Friday, March 24, 2017

Stonewall in the valley 12 - Banks at Bay at Bartonsville.

After all the marching and counter-marching of the day before, it was clear from the General Officer Commanding himself to the lowliest volunteer, it was clear as the Thursday 23rd dawned drizzly and miserable, that they would be coming very soon under heavy attack.  A spot of rain was not going to stop Jackson's 'foot cavalry'.  Between them, the Major-General and his two Brigade commanders bethought themselves that passive defence would be simply asking for a defeat.  They resolved to strike.

I had to make some kind of change to a straightforward Attacker-Defender action with forces of disparate strengths.  It was high time for something more along the lines of Cedar Mountain (9 August, 1862) or Sabine Crossroads (8 April, 1864) (ironically enough, Banks featured in both those actions... h'mmm...).

First of all, the forces were sorted out, both sides having lost something like 80 figures (2000 men) in the previous actions.
Union army drawn up ready for desperate battle.

Union: Major-General N. P. Banks

Donnelly's Brigade:
     5 Connecticut        20 figures*
     1 Maryland            20 figures*
     46 Pennsylvania    18 figures

* 26 New York had been so reduced by losses, that it had to be disbanded and its remnants redistributed, 3 figures each to Connecticut and Maryland.  As 46 Pa had been detached, that unit received none.

Gordon's Brigade:
     27 Indiana              26 figures
     2 Massachusetts     23 figures
     29 Pennsylvania     24 figures
     3 Wisconsin           22 figures

     1 Maine                  10 figures
     1 Michigan             12 figures

     New York Artillery  4 figures; rifled Parrotts
     Ohio Artillery          4 figures; smoothbore Napoleons.

Total: 183 figures and 2 guns.

Confederate: Major-General T.J. Jackson

Division Jackson:
Winder's (Stonewall) Brigade:

     5 Virginia                  19 figures
     27 Virginia                22 figures
     33 Virginia                21 figures
     Poague's Artillery       3 figures - smoothbores.

Taliaferro's Brigade:
     10 Virginia                 22 figures
     23 Virginia                 18 figures
     37 Virginia                 22 figures
     Cutshaw's Artillery      4 figures, - rifles

Division Ewell:
Trimble's Brigade:

     15 Alabama                22 figures
     21 Georgia                  22 figures
     21 North Carolina       20 figures
     Raines's artillery           3 figures - rifles

Taylor's Brigade:
     1 La Special Battalion 18 figures (Tigers)
     6 Louisiana                  24 figures
     7 Louisiana                  17 figires
     Lusk's Artillery              4 figures - smoothbores

     2 Virginia Cavalry        21 figures (Munford)
     7 Virginia Cavalry        18 figures (Ashby)
     Chew's  Artillery            4 figures - rifles.

Total: 308 figures and 5* guns.
For some reason Chew's flying artillery got left out of the battle; that is to say, I simply forgot about it!)
Map of the battlefield, with Union dispositions and battle plan.  

From the map you may discern how I was going to conduct this action.  Having determined upon 'Strike! before being struck', I fixed upon the Union plan, with the Confederate approach being programmed.  Whilst Donnelly held a defensive position on the east flank, Gordon's whole brigade would make a thrust against the  Confederates as they crossed Opequon Creek through the woods upon Sandy Ridge, and the open valley towards the Shady Elm timber yards. 

If any Rebs tried to cross near Sandy Ridge, they would find the going tough, but if not, they would find their open flanks being assailed from cover.

Divided up into Infantry Brigades and Cavalry regiments, with cannon rolled separately, the Confederates would arrive at any time from Game Turn 1 through to Game Turn 6.  Whenever a battery arrives coincidentally with a brigade, it would be held that that was the battery belonging to it. It would take half a morning (3 hours, from 7 to 10 a.m.) for the Confederates all to arrive on the field. As the first hour of the day will have been spent marching into contact, it would be 10 a.m. before all units would be up.  The Union forces had that time to strike with equal or superior numbers.

