FIRST BULL RUN (FIRST MANASSAS)
21st July 1861
(Re-fought Sunday, 28th February 2016 by The Sons of Simon de Montfort Wargames Club, Loughborough)
Write up by Chris Lambert.
Photos by Mark Biddle's.
Simon Breen: C.i.C (Brigadier-General Beauregard, Army of the Potomac)
Also in command of Fifth Brigade (Cocke’s) and Seventh Brigade (Evans).
Dave Grenz: C.i.C (Brigadier-General Johnson, Army of the Shenandoah)
Also in command of First Brigade (Jackson’s) and Third Brigade (Bee’s).
Barrie Daniels: In command of First Brigade, Army of the Potomac (Bonham’s) and Sixth Brigade, Army of the Potomac (Early’s).
I assisted in moving figures for the Confederates (under their orders – if only to show I’m not ‘biased’ !!!!).
Barry North: C.i.C (Brigadier-General McDowell, Army of North-Eastern Virginia).
Also in command of 1st Division (Tyler’s).
Paul Hancock: In overall command of the 3rd Division (Heintzelman’s).
Also commanded 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division (Howard’s) and 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division (Burnside’s).
Mark Biddles: In command of the 1st & 2nd Brigades, 3rd Division (Franklin & Wilcox’s).
Lawrence Cras: In command of 1st Brigade, 2nd Division (Porter’s).
The vast majority of the troops were Green (see OOB’s). The Union commanders were classed as “Poor” (-1 to their die rolls for initiative, order changes, etc. Not the Brigade Commanders).
The terrain was set up as realistically as possible for the part of the battle being re-fought (mainly across Young’s Branch of the Bull Run River, around the junction of Warrenton Turnpike and Sudley Road).
The table was 12” x 6” and the game fought the length of the table.
All of the units started either on the table (as per the scenario map) or on the edge of the board, rather than delayed until a particular turn in which to enter (otherwise a few players would not have been involved until close to the end).
TURN 1 – The Union took the initiative and moved first. Considering their “Poor” commanders, not a bad result. Both sides advanced under Attack Orders.
TURN 2 – The Confederates gained the initiative. Wise’s Battery (Bartow’s Brigade) and Staunton’s Battery (Bee’s Brigade) both of the Army of Shenandoah, opened up firing the first shots of the battle. No Union casualties were caused, but no doubt Dave felt it was a good “psychological start” to the game.
TURN 3 – Confederate Initiative. Wise and Staunton’s batteries open fire again. Wise’s battery fired but misses due to being out of range. Staunton’s battery causes the first casualty of the battle on the 5th Maine (Howard’s Brigade).
The Union 3rd US Artillery (Sherman’s Brigade) replies, but causes no casualties.
TURN 4 – Confederate initiative. As the two sides close, the action begins in earnest. The 8th Georgia (Bartow’s Brigade) opens fire on the 2nd Maine (Keyes’ Brigade) which is in the area of Lewis House, causing 2 casualties. This rocks the Union troops who fail their morale test and ‘go to ground’. The 4th South Carolina (Evans’ Brigade) opens fire on the 32 strong 2nd New Hampshire (Burnside’s Brigade) causing 4 casualties. This heavy fire staggers the Union regiment.
The 1st Louisiana ‘Tigers’ (Evans’ Brigade) opens fire on the 11th New York (Wilcox’s Brigade) causing 2 casualties. Union return fire causes a casualty on the 7th Georgia (Bartow’s Brigade).
TURN 5 – (1210pm – Karl Grenz arrives and takes command of the Confederate Brigades of Bee and Smith, leaving Dave to take command of the remaining Confederate units (Jackson & Bartow). This puts Karl well and truly in the front line, fighting for Buck Hill in the centre of the battlefield.
Both sides receive cavalry reinforcements at the edge of the table on their respective sides (in the real battle the cavalry played no part).
Early’s Confederate Brigade engages Porter’s Union Brigade on the extreme left (Confederate) and extreme right (Union) flanks where the Warrenton Turnpike is overlooked by Dogon Ridge. The Union troops have the higher ground – Dogon Ridge.
Keyes’ Brigade (1st Brigade, 1st Division) is fighting Bartow’s Brigade (Second Brigade, Army of the Shenandoah) in the area around Lewis House on the extreme left flank of the Union Army and extreme right flank of the Confederates. Howard’s Brigade (3rd Brigade, 3rd Division) is fighting Bee’s Brigade (Third Brigade, Army of the Shenandoah) for the possession of Buck Hill.
