On the banks of the Chickahominy
FLASH! Union troops skedaddle in White Oak Swamp
Exclusive Report by I. M. Allwett
Via Telegraph from Fortress Monroe
Your intrepid reporter from the World was with Major General Edwin V. Sumner when his corps attempted to turn the flank of the rebel army. Sumner crossed to the south bank of the Chickahominy River into as dismal a swamp as one can imagine – thick with vines and moss, smelling of rot and infested with snakes, mosquitoes, and buzzards.
Through this muck the general intended to catch a raiding party under the rebel Longstreet and catch the rascal thespian Magruder further along. Things did not go according to plan.
With heavy going and the thick growth it was impossible to see more than a couple hundred yards in any direction and often difficult to extract one’s boots to take a step let alone maneuver. This being true, the divisions of Major General Erasmus Keyes and Major General Samuel Heintzelman became separated, with Heintzelman ahead and to the south.
It was in this position that the enemy, forcefully advancing instead of skulkily retreating from their raid, engaged General Keyes. The fright of suddenly coming upon a foe in the murk and being dealt a volley of buck and ball at under a hundred paces before one can gather their wits can only be imagined by the reader at home. This reporter assures you it takes a stout heart to stand and return fire!
But this is exactly what the veteran boys of the north did, standing and giving volley for volley in the heat and swelter and deep shadow of the dismal morass.
Keyes now came up and felt for the tender flank of the rebel masses for it must be there, at the north end of the line, the pressure on Heintzelman being so great. As he splashed through waters, knee-deep at times, A rebel ball found Colonel Henry A Weeks of the 12th New York, Heintzelman’s left flank regiment. The unit had suffered horribly from the fire of the 25th Alabama and 1st Louisiana. The loss of its captain was too much and the regiment disintegrated, leaving a gap between the two divisions.
Brigadier General John Davidson rushed the 12th Indiana to plug the gap, but “rushing” had a different meaning in the bottomless muck of the White Oak!
One after the other General Heintzelman’s regiment were pressed back by rebel charges, each time leaving wounded boys to drown in the black waters.
Finally, Brigadier General Winfield Hancock brought his Pennsylvanians into action against the 22nd Alabama who had occupied a small dry knob rising from the inky waters, only to see the southerners, whose coats resembled the gnarled trunks of the drowned trees, use the thick sheets of moss to withdraw, their sister 21st Alabama forming at right angles and thwarting the best laid plan of Hancock.
With all Heintzelman’s regiments wavering and Keyes thwarted more by nature than the enemy, General Sumner had no other recourse than to order a general withdrawal on the pontoons. That the enemy had been given a good shaking is evidenced by their unwillingness to pursue, selecting rather to lick their wounds and hope for a drier day.
Major General Samuel G French had been ordered to cut the Federal supply line at Allatoona Gap, Georgia. He did not hesitate to deploy his brigades in heavy attack columns immediately upon his arrival. Above, the Federals bristled in a thin line stretching almost a mile and a half from the railroad gap to the edge of the ridge.
French, sensing his numerical advantage, sent a message to the Federal commander,
“I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that you are surrounded, and to avoid a needless effusion of blood I call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally.
“Five minutes will be allowed you to decide. Should you accede to this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners of war.”
Brigadier General Robert Corse, having just arrived with reinforcements, allowing him a second line, which were in defilade and invisible to French, replied, defiantly,
“Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for the "needless effusion of blood" whenever it is agreeable to you.”
French found it agreeable immediately. At a range of about 1000 yards the Federal guns began to boom from the heights as French’s columns moved forward smartly. He massed two batteries of Napoleons between Chalmers’ right-hand brigade and the center brigade of Jones Withers. The guns began to bang away at the 11th Michigan in their earthworks about 500 yards away.
Chalmers advanced behind a double line of skirmishers - the 21st Alabama and 5th Mississippi – on a narrow front up the steepest part of the Federal line. Crowning the Federal left was the 19th Illinois and the Battery M, 1st Ohio Artillery. The Ohioans had had an early success when a shell hit one of J. H. Kolb’s cannon and completely destroyed it. However, as the skirmishers pushed up the hill, the guns switched targets, spraying canister like angry, lethal, bees, downslope.
Withers attacked on a wider front, with the 26th Alabama on the left and the CGRB on the right. He applied pressure to Battery G, 1st Ohio Artillery, and their supporting infantry, the 78th Pennsylvania. The 26th soon got into an uneven firefight with the Federal guns.
