Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy

Monday, November 27, 2017

ACW Peninsular Campaign - Part Three.

The divisional and brigade commanders of VI Corps, had all gathered in the HQ tent of Brigadier General William B. Franklin.

'Gentlemen, you all know our task for the coming operation by the Army of the Potomac.' William Franklin scanned the face of each man gathered around the table. 'Many of you have contributed ideas, just as I requested you to.' Some of the men nodded, others just gazed down at the map spread over the folding wooden table. 'Taking all those suggestions, I believe we have a solid plan of action.'

His aide handed him a wooden pointer. 'Intelligence, for what it is worth.' a few smiles from some of the gathered officers, grunts from others. 'The enemy has no more than a reduced division to defend the whole peninsular.' his cane swept in a circle over the map. 'It will be a two pronged assault.' His pointer moved to the eastern coastal road. First Division, minus 2nd Brigade, will move down this road through Bourne, cross the Crow River and move against Stockton. This should stir up the rebels, who will be forced to react. That will take place on 31st May, the speed of advance, will of course be governed by what enemy forces First Division run into. The whole point of this thrust is to draw in the enemy.'

Now the pointer switched the western coastal road. 'Two days later at dawn 2nd June, the rest of the Corps will advance down through Paytonville and Meon. I expect the enemy to be either engaged with, or moving toward First Division over to the north east. Second Division should then be free to cross the Marsh and Owl Bridges, and make a rapid advance to capture Hampstead.' Once again he scanned the faces around the table. 'If all goes to plan, Hampstead and Port St. Charles will quickly fall, leaving us free to move north to support First Division and destroy the enemy.'

'Any questions?...'

So the Union plan is now known, so we can switch to see the location of Confederate forces. The south of the peninsular is straightforward, the divisional HQ along with Garland's Brigade are at Hampstead. Their task is to defend the two towns of Hampstead and Port St. Charles and the approaches to them.

The north is a little more complicated. Anderson's Brigade is located at Clanfield, ideally placed to move in any direction. Rodes' Brigade has been broken up and used to man various locations. Starting in the north at grid reference B2 - B4 is the 6th Alabama, they are able to observe both coastal roads from that location. 12th Mississippi are located beside Crow Bridge. 12th Alabama and Carter's Battery are just south of Paytonville, Wise's Legion Cavalry are patrolling the road between Paytonville and Stockton. At Stockton is located Rodes' Brigade HQ along with 5th Alabama and 4th Virginia Battery. Finally, the Flying Cavalry Brigade is based at Meon.

I have added one or two more things to the map since these photographs were taken, such as naming the Crow River which runs from B4 to North Inlet at D6. I have also worked out road distances between locations, it will make it easier to judge movement and times. Union First Division will travel down the eastern road to Bourne, which I estimate to be ten miles from the entry point at A4. My computer skills are limited, so I hope my crude attempt using MS Paint to mark the location of units is clear enough to make sense. I am hoping to use this method throughout the campaign, rather than move coloured discs on the map.

I think I am now ready to commence the campaign, so gentlemen and ladies, allow me to transport you to a quiet little corner of Virginia, on the evening of  May 30th, 1862.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

ACW Peninsular Campaign - Part Two.

I have done a little more groundwork for the campaign. I have scrapped the idea of pre-programmed movement for both forces. It was too much of a headache, instead I will make two or three logical options on the spot when two forces meet, or a decision needs to be taken. Rolling a die to decide which action they take.

After the Crooked Valley Campaign, which was really just a big testing ground, I have also decided to modify how the combat mechanism will work. The artillery was far too powerful, especially in counter battery fire, as the Union found to their cost in that campaign. I was thinking about making all firing/shooting simultaneous, but an easier method is just to reduce the number of dice rolled. This will hopefully nullify to some extent, crippling losses being dished out by one side upon the other, with little chance of a fair response.

Will roll two dice in canister/melee range (6 cm), crossed sabres will also count at this range.
From 6 cm out to maximum range of 30 cm, just a single die will be rolled. 
Artillery strength points will be raised from the current two to three. This should make them less vulnerable.
Horse artillery will be allowed to move, unlimber and fire all in the same turn, or fire, limber and move. 
Maximum movement 10 cm or 5 cm if moving/firing in same turn.