As to the point of arrival, the field was divided into rough quarters, with the following additional die rolls:
1. Arrive at the Shady Elm Mill Bridge;
2. Arrive at the Shady Elm Mill Bridge;
3. Arrive in front of the Sandy ridge wooded area;
4. Arrive up the Valley Turnpike towards Bartonsville;
5. Arrive up the Valley Turnpike towards Bartonsville;
6. Arrive east of Bartonsville.

The dice were rolled, with the following results:

Game Turn 1:  Stonewall Brigade plus artillery arrives east of Bartonsville;
Game Turn 2:  Ashby's Cavalry arrives up the Valley Turnpike;
Game Turn 3;  Taylor's Brigade - minus artillery - arrives at the Shady Elm Mill Bridge;
Game Turn 4:  a) Trimble's Brigade arrives in front of the forest, on and between the two spurs south of the creek:
Game Turn 4:  b): Lusk's battery arrives at the Shady Elm Mill Bridge;
Game Turn 5:  Munford's Cavalry arrives up the Valley Turnpike;
Game Turn 6:  Taliaferro's Brigade arrives east of Bartonsville. 

Mid-morning - with action about to be joined between Gordon's Union
Brigade and elements of Taylor's and Trimble's CSA Brigades 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Stonewall In The Valley 11 - Hard Marching.

If Wednesday 21 May 1862 in the Shenandoah Valley was characterised by hard fighting (see here), the following day was one of hard marching - especially for the Army of the Shenandoah.  After the morning's action of the day before, the Union Division of General Nathaniel P. Banks had fallen back upon Middleton, whereat General Jackson turned his attention to developments behind him.  His successful action to clear his lines of communication resulted in the demise of Major-General Shields, and his Division's headlong retreat towards Front Royal.  There, Colonel Knipe separated his own small force from Shields's - now Colonel Erastus B. Tyler's - Division in order to rejoin Banks's command.  All this while, Major-General Fremont was making his best speed towards Strasburg.

Dawn, Thursday, 22 May 1862.  Union moves
and Confederate options.  
So matters stood as as the smoke of battle cleared and Tuesday's sun sank behind the West Virginia mountains.  Now Major-General T.J. Jackson was faced with having to decide what next to do.

This proved an interesting exercise, as I could think of four reasonable options:
1.  Meet Fremont's column somewhere west of Strasburg.
2. March through Strasburg, then switch north to attack Banks at Middletown from the south.
3. March east through Front Royal in pursuit of Tyler and Knipe, the switch north and west to attack  Banks at Middletown from the east.
4.  Pursue Tyler's command through the Manassas Gap.

Of the four, the first and third seemed to me the most likely, but events were to take a rather unexpected turn. 

As Col Knipe led his column through Cedarville, the rumour of the Confederate pursuit drew ever closer.  He was still three hours' march east of Middletown when  action seemed imminent.  The good Colonel refused, however, to be drawn, and chivvied his men onward.  As it transpired no further action developed.

Of course, this was the result of a die roll.  Upon facing the prospect of action, you may recall, before determining whether the Confederates approaching were real or rumour, the Union commander rolled to decide whether to accept or decline action.  That gave him an extra half-day's march, after which, supposing the pursuit was real, he would than be forced to accept action.  In this case, Knipe would successfully have rejoined Banks, though there would have been no prospect of either avoiding action then had Jackson really been pursuing.  But see what happens later in the day.

Moves up to 10 a.m.  The Confederates strike towards
Fremont's Division

As it transpired, the Stonewall had chosen Fremont as his target (also decided by a die roll, after the Knipe decision).  Shortly after midmorning the two columns met on the road west of Strasburg. Hitherto resolute in marching to action, Fremont's boldness suddenly failed him.  At once he ordered a retreat, back towards Watsontown.

(Again determined by die roll.  The eastern Confederate march being rumour, the west march was the real.  But the roll to determine whether the Union commander would accept or decline action once again fell in favour of ... discretion.  Quite a contrast this was to the bellicose behaviour exhibited hitherto!)
Fremont having recoiled hastily, Jackson switches across
towards Middletown where Banks has been rejoined
by Col Knipe's column.