On French’s left, at the end of the ridge, Brigadier General J K Jackson sent forward Wheat’s Battalion and the 5th Kentucky. Supported by Bouchaud’s battery of rifled guns, they were soon pressing Brigadier General J Beatty’s brigade. Wheat and Bouchaud directed their attention against the 37th Indiana while the Kentuckians threatened the far flank.
Battle was intense all along the line with the lead Confederate units gradually worn away and the Federal units at the schwerpunkts also being battered. After two hours French sensed the Federal line cracking and ordered a full assault. The lines of butternut and gray surged the last hundred yards.
Corse, too, had seen his front line begin to waver and determined the time was right to maneuver those reserves heretofore unseen to French. The veteran 42nd Indiana ascended a small rise to the left of the decimated 37th. Greeted warmly by Bouchaud, they delivered a devastating volley to stop the 25th Alabama and plug the gap where Battery G was fighting sponge stave to bayonet over the gabions.
Likewise, on the right, the 11th Michigan finally gave way but forward into the gap marched the 18th and 74th Ohio to thwart the surge of the 1st Louisiana and 10th Mississippi.
A rider galloped up to French with a note that Federal columns were on the move on the road from Atlanta and he called of the attack, even as its momentum died at the lip of the fortifications on the anvil of the fresh reserves and their concentrated volleys.
Corse suffered casualties of almost 25%. French, with a considerably larger force, though at a decided tactical disadvantage in terms of altitude and dirt, lost almost 30%.
We use Mr. Lincoln's War rules and 15mm figures.
East Tennessee, January 1862
Pap Thomas was worried. True, he had won the race to the vital Ox Crossing and his troops had spent the night digging thin rifle pits fronted by whatever rocks and sticks they could wrench from the cold ground. But they were mostly untested and spread thinly to cover the three roads along which the rebels might debauch.
His right was anchored by Lieutenant Colonel Luck’s 7th US Battalion, the original garrison of Ox Crossing. Having been there longer they had built a substantial redoubt on top of a grassy prominence known locally as Hare’s Hill. The rest of Gibb’s brigade covered the Grigg’s Bypass, including the only unit that had seen action, the 3rd Tennessee.
The center was held by Brigadier General Wilson and his polyglot brigade which had been hastily assembled from four separate depots and had only been brigades for three days. Johnson’s Track snaked its way through a small valley at the center of Wilson’s position.
Finally, to the Union left was Grover’s Brigade. They sat astride the Knoxville Road and had 2nd Battery, Ohio Light Artillery with its four 6-pounders enfilading the road. Rush River closed the flank, but Grover lacked the troops to provide a continuous front, leaving a gap between his left and the river.
George B Crittenden had an impressive resume – West Point education, experience in the Black Hawk and Mexican Wars – but he was out of his depth. In the race to Ox Crossing he split his “Army of East Tennessee” into three equal columns, gave conflicting orders and lost. Now he ordered them forward as three separate attacks against the intrenched bluebellies.
Patton Anderson led a Mississippi brigade over Grigg’s Bypass. Anderson was in good spirits – his brigade had just received a shipment of Austrian rifled muskets to replace the Tower of London flintlocks that had armed three of his regiments.
In the center, Manigault’s brigade was spoiling for a fight. Although they had marched with the trains, it had been discovered that the sacks of coffee they had captured from a Union rail depot the previous week had been filled with sand by some blue-coated quartermaster with a sense of humor. Rumor had it that quartermaster was in Ox Crossing.
Finally, on the Confederate right, on the Knoxville Road, advanced Hindman’s Brigade of Alabamians and Dent’s Battery of 6 guns. Hindman, however, had been recalled by Crittenden for “consultations” that morning so the column was led by the political general Felix Zollicoffer.
The Ohio battery duly opened the action by sending a few balls down the road. Zollicoffer, in his first taste of actual battle, saw his orderly’s horse disemboweled and ordered his column to deploy almost 600 yards short of the Union line. Unmolested by artillery, Anderson and Manigault deployed much closer, Manigault in more open terrain, slightly quicker though soon the pop of muskets was heard all along Gibb’s and Wilson’s front and clouds of smoke drifted into the cold mid-morning air.
Hindman, hearing the gunfire, raced to the front. Creating order from Zollicoffer’s chaos, he ordered Dent to unlimber and sent his brigade looping to the right, attempting to exploit the gap between Grover’s line and the river. Alas, Hindman was too late. Thomas had already sent a reserve regiment sidling to his left and Grover had moved his reserve further left to block the gap.
