Strategic Hex Game McClellan's Last Command (custom GCACW module) - community playthrough

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
The events of the 18th.

Here's what the Confederates could see:

as_seen_Confederate_evening_18th.jpg

You might notice that Walker has moved. This is because on the 18th Walker crossed the Monocacy, but got repulsed by Ricketts' division; this also saw Hampton's brigade destroyed by a cavalry retreat and the 1st MA destroyed by a cavalry retreat. Remember, any cavalry unit conducting a retreat from infantry has a 1/6 chance of losing a strength point...

(They also instantly get destroyed if their only possible retreat paths all run into enemy units, though they don't suffer retreat attrition apart from those two reasons.)

Also, Longstreet is pushing further into Baltimore, and getting worryingly surrounded.
Even without the reinforcements en route, this should have been a warning sign - Longstreet still had 19,000 men at this point, but an attack by Humphreys' 6,000 would have been at something close to even odds owing to all the flank pressure against Longstreet.


Here's what the Union could see:
as_seen_Union_evening_18th.jpg


Incidentally, sorry for the crowding in Baltimore... not my orders doing it!

You might notice here that the Union commanders have pulled in the regiments from the rail lines. This choice can be argued both ways.
They've also lost track of the 7th VA.



Here's the true situation:


movements_of_18th.jpg


This day saw the destruction of both F. Lee and Hampton's main brigades, which between them cost the Confederates over half of their remaining cavalry. While both sides' cavalry arms are brittler here than in later campaigns like Gettysburg (mostly a result of the numerical situation, as the Gettysburg-era cavalry was just much more numerous) the Union has thus gained an important advantage... though the fact they've spent at least another week trying to pin down Stuart might make it not feel like it.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So here's another of the cases where the game can give examples of real military tactics.


1612537142347.png


In this situation, Longstreet's force is holding a defensive against troops coming out of Washington. What makes Longstreet's positions good is that there is no clear line of operation against the flanks (i.e. all the easy roads pass within a mile or so of Confederate forces) - meaning that in order to cut in behind Longstreet would take Sigel and Stoneman a massive detour.


This doesn't make the position impregnable, but it means that (with scouting assets available) the Confederates will have enough time to react to their flanks being imperilled.

Here's another example.

1612537295706.png


Here, there's no easy way for the Union troops to get in behind the Confederates...

1612537403888.png

...while here, there is. The different position means that the northern access to the Maryland Heights is exposed.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So here's what the Confederates could see on the 19th:


as_seen_Confederate_evening_19th.jpg

To the west, Lee is shifting north in preparation to push over the Monocacy north of the National Road. This robs them of any visibility south of Sugarloaf Mountain, but it's probably worth it.

Meanwhile to the east, Longstreet has taken the control point of Baltimore itself. Visibility over the area is poor however as there's no Confederate cavalry nearby. (The Confederates do actually know there's at least one division south of them.)

Also, notice the bridge. This was part of the Union deception operations intended to present a threat (there was no actual intent to cross the bridge).

Here's what the Union could see:



as_seen_Union_evening_19th.jpg


This shows the real problem brewing for the Confederates, which is that the Union forces have arrived en masse around Baltimore. At this point 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 9th and 11th Corps are all within about 15 miles of Baltimore; this is the fruits of Longstreet's slowness earlier now manifesting itself.

Something to notice though is that Longstreet has basically gone "through" the majority of the Union forces in Baltimore...


Here's the true situation:

movements_of_19th.jpg



Note Whipple in DC. This is the very last unit to be released.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Actions on the 27th.




Battle of Ijamsville

The battle of Ijamsville began with a delaying action by Averell's flanking cavalry, as McLaws' division attempted to break out of a looming encirclement. The infantry division managed to force their jailors away, but Averell's men caused enough confusion that McLaws was unable to take advantage.

The second phase was a major attack by the whole of the Union 6th and 4th Corps against JR Jones' division, occupying Ijamsville itself. The battle saw the Union infantry taking several hundred casualties, but the effect on JR Jones' division was much worse, with 1,000 casualties suffered and the division routing over the Monocacy.

In the third phase, McLaws' division was hit even harder by Sumner's 2nd Corps. The attack reduced his division to a state of total confusion, and he suffered 1,500 casualties in the area just south of Ijamsville before routing over the Monocacy in a state of demoralization even worse than that of the Stonewall division.


