Saturday, January 29, 2022

A New Campaign...

A little cartoon - the Emperor in pursuit -
 just because I like the illuminations of one John Skylitzes
In the last couple of weeks, a fast-play quick game version of Portable Wargames, dreamed up by Mark Cordone, has created quite a stir among PW aficionados. The quick game concept quickly expanded into the notion of using the brevity of battle play to mount quickplay campaigns. As seen on the Facebook PORTABLE WARGAME page, Mark called his The Fall of Rome. Bob Cordery got in amongst it all with his Stalbania versus Khakistan war, and someone else has examined the concept for World War Two.
The proposed  3x3 quickplay set-up.

Briefly, the idea is to play the battle upon a 3x3 square grid, but with reserve areas extending the depth of an army's deployment. The broad idea isn't especially new, but I think the application - incorporating Portable Wargame mechanics - is. The beauty of the idea, and it seems to work, is that the game may be played on such a small area. It took less than ten minutes to hunt up a backing for an A4 pad; subdivide into a 3x3 grid, with reserve areas extending right across the board (and absent mindedly extending one of the longitudinal grid lines through it - damn); drabble some green and beige paint thereon - and there's the battlefield. The pictures convey the idea; the figures are 15mm Byzantines and Bulgars.

Book added to show just how small this 
battlefield is!

Well, of course, when the campaign idea was mooted, I bethought myself to an idea I have long had, but never really got to work on. Working title: Siege of Constantinople. Although... I am strongly tempted to rename the imperial capital after myself: Ionople. Fine appellation for a Greek capital don't you reckon? But I might settle for Byzantium - at least in the title. 

'Working' campaign map.  This may be simplified down 
to a schematic for the actual campaign.  The doodles 
are just for fun...


The sketch map gives the idea. It is the beginning of the second millenium: 1001AD. The Empire is surrounded by enemies. I began with three, but, because my Byzantine army is so much vaster than the enemies I have available, I decided on a fourth - a revolting Duke who has designs upon the Imperial throne, that his progeny might be 'born in the Purple' - porphyrogenetes. I'll say straight out here, this hastily drawn map is 'concept only' - what will probably be simplified come the day.

Bulgar - or they may be Abasgian - heavy cavalry

As usual, I have allowed the concept to run away with me a bit.  At any rate, here's the concept in more detail.
Pechenegs.  All of them. They need a war wagon.

The Empire is under pressure from northwest, north, east, and southeast. From the west, the Bulgar Empire, recently pushed back from the Euxine (Black) Sea coast, and seeking revenge. From the North, those ferocious Turkic nomads, those Patzinaks (Pechenegs) whose idea of fun is to raid, pillage and plunder. From the east, there's the small kingdom of Abkhazia - the Abasgoi, soon to become 'Georgians', fiercely independent, and hemmed in by mountains, wanting to stretch their elbows a bit. Finally we light upon Duke Yevgenes Apostas, himself chafing under Ionopolitan diktat, but having concluded that, rather than break away (with consequences he didn't dare to contemplate), that diktat ought to come from none other than himself.

Byzantine infantry

That gives us four campaign paths - four ksenikoi armies; faced by four  Byzantine: two Imperial, and two Thematic. But, just to add an amusing complication, methought: why not add the possibility that the 'enemies of Byzantium'  might (be induced to) attack each other? That is one of the reasons for my adding the Duke, actually. Between the Mediterranean and Euxine Seas, and the Caucasus Mountains, the east is cut off from the west. I wanted someone to be a possible distraction for the Geor Abasgians. Of course, such occurrences are mere diversions, but they might bale out the Empire if the going gets a bit sticky.

Kataphraktoi - the early Mediaeval tank.

Before I go, I should perhaps explain the little sketches. The Pecheneg War Wagon design I've noted down because it seems likely I'll be forced to make one. For the others, I have long been a fan of the type of illustration that added colour to the manuscripts of a certain Ioannes Scylitzes, a copy of which is known as the Madrid Scylitzes.

Varangian Guard, as seen at the Mediaeval Show
Queensland (Australia), May 2014.  Note that these dudes 
favour spears, rather than axes.

I will confess that all this is probably rather hopeful, not to say, optimistic. It may well turn out to be one of those occasional campaigns - one that can easily be taken up for a few quick games, in between other projects. We'll see.  Meanwhile, I wonder if the thing is feasible for Mediaeval 'Naval' war games...?

To be continued ... sometime...

