Monday, 16 October 2017

Battle Of Corinth - Games Day October 2017

Report by Alan

Our club Games Day in October 2017 saw us re-enact a battle from our study of the American Civil War’s western theatre. Five of us participated in a re-enactment of the battle of Corinth, which occurred on Oct 3-4, 1862, in north-eastern Mississippi. We used 15mm figures, terrain from a mix of sources, and the Fire & Fury rules.

We had re-fought the battle of Iuka a couple of weeks previously, at our regular Friday meeting. In that battle, the historically-aggressive Confederate initial attacks had been something of a damp squib, allowing the Federal side to make early gains. Although the battle evened out and then see-sawed back and forth as each side’s reinforcements arrived, it was clear by the end of the battle that the Rebels, despite having done much better than historically in terms of casualties, were in danger of being trapped, as Union forces closed in on their escape route.

1 – The crew for the re-enactment of Corinth
L to R, Colin, Alan, Kieron, Ian, and Bill

Historically, the Confederates under Sterling Price had evaded this trap, allowing them to link up with other Confederate forces under Earl Van Dorn a few days later. The Confederates were under orders to prevent reinforcements from Ulysses Grant’s and William Rosecrans’ Union armies being sent to aid Northern efforts in Kentucky, so Van Dorn, now in command of all Confederate forces in Mississippi, came up with an elaborate plan to strike north into Tennessee and isolate Rosecrans, who was guarding the important Federal supply depot at Corinth.
Our game therefore began with the historic poorly-coordinated Confederate attacks at 10am on the rifle pits north of the town, and it was soon clear that the Rebels were intent on revenge for Iuka; Lovell’s Mississippi Divn immediately attacked McKean’s Divn on the Union left flank, hurling it back in disorder. Abysmally poor Federal dice throwing soon saw an undamaged brigade skedaddle the field without firing a shot! Their left, already undermanned, was suddenly up in the air, and the Rebels were quick to exploit the weakness.

2 – The strong assault by Lovell’s Divn on the Union left

To add insult to injury, the remainder of the Federal left flank now came under attack by  the Confederate Maury’s Division, the next to arrive in the poorly coordinated Rebel plans.

3 – Maury’s Division attacks the Federal rifle pits

Once again however, disastrous Federal dice throws saw the Union defenders thrown back from the front-line rifle pits, after inflicting only minimal losses on the attackers. It was not yet 11.30am battle time, and the Confederates had already all but destroyed the Union left flank, and captured the rifle pits facing their right for virtually no loss.
It was about to get still worse for the Federals. As Davies’ Divn in their centre prepared to face the onslaught from Hebert’s Rebels, they could not ignore Maury’s Divn, which was now also pressing in on their left. The Federal centre was about to get rolled up by overwhelming numbers in a combined frontal and flank attack.

4 – Maury’s Divn starts to roll up the Federal centre

Over on the Federal left, Lovell’s Divn continued to make spectacular advances for the Confederates, with their attached cavalry brigade taking out a Union battery, leaving them uncontested in the centre of the field.
It wasn’t going entirely the Confederates’ way, though. All of the work thus far by Lovell’s Divn had been achieved by just two brigades and their cavalry; their Louisiana Zouave battalion steadfastly refused to get engaged. Moreover, the remnants of the Federal left were putting up an increasing stiff opposition, and their one surviving brigade, together with some of their divisional artillery, finally succeeded in stemming the tide of the Confederate infantry assault on that flank.

5 – The Confederate attack on the Federal left runs out of steam

Bad luck with the dice continued to dog the Federal efforts however. By 12 noon, Davies’ Divn in the Federal centre was fully engaged. Hackleman’s Brigade, outnumbered almost 3:1, made a gallant stand supported by some of their divisional artillery, but it was in continued danger of being flanked from its left, and eventually it was also forced back from the rifle pits.

6 – The Federal centre makes a brave stand

At 12.30pm battle time, the Federals got almost their only good news of the day. With the Louisiana Zouave battalion apparently too timid to fight, Lovell’s Divn on the Confederate right was short of reserves and unable to press its attack. Their attached cavalry had gone off on a wild ride through the woods, looking for the Federal centre, so the remnants of McKean’s Divn were able to stabilise the Federal left, and the action on that flank ground to a halt.
Over in the centre however, it was a very different story. By 1pm battle time, Davies’ Divn defending the Federal centre had been forced back, and the remnants were facing overwhelming odds in a desperate effort to stave off a complete Confederate break-through. As the Rebels advanced, Hamilton’s Divn on the Federal right also faced being flanked on its left, and was forced to pull back to conform to the rest of the Federal line, such as it was.

