Thursday, August 21, 2014

150 Years Ago: "That Devil Forrest" Attacks Memphis

150 Years Ago: "That Devil Forrest" Attacks Memphis


On August 21, 1864 the daring Confederate cavalryman General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked Memphis, which had been in Union hands for over two years.  The raid - which had it been just a little more successful might have turned into a full-scale counterattack to regain the Mississippi city for the South - was a major embarrassment to the North - and especially to the two generals in charge of the garrison, both of whom very narrowly escaped capture.  Major Generals Oren Hurlbut and especially his superior, Cadwallader C. Washburn (who fled his quarters barefoot and clad only in a thin nightshirt), were ridiculed and humiliated for the laxity of their defense. While "That Devil Forrest" and his 2,000 horsemen were too few to oust a defending force three times their size, the Rebels nevertheless "raised hell," riding down the main street at 4 AM firing their pistols, shouting taunts and, of course, letting loose a resounding "Rebel Yell" that echoed through the city - and was heard all the way back in Washington.

Forrest took over 500 prisoners and many wagon loads of supplies.  The Union high command drew troops from all over the theater to go hunting Forrest, but to no avail.  Hurlbut, who had only recently been superseded as commander of the garrison at least got the last laugh, quipping to reporters that while he had been reduced to second in command for his failure to keep Forrest out of Tennessee, at least he had done better than Washburn who "cannot keep him out of his own bedroom."

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas game connection:   Although principally a strategic naval game of the Civil War, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas  also has a strong land element.  The Confederacy can mount counterattacks to attempt to regain cities and forts it has lost, and can harass the Union with numerous actions, including play of CSN Card 85, subtitled  "That Devil Forrest."




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Developer and Designer, Reunited!

Fred Schachter and Mark McLaughlin at WBC in Lancaster - with our game, Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.

That is Fred in the tropical themed shirt, and me - wearing a Red Shirt  (my homage to all those Red Shirts on Star Trek)


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

150 Years Ago: Rebel Raiders Off New York!

150 Years Ago: Rebel Raiders Off New York!


150 Years Ago this week New York merchants were in a panic, as a Confederate raider was sinking their ships almost within sight of the city!   Between August 11 and August 20, the CSS Tallahassee sunk, burned, scuttled or bonded over 30 Union merchant ships - most of them off the coasts of New Jersey, New York and New England.

In late July, Commander John Taylor Wood and 120 volunteers, most drawn from the Confederate James River Squadron, arrived in Wilmington, N.C. and took charge of a the blockade runner Atlanta.  They strengthened her hull and decks and fitted her with three massive guns: a 100-pound rifle, a 32-pound rifle and a Parrot gun.  Wood not only had a ship that could fight most Union gunboat; he also had what he boasted was "the fastest warship afloat" - one that could run down or out run any vessel flying Yankee colors.

Wood, who had been on the CSS Virginia in its epic battle with the USS Monitor, had no illusions about battling his way through the blockade.  He steamed out quietly and stealthily under cover of night (and the guns of Fort Fisher) and ran for the open sea.  Eleven Union warships chased him for 50 miles, even firing shells that flew between the raider's twin stacks, but CSS Tallahassee sped on, eventually outdistancing his pursuers.  Instead of heading for the broad Atlantic, Wood set a course for the Yankee coast: his goal, to bring the war to the North.

On August 11 off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, Wood did just that, capturing seven ships in a single day.  On the 12th, Wood captured another six..  On August 13 he took a pair of vessels - the bark Glenavon and the schooner L. Du Pont.  He scuttled the first and burned the second - the smoke from which reportedly was seen from Long Island.   The New York Board of Underwriters shot up their insurance rates and telegraphed Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, demanding he send all available ships to hunt down the raider.  Welles complied, but while his fleet gathered, Wood went on up the coast to New England, capturing another 17 vessels before reaching Halifax to take on coal on August 18.   The CSS Tallahassee left the harbor only hours before a mighty Union warship (USS Pontoosuc) arrived.  Knowing that Welles had sent dozens of ships out to look for him, Wood made a beeline for Wilmington, taking one last prize before dashing through the blockading squadrons, guns blazing, at 14 knots, to triumphantly return to port on August 26.