Monday, January 24, 2022

Woodscrew Armies Campaign - Debrief

The Second Sino-Union War having concluded with a hard fought and dearly bought Union victory, I thought here that I would make some comments on the running of the campaign, the rule set used, and some of the decision-making. One thing that might be worth mentioning, though, is that had the copy of 'Trebian's' Taiping Era arrived before the campaign was fairly begun, that would have been the basis of the battles.  

Battle of Yangzigu

I think it appropriate here to paste in the comment of the originator of the Woodscrew Miniature Armies blog and its world, and some of my thoughts in reply.  My discussion of firepower, factors and numbers didn't really complete the ideas I had of running 'paper battles'.  

Tony Adams sent -

Yet another great battle report and at last, a final Union victory !!!!! This whole campaign has not gone the way I expected but that demonstrates clearly how one sided my view of the Union has been till now. There is much for me to digest before I write the next chapter of the history of Tian although I know for sure that the Union will not take comfort from this victory, it came far too close to defeat for that to happen. Thank you very much for wargaming my Imagi-Nations, I am honoured you felt them worthy. Regards.

Battle of 'Weshall Pass'.

My reply:

Hi Tony -

Did you feel a sense of relief at the final outcome? I have no doubt so did the good burghers of Denver and hinterland - even the editor of the 'Denver Discourse'! Tenth Army will return home as heroes; its commanders, especially Jackson and Bidwell, as leaders of heroes. And heroes are heroic according to the quality of their adversaries.

But this campaign narrative I wanted to take an occasional glimpse across to the 'other side of the hill'. I began quite early to see T'ai Kun Wu as tough and determined - a man of moral strength, and fiercely loyal to his master, the Emperor. Such a one was capable after three heavy defeats, and in the face of such awesome firepower, to mount a strategic offensive and come within an ace of winning the campaign, or at least 'squaring the honours'. I do not believe the campaign was quite as one-sided as it might at first reading appear. Clearly YOU didn't think so! One major defeat to Tenth Army would have ended the campaign pretty much forthwith.

You don't war game as such, but you might consider 'randomising' the battles in some way - what I call 'paper battles'. One possibility is to assign a 'firepower factor' for battalions and support weapons:
S/B muskets FP=1
M/L rifles FP=2
B/L rifles FP= 4
Magazine rifles FP=7 (say)
Machine gun units FP=6
Flying and light artillery FP=4 (S/B) or 6 (Rifled)
Heavy Artillery FP=6 (S/B) or 8 (Rifled)

A Union brigade of 6 battalions, MG company and light artillery
would have a FP factor of 6 x 7 + 7 + 6 = 55.
A Chinese Regular unit, 6 'battalions' with M/L rifles and no support weapons, would have had a FP factor of just 6 x 2 = 12. These numbers are fairly arbitrary, arrived more by quesswork than anything else.

But on this basis, then, the Union Tenth Army, less 40 Brigade, would have had an overall FP factor of 237; the Chinese Army a total FP factor of 170. Quite a difference, but the disparity in actual numbers - at least 3 to 1 - would have in fact reversed the disparity of force.

Now, these numbers are pretty arbitrary. But a little bit of Mathematics (based on Lanchester's Theory of Battles) suggests that even with such an enormous disparity in 'unit' firepower, the Tenth Army could not possibly have handled the Chinese Army all at once. Some very rough calculations indicate that Tenth Army could take on - at equal terms - a Chinese Army (per this campaign!) about double its numbers.

Well, that it had to do, at Camp Supply, and look how close that was!

Now that the Second Sino-Union fighting war is over, no doubt the diplomats will be settling the peace. Thank you for allowing me to carry on the fighting part of this campaign. Something different, and I'll be following the 'future history' of Tian with great interest.


Archduke Piccolo 

Brig. Bidwell's delaying action

The Woodscrew Campaign Battles Rule set

This was hastily cobbled together, and much simplified, from my own 'Old School' Bluebellies and Graybacks ACW game set.  I had to add in factors for magazine rifles and carbines, for breech-loading rifled artillery, and for machine guns.  Not having any Maxims, I used Gardner/ Nordenfeldt models.

