Monday, May 13, 2013

Break Out!

The captains of the CSS Albermarle and CSS Manassas called to each other with speaking trumpets as their ships maneuvered perilously close together.  "If'n we don't break through the Yankee cordon we'll end up burning 'em at their moorings."  It required no audible response to see that the two agreed on the inevitable result of the Yankee advance.  Already the Manassas had miraculously survived the fight at New Orleans in '62 and now, a tired old ironclad ram she faced final destruction in the company of the new cornfield-built Albemarle.  (New ships to the collection so they had to be blooded.)

Upriver the Yankee flotilla waited. The flag was in the USS Essex, a casement ironclad veteran of many combats, accompanied by the USS Cairo a "Pook Turtle." An Ellet Ram, the USS Mingo trailed the Cairo. Unarmed except for a huge ram she represented in many ways the biggest threat to the Rebel warships given her speed and ram. One of the 90-Day Gunboats trailed the Essex.

The scene as the Rebel ships looked down the river.  Open water is off camera to the right.  The plan was to get the Yankees to commit then steer right around the double level island.  Only problem was all the Yankee ships were faster than the Confederate.  First hit of the game went to the Albemarle's forward 6.4" Brooke Rifle.

The Yankee return fire, though plentiful was less than effective.

As the Reb ships started their turn the Yankees vigorously followed.  Meanwhile the Ellet Ram lurked in the waters ahead.

Yankee fire remained largely ineffective as all ships focused on the Albemarle.  And why not?  With only one gun and that forward firing, the Manassas was no threat.  Still, the Albemarle's gunners were hot and did major damage to the stacks of the Cairo, slowing her hugely.

As we made the turn the Yankee fire became more effective.  Although quickly having the fight move away from her the Cairo put hits on both ships and the Essex was steadily closing to where her smoothbore cannons would be effective.

Eager to enter the fight the 90-Day gunboat misjudged her turn and grounded off shore.  Better than running fully onto the shore, she could at least pull off in time.  Meanwhile, the Essex struck the Albemarle a glancing blow which did no damage.  The Mingo and Albemarle then went head to head with the Mingo springing a leak while the Albemarle carried on.  The Manassas then got to ram the Essex while firing her 68 pounder point blank, but again the ram was ineffective and she just slide down the side.

The Essex now lost her stacks and was reduced to one knot of speed, just like the Cairo.  If the Rebs could get past it was clear sailing to new waters!
Alas, with the speed lost in the glancing ram attempt and her natural slowness the Manassas took too long to clear the Essex.  The latter's 42 pounds pounded the port side of the Manassas till her armor was breached and a fire broke out.  One which escalated as damage control failed.  Small consolation was the Gunboat over-taxing her engines and blasting her steam skyward.

As a parting blow the Manassas rammed the Mingo and opened up the flood waters.  Unfortunately the Manassas was now a raging inferno and only the river waters could put out the fires.  As the crew desperately tried to staunch the flow of water into the hull of the Mingo his captain took the only only course available and ran her aground.  As smoke and steam marked the final rest of the Manassas the Albemarle decided against being a hero and steamed off, no doubt to find her fate another time.

So in the end the Albemarle escaped and the Manassas was lost.  Considering she was actually lost in '62 maybe not such a bad result.  The Mingo might not be reconstructed given the level of damage, while the Cairo and Essex would be out of action for some time, each reduced to one knot of speed.  The captain of the gunboat could look forward to endless teasing from his fellow captains.

Rules are "Steam and Black Powder" by Neil Stokes, published by the St. Paul Irregulars.  Playing time was a bit over two hours with part of that spent explaining game nuances to the player new to the rules.



  1. Captain Prochniak and I agreed this one goes on the "play again" list. So don't be surprised if I suggest we pull out your Bo-ats again in the future. :)

    I am still explaining to him though that he DIDN'T sink me. :P

    That honor goes to Capt. Bob.

  2. I'm just shutting down for the night and found the ACW naval AAR. Thank you. Naval games are appealing to me and this one was good-looking and interesting. Well done.