Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy

Saturday, December 23, 2017

ACW Peninsular Campaign - Part Five.

0830 hours, May 31st 1862. Hill's Division HQ, Hampstead.

Major General Daniel H. Hill OC of Hill's Division CSA had called an urgent meeting with his senior commanders based in and around Hampstead. Brigadier General Samuel Garland and all his battalion commanders were now present. The men all stood in semi-circle facing a map of the Choke Peninsular tacked to the wall. Major General Hill stood beside the map.

'At about 0400 this morning, the telegraph lines north out of the peninsular were cut. Initially the telegraphist thought it was just a fault on the eastern line, so tried to route his message via Paytonville. The telegraph office there was unable to transmit north along the western line.' General Hill paused and then smiled. 'The enemy now considers us cut off from the rest of Virginia, however they don't know about the Arrowhead Express, so we can still contact the mainland if somewhat slower.'

The so called Arrowhead Express was a small cutter based at the tiny port of Easington, located in the south west corner of the peninsular. It was a quick journey of six or seven miles to the Virginia mainland, across the Arrowhead Sound to the port of Wickham.

General Hill turned to face the map, 6th Alabama are currently watching and reporting the southward movement of  the enemy along the East Road. The latest message from Bourne is that the enemy brigade consists of two regiments of cavalry, and three battalions of infantry.' He stopped and turned to face the other men, 'I doubt that is all we will have to face, so far no mention of any artillery, and if this is not just a reconnaissance in force, then I believe it to be an invasion.'
The gathered officers nodded in agreement.

'What of the 6th Alabama sir?' asked Brigadier General Sam Garland. 

'We have not had any word since the initial report some thirty minutes ago. However they hold a strong position at the top of the heights, a difficult assault for the enemy to make, even if only part of the battalion is in a position on the eastern side to face them. At worst, they can pull back westward and then try to make for Paytonville, assuming the enemy is not at this moment marching down the West Road as well, though the report did mention that no enemy had been sighted there.'

A knock on the door and a young lieutenant hurried into the room clutching a telegraph flimsy. 'Another report from 6th Alabama sir'

'Read it aloud if you please lieutenant.'

The lieutenant cleared his throat.

'From Colonel Harper OC 6th Alabama 
To Major General Hill
Information all military units on the Choke Peninsular

I can now confirm that two brigades of the enemy are moving south on the East Road, they are currently only four miles north of Bourne. Myself and Major Gustas have observed two cavalry regiments, one artillery battery and six battalions of infantry plus supply wagons. However, they are still coming so as yet cannot give you a full strength report on the enemy, but it seems a division is on the march.
I have two thirds of my regiment in a good defensive position on the east and south side of Choke Heights. The enemy have deployed a single battalion of infantry in skirmish order who have climbed the lower slopes, but so far have not come within musket range. The rest of the enemy force has not stopped.

Still no enemy movement on the West Road.

Will continue to observe and report, though it will be via the office in Paytonville, as I have ordered the telegraphist to destroy his equipment and evacuate on completion of sending this message, as I believe the enemy will be in that town within two hours.

Colonel A. Harper, 6th Alabama, Hill's Division CSA.'

'Thank you lieutenant,' said General Hill. 'What do you make of it Sam?'

Brigadier General Garland stared at the map and was silent for a moment. 'It would seem a full enemy division is indeed on the East Road, they appear unconcerned with the fact that 6th Alabama are on top of Choke Heights and are making no attempt to storm the position, merely hold them in position. The remainder of the force has not lost a step and seems hell bent on reaching Bourne.' Sam Garland moved closer to the map before continuing. 
'No enemy troops on the West Road, just a single strike into the peninsular and we still don't know the exact strength of that force.'

Major General Hill knew it had been a good idea to ask Sam what he thought, and wondered if he would come to the same conclusion as himself. 'What do you suggest I should do Sam? Order all our forces to move toward north east to halt the enemy?

Sam knew Daniel Hill well and respected him. He also knew what his divisional commander was up to in this meeting with all the battalion commanders present, it was no less than a demonstration of how to lead and make decisions. He smiled at the general. 'No sir, I don't believe we should do that for a number of reasons.'

