Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Morning Battle at Fox Gap - Regimental Fire and Fury AAR

One of the interests in military history I've always harbored has been the American Civil War. As I write this, 15mm Confederate troops and Union Iron Brigade infantry sit in the darkness of my closet, waiting for the time when my attention comes back to them. I even tried my hand at reenacting, which may have worked out had I not been the youngest member in the (tiny) group by 10+ years.

Luckily, I was apparently a decent enough guest during Ken's last game - he's the guy who ran the Battlegroup Kursk game I covered a few weeks ago - that he invited me back over to try out a scenario for Regimental Fire and Fury. RFF is the (obviously) regimental sized version of the originally brigade sized set of rules for running battles during the American Civil War. Ken was also kind enough to not only provide the terrain and models, but to turn back time in the solo game he had last week.

Now, for the scenario:
"The spring and summer of 1862 had seen the Army of Northern Virginia defeat two powerful Union armies, one under McClellan in the Peninsular Campaign and one under Pope in the battles near Manassas in northern Virginia. The defeated union forces had fled back to Washington and the security of its fortifications. The victorious General Robert E. Lee was then faced with an important strategic decision … how he and his soldiers would maintain the initiative and set the stage for a Confederate victory in the war.

Lee and the Southern leadership agreed that the best course of action was for Confederate
forces to carry the war north. So Lee took his soldiers across the Potomac and for the first time since the commencement of the war nearly a year and half earlier, led a Confederate army onto Union soil. However, almost from the start, things did not go as planned. The Union garrison at Harper’s Ferry did not flee in the face of the advancing Confederates, but dug in and waited for battle.

Additionally, McClellan used his extraordinary administrative talents to quickly organize the demoralized Union forces near Washington into a new Army of the Potomac. He then also moved to counter Lee’s invasion with uncharacteristic alacrity.

After crossing the Potomac River into Maryland north of Leesburg, Virginia, the Army of Northern Virginia continued north and captured Frederick. At this point, Lee divided his army with some troops marching to invest Harpers Ferry while others moved west across South Mountain toward Hagerstown … only D. H. Hill’s Division andsome of Stuart’s cavalry were left to act as a rear guard. Unfortunately for the Confederates, McClellan and the Army of the Potomac were now in pursuit and the Union forces marched toward Frederick and South Mountain in multi-corps strength.

On September 14, pitched battles were fought for possession of the three main South Mountain passes: Crampton, Turner, and Fox's Gap. By dusk the outnumbered Confederate defenders were driven back and McClellan was in position to destroy Lee’s army before it could concentrate. However, McClellan’s limited activity on September 15 after his victory at South Mountain condemned the garrison at Harpers Ferry to capture and gave Lee time to unite his scattered divisions at Sharpsburg."

Phew! That's a whole lot of words. Don't worry - pictures will be coming soon.

So how did the game go? In short, it was most certainly a lesson in how troop motivation and training is worth more than sheer numbers in an order of magnitudes. Ken's Crack and Veteran rated Confederates slapped around my Trained and Green Union troopers. This was truly a case of history being rewritten.
Battle at Fox Gap
The battle was mostly focused on the center of the hill, with smaller fights taking place on the left with the 23rd Ohio (and wasn't that a riot) and by the Martz house on the right. It was a pretty mobile battle, with both sides have taken the hill at one point or another. The Confederates made an amazing show of it, not only pushing their Union counterparts off the hill in an assault but then throwing back a counter-assault by a Union force that had them outnumbered 4:1. Col. Garland, defying history and living through the battle, led the Confederate troops brilliantly, dashing back and forth to keep his men steady.

On the left, Col. Rutherford B. Hayes led the 23rd Ohio into battle. Well, I use the word 'led', but to be honest the guy was either back at camp napping or hiding in the back of the whole scrum. In a fight against a bunch of hicks armed with smoothbores and hunting shotguns, the 23rd broke not once, but twice, leaving my left flank completely open! Ken's 5th North Carolina (a large Veteran regiment) never entered into combat for the entire battle, opting to instead have the dismounted cavalry show the damnyankees what's what. With such a poor showing, I don't expect Chicken Hayes to be running for President in this timeline.

On the right, the 30th Ohio, led by Col. Scammon, made their way towards the woods behind the Martz house, held by a single small unit of Crack Confederate infantry. In another amazing upset, the Rebs not only survived the 30th's fire (being outnumbered 2:1 none withstanding), but they managed to send back a withering volley of their own. The 30th, completely caught off-balance by the terrible damage done, panicked and ran for their lives. Luckily, Scammon managed to rally his men, only to have them run out of ammo while returning fire. Luckily, the appearance of Col. Cox and several fresh (if Green) regiments bolstered the attacking Union troops, and they tried their hand again at the offensive.

Unfortunately, with the appearance of new Confederate troops that mauled the regiment Cox had taken command of himself, the attack on the right bogged down. On the hill, most of the Union troops had run out of ammo, and the Confederates had fallen back to defensive positions covered by a few batteries of artillery. And with the 23rd in chaos again, I decided that it was best to pull back and let some other commander have a go at the Rebels. Ken and his Confederates managed to not only hold off the Union assault, but also gave the boys in blue a bloody nose they won't soon forget!

This was a number I would become familiar with over the course of the battle.

An overhead shot of the battlefield.

Another shot from a different angle.

The 23rd engage the North Carolinian cavalry.

Union troops catch their breath as the rebels advance up the hill.

The boys from Carolina hold their own against the Union troops.

The 12th takes a beating as they hold the top of the hill. 

But rebel yells echo loudly as the Union troops are forced to retreat after an assault.

The 23rd breaks and runs for it.

This leaves the Union left wide open!

The 30th engages, but is subsequently beaten back.

The 12th and supporting West Virginian cavalry exchange fire with Rebel infantry. 

Ken's right consolidates and takes a breather.

The Union gets some welcome reinforcements!

Wait, what happened to the 30th?

Hm. No, still can't see them. 

Ah. There they are.

Scammon tries to rally his men as the arriving reinforcement watch on.

The fresh regiments triple time into position. 

Hayes manages to get the 23rd to face the right direction again. 

Ken's line of battle is in pretty good condition compared to mine!

The 23rd gets stuck back in with the North Carolinians. 

On the far right, Col. Cox leads more Ohio troops to try and outflank the Rebel line. 

I try to repair my own line as the 23rd re-engages. 

The 11th Ohio swings into battle to reinforce the battered 12th. 

More Union reinforcements rush forward to get into battle. It's not enough, however. 

Hoping to press the momentary advantage, the Union troops begin to push back. 

The 23rd begins to waver again...

"Let's hope you guys have better luck than we did."

Rebel reinforcements finally arrive, and Cox stops his flanking maneuver to confront the new enemy. 

A late battle overhead shot. 

The 11th and 12th prepare to retake the hill. 

But the Rebel defenders push a force four times their number back. And to add insult to injury, they move back off the top of the hill of their own choice. 

Hellfire and damnation! Chicken Hayes and the 23rd are running again!

Scammon has his hands full trying to keep the Union line in order. 

But the Rebs fall back into defensive positions. Union officers decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and leave the field of battle for another day.

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