Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Snaking, dusty columns on the march.

Welcome back to the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas. It seems a good time to give a the parameters for winning or losing this battle, plus some amendments to the Blucher rules I will be experimenting with. I also intend to insert fictional entries from diaries, letters and dispatches, from purely fictional characters involved in this fight. Some of you may recognise the odd name.

Firstly the rule system being used is Sam Mustafa's Napoleonic rule set Blucher, I have made some slight amendments to the standard rules to hopefully give some flavour of the American Civil War, fought some forty years later. At the moment, prior to playing this scenario, I have only tried these modified rules once before on a much smaller battle. Most of the amendments have been taken from a thread on the Honor Games website. The changes are thus:

All Infantry units have the FIREPOWER trait and an elan of 6. (This can be adjusted at a later time to represent recruits, veterans, elite etc.)

The SKIRMISH trait or the PREPARED trait will not be used. (This is also open to modification as result of this battle.)

To represent the improvement in muskets, powder, rifling etc. Volley range is now two base widths (2BW.)

Infantry can move into wooded areas. (They wouldn't see much action otherwise!)

I am also considering, though not using in this battle, a mechanism to allow for the rebel yell charge into close combat, giving an extra dice to the Confederates, and a extra dice to the Union for firing in line, to reflect their better weaponry.

All cavalry units have the MOBILE trait, i.e. they can move, dismount and fire in one turn, but take a full move to mount up again, prior to moving. They do not have the FIREPOWER trait.

All cavalry are rated as Light Cavalry with an elan of 4.

Cavalry cannot charge the frontal arcs of infantry or artillery.

All artillery units have the HEAVY trait, so will also hit on one 5.

Short range for artillery is now 3BW.

Any artillery taking two hits is not removed, but silenced. It can be rallied back into action.

Each artillery unit has an artillery officer attached, he can do any one of the following actions per turn.

(a) add one dice to the guns when firing.
(b) supply one ammo point per turn.
(c) rally a silenced gun to allow it to fire the next turn.

It should be possible to rate troops with SHOCK, STEADY and CONSCRIPT, but not in this battle.

The reserve move is as per the Blucher rules, but units can travel over ground other than roads at their maximum speed for that particular terrain. They cannot approach within 4BW of any enemy unit on a reserve move.

A few people have asked questions about the modifications I have made, so hopefully this will help.

Onto the battle, the rest of this post covers the first three turns by each side.

Extract of a letter home

Dear Ma and Pa,

We have been marching for the past two days, though marching would be too grand a name for it. More like shuffling twelve steps forward, halting, another few steps and halting again! We have only covered about twenty miles in two whole days. Dang, with the heat and the dust,it  just makes this stop, start even more annoying.
We halted and made camp last night, the officers reckon we will be in a fight today, well I sure as hell haven't seen one reb so far. I laid in my tent last night, it was too hot to sleep, even though I was tired out. I laid looking at the stars through the flap of the tent til' well past midnight I reckon. Then, when I had barely gone to sleep, we were being woken up and told to prepare to move out! Dang it, it was only 2am and still inky black outside.
Well we were formed up and moving off in under an hour. I reckon they want us to catch them rebels still wrapped in their blankets, I sure hope we do...

Private Strombo, Porter's Brigade, Hunter's Division, Union Army of Northeastern Virginia.

The aim of the Union Army is to force their way across Bull Run Creek and clear the road for an advance to Manassas Junction. On the table are three objective markers that, if all are held by one side or the other, will result in a victory.
One objective is on Henry Hill, another on the road to Manassas and the third is in Centreville.

The large white disc marks the objectives, here on Henry Hill.

Manassas Road.


Brigadier General Irvin McDowell reaches the town of Centreville and surveys the countryside before him. Even though the column began moving at 3am they have made poor progress and are even now still strung out along the road behind him.

Looking East along the Warranton Turnpike toward the Stone Bridge. This will be the target of a feint attack by Hunter's Division.

Barely visible through the trees, is Ball's Ford a second division will also make a feint on this crossing, Miles' Division, still making its way South down the road to Centreville.

McDowell ordered Hunter's Division to advance with as much noise and commotion as was possible. So with fife and drums playing and flags flying, they moved down the Warranton Turnpike. A view from the Confederate position of Jones' Brigade, defending the Stone Bridge.

Extract of a letter home.

...the Yankees came down the turnpike with drums beating and flags flying, making enough noise to warn the whole army of their coming! So many of 'em too, snaking all the way back to the small town of Centreville. If they were scared, they sure didn't show it, marching right down the the road towards us, seemingly without a care in the world...

Private Clay, Jones' Brigade, Beauregards Division, Confederate Army of the Potomac.

Porter's Brigade leading Hunter's Division toward the Stone Bridge. 

Griffin's Battery filled up the road behind them.

Burnside's Brigade was just about to enter the town, followed by Palmer's Cavalry Brigade, and this was just the first of four divisions! (Even using the reserve move, progress was painfully slow, but I really was starting to appreciate and get the feel, of a large army in column, with all of the attendant problems it faced.)

Looking from the rear of Hunter's Division, still to pass through Centreville,to its head, now halfway to the Stone Bridge!

The Confederates passed on their turn, as they were in position and were not in range to fire. So the Union took their next turn. With Hunter's Division now clear of the town, Miles' Division passed through and it took the Old Warrenton Road, leading to Ball's Ford, the reserve move getting them this far.

Hunter's Divisional artillery, Griffins Battery, move up to take up firing position to allow them to bombard the Confederate troops holding the bridge. Porter's brigade leaving the road for them to pass. Miles' Division can be seen in the background on the Old Warranton Road.

