We played a representation of the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, of November 1-2, 1943. While the actual battle was a mass of confusion with ships of both sides colliding with each other in the dark and shooting at friends, ours was a much more controlled scenario exploring “what if” the American plan was carried out to perfection.
The Japanese under Admiral Unlucky Tomiachi approached as they had historically with the two heavy cruisers Myoko and Haguro in line ahead flanked by two columns each of a light cruiser leading and three destroyers. The Americans under Admiral Just-Follow-the-Plan Caccamerrill and Close AtSpeed Burkox started in line ahead across the Japanese “T” with four destroyers then four “light” cruisers and four trailing destroyers. The Japanese also had two scout planes intended to drop flares.
The battle began with some tentative radar contacts and a flash of anti-aircraft fire as gunners on the Cleveland and Claxton opened up on the two scouts. The AA gunners were met by spectacular success as both Suisei exploded in mid-air, foreshadowing the rest of the game.
Admiral Tomiachi, acting on imperfect information, split three destroyers to his right (west) and turned the rest of the squadron hard left, intending to match the American gun line with his own four cruisers, screened by the three eastern-most destroyers. Admirals Caccamerrill and Burkox executed the historical plan with the lead four destroyers continuing forward and the rest of the command reversing course.
The entire Japanese squadron opened fire on Cleveland, scoring hits and starting fires but not knocking her out. The Americans opened fire with the few ships who had made radar contact, with a couple minor hits.
Both squadrons now established on their new courses, and with plenty of gun flashes to fire at, the battle was joined in earnest. The Japanese launched torpedoes from every ship but were quickly smothered by the American shells.
Myoko was first to be crippled, then Sendai and, one by one, the destroyers. The return fire was less effective, causing minor damage to Denver, Ausburne, and Foote.
Tomiachi ordered a withdrawal only 5 minutes after launching torpedoes and ordered all ships to make smoke. But it was too late. The Americans had full acquisition by radar and, at ranges from 5000-9000 yards, simply smothered the Japanese fleet. Deftly turning into the torpedo salvoes only Ausburne was hit out of the nearly 70 Long Lances launched, and that hit proved to be a dud.
Every Imperial ship was sunk with only Cleveland and Foote being damaged enough to be forced to leave the landing area the next day.
With no confusion, unerring radar, and perfect execution, the Americans in the game won an overwhelming victory denied the actual Americans 75 years before. No matter, historically the Japanese had been bloodied sufficiently that they never again made a significant sortie in the Solomons.
Game was played using 1:2400 ships and Sbase3 computer-assisted rules.
Major General John C Fremont was awakened by a dusty young courier. “General Jackson, Sir! He’s coming up the Pike at Luray!”
Fremont swung his legs into his boots at the side of his cot and barked orders to his waiting staff, their dress uniforms about to be badly soiled in the day’s events. Within minutes they stumbled over each other and raced out of the command tent putting Fremont’s small Federal command into motion.
Further south, Brigadier General Custer calmly surveyed an alarming situation. His three tiny cavalry regiments were galloping into delaying positions as General Stonewall Jackson’s Army of the Valley deployed astride the Valley Pike.
To Custer’s rear Brigadier General Dan Ricketts received an urgent message from his signal tower. The grizzled captain gruffly informed him that the drill was over. Jackson had arrived and Custer was engaged. Ricketts issued orders to his three batteries of U. S. Artillery to bring up the caissons and re-supply.
Jackson sent Colonel John Wilkes’ brigade to the left to develop Stempel’s Woods where the 7th Michigan waited. Brigadier General Dan Adams deployed to the right into the Douglas hayfield where the 5th and 6th Michigan cavalry awaited. Armistead’s brigade followed Wilkes and Palmer supported Adams.
Desperately the cavalrymen popped away with their Burnside carbines from behind Douglas’ stout snake fence and in Stempel’s tangled wood lot. Adams’ struggled to close the range sufficiently for the smoothbores arming the 17th Tennessee and the 8th Louisiana. Wilkes’ men struggled with the dense undergrowth, the creeping vines delaying them almost as much as the Wolverines.