What then for General Jackson? Pursue Fremont and bring on an action near Watsontown? Or switch back through Strasburg and thrust towards Middleton after all? Out comes the die once more and...
Fremont is allowed to escape,  General Banks is the target after all. At 2 p.m. The Union scouts see the Confederates rapidly approaching.  Feeling isolated, with Shields (Tyler) reported to have disappeared beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, and no word from Fremont, General Banks orders a retreat (determined - you guessed it - by another die roll). 

For the third time that day, the dice rolled against accepting action.  By this time Col Knipe had at last reunited with Banks's command.  Earlier in the day he had 'declined' an action that seemed imminent, but this second approach was a whole new circumstance, requiring a whole new decision. Fortunately Knipe still had enough movement allowed to accompany Banks's retreat to Newtown. The Confederates following up would have caught up with Banks's Division at dusk, but the latter were permitted to drop back an extra short distance (one hex) overnight (the early part of the evening).   

Nightfall: General Banks beats a hasty retreat
 past Newtown, but Jackson is in hot pursuit.   The other
Union columns are distant at least a whole day's march.
Nightfall of 22nd May finds the Union columns, owing to their reluctance to try conclusions with the Army of the Valley, widely scattered. The central column, General Banks's battered Division, is about to be forced once more into an unlooked for battle.

Such has been the remarkable and unexpected outcome of the series of 50-50 propositions, with no combat resulting that day.  The morrow will offer something different.  In contact with Banks. there is no question of splitting the Rebel force into 'rumour' and 'reality'.  General N.P. 'Commissary' Banks will have once more to face the reality.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Prototype 'Offset Oblong' Campaign Map

Draft campaign map of the Crusader operation, 1941, on a
single sheet of A4.  Note the oblong cells.
In my last posting I spoke of a campaign map I started to make for a game based upon the Crusader Battles in the Western Desert in November-December 1941.  The two pictures here show how far I got with the thing - including the mistakes and additional notes - even an idea I had at the time of transforming (by eye alone) the oblong cells into hexagons.   

Same map with a 'desert' special effect.  This map was
redrawn, double-sized onto 2 A4 sheets.

The campaign was to be 'bathtubbed' - based on the Command Decision rule set, but further scaled down.  The inspiration for this was the campaign game Barbarossa 25, in which the whole Operation Barbarossa was scaled down by a factor of 25.  This included time and ground scale.  Now, Command Decision already involves a scaling down of 1:5 in vehicles, with a two-figure infantry stand representing roughly 50 men,   So Barbarossa 25 implied a scaling down of 1:125 in vehicles, and each infantry stand represented roughly 1250 men.

This was achieved not by a method that would have looked like Not Quite Mechanised or Megablitz; but by having 1 war games Division standing for 25.  On a hex map of Russia, each cell represented an area 1 km across instead of 25.  The time scale was harder to design, so the designer (Frank Chadwick) settled on 2 days  representing 1 month.  I think I would have made a different time scale, but that's by the by.

My idea I called Crusader 5 - scaling down by a further factor of 5 from the Command Decision rule set. 1 tank would therefore have represented 25, and one rifle stand about 250 men Here are a couple of samples of my projected ORBAT:

