Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) AAR Diary, Part Three

ED. Note: If you missed the start of this AAR, don’t worry! You can catch up from the beginning here.

MAY 14, 1861

After the Union victory at Alexandria, Gen. McDowell’s Army of Northeastern Virginia is too disorganized to continue to pursue the fleeing Confederate army. This is to be expected, early war formations with green troops and inexperienced commanders aren’t great at continuing to operate after a battle.

The Union army being on the Virginia side of the Potomac, however, will offer DC some breathing room, as well as providing a beachhead into a greater Virginia invasion at some point. At the moment, letting McDowell’s troops entrench in place is a small but important victory.

Elsewhere, things are going less positively. In Indiana, a Confederate army has begun making its way north from Kentucky, and the local Union army currently has an army of exactly one guy, the commander. The units are still being mustered, hopefully soon enough to blunt the oncoming assault, but likely not. We may have to pull a unit from further east to cut them off.

After some deliberating, I sent McClellan’s Army of the Ohio west to intercept, and am bringing Scott’s Army of Pennsylvania down to Pittsburgh in case the Confederates try to punch through the mountains of (future) West Virginia into Ohio. Scott’s army is quite large, and I’m hoping the Confederates don’t press them quite yet; armies will gain both experience and “training” when stationary, training being a measure of overall quality. Right now, most soldiers are largely untrained, with few exceptions. I don’t want to throw this relatively large (30k+) army into combat before they’re fully ready.

As an aside before I unpause and let the game play, here’s the current overview of the war.

Nothing too crazy yet, considering we’ve only had the one battle. I don’t think naval casualties are counted in the casualty field, but I could be wrong. In any case, things are still looking pretty even at the moment. I’ve been creating new units where possible, but currently the Union army only has 3 month contracts, meaning I can lose experienced soldiers only after a short period of time. The units don’t disappear, but their experience does, and if not enough soldiers re-sign, the units can also grow smaller.

MAY 18, 1861

That enemy force got suddenly much larger, then disappeared. Not on my map anymore, who knows where they are, other than a vague “somewhere in the south of Indiana, probably.”

But before I can worry about that too much, this pops up:

Hm. This might not go well. I’m outnumbered by a full 10k men, and if I lose, DC will be wide open. Here goes nothing!

MAY 18, 1861

4:20 PM

Good news, I start on top of the objective for the map. I entrenched my troops along a creek, and I’m sending out my smallest division’s infantry to scout ahead and hopefully delay the enemy somewhat.

5:02 PM

We’ve spotted the enemy, a bit closer than I hoped but that’s not so terrible a thing. I’m setting my skirmishers up in the woods on their approach to whittle them down.

6:32 PM

The Confederates seem as though they’re stopping their advance for the evening. There’s not much time left for fighting in the day, perhaps they just want to shell my skirmishers?

MAY 19, 1861

6:00 AM

Here’s the starting situation for the day:

I extended my fortifications somewhat, as just before night fell, I caught a couple of cavalry units off to the left. I don’t want to be caught unawares, so now I have two brigades watching the stream to my left. I plan to send out skirmishers to keep an eye on them; hopefully they come right down that main road, where all my guns happen to be facing. I don’t have many, but the guns I do have are fairly high caliber, so I expect them to do serious damage to any advance.

7:15 AM

We’ve spotted the lead elements of their army. They don’t seem to have shifted much from their positions the night before. I’m sending out a small unit of skirmishers to harass their cavalry. Cavalry tend to not have very long range weapons, and I’m thinking they don’t just rush my skirmishers, given that their unit probably wouldn’t maintain cohesion in a charge, being so green.

Those dinky blue dots next to Jost are my skirmishers. They’re a bit tricky to see, so I’ll try to point them out when relevant.

11:06 AM

I pulled my skirmishers back after they repulsed two separate cavalry regiments over the span of about an hour, but I haven’t seen any enemy movement since then. It’s got me nervous, frankly, so I’m sending more skirmishers out to take a look.

11:19 AM

Good lord. They’re coming through the woods.

Union skirmishers just at the right edge of the woods there.

Fortunately, I can see them coming, but I didn’t expect them to not take the road.

12:15 PM

My skirmishers ran off, and I can hardly blame them, being outnumbered significantly. They did quite a bit of damage to the rebels, however.

