For Colonel Neil 'Bear' Moulden, a cavalry commander, based out West, it had been a bitter choice, he had been wearing the blue uniform of his nation for more than a dozen years, working his way up to his present rank, protecting the ever spreading settlers from native attacks.
When the split came, Colonel Moulden and almost a third of the troops who served under him, left the fort to journey back to their homes in the southern states. Bear had resigned his commission and on that last night at the fort, had raised a glass or three, with men who would now be the enemy. On arriving home, he had offered his services to the Confederacy. Experienced officers were in short supply and he was immediately appointed as commander of a mixed brigade, with the rank of Brigadier General. His brigade would be part of the division commanded by Brigadier General Frank Frey, a decorated old war horse who had distinguished himself in the Mexican War.
That division had just been ordered North to counter a reported incursion across the Potomac by a small Union force...
Riding at the head of his brigade, 30 year old Brigadier General Kurtus Brown cut a fine dash. Of medium height and build, sitting astride his stallion Walter, looking every inch the brave warrior. The son of prosperous Pennsylvania family, he could have followed his father into a career in law, but Kurtus' blood pulsed with the genes of his German descendants, West Point had been his ultimate destination since boyhood. A student of history, he carried a, creased and battered, portrait of the young Napoleon Bonaparte in his saddle bags.
He excelled at the military college, and graduated in the top three of his class, serving initially as a second lieutenant with an infantry regiment. His card was marked, and soon he served in both the artillery and the cavalry, giving him a taste of all arms of the service. With each new posting had come a promotion, so by the time war broke out, he too had been promoted to Brigadier General. His command along with a second brigade, are part of the division commanded by Brigadier General Dale Norbeck, another veteran of the Mexican War.
Bear and Kurtus, along with the men they commanded, were now on a collision course...
A dust covered courier arrived from the East, Kurtus took and read the dispatch. General Norbeck with the Second Division had run into rebel troops, scouts and pickets had also a reported another rebel force directly ahead his own First Brigade. He was ordered to deploy for battle.
Kurtus and his aides rode to the top of North Brother, the hill in the centre of his position. A flat valley lay before him, with the odd copse of trees. Directly ahead rose South Brother and on its crest line, a small group of figures could be seen. No doubt enemy scouts, thought Kurtus. He ordered his Zouaves to join him on the hill and arranged the four infantry divisions in a battle line.
Three regiments in line, with the fourth in reserve. His regiment of cavalry he ordered to the right flank, they may be able to advance and report what was behind the hill.
Bear held his specially modified opera glasses in his huge right hand, the tiny glasses, a gift from a grateful community that he had protected from Indian attack. The powerful lenses, had never served their intended purpose and now gazed upon ranks of blue uniforms as they deployed in the valley below him.
He carefully replaced the glasses in their leather case on his saddle. Took off his hat and ruffled his now greying, black hair. Hat replaced he stroked his beard, sure signs that Bear was deep in thought. The sound of the drumbeats across the valley were suddenly joined in a duet by the sound of artillery fire to his right. It would seem that General Frey and the other brigade had already begun the day's activities
He ordered his two batteries of cannon up on to the hill, as well as one of his three regiments of infantry, He could see he was outnumbered almost two to one, but the enemy appeared not to have any artillery, most odd. He would let the enemy come onto him, and arranged his battle line accordingly, using the hill as the centre point of his defence
The rebels deployed and waited for the enemy to advance. They wouldn't have to wait long...
Brigadier General Brown, cursed his luck as he watched two batteries of artillery begin to unlimber on the hill opposite. He had no artillery, the single battery belonging to the division was attached to the other brigade. His boys were going to have to face a firestorm as they crossed the valley.
With a final glance down at his battle line, he gave the order to advance.
'The company lootenent waved his sword and we started to advance, the boys was in good order, though I guess a bit fearful, I know was. My buddy Joe, was marching right beside me, he didn't seem to be afraid of nothin'.We hadn't taken no more than a dozen paces, when them there cannon on the hill erupted in flame and smoke. The scream of them balls fair made me jump, and then the roar of them monsters rolled down the hill, along with clouds of smoke.'
Private James Boyle, Brown's Brigade.
Bear didn't need the opera glasses to see the carnage his artillery had done on the central regiment of oncoming infantry. The gaps in their ranks told him all he needed to know. He was more concerned that neither of the other two regiments appeared to have taken any fire.
