29 November, 2007

Wartrace becomes central in Union advance

Tennessee Campaign, 1863
News from the Front, August 15th - August 24th

August 15th

Withers advances to PelhamForrest escapes from the clutches of Baird's division just when the frustrated McCook thought he had him at last.

Meanwhile Bragg concentrates on General Polk, giving him the aid of several gifted staff officers, and to increase efficiency further temporarily transfers command of Cheatham's Division to Buckner.

August 16th

Forrest retires southwest-wards out of Baird's reach. At Buckner's urging, Cheatham fortifies his position at Hillsboro.

August 17th

Baird pursues Forrest Withers follows Cheatham's suit and fortifies Pelham. Cheatham advances to Tracy City

August 18th

Withers scouts out Palmer's Division in front of him, to discover it is a strong force.

August 19th

A huge Union supply effort takes place, with Davis and Sheridan creating supply depots and Johnson's Division being brought back into supply. Brannan's Division advances at the Confederates, at the behest of Thomas. Some progress must be made.

August 20th

Mitchell scouts out Cleburne at Tullahoma to discover he has had an influx of troops from Stewart. With Mitchell so close to the advance base of operations, supply is becoming a more difficult matter for the Confederates, with Forrest and Wharton out of supply.
Buckner is finding coordinating divisions at both ends of the theatre difficult, and has a bout of indecision.

August 21st

Cleburne scouts out Mitchell's Division nearby and discovers it to be cavalry only. The threat to Tullahoma was an empty one. Nonetheless (but maybe thinking of advancing) Stewart moves westwards into Tullahoma itself.

Rosecrans sees an opportunity, with McCook's staff working exceptionally, he passes temporary control of Negley and places railway stock at his service. Garrisoning Wartrace with an unattached Brigade he creates a forward base of operations at that railway town.

August 22nd

Davis' Division moves south along the railway towards Manchester. Palmer's Division advances into Pelham and builds up his strength for an assault on Wither's lines there.

August 24th

Sheridan advances into Wartrace, protecting the new base of operations. Martin's Division moves to Estill Spring, ready to plug the lines if necessary.
Palmer's attack on Withers is delayed but goes ahead against strong opposition.

15 November, 2007

Sides jockey for position near Tullahoma

Tennessee Campaign, 1863
News from the Front July 25th - August 1st

July 25th

Wither's attack across the forces the Union to fall back from Beech Grove. The Confederates use the victory as an opportunity to resupply themselves; General Hardee bringing his Corp back into supply with General Forrest setting up a supply depot in Shelbyville.
Pegram and Preston continue their long journey southwest from Knoxville to Chattanooga.

July 26th

Buoyed up by the victory, the Confederates are as confident as ever. The Union conversely are unused to defeat so far, and both Thomas' and McCook's entire Corps are low on supplies.

July 27th

Pegram and Preston continue their journey to Chattanooga, reaching Cleveland

July 28th

Polk's Corps strives to get back into supply utilizing the supply depot at Shelbyville.Palmer's Division (2nd of Crittenden's XXI Corps) resupply itself despite raiding from cavalry at McMinnsville.

July 29th

In an action that draws cries of derision from colleagues and thepress, Sheridan fortifies his position at Wartrace. Mustering up all his forces for the attack which failed to materialise a week before, Palmer attacked McMinnville to find that the garrison (Martin's Cavalry Division) has faded away to reform back at Polk's HQ.

Stewart sets up a new supply depot at Ethel Springs, and as Cheatham withdraws his Division towards Pelham. A new Confederate defensive position around Tullahoma and on The Barrens begins to suggest itself.

July 30th

Johnson's Division (2nd of McCook's XX Corps) advances up the railway toward Tullahoma, perhaps in an attempt to cut off Confederate forces.

July 31st

Withers withdraws towards Hillsboro, escaping the pocket threatening to be created by Union flankers. Preston moves towards Rossville, now within close distance of Chattanooga.

August 1st

Brannan's Division (3rd of Thomas' XIV Corps) sets up a supply depot on the Highland Ridge, a major Union re-supply effort will be required before they can again threaten the Confederate lines.

News from the Front August 2nd - August 14th

August 2nd

Cleburne fortifies Tullahoma: this position will not be turned! Forrest meanwhile on a daring raid behind enemy lines rides into Bell Buckle.This feat achieves easy fame in the newspapers, and Confederate confidence is sky-high. Forrest's interdiction attempts are only partially successful, forcing Johnson's Division to stop, but nearby Divisions of Rousseau and Davis regain their supply lines.

