Friday, April 21, 2017

First Bull Run 1861

Thursday evening the Corlears Hook Fencibles played a scenario of the 1861 battle of First Bull Run using the Bloody Big Battles rules. I recently decided based on further reading that the scenario needed to be updated. It now fits on a 4 X 4 foot table. My crude rendering of the map follows. In the AAR and photos, all Confederate units and leaders are in italics.

Jay and Bill played Johnston and Beauregard respectively, while Rick was McDowell and I Tyler. On the first turn I rolled a six to activate Tyler’s division. The rolls weren’t supposed to start until turn 3 (noon). There’s no excuse since I wrote the scenario. This error was in the Union’s favor. More on that later. The main Union column got into a fight with Evan’s small, isolated brigade.

Schenk’s small brigade sidled up to the Stone Bridge over Bull Run, one of the 5 objectives on the field. Possession of three would grant victory. Cocke didn’t intervene because Keyes was threatening Ball’s Ford, another objective.

Confederate reinforcements began arriving.

Hot Union firing dice decimated Evans’ brigade which was then swept away by Burnside’s bayonet charge.

Burnside rested while Sherman moved up.
Burnside advanced and was disrupted by artillery fire.

On turn 6 the Confederates realized they had forgotten to bring on their previous turn’s reinforcements, Stuart and an artillery battalion. It all arrived this turn along with Early’s and Kirby-Smith’s brigades. A sobering mass of enemy troops appeared behind the Confederate left.

For the moment, the Union held three objectives (Ball’s Ford, Stone Bridge, Henry House Hill). If we kept them we had a victory. The situation at Ball’s Ford deteriorated.

Union fire decimated Bee’s brigade. A charge up the hill did more damage with musket fire but then fell into confusion (assault dice of Union 1, Confederate 6). The battered Rebels just held and threw Porter’s brigade back.
Sherman’s battered brigade fell back. Jackson’s brigade advanced and forced Wilcox to fall back. Henry House Hill was still in Union hands but just barely.
Wilcox rallied and charged, as did Burnside. Heavy fire stopped both charges.
On the final Confederate turn, Jackson defeated Wilcox. Smith whipped and scattered Franklin’s brigade, removing all traces of Union control from Henry House Hill. With only one objective, the Union had lost the game. But insult was added to injury. Early defeated Howard, Stuart’s cavalry charged Porter’s flank, forcing the much larger Union brigade to give ground. They stuck a fork in us. We were done. No photos were taken at the end of the game. In the ensuing rout, the photographer's "whatsit" wagon was overturned.

We played nine turns in two and a half hours. Union losses were 8 infantry bases and 1 ran away (of 37). Confederate losses were 7 bases of infantry and 1 ran away (of 35). Everyone had a good time. All agreed that the Union had a tough but not impossible job in this scenario. The Union attack on Bald Hill was made feasible by some hot firing dice, giving us a really good shot at winning the assault. But our luck gave out. Considering my early error in favor of the Union and the Confederates forgetting to bring on some reinforcements in a timely manner, the odds do seem against the Union. This has me thinking of ways to even the odds a little. I don’t want to add a Union general to the mix since none of the high ranking officers performed better than battalion commanders that day. Perhaps Sherman should get an upgrade since his brigade performed markedly better that day. I’ll think about it over the weekend.

All agreed that we will switch sides and play this again next week. Stay tuned.