Saturday, November 7, 2015

Holding Action (2) - Conclusion

CSA forces being edged back from the creek.
As Union pressure mounted, the Confederate defenders found themselves being edged back from the creek edge.  26 S.C. and 6 Ala had already retired and were heading towards Torkville and the road north.  18th S.C. also fell back into the village itself and begin lining the fences and out-buildings along the outskirts.  They were able to prepare some kind of defence before the 15th Ky could follow up.
126 N.Y. fording the river to the north bank.  
Meanwhile, the 126 N.Y. was wading the Dolenz river to support the Pennsylvania cavalry already nearing the road.
General action along the creek front.  66th Ohio clinging
 under heavy fire to its bridgehead position.
66th Ohio having forced a crossing at the east bridge were finding it difficult, despite musket and gunfire support from across the creek, to maintain its bridgehead position.  Opposing them, the relatively fresh 11th Alabama and the 20pr Parrotts of the Columbia Artillery were exacting a heavy toll.

Cobb's Georgia Legion in action.
General overview of the battlefield.  

Much depended upon what could be achieved by 27th Penna Cav.  Could they sweep aside the Confederate horse facing them?  Given the narrowness of the valley floor on the north bank of the river ('edge of the world' explained by steep wooded slopes just off the north table edge), Colonel Scoones had split his troops in two. Retaining just less than half under command for mounted action, he ordered the remainder to line the south bank and dismount. As the New Yorkers swept into the attack, they had to endure a popping flanking fire that emptied several saddles. But it was not enough to equalise the mounted contest.

Outnumbered though they were, the Confederates rose magnificently to the occasion. Counter-charging vigorously they brusquely flung back the Union horse, who 'stood not upon the order of their going' but hastily made off.  Surprisingly, perhaps, given the drubbing they had received, the latter's withdrawal from the fray was far from the rout of a demoralised foe, but remained well in hand until they reformed behind the New York infantry.

(What happened was one of those low-probability outcomes that makes war games such fun... and just a little crazy.  The situation was in fact very dangerous for the Confederates.  Had they lost this action, the rest of Zebedee's command might well have become trapped on the 'island'.  In the close combat the 13 Union figures surviving the flanking fire received 3 combat dice at a Die Range of 4 [they ought to have got a fourth at a DR=1 for the odd figure, but I was running a convention that ignored the odd figure remaining from the 4-man volley groups - not that in the event it would have made any difference!]. 

The Confederates' ten figures got two dice at DR=4, and a remainder at DR=2.  Rolled the Union first: three sixes!  In my games, sixes aren't always good rolls (I like to mix things up a bit). Confederates' turn: the 4-man volley groups each rolled the maximum: fours!  The part-volley-group... another six... and a miss.  Astonishing.  And then what happened?  The 8 hits translated into a mere 3 casualties - not rare, but a fairly uncommon result.  All the same it was enough to send the Union horse packing. 

The subsequent morale check by the Union, having lost over 30% of their strength was a 50-50 proposition, but they passed (I think they rolled another 6 actually).  So, although their withdrawal was forced, they could do so in good order. 

15th Kentucky attempts to carry Torkville by storm.

By this time 15th Kentucky had organised themselves into a column, and stormed across the west bridge and into the village.  The mutual close range mauling there finished the Kentuckians in this battle, but the South Carolinians also decided they had had enough.  The Union infantry fled back across the bridge, holding up its supporting artillery and the 29th Ohio in the process.
CSA reduced to a shortened perimeter.  But there is some respite: the attacks upon
the village and the north bridge have been repulsed ... for now.
As the action drew to a close, it was becoming a race to bring off as much of Zebedee's command as may be extracted via the bottleneck of the north bridge, before the pressure from the advancing Union caused a traffic jam, or 126 N.Y. infantry sealed off the exit.  

29th Ohio following up the only partially successful attack
by 15th Kentucky.  The US Regular cavalry has crossed
 the east bridge.