August 3rd

Bragg takes a hand in Confederate affairs, spurred on by Davis backin Richmond, his interference slows down the decision-making process somewhat.However, he does manage to get considerable rolling-stock in place for Polk's Corps, which would allow a quick movement from his exposed position near Manchester southwards towards Tullahoma. To stiffen their strong position north of the Elk River, Bragg has organised a huge supply effort, making Tullahoma a base of operations in advance of Chattanooga. Cleburne's Division benefits also replacing troops and guns lost at Wartrace.

Negley's Division (2nd of Thomas' XIV Corps) sets up a supply depot, surely this is enough to re-supply and advance?

August 4th

Cheatham reaches Pelham

August 5th

Forrest continues his raid behind enemy lines, setting up a supply depot in between the Highland Ridge and Murfreesboro. Given the danger that Forrest could pose to the Union base of operations, Morgan's Division (2nd of Granger's Reserve Corps) scouts out Forrest's Division, finding it to be cavalry only, with no great staying power.

The great Union re-supply effort continues, with Rousseau's Division (1st of Thomas' XIV Corps) sets up a new supply depot, and Negley and Brannan's Division's get back into supply.

August 7th

Meanwhile towards McMinnville Wood's and Turchin's Divisions (1st of Crittenden's XXI Corps and 2nd of the Cavalry Corps) move together and merge. Johnson's Division, on the railway and despite Forrest's raiding is able to set up a supply depot

August 8th

Rousseau's Division fortifies Beech Grove, the supply lines must be kept secure!

August 9th

Morgan's Division brings itself back into supply. Van Cleve`s Division is reformed out of the consolidated divisions under Palmer at McMinnville. Sheridan's and Negley's Divisions are brought into supply by the exhaustion of the supply depot previously set up by Rousseau. Is the Union war machine ready to move at last?

August 10th

Mitchell's Division advances up to the gates of Tullahoma. Palmer's Division advances swiftly down the railway from McMinnville towards Manchester.

August 11th

Baird's Division (1st of Granger's Reserve Corps) advances past Murfressboro and towards Forrest's Division, eager to destroy this threat to the Union's supply lines.
Meanwhile to the south, Preston marches into Chattanooga, while Pegram stations his command at Rossville just to the south-east.

August 13th

Forrest scouts Morgan's Division (2nd of Granger's Reserve Corps) finding it to be of average size, certainly adequate to garrisoning Murfreesboro.Wither's Division moves into Hillsboro.

August 14th

Morgan's Division moves into Tullahoma. Baird's Division advances into contact with Forrest and attempts to bring him to battle, but Forrest retires. Again Baird forms line to squash Forrest, but the man who escaped with his command out of Fort Donelson refuses to play by the Union rules and evades contact.

27 October, 2007

Battle of Tarawa

The United States goes on the offensive in the critical Central Pacific. Tarawa is the gateway to the US drive towards the Philippines, and both sides realise its importance. On this 3 mile by 1/2 mile island, the Japanese built an airstrip defended by 4,700 troops dug into a labyrinth of pillboxes and bunkers interconnected by tunnels and defended by wire and mines.

The task of dislodging this force fell to the Marines of the 2nd Division. It was also the first time in the war that the United States faced serious Japanese opposition to a U.S. amphibious landing. Previous landings met little or no initial resistance.

The resulting struggle produced one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles in Marine history.

We played out the battle in overlord style on a 6'x4' hex map. We ran it each day, so people would have the chance to play other games, take in the great social atmosphere and still get in a Banzai-Gung Ho Memoir '44 experience!

The three plays were all very different, but the results were very close and neither side came away feeling it was mission-impossible.

Saturday: Japanese won 13-18, at the end it was a case of "next score wins"
Sunday: Marines won 12-13, miraculously coming back from 5-11 deficit
Monday: Marines won 12-17, with only two break-points remaining

Marine Task Force motors towards Reef.

Marine Task Force motors towards Reef

Japanese prepare strong defence at Red Beach 3.

Japanese prepare strong defence at Red Beach 3

LVTs followed by Higgin's Boats and LCMs.

LVTs followed by Higgin's Boats and LCMs

Japanese forces abandon defensive positions on Black Beach.

Japanese forces abandon defensive positions on Black Beach

Marines approach Red Beach 2.

Marines approach Red Beach 2

Japanese Infantry back up emplaced Artillery in 'The Pocket'.