Manigault attacked first but with Thomas calmly walking his horse up and down the line and Wilson shouting encouragement the attack was repulsed. A musketry duel ensued at ranges of less than 100 yards. Manigault’s brigade fell back, their anger at the coffee/sand cooled by the loss of almost 400 men killed and wounded.
Anderson swept forward with the 44th Mississippi making it to the works on Gibb’s right with the 41st Mississippi in support but after a brief crossing of bayonets they were forced back. Down the road advanced the 10th Mississippi with the 9th in support. At a range of 25 yards they engaged the 3rd Tennessee and the 63rd Pennsylvania for more than thirty minutes. But it was too much. With the assault on the redoubt stopped and Manigault recoiling the rest of Anderson’s brigade was forced to fall back.
Hindman’s attack was overtaken by these events. Organized slowly due to Zollicoffer’s delay, his 19th and 39th Alabama had come to grips with Grover’s repositioned brigade just as a rider galloped up from Crittenden ordering a general withdrawal. Pinched by the river and Grover’s Bald Hill works the packed ranks suffered over 100 casualties in fifteen minutes. They had the consolation of watching the 2nd Tennessee find the action too hot and pull back to a grove of trees.
With two more blue regiments forming behind, shuffled over by Thomas, Hindman reluctantly acceded to the general withdrawal order. Ox Crossing, at least for now, would stay under the Federal flag. The three uncoordinated rebel attacks cost them 850 casualties; Thomas counted almost 600.
The armies of the United States and the rebellious Confederate States are on the move. But that very movement means supplies are lean and two small corps find themselves maneuvering in the same area, near the village of Thomasville, North Carolina. Rumor has it that there are several overfull warehouses in the small town and its garrison, commanded by one Colonel E. L. Lucky, has marched off to chase down some bushwackers.
General J. B. Beatty has gotten permission to move on Thomasville from Ambrose Burnside, over on the coast at New Bern. General Hill has ordered his corps to the town on his own initiative. When the evenly matched corps break camp that summer morning, they have no idea they are marching to battle.
Tom Kennedy, a sergeant with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, wrote his wife Mollie, that morning, “Nothin but hardtack and bacon the last three days but Ole Mint says there’ll be good grub tonight care of the secesh gov’t.” Kennedy had served with the 2nd Dragoons on the frontier where he’d briefly been an orderly for Joseph Johnston.
Colonel Robert Minty led his troopers out of camp while the infantry was still rousing. They grumbled but they rode, his promise of a better dinner than their sorry breakfast a strong motivator. As the sun rose, they spied smoke curling from the chimneys of Thomasville.
Colonel Thomas Munford was likewise in the saddle early. His men didn’t even have coffee that morning. Their last meal had been two days before and they were definitely anticipating a stop at the (supposedly) friendly town. However, as Munford and his staff cantered ahead of the column Captain Norris saw a glint of sun on metal. Pausing on a small bald hill, he focused his field glasses in the distance. Unmistakable were the advancing columns of blue horsemen!
Norris spurred his mount to Munford who sent couriers thundering away to encourage Generals Field and Gregg to hurry forward the gray-clad infantry.
Minty saw the dust approaching and likewise send riders galloping back to the slow-moving foot columns. “Hurry on or dinner will be lost!”
Minty, being better mounted, deployed the 3rd Indiana in the buildings of the town west of the road and north of Deep Run. Bridges’ battery deployed on the road just north of the bridge over Deep Run, the 4th Michigan in the buildings of the town east of the road. The 7th Penn he ordered to loop to the left and attempt to force the stream and occupy a mill complex on the south bank.
Munford countered by placing Potter’s battery on his far right and pushing the 2nd Virginia into the southern half of the town. The 7th Virginia extended the line to the west along the bank while the 6th Virginia remained mounted as a reserve. Field’s brigade could be seen approaching at the double quick from the southeast.
Engagement range was a stone’s throw and all the cavalry were well-armed with breechloading carbines. Bridges’ battery was devastated in their exposed position – not a man or horse could stand with the guns which were soon abandoned. The four Rodmans would remain manned only by the dead for the rest of the fight. Two squadrons of the 4th Michigan managed to make it into a brick bank building and its surrounding brick fence. The rest of the regiment, in more exposed positions was decimated by the veterans of the 7th Virginia. Minty encouraged the Wolverines to hold firm.