The rear of Hunter's Division. Burnside's Brigade clearing the town, whilst Palmer's Cavalry head across country, pleased to be free of the slow moving column.

Miles' Division move along the Old Warranton Road. Blenker's Brigade lead the rest of the division.

Behind Blenker's Brigade, come Tidball's Artillery.

McDowell can do nothing about the slow progress and Tidball's Artillery move through the town.

The final brigade of Miles' Division, Davies' Brigade approach Centreville.

An observation balloon gives a good view! The Confederate troops can be seen in position at all the crossing points of the creek, whilst two of the four Union Divisions still advance East. Hunter's on the right with Miles' on the left.

A bottleneck in the town, Burnside's Brigade have cleared the town but behind them Miles' Division resembles a snake as it make its way onto the Old Warranton Road.

Once again, with no movement necessary or firing to be carried out, the Confederates defer on their turn, happy to watch the Union Army move along the two roads. On their turn, Griffin's Artillery of Hunter's Division unlimber and prepare to fire on the Stone Bridge defenders.

With Porter's Brigade supporting their left and Burnside's Brigade moving up to support their right, the guns prepare for action. (Even though I have batteries of three guns, they are still treated as one unit, and not three separate pieces.)

 Palmer's Cavalry head off through the trees looking for a possible to route to check out the defence of Sudley Ford.

Burnside's Brigade moving up to support the artillery.

Tidball's Artillery of Miles' Division advance along the Old Warranton Road, looking for a place to deploy and hit the enemy.

Still some distance to go for Tidball's Battery.

Blenker takes his brigade into the trees, South of the Old Warranton Road, to allow the artillery to pass.

The rear of Miles' Division clears the town, Davies' Brigade bringing up the rear.

Finally, the first of the two divisions that McDowell intends to use for the main attack arrives at the town.  Heintzelman's Division. Along with Tyler's Division, still strung out behind, they will be a hammer blow on Blackburn's Ford.

Heintzelman's lead brigade followed by his artillery approach the town.

Another view from the balloon. Miles Division is moving along the Old Warranton Road, though Davies' Brigade is still to make the turn off the Manassas Road. Heintzelman's Division now negotiating the narrow roads of the town.

More shots from the balloon.

The rest of Heintelman's Division is still to arrive.

As well as the whole of Tyler's Division! (Bringing a whole army on to the field like this, really does give a sense of how huge and unwieldy an army on the march really was. A real eye opener. This is the end of the Union's third turn, and even using reserve moves, only half of it has arrived.

On the Confederate third turn, at last a target within range. Pendleton's Battery on the hill overlooking Ball's Ford have a sight on some blue coats, visible through the trees. Although the shot is obscured, resulting in only three dice instead of six, they score a hit!

The unlucky recipients being Porter's Brigade of Hunter's Division. Their elan drops to 5.

Extract of a letter

...I was watching our artillery unlimber from their teams, it was sure going to get hot for those rebels on the far side of the bridge. But it got hot for us first! A battery of Rebel guns, that could barely be seen through the trees. They where on a hill on the far side of the creek. The sound of the incoming balls shrieking toward us was the first I knew of it. Then the trees started to explode all around us! Shards of wood and splinters flying through the air in all directions. Men were hit and started screaming or groaning, some made no sound at all! Someone shouted to get down, he was too late, I was already so low on the ground, I could have walked under a snakes belly whilst wearing a top hat...

Private Strombo, Porter's Brigade, Hunter's Division, Union Army of Northeastern Virginia.

 That is the end of the Confederate third turn and seems like a good place to end this post.

I hope you are enjoying this little series, I am receiving some really nice comments and lots of likes, so hopefully that will continue. Again it is a rather long post, made a little longer by my inserting fictional accounts from my little warriors in action. Please call back for the next turns in the battle.


  1. Bloody Brilliant. I will have to get my 6mm ACW sorted out after seeing this. Once my copy of Blucher arrives I will have to have a go at the rule amendments. Really like the fictional bits add more to the AAR.

    1. Thanks Richard, good to know it has inspired you to get cracking on your 6mm ACW. The fictional elements were a bit of an experiment really, but seem to have been well received. I shall continue on with them.

    2. Definitely continue with the fictional elements they really add to the AAR. I will be borrowing that idea in future reports. Hope to sort out my 6mm ACW next week so I will start posting my progress. Can't wait for the next installment.

  2. Outstanding once again, Ian. The rules sound interesting and will make for a good representation of an ACW battle. Not sure how you are handling the RESERVE MOVES. I made some house rules myself for this sorta thing that allowed me to fight on a HUGE table with small sized units/BWs. It basically allows units to keep RESERVE MOVING until within a certain distance from enemy - and I am not talking about a mere 4 BW. I'll look for it and send your way if it helps for future BIG battles. Anyway... loving this so far. The young private Strombo! Curious what fate lies in store for that young lad. Lol. Looking forward to the next installment.


    1. Hi Kurtus and thanks, I have been giving them the full 12BW reserve move, this does not get them anywhere near 4BW from the enemy, after that it is normal moves for that unit. I actually like it this way, it shows just how long it takes an army to arrive and actually deploy on the field. Quite an eye opener. There will be a few other recognisable names making an appearance too lol.

  3. Fantastic stuff Ian really like the added letters home it really draws you into the action looking forward to seeing more my friend

    1. Cheers as always Steph, I thought the letter extracts, and some messages between commanders would add a little more realism to the AAR, plus they are fun to write up.