Saturday, 26 November 2016

OHW - The Campaign - Part Four

For the second part of the Battle of Hog's Head River, I have chosen scenario five, as it has a river running across the table, and so fits in perfectly with the battle just fought. Or it does if I turn it upside down. So here is the battlefield, the Hog's Head River, with a ford. A small wood to the East and a small hill to the South West.

The small hill.

Looking North along the road with the small wood to the right and the ford across the river.

The divisional commander is Brig Gen, Stephen Smith, who has 2nd Brigade under his personal command which consists of:

1 x unit of Zouaves
4 x units of Infantry
1 x unit of Artillery.

The Confederate divisional commander, Brig Gen. Steve Clay, is also with this brigade, which is made up as follows:

2 x units of Zouaves
3 x units of Infantry
1 x unit of Artillery.

The idea behind the scenario is that a Union detachment discovers a previously unknown ford across the Hog's Head River. All the Union forces will arrive over the course of the first five turns, along the road from the North.
The Confederate commander, his brigade strung out, has to gather his troops for the defence of the ford as quickly as he can. His troops also arrive over the first five or six turns, but a throw of the dice decides if they appear from the South, East or West.

'Brigadier General Stephen Smith, allowed his horse to drink its fill from the waters of the Hog's Head River. He removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his eyes and forehead with the cuff of his uniform jacket. His advance scouts had reported finding this road, heading due South like an arrow. His map showed no bridges or crossing points, but the road, or more correctly, dirt track, also missing from his map, must lead somewhere. He had ordered them to follow it and report back.

His horse, its thirst now quenched, lifted its head and Stephen spurred him on to finish crossing the ford. When the scouts had reported a shallow crossing point, he had rushed forward with a single regiment of infantry. He could not believe his luck, the crossing was undefended and he and his men had crossed in water no more than six inches deep. He had sent an aide back to hurry the rest of the brigade along, Johnny Reb could show up any minute.'

A glorious and peaceful sunny morning by the Hog's Head River. Or rather, it was...

'Brigadier Steve Clay, cursed his luck, Damn Yankees were already across the river. But only a single regiment by the look of it. His brigade was strung out nearby, and he sent aides galloping off to find and then direct them to the ford. He had no idea how many of the enemy may be marching to the ford at this very moment. But right now with two regiments, one of which was the Louisiana Zouaves, he certainly held a numerical advantage, if he struck now.

At that moment, the unmistakable sound of an artillery barrage could be heard, reverberating off the hill to his left, it would seem Brigadier General Campbell had already found the enemy.' 

The blue flag with the white star identifies the Zouaves as being from Louisiana.

'He heard them, before he saw them. Drums beating and flags flying, the enemy appeared, marching up the road towards him. Damn, it was too hot to fight.
The sound of the cannon fire also reached the ears of General Smith. He gazed off to the West, as if expecting to see the clouds of powder smoke and projectiles flying through the air. He knew that young Alex had no artillery with his brigade, so must be under fire from the enemy. He looked back down the road behind him, he needed the rest of his brigade to arrive now, if not sooner.'

The sounds of drums and marching feet behind him, announced the arrival of one of his infantry regiments. He needed to extend the bridgehead, but with just two regiments, that would be impossible.

The first regiment reaches the ford.

For General Clay, it was time to seize the initiative, he ordered his two regiments forward.

On they marched in an attempt to overwhelm the enemy before he grew stronger.

A courier arrived to inform General Clay that two regiments of infantry were at this moment approaching the wood from the West. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a cigar butt, and jammed it between his lips. A bad situation was improving by the minute.

The whole field from above.

The newly arrived infantry crossed the ford, being ushered into position. The rumble of wheels announced the arrival of the Union artillery battery.

The small bridgehead was making it difficult for the Union troops to deploy.

Space was not a problem for General Clay. The two units approaching from the West, began to make their way through the trees.

His two units to the enemy front, continued their advance.