1. Movement:
1.1 Artillery:

  • Flying (Horse) and Machine Guns: 9" (22.5cm)
  • Light and Heavy: 6" (15cm)
  • Manhandled (except heavy): 2" (5cm)
1.2 Cavalry:

  • Line: 6" (15cm)
  • Column of squadrons: 9" (22.5cm)
  • Route Column: 12"

1.3 Infantry:

  • Line: 4" (10cm)
  • Assault Column: 6" (15cm)
  • Route Column: 8" (20cm)
Battle of Liaoyang

2 Shooting:
2.1 Artillery:

Ranges: 0-4" ....... 4+-8" ........ 8+-12" ...... 12+-16" ... 16+-20" .... 20+-24"

              0-10cm . 10+-20cm . 20+-30cm . 30+40cm . 40+-50cm . 50+-60cm

S/Bore   DR=6..... DR=5 ........DR=3......... DR=2....... DR=2 .........N/A

Flying    DR=5.....DR=4 .........DR=3 .........DR=3....... DR=3 .........N/A
Lt Rifle  DR=5.....DR=4 .........DR=3 .........DR=3........DR=3 .........N/A
Hv Rifle DR=5.....DR=5.........DR=4 .........DR=3........DR=3 ..........DR=3

2.2 Other shooting:

Weapon.......Volley Group ...... Ranges: 0-4"(0-10cm)... 4+-8"(10+-20cm)... 8+12"(20+-30cm)
S/B musket          6 figures                     DR=4                N/A                          N/A
M/L rifle              6                                 DR=4                DR=3                       N/A
B/L rifle               4                                 DR=4                DR=3                       N/A
Magazine rifle     4                                 DR=5                DR=4                       N/A
Mag. Carbine       4                                 DR=5               DR=4 (up to 6"/15cm only)
Machine gun        1 model                      DR=5               DR=4                       DR=3
Wagons/Train      1 model                      DR=2                DR=2 (unless armed with S/B musket)

Die Range = the maximum die score that is counted.  See 4. Method.

Fractions of volley group take the appropriate fraction of hit scores within Die Range.

2.3: Halve 'hits' for targets that are fortified, or in cover.  For heavy fortifications, reduce the Die Range by one, before halving hits.
2.4: Halve 'hits' (again) for targets that are 'dispersed': skirmishers, artillery, routers.

Battle of the Turnoff Road

3. Close Combat:
Infantry:  Regulars: Volley Group = 4 figures
                Conscripts and irregulars: VG = 6
Cavalry: Regulars: VG=3
              Conscripts and irregulars: VG = 5.
Artillery, Machine Guns, Wagons: VG=1 model

Halve 'hits' when attacking fortifications or buildings.
Halve 'hits' if skirmishers or artillery in close combat.

4. Method:
1. In all small arms fire and close combat, roll 1D6 per volley group.
2. For each die rolled, all scores equal to or below the 'Die range' (DR) count towards 'hits' on a given target. Higher scores are ignored.  
3. Total up all hits on a given target.  
4. Divide this total into groups of eight plus a further group of any remainder
5. For each 'group' roll that number of dice (8, or the remainder).
6. For each group reduce duplicates to one die.
7. For each group, the number of dice remaining (i.e. each distinct score) counts as a casualty on the target.  Note that for groups of 7 or 8 'hit' dice, there will always be duplicates.
8. Remove casualties. (Yes, I am THAT 'old school'!)

Battle of 'Camp Supply'

5. Morale:
Cavalry and Infantry units are 'in hand' whilst still retaining at least 50% of the strength it had at the beginning of the battle. Once reduced to below 50%, the unit retreats in rout. This does not apply to MGs or Artillery.

Once an army has been reduced to below 50% of its original strength during the course of a battle, it must retreat, having been defeated.  If both armies become so reduced in the same turn, then both must retreat.  If, the enemy having been defeated already, an army's strength falls below 50%, this army need not retreat, but halts all advances against the enemy.

Battle of 'Camp Supply'

6. Campaign:
6.1.Battle Losses:

All battle losses are regarded as killed, wounded, missing, or otherwise no longer 'with the colours'.  At the end of a campaign battle those losses are divided into sixths:

3/6 (one half) are killed or wounded - a permanent loss to the army
1/6 (one sixth) are 'stragglers', which return to the colours post battle if the army wins the battle; or are POWs if the army loses.  They are part of the 'casualty count' only if the army lost the battle
2/6 (one third) are 'stragglers' who, for any number of reasons, left the colours during the course of a battle.  These return to the army's strength (win or lose) after the battle.

Battle of Xiaozheng Creek

6.2 Campaign outcome:
The War was to conclude when one or both armies fell below 50% of the numbers with which they began. The Union did receive reinforcements after the first few battles - roughly 40% of their original strength. This was assessed after the final adjustments of battle losses for stragglers etc. Added together, the establishments of Tenth Army, minus 40th Brigade, but reinforced by understrength 17th and 19th Brigades came to about 181 figures (slightly more than 30,000 troops altogether according to the scale I had set: 3 figures to 500 men). The Chinese army overall began with  434 figures - a little over 72,000, all up.

