Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Lark in the Dark: Battle of Wauhatchie, 1863

    My friend and now four time Historicon roommate, Tim Couper of London, ran the Battle of Wauhatchie, October 28 - 29, 1863 on Friday morning at Historicon, using Field of Battle, 2nd edition by Piquet/ Brent Oman and his own 15mm figures. The background of the battle can be found here on Wikipedia, but in brief, the battle was fairly unique in that it was fought in the dark, as the Union tried to open up a supply line into Chatanooga, where the Union army under Rosencrans, previously defeated at Chicamauga, was under siege and in danger of running out of food and supplies. The Confederates, quite naturally, took exception to the attempt and  tried to stop them. The action depicted in the game took place around Wauhatchie station. 

I assisted Tim with the GM-ing the game in this end of the table, neither player really being familiar with Field of Battle. If the boys in grey ( and butternut, etc) could drive off the Union troops here, the supply line would be cut and the Union army in Chattanooga would face starvation!

Rebel troops poised to attack towards the Union force depicted above. 

And attack they did!  This Union command had the only Artillery battery in the game, but it was of limited use, as the darkness made all fire over 10" range DOWN 2. 

The fighting was hot and heavy on my end of the table almost from the start of the game. 

On the opposite end of the table, the Union forces attempted to push back the Confederates, so that reinforcements could be sent to keep the supply line open. 

The battle becomes general. Tim brought his own set of 15mm trees all the way from England... and them forgot to put them out on the table!

View of "my" end of the table from the Confederate vantage point - Longstreet has sent reinforcements (moving down the road on the left of the picture), trying even harder to drive off the Union troops keeping the "cracker line" open. 

The blue-bellies are hard pressed, and the clouds suddenly covering the moon are making it even harder to see... and shoot!  (scenario rule). 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the table, the Union has pushed back the Rebs, and is about to dispatch its own reinforcements to succor their embattled comrades.

Still plenty of fighting in the Center, though!

"Brigade, March; on the Double now!"

A sea of grey batters the flagging Union defenders... but they are in danger of being taken from behind by the approaching Union relief forces, seen in the distance. A tense action all the way at my end of the table!

    My hat is off to Tim for bringing his figures by plane and running a game four years in a row, not to mention battling jet lag. Good show! See you next year in Fredericksburg for Historicon 2014, Tim.


  1. An odd fight!
    I'll search for a napoleonic analogous combat!

    1. I can't think o\f one, but it would probably fit best in a peninsular campaign setting with some guerrillas added in... or perhaps the Russian campaign?

    2. Maybe twist Tarutino. Murat sits a day or two beyond Moscow in October 1812. Can't remember if the Russians attacked at night or not.

    3. A possibility - I can't think of any non-siege night attacks during the Napoleonic Wars of hand.

    4. I've got it, the Danube, Nov 2, 1811, Russians vs the Ottomans. The Ottoman army is split by the Danube, 50,000 on the West bank and 20,000 on the East. Kutusov sends a cavalry force to attack the smaller force and destroys it at the same time the main Russian army attacks the larger Ottoman force; at night.
      Fortunately for me, my friend, Richard has a very large Renaissance Ottoman army that will fit nicely onto temporary V&B bases. Can't find much in the way of OB information so I'll just have to make it up.

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    6. Now there is an action obscure enough (for us more Eurocentric types - although even that isn't quite right re: the Ottomans and Russians - "Western Euro-centric", perhaps?) that I barely recall reading about it, yet fascinating given the situation, the night attack, and the involvement of the Ottomans. It is very interesting to speculate upon the outcome of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 2012, had the Ottomans remained at war with Russia, preventing the Russians from reassigning large numbers of troops from that front. I must say that I suspect the outcome might have been similar, but it may have taken longer to get there.... and maybe no Retreat in the awful Russian winter!

      In any event, I'd love to see that one played out!

  2. Replies
    1. One I wasn't aware of myself until assisting with the game.

  3. Wasn't this battle originally turned by the charge (stampede) of some artillery mules? I understand that as a result of their 'charge', and the hesitation they induced in the Confederate attack, a petition was put about to have the animals breveted as horses.

    1. Yes, there was an incident of that sort in he Battle, not sure if it concurred in the section covered on the table. FoB would make it easy to model by just calling a "special" card "Mules Stampede" and having it randomly disorder (place Out of Command, rout if already OOC) D4 adjacent Confederate units, or one Command group).

  4. I didn't reflect that incident, but was tempted :-)

    I have had a request to detail the night rules: The night started with a clear full moon ('clear sky") so "visibility" was 10" (and firing beyond that was Dn2). Both decks had a Unique Event Card; the player turning the card then rolled a D6; a 1 or 2 and cloud cover appeared - "visibility" was 2" (Dn 2 for firing beyond that) AND commander rolls for movement and leadership were Dn 1 - a 3-6 on the D6: "clear sky".

    I used an A5 (US half-letter-size) perspex menu stand with the two statuses (one on each side), to help remember what the visibility was :-)

    Many thanks to the players who joined in wholeheartedly, and especially to Peter for helping with PK newbies who experienced the joys and frustrations of not being in control ... :-)

    1. Thanks, Tim! (GM and scenario designer for the game).