Back from my holiday for a couple of weeks so it was time to open up the Dungeon again with one of our larger games, what else could it be but something from Tennessee. With the addition of Martin’s excellent collection we were able to create a reasonable representation of the attack by confederate forces along the line of the Hamburg-Purdy road which took place around mid-day on April 6th 1862.
I’m not going to give a long detailed account of the battle, but for those not familiar with Shiloh here are the essential facts. The Confederates were attacking north (right to left in the plan above) despite delays in preparation and marching they managed to catch the Union Forces who were encamped across a front of about 4 miles. The ground is wooded with isolated farms and clearings. Gen. Johnston the Confederate Commander with poor information on the Union whereabouts had hoped to turn the Union left flank but instead sent the majority of his Brigades to assault the Union right flank. This is the action we will be covering. Having overrun the union camps around 07:00 am the Rebels wasted much time catching up on breakfast having not eaten to a couple of days. This allowed Generals Sherman and McClernand to establish a thin defensive line along the Hamburg-Purdy road which runs roughly NW to SE across the battlefield. At around mid-day the Rebels assaulted this line with some of the ground changing hands several times. Eventually the union forces were outflanked to the west and were forced back mid afternoon, but the histories would say that Sherman and McClernand had bought enough time for Grant back at Pittsburg Landing to develop a stronger defensive position which eventually held at the end of the day (obviously there is much more to the battle but hopefully we’ll cover this in future games)
There are a number of key elements in the battle which we have attempted to bring into this game. Firstly the confederates outnumber the union defenders, Grant was awaiting reinforcements which didn’t come till later. In our game we have six rebel Brigades against five Union. Secondly much of the ground is wooded, this is hard to represent especially in 28 mm so for this scenario the fields which are clearly identified count as open ground whilst everywhere else counts as light woods, this gives cover but doesn’t block line of sight. Thirdly the vast majority of troops were inexperienced and untested in battle, so for our game they count as inexperienced lowering both their shooting ability and morale. Finally a key factor in the battle was the poor attack orders developed for the confederates, this meant that their Brigades, divisions and Corps were completely jumbled up. This meant it was particularly difficult to bring a significant focus of troops at any particular point. We found a neat way of representing this which was to give the Rebels less order dice than the total number of units this gave the Rebels a real headache from the start, unable to simply roll forward across the whole front.....and so to battle 🙂
Col Buckland’s Brigade having been pushed back has reformed on the extreme right flank of the Union line, beyond them is Col Raith’s Brigade holding ground along the Hamburg-Purdy road
On the rebel left flank Brigadier General Anderson advances his brigade directly towards them
In the rebel centre BG Wood’s Brigade has ransacked the union camp but seems reluctant to advance ?
Col Marsh’s Brigade holds the Woolf field and beyond them can be seen the Water Oak Pond
A wider shot of the western end of the battlefield, Shiloh Church can be seen at the right on the road south to Corinth
Rebels surge forward through the woods
Having settled into their defensive line the Federals hold their nerve
Breaking into the open ground of the Ben Howell Farm
Left of the Union centre all is still quiet
The cannons of Raith’s Brigade open up
...and musket fire along the front
Some of the advanced rebels are pushed back by this early fire but they are attacking on mass, our rules allow them to rally relatively easily but this requires a spare order dice which at this stage are in short supply
Rebel artillery has set up by Shiloh Church, behind them Russell’s Brigade advances towards the cross roads
With a ‘rebel yell’ Anderson’s men reach the road, but don’t quite break through
Rebels on the road, they are pushing hard on their left flank
Brg Gen Cleburne’s Brigade is now advancing also on the left flank
But the orders haven’t got through to Wood whose Brigade is still holding by the union camp (this is where the order dice/command issue proved the most challenging for the Rebel general!)
Russell’s Brigade advancing directly towards the cross roads
On the rebel right flank, the union defence is very thin
A shot towards the cross roads looking NW
...and now on the Union right flank the rebels are close to breaking through....if only they can get more units into the fight
On the edge of the review field the rebels have effectively broken through the union line, Colonel Hare needs to act fast
But with the limited advance in the centre the Federal troops of Marsh and Veatch are ordered to advance hoping to catch the advancing rebels in the flank, this is a dangerous move as Wood’s Brigade is just in front of them
The Union right flank is collapsing under weight of numbers so units are being stripped from the centre, but it is a long way to the west beyond the Oak Pond
The initial rebel assault on the right flank has been pushed back but the line is thin and Cleburne’s Brigade can be seen advancing in the distance
The final regiment of Anderson’s Brigade has assaulted across the field but the Union troops are more stubborn than you think
Arrgghhhhh Cleburne’s Brigade adavancing
Very slowly BG Wood gets his Brigade moving but it might be too late ?
Cleburne is still advancing in strength
The remnants of the Union line on the right can only look on in horror!
Wood May have left it too late the Union centre is holding
Cleburne’s Brigade crashes through onto the main road and the Union right flank is going to be completely overwhelmed
The central and western end of the battlefield, the union line which is holding is thin but intact, somehow I missed a final picture of the Union left flank where Shaver’s Brigade had been beaten back by Hare’s Brigade. At nt we called the game a hard fought draw, the rebel attack on the Union left had failed, the centre is evenly matched, but the rebels have clearly brought enough numbers to break through the Union right flank. Repeating history it would be time for the remaining union forces to start to pull back pivoting on their left where the fearce battle for the Hornet’s nest is just kicking off.
A great battle, fantastic to play over ground which I walked a matter of weeks ago, the scenario was tough for the confederates, but this reflected the rubbish attack orders they were operating under, the stubbornness of the Union troops was in no small way due to my ridiculous ability to roll 6’s by the handful 🎲. Five or Six Brigades on each side really gives a great game but a day (5 or 6 hours of gaming) never quite gives a conclusive result and ideally we would have played another couple of turns to see the Union right flank being turned. One finally thought is I need to think about how I represent this difficult wooded terrain without it becoming unmanageable to move troops about, thoughts on this welcome?
As I was tidying up I took a shot of the four boxes I now need for my ACW collection, and no I have a bit more to paint yet so another box is on the way.