7 - The Federal centre-faces overwhelming odds
to prevent a break-through

By 2pm battle time, it was all but over.  Federal dice-throwing throughout the game had been abysmal, and the Confederates had successfully taken advantage of it to roll up the Union forces in detail.
Of the ten infantry brigades the Union forces started with, six had been virtually destroyed, along with three artillery batteries. Confederate losses had been a small fraction of their opponents’, and virtually the only thing standing between the Confederates and their objectives of the town of Corinth and its crucial railroad junction, was the remaining Federal artillery, Stanley’s two-brigade division which had been posted in the earthworks west of the town, and the two brigades of Mizner’s cavalry division, which had dismounted to defend the abatis just north of town.
Under the circumstances, the Federals were obliged to concede a complete victory to their opponents. Not only had the Confederates achieved a stunning victory which completely reversed the verdict of history (and in a single day, instead of two), they had moreover done so with far fewer losses than in reality.
If this had been the historical outcome of the battle, then the impact on the war effort, both north and south, would have been immense. We can speculate that Van Dorn, by effectively destroying Rosecrans’ army, would have completely changed the Federal fortunes in western Tennessee.  Although the Federals still had more men in the field, they were widely scattered, defending supply bases and communication routes. At the least, Ulysses Grant would have been compelled to look to his own defences, leaving Buell to defend himself as best he could in Kentucky.
And that raises a most interesting what-if for us to ponder. Could a stunning success at Corinth have inspired Braxton Bragg to produce another one at Perryville in Kentucky five days later? Two military successes in the west might have done much to nullify the effects of Robert E Lee’s strategic defeat at Antietam and the end of his Maryland campaign in September, and with it Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, which effectively ended any hope of foreign recognition for the Confederacy. Both Britain and France were on the verge of proposing mediation and an arbitrated settlement prior to Antietam, so the potential consequences of further Confederate military victories at this point in the war will always be rich pickings for historians to consider.
One thing is certain – the Confederate campaigns in Maryland, Mississippi, and Kentucky in Sept-Oct 1862 were the closest they ever came to coordinated combined operations. Grant, at least, saw the significance, and he sought to emulate it when he became Union Commander-in-Chief in 1864.
Historically, the triple failure at Antietam, Corinth and Perryville in the fall of 1862 sealed the Confederacy’s fate, although its significance certainty wasn’t recognised then.  Even today, the Iuka – Corinth and Kentucky Heartland campaigns are considered secondary, almost a backwater, when compared to the war in the east.
Perhaps at the time, that myopia was understandable. The capitals were in the east and barely 100 miles apart, the eastern states were the most populous, and the brilliance of Confederate leaders like Robert E Lee  and the sheer dogged persistence of the Union Army of the Potomac, captured the attention of all who read about them.
However, a century and a half of hindsight lend us a different perspective. With conflict in the east so often at a stalemate, the Union had to prevail in the west in order to win. The fact that they did so, almost from the beginning, was hardly recognised at the time. The Confederacy simply never had the manpower or resources to defend the vast distances of the western theatre, so it lost in campaign after campaign, and was obliged to surrender territory at almost every stage.
By mid-1862, the Confederate heartland was being penetrated by Union gunboats patrolling the major rivers; by mid-1863, it was literally split in two, following the capture of Vicksburg; by mid-1864, Sherman was at the gates of Atlanta.
It was Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan brought to life, and it was most successful in the west, where the Confederacy was always at its weakest.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Memorial Evening 2017, another Dragon Rampant Mash-Up

Tring Wargames Club Memorial Evening – to celebrate the memory of members past.

For this year's Memorial Evening, on Friday 6th October, we had a Dragon Rampant Mash-Up similar to last year, but with even more players this time.
We were pleased that Chris's family called in to see the game and have a chat.

The Dragon Rampant game was a simple scenario.

Eleven players took part, each with their own retinue, starting all round the large table.
The objective was to get the treasure from the base of the monument in the centre and exit the table with it.
The players start to assemble.
The monument has yet to appear on the central hill.

The treasure lies beneath the monument.

The retinues were many and varied.
Alan's T.Rex.

Jim's Undead

Various beasties

Graham's Serpent like single model units saved space on a packed table.

Attacks were banned for the first move to get things moving towards the objective. However it wasn't long before petty squabbles broke out between neighbouring retinues after that.
At the edge of table - Colin and Keiron totally ignoring the objective.

...and on Keiron's other side he and Neville come to blows.

Ian's riders round the hill to face Alan's monsters.

Ian R's infantry managed to mount the large hill with the monument.
Ian's infantry get onto the hill and head for the treasure
in the base of the monument.

As they grabbed the gold and try to make their escape, they were befuddled by someone (he he).
Ian's infantry grab the treasure but Colin's Spellcaster unit Befuddles them.
Neville's riders are ready to pounce on any opportunity.

Ian's infantry manage to break away from the hill and head for home with the treasure only to shot up by Keiron's missile troops and they routed leaving the treasure abandoned.
Horsemen and warbeasts battle over the monument hill trying to reach the treasure.

Neville's riders grabbed the treasure and made a bolt back to the table edge.