'The drummers kept up a steady beat as we advanced down that track toward the enemy. To our right was a regiment of Louisiana Zouaves. they sure looked colourful in their blue jackets, red fezzes and baggy trousers. Ahead of us the Yankees were struggling to get into line, that sure as hell suited me, we would soon be in musket range.'

Corporal Thomas Richter, Clay's Division.

General Clay saw the arrival of the remainder of his brigade, they came up from the South, infantry and artillery. It was sight to gladden his heart, he even lit the butt of his last remaining cigar in celebration.

General Smith had no time to savour a cigar, he was too busy trying to organise a hasty defence. He ordered the artillery battery to deploy to the right of his line, but even that may not be enough, the enemy were already too close for comfort.

A unit of Zouaves now approached, but there was nowhere South of the ford to place this unit. The rebels had moved too fast, pinning him against the river. Once again he cursed the damn heat.

The Zouaves wait to cross the ford.

General Clay orders his artillery up on to the hill, the new unit of infantry forward to follow the main assault, and awaits with pleasure for his other two regiments to appear out of the wood on the Union flank. He allowed himself another generous intake of the precious tobacco smoke.

The main assault now in musket range, with another moving up in reserve, the infantry in the wood are now almost through the trees.

For General Smith things were about to get worse, much worse.

The Union Zouaves, cross the ford and squeeze into the limited space within the defence line, as another regiment appears on the road.

The now deployed artillery, unnerved by the nearness of enemy infantry, let loose a poorly aimed canister salvo, and miss completely. The infantry beside them must also have been hypnotised by steady and determined advance, they do little better, registering a single hit.

On the left flank, though startled by the sudden appearance of rebel soldiers from the wood, the volley is level and accurate, tearing into the confederate troops.

Now in musket range, the main rebel assault opens fire, scoring hits on the units before them.

The recently battered Rebel unit recovers and gives back as good as it got.

The final regiment of Smith's Brigade joins the queue forming behind the small bridgehead. General Smith is desperately attempting to shuffle his defensive line to accommodate them. He really needs to bring every musket he can to bear.

This time the Union artillery and infantry find the range and many rebels fall dead or wounded.

General Clay swings his reserve regiment off the road to his left flank, that artillery battery has to be silenced.

The Zouaves in the wood also swing round to back up the right flank.

For the first time, the Confederate artillery is not masked by its own troops, it engages in counter-battery fire.

Scoring hits on the enemy cannon crews.

The rebel infantry fire another volley, this time it is the Yankees who fall to the ground.

The firefight continues, with the Rebels once again hitting back.

'It had all been so quiet, we advanced right up to the Yankee line without a shot being fired. It seemed just like we were back in training, and the men in blue were just masquerading as the enemy, But then an artillery battery arrived on the flank of the infantry we were facing. The silence ended there and then as canister and musket balls flew over our heads, making a screeching and a buzzing noise as they did. Some of the guys fell wounded or even dead, but our lines seemed to be intact, The lieutenant told us to mark our target, take aim and then fire. I swear, when the powder smoke lifted, half on them Yankees was either dead on the ground or screaming in agony from wounds.'

Corporal Thomas Richter, Clay's Division.

The reserve regiment arrived on the left flank, its job to destroy the enemy artillery, and relieve some of the pressure on the regiment containing Private Richter.

The rebel Zouaves now broke out of the woods and moved into line against the bridgehead. The Yankees would be given no room to deploy.

More murderous fire ripped through the tightly packed Union ranks.

General Smith swore as he saw his Zouves waver, then rout.

His left flank too, was close to collapse.

A fresh unit moved forward into the space previously occupied by the Zouaves.

The last regiment, was still stuck at the wrong side of the river, the desperately needed firepower from the muskets they carried still denied to General Smith.

General Clay inhaled the last of the tobacco smoke before throwing the cigar stub to the ground. His boys were pinning the enemy back and had even routed their elite Zouaves. He was a contented man.

No such feelings for General Smith, his men struggling to move and fire in the limited space of the bridgehead. He wiped the sweat and powder smoke from his eyes, Damn, Damn this hot weather.

The tiny and congested Union bridgehead can clearly be seen in this overhead shot.