After the Battle of Camp Supply, the Chinese army had fallen to just below 50%; the Union almost, but not quite, reaching the same situation.  Had the Union lost, or even merely tied the battle, Tenth Army would have been forced to retreat, as indeed would the Chinese.  There was just a handful of figures in it, one way or the other. However, given the result, it seemed to me reasonable to fight one last battle, with the Union attacking, and the Chinese army, its morale shaken, unable or unwilling to mount counter-attacks other than to recover lost ground. That completed a successful campaign for the Union.

* * *
This rule set was intended to offer very fast play, even with a lot of figures on the table. No doubt it could be improved with refinements, and they did favour the Union quite a bit, but I felt that that was only to be expected, given constraints upon the equipment available to the Chinese. As it was I had to persuade Tony to allow the Chinese some cavalry, however slender the numbers, basic their training and rudimentary their weapons. 

For most of the battles, the Chinese actions and reactions were 'programmed', pretty much. 

In my response, I suggested to Tony that he might want to 'randomise' his battles slightly. I made a start, but as this posting is already sufficiently long, I'll leave it for another occasion.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Woodscrew Armies Campaign - Final Battle

In the early morning dark of the moon four days past new*, the Union columns set forth on their march to envelop the northern flank of the Chinese earthworks. The creek to the right, barely visible in the last-dawn-of-summer half-light, served to guide the columns on their way.  Tenth Cavalry Brigade  led, followed by 38th Infantry Brigade, then the 37/39th.  The 17/19th formed up in a line facing the earthworks on the hill, its machine gun detachment on the left against any possible move by the enemy to flank the Union army.

Not all the Chinese position was dug in. The large hill that formed their left flank was crowned with earthworks, occupied by two small artillery batteries, 15/16th Conscripts facing east towards the Union army position, and 5th/7th Regulars overlooking the creek, distant somewhat beyond the extreme range of their rifled muskets. The Chinese right featured a series of redoubts or redans upon smaller rises in the ground.  The gaps along the front and to the left rear were covered by wooden palisades.  These constructions offered no real cover or concealment, but were a very considerable obstacle should the Union try to force them. The Chinese right was covered by a tangle of thick woods that concealed more of the randomly scattered small hills.  One look at that feature persuaded Major-General Jackson that, if he wanted to attack, his choices were limited to a direct frontal assault, or to chance his arm with the enveloping manoeuvre.

As the brightening day revealed the Union march, they were induced to turn in towards the Chinese works rather before the flank march was fully developed. The cavalry found their own further advance faced by the enemy cavalry, who eventually pulled back to make way for a line of regular infantry.  For the time being, the cavalry waited, whilst the main attacks went in up the hill.

Not only were two whole formations - 6500 infantry plus 8 guns - packed into the giant earthwork on the hill, about as many again sat behind palisades flanking the position.  But the hill was the key, and Jackson determined to take it, concentrating the main effort - guns, machine guns and two brigades - in the assault upon that point.  The 17/19th Brigade would push against the southern end of the hill and the defenders behind the palisades.

A barrage by five gun batteries - 40 guns, 16 of them heavy - began proceedings, answered rather feebly by the Chinese cannon. Under the cover of this bombardment, directed at the northeast angle of the main fortification, the infantry of 38th and 37/39th Brigades advanced rapidly into the attack, accompanied by their machine guns.  

At least the regulars had the range to shoot back; there was nothing to poorly equipped conscript formations could do by way of reply, unless the advancing bluecoats should close enough that their smoothbore muskets might have an effect. Soon, what became known to the defenders as Xuèxīng de jiǎodù - Bloody Angle - became a charnel house, enduring shot, shell, machine gun and rifle fire. Rushing forward rather too rapidly, 38th Brigade came under telling return fire, and fell back a short distance. But their own rifle fire never ceased. Forty guns, two dozen machine guns, over 6000 magazine rifles - how could the poorly armed defenders hold, even protected as they were? Though 38th Brigade had fallen back under the weight of Chinese return rifle fire; faced only by smoothbore muskets, and the Chinese half-battery silenced, 37/39th Brigade pressed right up to the earthworks.

An aside here.  The earthworks were intended to be pretty effective, reducing at all ranges of incoming, their shooting 'Die Range' by one, and then halving any 'hits' for effect.  But even in the face of such protection, the losses among the two Chinese formations mounted at a rate far more rapid than those among the Union formations.   