Will shoot or melee with just half the number of dice, rounded up, per pip of strength. So a full strength unit will now roll three dice, as would a unit reduced by a single strength point. On four strength points it would roll only two etc.
Also a bonus die will be added for Union battalions in a firing line, to represent better weapons, powder etc.
Confederates will receive a bonus die in melee, to simulate the rebel yell.
Maximum movement 6 cm.

Will stay the same, with a basic strength of four, they also count crossed sabres in melee if mounted.
Maximum movement 15 cm.

I hope the above modifications make the battles more realistic, but maintain the simplicity of the system.

On to the campaign map. I have placed red counters for Confederate and blue counters for Union on the map. This denotes the current location of a force, but not what it consists of. There would be other Confederate units in strategic locations too, but they will be added as and when needed.

Starting in the south, it seems logical that a substantial force/garrison would be located at each major town. Here at Hampstead and Port St. Charles. The bridges over the Owl and Charles Rivers, would likely also have some sort of defensive force.

In the central region, the large town of Clanfield is the obvious base, with a detachment at Stockton. Also the bridge over the Marsh River would be covered.

In the north, light Confederate recce units would be deployed covering both roads into the peninsular.
I have placed advanced scouting units on the map for the Union. It has yet to be decided if VI Corps will advance in force down both roads, or concentrate on a single route, with just a small force as a diversion on the other road.

Now it remains to roll for the starting locations and make up of the Confederate forces, as well as the Union plan of attack. Once that is completed the campaign can begin, I think I have thought of everything, but any problems encountered will be solved on the fly.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

ACW Penninsular Campaign - Part One.

From Major General G.B. McLellan, O.C. Army of the Potomac

To Brigadier General W.B. Franklin, O.C. VI Corps, Army of the Potomac

24th May 1862.

It is my intention to to strike south west into Virginia with the major portion of the army, and engage the enemy on his own soil. He will then be forced to give battle. However, I am concerned about enemy forces currently located on the Choke Peninsular, and do not want the problem of them loose in the rear, possibly disrupting the armies lines of communication.

Your Corps is tasked with the job of clearing the peninsular. It is known the enemy have an armaments facility at the large town of Hampstead, it currently produces small arms and ammunition, but is in the process of being enlarged to allow the manufacture of artillery. Despite the maritime blockade currently being enforced by our naval colleagues, Port St. Charles at the mouth of the Charles River, is being used by the enemy as a base for blockade runners.

Intelligence suggests that rebel forces on the peninsular consist of at most, a small division, but  possibly as few as two brigades. However, this may be inaccurate, hence the reason you invade with your full Corps, that will be more than adequate for the task.

Your objectives.

(a) Capture and garrison the four large towns of Hampstead, Port St. Charles, Clanfield and Stockton.

(b) Capture if possible, or destroy the armaments facility located in Hampstead.

(c) Capture or destroy all vessels in port, especially at Port St. Charles.

(d) Destroy or capture, all enemy forces on the peninsular.

Your attack will coincide with the remainder of the army beginning its advance into Virginia, one week from today, on the 31st May.

I leave the planning and execution of the above task in your hands.

George B. McLellan. U.S. Army.

Maps of the Choke Peninsular.

Northern portion.

Southern portion.

Order of Battle.

Union VI Corps. Brigadier General William B. Franklin.

1st Division - Brigadier General Henry W. Slocum.

1st Brigade - Brigadier General W. Taylor.
1st New Jersey
2nd New Jersey
3rd New Jersey
4th New Jersey
'E' Battery, 1st New York
1st New York Cavalry

2nd Brigade - Colonel Joseph J. Bartlett
5th Maine
16th New York
27th New York
96th Pennsylvania
'F' Battery, 5th US Artillery
1st US Cavalry

3rd Brigade - Brigadier General John Newton
18th New York
31st New York
32nd New York
95th Pennsylvania
'A' Battery, 1st Massachusetts
6th Pennsylvania Cavalry

2nd Division - Brigadier General William F. Smith

1st Brigade - Brigadier General Winfield S, Hancock
6th Maine
43rd New York
49th Pennsylvania
5th Winconsin
'A' Battery, 5th US Artillery
5th US Cavalry

2nd Brigade - Brigadier General W.T.H. Brooks
2nd Vermont
3rd Vermont
4th Vermont
5th Vermont
6th Vermont
'G' Battery 4th US Artillery

3rd Brigade - Brigadier General John W. Davidson
7th Maine
33rd New York
49th New York
77th New York
3rd New York Battery
8th Pennsylvania Cavalry

Confederate Hill's Division - Major General Daniel H. Hill.

