Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stonewall in the Valley 7 - The pursuit continues (and other events)

Two regiments of Donnelly's Brigade deploy with a Battery
 to delay the Confederate pursuit.

Though the gallant stand of 1st Michigan Cavalry were holding up the Rebel horse, the pressure upon the retreating infantry was such as to compel Brigadier-General Donnelly to form a line.  Fifth Connecticut and 1st Maryland drew up astride the road, with a battery on the northern flank.  At once, the leading elements of Trimble's Brigade deployed to engage.  The first clash did not go well for 15th Alabama. Taking 10% losses in a mere half-hour, the regiment lost all cohesion, broke and fled.  At least a couple of hours (four game turns) were to pass before 15th Alabama was brought back under control.

(15th Alabama lost 3 figures in the exchange and had to take a morale roll.  It was a 'one' - a truly miserable result.  I use a matrix of stance (advancing, standing, retiring) and result of the roll (pass, fail by 1, fail by more) to determine the unit's reaction.  On this occasion it was incontinently to run. This does not necessary take to unit off the battlefield.  It may yet be halted, rallied, reformed and rejoin the fight.)

5th Conn has been chased off, but 1st Md, having seen
off one CSA regiment (15th Ala) still manfully
holds its ground

So far, Banks's troops had done well, routing one infantry and half a cavalry regiment.  But as the two remaining regiments of Trimble's Brigade swung of to the right to envelop the Union line, General Taylor's Louisianans took up the direct pursuit up the road.  Fifth Connecticut was served out as the Alabamians had been, and soon followed the general exodus from the field.  For a space 1st Maryland stood alone.

(I made a bit of a mistake, here, as there was nothing to stop, and much to recommend, the Marylanders retiring a short distance to deliver fire from a rearward position - the 'move then fire' option.  I do penalise such a move, but it is not great - the depth of the formation only.  In effect, that reduces the line's move-and-fire allowance to 3" (75mm), but every little counts.  The main downside is that if a morale/reaction roll is called for, a failure will be an automatic rout, as the unit will count as retiring, even though it has halted to deliver fire.)

As Trimble's Brigade swings around to the right, Taylor's
Louisianans take up the direct chase. 
Once the first line began to give way, the rest soon followed, whereat the chase brought the last of Donnelly's Brigade, 28th New York, into the action whilst their comrades streamed off.  General Banks also thought it wise to detach 27th Indiana from Gordon's brigade and deploy it on the north side of the road opposite the roadside tavern of one Mr Macintee.  
Ashby's cavalry rallying, but 15th Alabama Infantry
is still milling about in confusion/
By this time, the Rebel cavalry had reorganised.  Munford's 2nd Virginia had reformed and, along with Chew's battery, were riding hard around the Union southern flank.  Ashby has brought back the intact half of his 7th Virginia and rallied the broken half.  But they were ordered to remain in place for the time being.  Fifteenth Alabama, however, were proving difficult to bring under control.  The morning was well advanced by the time the men were brought sufficiently in hand to follow orders.
Munford's cavalry, reconstituted into a single body
Takes up the pursuit on the left.  Chew's flying
artillery engages Union counterparts on the ridge.

1st Maryland  breaks and runs.  28th N. Y.  forms a brief backstop
in front of the tavern to cover their fellow Ohioans' retreat
and the deployment of 27th Indiana close by the tavern itself.

CSA pressing hard...
At about mid-morning Major-General Jackson heard the distant rumbling of  gunfire from down the road behind him.  Clearly, the rearguard he had left - Winder's 'Stonewall' Brigade and a couple of batteries - had encountered something hostile coming up the road - probably from Front Royal. But what?  Sure enough, a few minutes later, a courier from General Winder found Jackson beside the road.
28th NY facing heavy odds - and feeling it!
General Winder had indeed been engaged by enemy troops advancing from the east.  They did not appear, in Winder's opinion, to be in great strength, though all arms were present  (In fact it was Col Knipe's detachment of Banks's Division, comprising 2 infantry regiments, a cavalry battalion and a battery) .  He would attack to clear the road or to develop the enemy strength.  Jackson was inclined to approve this action.  What about the present engagement?  Unwilling to break off the pursuit just yet, he allowed himself another hour and a half to continue the pursuit, after which he would retrace his steps to rejoin Winder.  The hour that would require, would reunite the Army of the Valley a good half-hour before noon.  If he sent Ashby's horse, and (if they were available by then - at this precise moment they were still, frustratingly, milling about) 15th Alabama on ahead, they could be up with Winder within the hour.
Danger to the Union left.  Munford's Cavalry threaten to cut off
Banks's rearguard.
The Union rearguard under heavy pressure.
The decision having been made, General Jackson devoted his attention to the task immediately to hand.  Munford's cavalry were swarming over the ridge south of Macintee's Tavern, almost overrunning Union artillery deploying beside the place.  Trimble's and Taylor's Brigades were converging on the tavern position.  Isolated in its advance position, 28th NY managed for a space to give as good as it was taking.  That could not last.  Once a Confederate battery joined in the firefight, the New Yorkers were rapidly crushed.  The scant remnants scattered and fled.

