Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stonewall in the Valley - After Don Featherstone.

CSA Cavalry.  At last I have finished reorganizing
paint touch ups, and flocking on my mounted troops
at least.
Stonewall in the Valley - campaign map.
The following 4 are each quadrant. 
Another ACW campaign I have long had in mind was based upon a idea mentioned in Don Featherstone's book War Games Campaigns.  This was 'Stonewall in the Valley', in which Stonewall Jackson commanded a force of ten infantry regiments, with horse and guns, operating in the Shenandoah River valley.  The Union Army had three identically similar corps operating in the same area, setting about to trap the Confederates or to drive them from the Valley altogether.

The only advantages that the CSA enjoyed were their central position at the outset, their celerity of movement (Stonewall's 'foot cavalry'), and the secrecy of Jackson's plans (one dummy and one real army).

I have always liked the concept, but felt that the numerical disadvantages could not be overcome by what amounted to greater mobility, as once battle was joined, any Union corps was the equal of the sole Confederate one.  As it transpired, the Featherstone (CSA)  - Tony Bath (USA) campaign lasted two battles: a costly rearguard action in (I think) the Blue Ridge Mountains' Manassas Gap, in which Jackson's corps took most of the day to overcome a 4-regiment blocking force; and a final battle at Front Royal, won by the Union.    As Tony Bath remarked in his book Setting Up a Wargames Campaign, Jackson was after that 'not in much shape to continue'.

It seems to me the idea has promise, though.  Retaining the celerity of movement and the 'dummy' force, I thought that if Stonewall's Army of the Valley was larger than any single Union column, but was outnumbered overall in the theatre by two to one, we might get an even, tough, sort of campaign.
Here is a suggested Order of Battle, using my own organisations:

Confederate Army of the Valley:

Maj-General T.J. Jackson

Jackson's Division:

   'Stonewall' Brigade (Winder):  3 x 27-figure regiments
   Taliaferro Brigade: 3 x 27-figure regiments
   Artillery: Poague's and Cutshaw's light batteries (2 guns each)

Ewell's Division:

   Trimble's Brigade: 3 x 27-figure regiments
   Taylor's Brigade: 2 x 27-figure regiments
                               1 x 23-figure battalion (Louisiana Tigers)
   Artillery:  Lusk's and Raines's light batteries (2 guns each)

Steuart's Cavalry Brigade:

   Munford's Regiment (2nd Va) @ 23 figures
   Ashby's Regiment (7th Va) @ 23 figures:
   Chew's flying battery (1 gun only, 4 gunners)

Totals: 320 infantry, 46 cavalry and 40 gunners with 9 cannon.

(Optional: but only if the Union includes the optional Harper's Ferry Garrison)
Army of the North-West (elements): B-Genl E.  (Alleghany) Johnson:

  Brigade; 2x27-figure regiments
  Artillery: 1 light battery of 2 cannon and 9 gunners
May operate only on the westernmost North-South road.  If forced off it, will disband.

Union Army:  

Banks's Command (ex II Army Corps): Maj-Genl N. P. Banks

   Division B-G A.S. Williams:
      Brigade: Col Donnelly: 4x27-figure regiments
      Brigade: Lt-Col G.H. Gordon: 4x27-figure regiments
   Cavalry Brigade: B-Gen J.P. Hatch: 2x15-figure Battalions
   Artillery: 2 light batteries each with 3 cannon and 13 gunners.

Mountain District: Maj-Genl J.C Fremont

   Brigade:  B-Genl Julius Stahel: 4x27-figure regiments
   Brigade:  B-Genl H. Bohlen: 4 x 27-figure regiments
   Cavalry Brigade: B-Genl G.B. Bayard: 2x15-figure battalions
   Artillery: 2 light batteries each with 3 cannon and 13 gunners.

