Thursday, 19 October 2017

Battle for Fox's Gap 1862

Morning Action at FoxGap.

A scenario written by Jonathan Freitag to use with the Two Flags - One Nation hex based ACW rules.

The following post covers a replay of this interesting scenario that has roughly a brigade per side. Please press the 'read more' tab to continue.

Jonathan Freitag is a fellow blogger who has taken an interest in these rules, giving generous coverage of them on his blog. A full presentation of his scenario is given on his blog and there is a link to that article in the Resource Section at the foot of this post.

Readers may want to reference that now, so as to put my following AAR into some context.

Scenario Background.
Briefly, Early on the morning of September 14, 1862, Pleasonton's Federal Cavalry Division began probing Fox's Gap.  The only Confederate resistance was offered by Rosser's 5th VA Cavalry and Pelham's gun section of two guns.  Had Pleasonton pressed on, the Gap may have been his. Instead, his troopers dismounted along the Old Sharpsburg Road and sent for help. By the time that support arrived, Confederate reinforcements were already feeding into the area.

The battlefield has a lot of terrain, so hopefully will throw up plenty of local nuances and the inclusion of a lot of cover, a small unit and the two gun artillery section, will allow some of the recent changes to the rules to get a further opportunity of testing.

Above - this is my game table ready for play.

Player 1 - As a meeting engagement, sides dice to establish who will be Player 1. Today the Union win the roll and decide to go as player 1. They want to get their dismounted cavalry out of the way of the nearby Confederate guns.

There are three objective hexes that must be controlled to win the game, they are located on the Ridge Road (marked with yellow stars) and they start under Confederate control. The Ridge Road is an important feature as it is on high ground and walled to its outer edge, making it a good defensive position.

Below the ridge, the field system has quite a lot of boundary fences / walls / hedges, while the rest of the battlefield is heavily wooded. The roads amount to trails, so movement bonuses do not apply, but they do negate the woods enough to allow artillery to use them.

The field fences despite appearing linear on the map, represent those hexes having multiple fence / wall structures, so units in a hex containing a field fence will be able to claim cover from a fence when attacked from any direction regardless of the actual placement of the fence within the hex.

Initially both sides still need to concentrate their forces and both brigade commanders must move on the opening turn to join a unit. The Confederate left wing is outside of the brigadiers command radius as is part of the right, so if those units move, they can only move closer to their commander.

Likewise the Union have units out of command and of note, 23rd Ohio (a) on the far left (next to J. Beachley Farm) has outpaced the rest of the brigade, losing contact with Brigadier General Scammon and will not be able to advance further for the time being.

Scammon needs time to get his regiments into attack positions, by which time the Confederates will likely have consolidated their position. Gibsons rifled artillery (Union) starts the game on their table edge within firing range of the centre of the Ridge Road, so they set-up as being deployed.

The scenario Game Clock is designated to run from 0900 hours to 1100 hours, after which time the victory conditions will be assessed. With the ridge already under Confederate control, this is a big ask of Scammons Brigade.

Since we are playing with one brigade per side, I have not used the optional rules that can generate commander character traits and the Brigade Cohesion rule will not be used.

There are other posts on this blog that deal with the nature of the rules and Jonathans blog page has all of the scenario detail, the remainder of this post can therefore mostly afford the luxury of limiting itself to a narrative style of presentation, with observations mostly reserved for the post game conclusions.
0900 hours - The sound of gunfire signals the opening of battle. Gibson's 10lb Parrotts fire into the centre of the ridge, occupied by 12th North Caroliners, a small regiment that is rated raw. The unit suffers two hits, but hold their nerve.

Scammon's cavalry at the farm, wanting to escape the attention of the nearby Confederate guns (Bondurrant), mount up and retire to take cover being the farm buildings.

Scammon moves over to his left flank as he sees his forces there, who face some raw regiments, as offering the best chances of breaking into the ridge positions. His focus on this side of the battlefield will cause command problems on his right, as his brigade is deployed across a frontage of around 1200 yards.

As for the Confederates, Garland starts to juggle forces to concentrate his strength on the middle section of the Ridge Road. Down below, Bondurrant's battery is compromised by 30th Ohio (A) moving into a flank position on its left. Somewhat boxed in due to theclose nature of the field system and ridge wall immediately to his rear, making retreat difficult, the artillery turns to face the threat.

Brigadier General Garland moves over to his right, to where the threat looks to be the greatest and to give the raw units some support.

Rosser's 5th Cavalry pull out of the line and cautiously advance down the road, exploring the Union left flank.