As the attacks on the 'Bloody Angle' were going in, 17/19th Brigade pushed forward in an even more circumspect fashion. Though there was little to fear from a Chinese counter-attack, as the palisades were as much an obstacle to the Chinese as to the Union, the Brigade's machine guns and artillery were placed to cover their open left flank. But the Chinese army's offensive spirit had been broken at Camp Supply - they might attack to recover lost ground, but not to take enemy ground.  Not any more. As the 17/19th rifle fire added itself to the weight of the other Brigades' against the hilltop works, the artillery and machine guns began to focus upon the relatively unprotected 19th Conscript formation behind the palisade between the hill and the road.

Meanwhile, the Chinese cavalry, not daring to face the guns of their mounted enemy, fell back, in good order, a short distance to make way for 6th/7th Regular formation. For the moment, the refused flank seemed to be holding fairly comfortably, though under bombardment by the Union flying artillery. There was nothing with which the defenders could respond.

When the collapse came, it was sudden. Both half batteries silenced early - the northern, and then the southern a half-hour later - the 15/16th Conscript formation simply collapsed under the weight of concentric attack and concentric firepower. At once they were reduced to a horde of fugitives making for the open half of the earthwork.  As the 37/39th Brigade surged over the breastworks, the 5th/7th Regulars clung on as best they could, but were shortly levered out of their position. The fugitives barely made their escape the way the Conscripts had gone.

In response to this rout, T'ai Kun Wu ordered up the 1/3rd Regulars. The intervention of 4000-odd rifles - even single shot - might yet have turned the scale, but for the thousands of fleeing routers coming the other way. In the face of this human wave, the column could not advance - and there were soon more to come. The hilltop abandoned, Nineteenth Conscript formation drew the attention of the rifles of 17/19th Brigade. These conscripts would not last much longer.

On the Union side, 37/39th Brigade was first into the fort, sweeping through to the rear face.

Against that threat, the 17/18th Conscript formation, behind the hill, turned to face the oncoming bluecoats. Though they were able to bring their muskets into action, all the advantages lay with Bidwell's Brigade: numbers, firepower, protection. Thirty-eighth Brigade might have engaged the enemy formation from in front, but as that would have masked their support weapons, Colonel Zook of 223rd Battalion - Brigadier-General McKittrick having fallen with an incapacitating leg wound - ordered up the infantry to pass behind 37/39th, with the view to rolling up the Chinese line.

In a last desperate attempt to retrieve a situation rapidly getting out of hand, the 6th/7th Regular Infantry essayed a sortie (I stretched a point, here) against the Union Cavalry. Dismounting for fire action, the Union horsemen advanced to meet them. Though the blue cavalry had half the numbers of the enemy, they had vastly the greater firepower. In their private little battle, casualties were heavy on both sides. By the time the Union cavalry gave up the fight to fall back and remount, the regulars were themselves shaken and about ready to dissolve in rout. Both sides had had their firing lines halved.
The conscripts beside them were in a similar state - still fighting on, but with an air of imminent collapse. Aside: I used a very simple morale rule for these battles:  whilst a unit had at least 50% the numbers with which it began the battle, it was OK; the moment they fell below 50%, the unit was un-OK.  At this moment, both 6/7th Regulars and 17/18th Conscripts had precisely 50% of their numbers still in hand.

Meanwhile, 19th Conscripts having joined the rout of the hilltop garrison, 17/19th Brigade swung to the left to engage 11/12th Conscripts around the small redoubt to the left of the road.  The 37/39th Brigade artillery joined in to support, and the heavy artillery was also hurrying up.  

The writing was by now deeply etched into the wall, in letters large and unmistakable. T'ai Kun Wu knew it. Never especially confident in his army's ability to stem the Union tide, he had at least to try. He could not in all conscience have done otherwise. But now he ordered the retreat to be sounded, and his army at once began wearily to crawl off the battlefield. The retreat was not to stop until the army was well beyond the western edge of the Forbidden Lands.

Major-General Jackson disdained to order a close pursuit. Directing General Klamath's cavalry to follow and observe the Chinese retreat. he gave it as his view that the enemy's attempt to recover the lost lands was now spent. They would not be back this year, what was left of it, nor for several next years. But there was no disguising the fact that the Chinese emperor - any and all future emperors - would never relinquish their claim to those lands.  

Losses to the Union were comparatively light for an assault against superior numbers in a fortified position - just 1000 all told, though Brigadier-General McKittrick would be out of action for several weeks with a fractured tibia. 

Although they were not as great as that of Camp Supply, T'ai Kun Wu was if anything even more appalled at the numbers lost in this last battle. Seven thousand dead, wounded and missing, once the stragglers had been gathered in. Such was the effectiveness of great firepower against earthworks without a similar firepower to defend them.

