Introduction of “They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant” finally arrived last Sunday. Two Confederate brigades were to stop four Union brigades in their attempt to push their way across the gaming area. Wanting to make things slightly more interesting, I’ve added couple of twists to the scenario. Unknown to Union CinC during his planning phase, one of brigades under his command got lost during the advance to the battlefield. There is a very prosaic reason for this decision; one of Union players had to cancel and I needed to jump in instead. However, I wanted to ensure that my “familiarity” with the setup wouldn’t spoil the fun and decided to play as passive role in the game as possible.
Confederate side was served their own surprise – initially there would be only one brigade on the table. Arrival time of the second brigade was unknown to players on the Rebel side. Furthermore, I planned to give fair warning to the Union brigade commander on the flank that would be hit by Confederate reinforcements.
On the paper it actually did sound like a pretty good scenario – I imagined that Union troops would hit outnumbered Confederates in force, only to be distressed by sudden appearance of additional enemy troops on their flank. As everybody knows, things seldom turn out as planned, especially when you use TFL rules.
Union commander decided to enter the field on broad front – three brigades in line, with the fourth in support (my ‘no show’ command). Initial orders were to take holding positions along southern edge of the field, anchoring one flank on a nearby height.
At the same time Confederates attempted to show strength, moving the blind with “real” brigade into central position, while making best possible impression with dummy blinds.
Having assumed the intended holding position, two of Union brigades were either spotted or unmasked the blinds voluntarily. Confederate blind on the right was exposed and removed. Long range artillery duel started, causing some casualties and some consternation among one of Union regiments, but otherwise causing little damage. At the same time Union commander on the right flank received reports about substantial Confederate reinforcements moving rapidly toward his position.
Union brigades on the left and in the center receive orders to advance on Confederate position. Rightmost brigade moves rapidly and infantry on both sides start to exchange fire. Brigade in the center never moves out of its position. Confederate artillery fire starts to take effect, demoralizing one of the blue-clad regiments.
New arrivals show up on the field – lost Union brigade shows up, but far away from the expected entry point. At the same time, Confederate reinforcements show up on Union right flank. However, two of the rebel regimental commanders misunderstood their orders and got separated from the rest of the brigade. This causes some confusion and puts severe strain on newly arrived Confederate brigade commander.
Union assault on the left flank advances to contact with Confederate units on the high ground that dominates left portion of the field. Rebels are thrown back and appears to rout, but a courageous colonel manages to stem the flight and rallies the troops. Union right prepares for inevitable assault of Confederate reinforcements. Union center fails to support their comrades on the left, but the attached battery knocks out one of rebel guns.
What seems to be the final push on the Union left smashes into the battered Southern line. Amazingly, the line holds and same soldiers that were on brink of collapse just couple of minutes ago manage to throw back the blue onslaught in disarray. As so many times before, inexperienced troops can be very eager, but can also turn out to be very brittle tool.
Indecisive assault on the right flank ends in stalemate, while Union brigade in the center finally starts to show signs of activity. Unfortunately, it’s too little and too late, as both sides decide they had enough for the day.