0914 hours.
The exposed placement of Bondurran's artillery becomes immediately obvious, taking musket fire they panic, limber up and pull back 1 hex, disordered. They cannot retire back onto the ridge because of the wall, so move around the base of the ridge, which brings them into contact with 23rd Ohio (B) on the Union left flank, who immediately proceed to charge the passing artillery. The heavily fenced small fields, limit the Union attack, but the artillery is heavily mauled, having now accumulated 5 heavy casualties and being somewhat mired amongst the close terrain. They desperately need support.

With few options, Garland orders 5th North Carolina to charge down off the ridge and hit the 23rd Ohio (b) who themselves have now accumulated 3 heavy casualties. He accompanies the charge, a decision that pays off, as his personal leadership turns a half hearted charge into a robust effort. They do not dislodge the Ohions, but the attack has been a successful spoiling attack.

Behind them, on the ridge, the small 12th North Carolina pull back behind the ridge to form a reserve and create space along the wall for Pelham's 2 gun (Napoleons) section to form up.

Bondurrant's artillery have lost their nerve and they again take off, but in the other direction this time, looking for a route to escape. Regardless, for the moment, the Union attack has been checked and Confederate cavalry are probing the Union flank.

The Union look to be losing the initiative. Scammon needs to get some momentum going.

0924 hours.
The Ohio Light Artillery has deployed in front of the fields, up against the first line of fences and set about attacking the remnants of Bonurrant's battered artillery. The short range fire is devastating, destroying the unit.

A reminder of the field of battle
On the ridge, Pegram's guns are no sooner in place than they open up at close range against the 23rd Ohio (b), who are occupying J. Beachley's Farm (Union left). The casualties rack up pushing the unit to 8 Heavy Casualties, at which point, units are removed from play.

This sets the scene for confused fighting in the surrounding woodland on the Union left. The Union have re-orientated to face the cavalry threat, who have already dismounted and are ready to fight their way into the woods. In turning to face the cavalry, while just losing the other half of their regiment, the right flank of 23rd Ohio is partially exposed, a situation that 5th North Carolina (a) and (b) take full advantage of by pressing forward.

The regiments here are mostly fresh and the fight on this side of the battlefield is seriously bogging down for the Union. Scammon responds by ordering the right flank to start moving out to the fields in the centre, hoping that they, together with artillery support would provide fresh impetus for an assault on the Ridge Road. However Garlands extended left has finally arrived to take their place on the ridge, which now looks a formidable position. It will likely be the Union artillery that make winning this battle possible as they bombard the ridge and weaken the forces there.

0936 hours.
Scammon has just sent his orders out to his regimental commanders when a stray bullet from skirmishes in the woods, struck and fatally wounds him. Command passes to Wilcox, but the temporary disruption could not have come at a more critical time.

Without a commander, the entire Union brigade is out of command and so will not be able to move until Wilcox takes charge. Union artillery from both Gibson's and the Ohio batteries fire at the ridge, inflicting four heavy casualties and pushing both 20th and 23rd North Carolina back behind the ridge, but because of command paralysis the Union infantry cannot take advantage of it.

Pegram's guns respond and fire down onto Beachley Farm. Brigadier General Wilcox has just arrived to personally ensure those regiments get moving forward, but in a stroke of bad luck for the Union, as the artillery fire sweeps the position, he is struck and instantly dies. Command will pass to Evans, but for now, the Union army, with two commanders lost in quick succession are halted.

Their cavalry have been moving up the road on the right towards Wise Farm to unhinge the Confederate left flank, but already, 13th North Carolina, up on the ridge, have turned ready to face them.

The two regiments pushed back off the ridge decide to stay on the reverse slope for now, out of harms way, since there is not an immediate threat from the Union infantry.

In the woods (left), 23rd Ohio are pushed back, but they are not pursued, it is sufficient for the Confederates to simply hold the Union army back and delay them.

0951 hours
A natural lull descends over the battlefield as each side adjusts their lines. 20th North Carolina return onto the ridge as the Union infantry below them form up for the inevitable assault.

1005 hours
On the Union right, their dismounted cavalry infiltrate and get up onto the Ridge Road, while 30th Ohio (a) moves through the woods to support the cavalry advance.

In the centre the ridge is weakly held, it has a gap and the key unit in the centre (23rd North Carolina) which has taken 6 heavy casualties, loses confidence and retires off the ridge, it is unlikely to take further part in the action.

With the centre so exposed, Garland is forced to order his right wing to fall back onto the ridge. They have done a splendid job in halting the Union flank attack, but defence of the ridge itself is now the priority.

1020 hours
Evans inspires as he leads 30th Ohio (b) across the fields and that unit does the rare thing of recovering from one heavy casualty marker. The Union advance across their entire front.

30th Ohio (a) over on the right, make the first charge up the ridge against the veteran 13th North Carolina, who are being pinned to their front by the Union cavalry, but the 13th hold on.