Shields's Command (ex V Army Corps): B-Genl J. Shields

   Brigade: B-Genl J. Kimball: 4x27-figure regiments
   Brigade: B-Genl Erastus B. Tyler: 4x27-figure regiments
   Cavalry: Major D.B Nelson: 2x15-figure battalions
   Artillery: 2 light batteries each with 3 cannon and 13 gunners.

Totals for each column: 216 Infantry, 30 cavalry and 26 gunners with 6 cannon.

Total overall: 648 Infantry, 90 cavalry and 78 gunners with 18 cannon.

(Optional, only if CSA includes the detachment of The Army of the North-West):

Harper's Ferry Garrison: B-Genl Saxton
   Brigade: 3x27-figure regiments
   Cavalry: 1x15-figure battalion
   Artillery: 1 light battery with 3 cannon and 13 gunners.
For defence of Harper's Ferry only, and may not be drawn on to replace losses to the field armies.  If Harper's Ferry falls to the Confederates, this garrison will disband.
It seems to me 'Stonewall Jackson' would still have his work cut out even with his foot and guns moving at 'cavalry speed' on the map, and with a 'dummy' army.  The latter might tend to discourage detachments, but they ought to be allowed.  Even so, there can be only one 'ghost' force on the map.

This is solo playable, I think. It is the presence of Stonewall Jackson's force that is diced for - 50-50. If evens, there he is with his army.  If odd, there he is not, and it is the other 'reported' command that is the real one.  

If the CSA does make detachments, then those detachments aren't diced for.  Whatever force accompanies Stonewall Jackson himself  is the indeterminate one.  To take a possible example: Jackson leaves Ewell's Division with one cavalry regiment near Port Republic, and heads off with the rest to strike a quick blow elsewhere.  But here the solo player has to determine two plausible courses of action, and then make sensible Union responses bearing in mind either force could be the real threat. One course of action is that Jackson takes his Division off the McDowell to deal with a threat developing in that region.  The other is that he takes a quick march up the Shenandoah South Fork valley to seize or capture Front Royal and the river crossings there. That threatens to cut off Banks's column where it stands at Strasburg. Two widely divergent blows. Which is the real one?  Bear in mind that the Union commander knows also there is a Confederate presence at Port Republic.  He will also 'know' that Jackson has split his army.

Confederate cavalry Division of 4 23-figure regiments.
Mainly Airfix '7th Cavalry' figures, with a few Atlantic
The real march is determined only by enemy 'contact' with one or other of the columns, and the die rolled to reveal a real force, or 'false intelligence'.  But the Union might be allowed the option to try to refuse battle.  As Jackson's troops are the faster moving, this can not be achieved indefinitely if they decide to pursue,  Action may be delayed one day (or one campaign move) whilst the Union conducts a retreat, possibly (though not compulsorily) pursued by the Rebs.  Nor can the Union dig in if they do choose to retreat before being forced into battle.
My CSA cavalry en masse.  

If the Union refuses battle, the Reb force is not yet diced for whether it is real or rumour.  This happens only if, and after, the Army of the Valley force pursues to force a battle.  If the CSA force proves to be a 'ghost' the narrative would probably run that in the course of its headlong retreat, the Union force in question realised there was no real pursuit.

My Union cavalry Division of 6 15-figure battalions...
waiting for the flocking to dry.  Airfix '7th cavalry' figures.

All the same, a retreat even of a single campaign move might draw an exposed CSA force nearer to a friendly column that could be in a position to 'march to the guns', say.  Delaying battle for half a day might also give the Confederates less time (12 'afternoon' battle moves) to effect a decisive result.

These preliminary thoughts suggest that, though limited - there would have to be a time limit for the Union to bring this operation to a victorious conclusion - this might prove to be an interesting and challenging campaign.


  1. This is of real interest to me, I shall follow closely. So nice to see these old Airfix figures in use too.


    1. Thanks, Bob. There are one or two preliminaries to be sorted out, but it would be nice for the boys to see some action again...

