Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Black Powder American Civil War Battle Report

The Story
A detachment of two Union Infantry Brigades, and some accompanying Cavalry, is ordered to return with all possible speed to meet up with the main body of their army. They march almost non-stop, with very little food or sleep. Through skillful maneuvering, a small force of Confederates has managed to get behind the Union detachment and deploy between them and their destination. Hungry and exhausted, the Union soldiers come upon the Confederates. They outnumber the enemy, but are already in bad shape. Nevertheless, they have no choice but to fight their way through the enemy to meet back up with their army.

The Setup
The picture below shows the initial deployments, with the Union on the left side of the picture, and the Confederates on the right. We decided that the fields were particularly rough and muddy, so treated them as rough ground.

One the right side of the Union line is the Iron Brigade, with the Irish Brigade to their left, and the commander in chief, General Hancock, between. Both infantry brigade consist of five regular infantry units armed with Rifled musket, but with morale of 5+, and Staff Rating of 7 on the officers. Farther to their left is the Michigan Cavalry brigade, with a battery of rifled horse artillery, and two units of cavalry with breech-loading carbines, again all with morale of 5+ and Staff Rating 7. The two cavalry units started the game dismounted and in skirmish formation.

Across the battlefield on the right side of the confederate line is their cavalry brigade, consisting of two units of cavalry and one battery of smoothbore horse artillery. The cavalry units are armed with pistols and shotguns, but have the Marauders special rule. On the other side of the forest to their left, in the center of the Confederate line, is the Texas brigade, consisting of five regular sized infantry units with rifled muskets. To their left, anchoring the Confederate left flank on a small hill, is part of the Stonewall brigade. The consists of the Rockbridge artillery battery (light smoothbore) and the 33rd Virginia, armed with rifled muskets, and with the Brave and Steady special rules, which would make them very difficult to break. In addition, Stonewall Jackson has a staff rating of 9, while the rest of the Confederate officers were rated at 8. The Confederates, getting the drop on the Union force, would have the first turn.

Turn 1
General Forrest led the Confederate Tennessee Cavalry, still mounted, up to the top of the large hill to their front. The Texas Infantry brigade deployed out into a wide line, advancing towards the farms. The 33rd Virginia also moved up to keep in line with the rest of the Confederate infantry, and the Rockbridge Artillery unlimbered.

On the Union side, the skirmishing dismounted cavalry advanced cautiously towards the woods, not knowing if enemy might be lurking there. The horse artillery stayed put, and General Hancock came over to see what the delay was about. Meanwhile, the Union Infantry planned to advance together in a reinforced line to the edge of the nearest arm. The Irish Brigade made it to their destination promptly, but the Iron Brigade was uncharacteristically disorganized, and had to spend some time getting their lines in order.

Turn 2
The Tennessee Cavalry advanced to the bottom of the hill, keeping an eye on the approaching Union Infantry. The Texas Brigade moved forward, but kept one regiment back in reserve. More aggressive, the 33rd Virginia moved all the way to the far end of the arm, between the farm and the nearby woods, so their flanks were protected.

General Hancock must have accepted the explanation for the cautious behavior of the Union Cavalry, because they stayed put, taking some extra time to make sure the woods were clear before moving up. Hancock, meanwhile, ordered the horse artillery back to deploy on the small hill in the middle of the Union line to support the Irish Brigade. The Irish Brigade, already in position as planned, stayed put. Amazingly, the Iron Brigade once again failed to advance. The Irish Brigade were just in range to fire at one of the Confederate Cavalry regiments, much to the surprise of the rebel horsemen, who were disordered by the unexpected fire.

Turn 3
With the Union Cavalry failing to hold the woods on the Union left, the left flank of the Union Infantry was dangerously exposed. One of the Confederate Cavalry regiments was moved up to threaten the exposed flank, though they moved cautiously since they were unaware of the location of the Union Cavalry. To support the advance, the Confederate Horse artillery opened up on the leftmost infantry regiment in the Irish Brigade. The Texas Brigade didn't do much, but the 33rd Virginia advanced into range and opened fire on a regiment of the still disorganized Iron Brigade, and in their state the volleys were extremely effective. They also brought up the Rockbridge Artillery to help support their attack going forward.

Tired, disorganized, and now under fire, the Iron Brigade unbelievably were once again unable to get moving. General Custer, frustrated with the timidity of his Michigan Cavalry, personally took charge of the front regiment and led them forward into the woods, leaving the other regiment of cavalry behind. The Irish Brigade and horse artillery continued firing at the Confederate Cavalry.

