Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shelton Railway Cutting, 1863

After being denied a victory at Hackett's Farm, then mauled at Gettysburg, Hardtack is feeling a bit dejected.  Enough of all this defending and getting buffeted about - next time he's going to attack!  

Unfortunate, then, that the next game would be the railway cutting...
In late 1863, Hardtack brings his division up and discovers a Rebel force defending the line of a railway embankment - a formidable position, and one he intends to assault immediately, with extreme violence.  Victory or defeat is an irrelevance by now: he wants prestige, glory - epic renown!

Dodging a wood near his setup zone, Hardtack moves up in column.

The waiting Rebels
The Confederates have a veritable grand-battery of artillery present!  Hardtack has virtually nothing, so there's no chance of sitting back for a fight - it's a straight-out rush to close the distance as soon as possible.  

The terrain in front is painfully open - only a small hillock for cover
As the columns move up at the quickstep, the Rebels reveal they have heavy rifles and start banging away at the columns - Hardtack is a distant, but dense, target.  

Much like the man himself.
The plan is to march in column across the enemy front, get behind the cover of the hill, left-turn into line, and then move forward in one compact mass to strike the enemy line with repeated charges.  
However, long-range fire was not part of the plan.
Things go quite painfully slowly, with a constant drain on Union units as casualties slowly mount - and they're not even in position yet!

"I knew I should've done their parades under live fire..."
Finally, the Union line is ready and begins moving forward - largely side-stepping the guns now, but the Rebel infantry are ready and waiting.

Oh, it's all going wrong - but at least, hopefully, in an epic manner!
Almost there - regiments are losing bases every turn to this ridiculous artillery fire - shame that Hardtack is learning all the problems of attacking (concentrating your force, using covering terrain to stop line-of-sight) in 1863, rather than 1861 when everybody had far less artillery to point out mistakes with!

Critical musket range - almost in charge range!
At the crucial moment: disaster strikes!  Some slack-jawed yokel with Secessionist sympathies has tipped off the Confederates to all the good advantages of the ground, and the Federals run straight into a killing-zone.  [Or, to put it in games-terms, I held two cards which would allow me to make a move-and-a-half, plus fire and charge.  Enough to give me a crucial edge over the last few yards - or would've been, if the Confederates hadn't played 'Southern Sympathizers' and removed them from my hand, right before contact!]

Shelter, at long last!  Some welcome defilade behind the embankment.
Musketry fire breaks out, with each side shooting over the railway-line. Finally, some Rebels are dying! 

To make things even worse, the insufferably smug Col. Mottram leaps up onto the tracks for all manner of heroic posturing - and somehow doesn't get shot down.  Hardtack can't catch a break, today.
Violent work - the old 122nd NY is wiped out altogether, the survivors pelting off to the rear.  The heroic Col. Ganderpoke is among those dead on the field.  

Oh, it's all just too horrible!

The subject of many a Lithograph, no doubt (Symbolism, anyone?)
Robbed of his chance to charge, Hardtack can only watch as the Confederates duly pile on the misery by doing so themselves!

"Don't you know playing on railway lines can be dangerous?"
The chance of repulsing the attack briefly flickers up, but although the 1/11th Massachusetts veterans do their bit, and so do the 13th Delaware cavalry, the colored recruits of the 154th New York have clearly been put through too much for one day - they are pushed back by the Confederates after a close fight.  

Still, they do gain a hero in their Colonel, so at least that's something.
It's over, and the result is a terrible, terrible defeat.  Hardtack's division has been mauled, and undeniably given a first-rate whipping on the battlefield.  

Hardtack never thought he'd look back on the Gettysburg wheat-field nostalgically...
Back, then, to camp for the winter.  Although he took a lot of losses, he actually doesn't lose any regiments wholesale - although the survivors are largely a more sober, circumspect bunch, unsurprisingly.  Two new large regiments, the 70th New York and the 57th Pennsylvania, are attached to his division to help bolster it.  Also, at long last, he gets two sections of Parrotts which give him a (solitary) full-strength battery of guns.  Hardtack is also moved enough by the experience of covering open ground to hire a Scouting expert, to try and give him some more information on future battlefields.  Following in the footsteps of Colonel Mottram, another glory-hunting Hero colonel gets himself transferred into Hardtack's division, to head up a regiment.  At least Hardtack's command has a reputation as a fighting force, to be attracting all these fire-eaters.  

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