Pelham pulls his guns off the ridge, to allow easier access for the infantry regiments to return to the ridge from the Confederate left.

1035 hours
Evans is concerned that the vigour of the attack has been lost. As his units form up below the ridge for the assault, his guns (especially true for Gibson, who is still on the Union table edge) cannot fire at the ridge due to proximity of their own men to the target.

His left flank is still somewhat entangled in the wood facing 5th North Carolina (b), who have put in a magnificent performance. The enemy on the ridge are still too strong to be swept away by an uphill charge, so for this final part of the attack, he resolves to lay down fire to the front while his units on the right get behind the wall and then to launch a co-ordinated assault all along the line.

The Ohio Light Artillery manage to get off a last round of fire before the lines close, pushing 20th North Carolina back and opening a gap on the ridge for 30 Ohio (b) to move up, at last the position has been broken into. Elsewhere small arms fire starts to rack up casualties to both sides and soon the heavy casualty levels will start to see units be increasingly likely to disengage and pull back.

The Clock is advanced to 1049 hours, so it looks like just one more turn left for the Union to pull a rabbit out of the hat and get all three victory locations on the ridge .... however, random event number 2 is rolled, which immediately advances the clock by a further 15 minutes, taking the time to 1104 hours and obviously beyond the 1100 hours deadline set by the scenario, so the game ends, with neither side in possession of all of the three victory locations, so the game is a draw.

The Post Game Conclusions -
Well that was a tight fight and a draw seems fair, but which side got the best game. I'm not sure really. The Confederates did an excellent job of blocking the Union left flank, which is where the Union had pinned their hopes of a break-through, but the Union despite this and having two Brigade Commanders killed in succession, causing a significant pause in their offensive capability, did manage to breach the ridge in the centre as well as over on the right by Wise Farm.

Above - the Union get into the ridge in the centre and further along, one can see the Union cavalry and support putting that end of the road under a lot of pressure.

It is a tough scenario for the Union, but the challenge brings a good degree of tension to the game, as does the mixed ability of the Confederate force, though it must be said , medals all-round for the raw 5th North Carolina, their role in the battle was very significant.

So, the scenario stood up to first contact and the rules seem to be doing okay. The scenario also has the interest that despite being a small action of one brigade per side, each player has all three combat arms at their disposal.

Again, thanks to Jonathan for putting this together.

Resource Section;

Jonathan Freitags Blog (Palouse Wargaming Journal) has a detailed presentation of the scenario. LINK.

My Sister site, COMMANDERS, has other links in connection with these (and other) rules. LINK

A free download of the rules is available from my DropBox account (thank you DropBox) LINK.


  1. Your game looks terrific, Norm, and your recounting of the battle fascinating.

    Unlucky break for Cox (well, ex-Cox, ex-Scammon) that the Game Clock threw a wrench into the timetable. One more turn may have seen the Rebels off the ridge.

    Federal leader casualties were high and casualties accrued at a much faster rate than in my game. It must have been exceptional shooting to destroy the 23 OHb in two turns. Perhaps you are much better at bringing combined arms to bear against a single target. I must learn that tactic.

    I agree, this is a tense, compact game.

    Good job and thanks for giving it a go!

  2. I wish I had given Bondurrant's artillery a bit more latitude with regards to retreating, as per your comments about broken fences and walls, but that aside, I liked some of the permutations that can come out of play such as the early close of the game with that random event of '2', it come not have come at a more impactive moment. I also found myself almost holding my breath as I rolled dice in the various charge sequences when 5th North Carolina charged down from the ridge. It felt an impetuous thing to do, but at each stage and with little expectation, they came good - I like that sort of emotional connection with a game.

    1. Your rules produce many an opportunity for drama especially when considering to charge home or not. Even if successful, you can do significant damage to yourself! Great fun!

    2. Your reaction described above backs up the narrative to suggest a very good game.

  3. Norm - I am fascinated by your two sets of rules, 'Tigers at Minsk' and 'Two Flags, One Nation' I think the variable time clock is a touch of genius that really help build the tension in a game. Having a start time and finish time for a scenario is far more realistic than simply a set number of moves or victory points. To this end Norm I'm going to build a couple of 15mm ACW armies and a dedicated small hex board that can sit on my coffee table and be played in comfort! I would also like to play Tigers at Minsk - I have been reading through them again this morning - as I love the level of detail. All in all Norm, great stuff :)

  4. Lee, thanks very much for commenting, I am chuffed that you have taken a fancy to the rules to the extent that it is seeing you start a new project.

  5. A great report, beautiful maps, terrain, figures and explanations...makes me want to play this period again...

  6. Thanks Phil, it was a very enjoyable couple of hours.



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