Japanese Infantry back up emplaced Artillery in 'The Pocket'

Marines wading ashore from the Reef.

Marines wading ashore from the Reef

Marines land on Red Beach 3.

Marines land on Red Beach 3

Marines land on 'The Beak' driving Japanese out of their defences. Charge, counter-charge, ambush and medics all got in the act at this end of the island to make this an enthralling contest. Getting two Marine units ashore quickly using a 'Behind Enemy Lines' card was pure genius.

Marines land on 'The Beak' driving Japanese out of their defences

Battle for control of The Pier heats up. It is here that the battle for Tarawa is finally decided. The US Heroic Leader figure finally ended up on the scout-sniper platoon unit (there being no normal infantry unit left on the island!). It may have been uber-cheesy, but it was thrilling to watch.

Battle for control of The Pier

20 September, 2007

Rousseau advances against Withers at Beach Grove

Tennessee Campaign, 1863
News from the Front - July 15th - July 24th

July 15th

Cleburne's Division is forced out of Wartrace, but he is able to break contact with Sheridan after inflicting heavy casualties on the Union force. Baird's Cavalry Division continues his strike southeast towards Tullahoma increasing the distance between them and Forrest in Shelbyville. After several hard battles, almost all of the Confederate forces lack the supplies to hold on, and even moving back out of their advance positions will be difficult.

July 16th

Cleburne and Stewart begin their painful withdrawal to a line on the Duck River.Roussau's Division, XIV Corps clash with the rear-guard of Withers' Division discovering that Withers is strong despite his supply predicament.

July 17th

Meanwhile, Pegram and Preston continue their journey southwest fromKnoxville to Chattanooga.

July 18th

With the continued retreat of Hardee's Corps, Polk has no choice but to straighten the line and withdraw Withers and Cheatham's Divisions also.

July 19th

Crittenden advances towards McMinnville merging Palmer's and VanCleve's Divisions as he slogs through the mud. A planned scouting attempt fails due to lack of clear orders, General Minty defends his Cavalry Division's performance, they have been left to fend for themselves at the rear of the Union column.

July 20th

Jackson, acting cautiously but following Buckner's lead, fortifies Loudon.

July 21st

Thomas directs Rousseau to form a supply depot at Bradyville. With this clear signal of intent, both Hardee and Polk are caught in a quandary; but their indecision in soon broken by Union advances.

July 22nd

Palmer's reinforced 2nd Division, XXI Corps advances into McMinnville to bring Martin's Division, Polk's Corps to battle and force them out of the vital rail spur. Martin runs rings around the advancing Union force and retires in good order, but still in control of the town.

July 23rd

Crittenden seems paralysed by the failure of his subordinates and looks for explanations, not action! This is compounded by the failure of his supply train to keep up with his advance and Palmer is out of supply.

July 24th

Rousseau advances into Beach Grove and eager to bring Withers to battle finds himself a tougher battle than expected

16 August, 2007

Sheridan pursues Cleburne to Wartrace

Tennessee Campaign, 1863
News from the Front - July 8th - July 14th

July 8th

Cleburne's Division, defeated at Bell Buckle and thrown out of theirfieldworks, retreats off the Highland Rim and towards Wartrace,staying in touch with Stewart's Division to their left. Meanwhile, atLoudon, Brigades under Jackson and Pegram start moving southwards.Mitchell's Cavalry Division continues to move south, past the westernoutskirts of Shelbyville.

July 9th

The need to replenish supplies after the recent battles depletes theConfederate supply depot at Wartrace. Mitchell moves southwest ofShelbyville threatening communications back to Tullahoma.As both sides take stock of their position, the loss of the passesthrough the Highland Rim have obviously dented the Confederates,though some advantage is still to be had.

July 10th

The desire of the Confederates to hold the advance line now thatthey've been thrown off the Highland Rim seems unwavering, as theybring in even more supplies to Wartrace by rail.Sheridan's Division begins following up on its success at Bell Buckleand moves southwards. It stays on Cleburne's scent as that woundeddivision retreats back to Wartrace.

July 11th

Van Cleve's 3rd Division of Crittenden's Corps sends scouts out toMcMinnville to discover that it's garrisoned by Morgan's CavalryDivision. It's advance has so far been slow, muddy tracks masqueringas roads on the maps are blamed.Cleburne's and Stewart's Divisions meet at Wartrace and some movementof troops between the two divisions is detected.

