Combining my own and Martin’s collection we had just enough Infantry to run the Crossroads scenario from Brad Butkovich’s excellent scenario book This Bloody Field. We have played a few of the scenarios before although normally slightly cut down to fit our space, with a 12 x 6 table to go at we threw ourselves into a monster game.
I’m not going to rerun the full context of the battle, this is well covered in the book. Suffice to say the union forces under Sherman and McClernand have regrouped north of the Hamburg-Purdy road having been pushed out of their respective camps early in the morning. Confederate forces of several mixed divisions having paused to reorder themselves are ordered to advance. The two forces on this western edge of the battle field clash around the crossroads of the Hamburg-Prudy and Corinth roads just north of the Shiloh Church itself. The Confederate aim is to flank the Union line or break through. The Federals must attempt to hold back the advance for as long as possible.
Historically the Union line was pushed back and broken but regrouped again and whilst the rebels raided the union camps for much needed breakfast counter attacked Holding the line just long enough . The battle moved later in the day to the East where the Hornet’s Nest was the final Thorn in the Confederate assault on day one.
Our initial setup map, confederates attacking from the south. We had two or three special rules which i had adapted slightly from the book. Union camps : when the rebels move within 3” of one of the abandoned union camps marked by the tents they would need to take a morale check to avoid looting. We adapted this rule slightly as the game went on otherwise the history of the civil war would have been quite different ! Friendly fire, apparently the rebels were subject to a lot of friendly fire incidents, remembering gate whole battlefield apart from the cleared fields was light woodland. So we added a special dice into the bag and when it was a drawn an appropriate penalty applied to a rebel unit. The dice was removed from the bag when all the union forces had been revealed. Most significantly i decided with the wooded nature of the battle we should have the union set up in hidden deployment. This was aided by the fact that Martin (Leonidas Polk) didn’t know the battle and avoids the issue which is the Union forces have a huge gap on their right flank separating McDowell’s 1st Brigade. It is a pretty obvious place to attack unless you don’t know there is a gap. So i identified each Union unit with a card as above with stats etc and threw in about 10 or so extra cards mainly in the gap and creating a false second line. We then had spotting rules as the rebel advanced through the woods, this created just the right amount of concern and confusion in the Rebel commanders mind, holding back his reserve when really he should have been charging forward to assault the outnumbered union line. The terrain is pretty flat. To the west there is swampy ground which we made very difficult going. The small stream on the left slowed movement. And the tress around the Hornet’s Nest was very difficult thick woods forcing the rebels to attempt to assault across Duncan’s field instead. One final adaptation for history we had the majority of troops on the Rebel side with a fairly low morale rating of 8. Sherman and McClernand’s troops were generally better but nobody was a veteran in April 1862.
A real joy to play this battle and for context here i am a couple of years ago on the ground. My memory is slightly hazy but i am fairly sure the first shot is looking North close to the cross roads, the battery in fron the line of the Union defence and the battery in the middle ground the line taken by the Confederates when the Federals counterattacked
Helpfully i took a photo of the info board so this is looking south towards the crossroads, it certainly gives you a sense of the terrain, sadly impossible to recreate on the tabletop as it would make moving figures about impossible !
And so onto the action.....bear in mind this is a big game for two of us to take on the Confederates have healthy 10 Brigades, the union defending with 8 ! The battlefield is 12x6 feet we had just enough troops for both sides, whilst we had Divisional Commanders they played a limited part in the confused battle. We moved our normal rules up a level with a Dice for each brigade.
The rebel right wing Shaver and Stephen’s Brigade advancing around the thick woods of the Hornet’s Nest towards the Duncan Field
Woods Brigade in front of Stewart’s Brigade about to cross the Hamburg-Purdy Road towards the Review Field, you can now see the abandoned Union camps.