Turn 4
A daring regiment of Tennessee Cavalry made its way past the Union line into their rear, while the other remained pinned down by fire. General Hood sent his Texas infantry regiments around the farm. Two were sent to the Confederate right to relieve the worn unit of Cavalry and shore up the right flank. The rest moved up between the two farms, with two Confederate infantry regiments pouring some very effective fire into the right-most Irish regiment. The 33rd Virginia moved forward again and the Rockbride Artillery deployed to continue the attack on the beleaguered Iron Brigade, with the right-most Iron Brigade regiment being completely shaken by casualties.

The left side of the Union army responded. Custer moved one of this regiments of skirmishing cavalry up to the edge of the tree line so they could take some shots at the confederates, and anchor the Union left flank. The Irish Brigade had to commit it's reserves early, with one regiment turning around to enfilade the infiltrating Tennessee Cavalry, which also took fire from the horse artillery. Impressively, the cavalry held their ground in the face of the overwhelming fire. On the right of the Irish Brigade, the other reserve regiment moved up to relieve the one that had been taking fire from the Texans. On the Union right, the Iron Brigade again failed to do anything except fire back at the Virginians.

Turn 5
The Confederates mostly stayed in position and traded volleys with the federals, inflicting some significant casualties on their exhausted enemies. One Iron Brigade regiment had taken all it could, and fled the field in confusion.

The left side of the Union force stayed in position and continued to fire, with continued fire finally causing the infiltrating Tennessee Cavalry regiment to break and flee, as well as one of the infantry regiments in the Texas Brigade. Stunned into action by the loss of one of their regiments, the Iron Brigade finally got moving. The remaining regiments moved up to form a rough line to the right of the Irish Brigade.

Turn 6
The remaining Texas Brigade Infantry regiment, which had been in reserve, moved up to take the place of the broken regiment. The rest stayed in place and continued to trade volleys, causing another Iron Brigade regiment to break and flee.

The one remaining fresh regiment in the Irish Brigade advanced to relieve the regiment to their front. The Iron Brigade, despite the punishment they had taken, managed to move up to complete a somewhat ragged right half of the Union battle line. They poured close range fire into the 33rd Virginia, but they predictably held their ground.

Turn 7
On the Confederate right, the remaining Tennessee Cavalry regiment moved up to provide some relief for the infantry. Otherwise, the lines mostly stayed in place and continued to fire at each other. One Union Irish brigade regiment fell back, but there was another behind it to hold the line, and General Hancock was there to rally them. The 33rd Virginia took heavy casualties, but true to form they stood their ground.

Turn 8
Both sides continued to trade volley after brutal volley. Yet another Iron Brigade regiment fled, leaving a gap in the Union line, since there were no more reserves to plug the gap. The 33rd Virginia continued to take casualties, but refused to waver. Somewhere around this point, we realized we had forgotten about the broken brigade rules. So we decided that once one side had lost more than half the units from more than half their brigades, that side would lose the battle.

Turn 9
Wanting to put an end to the stalemate and rescue their Cavalry, one of the Texas regiment advanced to engage the enemy at point blank range on the Confederate right. Fire from two more Texas brigade regiments finally broke one of the regiments of the Irish Brigade in the middle of the battlefield.

In their aggressiveness, the Texas Brigade infantry in the center of the battlefield exposed their left flank to a regiment in the Iron Brigade, which took the opportunity to enfilade them. But it is the other Confederate Infantry regiment in the center that finally breaks. Naturally, the 33rd Virginia continued to stand like a stone wall.

Turn 10
On the far Union left, the fresh unit of Union Cavalry were personally led forward by Custer in an ill-conceived charge on the artillery battery, which was repulsed. They were then attacked by the Confederate Infantry, but managed to hold their ground. The remainder of both exhausted armies continued to pound away at each other in a grueling meat grinder, and yet another Iron Brigade regiment had enough and fled.

Turn 11
A Union Cavalry regiment and a regiment of the Irish Brigade are forced to fall back by the weight of enemy fire, but neither breaks. Meanwhile, sensing the breaking point has been reached, Hancock personally leads the horse artillery up to deploy in canister range of one of the Texas Brigade infantry regiments. The canister fire breaks the Confederate regiment, completely emptying the center of the Confederate army, and bringing the rebels to the breaking point. Their army was forced to withdraw, and the starving exhausted Union solders are able to drag themselves back to their camp.


  1. Don't you hate it when you cannot make the command rolls for a brigade turn after turn after turn? That is the one element of why I continue to be skeptical about Black Powder, Hail Caesar, and Warmaster rules.

  2. Got to agree that I was never really happy about either.

    You'd think it wouldn't be that regular a gaming occurence but it is and ruins games for the unfortunate victim who effectively can't participate.


  3. Yeah... but it's reality. Look at Corporal Hoppum in Saving Private Ryan or Blythe in Band Of Brothers. They totally froze up when the action got going, and my research indicates that happens a lot.

    What's interesting to see is that the Union still took the battle despite Iron Brigade not moving for so long.