Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Battle Report

I am currently fighting a fictitious battle on my table. It is using my 6mm American Civil War troops. I have used the Order Of Battle (OOB) or Salem Church obtained and cross referenced from a number of internet sources. I am using the ACW version of the Blucher rules, though I am taking it down to regimental level as opposed to brigade level. Hence the need for the OOB, as all the units on the table actually represent units that actually fought at Salem Church for my fictitious battle.

I have played the first eight of 30 turns, and what follows is part one of a battle report of the proceedings. I am also posting a turn by turn report on You Tube and links are available on the Tabletop Commanders Facebook page.

The Battle of Paytes County, Virginia.
April 12th 1863.

The battle of Paytes County was among a number of actions fought in early April of 1863. We shall be looking at a small part of the battle which involved two divisions from each side. They fought over two farms, a hill and a ridge line.

Order of Battle – Confederate Army.

Overall Commander: Major General Lafayette McLaws

McLaws Division

Brigadier General William Wofford's Brigade
16th Georgia
18th Georgia
24th Georgia
Cobb's Georgia Legion
Phillips' Georgia Legion

Brigadier General Paul Semmel's Brigade
10th Georgia
50th Georgia
51st Georgia
53rd Georgia

Brigadier General Joseph Kershaw's Brigade
2nd South Carolina
3rd South Carolina
7th South Carolina
8th South Carolina
15th South Carolina

Anderson's Division – Major General Richard Anderson

Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox's Brigade
8th Alabama
9th Alabama
10th Alabama
11th Alabama
14th Alabama

Brigadier General William Mahone's Brigade
6th Virginia
12th Virginia
16th Virginia
41st Virginia
61st Virginia

Manly's North Carolina Battery
Read's Georgia Battery
Georgia Artillery Battery 'Coulton's'
Norfolk (Virginia) Light Artillery
Lewis' (Virginia) Light Artillery
Huger's (Virginia) Light Artillery

Fitzhugh Lee's Brigade
1st Virginia
2nd Virginia
3rd Virginia
4th Virginia

Order of battle – Union Army
VI Corps Army of the Potomac.

Overall Commander – Major General John Sedgewick

1st Division – Brigadier General William Brooks

1st Brigade – Colonel Henry Brown
1st New Jersey
2nd New Jersey
3rd New Jersey
15th New Jersey
23rd New Jersey

2nd Brigade – Brigadier General Joseph Bartlett
5th Maine
16th New York
27th New York
121st New York
96th Pennsylvania

3rd Brigade – Brigadier General David Russell
18th New York
32nd New York
49th Pennsylvania
95th Pennsylvania
119th Pennsylvania

3rd Division – Major General John Newton

1st Brigade – Colonel Alexander Shaler
65th New York
67th New York
122nd New York
23rd Pennsylvania
82nd Pennsylvania

2nd Brigade – Colonel William Browne
7th Massachusetts
10th Massachusetts
37th Massachusetts
36th New York
2nd Rhode Island

3rd Brigade – Brigadier General Frank Wheaton
62nd New York
93rd Pennsylvania
98th Pennsylvania
102nd Pennsylvania
139th Pennsylvania

Massachusetts Light Artillery
New Jersey Light Artillery
Maryland Light Artillery
2nd U.S. Artillery Battery 'F'
2nd U.S. Artillery Battery 'G'
1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery

3rd Indiana
8th Illinois

The first indication of the close proximity of forces occurred the evening before the battle. Just as daylight was about to give way to dusk a Confederate cavalry regiment, the 2nd Virginia and a single Union cavalry regiment, the 8th Illinois, met and exchanged fire on the road close to Von Ketteringham's Farm. The firing drew the attention of a second Union cavalry regiment from the same brigade, the 3rd Indiana, who were on a parallel road at the other side of Palmer's Ridge. They quickly crossed the ridge to investigate the sound of shooting.

The rest of the Confederate cavalry brigade under the command of Fitzhugh Lee and consisting of the 1st, 3rd and 4th Virginia, had also been travelling along the same parallel road and they too crossed the ridge to investigate.

It soon became apparent to the two union regiments that they were outnumbered and both made off the way they had come, hotly pursued by the rebels. The light was by now fast failing, but not before Fitzhugh Lee was able to see the tents and wagons of what was at least two divisions of Union troops. He had actually stumbled upon the camp of the Union VI Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He quickly made good his escape and relayed this information to Major General Lafayett McLaws, commander of two Confederate divisions, camped just seven or eight miles from the Union Corps.

McLaws ordered Lee to take his brigade and occupy Von Ketteringham's Farm, Clay's Farm and Payne's Hill and to hold them until he could bring up his two divisions at first light. This was done, and the troopers not on sentry duty tried to get some sleep in their tents.

The following morning, the troopers were up before dawn and prepared to take up positions to engage the enemy should he appear. However, before the troopers at the two farms could actually occupy the hedge lines, they were beaten to it by the same two Union cavalry regiments from the evening before. At Von Ketteringham's Farm the situation was not too bad as the 3rd Indiana had dismounted behind bushes to the South of the farm. However, at Clay's Farm the 8th Illinois had dismounted and quickly moved up to the hedge line surrounding the field only yards from the 3rd Virginia. These latter two regiments would be engaged in a firefight among the hedges for most of the morning.

As daylight arrived, so did the first of the Confederate forces. Wilcox's Brigade moved up to Von Ketteringham's Farm and took up positions behind the northerly hedge line, whilst at the same time Wofford's Brigade advanced to the summit of Payne's Hill with their two batteries of artillery. Semmes' Brigade, was delayed starting their march and so the Clay Farm was not occupied and it was left to the two battling cavalry regiments to contest the ground.

If Semmes' Brigade had caused the Confederate command some concern, it was nothing to what the Union command was facing. Only the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division under Brigadier General Russell had actually made it to their allotted starting point on time. The rest of the brigades from the two divisions were still slogging along to the rear, late leaving their camps. Brigadier Russell could only look on in dismay as first Semmes' Brigade moved up to the Clay Farm and Mahone's Brigade occupied Palmer's Ridge. Every good defensive position was now occupied by the rebels, only a sole cavalry regiment still fought its duel with a Rebel cavalry regiment at the southern end of the Clay Farm.

Finally, 1st Brigade of 1st Division appeared on the field, but that was all, too late to contest any of the good ground before it. In the rebel lines, Mahone had plenty of time to leisurely adjust the disposition of his regiments to give excellent fire arcs against the Union Army, should it eventually appear in numbers.

It would be almost 11am before the whole of the Union Corps had arrived on the field and began to push forward. 1st Brigade, 1st Division advanced toward Payne's Hill. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division headed for Palmer's Ridge whilst 1st Brigade, 3rd Division headed for Von Ketteringham's Farm. The regimental fire fight between the dismounted cavalry continued in the hedges surrounding the field of Clay's Farm.

Eventually, the Confederate cavalry brigade was ordered to mount up at all three locations. As this was occurring, the Rebel artillery opened up with devastating results. Carlton's Georgia Artillery caused casualties to the 23rd New Jersey, as did Read's Georgia Artillery, also perched on Payne's Hill, hitting the 15th New Jersey. Huger's Virginia Artillery on Palmer's Ridge caused casualties to the 36th New York, whilst at Von Ketteringham's Farm, Manly's North Carolina Artillery engaged the 122nd New York, reducing that regiments elan by one.

                                                 To be continued.

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