Lieutenant Colonel Douglas pushed his Pennsylvanians across the stream under a hail of grapeshot from both Potter’s battery and Carrington’s newly arrived battery. Despite almost a hundred casualties the Pennsylvanians occupied the mill complex and their devastating return fire made Potter’s battery resemble Bridges’ – four pieces crewed only by the lifeless.
Now the race was on. Whichever side could get their infantry up first would be able to consolidate their position and secure Thomasville.
Brigadier General Charles Field was first on the Confederate side, arriving on the east flank and moving forward to an open rise opposite the mill. The 22nd Virginia Infantry was soon hotly engaged with Douglas’ horsemen as the rest of the brigade deployed.
General John T. Croxton’s blue brigade was first to arrive for Beatty’s boys. They arrived from the northwest and deployed tot the west of the road, pinning Munford and forcing him to deploy his oinly reserve, the 6th Virginia. The battle in the town itself, between the 4th Michigan and 3rd Indiana on the north bank and the 2nd and 7th Virginia on the south settled down to a bloody firefight.
The next half hour was critical. Thomas Negley arrived with his brigade on the east road for the Union. Douglas, seeing Field approaching with an entire brigade against his rapidly depleted single regiment, was desperate to signal Negley to hurry. Sergeant Kennedy snatched a guidon and raced up the stairs of the mill, rising three stories above the ground. On the roof he stood and waved the swallow-tailed banner energetically. Captain Dan Rickles saw the bright color dancing on the mill and pointed to Negley. “There they are boys! The cavalry holds the mill! Bread for everyone!” With three huzzahs they surged forward.
General Maxcy Gregg’s brigade and General Lawrence O’Bryan Branch’s brigade came swinging forward, Gregg slightly ahead, but they were too late. Even as their bayonets could be made out from the town, Croxton’s boys went into action. Battery B, 1st Ohio, beat off a desperate charge by the 6th Virginia, double-shotting their Napoleons, blasting away. The 74th Indiana, encouraged, surged forward on the extreme west, the excitement of their first battle overriding their terror at their first whiff of powder.
The 15th Kentucky came up to the left of the mill Douglas shouting to Rickles as he led the sweating foot soldiers, “Damn glad to see you boys!”. Field’s brigade did his best to interdict but the powder they had drawn from the depot at Fayetteville had spoiled and fully half the muskets misfired and fouled on the bad powder. Further it was found that half of Carrington’s canister rounds had only wooden balls on the sabot, a clear sabotage for profit by an unsavory contractor.
In one last effort Field pushed the 40th Virginia into the town to contest Negley, who had relieved the battered Wolverines. The veteran 104th Illinois unleashed a killing volley and the Virginians were forced back. Likewise, Croxton now pressed his advantage and a furious firefight developed with Gregg’s troops.
But it was too late for the graybellies. Beatty had taken the town and the increasing weight of their arrivals, paired with the faulty powder, left Hill with no option other than to issue the recall. It would be another hungry night for the boys in butternut and gray.
Game played using Mr. Lincoln's War in 15mm.
Second Corinth, wargame played 12/7/18 based on Day 1 of the Second Battle of Corinth, October 3, 1862
October 3, 1862 broke gray as the noncoms kicked and prodded the soldiers of Rosecrans’ Army of the Mississippi. Orders had come to move out of their entrenchments near the railroad junction of Corinth, Mississippi and meet the invading Confederate Army of West Tennessee under General Earl Van Dorn. A hasty breakfast of hardtack and cold bacon – the lucky ones got the dregs of coffee from the sentries – and off they marched, north into the wet, open woods, and scattered hardscrabble farms toward Dawson Creek and the old Confederate works.
The Confederates had been in motion since early morning, skirmishing with Union cavalry pickets and marching south along the Chewalla Road. Just north of Dawson Creek they deployed, Mansfield Lovell on the far western flank with Dabney Maury next, then Martin Green’s division.
Union deployment was a bit offset from the Confederates with Thomas McKean’s division on their far western flank but overlapped by Lovell further to the west, then Thomas Davies’ division, and finally, the cavalry division of John K. Mizner, beyond Green’s flank to the east. Unfortunately for both sides, neither took advantage of their flanking position. Mizner was paralyzed by the idea that John K. Jackson’s rebel cavalry brigade could be even further east and Mansfield Lovell, inexplicably, failed to urge his men on with any sort of vigor.
