Saturday, December 15, 2012


The Battle of Chancellorsville

My friend Dan asked if we could re-fight the battle of Chancellorsville since he's into the Civil War.  I jumped at the chance to get my Civil War armies back on the table.  They were professionally painted by genius painter: Scott MacPhee of Coeur d' Alene, Idaho.

The players were going to be Paul Niemeyer, Dan Vujovich, Steve Segarian, and myself, and since Paul is a re-enactor, I thought it would be fun if he brought over some of his gear so we could really get into character.  Sadly, Dan got sick the evening before the game and couldn't make it, so it was just the three of us.

Here we are, mugging for the camera:
Left to Right: Steve, Paul, and me.

Paul and I standing near the table, about ready to begin the battle.

Since there were three of us, and the battle is so difficult to model, I decided to be the moderator. Paul played the part of Hooker and Steve was Lee.

I set up the table with twice the number of Confederate units that there should have been, except half of them were 'ghost units'. Paul was unaware of this when the game started. I wanted this to model the imperfect Union intelligence and to mask the confederate weakness in order to prevent the Union player from just pushing forward aggressively and grinding the Confederates down.

Here the Confederate forces are arrayed behind Marye's Heights facing Fredericksburg while Sedgwick and Reynolds' Corps march across the river.  Hooker had hoped to keep Lee's attention with these troops while the rest of the Army of the Potomac crossed the river further west and got on Lee's flank.

The game began with the Union troops already across and moving in on Lee's flank, but still in the Wilderness.

Sickles Corps is furthest south (near the camera), Meade's men are Northeast, Couch and Slocum are nearest the River crossing, and Howard's Corps is west (left) holding the Union right flank.

Lee (Steve) spent the first few turns punishing the Union troops near Fredricksburg with his artillery, while Hooker (Paul) moved his troops in the Wilderness up and drove off the Confederate cavalry screen.

Things started out well for the Union despite the fact that Paul only had 4 Command Cards to Steve's 6. The Union troops had formed a solid line under cover of the woods at the edge of the Wilderness and they had gotten the better of the firefight there.

However, suddenly there were reports that Southern troops were thick as fleas west (behind) the Union main line.  Howard's XI Corp had just left their positions to support the Union main effort when Confederate troops were reported to be swarming in behind them.

Paul was quite alarmed and upset that the Rebs could possibly get around behind him like that... my only response was: 'Hooker'.  He had to deal with the same events that his historical role dictated. This not meant a stronger army, but one that did not maneuver as well as their opponent. Now Paul had to quickly deal with the same nasty surprise that Hooker was faced with.  Luckily, he had moved his troops out of harm's way just in time, so there were no losses or confusion. Paul dealt with the new threat well and pulled Howard's men further back and formed the famous 'horseshoe' position that the Union line had formed in 1863.

What Paul didn't know was that Steve had chosen to use most of his 'ghost units' to fill the ranks of the flanking force, essentially making it a giant distraction. He hoped to force Paul to waste time and troops facing it while he continued his aggressive attacks on Meade and Sickle's Corps.

Steve's attacks rolled in while Paul was dealing with the distraction.  A well coordinated assault combined with the death of general Meade to create a total breakdown of Union Command Control. The result was that the Confederate troops broke the Union line and forced them back into the Wilderness.

At this point, General Hooker realized that he had been hoodwinked, but his orderly Army of the Potamac had been reduced to a disorderly mob, so he ordered a withdraw. The Union army would have to wait for another day to crush the Rebel Army of Northern Virginia.