15th Panzer Division (General Neumann-Silkow)
      Panzer Regiment  8:
          HQ: 1 cmd (command) PzIVF1, 1 recon (reconnaissance) PzII
          2 Companies each with: 1 cmd PzIIIH, 1 PzIIIH
      Infantry Regiment 15:
          HQ: 1 cmd stand, 1 kubelwagen, 1 staff radio truck, 1 recon m/c (motorcycle) MG stand,                           1x50mm AT (Anti-tank) gun with towing vehicle,
                1x7.5cm infantry gun with kettenkrad tow.
           1 Company, with 1 cmd stand, 3 rifle stands, 1 MMG (Vickers) stand, 1xSdKfz251/10
                3xSdKfz251/1 half tracks.
           1 Company, with 1 cmd stand, 3 rifle stands, 1 MMG stand, 4 trucks
           1 m/c Company, with  1 cmd stand, 1 kubelwagen, 3 m/c stands, 1 MMG m/c stand.
      Artillery Regiment 33:
           HQ: 1 cmd stand, 1 FO (Forward Observer), 1 radio truck, 1 kubelwagen:
           Battery: 1x15cm howitzer, gun crew, 1xSdKfz7 tractor.
           Battery: 1x10.5cm howitzer, gun crew (ds - double sized stand), 1xSdKfz11 tractor.
           2 AT Batteries, each with :  1x50mm PaK38 AT gun, 1 gun crew (self command), 1 truck or                    halftrack
           1 AA Battery with: 1x8.8cm  FlaK, 1 gun crew, 1 SdKfz7 tractor:
           1 AA Battery with: 1xSP 20mm Quad or 37mm AA.
      Aufklaerungs Abteilung (Recon Unit) 33:
           1 cmd SdKfz250/1, 1xSdKfz222 a/c (armoured car), 1xSdKfz231 a/c, 1 m/c stand,
           1 recon infantry stand, 1 SdKfz 250, 1 37mm or 50mm AT gun.
      Engineer Company 33:
           1 cmd engr (engineer stand), 2 engr stands, 3 light trucks.

2nd New Zealand Division (Major-general Freyberg)
       HQ: 1 cmd stand, 1 light truck, 1x2pr p/m (portee mount)(31Bty), 1 Bofors AA ('X'Bty):
       4 and 6 Battalions, with:
            HQ Coy: 1 cmd stand, 1 car, 1 recon bren carrier (carrier), 1 3-inch mortar stand, 1 carrier,
                1 engineer stand, 1 MMG, 1x 2pr portee mount (32/34 Bty), 1 Bofors AA (41 Bty)
            3 Rifle Coys, each with 1 cmd stand, 3 rifle stands.
     5 Battalion, with:  
             HQ Coy: 1 cmd stand, 1 car, 1 recon bren carrier (carrier), 1 3-inch martar stand, 1 carrier,
                1 engineer stand, 2 MMG, 1x 2pr portee mount (33 Bty), 1 Bofors AA (42 Bty)
            4 Rifle Coys, each with 1 cmd stand, 4 rifle stands.
      Field Regiment:
             HQ: 1 cmd stand, 1 FO stand, 2 cars, 1 staff radio truck, 1 survey troop stand.
             3 batteries (4th, 5th and 6th), each with 1x25pr gun/howitzer, 1 Quad tractor, 1 limber, 1 gun                   crew (ds) 
      7 AT Regiment: (31-34 Bty, attached as above).
      14 Light AA Regiment (attached, as above)
      Engineer Company: 1 cmd stand, 3 engr stands, 1 car, 3 light trucks
      Divisional Cavalry:  1xcmd MkVIB light tank, 1 recon MkVIB, 2 recon carriers.
This 'Division' had a transport pool rather than unit-organic transport.  Whether this transport pool was large enough to uplift the whole Division, I'm not sure.  I'd be inclined to limit the pool to something like 20-30 vehicles - enough to carry two of the three rifle battalions, say.

I was going to include an Italian formation in this rather self-indulgent article (probably Ariete Division), but my Italian ORBATS seem to have disappeared.

Unfortunately, at the time this was too ambitious a project for the resources I had available, or was likely to obtain in any reasonable time.  Too bad...

Monday, March 6, 2017

Portable Wargames and Drawing Hexes...

A One-Hour Wargames scenario '#15:Fortified Defence', using
my vaguely late 19th century Imaginations armies.  Because I |
wanted to use one of my Gatling guns, I went for the 'Machine Age' rule set.