Taylor and Trimble stepping up the pressure.

At around this point I was running out of table, so I brought everything about 3-4 foot back and extended the terrain.  There now appeared a swampy, scrub-lined creek athwart the road, behind which, Gordon had lined up his remaining two regiments, 2nd Massachusetts and 29th Pennsylvania by way of a backstop.
'Scrolling the table'

By now the broken wreckage of Donnelly's Brigade were making for the bridge, covered by 27th Indiana,  and a battery.  What was left of 28th NY didn't make it.  Having lost all cohesion (routing) they had no hope of stopping Munford's cavalry swarming over them, and the artillery's attempt to ride clear was equally doomed.  Just about 100 New Yorkers survived to surrender to Munford's horse.  
Action at the bridge.  The fleeing 28th New York caught at the bridge
by Munford's cavalry and decimated, along with the artillery of
Gordon's Brigade.
Action at the bridge.  One union battery makes off; the other
doesn't make it.
As the rest of Banks's command made off, there remained only 27th Indiana east of the creek. That regiment formed a column and made to march at all speed toward the creek, planning to cross it a couple of hundred yards north of the bridge.  Sorely tempted was General Jackson to round up this unit, but two things mitigated against it.  First, Munford's cavalry had yet to be reorganised after their successful charge.  The second reason was the more important: he had exhausted the time he had allowed himself for the pursuit.  

27th Indiana fights on in grave danger of being cut off.

It was high time to bring the pursuit to a halt, bring his troops in hand, and march east to rejoin Winder.  The strategic situation as it stood was not without serious danger, for it meant that the enemy, whoever they were, were astride his line of communication.  That had to be cleared forthwith. No further word from General Winder possibly meant that the enemy were still in no great strength. But if there were anything behind, that could spell trouble.

Munford's cavalry didn't come off unscathed, but captured a battery
 and what was left of a regiment.
There was no doubt that Banks's Division had taken a serious mauling during the retreat.  Little was left of Donnelly's brigade, and the scattered stragglers that were gathered after the action of 28th NY were pressed into service in 5th Connecticut and 1st Maryland during the subsequent days.  There was no question of remaining in Strasburg - Banks's command had been too badly knocked about to be entrusted with such an exposed outpost.
View from behind the creek.  Two of Gordon's
regiments form the rearguard, though there is little
left to cover.  
For its part, the Army of the Valley had got off fairly lightly, only 21st North Carolina of Trimble's Brigade, incurring really serious losses, though its morale had stood up well.
27th Indiana hastily making off.  Though
Confederate cavalry are close by, they  are in no position to
hinder the Indianans' retreat.
Meanwhile, a few miles back down the road, how was the Stonewall Brigade faring?  It seemed that, following the morning's action, the Army of the Valley might be fighting a second battle come the afternoon.  The time was now ten o'clock.  The whole army would be up with Winder's detachment by 11.30.

To be continued...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Stonewall in the Valley (6) - Pursuit (1)

Daybreak 21 May 1862.  The pursuit begins, led by
Confederate cavalry, the flying artillery, and 15th
Alabama Infantry.

The Virginia songbirds, at daybreak of 21 May 1862. had barely cleared their syringes to give clear voice to their dawn chorus, when General N.P. Banks's command took to the road back the Strasburg. The previous night's sharp little action showed the road was blocked by a greatly superior force. Who knew where the detachment under Colonel Knipe was, and nothing had been heard of General Shields.  Was he even in the Shenadoah Valley at all? For his part, General Fremont was still well out of the picture.  It was no means certain he was east yet of the Allegheny Mountains.  It would be at least two days before he could enter the picture with effect.  The road east was, for the time being at least, firmly closed to Union traffic.