Battle of Mount Pleasant

Porter's Union 5th Corps moved on Central Church from positions around New London. Much of the Confederate infantry strength there had already pulled out in the early morning, and Stuart's two regiments of nearby cavalry delayed Morell's advance over the course of the morning, but while Morell's division was still working itself out Sykes' division passed through Central Church and launched an attack on Early's brigade (which was having trouble with the march owing to the parlous state of their supply situation).
Sykes' Regulars smashed Early's disrupted and outnumbered brigade without significant loss, and the Confederate force dissolved into a rout that left them without any coherent units remaining. Only a few of the men reached Confederate lines (those of Walker near Walkersville) as the heavy Union cavalry presence in the area swept the rest of them up, resulting in an estimated 1,000 casualties inflicted all told.


Action at the Monocacy Rail Bridge

Smith's division crested the heights overlooking the Monocacy Rail Bridge on the afternoon of the 27th, and began attempting to establish a crossing. They were delayed by the efforts of the 12th VA Cavalry, however the fire of Smith's batteries during the close-fought delaying action caused the cavalry regiment to fragment and ultimately largely dissolve.


Battle of Cearsville

Towards the afternoon, AP Hill's retreat towards the Cearsville fords was interrupted by the Union divisions of 1st Corps. Hooker led Meade's division on an assault while several other Union divisions applied flank pressure, and AP Hill's division was routed at the cost of about 1,000 casualties - though he broke in the direction of the Cearsville fords themselves and crossed.


Battle of Liberty

After retreating from Morell's efforts, Stuart found his two regiments becoming surrounded by increasing amounts of Union cavalry towards the afternoon. He attempted to have the 7th VA launch a breakout attempt, to knock the 1st NY out of the way so as to allow the 2nd VA to rejoin the rest of the army; however, this attack was unsuccessful and the 1st NY held their positions well - managing to limit Stuart's breakout attempt with the 2nd VA to a lateral move a mile to the northwest.
Pleasonton promptly pounced on this opportunity, launching a full three-regiment charge with Farnsworth's brigade and the 1st ME. These three regiments shattered the tired 7th VA and reduced it to a few dozen fugitives.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Here's the look at the maps for the 20th.

As a refresher, this was the day when Rodman unexpectedly routed Longstreet out of Baltimore.

Here's what the Confederates could see at the end of the day:


as_seen_Confederate_evening_20th.jpg



The first thing to notice here is that the Confederate cavalry to the west now has a good look around at least some of the Union line, and can get a much better count on enemy strength... the second thing is that, well, with Stuart off to the north in the Worthington Valley it means that Longstreet has no idea what's around him. He has no organic recon assets, and while his force is still quite strong (12,000 men) he doesn't know if he's threatened or not.
This matters partly because it rains the next day, and a routed formation that can sit there and do nothing for a day or two will pretty much always recover back to full efficiency (even if the losses in men mean it's never quite as good) but Longstreet has no way to tell if it's a good idea to sit there and do nothing or not.

Here's what the Union could see:

as_seen_Union_evening_20th.jpg



The amount of troops around Baltimore is now absolutely huge. There's the whole of the Union 3rd, 5th, 6th, 9th and 11th Corps, plus most of 2nd Corps and Whipple's division from Washington (now attached to 5th Corps) and of course all the Baltimore defenders.
A key operational issue here though was that the AotP reinforcements (2nd, 5th, 6th, 9th) were kept together rather than dividing into columns to come towards Baltimore from the north, west and south (to cut off any possible escape by Longstreet's troops).


Around the Monocacy at this point there's roughly 35,000 Union infantry and 41,000 Confederate infantry. Given the general qualitative advantage the Confederates have, this has the scope to go badly for the Union - though the rain will prevent crossing of the Monocacy for the next day.


Here's the true movements:

movements_of_20th.jpg


Both sides around the Monocacy are shifting north.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So here's a general rumination on grand strategy, strategy, operations and tactics as they relate to this game.

Grand Strategy - this is actually largely at too high a level to show up in this game. It's what module you're playing!

Strategy -
Strategy refers to how you intend to win the module. In the Gettysburg module for example the Confederates can aim to win by raising havoc in the North in general, or by going after Washington, or by crippling the Union army in the field - any of these three is a viable route to victory. What strategy you are using shapes your operations.

Operations -
Operations is the main part of this module, and you can see it as creating/avoiding the sorts of fights you want in order to achieve your strategic goals. The flank-march to Baltimore in the Maryland Campaign is an example of an operational decision, as is the Confederate choice to shift their weight north along the Monocacy and cross there instead of aiming for a crossing further south.

Tactics - much of this is at too low a level to show up in this game, but things like flanking the enemy and whether or not to commit to a full attack definitely matter. You do best by aiming to create operational situations in which you can use effective tactics and prevent your enemy from doing the same.
 

dgfred

Private
Joined
Apr 13, 2020
I smacked Longstreet a little too hard in a way and was worried now I could not catch him. I did think he would need rest at least one turn to function so thought I had a good chance to slow him down and get my forces back into position. Thank goodness the Commander sent me enough guys to be able to maneuver around.

