Thursday, June 27, 2013

Battle of Dansville Ridge 1863

As the Union forces begin to move south in our late 1863 the "Battling Bishop" Polk must give battle once more against his nemesis George "Rock of Chickamagua" Thomas.  Polk has picked a good position to defend.  A high ridge line dominates the battlefield and he has dug in there with a series of hasty works.  On his right a chest deep stream will delay and disorder the enemy.  Only on his left is the ground less defensible so a significant portion of his troops are placed there.

The quiet before the storm of battle

General Thomas finds himself with a brigade of cavalry and a division forward and the other two divisions under his command trailing behind.  Giving short and vague orders, the battle develops that the lead division will pin the entrenched Rebs while the cavalry probes the Reb right (Union left) and the main body attacks to the right of the ridge.

It is always dangerous to assume that the enemy must sit on the defensive and so it was when a heavily support brigade of Rebs came screaming down the heights and quickly put to rout or destroyed in melee the better part of a Yankee brigade. 

On the Union right the attack was slow to develop because of the necessity of crossing many fields and fences.  However, unexpectedly the Rebs aided the attack by moving out to meet the Union forces.  Total numbers were 29 regiments and six batteries for the Rebs, with 36 regiments of infantry and 4 of cavalry with 9 batteries for the Yankees.

A spirited counter-attack on the Union left stabilized the front and sent the Reb packing back up the ridge.  Had things been a bit kinder for the Rebs they might have seriously compromised the Union position and ability to attack but fate (dice) intervened.

On the Union right the superior numbers of Yankees quickly made the Reb position difficult, but the local commander persevered with his attack, even though the Yankees were working onto his flank.  Both sides chose to largely group their guns in one position and engage in long range fire. 

Grand view of the table

The battle quickly came to an end as a charge by the 11th Michigan and 19th Illinois against the weakened Rebs to their front quickly broke through.  Had the roll of the dice been better the whole of the Reb left might have been rolled up but as it was, it was immediately apparent that Polk, with his left in chaos and his right being moved on by the Union cavalry that he must break off the engagement.  With the damage to the lead Union division and the tangling terrain still slowing the Union forces that he would be able to break off an affair with comparatively light casualties.  After the disasters in previous engagements the Union cavalry was not anxious to follow closely.  time to fall back to a new position and look for an opportunity to strike at an isolated Union division or two.

Charge results

Ending charge position

Discouraging view from the Rebel lines

This was a warm-up game for our group in anticipation of the mega-game of Gettysburg to be held on the weekend.  Rules used are Johnny Reb III with a couple of optional rules.  Watch for game reports on that 14 player extravaganza.

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