As the cavalry fight develops, the rear Union regiments
deploy to form a rearguard.
 An habitual early riser as he was, and a deal more dynamic than his sobriquet might suggest, General T.J. 'Stonewall' Jackson had his command as rapidly in motion.    Leading the pursuit rode the cavalry regiments of Colonels Munford and Ashby, accompanied by Captain Chew's 'flying' battery. Fifteenth Alabama of General Trimble's Brigade led the infantry along the road. 

Confederate infantry ignoring and hurrying by the cavalry fight.
Outnumbered three to one, 1st Michigan Cavalry were to
administer a sharp check to the Rebel horsemen.
For this action, I adapted one of the scenarios from the Grant & Asquith Scenarios For All Ages book.  Namely: Scenario 7: 'Hot Pursuit'.   Certain adjustments I had to make for this action.  Readers familiar with the scenario will observe no stream or creek athwart the road - at least, not yet.  I also decided early on that it would be likely I would have to 'scroll' the table.  That will become evident from the pictures later on.  At that point, the creek makes its appearance
Results of the first clash - a 5-all draw.  But Ashby's unit
 took all 5 (whilst inflicting 2 only).  Naturally, they break off
in rout.

From the outset, General Jackson's plan was clear.  First off, he detained General Winder, with his 'Stonewall' Brigade and two gun batteries, to guard his rear, in particular to keep watch and ward upon the Front Royal road.  He did consider ordering Winder to march back to the McCoy's Ford turnoff, but as that might carry his brigade beyond timely help should he encounter a superior force, caution prevailed.  Wait, and if necessary hold.

For the rest, the cavalry and Chew's battery would march rapidly along a line south of and parallel to the road.  If they could overreach the head of the Union column well and good.  At any rate, their purpose was to force Banks to deploy his whole strength.  Meanwhile, the infantry and two batteries of light artillery would march straight down the road, and deploy if and when the enemy did.  Colonel Brodhead, commanding the single battalion of 1st Michigan Cavalry, at once appreciated the danger. Undaunted by the odds facing him - three to one - he ordered the charge.  That order had at the same time gone out on the Confederate side.   In an attempt to save time both cavalry regiments split in two, attacking with the lead halves, and hoping that the unengaged elements would be permitted to carry out their pursuit of the hurrying infantry.

The second clash, as Confederate reserves join the action.
The Union outdoes its early performance, and again holds
its own.  But the cost is too high.  Having held up the
Rebel cavalry for an hour, the remnants break off and flee...
In an astonishing feat of arms, 1st Michigan (15 figures) held its own in the first clash against both opponents (10 from 2nd Virginia, 11 from the 7th) inflicting five casualties and taking just as many. Munford's Regiment got the better of their encounter, inflicting 3 casualties for no loss.  It was Ashby who took the drubbing, inflicting 2 casualties but taking no fewer than 5!  That part of Ashby's command promptly bolted, forcing the gallant Colonel to throw in the balance of his regiment to restore fortunes. For its part, the Union cavalry passed its morale test, as did Munford's.  The fight continued.
Union backstop, as the earlier rearguard is forced back or
retires from the action.
If the first encounter redounded to the credit of the Union horse, the following melee merely added further laurels..  Ten figures now faced twenty-two.  Even so, the Union still gave as good as they got - three figures lost on both sides.  Of course, with over half the battalion dead, wounded or unhorsed, that was the end of the line for 1st Michigan.  Its remnants broke off and fled into the woods to their rear, from whence they were to make their escape.  The Confederates were left in possession of the field, but wiping their bloody noses as they prepared to resume the pursuit.
Munford's cavalry begin to reassemble after the early cavalry action.
Mwanwhile Capt. R. P. Chew's artillery has raced ahead to
engage the Union artillery on the far ridge...
By their magnificent 1st Michigan they had probably saved Banks's command from annihilation - certainly from a worse mauling than it did receive.  (The Union dice rolling was good, but not remarkably so,  Rather, the Confederate dice rolling was truly, and outstandingly, horrible - you rarely get to see the like). That left just half of Munford's cavalry, and Chew's guns, immediately to take up the pursuit.  Once rallied, the engaged half were able to catch up and rejoin the chase. Colonel Ashby, on the other hand, regrouped his horse, taking a good hour to rally his routed troopers.  That might, as things transpired, not have been such a bad thing.