July 12th

Union forces at Liberty Gap bring down supplies from Murfressboro, inanticpation of further advances in the area. Jackson and Pegramcontinue down the railway towards Chattanooga.Meanwhile Stewart's Division begins to retreat southwards fromWartrace.

July 13th

Sheridan is obvious in his attempts to bring Cleburne to battle buthe cannot get his brigades moving.

July 14th

Sheridan finally brings Cleburne to battle at Wartrace.

19 July, 2007

Sheridan assaults Cleburne at Bell Buckle

Tennessee Campaign, 1863
News from the Front - July 2nd to July 7th

July 2nd

Stewart's Division, defeated at Liberty Gap, retreats back up the Highland Rim, to connect with Cleburne's right flank.

July 3rd

McCook merges the 3rd Division, XX Corps under Sheridan with the 1st Division, Reserve Corps under Baird. Taking advice from McCook,Thomas sends the 3rd Division, XIV Corps rearwards to secure the supply lines out of Murfressboro.

July 4th

Having straightened their lines, and taken stock of their opposition,the Confederates are still confident of victory, without the heady delight of 30th June. The extended combat, and the even pressure from Rosecrans uses up most of the supplies moved in at great expense toWartrace.
Scouting out the Confederate forces at Shelbyville, McCook discovers the garrison to be a scratch division of cavalry under Forrest.

July 5th

More skirmishing along the front lines quickly uses up the Confederates supplies located at Shelbyville also, although Wharton's division at Wartrace is now clamouring for resupply andreinforcements.
1st Division of the XIV under Rousseau advances to Highland Rim to connect with Negley's left flank. Meanwhile to the east, Crittenden gets his divisions moving over the muddy roads towards McMinnville, with 1st and 2nd Divisions under Wood and Palmer taking the lead.

July 6th

In response to this general advance, Cheatham's Division counters to shore up the eastern part of the Highland Rim

July 7th

Sheridan's 3rd Division of XX Corps advances to Bell Buckle, advancing into contact with Cleburne's Division, which has been digging in for a week. Despite second thoughts from McCook, Sheridan keeps his nerve and makes an all-out attack on Cleburne's lines.

05 July, 2007

Negley Attempts to Force Liberty Gap

Tennessee Campaign, 1863
News from the Front: June 24th to July 1st

June 24th
The Army of the Cumberland under Major-General William Starke Rosecrans advances out of Murfreesboro. Standing between them and the Confederate heartland of Atlanta is General Braxton Bragg's Army ofTennessee. It is arrayed on and behind Highland Ridge, just north of Tullahoma.
Major-General George Henry Thomas' XIV Corps, in the centre of the Union advance consolidates his divisions into two large divisions, under Brigadier-Generals Rousseau and Negley.
Arrayed along the Highland Ridge and towards McMinnville, General Leonidas Polk's Corps sets up a supply depot in Wartrace.

June 25th
Meanwhile Major-General Simon Bolivar Buckner, in command of the Department of East Tennessee fortifies Knoxville. Whenever Burnside's Army of the Ohio moves against him, he intends to be ready.
Arrayed near the western edge of the Highland Ridge, Lieutenant General William J. Hardee's Corps sets up a supply depot in Shelbyville.

June 26th
Thomas's XIV Corps continues its advance towards the advance guard of Hardee's Corps: Stewart's Division

June 27th
Stewart, sensing an opportunity advances off its position on the ridge and hits Reynold's Division hard. The 4th Division of XIV Corps is shown to be only a regiment, with a company of Cavalry and is swept aside.It has done its job though and now Thomas is sure of Stewart'sstrength.

June 28th
Wanting to assure himself of his enemy's strength Hardee scouts out the 2nd Division of XIV Corps and discovers it to contain most units from both Negley's 2nd and Reynold's 4th Divisions.

June 29th
Withers' Division at Beech Grove and Cleburne's Division at Bell Buckle are scouted out by Mitchell's southward-bound Cavalry Division, in advance of Major-General Alexander D. McCook's XX Corps.
Given the obvious strength against him and the failure of nearby Confederate Divisions to back him up, Stewart withdraws back to his original position on the Ridge, near Liberty Gap.
In the vicinity of Knoxville, Buckner has moved his Brigades underJackson and Preston and his Cavalry Division under Pegram southwards to Loudon. Is this a move to reinforce the Tullahoma front?