As his army struggled westward, dragging off its wounded, T'ai Kun Wu sent another delegation into the Union camp.

'This campaign is finished,' the delegation's head frankly admitted, 'but we should wish for a settlement in respect of the prisoners you now hold.'

The Major-General offered no demur. On condition of the total withdrawal of the Chinese army from the Forbidden Zone, he undertook to send the whole pity of POWs, under escort, within the month. He also permitted the Chinese to inter their dead upon the field of battle with such rites as the Chinese preferred, and to care for wounded POWs unable yet to travel. He had no doubt that even were the Chinese inclined to break faith - not that he expected any such thing from a foe of T'ai Kun Wu's quality - that broken army was never going to stop until it reached its railhead. Wearied from two month's hard campaigning, Tenth Army itself would be needing a lengthy rest, recovery and recruitment...

The War was over.   

* Though Tian is a fictitious world, I decided to look this up.  A new moon fell upon 27 August 1889.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Woodscrew Armies Campaign - Yellow Journalism and Purple Prose


News Flash!!!
War with China Ends!


Uncertain future for the Forbidden Zone

September 6, 1889

Readers will no doubt have been as closely interested as we in events not so distant from this town, west of the border.  The Chinese attempt to recover the lands forfeited in the Campaign of twenty years ago has at last been thwarted and defeated.  Two months' campaigning, over half a dozen combats and battles, vast treasure and resources expended, have all led to this much sought-after outcome.

Having run to earth the Chinese invaders, Tenth Army drove the enemy out of his entrenchments, whereat the whole force was disappearing in rout and confusion along the road west. So complete the victory, withal, that the Major-General officer Commanding Tenth Army disdained even to pursue. But this omission may yet come to haunt us.

The campaign's outcome might so easily have been altogether different. The task of confronting the vast Chinese army that sought to reoccupy the former Imperial lands, was placed in the hands of an Army already weakened by the detachment of a whole brigade. The ultimate trust was placed in the hands of a commander whose reliability is such that, were there any unanswered question about it, would be aptly described as 'questionable'.

That Major-General Jackson's frenetic bumbling - four battles within the first week of contact, forsooth! - did not bring his army altogether to ruin can only be called miraculous.  At that, after that week, the Department of Defence had to call upon two weak brigades of Fifth Army to supply the losses of the Tenth. Those brigades, 17th and 19th, themselves badly short of establishment in personnel, were in the event to be decimated in a single battle, and one of its commanders killed in action.

The Battle of the Camp Supply - deliberately brought on by General Jackson, mark you - might then and then and there have terminated the whole war in China's favour. Where then would we have been? The Forbidden Lands reoccupied, repopulated, and brought into production. The Chinese Imperium once more upon our borders, and a continual threat to our very existence. To such a hazard did the General place his army and his country.

Still and all, it would be churlish carping not to congratulate Tenth Army, its officers and men, and indeed its commander, for a task satisfactorily completed. That it might have been the more complete had the routed been pursued into complete destruction we are informed was due in part to the exhausted - or near-exhausted - state of the Tenth Army.  

By such slender margins was this late war won - barely won, but won nonetheless. We'll take the victory.

* * * 

So close! So close! In the midst of the ragged remnants of his army trudging the couple of hundred miles westward to reach the present Imperial frontier, T'ai Kun Wu measured the tale of failure. Could he face his Emperor with such a sorry story to tell? Was it indeed so sorry?

On the whole, he was inclined to think the expedition not a complete failure even if it did fall short of its stated objectives. A good many questions had been answered, concerning Union readiness, and especially in terms of the Union Army's technical superiority. If the captured weapons he had sent on arrived safely at the capital, and he was given the opportunity to demonstrate the ascent in firepower the Union had achieved in recent decades, there might be some way to supply China's own armies with weapons that could compete in battle. Perhaps some such demonstration would keep the T'ai Kun's head secure upon his shoulders.

One of the reasons for not arming his own troops with these captured weapons, he would explain, was the want of ammunition in sufficient quantities.  A few dozen bandoliers and cartouche boxes had been gathered up, and he needed what they contained for demonstration and training purposes. Even then the supply was none too abundant. How he wished, too, that he might have taken a working machine gun! The couple of broken examples he had taken were unlikely to be of much benefit to China's military construction industry...

Phlegmatic and stoic as always, T'ai Kun Wu determined that he would see out the unpleasantnesses of the next few weeks with as much fortitude as he could muster. He dismissed with hardly a second thought the notion of cheating fate by ending his life during the retreat. One way or another, even by personal sacrifice, he might still be of service to his Emperor...