I had intended here to carry on the narrative of the pursuit, but it seems to me that the gallant fight of the 1st Michigan Cavalry deserved a posting all of its own.  So I will delete the following - wow 15 - pictures and continue another time....
Confederate infantry in pursuit.
  To be continued...


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stonewall in the Valley (5): Overnight Decisions.

As the warm May afternoon sun sank slowly towards the western mountains, all seemed tranquil in the small Virginia settlement of Front Royal.  The earlier scare of the Confederate approach had died down. The road south, up the South Fork valley, remained, so far as Colonel  Knipe (USA) was concerned, untrod by rebel feet.

Daybreak - or shortly after - 21 May 1862.  Michigan cavalry
and a flying battery cover the Union retreat.
It was, then, something of a surprise to hear, just on 4 o'clock an ominous rumbling coming from the direction of the Strasburg road.  As innocent as the blue sky was of storm clouds, that could mean but one thing: gunfire.  It continued on, as well.  Clearly, some kind of encounter was occurring somewhere along that  road.
Union wagons lead Gordon's Brigade, which is in turn
followed by Donnelly's.  

What to do?  At this time, the good Colonel knew that General Shields's command would be marching through the Blue Ridge Mountains via  Chester Gap, but would not be arriving until early the following forenoon.  Dare he leave Front Royal ungarrisoned, and march for the guns?  Should he wait for some clarification before deciding.  After all his orders were to hold this village.  Maybe he ought to wait until morning - even for General Shields.  

Colonel Knipe's command comprised:

- 46th Pennsylvania Infantry  (27 figures)
- 3d Wisconsin Infantry (27 figures)
- 1st Maine Cavalry (15 figures)
- Bty M/ 1st New York Artillery (4 figures and a smoothbore Napoleon cannon) 

This decision I subjected to a die roll, and, as it transpired, Col Knipe didn't shally-shally about.  His superior officer was probably in trouble, he would help if he could, even though he would  barely have crossed the South Fork river bridge by dark.  He would resume the march at once the following day.  Meanwhile he would send a courier to Shields stating the case.

Donnelly's brigade on the march - but for how much longer?
For his part, General Shields was too distant to hear the gunfire, and, though through the Blue Ridge, was still well over an hour short of Front Royal when darkness called a halt to the day's march.  He did receive Knipe's message, however, and, in consequence, also found himself faced with a decision. In some ways it was more likely that he would follow Knipe's lead the following day (though it would be not until noon that he could contact Jackson's army).  Would he wait for further information?  Perhaps he should detach a force to guard McCoy's ford?
Confederates in hot pursuit, the cavalry and elements of
Trimble's Brigade leading.  The Michigan cavalry
hurl verbal defiance...

General Nathaniel P. Banks was not altogether displeased with his troops' fight against the redoubtable 'Stonewall' Jackson, but his situation was not a comfortable one.  The day's encounter had been quite unexpected when it happened, and it was clear that the Confederates heavily outnumbered his own.  Could he expect help from his subordinate, Col Knipes?  His message to him carried no instructions to meet him half way, but rather to wait, and try to hold Front Royal if attacked.  General Shields could not be far short of that place by this time, but reliance upon his intervention might be more problematic.  He could not be up before noon, that was plain.  It was one thing to sustain a two-hour fight at two to one odds.  Accepting the task for six hours was a whole other matter.  Delaying action, then?  To gain time for... what?  For whom?

Cavalry action!  The outcome you will have to wait for until
next time...
Retreat, then.  Very well: at once, or wait until dawn?  To retreat at once would gain a little time (I allow an overnight  move of 1 hex only to retire from a battlefield or to break contact.  It is not much of a start when the enemy are faster moving, but it is something!).  But any stragglers as yet uncollected would have to be abandoned (a matter of 8 figures the Union would not get back overnight from the days' losses). The alternative would be to wait until morning, and hope to fight of the pursuit that the Confederate 'foot cavalry' could be trusted to mount (I set the decision at these options, giving equal weight to the three).  The General stared into the flames of his campfire as he quietly issued his orders.  His little army must be ready to march at dawn.

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Stonewall in the Valley 4 - The first battle.

Army of the Valley encounters Union troops coning the other way.