Now it was time for Dan Hill to smile. 'Please enlighten us brigadier.'

'Sam pointed to Bourne on the map, the town is already lost, little we can do about that.' His finger traced down the road to the Crow River and the bridge that crossed it. 'Without a long and difficult detour, the enemy must cross this bridge. 12th Mississippi are covering that bridge, but have no artillery support. I would suggest that Brigadier General Rodes along with 5th Alabama and the 4th Virginia battery move quickly from Stockton to that bridge. They have enough time to reach it before the enemy.' His finger moved along the Paytonville to Stockton Road, 'I would also order Wise's Legion Cavalry to support them too. I believe that force would be enough to make the enemy pause for thought.'

'Excellent Sam, said Dan Hill. 'You would not rush everything we have to the Crow River, you will of course explain why.'

Sam looked at the confused faces of his battalion commanders before answering. 'Certainly sir. I believe the enemy will indeed make an assault down the West Road, maybe later today, tomorrow or sometime after that, but it will come.'

'Reasons Sam?' Dan Hill was enjoying this.

'Firstly the enemy is simply containing 6th Alabama, not trying to remove them from the heights. They are quite happy for us to know the strength and make up of their attack force. They know full well that messengers will be sent to telegraph regular reports. Why? It is my belief that they want exactly that. To draw our forces to that location in the north east. Then when we are out of position and possibly engaged with the enemy, another enemy force will move unopposed down the West Road. This force is simply a decoy, a damn large decoy, but that is exactly what I believe it to be. which is why they are hiding nothing, they want us to take the bait.'...

The map with the Crow River now named and estimated road distances between towns/crossroads etc.

The northern end of the peninsular showing the positions at 0930 May 31st 1862. The 6th Alabama is still in position on the east, south and west of Choke Heights. 18th New York infantry are on the lower slopes. The Union First Division is continuing its march south along the East Road.
Brigadier General Robert Rodes, OC Rodes' Brigade and 5th Alabama moving to support the 12th Mississippi and 4th Virginia Battery defending the Crow Bridge. I forgot to add Wise's Legion Cavalry to the map, they are also making for Crow Bridge.
The Flying Cavalry Brigade has been ordered to move north along the West Road to give assistance to 6th Alabama if required and also to maintain a watch on the road.

Anderson's Brigade remains at Clanfield in an excellent position to move as and where required.

Finally, Garland's Brigade also remains at its camp(s) at Hampstead. It too can quickly move to cover the bridges over the Owl and Charles Rivers.

Monday, December 18, 2017

ACW Peninsular Campaign - Part Four.

The table will roughly be  reference A4 with a touch of A5.

Privates Don Haver and Pat Morgan of the 6th Alabama, sat on a couple of old wooden chairs, furniture that must have been purloined from a nearby house or cabin, by previous sentries on this post. They were sat by rocks at the top of Choke Heights with an excellent view down to the East Road and also out beyond the cliff, to the Atlantic Ocean. By the position of the rising sun, Don reckoned it to be close to 8 am, they would be relieved soon to grab a bite to eat and, if the sergeant was in a good mood, a couple of hours shut eye in their tent.

They had been awoken at four, grabbed a hot coffee and made their way to this post before first light. As the sun rose, the land and sea slowly became visible, as did a small cabin down beside the East Road. Once Don and Pat could clearly see the road, the latter had climbed on top of one of the rocks and waved his hat. Down beside the cabin, a tiny figure waved back. The signal for the night patrol, who had guarded the eastern entrance to the peninsular, to return up the slope to camp.

Don and Pat had watched the dozen soldiers and two horses, make the long climb up the slope. Very little moved on the road after dark, it was all too easy to stray off the road and fall off the cliff into the ocean. The lieutenant, sergeant and ten men had the job of stopping and checking anyone brave or foolish enough to travel the road in the darkness. The two horses were to be ridden the six miles to Bourne and the telegraph office, should the enemy attempt to travel the road.

