Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bloody Valley, 1863

Sunday June 12th a mixed group gathered to play Johnny Reb III in my basement.  One very experienced (me), two regulars, two who had played once, and a total newbie to the rules.  Playing on a 9x6' table a road ran the long diagonal with hills built up on each side to give the sense of a valley.  Tree areas represented woods, rail fences offered some cover, the stream was normally easily passable with a movement deduction, but players were warned that recent rains might have made the banks unstable, and fields were broken ground.
Each side started with two infantry brigades on table and the others due to arrive turn 3 (known only to me) either center of the long edge or short edge.  The need to send couriers or move leader figures into contact to communicate.  This was to have lasting and entertaining results.  The total forces involved were; for the Rebs Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's division in Polk's corps along with Anderson's brigade from Wither's division, and five regiments of cavalry under Joe Wheeler.  The Yankees deployed 6 brigades of 2nd and 3rd divisions from XIV Corps under General Thomas.  The Yankees had a minuscule edge in manpower and an edge in artillery.  It remained to be seen whether the cavalry would have any effect.

Rebs advance in line from left to right.

Yankees race to the center to pin the Rebs in place.

The dice decided that the Reb brigade of Wither's division and the cavalry arrived on the left of the troops pictured above on the short side of the table.  The other brigades of Cheatham's division arrived center on the long side.  Similarly the Yankees got two brigades on opposite sides to the new Rebs.  As fate would have it no one would be swamped or unopposed.

New Rebs on the right.

Reb cavalry on the left.
As the "armies" drew together two things were apparent; unbridled aggression in the form of rapidly closing and some charges in the center and right, and forces forgotten on the Yankee right and Reb left.  While both commanders in the latter sought orders from higher ups, the other began ripping at each others throats.

Having shaken out from column to line the Yankees await.
The Rebs won't keep them waiting long as the on table and newcomers link up.

On the Reb right/Yankee left the line up as well.  Note the courier notes flying!
Meanwhile, the other troops saw each side occupy their immediate high ground and the Rebs dismount a regiment to have it explore the woods.  Couriers were kept busy.

A "green" brigade deploys on the hill while regulars deploy lower.
Forming up ahead on the left, with the cavalry held back.
Armed recon to establish where the enemy is deployed.

A serious scrum developed in the center with each side gaining and losing ground.  On the left orders finally came through although it wasn't real clear what was wanted, so I chose to liberally interpret them and while obeying the letter of it, did it my way.

A successful charge on the right with reserves ready.

On the right the infantry advances off the hill while cavalry deploys.

On the Reb right some have been driven off but others still attack the elite Yankee brigade.
On the Reb left/Yankee right the green troops surprised the Reb with a charge which pushed back one Reb unit but was stalled.  In the center the Rebs began to close the noose and were making it hard on the Yankees.  On the Reb right/Yankee left honors were even as each side had driven off enemy forces, gotten lucky, gotten unlucky when suddenly the Rebs broke through.

The green troops after their charge.

Formations are a little close, but they are coming as a second wave against the Yankee center.

Success!  The troops involved had a mutual charge against each
other.  Note the routed figures.

What had been a very tight and tense battle suddenly unraveled for the Union forces.  Little happened on the Reb left/Yankee right but in the center and elsewhere the Yankees were largely broken with little chance of rallying.
Any chances on the Yankee right were compromised by flanking fire.

While a bit thin (more Rebs off camera to the left) the Yankees are falling back in ruin
and chaos.  The totally ineffective all game Reb artillery look on helplessly.
Although the Rebs had a 1/3 chance of any brigade being elite all the infantry were regular, which is fairly appropriate for the West.  The cavalry was elite but contibuted nothing to the battle.  Also fairly appropriate given the limiting terrain.  The Yankees had one elite and one green brigade in the end.

I think all participants were satisfied with the game and result, except perhaps the Union commander on their right who cried out for orders all game.  The scenario seemed to give a game that satisfied both the experienced and new players.  Hopefully so.

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