sunnuntai 1. huhtikuuta 2012

First Battle of Lexington

This was a pretty straightforward siege affair where roughly the twice as large Confederate force attacks an Union fortified position. Since we had two newbies with us, non-club members but gentlemen nonetheless I might add, this rather straightforward scenario seemed a relatively good way of showing them the ropes.

Following initial clashes between the Confederate Missouri State Guard and local Union forces at Boonville and Carthage (both of which we played last Spring), the overly aggressive Union attack at Wilson's Creek (which we will somewhat paradoxically be playing in two weeks) resulted in a bloody repulse for the Federal troops. As the Northern army withdrew and regrouped, the Confederates swept forward throughout the territory in an attempt to take advantage of their victory. However, they found themselves held up by the garrison of Lexington, which had dug in around the local Seminary College and were prepared to await relief. After waiting some time for lack of supplies to weaken the Union forces, and then blocking the first serious relief effort by Northern troops, General Price finally ordered his Missouri State Guard forward to the attack.

This scenario pits the surrounding Confederate forces against the besieged Union forces, as the Missouri State Guard attempts to storm and capture the Northern stronghold. The Confederate forces are composed of the still poorly armed but numerous and somewhat more confident Missouri Sate Guard. Union forces are a mixed bag of well motivated regular troops and local militia that had begun to consider surrender the better option.

The works are Rough Terrain for movement, Full Cover (-2) versus fire, and Favorable Ground (+1) in close combat. The Seminary itself, in the middle of the works, is a Fortified Position (-3 versus fire) and a Strong Position (+2) in close combat - it can be garrisoned by up to 10 stands of infantry. While a strong position, note that any Union unit which is forced to Retreat from the works is considered Broken and Surrendered instead ... all stands are lost!

The woods in the northeast corner are Light (Broken Ground, -1 versus fire, +1 in close combat); the Lexington Suburbs in the southeast corner are treated the same. The "Anderson" mansion and warehouse to the west only affect movement as Broken Ground. The "ravines" (sunken roads) to the northwest and southwest are Broken Ground for movement - a unit may choose to "lie down" in the ravines and will be out of LOS of the Union defenders, but will require a formation change to reform.

The Confederates have come up with an ingenious plan to use the local stock of hemp bales as a sort of mobile bulwark serve as cover during their advance - resulting in the battle being known as "The Battle of the Hay Bales". There is a frontage of 240mm (8x 30mm pieces) of these hay bales available - this is conveniently equal to the frontage of two Confederate units in line. The hay bales may be moved forward using the Rough Ground movement rate. While moving, they provide a -2 modifier versus fire; if immobile, they provide a -3 modifier ... reports credit the hay bales as stopping Union artillery fire! The hay bales count as Broken Ground to move over, and provide a +1 advantage to a defender in close combat if charged, but are destroyed if occupied by enemy forces. The hay bales are initially deployed with McBride's command, covering the two regiments in front of the Anderson Warehouse.

Overview from the East.
Most of the Units move immediately to really close quarters. That is except the troops pushing the bales which didn't provide any shelter against the howizers which, combined with regular arty, wrecked havoc on the troops slowly pushing the bales forward. Thus the only thing the bales did was to slow the units behind them down so they got get fired upon more than without them -quite a change from what apparently happened in reality (most of the confederates closing in behind the bales...)
Much bloodier affair that it was in reality.
Confederates on the ramparts! Breaching enemy fortifications sure seems pretty easy in this ruleset!
A wider view of the same.
Marshall's cavalry retreats to the Seminary.
Despite casualties Confederate troops in the west try to tie as many Union troops as possible into shooting them and not supporting the troops defending against the breaches.
A closeup of the same.
Confederates storm the southeastern salient.
Meatgrinder in the process.
The Confederate troops on the west have had enough. Part flee from the table and the remainder just fall back.
But still they try to close on the Billy Yank.
Who need the darned bales anyhow?
Having lost the Seminary the noose tightens on the Union troops and they surrender.

The game was hard-fought and murderous, with the Union reaching army-level heavy casualties after only 1.5 hours of play, the South by 2 hours, and the Union finally surrendering with honors after 2.5 hours - quite the bloody assault!

On the western flank, the Union was able to check the advance of McBride's "Hay Bale Bulwark" by concentrated fire from their most reliable infantry, numerous cannon, and the highly (okay, over-) effective fire of their 18lb Coehorn Mortars. Rives' small brigade was likewise stymied by concentrated crossfire as they approached the works in support. However, the Union concentration in the west had left the east thinly manned by regiments in extended line, and both salients occupied by small Missouri Reserve regiments of doubtful quality. These quickly folded under assaults by Parsons and Harris, and the Union regular cavalry was forced to retire within the works as Rains' brigade advanced. The battle was now fought in earnest over the grounds of the seminary, and several Confederate assaults were thrown back with bloody casualties. However, with both sides now teetering on the edge of morale failure, the Union flanks finally collapsed and the Cavalry and Missouri Reserve brigades routed, leaving the gallant Colonel Mulligan with no choice but to surrender the remainder of his garrison, now backed into the northwestern salient.

This was an unusual scenario, being a straightforward "Charge!" into the works, but it's always interesting to try and game a variety of situations. Under the "if I had to do it over again" heading, I think I would:

1. Okay, downgrade the Coehorns to FP4 with no special advantage against cover.
2. Make the Union works more "square" in shape, as the salients are simply indefensible, which is common to most rules.
3. I think I have to rethink my rating of breastworks. With things like occupying a woods line or a hill crest being +1 in close combat, I suppose "hasty works" would be +1 but actual breastworks should be +2, and able to be garrisoned so that they ignore Hard Pressed results. So... woods and hasty works are -1 cover versus fire and +1 in close combat, while breastworks are -2 cover and +2 in close combat, and ignore Hard Pressed. -3 cover versus fire is reserved for stone buildings, actual fortress walls, and so on.

Wikipedia entry of the battle

Janne (preface and afteraction report by Chris)
(Played: Mar 19th at Chateu d'Tenwolde. GM: Chris. Confederates: Bill, Janne, Mikko and Mr V. Union: Aksu and Chris.)

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