When, on 20th May 1862, the Army of the Valley stumbled into General Banks's command on the Strasburg-Front Royal road, the day was already well advanced - just two hours more of daylight to be expected.  Even so, General Jackson - the redoubtable Stonewall - was ready to fight, and his Union counterpart, whatever his feelings on the matter, was in no position now to decline the invitation.
Donnelly's Brigade deployed across the road; Gordon's
hastening to extend the right flank.
The following action would comprise just four game moves, each of half an hour.  That is not long for a decisive result to be achieved, despite the fact that my 1:900 ground scale and 1:30 time scale yield quite generous movement rates (especially on a 6ftx4ft (180cm x 120cm) table.  I enacted that, as this was a meeting engagement, both sides could deploy up to a foot (30cm) in from the long table edges astride the east-west road, 6 units - infantry, cavalry or gun - apiece.  The rest had to march onto the table.  I stretched a point by having the road branch to the south, and with Confederates entering from the south-eastern corner,  Even then, Trimble's Brigade of Ewell's Division would be starting off table. 
5th Connecticut draw first blood: opening up a very effective
long range rifle fire against 27th Virginia: 6 volley groups of 4
figured, Die Range 2 (only score of 1 or 2 count); 7 hits!
Those 7 hits worked out to 4 'casualties'.

The narrative.

The Union began the action with Donnelly's Brigade, supported by two batteries, astride the road about the walled farm, whilst the 1st Michigan Cavalry Battalion guarded the northern flank against a sweep by mounted Confederates along the Manassas Gap Railroad line that passed by a tract of forest. That forest was about to be occupied by 28th New York Volunteers.  Advancing into the walled field marched the 1st Maryland, and, on the other side of the road the 5th Connecticut kept pace.  Between the two deployed the rifled cannon of Battery F, 4th U.S. Artillery.

Taliaferro's Brigade moving up to support the Stonewall
Brigade already attacking Donnelly.
Leading the Confederate column were the two cavalry regiments, Munford's 2nd and Ashby's 7th - both Virginia Regiments - together with Chew's battery of 'flying' artillery.  They were followed by the already famous 'Stonewall' Brigade under Brigadier-General Charles Winder.  As the infantry advanced against the farm, the cavalry swung further north, where Munford's horsemen dismounted into a line of skirmishers facing the forest, where they were to be joined by Chew's Napoleon guns.  Ashby's remained mounted as a deep flank guard.
First action: 29th Pennsylvania opens fire at long range.
Following immediately behind the 'Stonewall' Brigade, Talioferro's Virginians marched up the road until reaching Broadchurch Tavern , where the roads met.  Taylor's Louisiana brigade leading the way, Ewell's Division was to attack the Union right, where Gordon's Brigade began to extend the Union flank.
The engagement has become general all along
the line, with the sun dipping towards the western
 mountains.  The Tigers pass though a small wood; whilst
6th Louisiana can find room only for its column formation.
Brigadier-General Gordon's lead regiment, 2nd Massachusetts, was soon to draw the undivided attention of two Louisiana regiments and the Louisiana Washington Artillery.  Though accurate and well directed fire eventually forced 7th Louisiana to fall back - albeit in good order - the pressure became too much for their Union opponents.  Before the rest of Gordon'e Brigade could offer effective help,  2nd Massachusetts crumpled and broke.  
Action on the Confederate left
This disaster did not come before some reverses on the Confederate side.  As before mentioned, the Massachusetts regiment had driven back one of the Louisiana units, and in the centre, Fifth Connecticut and its supporting battery of smoothbore cannon had so battered 27th Virginia, that that unit fell back in considerable confusion.  By this time, however, Taliaferro's Brigade stood ready to fill the gaps.  Tenth Virginia advanced into the space left by the 27th, while on the other flank, 37th Virginia  began to push into the line between 5th Virginia, and Munford's skirmish line.  The small battalion of Louisiana Tigers also came in for a terrible mauling, but these stalwart Irishmen refused to     budge,and gave as good as they got in the mutual blood-letting.  
Action on the Confederate right
 As the Confederates fed more troops into the battle line - as much as they could find space for - the Union resistance began gradually to falter.  The collapse of 2nd Massachusetts could not be made good.  29th Pennsylvania was locked in its deadly duel with the Louisiana Tigers and 27th Virginia, then, when the latter fell back,  21st North Carolina.  But 27th Indiana, still winding its way through the trees behind the battle line, was too far off to restore the flank before nightfall.  They lined the edge of the woods instead. 
Donnelly\s Brigade is hard pressed but holding it own.