McKean reached the creek first and immediately dressed his lines and steadied his mostly veteran command into place. John McArthur’s brigade held the left, in the air as it were. In McKean’s center was John Oliver’s brigade and the right and reserve were the veteran Iowans of Marcellus Crocker. The line was ably supported by three batteries of Napoleons, 16 cannon in all.
Davies was still 600 yards from the creek when the ball opened, with Silas Baldwin’s brigade on his left, Richard Oglesby on the left, and Pleasant Hackleman’s brigade in support. Davies also had three batteries, all rifles, 12 guns in all.
On the Confederate right (west) Dabney Maury’s division of veterans came crashing through the woods with Charles Phifer’s brigade of dismounted Texas cavalry on the far right, expecting Lovell to cover their flank, and William Cabell’s Arkansas brigade on the left. John Moore’s brigade was in support. Rapley’s Battery of rifles and McNally’s Battery of Napoleons supported the assault.
The Confederate left, Martin Green’s division, was under the watchful eye of Sterling Price, “Old Pap”, with Earl Van Dorn, the overall commander, observing from Price’s side. Green advanced with Elijah Gates’ brigade of Missouri veterans on the right, Bruce Colbert’s brigade in the center and the Mississippi brigade of John D. Martin on the far left (west). Martin’s brigade had ignominiously run at the recent battle of Iuka and were held in low regard by the army. Deployed in support was William Moore’s brigade. Dawson’s Battery and Wade’s Battery, both of Napoleons, supported the main attack.
Maury developed his attack with precision and deliberation, bringing steady, intense pressure to bear on the bluecoats. Stirman’s Battalion of sharpshooters took first blood then the 3rd Arkansas (dismounted) charged over the creek, the 21st Missouri suffering 40% losses to the withering assault. A bit further along the line, the 18th Wisconsin was forced back after a similar 40% loss, surrendering their bloodied ground to the 21st Arkansas.
But it was not all glory for Maury, as the 6th Texas (dismounted) suffered mightily from repeated blasts of double canister from the Napoleons of Battery F, Illinois Light Artillery and Rapley’s Battery was forced to withdraw one section due to losses to the crews from the heavy fire of the 18th Missouri (Union).
In all Maury suffered 443 killed, wounded and missing, McKean roughly twice that.
Green and Davies raced each other to the creek and, especially to the small farm of Cyrus Burton. Burton’s small 10-acre spread was surrounded by a stout stone wall and it was this small open space and its surrounding wall and rough-hewn buildings where the hardest fighting of the day was to occur.
Gates threw the 16th Arkansas at the farm and Colbert supported the attack with the 14th Arkansas and Dawson’s Battery. Baldwin countered with the 14th Missouri (Birge’s Sharpshooters) and the 57th Illinois. The bluecoats got to the farm first but the extra weight of the cannons, in the end, won the day. 225 Confederates and 190 Federals fell in the small farm.
In the center, just west of the farm, at the only bridge over the creek (though it was low enough to walk over at all points) both armies threw their reserves. Crocker’s veteran Iowa troops blocked the road for the Yankees while elements of Gates’ and Cabell’s brigades attacked. Behind the front piles up the Confederate brigade of William Moore and the Union brigade of Pleasant Hackleman. No decision was made here. The Union was forced to withdraw based on Maury’s attack and the events on the far eastern flank.
There, Martin’s disgraced Mississippians and the 37th Alabama angled into the air where Mizner was supposed to be. Hackleman tried to slow the rebels by deploying Battery D, Missouri Light Artillery but the Alabamians and the 38th Mississippi advanced relentlessly, capturing two guns. In desperation, and in contradiction of his orders to support Baldwin, Hackleman redeployed the 2nd and 7th Iowa, but by the time they arrived it was too late, and Martin threatened to cut the Federal route back to Corinth.
Rosecrans ordered a general withdrawal to the inner works which was done in good order, as losses in Davies division, except at the Burton Farm, had been relatively light.
Van Dorn clapped Price on the back as the Federals pulled back and congratulated him on a “brilliant victory” and ordered the troops stop for dinner. The next day, Van Dorn hurled the same troops at Rosecrans’ works with another two Federal divisions joining their comrades. Again Lovell would fail to attack aggressively and the Confederates would be forced to ignominiously retreat back across the Mississippi, never to again cross east.
We use Mr. Lincoln's War and 15mm figures.
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.
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.
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..