The Confederates gained more time by throwing 66th Ohio back across the east bridge, whereat Zebedee ordered a general withdrawal.   He pulled 11th Alabama close by the village by way of a rearguard, and reversed the dismounted cavalry's front to assist. Meanwhile, the approaching New York infantry had formed line and were preparing to push aside the cavalry facing them.  

General withdrawal across the sole escape route.

It would be a near thing.

At this point, I called the game, though it could have been played out.  Most of the CSA would certainly have escaped, but it might have been touch and go if either - let alone both - 11th Alabama or the dismounted cavalry could have escaped.  

But the reason for calling the game was that the action was already shaping as a clear cut victory for the Union.

11th Alabama still holding the village, assisted
by dismounted cavalry.
The reason is this.  My rule set, based upon my ground and consequent time scales (TS = square root of GS) calls for 24 turns to represent a 12 hour period of daylight.  Even if I supposed the action did not open until mid-morning, eighteen moves was proving more than sufficient for the Union to complete its task.  At the point the game was called, barely half that - certainly no more than ten moves - had elapsed.  The Union would not have required a further 8 turns to fulfil their mission of clearing the road and advancing north.  So although the Federals had received a bloody nose in this action, the Confederates had taken an even worse knock (relatively speaking: both sides lost exactly  49 figures (counting, on the Union side, General Cayce as one of them)).  

both bridges across the Nesmith Creek are now in Union hands
and victory is assured.
The Union had won a fine victory: cleared the road north, and could resume its close pursuit of the retreating Confederate Army.


  1. Interesting game with a classic look. So, could the Rebs have done better?

    1. I'm not sure the Rebs could have done better, much to my surprise. Not much anyhow. In fact, I thought they did remarkably well, in hindsight. True, 15th Kentucky fought back strongly after its early losses, and though repulsed from the village, left its opponents in as battered a condition.

      But 6th Alabama stood up, under flanking gunfire at long canister range, for as long as it took to scatter 5th Ohio; and the victory by Cobb's Legion ought to become legendary in the annals of my Confederate Army.

      What made all the difference between a successful stand and a headlong retreat was the intervention of the 126th New York, which never fired a shot all day. But the Rebs always had to take its actions into account. Buy the end of the action it was clear that the exit to the northward could not much longer be held open.

      I do not believe that one could have expected in the circumstances that if a force of about Brigade strength was insufficient to hold a position indefinitely, it could hold for an entire day. A half-day - 12 turns (12 hours) - would have been a reasonable time limit for the Union to achieve its objectives, and would have made for a very tense struggle. On this occasion, the Union would probably just have made it, but to be certain it would have had to have been played out.

      Had this action been part of a campaign, the CSA main body might have been glad enough of having won a 4 to 5 hour lead on the Union pursuers. Sometimes context can tell you who really 'won' the battle.

  2. Very nicely done and quite a cliffhanger!

    1. It seemed that way, and the attackers had a tough fight of it. But from very early on I felt that the Union would clear the road north within the time frame I had allowed. If I were to do it again I'd probably halve the time limit.

  3. Great stuff!, that seemed to be one of those games where you get completely immersed and real life gets forgotten. With a scenario like that you don't need a map campaign to feel the bigger picture and that sucks you into the game even further.
    I did like the names of the generals too!, they become real little characters.

    1. Thanks Paul, for those comments. All my generals have names in my ACW armies, all of them made up, or 'borrowed'; from cartoon characters (e.g. CSA Generals J.T. Cornpone, Scraxton Scragg, Montgomery J. Klaxon, and that dashing cavalry commander, Humphrey Cammell).

      I do - or did - the same for my Napoleonics as well, though now I'm moving towards the 'Big Battles' thing, I'm inclined more to use historical figures.

    2. Oh, yes, the name 'Archduke Piccolo' is related in some way to one Archduke Guitar, whose 'well known dexterity in the courts of Venus was not equalled by his skill in the sterner fields of Mars'. However, I have given Piccolo a far more martial character - something a bit like Austrian Field Marshal Maximilian Ulysses von Browne, with just a tincture of Rudi Starnberg.