So much fun... Thanks Saph!
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
As we're getting close to the end of the Maryland Campaign game, the Long Gettysburg Campaign game is looming up ahead.

I'd like everyone who's interested in participating to indicate whether they would rather take part as part of the Union army, part of the Confederate army, or if they don't mind and will be okay going wherever.

In addition, here's the map:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VLgPLuESzp1eERC5zWpFBfxyfKTUmytb/view?usp=sharing
Yep, it's a big one...
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Battles of the 28th:

Battle of Israel Creek and Battle of Utica

Pleasonton launched Farnsworth's brigade in a cavalry charge against the 2nd VA, with flanking provided by other regoments (the 1st RI and 1st NY). This effort forced Stuart's cavalry into a rout, where he crossed the Monocacy, but after hours of skirmishing and pulling in the 12th PA as well (making for a total of six Union cavalry regiments engaged in the task) Pleasonton finally shattered the 2nd VA just south of Utica MD.
Stuart attempted to disguise himself as a Union cavalryman and escape in the confusion, but had the misfortune to try and represent himself as captain of Company B of the 12th PA to the ACTUAL captain of Company B of the 12th PA.


Battle of Cone Branch

Late in the afternoon Hooker sent Hatch's division on an attack against Walker's units on the National Road near Middletown. Flanking pressure from Sykes' division at Middletown itself drove the Confederate unit out of its positions and routing to the north, into the Catoctins, and with around a thousand casualties inflicted.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Here's the actions of the 21st, which was a rain turn. First, what the Confederates could see:


as_seen_Confederate_evening_21st.jpg



So at this point the Confederates have almost certainly worked out that there's not nearly as much Union strength to the west as it had originally seemed. They don't have the whole picture, and indeed the Monocacy was unfordable today (and someone, i.e. the Confederates, blew both bridges around Frederick...) but there's a lot of scope for successful Confederate offensive action.
In fact, at this point, with 1st and 12th Corps, plus Couch and French, to the west, the Union had about 35,000 infantry along the line of the Monocacy (and 5,000 cavalry counting the 8th NY) - as against the Confederate total of 41,000 infantry. It might seem like only a mild superiority, but Confederate commanders are generally better one on one, and in fact Jackson is kind of ridiculous in this module. Jackson with a 5,000 man division attacking an identically sized Union division (without a corps commander present) in an assault is going to be almost certain to rout it.

This is I think one of the defining features of the campaign, which is the several turns during which the Confederates assumed that there was a strong Union force looking for a good opportunity to cross the Monocacy (a belief the Union players actively encouraged, of course).


Meanwhile in the West you can see the massive problems that result from trying to mount a getaway without any idea where you're trying to getaway to.
Here's what the Union could see:

as_seen_Union_evening_21st.jpg


Stuart is actually only barely within visibility range for those Union cavalry, as he outran them almost to the edge of their scouting radius despite the rain. However he wasn't actually doing much good for Longstreet up there.

Speaking of which, I know I've been criticizing the Confederate divisions but this needs to be said - since the 21st was a rain turn it might have been a good idea for Longstreet's forces to simply stay in place rather than trying to move out of their envelopment. They might have got lucky, sure, but staying in place would probably have been their best chance to reorg and lose the Routing modifier - and those units without the routing modifier and back to full organized strength would be a much more fearsome thing to chase down. 12,000 men and ten batteries on clear terrain and with a Confederate corps leader in charge - which is what they would have been once reorganized - would have stood a pretty reasonable chance of fending off an assault by the whole of the very strong 3rd Corps, even if flanked.



Here's the true situation and movements:


movements_of_21st.jpg
 

rebel brit

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2013
Location
United Kingdom
As we're getting close to the end of the Maryland Campaign game, the Long Gettysburg Campaign game is looming up ahead.

I'd like everyone who's interested in participating to indicate whether they would rather take part as part of the Union army, part of the Confederate army, or if they don't mind and will be okay going wherever.

In addition, here's the map:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1VLgPLuESzp1eERC5zWpFBfxyfKTUmytb/view?usp=sharing
Yep, it's a big one...
Even though I've thoroughly enjoyed the the experience of my first 'Hex Game', unfortunately I'm going to have to sit out on the next one.
Look forward to enlisting in the future though.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
End game and post-game analysis



The final battles were:




Battle information:


29th September

Battle of Jefferson

In an intense combat action under the personal supervision of both Jackson and Lee, Lawton's division aided Anderson's division in breaking out of an encirclement in Jefferson Pass. The fighting led to around 500 Confederate casualties and 1,000 Union ones, and much of Sumner's 2nd Corps was driven back over the Catoctins in disarray; however,the fighting was of sufficient duration that the Confederate troops were unable to fully exploit the breakout beyond linking up with Anderson's division.