  2. Hi Ion,

    Looks good we can discuss this week. I was reading the exert this week and the Union OOB did not seem balanced as I could not see any campaign last more then two battles. Cheers

  3. The campaign sounds quite interesting - the challenge would be in making it playable and fun for both sides!

    The Airfix figures look great! Always good to see part of your ACW collection.

    1. As presented I think the thing will be fairly balanced. In effect 'Jackson' has to keep the Union forces committed to the Valley for as long as possible; the Union to destroy Jackson (favourite) or at least make the valley too hot for him to remain.

  4. You could balance things by making all Confederates veteran and all Union green. This would give the Rebs the advantage in an even sided battle and also keep the Union player feeling nervous about bringing on a fight without superior numbers. Nice to see all those Airfix cavalry!

    1. You touch upon something I considered adding to the order of battle - ratings for units and commanders. But I'll probably dice for those. The system I use goes something like this:

      Union units roll 1D6:
      1,4 => 1st class unit (Crack)
      2,5 => 2nd class unit (Seasoned)
      3,6 -> 3rd class unit (Green)

      That gives equal numbers of crack, seasoned and green troops.
      The CSA rolls TWO D6s for each unit, and takes the score that gives the best quality. This will give a rough C/S/G ratio of 5/3/1. As far as the commanders are concerned, I am more inclined to rate them according to History's verdict: Jackson and Ewell '1st Class', Banks and Fremont '3rd Class', Shields '2nd Class'. The Union would have some very good Brigade commanders, such as Gordon and Kimball...

      The trick for the CSA is to engage the Union columns whilst they are separated; the Union to bring numbers to bear.

    2. I think you should eliminate the green allocation for CSA. They were all crack and seasoned by the time Gettysburg happened. Unlike the North, the South already had everyone it could throw into the battle. There wasn't a supply of green troops in the South, like the North. This should be considered during a campaign of Gettysburg.

    3. The Shenandoah Valley campaign took place more than a year prior to the Gettysburg. It is sometimes apparent that the CSA soldiery and commanders were still in the process of finding their feet at that time.

      As for Gettysburg, the 26th North Carolina Regiment was still pretty fresh (as indicated by the numbers with which it entered the battle). It might have been 'green'-ish, but they fought like veterans... as their losses in battle attest.

    4. Yeah, pretty much anyone in the South became a combat vet really quick. At the beginning, they were anxious to show the Yankees who's boss, then as the North reconciled and built up forces, the South began a downward turn. Still, Gettysburg was in 1863. This was the tipping point for the South when the North gained momentum and the South couldn't replenish it's forces. Shenandoah was a major high point for the South as it forced the Union to recall troops set to attack Richmond and it positioned the South to take Washington DC. Fresh greenies becames seasoned quickly. That wasn't the case with the Northern soldiers for the first couple of years. It's great discussing the history of this battle. Personally, I would remove the status of Green from Southern troops. But that's me.

    5. Don't forget that many of the Southern soldiers were local militias but many of their commanders were West Point Trained at the higher level yet, the local troopers were lead by town leaders. For example Col. Sanders of KFC really wasn't a Colonel. Even though he had this moniker in the 1950's, that was a carry over from the days of the Civil War. The Rebs had a big advantage, they knew how to survive in the wilderness which also made they great Guerilla fighters too. The Shenandoah campaigns certainly proved this out by the success the South had early on. By 1864, the North was in full control but it took four long years to push the Rebs out. That's saying something.

    6. It was great discussing this with you too. Always fun to do what ifs and rethink what's going on.

    7. I think much of what you say really applies to the eastern campaigns - especially in Virginia. At that, the early campaigning did reveal some shortcomings in the Confederate army as well as the Union.

      In the Western theatres, the Union troops were often as hard-bitten as the southerners. The Confederacy did pretty well in the West and Trans-Mississippi on the defensive, but of course, never really had the numbers to make their tactical successes stick. And sometimes their very enthusiasm got the better of their discipline. The Stones River battle might have been won had the boys not pressed far beyond the ridge objective on the 2nd January, to be crushed under a massed battery fire.