Meanwhile, the Stonewall brigade had pressed on despite the defeat of its left-hand regiment. The lead elements of Taliaferro's Brigade added themselves to the line, and gradually, with steadily mounting casualties, the Union troops began to edge back.  The protection of the stone wall and the forest trees notwithstanding, 1st Maryland and 28th New York were both driven back a good 100 yards (4 inches or 10cm).  Having been driven from the protection of the stone wall, the New Yorkers' loss mounted rapidly.  They were to lose a quarter of the total Union battle losses, but, surprisingly, they remained in the battle line.
5th and 33rd Virginia close up to the stone wall -
 point blank range!
Night drew in with the Union line under heavy pressure, but with no decisive success for the Confederates.  The Brigades of Taliaferro and Trimble had hardly become involved in the action, only 37th Va and 21 N.C from each having fired off their rifled muskets.
A view of the field at the end of the day, looking north.

After the Battle.

For all the brevity of the action, hard knocks had been taken and given.  The total losses were 42 Confederate - 38 from the Stonewall and Louisiana Brigades, and 47 Union. Donnelly's Brigade on the Union left, incurred well over half, despite the protection of cover for most of the action. Considering the odds and the closeness of the fighting, it could have been a deal worse.
Two regiments of Taliaferro's Brigade waiting to be unleashed...

Donnelly's Brigade about to be driven in.  28th New York
still lines the forest edge but not for much longer...
With nightfall, it lay with General Banks what now to do.  The options were:

1.  Fall back at once overnight.  Now, I didn't allow night marches as such, but a retreat of one map hex was allowed as an option.  This, however did impact upon the total battle losses.

2.  Wait until morning and then retreat.

3.  Resume the action the following day as a species of delaying action.

After the battle, the battle losses were treated as dead, wounded, missing and ... stragglers.  If the army remained on the field at the end of the day and overnight, half the losses (rounded down) were classed as stragglers, who returned to the colours.  But the army that had to abandon the field, even voluntarily,  received just one-third of those losses back.  The remainder were regarded as prisoners of war.

CSA left flank advancing.

In this case, The Army of the Valley got back 21 men, distributed according as the losses were incurred.  Munford's Cavalry having lost three figures got just the one back to balance the two figures returned to 37th Virginia, which also lost three.   Whether Banks's command got  23 figures back or 16 depended upon his decision. 

This was decided by a straight die-roll .  Banks elected to remain on the field overnight and make his way back to Strasburg the following morning.  There was no real need to 'program' Jackson's decision.  

"The enemy is there," he declared, "and there I will strike him."

General view, with light fading.  Nightfall closed the action.

To be continued... 'Hard marching: hard fighting.'

Sunday, December 18, 2016

'Stonewall' in the Valley (3): The Campaign Begins...

The CSA Army of the Valley, commanded by
Major-General T. J. (Stonewall) Jackson.

I thought I should begin the narrative in medias res - sort of ... jump right in the middle.  The action at Kernstown was some six weeks back, and then General Jackson had taken his own Division, leaving General R.S. Ewell's at Pine Run Gap, and struck a blow at part of General Fremont's command at McDowell.  Now he was back at the head of the Shenandoah Valley, his Army united, and ready to strike ... and set the Union army once more into a frenzy of action.

In the following I thought I would relate the story more by way of the mechanics, just interspersing it here and there with the historian's narrative.

The campaign begins - in medias res.
Evening 18 May 1862

Jackson in the Valley Campaign

I'll make a start on the Shenandoah thing today, beginning with the location of the forces, and weather charts. Logistics will be handled by line-of-communication.  My preliminary thoughts are these.
Dispositions of the 3 Union positions begin (roughly) as they were on Sunday 18 May 1862. The campaign opens on  Monday,19th May.

Sitting in his headquarters, Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks was feeling more than a little lonely as cut off from the rest of the world.  A few days before his army was at Harrisonburg, far up the southern end of the North Fork valley of the Shenadoah River.  Where had Jackson gone?  And now, he was back here at Strasburg; thirty miles to the south, the Confederate Army of the Valley had once more made its appearance, and with a very bellicose look about it.  General Banks figured he needed support, and needed it fast.  

