Time for another after action report for an ACW game we played earlier today. I’m still stuck on Caliver Books’ “Heartland” scenario booklet and now it’s time for Corinth. “Battery Robinett” depicts the Confederate assault on battery Robinett, so called after its commander Leutenant Henry Robinett and which was one of key Union positions in this battle.
For this game, we used yet again ‘They Couldn’t Hit an Elephant’ with the modifications I described in my AAR for ‘Shiloh’s Church’ scenario – card deck is replaced with chips drawn from a bag, number of chips is equal for both sides regardless of number of units on each side, with dummies making up the balance for the side with fewer number of chips in the bag. All chips are present in the bag from the start of the game, even before the tactical deployment to offset any mathematical advantages gained by unequal deployment of units/blinds on the table.
For those interested about the ruleset, I’ve reviewed and analysed it in my previous posts. There, you’ll also find descriptions of my modifications and reasoning behind them.
As already mentioned, “Battery Robinett” is an attempt to depict one of key actions in battle of Corinth. The scenario itself is a surprisingly small affair – eight Confederate regiments with some artillery need to carry an extremely well-fortified Union position manned by a brigade consisting of five green Union regiments, a bunch of artillery batteries, two of which are heavy 20-pounder Parrots. Two small unattached Union regiments, short on ammunition, are also present on the battlefield, but they hardly played any role in our game. Union commander may get an additional large regiment in reinforcements during course of the game.
I’m rather liking the picture-heavy format I used in AAR for the Shiloh game, so why not use it also on this occasion?
The game starts with Confederate brigades formed in a wood facing federal field works, preparing for the assault. L. took command of Rebel right wing, while T. took control over the brigade to the left. Yours truly is peaking over the parapet of Union breastworks, feeling the tension in the air… The rebs are coming!
The picture shows the left and central section of Union line. Breastworks are stretching across the line, manned by the five regiments under command of certain Colonel Fuller. The ‘battery Robinett’ is the gun in the middle. Two lines of abatis cover the field works. Since there are no rules for abatis in TCHAE, I applied my own – either move to the breasworks and spend entire movement allotment to cross in ordered formation or spend half a move on breaching it and become ‘Disordered’.
“In my campaigning I had never seen anything so hard to stand as that slow, steady tramp. Not a sound was heard but they looked as if they intended to walk over us.” – Captain O. Jackson 63rd Ohio Infantry .
L. chose a tight formation two regiments wide, his Napoleonic inclinations clearly showing. T. choose to throw one of his regiments into a skirmish line, with the remainder advancing in single line close behind.
Not much of a prelude in this engagement. Confederates took some casualties while closing on Federal entrenchments, but close quarter combat was the name of today’s game. First to reach Union positions were the front regiments of L.s brigade. One of them broke under small arms fire as soon as it crossed the abatis, while another thrown back after savage point blank fight. That gave L. a pause. But by then T.s Texans reached the section of the Union line without the additional protection of abatis…
…and it was all over but the crying. Both 63rd Ohio and 11th Missouri, manning the breastworks to the right of the road ignominiously run away before the Confederate charge. Even though I managed to stop their rout shortly after, their initial collapse turned them into a useless mob, just waiting to continue their flight. Even 27th Ohio, which I moved over from the left to the right just in time to plug the hole made by the fleeing regiments wasn’t of much use…
…as L. figured out that a commander in chief shouldn’t have any problems giving move order to all of his brigades with single order if they were close enough… which in this case they were! And so, a general onrush of rebels smashed into the blue-clad regiments. T.’s Texans brushed away the already shaken 63rd Ohio and 11th Missouri and then charged 27th Ohio and an artillery battery, which now was all that stood in their way. Neither of Union units took much convincing before joining their already routing comrades in the rush to the rear.
To the right of unstoppable Texans, L.s brigade reached the breastworks yet again, slamming into and routing another Union regiment. Once the turn was done, the crew of guns of Battery Robinett and a regiment immediately to its left was all that was left of Union line.
Usual musings after the battle
OK, so first a couple of words about the game in general. By now I’m quite familiar with TCHAE and it’s paying its dividends – today’s game flowed smoothly and we were done in under three hours. Questions still arose now and then, but with a bit of common sense, they could be resolved without too much pain or searches in the rules.
As for the outcome of the game… well, by now it is very clear that with TCHAE, raw troops don’t stand much chance in close combat against a side of significantly better quality. This is the explanation for the sudden collapse of my right flank; my regiments were raw and assaulted by veterans with ‘aggressive’ attribute, which is pretty much the best you can have in this system if you’re charging into a defensive position. I may very well have ‘overcooked’ T.s brigade while adjusting the scenario to TCHAE, but with only three troop quality levels and four attributes to play with, it is almost impossible to model subtle qualities of individual regiments.
Still, even with ‘aggressive’ veterans, things can go sideways also against raw troops, as L.s almost stalled assault clearly showed. TCHAE gives enough playroom for ‘fortunes of war’ that on a different day even T’s seemingly irresistible charge could have been thrown in disarray with a bit of luck.
It is also worth observing that the Union reinforcements in form of one large regiment never showed up – I may have been too restrictive with the conditions of its appearance and it could have played important role in stemming the confederate advance.
Historically, the Confederate troops were nowhere close to being as successful as T. and L. were. J.C. Moore’s brigade (L’s command) was apparently formed in assault columns, an unusual formation in Civil War; THAE doesn’t even provide rules for assault columns! Perhaps their unusual tight formation was the reason for them suffering terrible losses before being repulsed, their commander being one of those killed in action. Phifer’s brigade was also shot to pieces, with Texan regiments so effective and horrible in our game being especially severely mauled. However, the Arkansas regiment of that brigade did manage to punch straight through Union line, only to be ambushed in Corinth itself by 5th Minnesota regiment, which also happens to be the reinforcement that failed to materialize in this scenario. So, maybe the outcome of our game isn’t as far from historical result as one would think!
Finally, couple more words about TCHAE itself. If I am to be perfectly honest, after all those years and several games with it under my belt, I am for variety or reasons still of split mind about it. And that’s why I have now decided to run this very scenario with two other ACW rulesets I own at this moment – ‘Black Powder’ and ‘Guns at Gettysburg’. AAR’s and comparisons will of course show up here in due course.