Pouring down the Valley Pike in the opposite direction was Brigadier Thomas Milroy’ New York Brigade and Brigadier General Franz Sigel’s German Brigade at the head of Fremont’s small army. Unimpeded by the few ineffectual balls fired by the ancient 6-pounders of Bay’s Virginia Battery they surged forward into the north end of Stempel’s Wood.
Milroy’s 21st and 30th New York found less undergrowth in the north half of the woods and managed to surprise Armistead’s 13th Louisiana as it started to deploy from column. Soon the doughty New Yorkers were locked in a death match at close range in the thick forest with the Pelicans and Tarheels from the 4th and 7th North Carolina.
Meanwhile the 3rd Florida finally dislodged the 7th Michigan. Sigel, in the forefront of the battle, gave confidence to his green troops, steadying the 23rd New York who marched into the gap left by the exhausted cavalrymen. Deep in the woods the equally green 95th New York led by Colonel Marsena Patrick met and halted the flanking maneuver of Armistead’s 4th Kentucky.
Fremont, finding the bullets flying a bit thick found it necessary to personally guide the 80th New York into a reserve position at Miller’s Farm behind the heavily pressed 5th and 6th Michigan. By the time Adams finally dislodged the cavalrymen, Sigel had stabilized the Union right and the 24th New York, personally guided by Ricketts, had joined the 80th.
Ricketts’ gunners meanwhile, took a dreadful toll on Palmer’s brigade as it tried to march across the mile-long swale of young wheat and oats from Douglas’ fields to Ricketts position on Tower Ridge. By the time the Virginians of Palmer’s brigade reached the gunners they had suffered almost 300 casualties and, more importantly, Francis Stone’s brigade of Union infantry had arrived and been skillfully deployed by Stone to support the batteries.
As the sun passed toward the west Adams and Palmer made one last gasp of an attack on Miller’s Farm and Tower Ridge. After almost 6 hours under fire though Jackson’s veterans had nothing left and they recoiled back to the safety of Douglas’ fences.
In the woods both Sigel and Wilkes had been hit but remained in command. Jackson, surveying the strength of the Miller Farm position in the center and a second line waiting patiently behind Sigel and Milroy reluctantly issued the orders to break off the engagement in the woods as well.
In light of the stunning victory, Lincoln appointed Fremont to replace Major General George B. McClellan outside of Richmond. Fremont subsequently was unable to extricate Franklin’s V Corps when Joseph Johnston counterattacked and suffered a devastating defeat to end the Peninsular Campaign begun by McClellan.
Game was played with 15mm figures using Mr. Lincoln's War rules.
Two evenly matched phalanx-based armies met on the plains of Epirus. Pyrrhus was defending his realm from the incursion of Antigonus One-Eye (OK I know we're off on the timeline, but work with it!).
Antigonus made his left heavy with his Spartan hoplites flanked by some chariots, his agema, and Thracian mercenaries. His right was much weaker with elephants and another group of chariots. Pyrrhus deployed his elephants on his right, anchoring the flank of his Galatian band, the largest unit on the table. His left, on the other hand had both his agema and his Thessalian heavy cavalry.
Both armies advanced with their peltast engaging, first with missiles and then charging each other, the light troops exhibiting exceptional aggressiveness. However, Pyrrhus was to be betrayed by his heavy cavalry commander who, inexplicably, ordered the two heavy cavalry units to withdraw allowing Antigonus' chariots the opportunity to strike while the horses unshielded side was exposed.
Pyrrhus' elephants, on the other hand, held the flank against all comers, engaging Antigonus' Phoenician chariots, agema, and Thracian mercenaries for over an hour of very confused melee.
The battle was decided, in the end, by the heavy infantry. Antigonus' elephants and Athenian hoplites ground away Pyrrhus' 3rd phalanx while the Chaldean and Macedonian phalanxes of Antigonus crushed Pyrrhus' 1st phalanx and the Galatians were eventually destroyed by the Spartans.