The Union gunners switched target to the newly arriving infantry, the switching must have thrown off their aim, as the canister failed to register any hits.

No such luck for the regiment in which Corporal Richter served. A devastating volley tore through the ranks and destroyed the unit as a fighting force. The survivors falling back, some carrying their wounded friends.

'We was toe to toe with them Yankees, giving as good as we was gittin' our ranks had been thinned out some, and many of the guys on the floor was crying out in pain, or begging for water. Then an almighty volley tore into us. I felt my left arm snap, I looked down and to my horror, realised my hand and lower forearm were missing! I fell to the ground, tears in my eyes, not from the pain, for I felt none, but because I couldn't find my arm. I crawled back toward the rear, too afraid to stand up, just in case I should step on my lost arm.'

Corporal Thomas Richter, Clay's Division.

After the loss of one of their regiments, the Rebels threw everything at the enemy. The artillery crews took severe losses on the right flank.

Other Union regiments were taking heavy losses and nearing breaking point.

Finally, on the Union left, a regiment broke, its survivors streaming back to the river.

General Smith committed his final reserve to plug the gap on his left.

The weakened artillery and the next in line infantry both opened up on the fresh Rebel regiment with little result. Some men did fall, but not enough.

The Louisiana Zouaves, hit by volleys from two regiments, took horrendous losses.

But once again, the Rebs dusted themselves down and returned the fire.

The Union centre was in danger of collapse, its units approaching break point.

Even the newly deployed Union reserve walked into a combined volley, suffering huge losses.

The left flank of the Confederate line suffered more casualties from canister and musketry.

Elite troops or not, with a second double volley aimed at them, the Louisiana Zoauves broke.

At the same time, the right flank also routed from the field.

The artillery crews suffered again.

The Reb artillery, searching for a clear line, fired without success.

Not so. the second Zouave unit, whose musket volley routed the Union left flank.

The rebel infantry, separated from the main force, was now drawing the fire of both artillery and muskets.

The Union regiment, now finding itself on the left flank, also managed hits on the Zouaves.

For both General's Smith and Clay, the end came suddenly and dramatically. Both knew their men were suffering badly but a final Confederate volley was the end. The Rebel artillery poured cannon fire onto an already weakened regiment destroying it.

The cannon balls tore the heart out of this unit and it broke.

On the left, the Union artillery crews too were decimated, the survivors abandoning their guns and streaming to the rear.

The final Union regiment on the field was shattered by yet another volley from the Zouaves, they too broke and joined their colleagues in headlong retreat across the river.

General Smith tried in vain to rally his fleeing men, but it was hopeless. The men were casting aside muskets, blankets and anything else they considered extra weight as they ran, limped or crawled back across the ford. He knew it had been too damned hot to fight today.

General Clay, watched the survivors flee across the ford. He had no intention of following, his men had done enough. The numerous bodies before him attested to that fact, blue and grey both. A sergeant from the Zouaves inquired if he would care for a cigar.

And so the second part of the Battle of Hog's Head River is concluded. It too went ten turns. Brigadier General Clay had finally won a victory for the Confederates. The campaign now shows 3 points to 1, in favour of the Union.

The Union army would be able to use the captured bridges over the Hog's Head River, but the failure at the ford, meant the Confederates would be able to cross the river and attack from the flank.


  1. Ouch! What another desperate fight. Must have something to do with "river" scenarios! That or the HEAT. Love it!

    Another good fight described with all the drams it demanded. Those elite troops really draw a lot of fire too.

    Good read, Ian. A true drama unfolding - as a good battle should be. Will be waiting on the next installment.


    1. Thanks buddy, and finally a victory for the Rebs, it was a while in coming. Next battle is already set up and the characters being created as I type.

  2. Great AAR as always. Loving following this series. Really like the 30mm x 30mm bases you are using now so you can have the troops in column on the roads. Can't wait for more.
    Richard P

    1. Thanks very much Richard, the 30 x 30 bases do vastly improve the look when marching in column, much better than the crabbing before. I think I have enough bases that size to see me through most scenarios.