Saturday, September 13, 2014

Battle of Jonesborough - Aug 31/Sep 1, 1864/2014

EDIT:  See update in Comments at end of post.

On Monday, Sep 1, 2014 (Labor Day here in the US), several of us gathered to test the newly released reprint (and update) of "On to Richmond" rules for the American Civil War.

These rules were originally published in the now defunct "The Courier" magazine and as a separate rule booklet.  They use the infantry or cavalry brigade as the basic maneuver element supported by artillery battalions of 12 guns.  Each stand is either 300 infantry or 200 cavalry and the brigades are made up of between 3 to 8 stands.

I decided since it was the 150th anniversary of the first day (Aug 31) of the battle of Jonesborough, Georgia, the culmination of the Atlanta campaign, to use it as the test run.  In the battle, two Confederate corps, Hardee's and S.D. Lee's, both under Lt Gen Hardee's command, attacked the Army of the Tennessee under Maj Gen O.O. Howard.  There were two Union corps in the first line and a third in reserve.  Each of the five players commanded a corps of two to three divisions.

It took us a while for me to go through the rules since we had never played them before.  The Confederates set up as they had done historically with Hardee's Corps (under Cleburne) on the left and Lee's Corps on the right.  But when they saw the Union deployment in hasty defensive works they tried to alter their attack by moving the their left.  That took up a goodly period of physical time so we only got to play two or three turns.  By then it was apparent that the Confederates weren't going to push the Union forces back so everyone agreed that it was a draw.  Historically on August 31, the Confederates launched vigorous attacks against the Union forces and suffered severe casualties without dislodging the Union from their positions to any great degree.  Then overnight, Gen Hood got worried about the safety of Atlanta and recalled Lee's Corps, leaving Hardee alone on Sep 1 to face both the Army of the Tennessee and the Army of the Cumberland.  Hardee resisted for a while but was forced to withdraw from Jonesborough, allowing the Union to completely cut the last rail line into Atlanta.  Gen Hood withdrew the Army of Tennessee on Sep 2 and the Union forces then marched into Atlanta.

I only took a few pictures as I was trying to help several of the players understand the play sequence and the maneuvering of their commands.  We used my friend Jay's vintage 25mm ACW forces which are organized with regiments as the basic maneuver unit.  They got "promoted" to brigades for this battle.  The Union had 6 stands per infantry brigade while the understrength Confederate brigades only had 4 stands.  Even so, the forces were about equal since several Union divisions of the Army of the Tennessee were elsewhere that day.

The battlefield of Jonesborough, which is off the table to the east (left).  The Confederates set up along the left side of the table and the Union behind the hasty works at the foot of the ridge and then south (background) along the woods edge.

Looking north behind the Union behind Maj Gen Logan's XV Corps.  There seems to be a visitor to the battlefield.  I wonder if he had anything to do with the Union victory?

Looking south at the Union defenses.  A division of Logan's XV Corps is trying to get out of the woods to advance behind the shifting Confederates and cut the Macon and Western Railroad (off the table to the left).   [Evidently the Union side was sponsored by Coca Cola, as I forgot to ask the guys to remove the cans before I took the picture.]

The Confederate army attempted to shift to its left but continued to have traffic control problems.  Each division moved on its own card so a division in front of another might not have its card drawn before the one behind did, thus jamming up the movement.  In "On to Richmond" each division's brigades move and/or shoot when the division's card is drawn.  That took a while for the players to catch onto as we normally play rules where all movement is done first before any firing.

Brig Gen Kilpatrick's cavalry division supported the Army of the Tennessee.  They were dismounted behind fences along the edge of the woods.  Their devastating fire from Spencer repeating rifles was a surprise to the attacking Confederates.  Kilpatrick's boys could fire three times if they didn't move whereas normal rifled musket armed troops could only fire once.  [Even more obvious, and unintentional, product placement.]

The reserve XVII Corps under Maj Gen Blair begins to arrive and cross the Flint River.  Because the Confederates had moved south away from this northern end of the Union line, XVII Corps didn't get into contact.  But if the game had gone longer, they would have moved off the table to the east, captured Jonesborough, and cut the railroad line.

COMMENTS:   Now, what did we think of the rules.  Personally I liked them, even though I didn't actually move any troops.  The other players indicated that they would like to try them again, but I think there will be some changes made (i.e., "home" rules).  One thing we didn't like was having to roll a die to see if one could enter or pass through disruptive terrain.  Sean (playing Logan) had one of his brigades trapped in the woods even though the other brigade of that division was able to get out and advance.  He also tried to roll to remove some disruptions from one of his brigades that was in the hasty defenses.  Unfortunately he rolled too high and they charged out and across a field to get at the artillery that had been firing on them.  [EDIT:  I missed the statement on the morale table that units in works, etc. can ignore advance results.]  I think we'll make to modifications to those procedures to allow units a little easier time getting out of some woods (but some may be just be too heavy for them to easily traverse) and to make it harder for a unit to have to come out of defensive works.  But we have never seen a rule set that we didn't think would be better with our own improvements!

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