Game was played using 15mm figures and home rules.
Brigadier General Harry T. Hays lay shivering under a heavy blanket even though the midsummer Alabama noon heat was causing a lethargy amongst his staff in the next room. It was all they could do to lift the glass of lemonade that the “girl”, Bessie, had brought them, from the table to their lips. General Hays had managed to catch a fever and had been shivering and miserable for the past three days. Fortunately, Union General Lovell Rousseau had been nowhere near, resting his division 30 miles to the west. Unfortunately, Major General Henry Halleck had ordered Rousseau to clear the Tennessee River of rebels east to Muscle Shoals the day before.
Rousseau, ever the reliable officer, had packed some extra cigars and a special bottle of cognac he had “borrowed” from an Alabama planter and set his blue-clad troops in motion. Hays had ordered entrenchments built before he had taken to his bed, but had not remembered about pickets or vedettes. His ranking brigadier, Robert Hoke, failed to order any scouts as well. General James R. Chalmers, commanding Hays’ other brigade, had just returned that morning from leave and was receiving reports over lunch about a mile away from where Hays was shivering.
Leading the Union advance was companies A and E, 1st Ohio Cavalry, all the mounted troops assigned to Rousseau. Early that July morning, Captain Morris, spied the Confederate works and reported back to Rousseau in person. The general, cigar in place, rode up to a small rise two miles from the Confederate lines. Quickly assessing the situation, he summoned his three brigadiers, the taciturn regular Shepherd, the dapper lawyer John Starkweather, and the heavy-set former county sheriff, Samuel Beatty. Rousseau issued his orders in his slow, deep voice and bid his subordinates godspeed.
Beatty had only recently joined the division with a brigade of mostly untried recruits. Starkweather’s men at least had “seen the elephant” but were not nearly the “old hands” of Shepherd’s Regular Brigade. Rousseau’s plan depended heavily on the regulars (By God!). Hays would be badly outnumbered but his men were mostly veterans under seasoned regimental officers.
Starkweather opened the ball by bringing up in a powerful cloud of dust, Battery A of the Michigan Light Artillery. Their 6 10-pounder Parrotts set up on the tallest hill in the area and began sending shells screaming 800 yards into the works held by the Confederate Guards Response Battalion of New Orleans. Starkweather brought his brigade up methodically, deploying two regiments in front of the battery and sending two more en echelon to the left to wrap around the end of the Confederate line.
Equally methodically, Beatty supervised his raw regiments in their approach. His brigade had the Union center and marched up along a farmer’s track, utilizing a fine wood lot to provide cover. His Kentucky light artillery deployed a full 45 minutes after Starkweather’s guns, their screening infantry having a little difficulty going through its drills under fire for the first time.
On the Union right, Shepherd’s regulars developed the attack swiftly with the Battery H, 5th United States Artillery supporting the 5 battalions who approached in open order, stretching around the Confederate left. The 1/18th and 2/18th combined with the guns to cut the 25th Alabama to pieces.
The situation on the Confederate left had rapidly become precarious as the disciplined and accurate fire from the regulars supported by the US Artillery and the Kentucky guns had already torn a hole in the line and threatened to break through the works and make the entire line untenable. Hoke had swiftly brought his two reserve regiments, the 7th Mississippi and 10th Mississippi, into position, the 10th on a cliff on the far left and the 7th behind the lines where the hapless 25th Alabama had just been eviscerated. However, he hesitated to leave the works.
It was at this moment that General Hays appeared, gaunt and white as a ghost but sitting tall on his sorrel gelding. Hays spoke softly to the much less experienced Hoke and the latter then sent a courier galloping to Colonel Simms of the 7th. Simms was a newspaperman and a storyteller. Many a cold winter night he had regaled his regimental officers and other colonels with tall tales and embellished tales of the Indian Mutiny, actions in Afghanistan and expeditions into the darkest Africa (none of which places he had ever been, not that he let anyone know THAT particular fact).