After many vicissitudes, my hardback copy of Bob Cordery's Portable Wargames finally landed on my porch - on my birthday too!  I wonder how they arranged that!  Could not have been timed better. You'd think I would have tried out at least one of the games by now - but we'll come to that in another posting.  At any rate, I have been busy buffing up my armies of Ruberia (RED) and Azuria (BLUE), though the latter may well supply the soldiery for another nation - the Settee Empire of Turkowaz (TURQUOISE).  Ruberia at least now has its guns and gatlings painted and based...  Of these, more another time.
Ruberian infantry advance to the attack against heavily
fortified Turkowaz troops.
Discussing grid systems just lately, Mr Cordery has been puzzling over why a field of offset squares 'did not feel right' as a compromise between a field if hexagons (hexes) and a field of squares. Here's link to the article on Wargames Miscellany.

This led to my exercising my own mind about this. I recalled that, way back in 1991, in preparation for a 'Bathtub' 1941 campaign based on Operation 'Crusader', I wanted to make a campaign map. A field of hexes being 'too hard' to make (a chore I had tried once before) I came up with the 'offset square' idea. The project never did get off the ground, though I had made the map and drawn up the ORBAT lists. The thing has lain more than half forgotten somewhere among all my war games jottings ever since.

But one thing I had forgotten and recalled to mind just this morning. I did not 'invent' the field of squares.  Mine was a field of rectangles, with an 'aspect ratio' of about 10:8.66 (or, if you prefer, 11.55:10, or 30:26). There was a reason for this.  I wanted this field to approximate as closely as possible a hex field, such that the physical (as distinct from the notional) distance between the centres of the cells were the same along the 'horizontal line' as along the angled 'lines'.  

I have a feeling that the slight distortion of distances in a field of squares might be the source of Bob's unease. Maybe.

All through last week I was also off and on thinking that the field of offset squares could be transformed into a field of hexes. Well, actually, no. But is took a while for me to figure this out, and the why. It was not until I recalled to mind my oblongs that I worked out how it could be dome. I wish I had figured this out 30 years ago. No doubt there will be readers who know this method of creating hex fields...

 1.  Draw up your field of oblong cells. For the purposes of this article I have made them 50mm by 43mm.
If you are making 100mm wide cells, then the other dimension should also be 'doubled' to 87mm.

I have done this solely with a ball pen and an ancient, badly battered, wooden foot rule. No other tools are required. I also allowed an 7mm margin at the top of the page. The reason for this will be apparent in the next paragraph.
The 'offset rectangles' field.  The red triangle shows how
I wanted this field to work. On a field of squares, the
'angled'  lines would be close to 170mm to the 'horizontal
line's 150mm.
2.  Draw in additional horizontal lines above and below those already laid down at a distance of 7mm either side.  The side of a hexagon that is 50mm between the faces is 29mm to the nearest mm. Subtracting 7mm from the top and from the bottom of 43mm gives us our 29mm hex-side.
The additional horizontal lines drawn in.  You can see now,
possibly, why the top 7mm margin has been left!
I could have drawn in the hexes at once,
but hallucinated a need to mark
intermediate points that I was never
going to use.
 3.  Now you can start drawing in the hexagons as shown in the diagrams below. You will see here that I added in at this point some additional markings. This was simply to confuse myself: they were entirely redundant, unnecessary and a waste of time. Through this cause I managed to get mixed up a couple of times...

4, Having drawn up the hexagons, they can then be inked in. Being lazy, I inked then in freehand, following the lines. Normally, one would have drawn the oblong field and additional lines in pencil that could be erased. But you can see from these pictures there is scarcely any distortion, even on this pretty roughly drawn field.

I took the last two pictures to show how little distortion there is, even viewing the 'angled' lines of hexes.  Something over thirty years ago, for a naval war games project ,I build up a hex field using triangles.  What a chore that was!  I filled two sheets with hexes (you will see them here), and then tossed in the sponge.  A few weeks ago, inspired by the idea of Portable Wargames naval, I finished of 5 further sheets using the 'pin' method of reproducing the hex field.
 But I wish 30 years ago I had figured out the method I have described here!

I'm sorry the ACW 'Stonewall in the Valley' Campaign has stalled.  Too many distractions.  It has not been forgotten, and will resume soon.