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An Unusual Battle

 
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An Unusual Battle - 1/13/2009 6:23:44 PM   
pzpat

 

Posts: 74
Joined: 9/16/2003
From: California
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November scenario, Sergeant Major difficulty. This is a one-battle AAR. Almost all the others I've seen have been for the entire war, but as there's no rule about it, I'm doing something different. I apologize for the fact that there are no pictures, but my computer isn't hooked up to the web.

The South actually seceded. It was stunning and unprecedented. having failed to keep the States together politically, Lincoln wasted no time in getting a message to his generals to bring the rebellion to a close quickly. He told General Reynolds, "Bring this affair to an end! Spank those rebels!" Reynolds duly mobilized his army, and in November 1861 moved them southward into Virginia.
Sympathetic civilians and Lee's scouts estimated that over a hundred thousand bluecoats were on their way. Lee knew that his ill-equipped force of 60,000 would not be able to stem the onslaught alone, and ordered Jackson and his Third Corps eastward from the Shenandoah Valley. Jackson's corps consisted of only one division, the Fifth, but every man and every musket would be of help.
When Lee heard that the Yankees had entered the Wilderness he placed his battle line, facing it from northwest to southeast. On the left flank were the cavalry and the First Division, both commanded by J.E.B. Stuart. His left flank was anchored on Booker's Rise, a small elevation high enough for Stuart's guns to fire over the heads of his infantry. Next in order were Magruder's Division, Major's and then Early's. On the right was Longstreet's Division, his right flank anchored on Deer Lake, from which a small stream flowed eastward. Longstreet placed his artillery in the middle of the division's line, where it had the best field of fire.
The sounds of distant gunfire wafted faintly in the breeze over the northernmost Confederate positions. The men knew that there was a small outpost a mile or two north of the main position, and now they were coming under fire. In this situation Stuart didn't need much urging to demonstrate his gallantry. He galloped off with both brigades of cavalry to escort the survivors back to the Confederate lines.
Meanwhile, Reynolds had sent a division to pick off the isolated Confederates. Berdan's Sharpshooters got there first. On the first volley the Rebs panicked and abandoned the position, with Berdan's men hot on their heels. After the second volley the surviving Confederates decided they had been running in the open for too long and dove for the trees. They ran west along the northern bank of Evans Creek until they found a ford. After they crossed they were met by Stuart and his cavalry. The latter took a few casualties on the way back to their lines, but they had saved an entire brigade. As Stuart examined the fugitives he knew he could not put them into the coming battle. They were frightened and exhausted, and most of them had abandoned their weapons. He positioned them on his left and to his rear, so it looked as though he was refusing his flank.
Lee looked at the dust clouds rising from the west. Jackson was coming! And none too soon. But as the men of the Fifth approached, a liaison officer reported to Lee that General Jackson had sent his apologies, but was in the middle of leading a bible studies class for some runaway slaves that had been rounded up in the Valley, and he would arrive as soon as he could. Lee was not very effective in hiding his annoyance at Jackson's absence, but realized there was nothing he could do.
Lee's next decision was where to place the reinforcements. He had not kept a reserve, and the Fifth would have to stand in. He thought of putting them with Stuart, so that if the Yankees broke, the Fifth would be well placed to sweep across the field and cut off their retreat. But a Yankee retreat was not inevitable, and he looked elsewhere. Placing them behind the center of the army seemed logical at first blush, but the trees and the underbrush were too thick to allow rapid deployment if that became necessary. He stationed them directly south of Longstreet's men on the right flank. If Longstreet gave way the Fifth might keep the Yankees from encircling Lee's small army.
Just then Lee received reports that the Yankees were forming up just out of cannon range in front of the Rebel lines. Lee took his position with a small unattached brigade near a crossroads south of Major's Division.
At 4:30 in the afternoon the Federals attacked all along the line, probing for weaknesses. Individual brigades assaulted the center, supported by other brigades at a distance. The Confederates' fire focused on the enemy closest to them. On the left the Yankees staged a more determined assault on Stuart's men, coming at them head on, not attempting to flank him. Stuart's artillery began taking it's toll.
It was against Longstreet that the North's hammer blows fell. The men in gray could see the Yankees arrayed in what apeared to be columns of brigades. As the nearest attacking formations would crumble and the men flee, they were immediately replaced by fresh formations from the northeast. It was tiring work, and it seemed that the North would never run out of men. The fighting in this sector was so intense that Longstreet's artillery brigade alone inflicted one out of every six casualties suffered by the North on that day.
Suddenly Yankees in line and in force came crashing through the woods into Fifth Division's laager from the southeat. After putting up a brief resistance all but one of the Shenandoah brigades broke and ran, and the last was almost surrounded. The Yankees were identified as belonging to at least two divisions, so it was surmised that an entire corps had crossed the stream east of Deer Lake without being observed. At this point there wasn't much between these new attackers and the rear of Longstreet's formations.
This result of Lee's failure to reconnoiter his right flank should not have been completely unexpected. Stuart's foray on the left had revealed the numbers and disposition of the federal forces before him. No effort had been made to screen the right flank and now Lee's men were paying the price. Lee sent a messenger to Stuart to say that he needed the cavalry pronto. He also decided to wheel a division from the front line as soon as any became disengaged. But Lee couldn't just wait for Stuart. He had to act immediately or all might be lost. He personally led the nearest brigade to the right in a counterattack against the enveloping forces.
When Stuart received Lee's message the federals attacking ihm were still in good order and still pressing his men. The cavalry were not engaged, but he wanted to pursue the federals when they finally broke, as he was sure they would. But Lee needed help, so he sent Pelham's boys and kept the Second Cav. on his flank just in case.
When Pelham reached Lee's position he saw that Lee and his brigade were fending off three federal brigades. He immediately fell on the Yankee right flank.
After a time Major and Magruder reported that they hadn't seen any Yankees in a while and were requesting orders. Lee felt that they were too far from the fighting on the right flank to be of timely assistance. He really wanted Early, who was on Longstreet's left and nearer the newest action, to swing south as soon as he disengaged from the enemy. He ordered Major and Magruder to advance to contact or, no enemy being found, to advance about 600 yards and turn 90 degrees, Magruder to the left and Major to the right, and help the engaged forces on the flanks. Strangely enough, no federals were found. They had been effectively split into two separate groups which were too far away to support each other.
Magruder came upon the left of the formations assaulting Stuart. The addition of these relatively fresh Rebels caused the Yankees to turn some of their units to meet the new threat. This enabled both Major's and Stuart's men to fire into their enemies' flanks, and the federals began to retreat.
Major's men sailed into the flanks of the last remaining federal brigades attacking Early. When these broke Major continued against the forces facing Longstreet. Early duly turned his men around and went after the Yankees to the south. As the federals in front of Longstreet crumbled against Major's new attack, Longstreet's men moved forward (attacking northeast) on Major's right, sweeping the bluecoats before them.
Early's arrival in the south turned what had been a desperate holding action into another successful offensive. The combined Southern forces pushed the Yankees back to the lake. It was then, having lost on all fronts, the Reynolds decided that there was no longer a purpose in asking for more sacrifices from his troops. He gave the bitter order to retreat. The Confederates gave token chase, which resulted in the capture of three brigades and Generals Porter, Banks and Roberts.
In his address to the army after the battle, Lee praised the heroism of the men who had stood with him in the face of three veteran federal brigades. He said proudly, "In ages to come, when men speak of the bravery and prowess of Southern soldiers, they will remember with awe and reverence the name "Garrison."

< Message edited by pzpat -- 1/13/2009 6:30:39 PM >
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