Simms was, in addition to being a marvelous campfire one-man thespian, personally brave and quite desirous of having an actual personal adventure. Therefore, when the courier galloped up to him and said, “General Hoke’s compliments, Sir! He orders you, Sir, to push those people away!”
With a flourish the teller of tall tales embarked on his personal adventure. Placing his hat on the tip of his sword he thundered to the front of the regiment, bellowed, “Mississippians! Send the sowbellies back to Chicago! Forward, Seventh!”
Their charge was not the glorious one of the Napoleonic Age. No even, serried ranks with glittering bayonets and matching pom-poms. A ragged line of butternut burst over the hasty works, gathering momentum and losing cohesion, some of their ancient smoothbores lacking bayonets at all, most with tarnished, though sharp, blades. The blood-curdling rebel yell erupted from 400 throats and the open ordered 2/18th and 19th Battalions of US Regulars raced for the relative safety of Berger’s Knoll a mile to the rear.
The charge impetuously carried forward right past the Kentucky guns who poured canister into the tiring and scattering attackers. The 1/18th came to their brothers’ aid and finally, on the slopes of Berger’s Knoll, the three regular battalions turned on Simms and his now badly disorganized men. Simms would pen quite the tale for his newspaper, but from the “safety” of a Chicago prison, as he and 236 of his men surrendered.
Shepherd continued his attack with the 15th and 16th and the supporting US Artillery. Hoke’s howitzers scored a lucky hit on the Kentucky artillery as it attempted to re-position to reengage the 7th Mississippi after it had charged past. One shell hit a caisson and the ensuing explosion destroyed a battery wagon and stampeded a gun team that had just been limbered up. A second shell burst on the barrel of a Napoleon, killing 6 gunners.
However, it was a Pyhrric victory as the US Artillery landed Parrot bolts on two howitzers, disabling them and forcing young Lieutenant Dann to order the battery back. Without the guns the 21st Alabama and 5th Mississippi could not stand to the disciplined volley fire of the Regulars.
On the Union left, Starkweather and Beatty now pressed their attack, though their less experienced troops found it hard going against Chalmers’ veterans. After 30 minutes of fierce fighting, with Hoke collapsing to his left, Chalmers ordered his brigade back as well.
Wheat’s Battalion had decimated the 21st Wisconsin but had in turn suffered almost 180 casualties. Chalmers’ guns engaged in a lopsided firefight where 55 gunners and almost every horse were shot down. A mere 23 men and a single Blakely rifle managed to pull back. The Confederate Guard Response Battalion, having rallied back, stopped a potentially devastating charge by the 15th Kentucky, preserving Chalmers’ ability to fight another day.
Hoke reformed with barely 700 men the next day; Chalmers had 1200. Rousseau was in complete control of the Tennessee River to Muscle Shoals.
Game played using Mr. Lincoln's War in 15mm by the Long Island Irregulars.
Magnor Bloodax had led his Danish band to capture the fine castle of Helgor in the late spring. However, Sven the Swede and Hedin the Isleman decided the castle would be a great place for them to spend the coming winter. Magnor’s brother, Issjelgard, led away a raiding party leaving the castle only lightly defended.
Hedin led the main body forward in two waves toward the castle. To the east the lightly armed and armored hird led a feint with ladders against the open wall. To the south, against the main gate, Hedin himself led his best troops forward with a powerful bear’s head ram and more ladders. Sven kept his personal retinue of Norwegians together to the west to block the returning Issjelgard.
Issjelgard never had a chance. His men, laden with stores taken from the countryside were first astonished and then crushed by the battle-ready Norwegians. So much so that as Issjelgard fell and his men ran toward the safety of their longships, Sven led a contingent over the wall, actually getting onto the parapets before Hedin.
Hedin’s archers made it difficult if not impossible for Magnor’s defenders to expose themselves over the merlins and the ram smashed through in only ten minutes of concentrated work. A few rocks dropped desperately from the top of the gatehouse caused the only casualties amongst the rammers.