Brigadier General Samuel Garland's Brigade
2nd Florida
2nd Mississippi
5th North Carolina
23rd North Carolina
24th Virginia
38th Virginia
Bondurant's Battery
Hampton's Legion Cavalry

Brigadier General Robert E. Rodes' Brigade
5th Alabama
6th Alabama
12th Alabama
12th Mississippi
4th Virginia Battery
Carter's Battery
Wise's Legion Cavalry

Colonel George B. Anderson's Brigade
27th Georgia
28th Georgia
4th North Carolina
49th Virginia
Rhett's Battery
French's Battery
Cobb's Legion Cavalry

Flying Cavalry Brigade
3rd Virginia Cavalry
9th Virginia Cavalry
Stuart's Horse Battery

Friday, November 24, 2017

Creating a mini campaign - Early stages.

After thoroughly enjoying the play through of the Crooked Valley Campaign from Charles Grant's Programmed Wargames, I have begun work on a new campaign. Taking the original map from the same book, I have made my own representation of it, changed a few things and added a little colour. My cartography or drawing skills are pretty poor, but the map should do the job.

It is still a mini-campaign, but unlike Crooked Valley, this one is not linear. I imagine this to be a peninsular in Southern Virginia, I have created fictional names for towns, rivers, hills etc, and if the scale is roughly four miles for each square, then the whole map is about fifty miles by forty, gave or take. Each square can then be divided in two, either horizontally or vertically, the actual table size would then represent four miles wide by two miles deep.

A closer look at the top half of the map. There are only two routes into the peninsular, along the coast either side of Choke Heights. Lower and secondary levels are accessible by all arms, but will cause a movement penalty. The upper level can only be reached by skirmishers.

The patches of green represent significant, but not impenetrable forest, other woods, farms, streams etc, are not shown, but will be present on any table that is set up. This gives me a little leeway and also prevents the map becoming too busy. In the lower left corner squares K1 to N1, represent part of the main coast of Virginia, the distance between Wickham M1 and  Easington N3 is about six or seven miles, a swift dash for a brig or cutter. There really should be at least one railway line running into the area, but as I have no track, on this occasion I have left that out.

I have borrowed the troops from the OOB for Fair Oaks in 1862, part of the actual Peninsula Campaign waged by the Union in an attempt to capture Richmond. The fictitious peninsular in this game will have Hill's Division tasked with the defending it. They also have an extra flying cavalry brigade attached.

The invading Union force will be the VI Corps of William B. Franklin. It consists of two divisions.

So I now have my map, as well as the forces that will be involved, others may be drawn into the peninsular, but we shall see. I can always draw on other forces listed on the OOB if required.
As this is a solo affair, I want to keep the paperwork to a minimum, I intend to keep the mechanics as simple as possible. Weather will of course be a factor, as will civilian hostility to the invaders. I see militia or similar, possibly causing havoc to the Union supply chain as they move down the peninsular.

I now have to work on programmed moves for both sides, taking away my god like powers on who moves where and when. The telegraph will be in operation, until cut by either side, it will then be a case of messages being sent by riders, no instant communications, they may be killed, captured or simply get lost enroute.

More work to do, but an enjoyable way to spend an evening with a glass of beer of course.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Micro Table Battles - Thoughts.

Now the campaign has ended, I thought I would share with you my thoughts and feelings about the whole affair. I think if in future I use the small 19 x 19 inch table, I will certainly restrict the number of units to a maximum of seven or eight per side. More than that, and any type of flanking attack or even maneuvering in general, is next to impossible. That said, I do really enjoy using that small space, I can literally sit in my armchair and everything is within reach.

I really devised the game mechanics on the fly. I used the elan of 'Blucher' the dice and combat of Commands & Colors Napoleonics and just a few ideas of my own. For the most part it worked really well, I was particularly pleased with how the two dice reinforcement system worked, it did keep the forces down to a manageable size for the small area.

