Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Battle of Sharpeville - Conclusion

Our session on Wednesday night was short but sweet finishing a game that will go down in history as a great day for the North and taking us one step closer to the restoration of the Union!

General view of the north side of the battlefield looking west through Jackson's lines towards Sharpeville.

General Lee returned to the field with the air of a beaten man and this immediately lifted spirits at Pope’s HQ. I had felt that, although Dave was trailing 4 to 2 in DM points at this stage, the battle could still turn in an instant, particularly with two whole Rebel Divisions committed to assault my right flank at Hawk Ridge.

Pope's HQ at Sharpeville - the numbered counter by the courier shows he is about to leave with "Order No4", this
system helps us keep track of any orders issued by the C-in-C.

The Rebel position on top of Hawk Ridge looking towards the Union lines. The Rebs are finally bringing up some guns!

Turn 8 saw the fierce fighting at the Barnes Farm continuing with more heavy casualties caused to both sides. Hooker’s Division was barely combat effective by now and Kearny was in little better shape. The Rebels were weary too yet somehow the opposing battle-lines hung on with no further routs.

AP Hill's men slug it out with Kearny's Division in the fields around the Barnes Farm.

Jackson's line viewed from the south - Ewell is in the foreground (note the Brigade with the "1" SP marker - many of the Brigades on both sides were reduced to very low levels by now).

It was over on the Rebel left flank that things were about to be decided. Dave was still pushing Anderson and Kemper forward against McDowell’s line but they were receiving deadly canister fire and the end of Anderson's line was flanked by Tompkin’s dismounted cavalry. All this hot lead proved too much for the men in butternut and grey and with a string of failed morale tests they broke and ran!

The central part of the field looking west. Hood's Division (nearest the camera) are still in reserve and awaiting orders.

Anderson's flank on Hawk Ridge is "up in the air" and Tompkin's troopers are blazing away at it with their carbines while infantry skirmishers have sneakily worked their way into the enemy's rear!

Kemper's men take to their heels (their General has already been carried from the field with a mortal wound).

A quick count of broken units revealed a Confederate score of 6, enough to put them at their Army Demoralisation Level and so a Union victory was declared. The Battle of Sharpeville was over and to the cheers of his men General Pope claimed his 5 Campaign VP’s.

Another view of Kemper's men on the run - well it was my turn to choose the photos!

So what went wrong for General Lee? Well, of course President Davis will be holding a full enquiry but from the Union perspective it looks as if Dave’s ‘Porteritis’ cost him the battle. He kept a full 8 Brigades in reserve to counter a threat that didn’t exist allowing a numerically smaller Union army to succeed. He also failed to bring more than a handful of artillery pieces into play being hampered by the terrain whilst Pope managed to pound the Rebels continuously from both long and short range.

McDowell's batteries in action at the foot of Hawk Ridge. These lads broke the back of the Confederate assault.

Hood's men again - probably whistling Dixie but not doing much else!

The Confederates must now withdraw from the field and the strategic Campaign turns will continue. Don’t forget to follow our individual blogs Wilderness Tavern (Dave) and Road to Appomattox (me) to keep up with events.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Battle of Sharpeville - Turns 5-7

As the second session began, Jackson was under serious pressure.  A.P. Hill’s men on the far right were being  forced to give ground, but Lee was still in the grip of the fear that Porter’s Corps was about to descend on the Confederates from a position off-table to the north, and continued to order the bulk of the reserves held back for this (increasingly unlikely!) eventuality. He did, however, send Walker’s three rifled batteries trundling off down a woodland track to attach themselves to Jackson’s command. 
Stuart's troopers (foreground) and Jackson's reserve stubbornly continue to face north -
waiting for a flank attack that will never come ! The rifled batteries can be seen arriving in the rear.

Ian and I have fought dozens of play-by-email campaigns using the brilliant range of ACW games sold by HPS. We have often noticed how total fog of war over huge strategic areas and timescales has the psychological effect of crippling you with caution. You start to vastly overestimate your opponents strength, cunning and manoeuvreability - we call this affliction ‘McClellanitis’ ....  and by now I was seriously suffering from it on the field of Sharpeville. I was so convinced that Porter was about to outflank me that I had utterly failed to notice that his corps had already arrived on the table in the Union rear, and was marching calmly through the town to join the main action ! Being under no obligation to identify this force to me, Ian was extremely amused at my discomfiture.

It wasn't until the final division of Porter's corps (Sykes) passed through Sharpeville
 on it's way to the front, that I correctly identified them !

It was too late of course. Scared of phantoms, I had held back a division from each of my corps and was paying the price. Jackson managed to fall back a little and re-align, shunting fresh brigades into the line and retiring threadbare ones – but he was  badly mauled.

Kearny's brigades push Jackson hard ....
.... and the flank begins to buckle under the strain.

To the south at Hawk Ridge Longstreet ran into a solid wall of fire from McDowell’s divisions, Doubleday and Ricketts. Heavy  losses  and crumbling morale meant that he couldn’t press home any of the assaults his orders had required. After a confident start the Rebs have lost the initiative and are fighting for survival.
Looking west with the Lutheran church in the centre background - Longstreet
 ploughs into McDowell where the road winds past Hawk Ridge.
Looking north from the ridge as the battle lines close.

.... and it starts to go badly for the Rebs
( a lesser man might start bleating about unfavourable dice at this point...)

As more and more Union forces flood onto the field, Lee has ordered Hood’s division up to plug the gap between Jackson and Longstreet. The Confederates already have 2 brigades permanently eliminated from play and 2 more broken on table, giving them a demoralisation level of 4 at the end of turn seven.

The Army of Northern Virginia headquarters.
 Lots of awkward silences and uncomfortable foot shuffling.
Thankfully the Easter break will delay the final resolution of this battle, and draw a temporary veil over Southern embarrassment . . . .