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The Battle of Cedar Mountain, 1862


Misc., American Civil War, Regimental Fire & Fury, 28mm

Every year, between Christmas and New Year the RAF Leuchars club hosts a big one day game. I missed it last year, when they did Operation Market Garden, but the year before we refought Borodino. This time it was off to Virginia, and a refight of the Battle of Cedar Mountain. In 1862, while McClellan’s Army of the Potomac was floundering in the Peninsula, another army commanded by Pope advanced south from Washington, and by early August had reached Culpepper Court House. Lee dispatched Jackson to deal with this threat, and he encountered Pope’s advanced corps under Banks about five miles south of the town.The result was the Battle of Cedar Mountain, where an unusually lacklustre Jackson managed to rout Banks and thereby win the day. However, as he had superior numbers he should have done much more. Our refight was based on this battle, but presupposed that Pope was able to reinforce Banks, thereby evening the odds, and giving us players a well-matched fight.In the real battle the Yankees attacked first, as Banks thought he had the upper hand. His men were soon repelled by a Confederate counter attack though, and driven from the field. Jackson left his left flank to its own devices for much of the battle, only launching Ewell on his right once the Yankee drive was spent. In our refight Ewell was held back on Cedar Mountain until he received orders to move, while AP Hill’s Division was marching to the sound of the guns, and would be fed into the fight from Turn 2 on. I played the part of Hill, while also commanding two brigades – one in Hill’s division, the other in Jackson’s original  command. I knew things were going to be fun when Peter Nicholson sat down next to me, to take charge of Taliaferro’s command. That’s him in the photo above, sporting the Pickett white goatee. Peter is great fun to play with, mainly because he  likes charging things….The game was played out on a very long table – about 24 feet long, and most of it was 6 feet wide. Given the number of troops being fed on, this meant a long linear battle, with little room for manoeuvre. The exception was Cedar Mountain, on a sort of dog-leg extension on the Confederate right, and off the shot in the top picture. That’s where Ewell stood, waiting for orders. The battle began with both sides advancing. The Union troops held fast on their right and left flanks, but advanced in their centre, straight for me and Peter. Dale Smith’s brigades arrived to support us, and after breaking one Yankee charge we launched an attack of out own. We were definitely getting the best of the fight by lunchtime, and for a while it looked like we might split the Yankee army in two.That was about the time Ewell got his orders, and began advancing on the now well-defended Yankee left flank. In between us and Ewell another Union attack drove the Confederates back to a small farm, but elsewhere on that flank the two sides barely got to grips before 4pm rolled around, the time when we had to pack our toys away. Well, Ewell’s men did reach the Union line, and breached their defences which ran along a fence-lined field, but it was all too late to make a difference to the battle. On the Confederate left both sides played a cautious game, despite the long range fire inflicting a surprising number of officer casualties. The real fight remained in the centre. After our high water mark Jed commanding the central Yankees launched another attack, which caused us a lot of trouble, driving me back to a small ridge. We held them there though, and eventually weathered the storm, thanks in part to Dale’s supporting battery of guns. On my right Peter seemed unstoppable, and by the end of play his leading unit was just a foot from the enemy table edge, just short of Banks’ command base.Still, the battle lines were pretty ragged by this time, as both sides had largely run out of steam. It was a good, swirling hard-fought game, with attack and counter-attack following in quick succession. In the end though, the game was declared a draw. This was only my second game using Regimental Fire & Fury, and while I enjoyed it, I have to say I preferred theprevious one, staged by John DZ. It used custom-built terrain, rather than green baize cloths, and 10mm figures rather than 28mm ones. While I’m usually a staunch advocate of the larger scale, for me the period seems to lend itself more to small figures. Still, I tip my hat to the Leuchars boys – they had the patience to explain the rules to us greenhorns, and everything worked smoothly. They laid on a great game, provided an excellent day out, and helped usher out our wargaming year with a bang. I’m already looking forward to next December!

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