Those twelve men would be now well fast asleep, thought Don as he lifted the telescope and focused on the road. Not a damn thing had come south since dawn, which was unusual, the mail coach as well as supply wagons, would normally have passed by now. Some riders and a small pony and trap had moved north en route out of the valley, as well as two men with a team of oxen pulling a large wagon loaded with timber.

He swung the lens upward slightly and the water of the Atlantic Ocean came into focus, the sun causing the gently rolling waves to glisten and shine. Eventually the glass stopped on a ship, about five miles offshore, nothing unusual. The Yankee frigate was always there or thereabouts, preventing the use of Stockton, the small port at the south end of the North Inlet. As far as Don could tell, it was the same frigate as had been there the past eight or nine days. Not a large ship, probably no more than 28 guns, but big enough to cause trade in and out of Stockton to cease. Another frigate would be stationed further down the coast, doing the same job at Port St. Charles.

'Is that another of them Yankee Free-gates Don?' 

Pat's voice interrupted his thoughts, he lowered the glass and looked to where Pat was pointing. Another ship had come into view to the north, he quickly located it with the telescope, once settled and in focus, there was no mistaking the flag she flew, The Yankee Stars and Stripes. This was a larger ship, though still a frigate this one had two decks and more gun ports. He handed the scope to Pat and fished out the log book and pencil from his pack. They had been instructed to note any ship sightings and movements, as well as watching the road. The information would be passed onto the Navy. This new vessel was probably here to relieve one of the ships patrolling off the peninsular, or simply heading further south on other duties.

'Horses and riders Don...lots of 'em!'

Don quickly put the pencil and book down and took the offered glass. Swimming into the lens were horsemen. They were on the road and fanned out along the lower slopes. More importantly they were wearing blue uniforms. The leading horsemen on the road, stopped some distance from the cabin used by the night shift, the men dismounted, drew carbines from their holsters and advanced toward the empty cabin.

'Pat, run and find the sergeant and lieutenant, ask them to come as quick as they can. Tell them Yankee cavalry are on the East Road, probably a full regiment!'...

My interpretation of the map square, the sea appears to be falling off the table!

The cabin used by the night shift, guarding the East Road.

Don and Pat watch the Union cavalry.

Troopers of 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, dismount and advance carefully toward the log cabin.

Lieutenant McGuire quickly answered the summons and now gazed down the slopes at the enemy cavalry.

'Two full regiments at least,' he said moving his binoculars from the troops on the lower slope, to the troopers who had now satisfied themselves that the cabin was empty, and were remounting. At that moment Major Gustas and Captain Styles also appeared at the observation post. The former was in overall command of the east side of Choke Ridge.

The two officers also began to scan the lower slopes, satisfied with what he was seeing, Major Gustas turned to Lieutenant McGuire.

'Have a rider sent at full speed to the telegraph office in Bourne, tell them to inform all locations and army units on the peninsular that two regiments of enemy cavalry are advancing down the East Road, currently six miles north of Bourne.'

The lieutenant was hurriedly scribbling down the message.

Major Gustas once again scanned the enemy far below, 'Nothing moving on the West Road,' he said aloud to no one in particular, 'I find that odd, very odd.'

'A patrol in force perhaps Major,' replied Captain Styles,

'Maybe, or the covering screen for a larger force.'

Just then movement to the north by the trees on East Road, caught his attention. Enemy infantry with flags flying came into view.

'I think we have our answer gentlemen, the enemy is making a major push into the peninsular. Add to that message lieutenant, that enemy infantry are also moving south, two battalions sighted so far. We will continue to observe and report.'

Lieutenant McGuire hurried away with the dispatch, moments later a rider was racing down the southern slopes towards the small town of Bourne.

'I sent a messenger informing the colonel of the situation here, in the meantime, I want as many men as we can muster, to assemble at this spot.' Major Gustas once more lifted the binoculars to his eyes, a third enemy infantry regiment was now moving into view from behind the trees down by the road. 'I fear the enemy will move up the slopes to investigate this position, I know I would!'

18th & 31st New York of 3rd Brigade, 1st Division advance south along the East Road.

The view from the confederate observation point.