The fourth battle in our on-going Longstreet Grand Campaign saw the Confederates attacking to capture a crossroads, somewhere near Chancellorsville. The first campaign battle of 1863, both our brigades have now developed their own character and interesting features, like a unit with sharpshooters or a hero attached, some are now hardened (or weary) veterans, others are fresh new recruits. I have many Yankee guns, whilst the Rebs seem to have had no new extra cannons for ages, so have just 2 one gun batteries. But they have 3 cavalry units, including a big unit of eager veterans (the best troops in the game), whilst my cavalry has dwindled to nothing in previous battles and now been replaced by a newly recruited unit. This is all driven by the rather brilliant Longstreet campaign system, which is where a very good game system really comes to life and turns this into one of the best wargames I have ever played... truly excellent gaming with just about everything you could ask from a wargame. It is also driving along my collecting and painting schedule for ACW, as the campaign demands new forces, I get them and paint them up. Mostly this has been extra cannons, as the basic blue infantry get constantly recycled... all very cleverly done.
Anyhow, plaudits for Longstreet complete (Sam Mustafa’s cheque is in the post I’m sure)... to battle!
My boys would be holding Cherry Trees crossroads against a Reb assault, which turned out to be cavalry-led (unsurprising given that is my opponent’s brigade’s strength) on my right flanks (thus avoiding a horrorific crossfire from my cannon batteries covering the objective and giving him the most open flat ground to cross). Some small units and his guns would demonstrate on his left, to try to hold my units in place as he smashed his way through my right, over the small hillock (bristling with my cannons) and to the crossroads.
It was close battle, the weight of the attack looked unstoppable and his cavalry and fast marching infantry columns covered the open ground too quickly for my liking, as I sent my cavalry (deployed as a rapid, mobile reserve) to get out there quick and sent an extra infantry regiment to re-deploy quickly (which didn’t happen as they ran into a marsh and got stuck for several turns with me lacking cards to get them moving in difficult ground).
Meanwhile, my guns crashed (pretty ineffectively) and my small veteran infantry units deployed to meet the overwhelming attack. I played any card I could to slow the Rebs down, with confusion, delays and questioned orders all causing the Rebs problems and preventing a smooth advance. My cavalry got into place and I was tempted to charge first, but didn’t, seeing the weight of his infantry regiments and cavalry just aren’t very effective at the frontal charge against infantry, in fact using cavalry as shock troops is a poor tactic in the game, as it was in the war (nice historic touches prevail in the rules). Their job was to harry and threaten, and not get killed quickly. The longer they did this, the more cannon fire I could pour down from the high ground (also not great for my parrot rifles, which prefer flat ground) .
Also, seeing the weakness of his centre I decided not to sit back and wait, but to counter. The under-employed 17th Ohio recruits were sent to advance, around the woods and threaten his attacking units from the flank. It was a bold move, and my opponent thought it was mistake (he later revealed), that would see that regiment easily destroyed, but it meant the Rebs attack couldn’t have it all its own way, he had to deal with the Ohio boys, spend cards and actions and they were enough of a threat to cause the desired distracting effect. Yes, they took heavy losses and were almost surrounded, but the major distraction was well worth the sacrifice.
The rather distrubed Reb attack final struck, but by then his units had taken losses. My cavalry held firm, and the Irish Rifles pour in the volleys, before finally being charged and falling back up the hill. But the Reb casualties were mounting, and they were now a short range for a whiff of grapeshot. The thundering guns inflicted more damage and the Rebs shatter point (the point at which they have to fallback) was approaching. A last desperate counter-charge by my cavalry and the last of the blood-soaked 17th Ohio inflict the few losses I needed. The Rebs broke... phew, a win to the Union and now the campaign is 2-2 after 4.
Here are some snaps of the battle as it progressed... another great afternoons gaming. Longstreet rocks!