Game time wasn't really an issue either, I had decided that each of the ten tables covered an area of about four miles, so the Crooked Valley ended up being approximately forty miles from southern to northern entrance. Very easy to work out the movement rate of twenty miles a day on the road for a column trying to move up or down the valley.

At first I thought the use of the C&C dice might be too brutal, but in actual fact, that also worked out pretty well. Having to throw the correct face, for the enemy you are attacking worked quite well. Each die has one cavalry, one crossed sabres, one flag, one artillery and two infantry symbols. As each unit lost elan, so it also lost a die to roll, which seems logical and produced results I was happy with. It is true a full strength infantry battalion could in all possibility roll six infantry symbols and wipe out an opposing full strength battalion. However, using normal dice, they could just as easily throw that number of fives and sixes for hits.

Things I would change next time. Well the use of the larger table for sure. The small table simply could not cope, and quite frankly, it was unsatisfying to see all the figures crammed so tightly with no room to maneuver properly. The fact that this all took place in a narrow, steep sided valley allowed me to get away with it. Just!

The larger table, which itself is less than four feet x two feet six inches, is still very small by any standards, but with 6mm, it easily accommodated the two brigades, artillery and cavalry for both sides. There was ample space on the flanks, and the terrain could be laid out in a much less cramped fashion.

I am now planning another mini-campaign, larger than this one. The Valley was very linear, the map I am currently working on is a peninsular, it will allow the movement of forces in numerous directions and with a simple orientation of the table, allow for a meeting of forces from any direction.

I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to read this series of blogs, it has received lots of views and likes, for which I am really grateful, I had no idea when I started this that it would generate so much interest. A special thanks also to all of you who commented or made suggestions, be it on the blog page or on any the sites on which I posted the link. It really did spur me on to complete the project and made taking all the photographs and writing the narrative worthwhile.

Micro Table Battles - Part Sixteen.

Union initiative.

1st Vermont charge the 2nd Virginia.

Hit and a push back, cavalry only have an elan of four, so that gives them a red disc, meaning the unit is spent. 2 - 1 now to the rebels.

33rd Massachusetts send the rebels running.

1st Tennessee pull back.

73rd Ohio engage 13th Alabama.

Two hits and a double fall back.

11th Mississippi are pushed back.

27th Pennsylvania do enough to reduce 42nd Mississippi to a spent force.

Army morale now at 2 - 2, red discs are classed the same as lost units.

134th New York on 55th North Carolina.

73rd Pennsylvania also push back 2nd Mississippi with losses.

White goes green.

2nd Virginia Cavalry have to retreat.

Louisiana artillery unlimber to take on the enemy cavalry.

The units rally and once again advance. Ignore the smoke, I forgot to remove it last turn.

Huger's Battery now unlimbered.

Again, ignore the smoke, all except the spent battalion rally and advance again.

1st Maryland smash into 17th Connecticut. Two hits destroy them.

Army morale now 3 - 2 in favour of the rebels.

The field at the end of the turn.

Confederate initiative.

2nd Virginia continue to withdraw.

Louisiana Battery fires canister at 1st Vermont.

Sabres count for canister, but still only a single hit.

Poor photo, Woeful shooting by 5th Alabama with a full salvo.

Huger's battery open up on 154th New York, with devastating consequences.

The 154th New York are now fatigued and can only withdraw. Army morale is now 4 - 2 in favour of the Confederates. But we are still mid turn, so the battle continues.

The New Yorkers pull back.

The 134th New York are also shattered.

They too receive a red disc. Army morale now 5 - 2.

73rd Pennsylvania are forced back, right into the path of the charging 1st Maryland Cavalry.

With predictable results. The battalion is destroyed. Army morale now 6 - 2 in favour of the rebels.

The table before the Union have their final turn.

Vermont Cavalry charge and destroy the Louisiana Battery.

Now 6 - 3.

Only one other Union unit is in range to fire, 27th Pennsylvania hit and push back 11th Mississippi.

It is not enough, a Confederate victory.

The Union troops were force to fall back beyond Newdale, moving north east to rejoin their army. Johnny Reb was able to march through Newdale and take the north west road. They would eventually rejoin their division commanded by Major General Heth. A month later they would be assaulting McPherson's ridge at Gettysburg.