Kurtus watched as his central regiment, reeled, stopped and then dressed ranks, before once again moving on toward the enemy. The trail of dead and dying left behind told their own tale.
(In these rules each unit can take 15 hits before it is destroyed, rather than using dice, I am experimenting with discs. The yellows being single hits, blue five hits and red ten hits.)
The rebel cavalry dismounted and prepared to face the oncoming Union cavalry.
First Brigade continued to advance, General Brown decided it was time to bring forward his elite Zouaves, they would soon be needed to plug any gaps in the advancing battle line.
Once again the rebel batteries opened up on the luckless advancing infantry, but once the smoke cleared, Bear was horrified to see that barely any of the shots had hit home. In the excitement of battle they had fired high and handsome, most of the balls landing behind the enemy!
Very soon both sides would be within musket range.
The dismounted cavalry now engaged in their own firefight.
General Brown seeing his men were now within musket range, and had not suffered too badly so far, braced himself for the inevitable storm of canister and musket balls that would soon rip into his battle line.
Concern was growing in Bear's mind, his artillery had not delivered as they should, his infantry now faced almost double their own number and this next volley would be the last before his men started to take musket fire.
Almost as one, the Confederate battle line opened up in a deadly volley, tearing into the leading three Union infantry regiments. Men fell in droves as canister and mini balls ripped through their ranks, once again the central regiment bearing the brunt.
'Them there rebels waited until we was plumb in range afore they fired. The noise was awful and I swear I could hear the musket balls whizzing past my head. One struck the canteen on my hip, the contents running down the back of my trousers, I turned to tell Joe, and show him how close I had come to being hit. But Joe was not there!
Private James Boyle, Brown's Brigade.
Bear hoped it was enough, but in his heart he knew that it wasn't. One of the enemy regiments had been badly mauled but other fresh regiments were ready to take their place.
General Brown was appalled at the loss of life in the centre of his battle line, but now they would be able to hit back, after that he had to retire those boys, they had done all they could.
Now the Union infantry were able to return fire. Effective on the right, but less so along the the line.
The Confederates now started to take casualties.
In the cavalry firefight, the rebs sent a devastating volley into their opposite numbers.
The canister and musket balls once again smashed into bone and muscle.
The Union leading regiments taking huge casualties.
It would now be a fight of attrition, one which Bear knew he was unlikely to win.
Kurtus played his ace and sent the Zouaves to outflank the Confederate line. He hoped his boys in the centre could hold.
The cavalry battle continued.
The Union front line once again suffered huge casualties, red markers denote ten hits! The central regiment is now on 12 and just three from destruction. Bear Moulden was well aware that as his regiments dwindled, the enemy still had an uncommitted reserve to throw at his position.
The Confederate cavalry were also beginning to get the upper hand.
Sheer carnage in the centre of both lines as they threw everything at the enemy before them.
A glimmer of hope for Bear, and a look of despair for Kurtus, as the right flank of the Union line finally broke.
Ominously for Bear, the Union Zouaves were now in position to cause his own right flank a big problem.
The Confederate right flank, hit by a storm of musket balls from two enemy regiments, could stand no more, they too broke and fled the field.
Bears problems, were not over, as one of his batteries was also destroyed in the maelstrom.
Brigadier Brown, could see this was the turning point, he now had the rebs flanked and his fresh regiment of infantry had plugged the gap in the centre. Bear also knew it was the turning point, he had to commit his only reserve from the hill to his right flank.
Although fresh, the rebel reserve would be taking on two Union regiments, it could not end well. His left flank was also close to breaking, but Bear had nothing left to support it.
Brigadier General Brown, seeing the enemy withdraw did not pursue. His battered regiment took position on the hill to watch the retreating enemy, but he gathered his Zouaves and the lightly damaged infantry regiment and marched East, Maybe he could assist Second Brigade?
'Those of us that were left, stood atop that hill, the reb cannons had occupied. What a sight it was, those Rebs hightailing it as fast as they could move. I just wish Joe could have seen this.'
Private James Boyle, Brown's Brigade.
The Union troops move East.
Well, that was part one of the battle, part two will show the action between the rest of the division, It will be fought on Scenario Two in the One Hour Wargames. I hope you enjoyed this report, a little different as I attempted to tell a story, rather than just show die rolls and turn numbers.