Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Battle of Spizzler's Crossroads, 1861

The club has been full of talk for some time now, regarding the notion of carrying out a campaign for Sam Mustafa's 'Longstreet' rules.  It's basically a series of linked games, and we seem to have about 10 or 12 willing recruits prepared to raise a brigade and launch their careers, so - last Monday I was on the field for my inaugural fight!

In charge is my fictional and dapper commander, Colonel Thaddeus P Hardtack.  Sharp of eye, square of jawbone - his hobbies include amateur theatrics, overwrought poetic composition, and shooting anybody with inadequate enthusiasm for the Union.  An ex-military type of the old school, with a 'thing' for drilling his troops and a long passion for artillery theory, he finds himself brought swiftly out of military retirement at the outbreak of hostilities.  Volunteering his services to the United States' government, he quickly finds himself in charge of a brigade made up largely of Massachusetts recruits.

Fast-forward swiftly, and we find our intrepid hero leading his men into action for the first time!  An obscure crossroads has been occupied by Confederates - Driftwood's Brigade, to be precise - and Hardtack is set to drive them off!  

The two lines - Confederates on the left, Union on the right.  Most of the Union strength is on the right of their line, at the very top of the picture.

Planning a straight flanking sweep, he masses the 1st and 16th Massachusetts regiments to occupy a small hill out on the flank, which is defended by a regiment of Alabamians.

"Two against one - just how I like to fight!"
 The Union troops gamely marched ahead, only to be gripped by confusion right before the crest.  The intelligence handed over by the Pinkerton Detective Agency indicated that approximately 100,000 Confederates were certain to be in the area.  What lay behind that hill-top: a division of crazed Texans, waiting to pounce, perhaps?  As Hardtack steeled himself to find out, the Alabama regiment blazed away into the milling blue-coats.

Finally resolving to charge, the Massachusetts regiments surged ahead with a manly 'Hurrah!'  Driftwood himself even had a close shave, nearly being shot down but saved because he had cannily decided to bring along his personal physician.

I like to think I at least shot the doctor.
 Hardtack managed to get in his picture-book charge, thus giving the papers something to write about.  Strangely, the 16th Massachusetts seemed to have a bit of an 'off' day, and didn't give follow-up support (possibly an old rivalry between the colonels, perhaps?  No, surely not...)  It then topped this by failing to even fire helpfully, thanks to them having been issued with obsolete rifles.  Thankfully however the 1st Massachusetts proved equal to the job, and pushed the wavering Alabama regiment off the hilltop!  

"On to Richmond!"
However, this drama on the flank was only part of the tale.  In the centre, things were also going well as the third regiment held the line - and a battery of 'old army' artillery showed the benefits of Hardtack's leadership, blasting steadily away at a luckless regiment of Kentuckians opposite.

"Just like the practice range, but far more satisfying!"
 However, on the Union left the Confederates had been far more successful.  The Union flank was to be covered by the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry regiment, but when they advanced forward and dismounted under Rebel artillery fire, they were soon dramatically assailed by the charging grey horsemen, and scattered!

"Wait, men!  You're advancing the wrong way!"
 Infuriated at this turn of events, Hardtack could only watch as the Rebel cavalrymen began menacing the whole Union line - they were even aided by Southern-sympathizing civilians, just to add insult to injury!  (Honestly, you wonder why you bother sometimes...)

The hill (at the top of the picture) is in union hands, but the left flank (at the bottom of the pic) is now all grey! 
 Things were looking dicey, but luckily Hardtack's long drilling practice paid off - the 11th Massachusetts in the centre was able to wheel backwards, and pulled off the complex maneuver just in time to hit the cavalry with a volley, and repel them.  It was also fortunate that the cavalry colonel didn't obey his orders that closely - no doubt he and Driftwood had some sort of rivalry as well!
Marching, wheeling, and firing - all at once!
 The whole line had pivoted round, as each side had attacked on its right - now things were nearly at right angles, with the Kentucky regiment now getting flanked to add to its miseries.  Despite this, the Union had been stopped on its own right-wing and couldn't press on any further.  Casualties mounted, and what with the Pennsylvanian cavalry already galloping fast for Washington, Northern morale was getting shaky!

"These Rebs just keep coming!"
Finally, after clinging on to pass three break-rolls, the Union morale finally gave way.  The crossroads was out of reach, and Colonel Hardtack had to fall back and leave the field to the Rebels. 

The Rebs won, and with one of their regiments not even getting properly engaged!
 Still, it was a hard fight - and Hardtack gave as good as he got.  He'll be back, and no doubt next time he'll deal the forces of Secession an even sterner lesson!
Time to Skedaddle!
After the fight, Hardtack could at least point to the fighting spirit of his men as evidence of his own bold style, and he happily managed to secure a promotion in the rapidly expanding army!  Even better was to follow: thanks to the kudos attached to his name, the War Department favoured a Railway company he had been linked to in his pre-war days, and awarded them a massive contract.  Hardtack is rich, rich beyond his wildest dreams!  

The 'golden gaze of fortune' continued in military spheres too - the Army command attached a 4-gun battery of Light Rifles to his Brigade, to see what his proficiency in gunnery could do with them; and also transferred across the 15th New York Infantry Regiment to bolster his force.

Roll on 1862!


  1. Delightful and informative report! I greatly enjoyed the game which was a damn'd close-run thing.

  2. I'd never heard of the Longstreet rules before! A surprise considering Brigade level combat is my favorite "scale". Thank you for the report. I will have to take a good look at those rules.