But they had a tough task doing that being somewhat surrounded, and Henry's Summoner suddenly popping units up as if out of the ground.
The riders with the treasure are at the foot of the hill and surrounded.

At the end of the evening some wandering halflings came across the treasure and wandered off with it, probably not knowing what it was, or perhaps what was round the corner.

Another fun game with everyone involved. Having these Memorial Evenings is a great way to remember missing friends.

Dragon Rampant rules were written by Dan Mersey, published by Osprey, and are widely available.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Games Day - The Battle of Almanza 25th Apr 1707

At our October Games Day we re-fought the Battle of Almanza with 10mm figures using Black Powder rules. Almanza was one of the most decisive engagements of the War of the Spanish Succession. Despite the Duke of Marlborough's successes at the battles of Blenheim and Ramillies, Almanza ensured that securing the Spanish throne for the Hapsburgs became a near impossibility.  It is also notable as "probably the only battle in history in which the English forces were commanded by a Frenchman, and the French by an Englishman." The Allied commander, the Earl of Galway was a French Huguenot and the Franco-Spanish commander, The Duke of Berwick, was  the illegitimate son of James II (and incidentally the nephew of The Duke of Marlborough).

This was a very one-sided battle, so I devised a "what-if" scenario, allowing Galway's army to link up with the Earl of Peterborough's forces advancing from Catalonia. This made the Austrian claimant for the throne of Spain (Charles III) the nominal commander-in-chief of the allied army, advised closely by the Earl of Peterborough.

Between the pooled resources of various club members we were easily able to field the British, Dutch, Catalan, French and Spanish units required. Nobody had any Portuguese however, so we had to substitute Bavarians.

The two forces deployed in the traditional manner of the day, infantry in the centre with the cavalry on the flanks.
                                           Initial positions from the French side of the table
                                                   The Western end of the Franco-Spanish line 

On the western side of the field a ravine made the French hold their cavalry back, but in the open ground to the East they threw their horse forward. In the centre the Franco-Spanish infantry held their position (they were meant to be defending after all).

The Allied army advanced. In the East the Portuguese cavalry led a rush to meet the advancing French, in the West the first line of cavalry headed for a narrow gap between the ravine and the French Infantry and the second line advanced to the ravine to try and find a way across. The infantry lines plodded forward, but the British and Dutch advanced rapidly out pacing the Portuguese on their flank.

In the East the first lines of cavalry crashed together, although the Portuguese came off worse they performed much better than they had historically and inflicted heavy casualties in return. With units routing, retreating and following up the front lines became a disorganised mess. As the respective commanders tried to rally their units the second lines moved through to engage, with the same effect. This flank remained in utter confusion for the rest of the battle as officers rallied units and threw them back in piecemeal until all four brigades had broken due to their losses.
                                    With the first lines in disarray the second lines advance on each other.
                                                            A very confused cavalry melee

On the Western flank the front lines clashed in the narrow gap and fought inconclusively for a time. The Allied second line managed to cross the ravine but the French second line moved across to face them. After heavy fighting the allied horsemen fled, a broken brigade. As the French now crossed the ravine in turn, the Allied first line, who had pushed their opponents back, moved to block the French from out-flanking the allied infantry. Another fierce fight left the French victorious and the last Allied cavalry brigade fleeing the field.
                                                              The Western flank
                                                                    Allied cavalry advancing
                                               The remains of the Allied second line fall back

In the centre the British and Dutch closed with the French lines, whilst the Portuguese came on more slowly. The intention was to get into musket range and blast the French front line away with their superior firepower, then overwhelm the second line with superior numbers. However the Allies lost control (Blunder roll of 6) and the first line, instead of engaging in a firefight, charged with the bayonet. Some reached the French, but some didn't. Unsupported, the foremost units were thrown back, with one battalion routing away. Then the French concentrated their fire on the reminder of the Allied first line. 
                                                         The Allied second line attack....
                                                                   ....and retreat!
                                               That formation's not in the drill book!
                                        Compare everyone else's neat lines with the British brigades!

With the infantry attack stalling and his cavalry failing, Charles III decided to lead his Catalan infantry, held in reserve, out into the open East flank to try and catch the French in a pincer attack with the Portuguese. Unfortunately for him, events on the other side of the battlefield decided the result before they could close with the enemy.
                The Catalans advance (the shaken French dragoons in front of them will not slow them down).
                 A final view of the Eastern flank, in the bottom corner the Catalans are starting their advance

At this point the British commander should probably should have halted the second line and rallied the first line behind them, but seeing his cavalry starting to melt away and expose his flank he opted to throw the second line in and assault the French. They did rout one French battalion, but otherwise fared no better than the first assault and fell back in confusion. The British were now in a total mess, with the first and second lines intermingled, the officers desperately trying to rally units as the French stood and poured in musket fire and close range cannon shot. With mounting casualties the British front line morale failed and the brigade broke. Now with 5 out of their 9 brigades broken the Allies had no option but to quit the field leaving a French victory.