First off, he detached part of his command to Front Royal - a precaution against anything the Rebs might try via the South Fork valley.  Then he telegraphed Washington to request assistance from the Command of Brig-Genl James Shields, known to lie half a day's march east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  He had already sent a courier with a small mounted escort to General Fremont of the Mountain District.  Even so, it would be several days before either could intervene...

- Fremont is at Franklin, his leading Division having received a knock at McDowell:
- Shields is off the map somewhere a half day's march east of Warrenton, with  (possibly) a small detachment at Rectortown (Brig-Genl Geary). Shields moves onto the  map at Warrenton at the beginning of Campaign move 2.
- Banks is at Strasburg, having prepared defences against attack.  He has left a detachment at Front Royal (probably dice for this) against a flanking move up the South Fork valley.
- Saxton remains at Harper's Ferry

Situation: Noon to Evening 19 May 1862.
Uncertainty reigns in Union headquarters.
 Where is Jackson?


Begin at Harrisonburg.  Two possible moves:

A:   Move straight up the North fork Valley to Strasburg and attack Banks whilst he is isolated from his pals.  He can arrive in front of at mid day  20th May. In view of this he may delay a half-day to arrive at nightfall, for attack on the 21st (Tuesday).

B.  The historical move: march up the North Fork valley to New Market, then cross the Massanutten mountain range, take the White House Bridge, into Luray and then up to front Royal, with the view to carrying or seizing the river crossings to Cedarville and take Strasburg in the rear.  If unopposed, the army would arrive at Front Royal at mid-afternoon on the 20th.  
C:   Allegheny Johnson is at McDowell looking as menacing as he can.  

One of A or B is a 'ghost' - Dame Rumour roaming the countryside.

Major-General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, 'Old Blue Light' to his loyal soldiers, had at last decided it was high time to strike a serious blow in the valley; really make Washington notice.  Kernstown had not been very satisfactory, though it had succeeded in drawing off some support from the major Union effort in tidewater Virginia.  McDowell had eased the pressure in the southwest mountain passes.  But they had been pinpricks, and tactically indecisive at that.  There was Banks's command - no help for days.  Time to strike!

Let's call the situation at noon 20th May.
- Fremont has marched hard to reach a half-way point between Petersburg and Moorefield.  He has kept his cavalry by him, one leading, the other covering his ... rear.
- Shields is a half day's march east of the Manassas gap.
- Banks is quaking at Strasburg wondering whether to go or to stay.  

The detachment (if any) at Front Royal will have been joined by the detachment under Geary (if any) at dusk the previous day.

Dawn  to Noon 20 May 1862
General Banks in a quandary  Is Jackson marching directly upon
him, or has he crossed the Massanutten Mountains into the
South Branch Valley?


- 1.  

I have been talking of a 12-move day game, which I reduced from a 24-move that goes with my figure and ground scale (900:1 ground; 30:1 time).  But a 6-move half-day battle is too short, let alone a 3-move late afternoon one.  I think I'll have to retain the 24-move battle game.  You will see what the impact of this decision is later on.  That:

- a) assumes, that if he marches direct on Strasburg, Genl Jackson will order a frontal attack on the place, which I think he must.  No need to roll a die for this: TJ came to attack, attack he will. 

- b) Banks has to decide whether to stand and fight, or retreat.  This must be decided BEFORE we roll to see whether the forces on the other side of Fisher's Hill are real or rumour.  It can be done on a die roll, or I can simply decide he'll stay.  General Banks might not have been the cleverest general, but he was prepared to fight, so I reckon he's likely to stay.  This was in fact determined by a die roll, but I made it two-to-one on his staying put, He did.
- 2

I suddenly realise that I have issued far too many cannon, 18 Union and 9 Confederate. What was I thinking?  Was I thinking?  I've halved the numbers, except that Chew's battery remains part of Jackson's cavalry command.  Fremont and Shields have three, and, to redress a mistake I made concerning Banks, his command gets four.  One of these has been detached and is with Col Knipe at Front Royal.

Continuing the narrative:

Having decided that Banks will accept battle we roll the die. 50-50 call: ODDs real, EVENs, rumour... AND IT'S... ... rumour.

Probably just as well.  I've looked at the Strasburg area, and it looks like a tricky place to attack from the south - awkward on account of a big loop of the Shenandoah across the right half of the front, and an enormous forest de-marking the field on the left (it would have formed a table edge.)