The strategic Civil War naval game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas captures the drama of such daring captains as John Taylor Wood.  Confederate blockade runners and raiders must elude the net the Union player casts for them, hoping their efforts will keep the Southern economy going long enough to frustrate the march of Yankee armies south.  




Monday, August 4, 2014

Farragut At Mobile Bay 150 Years Ago: "Damn The Torpedoes!" - Fact or Legend?

Farragut At Mobile Bay 150 Years Ago: "Damn The Torpedoes!"  - Fact or Legend?


The ironclad monitor leading one column into Mobile Bay hit an underwater mine, exploded, and sank in under a minute.  The "unsinkable" wooden man-o-war leading the other column reduced speed to avoid striking similar "infernal machines" -  all while gunners in Fort Morgan and two other harbor forts began ranging in on the remaining 13 Union warships.  His ships being pounded, and the mighty Confederate ironclad ram CSS Tennessee and her consorts steaming toward the fleet, Admiral David Glasgow Farragut ordered his captains to "Damn the Torpedoes" and go "Full speed ahead."

That, at least, is how the legend goes.

Or maybe that is not exactly what happened, says Civil War historian, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and professor emeritus at Princeton James McPherson.

As he noted in his latest book, War Upon the Waters, and reiterated in a talk at the New York Historical Society two years ago,  Farragut might - or might not have said exactly those words.. Even if he did, says McPherson, the "damn" part might very well have been an exclamation of surprise (or a curse).   

Other source report that Farragut remained extraordinarily cool, and that "Damn the Torpedoes" Full speed ahead" is an abbreviated version of a a much longer statement, a clear set of orders to the captain of the USS Hartford (Captain Percival Drayton) and the commander of the gunboat USS Metacomet, James Edward Jouet, which was lashed to the far side of the larger warship to give it some protection from the Rebel shore batteries.

"Damn the Torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton! Go ahead. Jouett, full speed!"
Again, there are conflicting reports about whether the "go ahead" was part of the command to Drayton or to Jouett, although it seems more likely that command was meant for the later, as it directed him to separate from the protective shield of the USS Hartford, thus freeing him for action.

Then, again, as McPherson muses, it might all just be a combination of what officers and men present on the deck THOUGHT they heard - and with mines exploding, ships sinking, shells blasting overhead, engines churning and guns roaring on both sides, who can be certain what anybody said?

Whatever he really did say, or how he phrased it, Farragut did get his fleet moving from underneath the batteries and into the bay, where they could engage the Rebel flotilla and direct their broadsides at the Confederate ships and forts.   The attack started out looking bad for the Union, but by the end of the day, Farragut had won the U.S. Navy's greatest victory of the American Civil War.

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas allows players to recreate this epic fight at the strategic level, with ships and cards and counters for the forts, ironclads, warships, admirals and even the "torpedoes" that Farragut allegedly damned that day 150 years ago.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

150 Years Ago: Two Weeks That Doomed the Confederacy

 

Late July – Early August 1864:  Atlanta, The Crater and Mobile Bay

Historical Event:   If July 1863 was the turning point that showed the South could not win the Civil War, late July-early August 1864 was the turning point that showed it was doomed.  Hood’s incredibly wasteful offensives around Atlanta, the carnage of the Crater at Petersburg – where Lee’s army was finally immobilized by chaining itself to Richmond- and, finally, Mobile Bay, where a triumphant Union Navy damned the torpedoes, stormed past massive forts, battled a monster ironclad and brought a great port city to its knees.