Wilcox’s Brigade (2nd Brigade, 3rd Division) and Burnside’s Brigade (2nd Brigade, 2nd Division) are fighting against Evans’ Brigade (Seventh Brigade, Army of the Potomac) in the area around Matthews House. Potentially the Confederates here (under Simon) are outnumbered 2:1 in regiments.
The 79th New York (Sherman’s Brigade) take 2 casualties from a Confederate Virginia battery. The 6th North Carolina (Bee’s Brigade) inflicts a further casualty on the 79th New York. This heavy fire causes the 79th to fail their morale test and falter (hardly surprising). Retribution is swift. The 11th New York (Wilcox’s Brigade) fires on (Simon’s) 1st Louisiana Tigers (Evans’ Brigade), causing 3 casualties. That will have hurt a 20 figure strong regiment (around 14% casualties in one go).
TURN 6 – Confederate initiative.
Staunton’s battery ‘finds the range’ and fires at the 2nd Vermont (Howard’s Brigade) causing 3 casualties amongst the 40 figure strong Union regiment. In this heavy fire, Colonel Oliver Howard is lightly wounded.
The 4th South Carolina ((Evans’ Brigade) fires at the 2nd New Hampshire (Burnside’s Brigade) and in this devastating fire which inflicts 4 casualties on the Union troops, Colonel Ambrose Burnside is lightly wounded. This means the 2nd New Hampshire have taken 25% casualties in two major firefights.
The 11th New York (Wilcox’s Brigade) take a casualty. The 2nd Maine (Keyes’ Brigade) suffer another 2 casualties in the area around Lewis House. That battle continues. A Virginia artillery battery fires at the 79th New York causing a further 2 casualties. This 40 strong Union regiment has now taken 5 casualties (12.5%). Due to its large number of troops, it can absorb losses better than many smaller sized regiments.
Surprisingly all units pass their morale tests.
TURN 7 – Confederate initiative.
Wise’s battery again fires at the 2nd Maine. One further casualty caused.
A Virginia artillery battery fires upon the unlucky 79th New York causing them a further casualty. The 2nd US Artillery battery (Wilcox’s Brigade) returns fire and causes a casualty on the 6th North Carolina (Bee’s Brigade).
The 2nd Vermont assaults Buck Hill. In doing so they suffer a casualty.
Mark’s 1st Michigan (Wilcox’s Brigade) pour ‘withering’ fire into Staunton’s battery (Bee’s Brigade), causing 3 casualties and the battery to falter. Brigadier-General Barnard Elliott Bee is wounded. (This is becoming quite a ‘personal’ battle between Mark and Karl for possession of Buck Hill).
The 3rd US Artillery battery (Sherman’s Brigade) causes a casualty on the 7th Georgia (Bartow’s Brigade). The 1st Louisiana Tigers (Evans’ Brigade) take another 4 casualties. This puts them on 50% strength. They take a morale test (Simon holds his breath), fail, and the regiment (not surprisingly) breaks. This causes a Brigade test for Evans’ Brigade. This time the dice are with Simon. The Brigade pass.
The Confederate aren’t having it all their own way. The 4th South Carolina (Evans’ Brigade) suffer 3 casualties near Matthews House. It’s amazing Evans’ Brigade passed its morale test both (1st Louisiana Tigers and 4th South Carolina) of its regiments have taken such heavy casualties throughout the battle. Full credit to Simon for ‘hanging on’ and delaying the massed Union assault by (in effect) sacrificing this Brigade.
TURN 8 – Confederate initiative.
Wilcox’s Brigade and Bee’s Brigade (Mark v Karl) are engaging each other on Buck Hill. Its just like Verdun in WW1. Both sides throwing in their troops trying hard to push their opposite number downhill.
79th New York (Sherman’s Brigade) take 2 casualties from canister fire and then another 2 casualties from the 7th Georgia (Bartow’s Brigade) between Buck Hill and Lewis House. In total this turn the 79th New York take 6 casualties (how much longer can the 79th New York continue in the face of such heavy casualties)?
Barrie D’s 7th Virginia (Early’s Brigade) causes a casualty on the 5th US Artillery battery (Porter’s Brigade) which was moving limbered along Dogon Ridge towards the Confederates on the Warrenton Turnpike.
This un-forms the battery.
The 2nd Vermont (Howard’s Brigade) suffers 1 casualty, but the 6th North Carolina (Bee’s Brigade) takes 5. Karl definitely came off ‘second best’ in that exchange.
A morale test by the 4th South Carolina (Evans’ Brigade) results in them retreating. No surprise there. What is a surprise is they have lasted this long. Simon will no doubt be awarding Colonel Nathan G. Evans some high award from the Confederacy (if he survives this battle – historically he did).
TURN 9 – Confederate initiative.