What that means is that the real force is identified as three hours south of Front Royal.  If the Union has any force at that town, it will have to fight for 6 late afternoon game moves - supposing Jackson marches directly upon that place...

It turns out there was no detachment under Brig-Gen Geary at Rectorstown (I had a range of possibilities ranging from nothing (D6=1,2) to 2 Ft, 1 Cav and 1 gun (D6-6) from Shields's Division .  I rolled a 2, but Banks had stationed at Port Royal a force of 2 infantry regiments, 1 Cavalry battalion and a section (1 gun) of artillery.  The CSA has 6 hours to clear away this force and to carry the bridges.  As it transpired, Col Knipe was left at Front Royal with an artillery battery, and yet Banks still has three with him as events will show.  But giving Banks four batteries retains the overall two-to-one ratio of Union to Confederate ordnance (10 to 5 from 18 to 9).  

Afternoon 20 May 1862
Banks discovers there is no threat to his front, but that
surely means...?

Meanwhile, Genl Banks, made aware that a large Rebel force is about to descend upon his flank guard has to decide what to do about it: nothing, retreat, or take part or the whole of his command at Strasburg off to help.  Even if he marches at once, (starting at midday) he will not reach Front Royal but will still be just across the South Fork River from Front Royal at dusk.  Shields will be closer, to the east, having crossed the Manassas Gap during the afternoon. On these grounds, Banks makes an uncharacteristically bold decision.

This could be interesting, depending on Banks's decision, with the Rebs caught between two Union Divisions come the morning of 21 May.

What does Banks do?
1. Nothing
2. Fall back to Middleton
3. Send balance of brigade at once to Front Royal after '1 hex (one hour)' delay ( 2 infantry)
4. Send balance of Brigade (2 infantry regiments) to Front Royal immediately
5. March with whole force to Front Royal after '1 hex' delay.
6. March with whole force to Front Royal immediately, sending the cavalry battalion on ahead (Cav arrives FR at 4pm).

The roll was a ‘5’ – Banks took an hour to gather together his army and march to Front Royal.  He will be two hours short of the place at nightfall.

Late afternoon 20 May 1862.  General Banks has found
Genl Jackson's Army.  Though it is perhaps fairer said that
Jackson's army has found him!

Late Afternoon 20 May 1862

Genl Jackson had arrived at McCoy’s Ford, and not having yet made contact with enemy, took the opportunity of further mystifying the enemy.  The peregrinations of the Army of the Valley was to take another strange turn.  Would they continue straight on to Front Royal, or, having reached McCoy's ford across the Shenadoah South Fork, take that route and place themselves between the commands of Banks and Knipe?

There being no contact at this point, it was possible, and reasonable to create a second 'ghost' army.  The options were:
A. March straight on to Front Royal and carry the place (ODDs roll); or
B. Cross the ford and strike for the Starsburg-Front Royal Road (EVENs roll).
I made the decision a 50-50 call, but as pushing on would have been the more likely (not to say historical!), a 66-33 bias would have been reasonable. 

As contact with the Front Royal garrison takes place slightly before that with Banks, the roll was made with 6 'game' moves (3 hours) left of the day, I simply decided to determine which was the real army, which pretty much was going to lead to a fight. Probably I was being generous to Col Knipe.  In the real campaign, one Col Z.T. Conner (CSA)  was to be left in command of the place, and didn't make much of it. 

'Do you call that fighting, sir?' was Stonewall's blistering response to Conner's abject report.

The roll clearly determined that 'Dame Rumour' has once more given vent to her lies, and that Jackson, though close, was not on the road directly south.  As there was no occasion to call into being another 'ghost' army (which must always begin its moves from the same point as the real one), there was going to be a collision towards the end of the day. Four game moves remain of the day.  Will General Jackson engage at once using what remains of the afternoon?  Or will he await the dawn? 

General N.P. Banks's command, less detachments at
Front Royal.  In the coming encounter at 'Passage Creek'
they will be outnumbered, two to one.
And what of the commands of Shields and Fremont?  At this time, Fremont was still a good two days' march from Strasburg.  But Shields was closer, much closer.  Already his columns were snaking through the Blue Ridge Mountain pass at Manassas Gap...

To be continued: 20th May 1862: Battle of ‘Bridgewood Farm’ or ‘Passage Creek’ .