwhelmed the artillery positions. There followed a couple of hours of classic, dramatic Civil War back-and-forth infantry action to secure the bloodsoaked soil of West Ridge.

Thomas storms the West Ridge breastworks - it's all or nothing, Rosecrans
doesn't have enough resources remaining to try again ! 

The Federal troops that overran the guns are themselves routed
 as Confederate reserves move up.
Fresh Yankees take their place ...... Union Generals Fry and Negley
both take risks, and Fry is wounded.

Tactical card played by Scribner's brigade at 4:00pm, resulting in a loss
of a massive 6 strength points from Mercer's Reb brigade.
Scribner's men subsequently rout - but Spear's brigade comes up and it's the turn
of the weary Rebs to skedaddle. 

'A' grade corps commander, General Hardee, takes a mortal wound in the chaos of this see-saw struggle and in the end Union forces dominate the crucial West Ridge as twilight causes the fighting to fizzle out. They have also managed to get a foothold on Black Elk Mountain as a second night descends on the battlefield. Bragg's reserves have now been forced into a desperate new defensive posture to deal with whatever the Army of the Cumberland may throw at them on day three !

Confederate line across the old Pine Trail

Loring's division forms a new position around the perimeter of Franklin, close
 to the HQ of an increasingly nervous General Bragg !

Nightfall - Nov 11th (day two)

As we concluded turn number 41 (yes, count 'em, 41 turns!) and prepared for another night turn
the Confederate DM level stood at a precarious 5.5 ... just one and a half points from total defeat.
The Union level was a much safer 3.5 and stands as a tribute to Ian's tactical skill in turning around what looked like am impossible situation for the Army of the Cumberland ! 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Randolph’s Ferry – Turns 28-35

At the start of our fifth playing session on Wednesday night I think we were both feeling that the game had reached a stalemate as it looked very unlikely that I could make any headway against Dave’s entrenched Rebel line. Crittenden’s corps had been convincingly repulsed by Polk’s men at Ranes Farm and was now in full retreat with 4 broken brigades, fortunately for me these brigades started to rally as soon as they were out of range of the Confederate artillery.

The final moments of Crittenden's attack - due to poor command die rolls it took some time for the order to disengage to filter down to brigade level.

Crittenden's new line at the Conrad House - all but one of his brigades have rallied. For a while the Union DM level reached 4.5 - at 6 the Union army would have been defeated.

By now it was early afternoon and Rosecrans needed a new plan (and a bit of good luck) if the Union flag was every going to fly again over the town hall at Franklin. I realised that Crittenden’s corps was too weak to make any further assaults and he was ordered to hold a line at the Conrad House whilst detaching Rousseau’s fresh division and sending it back to Thomas. The plan now was for Thomas to attack Bragg’s centre at West Ridge but for this to have a chance of succeeding, McCook would have to pin the Rebel left at Black Elk Mountain.

A single brigade of Wheeler's cavalry hold the extreme left of the Confederate line near Leggetts Mill. The remainder of his division can be seen in reserve behind Black Elk Mountain.

McCook's corps start to move forward towards Black Elk Mountain. Most of his brigades suffered casualties in the fighting at Mt Zion Church on the 10th and are no longer in condition to assault the Confederates but they can still mount an effective diversion.

Another view of McCooks men advancing - due to a slight screw up I was late deploying skirmishers and they had little effect on Wheeler's dismounted troopers.

The front line is now close enough to engage in a fierce fire fight with Breckinridge's infantry. I have moved all my available batteries within cannister range to support the attack. This may lead to ammo problems later as my wagons are having to make a five mile round trip from the wagon park to re-supply the guns.

With so much of the Union army in motion Bragg was desperate for information. This picture shows three Rebel couriers converging on his HQ at Franklin with urgent reports from all corners of the battlefield!

Thomas’ three divisions now moved forward across ‘the valley of death’ between Laurel Heights and West Ridge, the area dominated by the Confederate Grand Battery. The Rebel guns exacted a heavy toll on the Union infantry and soon four of Thomas’ nine brigades were shaken and unable to advance but the remaining Federal troops pushed forward determinedly right up to the enemy line.

Thomas' corps (in the foreground) begin their advance towards West Ridge. The troops on the other side of the Old Pine Trail (right distance) are McCooks.

The view from the extreme left of Crittenden's line as Thomas goes forward in the background. Crittenden has taken the precaution of ordering Palmer's 'green' division to entrench in case Polk attempts a counter-attack.

Thomas' men are starting to take casualties from the Rebel 'grand battery' on West Ridge.

Rousseau's division is on the left with Fry's on the right. The Confederate position looks unassailable.

It seemed an impossible task to get a brigade up the slopes of West Ridge to eject the Rebel guns from behind their entrenchments but in the end it all came down to one simple die roll – 4,5 or 6 and Dave’s guns would be safe, 1,2 or 3 and Morton’s brigade would be in the redoubt!

Against the odds Morton's brigade charges forward and takes the Rebel works. A great cheer goes up from the Federal infantry...

Well, the boys in blue did do the impossible and two of the Confederate batteries were immediately routed, Bragg’s centre was suddenly looking decidedly less secure.

The situation at the end of Turn 35 (3.00pm November 11th) - this is now officially the longest running table game we have ever played!

One of the great things about our rule set (even if I do say so myself) is that it recreates the see-saw nature of Civil War battles and this game has certainly rocketed out of the doldrums to become another nail-biter. At this stage the game could go either way…