June 30th
Major-General Thomas Crittenden's XXI Corps finally begins to move, sidling towards McMinnville.
Buckner sets up a supply depot in Knoxville, surely his previous move looks now more like the simple securing of a fallback position south of Knoxville?
With no retreat from the strong defensive line north of Tullahoma, Southern morale flies high. Is Davis' faith in Bragg justified?
The 3rd Division of XIV Corps under Brannan is short of supplies, even though it's so close to the Union-controlled railheads at Murfressboro. Can Rosecrans manage this army?
Cleburne, sensing a big Union push coming, fortifies Bell Buckle.

July 1st
Negley's command advances up Liberty Gap and Stewart's daring flank attack on him is undone by Negley's brave attack. Everything should favour Stewart but when battle is joined, his centre and right haven't made it from their positions further up the ridge and only his artillery batteries hold the centre!

13 March, 2007

The Battle for Guam

in celebration of Steve and my birthdays I ran a wargames campaign over the weekend, using Piquet's Theatre of War and Richard Borg's Memoir '44 to run the Guam Campaign of 1944

The Set-Up

When writing this scenario I undertook to allow a broad range of actions and intentions by both sides. Obviously, the best chance of the Japanese stopping the US Marines cold was on the beaches. But would they be able to get enough forces to those beaches in time? Would a delaying and guerrilla strategy in the interior of the island, far from the supply dumps on the beaches, give better return?

The US Marines had certain powerful advantages, namely quantity and quality. But given the circumstances any real setback inflicted on them by the Japanese was going to be more damaging to the Marine Corps’ ability to take the island. A victory by the Japanese might not mean that the island wasn’t taken, but it might mean that the army had to be called in, and several Marine regiments sent back to Australia/Hawaii for rest etc.
Imagine it, the ignominy of having the Army take an island that the Marines could not!

The main resources I used were online versions of US armed forces histories
The Recapture of Guam by Major O.R. Lodge, USMC and
Liberation: Marines in the Recapture of Guam (Marines in World War II Commemorative Series) by Cyril J. O'Brien

Background to the Guam Campaign

To most American planners the islands of the Southern Marianas were essential in the drive to shorten the war. They occupy a central position dominating the Western Pacific on an arc from Tokyo through the Ryukus to Formosa, the Philippines, and northern New Guinea.
Their capture would cut the strategic line of communication from Japan to its island holdings in the South Pacific and effectively isolate the garrisons there and would, for the first time during the war, permit Americans to operate on interior rather than exterior lines.In addition, enemy planes could no longer stage through the airfields of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam to attack American forces hammering at the Japanese bases in the South and Central Pacific.

But uppermost in the minds of the high-level strategists were three further considerations that made the target even more attractive. First, from the same airfields now being used by enemy planes and other sites selected for early development, B-29's of the Army Air Forces could initiate raids on Japan itself. Secondly, capture of Guam would permit the establishment of a submarine refuelling point much closer to enemy areas. And finally, Apra Harbour offered a good anchorage for an advance naval base. 21st July, 1944

Major General Roy S. Geiger decided to send in Colonel Merlin F. Schneider leading the 22nd Marines in to take Agat Beach. The Regiment is met by Colonel Tsunetaro Suenaga’s 38th Regiment, and delay in getting the Marine attack underway led to Suenaga bringing up reserves to meet it head-on and with maximum firepower…

Japanese hold Town against Armour flanking attack [Battle for Agat Beach]
Japanese hold Town against Armour flanking attack [Battle for Agat Beach]

The Marines attempt to get as many as possible up the beaches, to avoid being pushed back into the water, this proves to be difficult given the lack of armoured support for the advance. The Japanese are cautious with pushing forward and only do so in order to grab defensive terrain features.

US Marines race through artillery fire from LCVPs to town [Battle for Agat Beach]
US Marines race through artillery fire from LCVPs to town [Battle for Agat Beach]

In the centre the Marine advance is slower, with fewer companies making it off the landing craft, and those that do are in danger of being split by the small rivers running down the beach.

Japanese advance on US Marines before more can disembark [Battle for Agat Beach]
Japanese advance on US Marines before more can disembark [Battle for Agat Beach]

Covered by artillery support the Marine advance on their right goes well, but the Japanese with artillery on both flanking hills give as good as they get.

US Marines reach ridge overlooking beach [Battle for Agat Beach]
US Marines reach ridge overlooking beach [Battle for Agat Beach]

The 22nd Marines are beaten, but the Japanese forces are no better off. Schneider’s regiment has avoided the disaster of being pushed off the beach, but only just…

23rd July, 1944

As the US Marines prepare to take Agat Beach on a second attempt, the Japanese commander ordered a night attack. Again the Japanese are extremely lucky in getting all their available companies into the fight, and their numbers almost match the Marines huddled around their landing craft.

