Tuesday, December 16, 2014

150 Years Ago Today: Death of a Rebel Army at Nashville

Oh, my heart is feeling weary
And my head is hanging low
I'm goin' back to Georgy
To find my Uncle Joe.
You may talk about your Beauregard
And sing of Bobby Lee
But the Gallant Hood of Texas
He raised Hell in Tennessee

-These lyrics from the third stanza of Yellow Rose of Texas tell only part of the story of General John Bell Hood and the disasters that befell his ill-fated Army of Tennessee.  When President Jefferson Davis replaced General Joseph Johnston (the "Uncle Joe" referred to in the tune) in mid-July 1864,  General Robert E. Lee warned in a telegram that although "Hood is a bold fighter.  I am doubtful as to other qualities necessary." Prophetically, Lee added that  "We may lose Atlanta and the army too. "  On December 16, 1864, the second part of that warning came true outside of Nashville.

Two months after Hood took command, Atlanta did fall as Lee predicted. Hood evacuated the city in September after four bloody, pointless and disastrous attempts to break General William Tecumseh Sherman's ever-tightening ring around that vital urban center.   Rather than fight a delaying action, as Joe Johnston had done earlier in the year, in mid-October Hood struck north and "raised Hell in Tennessee."  Although he won a victory of sorts at Franklin on November 30, it was a hollow and Pyrrhic one.  Sherman, rather than follow Hood whom he said could "twist like a fox," left General George Thomas to deal with the situation in Tennessee while he the struck out for his infamous March to the Sea.  Thomas gathered Union forces at Nashville, and Hood obligingly followed.

For two weeks Hood laid an ineffectual siege around Nashville.  Despite a flood of telegrams from President Lincoln and General Ulysses Grant urging him to attack or be replaced by someone who would, Thomas waited until he was ready, and on December 15 launched his first major attack.  Although bloodied, bested and outnumbered nearly two to one, Hood does not use the cover of night to retreat.  He stubbornly holds his ground.  In the morning Thomas renews his attack, and the Confederate Army of Tennessee disintegrates.   

Hood lost 6,000 men at Franklin, and another 6,000 at Nashville (including 4,500 taken prisoner).  The remaining 25,000 fell back over the barren winter landscape,  abandoning over 150 cannon to the victorious Yankees.  Although elements of it would fight again,  on December 16 Hood's army ceased to be an effective military force.

Ironically, December 16, 1864 would have been the one-year anniversary of the date when Joseph E. Johnston took command of the Army of Tennessee.

Hood's invasion of Tennessee can be recreated by the Southern player in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.  Although primarily a naval strategy game of the Civil War, the land campaigns are replicated on an abstract scale through the use of cards, dice and point-to-point movement.   Hood, Johnston, Sherman and other generals and events relevant to the Western theater are represented by cards  (the one-armed, one-legged Hood is CSN Card 89,  and Sherman is USN Card 50).

Saturday, December 6, 2014

150 Years Ago Today: US Marines Fight Citadel Cadets Outside of Savannah

150 Years Ago Today: U.S. Marines Fight Citadel Cadets Outside of Savannah: Battle of Tulifinny

On December 6, 1864 warships of the mighty South Atlantic Blockading Squadron demonstrated against the Confederate batteries defending Charleston and Savannah.  These actions were meant to distract the Rebels from two other major operations being undertaken by the Navy.  The first was the assembly in Hampton Roads of a massive fleet for the amphibious attack on Ft. Fisher, the main defense work protecting the big blockade running port of Wilmington, N.C.  The second was the landing of United States Marines in support of General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea.  That landing resulted in the Battle of Tulifinny, and one of the very few occasions in which U.S. Marines fought in a land battle with Confederate infantry.

By late 1863 both Charleston and Savannah had effectively been shut down as blockade running ports by the Navy.  After the loss of Mobile Bay in August, Wilmington remained the last major haven for the runners, upon whose cargoes the Confederacy and especially General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia depended for munitions and other staples.  Charleston and Savannah, however, remained key political objectives, and if taken would give the Navy a port to supply Sherman's army.   To help open the path for Sherman, the Navy landed 5,000 troops and a detachment of Marines on the banks of the Tulifinny River, not far from the town of Yemassee, about 45 miles from Savannah.  A dozen Union gunboats supported the landing on the swampy peninsula.  As the Yankees advanced they were met by 900 Confederate troops, among whom were the entire corps of cadets of the South Carolina Military Academy (now known as The Citadel).

The Cadets made up about a third of the defending force, and were deployed to defend the key railroad bridge over the river. Told that Union forces were encamped nearby, the Cadets moved out in the pre-dawn darkness of December 7 to participate in a surprise attack on the Yankee lines.  The attack succeeded in driving the Union infantry from their camps, and the Cadets and the men of the 5th and 47th Georgia infantry and a militia unit dug in to await the inevitable counterattack.  That came on the morning of December 9th. The right flank of that attack was spearheaded by Lieutenant  George G. Stoddard and his Marines - who ran right into the positions held by the Cadets.  The Marine attack stalled, and when the Union forces on the left flank fell back, so did the Marines.  The Union forces then retired to the fleet, which evacuated them.

The success of the Cadets and other Rebel forces was short lived, and although it bought time for the Confederates to evacuate war materials by rail, Savannah fell to Sherman on Christmas Day.

As for the Navy's assault on Ft. Fisher...that is a story for later.

Blockade Runners and the ports they dart in and out of are vital to the Southern player's hopes for victory in my strategic naval game of the Civil War, GMT's Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.

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.