Paul (Colonel Heintzelman, C.i.C 3rd Division) gives an assault order to Mark (c.i.c Franklin & Wilcox’s Brigades, 3rd Division). Wilcox (Mark) wished it to be ‘put on record’ that he was questioning the ‘advisability’ of being ordered to charge uphill. Duly noted Colonel Biddles.
Palmer’s US Cavalry (Porter’s Brigade) receive a casualty from Barrie D’s 7th Virginia (Early’s Brigade) whilst advancing along Dogon Ridge towards the Confederates. The 7th Louisiana (Early’s Brigade) fire on the US Marines (Porter’s Brigade) causing the Marines a casualty.
Sykes’ US Battalion (Porter’s Brigade) returns fire and causes a casualty on the 7th Louisiana.
The 79th New York (Sherman’s Brigade) take another 4 casualties. Now up to 8. A good job it is another 40 figure regiment. Still 20% casualties though.
The 1st Michigan (Wilcox’s Brigade) causes 4 casualties on the 6th North Carolina (Bee’s Brigade) which is on Buck Hill (Mark wins that one against Karl). The 4th South Carolina (Evans’ Brigade) who are still retreating, receive another 4 casualties near to Stone House. They fail another morale test and rout.
Evan’s Brigade takes a morale test. It fails and breaks. Both units rout broken.
It really has become very bloody in the last few turns.
TURN 10 – Union initiative.
The Alexandria Virginia Artillery battery (Bonham’s Brigade) near Stone House takes a casualty this turn, as does the 7th Virginia (Early’s Brigade). The 13th New York (Sherman’s Brigade) replaces the 79th New York in leading the attack and immediately take a casualty. The 38th New York (Wilcox’s Brigade) otherwise known as “Biddles’ Finest” take 2 casualties on Buck Hill.
The US Marines (Porter’s Brigade) suffer badly in attacking the Stone House. They receive 3 casualties (not good when you only start with 16 figures). They still manage to pass their morale test.
Much to Colonel Biddles’ pleasure (and Colonel Karl Grenz’s discomfort) the 1st Michigan (Wilcox’s Brigade) push back the 6th North Carolina (Bee’s Brigade) with minor casualties. The ‘good old’ 79th New York (Sherman’s Brigade) take a morale test; they fail, and rout/disperse (having dropped below 50% strength). The Brigade breaks after taking a morale test.
TURN 11 – Confederate initiative.
The 1st Minnesota (Franklin’s Brigade) on Buck Hill fire on the 4th Alabama (Bee’s Brigade) causing 4 casualties on the 36 figure regiment. Both units were lining up to charge each other. As a result of the 4 casualties, the 4th Alabama test to charge; they fail, falter and fail to charge home. The 1st West Virginia cavalry (Union Combined Cavalry Brigade) receive a casualty between Buck Hill and Lewis House whilst moving up to support the Union assault on Buck Hill (hoping to exploit any Confederate withdrawal).
More shooting results in the US Marines (Porter’s Brigade) taking another casualty.
The 2nd Virginia (Jackson’s Brigade) receive a casualty from the 3rd US Artillery battery (Sherman’s Brigade). The US Marines receive 2 further casualties, take a morale test and falter. Not good.
The 27th New York (Porter’s Brigade) take casualties whilst situated between Stone House and Dogon Ridge.
TURN 12 – Union initiative.
The 6th North Carolina fail their morale on reaching 50% effective strength. They rout and disperse off Buck Hill. All Confederate troops have now retired off Buck Hill (one way or another).
And so ends the game as we have reached a natural point where both sides have a broken brigade, and need time to reform and continue the battle. Karl is left wondering “what might have been” had Dave let him be more aggressive and attack Mark. Mark’s final photograph shows the 38th New York “raising the Stars & Stripes” on top of Buck Hill” (there you are Mark, I did promise to put that in, to celebrate your ‘victory’. However it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention the “Official Comment” you insisted be ‘put on record’ when you questioned the “advisability” of being ordered to charge uphill? Looks like that was a ‘good call’ by Paul).
We could have played the second part of the battle (from Turn 12 onwards) another day. Still plenty of fight left in both sides.
Far too close to call at this time (no Mark, capturing Buck Hill wasn’t a Victory Condition for the Union. It may help in the long run, but not right now).
Some of you expressed an interest in how many figures there were on the table, so here’s the statistics.
Infantry – 839 figures (6 x 40 figure + 2 x 36 figure Regts).
24 x Regiments in total.
Guns - 14 guns
Infantry - 999 figures (16 x 40 figure regiments)
25 x Regiments in total.
Guns - 15 guns
The infantry total includes Command figures.
Whilst the Union had the advantage of more larger regiments, they had the disadvantage of poor Command & Control.