Once again I made my way round to Des’ magnificent Shed o’War for another game and this time it was for a game of my first wargaming ‘love’, ACW. We would be using Des’ lovely 15mm collection and the new edition of the excellent Fire & Fury brigade level rules.
The scenario we would be playing is the Battle of Prairie Grove where a small Union force of 2 brigades from the Army of the West is chasing a Reb force from the Army of the Trans-Mississippi that has turned to engage at the great defensive position along the wooded ridge and hopefully destroy the pursuing force before the rest of the army catches up. The Confederates had more bases in their units but the Union had a qualitative edge, I was taking the role of the Union commander. The one thing changed from the scenario as written was the dismounted cavalry was replaced with infantry.
My plan was quite simple: I was going to take the Rebs under fire with the batteries of Herron’s Division from the Knoll and once I had seen off or destroyed their batteries, I would advance Orne & Huston’s brigades to ‘The Bench’ and try and work round the flank or assault their line if it had been weakened by my artillery once it had switched targets from the enemy guns. I was expecting another Division to enter the battle between points A & B on the map and would direct them as required but my initial thoughts were to use them to aim towards the Morton house to threaten the other flank of the Rebel line and tackle any reserves that might be lurking along the road.
The first few moves whizzed by as I moved my 2 batteries onto the knoll and edged my infantry forward to support them whilst engaging the Rebel artillery with Murphy’s battery from Crawford’s hill which was not going very well as they constantly failed to do much damage, luckily for me though neither was the enemy guns and soon the Knoll guns were in place. I used these to hit the small brigade of McDonald at the very end of the enemy line and soon I had caused it enough damage that it fell back out of the line and the guns turned their attention to Blocher’s battery and Shelby’s Brigade. The Rebel artillery was giving as good as it got however and one of the batteries on the Knoll became damaged but the concentrated fire of both batteries did manage to damage Blocher’s battery too and cause casualties on Shelby’s brigade which also fell out of the line, whilst further along the ridge Murphy’s battery had finally got the range sorted and had forced West’s battery to fall back damaged. Taking advantage of the fact that the Rebel guns were now weakened and another brigade had fallen back I pushed the infantry to the bottom of ‘the Ledge’ where they were in dead ground and unable to be fired at from the ridge above. Now I wanted to soften up the defenders with my guns before advancing and I also moved Orne’s large Brigade to the left to take advantage of the space where McDonald’s & Shelby’s brigades used to be.
It was about this time that my first reinforcing Brigade appeared over on the right but this good news was tempered by the sight of a mass of Confederate Infantry & Artillery appearing on the roads opposite, I quickly ditched any idea of attacking obliquely into the flank of the enemy before me and realised I’d have to use the reinforcements to tackle the newly arriving enemy forces head on. I therefore advanced my new Brigade forward a short distance and shook it out into a supported line to wait for the rest of its Division. Pretty soon the rest of Husson’s Division’s brigades with their attached 3 batteries of guns had arrived and I wasted no time in advancing them towards the masses of enemy advancing down the road, shrugging off the attentions of enemy artillery as they did so. My own artillery was also now in play and the concentrated fire of all 3 batteries was beginning to tell on the green rebel troops, causing them to become disordered and silencing their batteries.
Now, as twilight started to fall, the battle moved into the final stages as the infantry started to get to grips with each other. Over on the left I had decided to launch Huston’s brigade forwards in a charge on Fagan’s Brigade to tie them in place while Orne’s Brigade got into position on the left, unfortunately this attack which was stopped cold by the fire from the enemy infantry and the remaining guns across the road and a quick counter attack saw my brave boys retreating back to the safety of the foot of the shelf. However the Rebel infantry was now disorganised and Orne’s fresh and large unit slammed into the enemy line, bundling them back at an angle with some loss and destroying the remainder of Blocher’s battery. This did leave the victorious Union troops with enemy troops moving up on their flank but they were still fresh and in good order so would easily be able to turn to face the new threat with confidence.
On the right two separate attacks went in. The small but veteran left hand brigade of Husson’s Division attacked the equally small enemy brigade in front of the Morton house and won the contest handily but was then counter attacked by a newly arriving Rebel Brigade and even though they saw off the first attack, they were then hit in the flank and were forced to retire back to the gun line. Meanwhile, over on the right of the Division the other, larger, veteran brigade moved up to tackle the huge, but green, Confederates deployed near the Wilson house. This contest was in the balance for a while with the Rebs holding firm initially (I rolled a 1!) but the better experience of the Union forces began to tell and the Arkansas boys were soon falling back through the Brigade behind them.
It was at this time that Des decided that he would use the failing light (we had played 12 turns of 15)to cover his retreat and fall back as he had taken significantly larger losses than me (15 Infantry & 2 Guns vs 8 Infantry) and I had 3 fresh and better quality brigades plus a distinct advantage in guns with which to carry on the fight with, and so I managed to take the victory. As usual, many thanks to Mr Darkin for the game, it was a great blast and an interesting scenario plus it was great to be involved in some ACW action again – we’ll definitely have to play it again but switch sides.