Friday, November 15, 2013

The Battle of Ramsay's Farm, 1862

1862 now beckons for Brigadier General Hardtack and his loyal brigade.  Following his fight in the fall of 1861, he's been spending the winter in and around Washington under a new commander: 'Little Mac', George McClellan himself, has been knocking the Army of the Potomac into shape over the winter.  Now it's high time to take the war to the rebels: Hardtack has sailed down to Fort Monroe with the army, marched and dug his way up the Yorktown peninsula, and is now on the very doorstep of Richmond - right in time for the start of the 'Seven Days Battles'.  As the rebels close in, Hardtack's brigade is ordered to hold his portion of the line around a small homestead called 'Ramsay's Farm'...  

The opening conditions
Hardtack initially keeps his artillery on his flanks, but their fields of fire are frustrated by the cornfields.  For the arch-artillerist Hardtack, this is clearly going to be a frustrating day!  The Confederate commander obviously has a healthy respect for them too, and he keeps himself hidden from sight all morning long.

Hardtack pushes very slightly forward with the 11th and 16th Massachusetts regiments, into the cornfields - the Confederates respond by moving forward themselves.  Hardtack is satisfied the 'lure' has worked, and pulls back his regiments.  The three rebel regiments are all tightly bunched in the centre, so whatever else happens there won't be much in the way of awkward maneuvering or flanking this day!

"The perfect 'Arc of Death', Sir!  Shame we can't see them..."
Hardtack angles in his flank infantry regiment and lines up his cannon 'just so'.  The three rebel regiments are packed into a perfect 'killing zone' from all sides.  If the cornfields weren't there, it'd be over in an instant.  However, despite Hardtack's earnest wishes, it insists on still being there!  "How long until the harvest?"  

A close-up on one of the rebel regiments, hiding ignobly - but undeniably effectively - in the field
The hours tick by, with Hardtack increasingly fuming at the rebels who refuse to emerge into his waiting arms.  Seriously, what's to stop his artillery just flinging cannon-balls into the corn?!  Protests about line of sight, ammunition supply etc. rave back and forth between Hardtack and his luckless staff.  His nerves must be stretched to breaking-point by this!

"I refuse to accept there is any problem to which more cannon is not the answer!
With the day growing late, and the initial 'blocking' task pretty well accomplished, Hardtack decides to take a chance and prod the Confederate hornet's nest.  The 11th and 16th are ordered forward again, this time at an angle to strike the end of the three Confederate regiments and prod them into action.  It's heroic stuff to make the papers, which is of course the main objective.

"Where are the enemy?  I can't see them anywh - Aargh!"
The two lines collide practically point-blank in the cornfield, and close-range fighting breaks out!  The Union reel back from the contact, and now the grey-clad Rebels come pouring out of the field all along the line.  It's a headlong attack by the screaming and yelling Confederates!

"Advance rearwards!  Keep firing!"
Benefiting from some local cornstalk-chewing, slack-jawed local, the rebs get the lie of the land and come headlong into the waiting Union line.  Things aren't perfect with the withdrawal however, as the colonel of the 11th Massachusetts gets it into his head that falling back into plentiful supporting lines is a bad idea, and he stays rooted to the spot in a cornfield that is now near-totally filled with rebels - oh, you heroic fool!

Finally visible, the Union lines begin blazing away at the Confederate horde rushing onwards at them, yelling as they come.  This one's gonna hurt!

Crashing into the 6th Massachusetts and the 15th New York, the recruits are driven back with heavy losses by the concentrated rebel mass!  In return however, they fire frantically into the oncoming graybacks.  The Confederates are a heroically determined bunch and take their losses as they keep coming, however - one rebel regiment is led forwards by a hero, who is then shot down, only to be replaced moments later by yet another hero stepping out of the ranks!

Despite taking heavy losses, all Hardtack's regiments manage to stay on the field.  The much-battered 16th Massachusetts is kept going by the Colonel, Hercules Spatchcock - clearly a man to rely on in hard times!  The union regiments even manage a counter-attack at the last minute, charging into the depleted rebels with their even-more depleted forces - what a show of fighting spirit!  Even so, Hardtack is in no doubt that with the farm lost, the sooner the day ends, the better.  The day ends with a stroke of luck: while the rebels are poised to charge yet again and wipe out several union regiments, a sniper shoots the enemy commander's horse out from under him!  By the time the dazed commander is recovered and the Rebel assault prepared, Hardtack has slipped away in the gathering dusk.

So, Hardtack has been defeated, pretty much like the rest of the Union army in the Seven Days Battles.  Time to take stock: he's lost 15 bases in combat, but inflicted about 10 in return.  Decent, but not enough to convince the War Department to give him that promotion he's been after.  All regiments recover, more or less, although the 16th Ma and 15th NY are rather light with only around 200-odd men left.  Time for reinforcements, so Hardtack starts lobbying away at army HQ and gets two new infantry regiments transferred to his command - the 27th Pa and the 8th NJ.  He also keeps on with his favourite hobby-horse, and manages to rig a ridiculous boost to his artillery park: the 6-pounders are replaced with Napoleons, and the number of Light Rifles are doubled from two to four sections.  Hardtack has a rather mediocre infantry force (still no veterans!) but enough artillery to put the moon out of orbit.

Hardtack's time in the field has strained his nerves, and while in the rear he advertises for, and finds, a personal physician to help look after his humors.  Dr. Hackett is added to his personal staff, and provides the great man with his own patented cure-all, 'Hackett's Nerve Elixir' (Ingredients: 2% Tar, 98% Cocaine Powders).  

Surely the next battle shall go better, with this marvel of modern medicine at his disposal?

1 comment:

  1. Another Personal Physician! One of the big medical universities has obviously just had a graduation or something.