Japanese wipe out US Marines right flank [Night Attack at Agat Beach]
Japanese wipe out US Marines right flank [Night Attack at Agat Beach]

The Japanese night attack was launched very early, and the Marines are praying for dawn as visibility remains very bad for the entire battle. Conversely they know that the Japanese artillery is zeroed in on some of their positions and that daylight will only bring a torrent of fire.

Japanese Banzai charge reached the landing craft [Night Attack at Agat Beach]
Japanese Banzai charge reached the landing craft [Night Attack at Agat Beach]

The night-fighting is especially fierce around Agat town, where the Japanese artillery pushed back dangerous advances made by the Marines. The Marines do make headway and slowly they take the blocks despite the frenzied counter-attacks by the Japanese battalion.

Japanese hold town against advance by US Marines left flank [Night Attack at Agat Beach]
Japanese hold town against advance by US Marines left flank [Night Attack at Agat Beach]
As the Japanese victory seems inevitable; the Marines right flank is being crushed and their centre is in danger of annihilation; the Marines live up to the grandest traditions of the Corps – Bladensburg, Beallau Wood, Tarawa – and break the Japanese Regiment at the cusp of their triumph!

[The Marines drew three ‘Their Finest Hour’ cards in four turns! Turning a decisive defeat into another bloody draw]

24th July, 1944

Geiger lands Lt. Colonel Alan Shapley’s 4th Marines on Agat Beach, in an attempt to join up with the 22nd Marines and establish a serious force superiority over the Japanese defenders.
As that is about to happen, the Japanese attempt to push the US Marines 22nd Regiment off their beachhead again.

This time however, the Marines are outnumbered and without any artillery assets, as well as being stuck around their landing craft. The tiring Marines recognise their dire situation, and attempt to make the Japanese pay the cost in another mauling.

The 4th Marines are withdrawn from the beaches in disarray.

25th July, 1944

Geiger, eager to open up the battle for Guam to a region where the Japanese do not have such an advantage quickly lands the 21st Marines under Colonel Arthur H. Butler and the 9th Marines under Colonel Edward A. Craig on Asan Beach.

Moving inland from Asan Beach, the combined 21st and 9th Marines moves to Mount Tenjo where the Japanese 48th Independent Mixed Brigade under Major Hamada is stationed, overlooking Agat Beach.
The 48th avoids battle, despite the favourable terrain.

Although the Japanese 38th have withdrawn from the beach to lick their wounds they are obviously preparing to push the new Marine arrivals off Guam to join their comrades.

The 4th Marines decide to move before they have a chance to complete their plans, and advances past Agat town to clear the beachhead.

This battle does not go well for the Marines, although several sections of the battlefield hold their own, the Japanese slowly squeeze the life out of them, and forcing the Marines back to their start line.

26th July, 1944

Sensing an opportunity Shapely orders the 4th Marines south of Agat towards Mount Alifan, where any attempt by the Japanese to finish his unit off will occur in the defensive foothills. This leaves behind any chance of his taking a base of operations for the amphibious corps and is extremely dangerous.

Butler quickly ordered the 21st and 9th to engage the opposing 48th: “They can’t avoid battle again and still hold onto these hills!” This time the Japanese cannot avoid the battle and are flanked by the superior numbers Butler has brought to bear. The flank march takes control of the vital summit of Mount Tenjo itself and with his big guns brought to bear on those defensive positions the Japanese do control, the battle is over almost before it can begin!

Now Geiger sees the opportunity to sweep in behind the 38th holding Agat, but instead Butler orders his units to follow up and harry the 48th down towards the Pago River.

27th July, 1944

Following up, the Xth Marines catches the Japanese 48th at Pago River.

Massed US Armour prepares to advance [Battle of Pago River]
Massed US Armour prepares to advance [Battle of Pago River]

The disparity in numbers is dreadfully apparent, and given that the Marines have also succeeded in bringing a strategic reserve of halftracks for their infantry, mobile howitzers and heavy tanks the Japanese can only hope to sell their lives dearly.

Japanese defend hill despite the fearful odds [Battle of Pago River]
Japanese defend hill despite the fearful odds [Battle of Pago River]

Initial pushes from armour units find the main strength on the Japanese side. They have refused their left flank and are trusting on the Pago River to slow down the Marine advance on that side.