Shiloh Church Russel’s Brigade starting the battle in disorder and to their left Trabue with the Army Reserve Division, off in the distance, Smith, Anderson, and Pond
Another shot at the start without the annoying labels, one final thing you will see in the shots skirmishers from both sides these were simply for show but added a nice feel and we moved them about at random
Smith, Anderson and Pond start to advance
But the hungry troops mainly from Tennessee fail their test and choose instead to raid the Union camp !
Tuttle’s Brigade of the 2nd Division are revealed along the edge of the Duncan Field
And beyond them the 1st brigade of the 1st Divsion along the Corinth road Illinois and Iowa farm boys a long way from home
Crossing the h-Purdy Road Shaver’s Brigade is swinging right towards the Duncan field
Watching their comrades eat the union breakfast the Reserve Brigade under Trabue awaits orders, perhaps they need a little more urgency !
Pond and Anderson’s Brigade advance in line across the small Creek, if only they new there was a gap in front of them they could have rushed forward
Back on the right wing Confederate forces start a firefight across Duncan’s field
Still no movement from the reserves (Union hidden deployment is working) held back
Most of the Union line is now exploded and starting to engage along the Corinth road
Finally McDowell’s isolated 1st Brigade are revealed at the moment they are still acting as a magnet for the rebel left wing, the gap can be clearly seen beyond them but somehow the Rebels have still not spotted the fake troops in that section
Again the Rebel left flank exchanging long range fire when if they knew how much they outnumbered the Federals they should be charging forward
Back on the Corinth road some of the 1st Division have been forced back.
Look at all those reserves in Stewart’s Brigade holding back
This is probably the strongest part of the federal line around the Duncan Farm and the Corinth road the rebels attack again and again but cant make a significant break through
Finally all the Union forces are revealed and the Reserve Brigade is thrown forward towards the Ben Howell field
Stewarts Brigade is also finally advancing supported by its artillery
The game is up ! While Pond’s brigade pins McDowell down Anderson and Hill charge forward to the gap held very thinly by some of the unions weakest troops the 5th Div 3rd Brigade under Col. Jesse Hildebrand
In the Union Centre sensing they risk of a complete break through and with gaps appearing in the centre Veatch is ordered to move to the right to plug the gaps
An overview at this point
Whilst the fearless fighting at Duncan’s field continues it is clear the deciding action will be around the Ben Howell field and will require Anderson and Hill’s brigade to break through allowing them to roll up the Union line
Whilst this goes on Trabue pins the centre around the crossroads
The confederate right just cant make any headway east of Shiloh church
The gap is now being opened up by Anderson brigade as the start to outflank the Union line
Another view looking over the church towards the Ben Howell field it is only a matter of time
Massed rebel infantry units approaching the crossroads, at this point (it was time to call a halt)
A final shot, McDowell’s brigade in the foreground is a spent force clinging on but no longer a real risk. Anderson’s brigade with Hill is exploiting the open flank as Jesse Hildebrand’s brigade falls back under the pressure. You cant see it so well from here but the battle over the Duncan Farm is a stalemate anchoring the Union left flank. but with the reserve Brigade under Trabue now being thrown at the cross roads we judged the Confederates had done enough to claim the hint of a victory.
It didn’t really matter as the game had been fantastic fun, hard fought in a wonderful spirit. History had been remarkable closely followed which is often the case. Pondering after the game the job of the Union forces is just to cling on, they did this as well as they could. The Confederates were clearly hampered by the hidden deployment which worked tremendously well. If they had know how weak the Union right flank was it is obvious they would charge ahead and simply crush it causing the union centre and left to fall back. Because they didn’t know they held their reserves too long at the back, but then you would wouldn’t you ?
The big table is pretty easy to set up so as long as it is warm enough we will see some more games under the new garden roof, whilst celebrating over a cup of tea we pondered a number of future options and games which would look great on this scale. From SYW to Al Andalus. We also reflected that it would be nice to run a game like this at a show if ever they start up again.
Hope you enjoyed the adventure as much as us 👍
Ps in the immediate aftermath of the battle I went and ordered the scenario book for Antietam 😀