Battle of Braddock Heights

To the north, AP Hill also attempted a breakout, and despite facing worse odds and without assistance actually performed better. His attack knocked Sykes' tired division away with 500 casualties and forced him to retreat, allowing AP Hill into the Middletown Valley, but the fighting was again too strenuous to allow AP Hill to keep moving.

Porter moved the rest of both his corps and 1st Corps (minus Hatch) into threatening positions after the first phase of the battle, then struck from the north with Morell's division and routed AP Hill's force south towards Broad Run Village at the cost of around 1,000 to 1,500 casualties all told.


Battle of Berlin Ferry

After marching south, JR Jones' division ran into a dug in regiment along the Baltimore and Ohio defending the crossing at Berlin.
Despite their parlous state, Union reinforcements marching from Harpers Ferry and already in sight drove Lee to decide to launch an immediate attack - not wanting to give time for reinforcements to render the ford unassailable. However, storming the fort proved to be too much to ask, and despite a vicious battle which left the 87th Ohio staggered by its intensity they still held the ford by the end of Jones' assault.


30th

Action at Hamburg

Walker's division was surrounded by cavalry and by infantry of the 1st Corps as it attempted to elude pursuit in the Catoctins, with McReynolds delaying his movements in any direction, and after a sharp action in which Hatch's infantry gained the heights Walker surrendered his battered command.

Battle of Centreville

Sumner marched French's division up from the area of Catoctin Switch, and attacked Anderson's division in broken terrain. The attack forced Anderson to break in a rout towards South Mountain, though the effort also tired out French's division.


Second Battle of Berlin Ferry

Lee spared no efforts whatsoever to get Lawton's division, with Jackson in command, to Berlin Ferry on the last day of the month. Lawton arrived and attacked immediately, with much of the rest of the depleted Confederate army in support, and despite being reinforced by Ford's entire brigade since the previous evening's actions the defenders of the ford were still forced into a rout across the Potomac with 500 men lost.

Battle of Burkittsville

During the afternoon, Porter sent Whipple's division against Anderson's force between Burkittsville and Berlin; despite the battered state of the defenders however they still gave better than they got, bloodying Whipple before retiring south towards the ferry.






End game state:

By the time the Army of Northern Virginia broke contact south of the Potomac, evading their pursuers for long enough that Union logistical issues began to emerge, they were down to 13,000 men in formed units (and 17 batteries, many of them attached to depleted formations).

Though many of the missing men were not unrecoverable losses, and the return of stragglers which had ended up south of the Potomac (owing to the extended sojurn under the effect of poor supplies) would ultimately replenish the Army of Northern Virginia's ranks to around 30,000 men all told, the effect of the invasion of the north was still devastating to the Confederate war effort. While the Union army needed time to establish effective logistics to continue to prosecute the war in the east, it had won back the confidence that had been so wounded in August - and by the middle of October Union columns were marching south of the Potomac, one through Loudoun Valley and the other out of Washington, and Lee found himself simply unable to effectively engage either force without reinforcement from the West - reinforcement they could not afford to provide.





Post game analysis:


I'm going to go into more detail on lessons learned later, both about issuing commands and about "tips and tricks", but I think the basic summary for why this campaign went the way it did is quite simple.

It is fair to say that the Confederates lost this campaign, but despite that it does not mean that they actually played poorly. Instead there were instances during this game where the Confederates played well, and in the early part of the campaign they were setting themselves up very well... the biggest issue however is simply about information and military intelligence.

Assuming, and honest assessment of the state of a plan

For most of the game the Confederates did not know where to find most of the strength of the Army of the Potomac, and what's more (and much more dangerous) they made assumptions about where that strength was. Similarly, they had a clever plan (the flank move to Baltimore) which I would say was a very good idea, but that plan then hypnotized them to the extent that they did not consider alternatives for too long.

When formulating a long term plan, what a general should do is to ask themselves what would make them change their mind on the viability of that plan - and then try and find out if that situation is true.
It would be easy to say you should reconsider every single day whether the plan is still a good idea, but this can lead to vacillation; instead you should define the conditions that would make you hit "abort".