* * *


The Sino-Union War Won: Job Done!

Final Battle ends China's Aggression!!

September 6, 1889

The Denver Daily Post offers, in behalf of its subscribers and readers, our wholehearted and unreserved congratulations upon the brilliant campaign that has brought a swift and decisive end to the war to the west. So might end all such acquisitive aggression by the frantic autocrat and dastardly despot.

In the space of less than two months, Tenth Army, under the able command of the redoubtable Major-General Thos. J. Jackson Jr, has compassed the reconquest of the Forbidden Lands, and driven in complete rout the vast army the Emperor of China set in motion to reclaim them.  The outcome of this war has shown Tenth Army to be to the Union as Julius Caesar's X Legion was to Rome: a veteran elite.  The Army's brilliant commander was ably seconded by a luminous constellation of One-Star generals, foremost of whom, Brig-Genl. Isaac Bidwell, we are confident is likely soon to receive his second star. Thirty-ninth Brigade may be deemed unlucky to have lost no fewer than three commanding officers in the course of the fighting.

It is true that the success of our arms has been bought at a very high cost. Whatever the damage inflicted upon the enemy, the latest battle reduced the army - already much diminished - by a further 1000 men. Taken overall, barely half the fighting men that crossed our Western border in July are like to return in the coming weeks. After such hard campaigning, the survivors will amply have earned their repose, as they have our congratulations and gratitude.


~~~~Titfer & Frump~~~~

 (616 Shawcross St, Denver)

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From $0.75 to $7 each
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To be concluded...

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Woodscrew Armies Campaign - The Final Faze

Two days out from Tenth Army's projected march from camp supply to seek out the enemy, the heavens opened.  For four days the rain bulleted down, driven by the icy wind from the distant mountains, turning Camp Supply into a quaking quagmire. Four days the storm lasted; four days of thunder, lightning, sheets of rain and hurricane winds; four days in which, shivering in their bivouacs, tents and wagons, Tenth Army was going nowhere.  The poor Chinese prisoners found their own hastily constructed accommodations hardly proof against the extremes of weather.  It was fortunate they had completed the grisly post-battle tasks they had been assigned; and that General Jackson had ordered up from the border an extra medical supply.  It was due to his care and foresight that sickness did not sweep through the camp and immobilize his army indefinitely. 

The poor Cavalry, keeping watch and ward over the roads north and the Chinese camp west of Weshall Pass, hunkered down near and within the abandoned settlement at Weshall Pass itself, and waited out the raving storm.  There was certainly no chance that the Chinese army would disturb their shelter.

All the same, it was almost a week behind schedule that Tenth Army finally broke camp and began its march north.

Strategic map, evening August 30

Here was how Tenth Army was reconstituted:

  • 17th/19th  Brigade (Brig-Genl Josh. Chamberlain, 22 infantry, 2 gun crew, 2 MG crew
  • 37th/39th Brigade (Brig-Genl Isaac Bidwell), 22 infantry, 2 gun crew, 2 MG crew
  • 38th Brigade (Brig-Genl Lemar L. McKittrick), 18 infantry, 2 gun crew, 2 MG crew
  • 10th Cavalry Brigade (Brig-Genl Remington Klamath), 13 troopers, 1 gun crew
  • 110th Heavy Artillery, 4 gun crew
  • 210 Pioneer Battalion, 4 pioneers 
Totals: 96 figures, 6 model guns, 3 machine guns (16,000 men, 48 artillery, 24 machine guns)

For his part, the Chinese Commander T'ai Kun Wu had worse problems.  His camp at least was reasonably well established and accommodations more or less weatherproofed with materials hacked and gathered  from a nearby forest, before the storm began.  But his army in such a sorry state, he had it all to do to reorganise and buck up the survivors of the campaign so far.
T'ai Kun Wu

Among other things, he had to organise a small train to carry away the hundred or so magazine rifles gleaned from the battlefields of Midla Nowhere and Camp Supply.  After some consideration, he opted for a single regular formation - the 6th/7th  (17 figures/ 2,833 men) - to escort the important cargo.  Planning to lead this train himself, and leaving the sole surviving column commander to hold the present ground and delay the Union Army, he could not hide from himself the unreliability Army and leader both.  Reluctantly, and because the Emperor's trust in him was not misplaced, T'ai Kun decided to entrust the train to Hung T'u Sun. That little convoy set off a few days after the Chinese Armies had converged - about a week after the late battle.

Departing in the middle of the night, they escaped the vigilance of 'Reb' Klamath's cavalry, and got  clear away, not stopping until dusk the following day.

