Saturday, February 8, 2014

Steam and Black Powder

Another boring day on the blockading station.  Seemed like little ever happened outside Charleston unless you got very lucky and snagged a blockade runner.  Day after day drifted by till it seemed the ennui was all consuming.  Still, it was better than marching 'cross some blood soaked field in Virginia.

"Smoke comin' outta Charleston, Sir.  Looks ta be several plumes."  Egad, could the rebels be coming out, in daylight?  "Mr. Ambrosious, call the men to quarters and signal the others that action is imminent."

Aboard the New Ironsides, Hartford and Mississippi scores of men leaped to action.  Stowing fire hazards and preparing their ships for war.  The only monitor, the powerful Onandoga, took in the shade canopies and likewise readied herself.  Aboard the double-ended sidewheeler Paul John and the 90-day gunboat Itasca there was less work to be done, and a greater sense of fatalism.  For the Rebs were coming out.


The Confederate forces was comprised of an unlikely trio of casement ironclads.  The CSS Charleston, Fredericksburg and Richmond; all newly completed.  Accompanying them were three wooden "cottonclad" sidewheel steamers of dubious value in the coming fight.  Only one had a proper ram.  Besides their rams and formidable cannons, the Richmond sported a spar torpedo.

The small wooden ships began to suffer immediately.  In attempts to avoid possible ramming attacks, and ineffectually making their own attacks, a nasty traffic jam developed that saw an emergency stop and reverse attempt from the Paul Jones.  Which her engines fortunately survived.

Suddenly, red rockets surged up from the deck of the Richmond.  Not weapons, these were usually signal items.  But signalling what?  The answer was quick to come, when the ocean-going raider CSS Florida came over the horizon.  Apparently they were expecting her as she lurked just over the horizon.

The biggest rebel opportunity came when the Richmond came surging up from astern on the New Ironsides.  But alas, their hopes were dashed when the torpedo broke off and sank, and ram was of limited success and mostly glanced off.  The resulting broadsides from the large Union ships was deafening and successful from a "chip away" point of view.

As most of the ships meleed north of the island, the Florida swung south, looking to get under the protection of the Reb shore batteries, but all the while dogged by a persistent USS Itasca.

In the end a barely damaged Florida made it to safety.  The Charleston was badly damaged and burned from internal fires, but she and the other two ironclads also retired to home.  Not so the three steamers, who all made the mistake of wandering in front of the broadsides of the big Yankee ships.  similarly the Paul Jones and Itasca were lost.  Since the scenario, known only to me and the Reb commander, saw the success of the Florida getting in, I judged it a marginal Reb victory.  Had they not lost all three steamers it would have been greater.

This was our first test of using the wooden castles and big firepower of the large Yankee ships.  The balance of vulnerability vs. firepower seemed to work fine.  The Hartford was badly damaged on her starboard side.  Only the generous distribution of hits kept her from multiple critical hit rolls.  The lumbering scow that is the New Ironsides was in decent shape while the Mississippi had enough damage to limit her aggressiveness.  Ramming was unusually ineffective this engagement, but that is why we use dice.

A most amusing and enjoyable battle for this writer.  The spirit and banter was high with many highly amusing comments made about tabletop situations, which good taste prevents me from repeating.  :-)


  1. Excellent narrative. thanks. Looks like fun:)

  2. Excellent! I really enjoy these beautiful ships...very nice pictures and report!

  3. Thank you Michael,
    Any comments re the rules? Too broad a question so how about what did you like about them? Just a couple....

  4. Sure Bill. As I've indicated b efore I'm attracted to them due to the fact that you get results, unlike other possibly more accurate games like the Yaquinto classic. Ramming, torpedoes and the like are incorporated but most will give limited or no result, per history. The firing system is pretty straight-forward. There are a lot of modifiers but after a couple of turns you know which ones to use and which to ignore. Players pick it up fast. The ships lists give you a lot of options and the gun listing covers everything I've heard of and then some. I've played a lot of ironclad rules but this one IMHO gives the best game and simulation.

  5. That sounds good. A pure Ironclad vs. ironclad simulation needs more than bang bang and sail on - never sinking, etc. The one we used years ago was like that and therefore not a good game. Thankee, Bill