Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Stonewall in the Valley 9 - Battle of Passage Creek.


Leading elements of Trimble's Brigade come to the
aid of the Stonewall Brigade.
As General 'Stonewall' Jackson's Army surged onto the field like an incoming wave, the preliminaries were over, and the stage set for a major action.  The previous evening's combat, the early morning pursuit, and the clash between the 'Stonewall' Brigade and Col Knipe's column - these were but skirmishes compared with what was to come.  For, marching up behind his little force, Colonel Knipe knew, General Shields's whole command would soon be with him.
The Army of the Valley having broken off its pursuit of General Banks, retraces
its steps to aid General Winder.

The Confederate Army of the Valley comprised:
Commander:  Major-General Thos. J. (Stonewall) Jackson
Jackson's Division:
   Winder's (Stonewall) Brigade:
        5, 27, 33 Va - somewhat reduced in numbers from the 73 figures with which they began the morning;
        Poague's and Cutshaw's batteries attached

    Taliaferro's Brigade: 
        10 Va (27 figures); 23 Va (27); 37 Va (26) - Total 80 figures

Ewell's Division:
    Trimble's Brigade: 
        15 Ala (26), 21 Ga (26), 21 N.C. (21) - Total 73 figures
        Raines's Battery (4 figures, 1 gun)
    Taylor's Brigade: 
        La Tigers (18), 6 La(25), 7 La(22) - Total 65 figures
        Lusk's Battery (4 figures, 1 gun)

Cavalry:
        2 Va Cav (Munford, 21 figures), 7 Va Cav (Ashby, 20 figures)
        Chew's Flying Artillery (4 figures, 1 gun)
Overall strength: 352 figures (less Winder's losses), 5 guns (3 S/B, 2 rifled)

Kimball's Brigade, of General Shields's
Union Division, arrives from Front Royal
...
Tyler's Brigade enters the fight, covered by
1st Maine Cavalry.

Now, the arrival of these troops was programmed by sector, north (near the Manassas Gap Railway), centre (close by the Front Royal road), and south (near Turvey's shack and walled fields).  Where each brigade and cavalry regiment arrived was determined by a die roll.  Further, just 6 units - regiments, battalions or batteries - would be arriving in any one turn.  The result was that Trimble's Brigade, including its attached artillery, arrived behind it's lead regiment (15th Alabama) in the centre, along with Ashby's cavalry and Chew's battery.  Taliaferro's Brigade, followed by Taylor's, came in on the northern flank.  This tended to nudge the Stonewall brigade towards the right - the southern - wing, where they were joined by Munford's cavalry.


General Jackson's orders were simple: advance, and drive back or destroy any enemy encountered. The fact was, his situation was not a comfortable one, for it was beyond the ridges in front of him that his line of communication lay. That line had to be cleared before the end of the day, and already the sun was nearing its zenith. 


Kimball's Brigade shaking out into line formations
about Barnett's barn.

The Confederates were still pouring onto the field when the first elements of Shields's column arrived, and General Shields himself took over command of the battlefield.  Colonel Knipe had begun the day with 73 figures of all arms, and a rifled battery (1 gun).  To these Shields added:


Shields's Division:

   Kimball's Brigade:
        14 Indiana (27), 4 Ohio (27), 8 Ohio (27), 7 W. Va (27)
   Tyler's Brigade


        5 Ohio (27), 7 Ohio (27), 29 Ohio (27), 66 Ohio (27)
   Cavalry:
        1 Rhode Island Cav (15); 1 W. Va Cav (15)
   Artillery:
        H/1 Ohio Artillery (4); L/1 Ohio Artillery (4), I/1 New York Artillery (4).
Overall strength (not counting Knipe's column): 258 figures, 3 guns.

Including Knipe's command at the beginning of the day  raises the numbers to 331 and 4 guns.  Fewer than the Confederates, it's true, but all units began the day fresh.  (There were 683 figures, plus 8 formation commanders, altogether - a fairish number to field on a 6ft x 4ft table, eh?)


The approaching clash...
Just as the Confederates had been, the Union forces were in turn subjected to programming where they arrived: north, centre or south, and a maximum of 6 units the turn.  Wouldn't you know it, they practically mirrored their opponents. Kimball's Brigade arrived in the centre and Tyler's on their right. First West Virginia Cavalry came up behind Kimball, along with two of the gun batteries. Only 1st Rhode Island Cavalry and a battery of Napoleon guns seized the ridge beyond the woods south of Barnett's barn.
10th and 23rd Virginia lining Railroad Wood.  Both have kept back
a proportion of their numbers to 'fit' onto the available frontage.
Beginning with the first clashes in the centre, a dogged firefight rippled along the front northwards as the action became more general.  Soon both sides were tearing great gouges in each other's lines.  In the railroad wood, 23rs and 10th Virginia found the front too narrow to deploy their full strengths, and both held back a quarter in reserve.  Things didn't go well to begin their duel against the Ohioans who came up against them, neither.  Despite their cover, the Confederates got the worse of the initial encounter.   Tenth Virginia fell back into the woods, leaving the 23rd to sustain the fight unaided.  It took over an hour to persuade the 10th to return to the fight.  
The view eastwards from behind Talliaferro's
Brigade.  The Louisiana Tigers in support of
the Virginians in the forest.
Thirty-seventh Virginia soon also found the action too warm for their comfort, and drew back, though in better order than the 10th.  Surging up behind them, the Louisiana Brigade quickly took up the quarrel.  There was to be no respite for the Federals.
Warm work: a savage firefight all along the line.
Throughout the sustained musketry, the Confederates continued to try to press forward, but against the gallingly accurate fire from the Union infantry, it was tough going.  The Confederate left and centre had no decisive edge in numbers, and it was not clear who was getting the better of the punishing exchanges of musketry and gunfire.  Third Wisconsin, of Knipe's command, broke and ran before they could be properly supported by Kimball's Brigade, but that scarcely made any difference. 
6th and 7th Louisiana swarm over the hill to support
Taliaferro and Trimble.