US Marines centre backed up by mobile  howitzers [Battle of Pago River]
US Marines centre backed up by mobile howitzers [Battle of Pago River]

The Marine attack on their left meets with some serious resistance, the Japanese have several batteries dug in on a hill, supported by several infantry companies. Meanwhile in their centre they begun to move units (including some armour) around a hill and some jungle to take advantage of a sloppy Marine advance.

Japanese lurk in elephant grass [Battle of Pago River]
Japanese lurk in elephant grass [Battle of Pago River]

Japanese defensive formation in the expanse of elephant grass is smoked out and destroyed with the help of a seriously effective air strike by the Marine flyers, and the last remnant s of the Japanese force charges out to attempt to drive one Marine unit into the river.

Cut off, the last Japanese platoon charges [Battle of Pago River]

Cut off, the last Japanese platoon charges [Battle of Pago River]

On the Marine left the stiff resistance on the hill is crushed by an armoured spearhead, backed up by mechanised infantry. The Japanese are wiped out to the last man!

US Marines left takes vital hill after destroying massed batteries there [Battle of Pago River]
US Marines left takes vital hill after destroying massed batteries there [Battle of Pago River]

Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to run the final battle of the campaign, but I hope to have it run at the next Thursday night available for the group…
Given the beating both sides have taken in the campaign so far – it will definitely be the decisive battle.

01 February, 2007

Champion Hill

The Scenario

When writing this scenario I undertook to allow a broad range of actions and intentions by both sides. While a truly historical scenario might ignore anything on the Middle and Raymond roads and concentrate on events at Champion Hill itself, I wondered what would happened if generals on those axes were more active than they were historically.

That said, I used special cards and deployments to steer certain things historically, for instance putting in a special card for the Union which would temporarily prevent Loring's division from sending his brigades northward - "Does General Pemberton know the enemy is in great force in my front?"

I got great use out of Timothy Smith's Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg and James Arnold's Grant Wins the War: Decision at Vicksburg, I'd welcome any comments from readers, while suggesting that at times certain decisions of my were guided by gameplay rather than historical accuracy.

We did run the entire battle twice, both with significantly different results, I'm posting the second of those AARs here.


The Union generals began the day by developing their lines carefully and deliberating, under strict orders from Grant. Only in the centre did the attempt to move artillery batteries forward while sending a brigade after the 12th Arkansas Sharpshooter Battalion causes a less than orderly advance.

Aerial view of battlefield
Aerial View of Battlefield at the start of the day

On the Union left, AJ Smith advances using the road to speed up his rear regiments while moving his forward units gradually off the road, being mindful of a Confederate brigade on his threatening his right flank.

AJ Smith leads division towards Croker Ridge
AJ Smith leads division towards Croker Ridge

In the centre Bowen's division advances east of the Ratliff Road to catch the Union divisions before they can bring their superior numbers to bear.

Osterhaus and Bower square off on Middle Road south of Cornfields
Osterhaus and Bowen square off on Middle Road south of Cornfields

As the Union divisions are just about to get their final orders to make contact with the Confederate defence, it is discovered that communications with Grant have slowed to a snail's pace, due to a huge number of supply wagons on the back roads connecting the main axes of advance.

Union rear on Raymond Road snarled up by supply train
Union rear on Raymond Road snarled up by supply train

Trouble strikes the Union centre as Carr's division struggles to clear the woods of a sharpshooter battalion impeding a quick deployment towards the line Osterhaus has identified for the two divisions.

Carr's division finds advance through woods impeded by 12th Arkansas Sharpshooters
Carr's division finds advance through woods impeded by 12th Arkansas Sharpshooters

Further north, Logan's initial probe towards Champion Hill is repulsed. In the firefight, the 2nd Illinois and 6th Missouri Cavalry take advantage of the preoccupation of the Confederate gunners to overrun the Cherokee Georgia Battery. They escape with only minor losses despite the supporting fire from the slopes of Champion Hill from some of Cumming's Brigade and Claiborne's Battery.

Logan's initial probe towards Champion Hill is repulsed
Logan's initial probe towards Champion Hill is repulsed


Just as AJ Smith’s division, supported by Blair begins its attack on Loring’s division on Croker Ridge, Buford’s brigade emerges from the woods nearby to hit them hard in the flank, forcing AJ Smith to respond by pulling back a brigade on that side.