1:31 PM

Somewhat bizarrely, they’re heading off to the top of the screen in the screenshot below. Are they trying for a miles-long flanking maneuver?

I don’t think they’ve given up yet, but this change in direction is odd, to say the least.

2:52 PM

They’ve started advancing across the nice, big open field with no cover in view of my guns. How kind of them.

Not sure where the rest of the army is, but I’m watching the roads that could lead them around to my rear, so I’m not so worried about being flanked. For now, the question is whether they’ll commit to this attack, something that I wouldn’t do if I were them. But then, I also wouldn’t secede from the United States to keep the institution of chattel slavery intact, so comme-ci comme-ca I suppose.

3:27 PM

They are decidedly *not* me. A single brigade marched right up to the trenchline and started shooting at my artillery. Col. Grant, who somehow has managed to be relevant in both battles in a row, advanced forward from the trench to engage the enemy and sent them falling back.

3:49 PM 

MY GOD THEY’RE GOING FOR THE LONG FLANK.

5:31 PM

I sent a division to cover the road on the right, but now they’re sending men to my left. I can’t tell if their movements are brilliant or plain dumb. Maybe a bit of both? I certainly haven’t been able to anticipate these moves.

6:07 PM

Maybe it was a feint? There’s at least a division or more massing on my left now. I sent most of my guns to cover the right, so if it was a feint, well played, AI. Fortunately for me, I have defenses overlooking the stream crossing.

6:48 PM

With only a few minutes left of daylight, the rebs committed a brigade to rush my defenses. Unfortunately for them, I just managed to pivot my guns back to the left.

That advancing enemy brigade took 500 casualties in the few minutes between that screenshot and 7:00, when the day ended. Yet the Confederates stayed on, beginning Day 3 of this battle.

MAY 20, 1861

6:00 AM

Day 3 is going to be rough. This is the situation at 6:00 AM.

I haven’t been able to convince the rebels to quit yet, even after inflicting 1500 casualties on them. My hope today is to hold the left. I’m not expecting a major attack on my right, but I left some guns and my smaller division over there, just in case. 

6:09 AM

An enemy cavalry regiment charged my guns, they were only repulsed at the last second. The morning light is giving the battlefield an eerie glow.

6:38 AM

After enemy charges along the whole trenchline, the first wave was repulsed, but it looks like they’re preparing a second wave of attack. We inflicted heavy casualties on them, but I’m not sure it was enough.

We may be able to continue to hold, but I’m not sure for how long. Our trenches have been doing a fantastic job of keeping the left intact, but if they keep charging us, the cover won’t do much to make up for the overwhelming numbers the rebs have.

6:44 AM

The rebs decided they had enough and are turning around! That major attack caused over 1100 Confederate casualties, I suppose that was enough for them.

All of their guns, huh? Nice.

MAY 18, 1861

A fun quirk of this game is that since battles can last multiple days, when you finish and jump back to the campaign map, the battle will still rage on for multiple days. 

Just behind that newspaper, the two armies are still fighting and will be for a couple days. I’ll take advantage of the knowledge that I win that fight and deploy Gen. Scott’s massive Army of Pennsylvania to the top of West Virginia.

I’ve found West Virginia to be pretty significant strategically in my campaigns I’ve played so far, as leaving it in the hands of the South means they can walk right into Ohio or Pennsylvania, whereas holding it as the Union means you can have a backdoor into southern Virginia, cutting up one of the richest and most important states in the Confederacy, even without the capital there. 

My last campaign was decided almost entirely in the mountains of West Virginia, with the bad roads and winter attrition doing almost as much work to collapse the Confederate army as I did. Even though I won that time around, it’s brutal stuff, and I’d rather not leave campaigning in the mountains for winter.

Back east, I’m sending Patterson’s Department of Pennsylvania (soon to be renamed, I don’t care for “Department” as a unit name) down to Winchester to seize the town and local depot. 

MAY 27, 1861

After a few days of little action, two enemy armies jumped on me with little warning. The first forded the Potomac and is besieging Fort Washington, just south of DC. The other snuck behind the army I sent to capture Winchester, and now has them cut off. Outnumbered on both ends, with the fate of the capital in the balance of both battles…. Seems like a good place to leave off for this time.

Talk about a cliffhanger, huh?

As always, thanks for sticking with me to the end here, and if you want to know more about the campaign, give me a shout on Discord or Twitter.

-Jack

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