Making the whole army work at once

For a significant part of the campaign, most of the Confederate army was on the defensive. In fact, for more than a week there was effectively no offensive action taking place along the Monocacy - which is what freed the Union up to concentrate decisive force on one part of the Confederate army and then another part of the Confederate army.

What the Confederate players should have done instead is to first use their cavalry (which was somewhat depleted by that point but by no means useless, and - especially when accomapnied by Stuart - still very hard to catch!) to find out if they really were facing as much of the Union army as they expected, and then (depending on the answer) had the majority of their army doing something.

If most of the Union army was still there on the Monocacy, then it would be a completely reasonable thing for the Confederates to do to go after Harpers Ferry (in a way similar to the historical one). If the Union followed them up in full force then that would drag the Union army further away from Baltimore, while if they did not then the Confederates would have gained Harpers Ferry (which would have been a pretty significant victory, especially unopposed, and would have largely solved their supply issues).

If on the other hand most of the Union army was missing, not only would this provide warning for Longstreet's force but it would also permit the Confederates to go on the offensive. When they actually did go on the offensive (albeit too late and depleted by supply issues) the Confederates forced some quite casualties on the Union, and they could have done this by targeting the Union army... or they could have done something else entirely, which is to go after Washington.

Look at this Union map from the 16th, at the beginning of the Union flank march.

as_seen_union_evening_16th.jpg


Most of the Union army which will be left to defend along the Monocacy (i.e. not 2nd, 6th, Sykes, 9th, Morell, Humphreys, Stoneman) is weighted north; thus the opportunity.



As you can probably tell,one of the most crucial points here is the sheer importance of good intelligence and scouting.
Still, this was all a learning experience, and I hope as many people as possible are interested in taking part in future games.


I'll follow this up with a stats post, and I plan on doing the rest of the Maryland Campaign turn-by-turn maps over the next 2-3 weeks.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Casualties, by category:

Union

12,000 battle casualties
1,500 casualties as the result of extended marches
And 500 casualties as the result of cavalry retreats (i.e. delaying actions).
For a total loss of 14,000.


Confederate:
21,000 battle casualties (!)
3,000 casualties as the result of extended marches
17,500 men captured as the result of retreat attrition (!)
19,000 casualties from low supply attrition (!!)
And 1,500 casualties as the result of cavalry retreats
For a total loss of 62,000 (!!)

Strength by turn:

Union:

1613680779356.png


Jumps upwards are when units get released or otherwise activated, for example 11th Corps was sent to defend Baltimore. 5th Corps ended up enormous because that's where Whipple's division got attached, so it ended up as a four-division corps (and the divisions were larger than average).
This doesn't count any non-released AotP units, so for example the divisions and brigades of "Baltimore" troops aren't shown.


Confederates:

1613680751687.png



Longstreet's corps is everyone who went to Baltimore, except the cavalry.



Casualties, by type:

1613682363293.png

Union casualties by turn.




1613682393324.png

Confederate casualties by turn.



Cumulative casualties over the whole campaign.

Union:
1613682431226.png




Confederate:

1613682478323.png




Union and Confederate side by side:


By turn (Confederate is paler)
1613682752466.png


Aggregate (Confederate is paler)
1613682786604.png
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
So here's a few things that come out of the data here.

Basically, the first thing is pay attention to your supply lines. It can be hard to keep track of how much you're losing men because it happens a little at a time, but the Confederates lost basically the equivalent of about four Union divisions from supply line problems.
The second thing is that retreat attrition can be very punishing, and if you can force an enemy to retreat through your own units (by encircling them) it can result in massive dividends; conversely if you can avoid being encircled then you'll be in a much better shape.
The third thing is that once a division has routed then its offensive capability (and indeed defensive capability) is badly enough damaged that the enemy can probably keep that happening and thus keep the damage stacking up.

But something else to realize is that a surprising amount of the Confederate combat casualties came quite late on, at the point where the Confederate divisions had been badly weakened by supply attrition. Yes, Longstreet was wrecked before then, but Longstreet's destruction took more or less the full focus of the equivalent of four Union corps (half of the oversize 5th, plus 3rd, 9th and 11th) and the defenders of Baltimore, and it still took several turns; when the Union army was focused on the Confederate main body for the burst of sustained fighting around turn 20 onwards, it was still supply doing a lot of the damage and the Confederates could still do some powerful damage when the opportunity presented itself.



In the Gettysburg campaign, both sides have more cavalry than they had in this game, so be careful with it - as we've just seen, it's very valuable - and remember that routing through a cavalry unit is just as disruptive as routing through an infantry unit. Routing units will do their best to avoid going through enemy-occupied hexes, but rivers and mountains constrain their paths of retreat...
 

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