Thursday, December 30, 2010

American Civil War Shiloh AAR: Forrest Fights!

(What If) Nathan Bedford Forrest drives with his cavalry to scout the area south of Nashville.
Forrest Fights; April 1, 1862
25 turns, Human Confederate, AI is playing Union

Ok this was my first game of a John Tiller Civil War title other than a starter scenario I had played. At first I thought this scenario would be a laugher. 25 turns, I have all these guys AND I get to pick the ground to fight on? No problem I said to myself. I was wrong. I have never seen so much action take place in the final 8 turns of a game in my life. True to the Civil War the entire start of the scenario was manoeuvre and marching followed by turns of bloody conflict. As such this AAR will be starting late in the game when the action picks up.

I will be playing the Confederates but I would also like a crack at this as the Union. Given enough time I might have actually lost this one. The screenshot below shows how I had everything setup to start off around turn 9 at about 12:40PM. Mclungs artillery was on the hills to the north and the Pillow Flying was to my left, and I had men mounted up and ready to respond in the middle around West Harpeth. I was not sure if the Union was going to go for the bridge at Anderson's Mill so I split my forces and waited patiently.

Make sure to click CONTINUE READING for the rest of this AAR

Once I had a general feel for where the Union was going to approach I started to shift my forces. I wanted to get as many guns on him as possible and use the terrain to my advantage. He slowly came up the Columbia and Franklin Pike and started to change his formations. I wasn't worried at first and thought that there was no way with the amount of time left that he would be able to reach my lines and take my objectives. Some more Union units trickled up and slowly they came within range of my guns. The situation can be seen below. I waited still before I commenced moving my reserves. I had to be sure the southern bridge was safe.

The front element of the Union attack was exposed, so I decided to be a smart alleck and attack with quickly with the 188 men of Jenkins Cavalry Battalion. What harm could it do? I would sweep in and inflict some casualties and get out fast right? It was a small unit of Union troops I made sure not approach a vast force.

Oddly enough the AI decides to completely avoid me and shuffles North toward the West Harpeth River and leaves me hanging alone out in the cold. This forces me to quickly mobilize Avery's Dragoons and form up on the other side of the small river. Shots are fired and one Rebel goes down in a blast of musket and smoke. The first shots have been fired and the battle is now in full effect. Here we go...

Things start to heat up fast now. There is little time left (about 6 turns) and I am still wondering how the Union can even challenge in this match but the moves are made fast and the battle gets furious. I decide to commit Thompson's Kentucky Cavalry to support Avery's Dragoons as these are my small units. I am saving the bulk of my men in reserve to see where the Union attack will form. Thompson's men ride up, dismount and gunfire is exchanged (as always click the images for bigger pictures).

The Union leader is observed to be Major General McClernand and he has a small force consisting of Carmichael's Cavalry. Obviously this is a scouting force. With Fog of War on I am sure the computer AI had no idea what he may run up against the same as I have no clue other than the cryptic "4X" for the size notation. You can see the unit below

That is not a lot of men but the Union is moving up more troops now. I am also noticing one thing I did not prepare for. The Union muskets have more range than my dismounted cavalry (5 to 2 hexes) and I am being peppered from across the small river now. Taking musket fire from both directions was not something I planned for. Confederate Colonel Nathan Forrest moves his HQ into West Harpeth with 57 men of Mathew's Rangers and I send a unit of men across the water to exchange fire with the Union men that are shooting at me. Mclungs Artillery on the hills above the town start to blast away at the Union troops now inflicting casualties.

Enough is enough for General McClernands troops. The last of them fade away under Confederate gun fire and soon the General is left standing among his aides, men dead all around him.

"The General is wounded! Protect the General!"

Union troops rush forward to engulf McClernand and return him to the rear as I rain down cannon fire on his location. No effect and the General gets away just barely. Suddenly a mass of Union troops appears east of West Harpeth. The main Union lines are advancing and there are a lot of them.

over 1000 Union men rush the ford and open fire on my Confederate scouts, shattering my lines and forcing them to route or surrender. Suddenly my northern flank is wide open and more Union troops appear, in large stacks numbering 600 or more men. Luckily I had inched my reserves up, abandoning the southern bridge. Hastily I moved them forward and prepared to defend the town. Nearing the very end of the game all was not looking so good in the blink of an eye.

The Union army begins to unlimber its guns far east. This move I think cost the AI as it took him too long to get those guns into position. I move north and commit the full body of my troops. Below is the situation for the final confrontation

Union Colonel Hare moves the Illinois 8th and 18th up, charging my smaller units and forcing them back right to the edge of West Harpeth. I barely manage to get my larger cavalry units up and dismounted and into formation before the Union men slam into them just outside the town. I am forced to move Confederate General Forrest out of his HQ and further back behind the lines. This is it. Either I hold here or I lose the town. I turn all my guns right into the Union men, flank them and open fire in a hail of smoke and powder.

The game is ending. The men of West Harpeth hold but not without massive casualties. A huge battle forms as the Union player throws everything at my line. What was once secure is not being attacked by over 1000 Union strong and I have to wonder if I am going to be able to withstand this. My cannons blaze and wave after wave of Union assaults is fought off as I hold the better ground.

The Illinois 8th and 18th breaks and runs off as the Confederate line lets out a mighty yell. With the breaking of that line the Union troops pull back under massive artillery fire. My casualties were so severe that not only did I not win the battle, I got a negative point draw. Since all my casualties were cavalry they were worth more points for the Union army and I could not win. It all happened so fast that I was barely able to hold the town. That is how quick the battle turned. I am sure with a little more speed and those guns brought to bear the Union AI could have pushed me harder. I will have to play this as Union and see if I can actually win given the amount of men they have. The computer was ONE hex away from taking that town. CLOSE.