Valiantly portraying the forlorn leader on his way to Valhalla, Bloodax slew four attackers on the parapet before finally succumbing himself. Sven proved again his extreme prowess in battle, crushing three defenders as he led the assault over the crenels, before the defenders cried for quarter.
Played using 25mm figures and OxNard Siege Rules by the Long Island Irregulars on 3 November 2017.
Early spring 1777, New Jersey
Colonel Ebenezer Driscoll’s American brigade stomped out of their winter quarters in search of some rations and shoes. General Howe dispatched Brigadier Dirk Patch to spoil the American’s excursion and keep them hungry and barefoot.
The two columns met near Dricut’s Store on a cold sunny spring day.
Major Scudbucker had been stripping Farmer Northey of what was left of his larders when word arrived of the British advance. He sent a courier thundering (actually trotting, the horse was too lean to do much more) to Driscoll and called his men into formation. Captain Forrester’s Connecticut Light Infantry stretched out to cover the American south flank in an open wood lot. He then deployed his two companies of Pennsylvania Continentals behind fences and outbuildings on Northey’s farm supported by a section of 3-pounders. Scudbucker deployed his German Flats militia behind and in support of the guns.
Driscoll had personal control of the rest of his small command. He deployed his Connecticut Line to cover the American north flank in thick woods. The 5th Company of the 4th New York Line deployed on an open hill to the right of the Nutmeggers. His small detachment of riflemen moved to a copse of walnut trees between the hill and Northey’s farm. Coming up from the rear, where they had been “guarding” (more like looting) the already filled supply wagons, were the 3rd and 4th companies of the 4th New York.
Patch deployed his force in a long thin line opposite the Americans. Quickly the two forces were heavily engaged. The 42nd Highlanders led down the farmer’s trail with a 6-pounder lumbering by their side. A slugging match ensued between them and the American riflemen on one side and the First Pennsylvania on the other. The uneven struggle fixed the Americans’ attention to fatal consequences.
Major Jonathan Dimsdale led the 33rd Regiment of Foot sharply through the woods and into line in support of, and just north of, the Highlanders. From behind the Highlanders a company of Marines moved into the farm building opposite the Pennsylvanians and took up shooting positions under cover of the thick log walls. This, despite the New Yorkers deploying in support of the Pennsylvanians and delivering a measured volley.
The tide of battle, a battle only 15 minutes old, now turned distinctly in favor of the redcoats. While the Highlanders fell back the 33rd decimated the riflemen with rapid volleys, forcing them to likewise retire. On the far northern flank the dismounted 17th Light Dragoons started to drive the Connecticut lIne through the woods, though stubbornly opposed.
At the same time three companies of grenadiers approached Scudbucker’s center. The Pennsylvanians did their best, standing stoically behind Northey’s fences but the balls arrived with much too great a regularity. One by one the Continentals fell out of line, dead, wounded, or just done in by the ferocity of the British fire. The cannons banged away but mostly ineffectually, getting only a single telling canister shot in that beheaded a poor lieutenant of the 23rd Foot and cut an entire section in half.
The coup de main in Scudbucker’s area was when the Grenadiers of the 5th Foot moved forward, bayonets glittering in the sunshine. The Americans had had enough.
On the far south flank the Light company of the 10th Foot methodically cut up the American Light Infantry and then chased away the militia, bravely led forward by Captain Van Eyken, with a deliberate fire by platoons.
With the riflemen and the Pennsylvanians falling back it was now the turn of the 5th New York company to be decimated on their exposed position on the naked knob.
In apoplexy Driscoll watched his command melt away under the British fire. Captain Iverson’s company of New Yorkers and Miller’s Connecticut line, from cover of woods west of Northey’s farm, checked the British pursuit long enough for the remnants of the American brigade to slink away. All in all the Americans lost 211 men out of only 1120 engaged. Another 55 simply disappeared into the countryside, never to return to their units. Patch’s regulars, by contrast, brought 1400 men to the fray and suffered a bare 96 men lost to all causes.
Game was played using 25mm figures and A Continent in the Balance rules played by the Long Island Irregulars.
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..