AJ Smith's division hit hard in the flank by Buford's brigade
AJ Smith's division hit hard in the flank by Buford's brigade

Meanwhile in the centre things are getting hot, as Lee takes several regiments into the Cornfields for respite from Union pressure. He used his position to put some enfilading fire onto regiments marching down the Middle Road.

Lee leads regiment into Cornfield supported by Waddell's battery
Lee leads regiment into Cornfield supported by Waddell's battery

Buford has successfully completed his task of slowing down the Union advance against Loring, and with only minor loss to his brigade. By afternoon Loring has brought all his regiments to the eastern edge of the woods and to the ridge itself, withdrawing Adam’s cavalry from its dangerous position covering the road.

Loring's division prepares for Union onslaught
Loring's division prepares for Union onslaught

Meanwhile at Champion Hill Logan and Hovey are moving very conservatively on Confederate positions, keeping their lines steady and hoping to act like a vice in taking the position.

Logan's and Hovey's divisions advance on Champion Hill in good order
Logan's and Hovey's divisions advance on Champion Hill in good order

The Confederates there are not worried, having moved a brigade up to a defensive line, and skirmishing well with any Union regiment attempting to skirt the hill on the road.

Union troops can see Barton's brigade on north-eastern slopes of Champion Hill
Union troops can see Barton's brigade on north-eastern slopes of Champion Hill

With both sides almost spent and reduced to long-range exchanges in the centre (Bowern has been seriously wounded by a sharpshooter) and with things looking so dangerous at Champion Hill, Loring mounts a counter-attack after successfully weathering a full-scale assault by AJ Smith’s division, led by Buford’s brigade again.

AJ Smith's division reels from counter-attack led by Buford
AJ Smith's division reels from counter-attack led by Buford


When Loring’s main strength joins in the counter-attack from the front, the effects are disastrous for the Union, and AJ Smith’s division, along with forward elements of Blair’s are driven from the field.

AJ Smith's division shattered by Loring's attack
AJ Smith's division shattered by Loring's attack

The remains of Blair’s division supported by several batteries drive back the advance regiments of Loring’s division, giving them some room to reform their lines. However the absolute carnage caused to the Union divisions on this flank is clear to all, and Blair forms his new line out of Loring’s reach.

Blair's division forms new line outside range of Loring's guns
Blair's division forms new line outside range of Loring's guns

Loring begins to send his brigade north towards Champion Hill, but all wonder if the steady advance of Logan and Hovey will pay off before they can reach there, or before night falls. Their assault is coordinated and from both sides, leaving Cumming's and Barton's brigades shattered, and Stevenson himself has been seriously wounded taking command of a brigade on the eastern slopes near the road.

Logan and Hovey coordinate assault on Champion Hill, leaving Cumming's and Barton's brigades shattered
Logan and Hovey coordinate assault on Champion Hill

As the Union triumphantly surge up Champion Hill, only a lone battery commanded by Claiborne still stubbornly holds out.

Lone guns of Claiborne's Battery hold to last man
Lone guns of Claiborne's Battery hold to last man

The Confederates are broken, but the Union command looks nervous about their victory, and the Confederate commanders decide to break the Union strength by retaking Champion Hill before nightfall. They hope to effect a good withdrawal of the army and to hamper any future Union attempts to take Vicksburg. Before any fresh orders are sent, dusk falls and the day belongs to General Grant.


I’ll add a few comments as GM and observer. The Union approach was quite ponderous, requiring a full deployment before any real engagement. One could see the Union CinC player looking sternly at the subordinate players once or twice when they looked like they were getting ahead of themselves. This was most important around Champion Hill, where the Confederates had the best terrain, and the Union overwhelming numbers, and a division well in reserve which could have been completely left out of the picture by an overconfident player there. When that became apparent to all, I was slightly surprised that the Confederate on Champion Hill moved to a forward defence rather than a crest-line defence, which would have helped diminish Union superiority and coordination.

In the centre both sides were very quickly exhausted, with several units pulled out of the line when they were close to being destroyed. The sharpshooters did a lot of good work at frustrating the Union player here. Along the Raymond Road, all were amazed at the damage done to the Union, especially given the well ordered advance. Even so, they should probably have come out of it worse. When Blair’s units counter-attacked to set up their lines, 12 dice were rolled against various confederate units, with 11 (rather than the average of 6) coming up hits!

The Union won 18-20 (The Confederate break-point was 18 - the Union break-point was 23) so it was close enough in the end.

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