The reconstituted army that remained with T'ai Kun Wu comprised:

North-East Column (Li Kuan Yu):

  • 5th/7th Regular Formation, 18 figures
  • 15th/16th Conscript, 23 figures
  • 17th/18th Conscript, 22 figures
  • 19th Conscript, 19 figures
  • 1st/2nd Cavalry, 17 figures
  • 2nd artillery, 2 crew (2 smoothbore cannon, 1 crewman each)
Totals: 101 figures, 2 cannon (16,833 men, 8 artillery)

South-West Column (Li Xiucheng):

  • 1st/3rd Regular Formation, 27 figures
  • 8th/9th Light Infantry, 11 figures
  • 11th/12th Conscript, 26 figures
  • 20th/21st Conscript, 13 figures
  • 22nd/21st Conscript, 13 figures
Totals: 90 figures (15,000 infantry)

Army total:
191 figures, 2 guns ( 31,833 men, 8 cannon)

By the time General Jackson felt Tenth Army capable of marching, at daybreak, August 27, Hung T'u Sun's convoy was - despite the delays occasioned by the weather - more than three half-hundreds of  miles along its journey, and not far from departing the Forbidden Lands altogether. The three days it took to bring Tenth Army finally into contact with the Chinese, a further thirty miles had been added; thirty miles closer to the eastern railhead.  

And there, on August 31, Tenth Army found its further advance halted. The Chinese Army was fortified to the eyes behind formidable earthworks built around a series of hills: and flanked on one side by forest and, apart from an interval of open ground, on the other by a marshy loop of a creek.  Not all of the Chinese line was dug in.  Some of it was covered by palisade obstacles that flanked hilltop redoubts.  But, and this T'ai Kun could not help, Tenth Army quickly established that the Chinese were woefully deficient in artillery - just eight guns, all of them smoothbores.   

Throughout the 31st, Major-General T. J. Jackson surveyed the Chinese position...

 At about mid-afternoon a delegation emerged from the palisades flanking the road, holding aloft a flag of truce.  Having them guided past several of the rifled, breechloading guns, and several machine guns, the Major-General cordially invited the little group to a small mid-afternoon repast, with coffee or tea, according to preference.  His depreciation of the board disguised the quick-fire instructions he had issued of laying on the best that short notice and the limitations of an army in the field might allow.  Much came from his personal stock of supplies, especially some of the better quality Hendricks & Co's Army Biscuit.  He had a shrewd idea that even these eminent individuals would have been on short commons this last week or two...

Apart from his usual soft-spoken courtesy, the General waited patiently for the delegation to state the purpose of their visit.  After several minutes hedging around the topic and meaningless urbanities, the leader of the delegation finally came to the point.

"We have received this morning a missive from the Emperor. It stated that Imperial and Union officials have begun meeting. We thought it likely that you have not yet received notice of this meeting. They propose an armistice whilst the important matters concerning this territory are being negotiated.  That armistice to take effect between our respective armies upon our return to our fortified camp."

For a few moments the Major-General favoured the group opposite with his customary blue stare as he mentally rehearsed his reply. 

"Such would be welcome news indeed, " he said at last. "But you will appreciate, gentlemen, that this Army has received no such communication. I am afraid, sirs, that until I do, I am bound to act as though no such message has arrived, or is likely to arrive. My superiors would expect me to respond in no other manner."  He paused.

"I have the power to accept your capitulation, however," he continued. "If you agree to raise a flag of surrender and to lay down your arms, we can cease hostilities forthwith. Under the terms of the armistice I propose, you and your Army will be at liberty then to march from this territory back to your own lands.  Otherwise, I propose to move upon your works come daybreak tomorrow."

"We are, of course, not empowered to surrender the army,' quoth the delegation's leader.  The T'ai Kun's bluff called, he was unwilling to try the patience of the general opposite by insisting upon the veracity of the imaginary summit meeting that brought him hither. "We shall, naturally, convey your proposal to his Excellency the T'ai Kun, but, you will understand that I would not be exceeding my instructions to advise you that he will not capitulate without a fight, or even whilst he has the freedom to march."

The Major-General nodded, "His Excellency has proved himself a formidable adversary. I would have expected nothing different from His Excellency." He raised his coffee cup in a toast, "To the morrow, gentlemen!" he said.

The delegation, guided back outside the Union camp, finally disappeared within the Chinese lines.  The Major-General turned to his Brigade Commanders.

"We attack tomorrow, sirs.  We have just this afternoon and evening to prepare.  Here are your orders..."