Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Battle of Salem Church - Black Powder ACW

On March 3rd my friends and I held the third and last game of our Chancellorsville Black Powder campaign.  Our first battle was almost 2 years ago.  We started with Jackson's flank attack against the Union XI Corps. About a year ago we played game two - Breakthrough at Chancellorsville Inn.  Both of these games were great fun and really huge.  For the final game we needed something to top them all.  This time it was Salem Church.  This game would be played as per the scenario in the Glory, Hallelujah! book, page 138.

As for rules we played mostly from the Black Powder rules with only a few of the Glory, Hallelujah! changes.  The woods were rated as Light Woods rather than Heavy Woods as the scenario calls for.  I just felt with the large table the heavy rating would just slow things to a crawl.  The Light Woods rules are from GH page 54.  We used the Passage of Lines from GH, page 59.  We used a variation of The Charge rules on page 61.  We do not apply the -2 penalty to the command roll for charging from the front.

Salem Church in the center of the battlefield.  The fields are counted as open ground with no cover.

The South woods.  All woods are counted as Light Woods per the GH rules, page 54.

The entire battlefield looking North to South.  The table is 12' x 8'.

The battle would be fought on a 12' x 8' table.  The layout is as close to the map on page 138 that our collections would allow.  The objective for both sides in the battle was very simple - destroy the other army.  The battlefield would not really allow for subtlety.  The size of the armies would also make maneuver very tough.  Basically, move forward and grind it out.

South end of the Confederate line.  Wilcox's Brigade, Anderson's Division is along the road, and completely separated from the other brigade of the division (which was deployed on the other side of the table for some reason).  This would cause some command issues for the Rebs.  This would be the location of some of the most important and dramatic fighting of the day.

The Confederate deployment in the center.  McLaw's Division would hold most of the ground in the center for the Rebs. These brigades were exhausted after a forced march to get to the battle and as such they were limited to one move per order.  This had a bigger impact on the player than on the forces as they basically decided to stand fast all game. 

The Confederate deployment in the North.  Mahone's Brigade, Anderson's Division is in the woods with McLaw's Division to their right.  Mahone would put up a stubborn defense of these woods all game (but it probably wasn't very fun to play).

The Union deployment looking South.  The 3rd Division, VI Corps is in the woods and the open ground next to it.  The 3rd Brigade would have a tough time getting moving in the woods.  The commander would blame the terrain but lack of competent command and control was the real cause.

Over 1500 28mm figures deployed for battle.  It was a truly stunning sight.

The Union center.  Mostly the troops of the 3rd Division.

The Union deployment looking South to North.  The 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, VI Corps is in the woods in the foreground (me).  The 3rd Brigade, 1st Division  is in the center ready to advance on the church.  1st Brigade is in support acting as division reserve.

A game like this takes a lot of work to put on.  The setup took more than an hour and when you throw in army assignments, terrain explanations, rules updates and deployment the first roll of the dice was almost 2 hours in.  Before all that the figures had to be collected and painted.  This battle used more than 1500 figures from the collections of 5 of the players.  Several of the players worked hard to paint new units specifically for this game, myself included.  I also re-acquired some figures from a local gamer that had not been on the bale for a long time.  Virtually all of the terrain was also supplied by the players with only a few trees from the local shop.

The 3rd Division advances in the open on the Union right.  A dazzling sight but the Rebs have already taken up defensive positions in the woods.

The Confederates are trying to get units in line along the edge of the woods to pour fire into the advancing Union troops.  It appears that one Reb regiment has left their flank hanging open but the Uniion troops were too slow to take advantage.

In the center the 3rd Divion is rapidly advancing on the right but the 1st Division is lagging behind, or so it seems.  The union plan was to try and draw the Confederates in the South towards the center and then outflank them through the woods.  The plan was sound.

The 2nd Brigade, 1st Division makes its move.  The 46th Pennsylvania is used as bait to draw the Confederates up the road towards the crossroads.  The remainder of the brigade, in march column, moves into the woods to wards the open Confederate flank.

The Confederates slowly move units towards the church but poor command rolls are hammering the effort (not to mention exhausted troops).

Back on the North end the 3rd Division is slowed by withering Confederate fire.  Casualties are mounting and disordered units are blocking the advance.  The difficulties in passing through are not helping.

In the South woods the Confederates have been caught with their pants down.  They desperately reposition units to stop the Union troops advancing through the woods.  The 114th Penn has routed a Reb regiment off the road and is now on the flank of the entire Confederate army.  The 46th Penn, that was holding the crossroads has been routed but units of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division have moved in to cover the crossroads.

The fight at the crossroads is reaching a fevered pitch.  The Confederates are desperately trying to stop the Union advance as well as contain the flank attack.  In the center the Union is in control of the church as farther North a bulge is forming in the Union lines.

The fighting in the South woods is getting brutal.  Wilcox's Brigade, Anderson's Division has broken and the remnants are retiring.  The Confederate flank looks to be in serious trouble.  The only help in the area is Wofford's Brigade, McLaws Division which is exhausted and having a very tough time repositioning.

The 3rd Brigade, 1st Division has been pressing the Confederates near the crossroads hard, maybe too hard.  They are near their break-point and the 1st Brigade has now been committed in the center near the church.  Both sides are showing signs of ware in the South end of the fight.

The Union 3rd Division has been pressing forward methodically and now a bulge has formed in the open ground.  The Confederates in the area look strong but they are taking lots of damage.

The 5th New York charges and Alabama regiment along the road.  A risky move but one that could pay off in a big way.  The 2nd Brigade is behind the main Confederate line with very little in front of them.

THe other two regiments of the 2nd Brigade are disordered and unable to move forward to keep the pressure on the Confederate flank.  This is the high-water mark for the Union.

In the North woods the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division is halted by Mahone's Brigade.  It is like a wave crashing over the rocks.  The Confederates will not be moved even against huge odds.

The bulge in 3rd Division's lines.  I am not sure what is happening here but the lack of concentration in the attack would not produce positive results.

The Alabamans have been routed but not before shaking the 5th New York.  This along with the loss of the 46th Penn would break the brigade.  The 2nd Brigade, 1st Division begins to retire back through the woods.  The Confederate flank is saved.

The 1st Brigade, 1st Division also has had enough and begins to retire.  The loss of the entire 1st Division marks the end of the battle.
Back in the North woods the Confederates are only one casualty away from loosing the battle.

This was a really fun game but perhaps not as fun as some of our previous battles.  I really think that Black Powder games really shine when there is an objective to the battle other than simply kill'em all sorts of games.  In many ways this game was a return to how we played when we first started this and in really it felt like a step back.  I had been tempted to make my own scenario for this game and in retrospect I probably should have.

This likely marks the end of big battle ACW for a while.  I don't have any plans for anything of this size again.  I will be playing smaller games of ACW using Black Powder as I continue to explore point match games using GH rules.  For big games I am still dreaming of a large Napoleonic Black Powder game.

2 comments:

Tom O said...

It was a great looking, fun game that was very close at the end. Thanks for organizing and pushing this to get on the table.

Robert Brightwell said...

I am glad you were able to play in this one. Thanks!