Game ConnectionRebel Raiders on the High Seas focuses on the naval aspect of the Civil War, but also represents the land campaign, albeit in a more abstract way.  Thus the battles around Atlanta and the siege of Richmond can be fought with cards and dice, and Mobile Bay can be played out in the game – complete with a card with Admiral David Glasgow Farragut’s famous phrase (which according to historian James McPherson he may or may not have actually said) and cards and counters representing the great sailor, his rival, Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan, and some of their mighty ships (Farragut’s flagship, USS Hartford; Buchanan’s own ironclad ram, CSS Tennessee;  the giant “unsinkable” screw sloop USS Brooklyn,  and the armored gunboat CSS Gaines but to name a few).


Many stories of those ships, and of Farragut, Buchanan, their encounter at Mobile Bay have appeared before in this blog over the last year, and more will appear again – especially on the date of the 150th anniversary of their epic contest of August 5, 1864.







Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17, 1864 – J.E. Johnston Sacked – Hood Takes Command

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raider’s History

-Dedicated to Civil War episodes, battles, people and ships that also appear in my game, GMT’s Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.
  

July 17, 1864 – J.E. Johnston Sacked – Hood Takes Command


Historical Event:   On this day in 1864 President Jefferson Davis removed General Joseph E. Johnston from command of the Army of Tennessee – and replaced him with John Bell Hood.  The revered Johnston, who although outnumbered by more than two to one had skillfully delayed William Tecumseh Sherman’s advance into Georgia, was revered by his troops.  His use of  Fabian tactics (similar to those used by the Roman general Fabius against the Carthaginian invader Hannibal) earned him the nickname “The Gray Cunctator” (Latin for Delayer).  Like the Roman general, however, Johnston was derided for being too cautious and even cowardly – and like Fabius was replaced – and replaced with a fire-eater who vowed to bring the enemy to battle.  Acting on the advice of his friend and chief adviser, General Braxton Bragg, Davis gave Johnston’s command to General John Bell Hood.  The 33-year-old Hood, youngest man on either side to take command of a full army, was brave. He had lost an arm at Gettysburg and a leg at Chickamauga, and had to be strapped to the saddle.  He was also reckless. Within 72 hours Hood made good on his promise to fight – inaugurating the first of four epic battles that would bleed his army white and lead to the evacuation of Atlanta – the very thing Johnston had hoped to prevent or at least delay as long as possible.

Game Connection:  Although primarily a game of naval strategy, there is a strong land war element to Rebel Raiders on the High SeasAtlanta is a critical objective of that land war.  It is one of the only two cities in the South that provide the Confederate player with the means to build batteries and ironclads (the other is Richmond).  Its loss costs the Confederates dearly in victory points not only when it falls (the total on two dice) but also every turn (adding a die to the Confederate supply attrition roll).  Atlanta is also one of the key cities whose fall can bring victory for the North,  and holding it helps the Union win the 1864 election – which (with USN Card 36 “If it takes all Summer…” can extend the game for a 13th and devastating turn.  Generals Sherman,  Hood and Johnston are also included in the game (cards USN 50, CSN 89 and CSN 91, respectively).  Bragg, who advised Davis to remove Johnston, is also represented – not by name, but by his picture on the appropriately named USN Card 7 – A Lack of Brains.









Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rebel Raiders "highly recommended" by Mataka.org

Rebel Raiders "highly recommended" For Civil War Fans by Mataka.org


Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is "highly recommended for devotees of the American Civil War and the Civil War Gamer," concludes the popular and respected game review site Mataka.org.  In a well-illustrated review published on July 14,  Mataka.org describes the components, game play and basic strategies of the game, and notes with satisfaction that at a time when "there are very few Civil War Naval Action Games" that "Rebel Raiders, and its sister game Iron and Oak, are two games that fill this void and can be easily recommended."


Mataka.org hails the design not only for its "low complexity" but also for being "an excellent game to play solitaire."

For the full text of the review, see: