Saturday, November 8, 2014

150 Years Ago Today: Lincoln Re-elected!

This day in history in 1864: Lincoln Re-elected!

150 years ago today voters in the North overcame their war-weariness to re-elect Abraham Lincoln.  Whatever hope the South had of a negotiated settlement died its final death that day.   Even had Lincoln lost to Little Mac (George McClellan), however, the Union would still have had nearly five months to finish the job.

Just prior to the election, Lincoln met with Generals Grant and Sherman and told them that no matter how the vote went, they were to continue to press the South - and press hard.  Moreover, if he lost, they were to redouble their efforts and do all in their power to bring the war to an end before the new president could be inaugurated on March 4, 1865.

The election plays a big part in my strategic naval game of the Civil War,  Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.  Each turn is four months, and the last turn of the game begins in December, 1864.  There is, however, a card which if drawn by the North gives the Union player a chance for an extra, 13th turn - one that begins in April 1865.  The card, however, like the election of November 1864, is not a sure thing:  a die is rolled and modified in the Union's favor based on which key cities the North controls.  If the North is doing well, the Yankee will get that extra turn to drive old Dixie down....but if not, the pressure is on, just as if Lincoln had indeed lost the election.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tale of Two Raiders: Goodbye, CSS Chickamauga, Hello CSS Shenandoah

150 years ago: A Tale of Two Raiders: Goodbye, CSS Chickamauga, Hello CSS Shenandoah

150 Years Ago this week the storied Confederate blockade runner captain, John Wilkinson, went a-raiding aboard the mighty CSS Chickamauga.  In four days of raiding off Long Island, he burned, bonded or scuttled seven Union merchant ships - but as his raider burned coal at such a voracious rate, on November 3 he had to cut short the raid and go in search of coal.  The governor of Bermuda refused to sell Wilkinson a load, claiming he had new orders in regards to the neutrality acts.  Fortunately, Wilkinson, an old hand at this sort of thing, was able to bribe a lesser official (after first getting him roaring drunk), but while taking on coal nearly half his crew jumped ship.  The governor, moreover, got wind of all of this, and put a stop to the coaling.  Warned that four Union cruisers were converging on Bermuda,  Wilkinson upped anchor and set a course for Wilmington, the last major port still open to the raiders and runners.

As the CSS Chickamauga neared Wilmington, a Union squadron intercepted her.   Despite being heavily outgunned, Wilkinson refused to surrender, and fired shot and shell in an unequal duel with four Yankee warships, all while pouring on speed to seek safety under the guns of Fort Fisher.  Although he made it, his ship would never raid or go to sea again.  The CSS Chickamauga, however, did have one last fight left in her:  when the Union finally stormed Fisher, the Rebel raider was there, adding her guns to the fort's in defense.  When it was obvious that the fort would fall, the raider retreated to Wilmington, where she was scuttled and burned let she become a prize of war.

Just as CSS Chickamauga was ending her career as a raider, however, the last - and in may ways the greatest and also the most tragic of the raiders began hers.  CSS Shenandoah made her first capture on October 30  (the day as CSS Chickamauga also made her first capture).  The bark Alina was Captain James I. Waddell's first victory, and while there would be 37 more, 2/3s of those were taken after the end of the war - which Waddell did not know had concluded until reading newspapers found aboard his final prize, the bark Covington, which he burned on June 28, 1865.   Fearful of being held accountable for piracy, Waddell spent months seeking a harbor where he could safely retire his ship and crew, which he did on November 6, 1865....149 years ago this week.

While in my strategic naval game of the Civil War, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas,  the CSS Chickamauga is represented by a generic Raider counter, the CSS Shenandoah has her own counter and card, CSN Card 64:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Happy Navy Day from Rebel Raiders on the High Seas!

October 27th is NAVY DAY!

In 1922 October 27th was designated "Navy Day" by the United States Government.  The date was chosen because October 27th was also the anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt's birthday.  As assistant secretary of the Navy in the last years of the 19th century, Teddy Roosevelt pushed for the modernization of the fleet and as such is considered by many to be the father of the modern Navy.

In 1949 the Department of Defense decided that it would no longer officially celebrate Navy Day, and that instead of having its own unique day, that the Navy would instead join with the other services to mark Armed Forces Day each May.   Navy Day, however, is still marked by the Navy League and many veterans groups, with parties, dances and other celebrations.

A hearty "Happy Navy Day"  from the designer of GMT's strategic naval game of the Civil War, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.....

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Hitler's Reich" is "Favorite New Game" of GMT Fall Weekend of Blogger Charlie Lewis

"Hitler's Reich" is "Favorite New Game" of GMT Fall Weekend of Blogger Charlie Lewis

"Great entry game for a new wargamer" says Charlie

Charlie Lewis of The Game Box blogger fame, just posted that my new WW II design "Hitler's Reich" was his "favorite new game" at GMT's Fall Weekend gaming con.

Hitler's Reich is WW2 for two players in two hours - it is a quick set up, fast-playing strategic game where combat and other conflicts are resolved  through a modified version of the classic card game of "War" - but with dice and Event Cards to modify the total.  Colored wooden pieces mark the march of armies as players battle it out across Europe, Russia, North Africa and the Middle East in a military, political and economic struggle to create or take down "Hitler's Reich."

A full description of the game and links to postings on GMT's blog can be found at:

As Charlie says in his blog, however,:

"This is one where the P500 blurbs don't get even close to doing the game justice, that's why I included them from the top.  At one point I was asked what my favorite game of the weekend was, and without hesitation, I answered this one.  Why? Because this is unlike anything I've ever played before, and it works, and its fast, and its not a game that requires a lot of rulebook flipping."

Charlie adds later in his review that:
"It's a fast moving game, as the conflict resolution is quick.  You spend the whole game juggling your own priorities with deciding how hard you want to disrupt your opponent's plans."

He also notes that:
This could become a great entry game for a new wargamer, as it gets a player used to direct conflict but without fiddling with stacks of counters or worrying about ZOCS and terrain costs.  My 10 year old, for example, would probably have fun with this, and I look forward to trying it out with her some day, but my buddy and I also really had fun with it - he even got in a second game of it later in the weekend while I was trying Fields of Despair. I really had fun with this, and the minute the wife gets a new job, I'll be joining the P500 for it."

For the full text of Charlie Lewis' review, please go to:

Monday, October 6, 2014

150 Years Ago: Rebel Raider CSS Florida Taken in Brazilian Port

150 Years Ago: Rebel Raider CSS Florida Taken in Brazilian Port 

Historical Event: In an illegal action that nearly sparked a shooting war with Brazil, in the early hours of October 7, 1864 a Union warship opened fire upon and then rammed a Confederate raider in a neutral port. With Capt. Charles Morris and most of his crew ashore, the CSS Florida was defenseless when Commander Napoleon Collins of the USS Wachusett defied international law and attacked the raider.

Collins had chased CSS Florida for many months. He caught up and berthed next to her in the Brazilian port of Bahia on October 4. Although U.S. Consul Thomas F. Wilson assured the president of Bahia Province, Joaquim da Silva Gomes, that the Union would respect his nation's neutrality, the president took no chances; he placed the raider under his personal protection – and that of a squadron of sloops, corvettes and other warships under Commander Gervasio Macebo. The governor granted the CSS Florida time to take on coal and provisions and make emergency repairs, but also demanded her guns be unloaded while in port.

Wilson and Collins had no intention of respecting Brazilian neutrality.  Together they planned a “cutting-out” expedition to capture the raider – knowing full well that if the CSS Florida left port the slower Union warship would be unlikely to catch her. Even worse, if the USS Wachusett did, she might lose the fight – as most of her guns were short range smoothbores, while the CSS Florida had a battery of long-range rifles. Those would have enabled Capt. Morris to stand off and pound away at the Yankee vessel while keeping out of the range of Collin's heavier but shorter-ranged guns. Wilson and Collins decided to damn international law and go after the raider, in port, while she slept.

Shortly before dawn on October 7, Collins built up steam and bulled his way past a sleeping line of Brazilian warships.  As he entered the harbor he opened fire upon, rammed and with pistols blazing, boarded the Rebel raider. The skeleton crew of Confederates aboard were surprised, outnumbered and overwhelmed. Collins put a prize crew aboard, tossed over a hawser and began towing the raider out to sea.

The Brazilians were enraged at this breach of international law – especially after having been assured   that Brazilian neutrality would be respected. The harbor fort opened fire.  Commander  Macebo raised sails and steam and ordered his squadron to fire upon the Union warship as it sped by. Macebo gave chase, but Collins even with his prize in tow, was able to outdistance the Brazilians.

Collins and Wilson were hailed by the press for their boldness, and were privately praised by Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward and Secretary of the Navy Welles. Unfortunately, to ameliorate the Brazilians they had to be made an example of. Wilson was dismissed from the foreign service and Collins was court-martialed, found guilty of violating the territory of a neutral government and similarly dismissed from the Navy.

Collins remained unrepentant, saying he would do it all again “for the public good.” None disputed that he had acted so, for in her two-year career the CSS Florida had sunk 46 ships and captured 14 others, inflicting damages that her victim's owners claimed had cost them over $4 million – ten times the cost of the Rebel raider.

Confederate commerce cruisers like CSS Florida play a key role in GMT's strategic naval game of the Civil War, as one would expect from a game entitled Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

150 Years Ago: CSS Florida Makes Her Last Capture At Sea

150 Years Ago: CSS Florida Makes Her Last Capture At Sea

On September 26, 1864, the Confederate raider CSS Florida, then under the command of her second captain, Charles M. Morris, made her 37th and final capture: the bark Mandamis. She was a commercial vessel out of Baltimore that was returning “in ballast” because of the difficulty in finding shippers who wanted to risk their cargo on American flag vessels – vessels which, like Mandamis, were the prey for CSS Florida and other Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.

After setting the bark afire, Morris made for Bahia to take on coal and provisions. He did not know that no fewer than 24 Union warships were after him – one of which, the USS Ticonderoga, was assited in that hunt by one of the CSS Florida's own men: A. L. Drayton. The sailor had been captured when the fishing schooner Archer, which when captured by the CSS Florida had been pressed into service to do some raiding of her own off the New England coast.  Rather than suffer imprisonment, Drayton piloted the Union warship throughout the chase, but always arrived at foreign ports of call just a week or so after the raider. Another of the hunters, however, USS Wachusett, was more timely in her search – catching up with and capturing the CSS Florida on October 7...but that is another story....

The Confederate commerce raiders play a key role in GMT's strategic naval game of the Civil War, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas. For more on the game visit the GMT website on the game at:

or read a review of the game inissue #27 of Rodger MacGowan's C3i magazine:

Friday, September 12, 2014

150 Years Ago: A Rebel Blockade Runner's Last Run

150 Years Ago: A Rebel Blockade Runner's Last Run

Few Confederate ships ran the blockade more often than the Advance.  The fast, Scottish-built 900-ton sidewheeler made more than 20 voyages - paying back her owners many times over as she brought in not only badly needed war supplies but also highly sought after luxuries.  Named in honor of North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance, the sleek double-stack vessel originally designer as a fast passenger liner eluded capture over 40 times as she zipped in and out of Wilmington and other ports in the Tar Heel State.  Unfortunately, the 41st Union warship she encountered was one of the fastest ships in the Union navy: the USS Santiago de Cuba - which ended the blockade runner's storied 15-month career on the night of September 10, 1864.

The Advance, however, was not sunk by the USS Santiago de Cuba when the Yankee vessel caught up with her in Cape Fear Inlet; she was instead taken as a prize to New York  and then selected for service by the Navy.  Even with a 20-pounder rifled gun and four 24-pound howitzers aboard the now rechristened USS Advance could still make 12 knots, which made her suitable for service in tightening the blockade around the very ports she had been running in and out of under the Rebel flag.   Her capture, however, was a severe blow to Confederate captains, fewer and fewer of whom risked going out where even the Advance had been unable to escape.  

Although she never chased down any of her fellow blockade runners, as USS Advance the vessel did see action in the battle for Fort Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River that Christmas.  Under the command of  Lt. Cmdr. John Upshur  she exchanged fire with the fort's Half-Moon Battery, reportedly silencing its 8-inch gun, then came closer inshore to help rescue and tow away the gunboat USS Osceola,   Upshur's vessel finished out the war as a dispatch and supply ship, and after war's end was renamed USS Frolic and, with Upshur still in command, was sent to the European Squadron.  The vessel was finally decomissioned in 1877 and sold to a private owner in Virginia in 1883.

As CSN Card 67, CSS Advance is one of the many blockade runners that appear in the strategic Civil War naval game, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.  Successfully running the blockade is vital for Confederate victory in the game, as it was in the war.  Stopping such ships is equally vital for the North, which in attempting to do so makes use of such ships as the gunboat USS Osceola, which also appears in the game as USN Card 9 and which, ironically, as noted above, was saved by Advance when that former blockade runner was in Union service.