What is happening on the Confederate right?  The Union
positions seems to be thinly held: One cavalry battalion and one battery...


Whilst that mutual hammering went on, the Confederate commander turned his attention to the more sparsely populated, and so far quiescent, southern flank. Could something decisive be achieved there?



To be continued...

Monday, January 23, 2017

Stonewall in the Valley 8 - The Stonewall Brigade's Battle

Union Forces - Col Knipe's column from Front Royal
 - approaches Genl Winder's rearguard: The Stonewall
Brigade.
By the time General Jackson called off the pursuit of General Banks's battered command, two or three miles to his rear the 'Stonewall' Brigade had been engaged already well over an hour with a Union column approaching from Front Royal.  As messaged to Jackson, General Winder at once led his brigade into the attack.  Outgunned and outnumbered though he was. Col Knipe hoped to make a stand for the three hours it would take for General Shields to come up and join the action.  To that end, he placed his reliance upon the mobility his cavalry battalion - 1st Michigan - to disrupt and entangle the rebels, should they attack.
Union column: two infantry regiments, a cavalry battalion,
and a battery.  
Colonel Knipe had with him:
     46th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry - 27 figures
       3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry - 27 figures
       1st  Michigan Cavalry Battalion - 15 mounted figures
   H/1st New York Artillery - 1 gun, 4 gunners.
Stonewall Brigade - three regiments that had been heavily
engaged the night before, and two batteries.
General Winder's rearguard comprised:
     Stonewall Brigade:
       5th Virginia Infantry - 24 figures
     27th Virginia Infantry - 27 figures
     33rd Virginia Infantry - 22 figures
     Cutshaw's Battery - 1 gun, 4 gunners
     Poague's Battery - 1 gun, 4 gunners.
Having lost 8 figures in the previous day's action, Winder's command did not much outnumber Knipe's force, but he did have double the Union artillery.
While the uneven infantry action rages in the plain,
the Union horse sweeps over the height to flank
the Confederate guns.
Col. Knipe arranged his infantry in line, supported by his artillery, a little forward of a barn belonging to one Tobias Barnett, that stood just to the left of the road.  46th Pennsylvania took a position a little west of the barn, partially lining a fenced field.  To their right stood 3rd Wisconsin.  The gun battery was slightly refused in the centre.  The plan was to hold this position whilst the cavalry battalion swept around the Confederate northern flank.
Three against two -surely this can have but one outcome?
For his part, Winder threw his main attack against 46th Pennsylvania, supported by Cutshaw's battery.  Poague's guns were sent up the hill flanking the northern end of the Confederate line, there to support 33rd Virginia's duel against the men from Wisconsin, or to act as a flank guard against the Union horse.  The orders issued, he sent a courier to General Jackson, then two or three miles to the west along the Strasburg road, harrying Genl Banks's fleeing command.
27th Virginia Infantry in action.
The infantry firefights proved a fairly prolonged and bloody affair, which gave time for the Union cavalry to mount the hill flanking the Confederate line.  Quickly deciding he had no chance of wheeling his battery betimes, Capt. Poague at once gave the order to limber up and pull out. Although the cavalry were slowed by having to negotiate the contours of this eminence, only the arrival at 11 o'clock of 15th Alabama infantry and Ashby's cavalry saved the guns.   Jackson was not far behind with the rest of his army.   The Union horse reined in and hastily retraced its steps.
Confederate artillery hastily skedaddling
 with Union cavalry in hot pursuit.  Can they possibly escape?
The infantry fight was by now decided... more or less.  Though artillery support ceased when Capt. Cutshaw had swung his battery around to see off Knipe's cavalry,  numbers told upon 46th Pennsylvania.  Even so, the Pennsylvanians held on to their position until more than half their strength were dead, wounded or skedaddled, before finally breaking to the rear.  But the fight between 3rd Wisconsin and 33rd Virginia went the other way.  Somewhat weakened by the previous afternoon's action, the Southerners would probably have held their own with Poague's support.  As it was, they got the worse of the encounter, and, possibly apprehending certain fast moving developments to the left, fell back in disorder towards the road.
The preliminaries are over by 11 o'clock with the arrival
of Confederate reinforcements:  15th Alabama and
7th Virginia Cavalry.

So matters matters stood as the leading elements of Jackson's main army began to spill onto the field. Colonel Knipe was not about to quit the field, however.  So far, his men had given as good as they had got - in fact he was certain victory had been snatched from him by those importunate reinforcements.  Further, within the half hour, he knew that Brigadier General Shields would be up with his whole Division.

Meanwhile, what of General Banks?  Donnelly's Brigade and 1st Maine Cavalry had taken a terrible mauling, and were probably lucky that Jackson had broken off the pursuit when he did.  All the same, back his troops had to go, and there was no question of stopping at Strasburg, neither.  The retreat continued until, shortly before dusk that day, his exhausted men staggered into Middletown.  Of General Fremont, somewhere to the west of Strasburg, there had come not a word.  Not yet.

(My rule is that a defeated force must retreat at least a half day's march, not stopping until reaching a town or settlement, or else an equal or larger body of friends.  Strasburg being less than a half day (4 hexes) away, means the retreat continues through it.  By coincidence, Middletown is exactly a half-day's march from where the pursuit action took place.)

To be continued:  The Battle of Passage Creek

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...