Monday, September 30, 2013

CSS Shenandoah: The Last Rebel Warrior

The Raiders of Rebel Raiders   -  CSS Shenandoah: The Last Rebel Warrior

Rebel Raiders on the High Seas is a strategic game of the Civil War which focuses on the role of the navies on the rivers, along the coasts and on the oceans.  While most ships are represented by generic counters for Ironclads, Blockade Runners, Gunboats, and Screw Sloops and, of course Raiders, there are cards and corresponding counters for many individual vessels.  This series presents those cards and offers a glimpse into the history of these storied ships.

The New Bedford Whaling Fleet never recovered from the ravages of James Waddell and his storied raider, CSS Shenandoah.  This ship, represented by its own special named counter and card (CSN Card 64) specialized in hunting whalers – and was in the process of doing so in the Aleutians when she fired the last shot of the Civil War – in late June, more than two months after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  (The board game has a special Whaling Zone where raiders are especially effective to reflect the immense damage done by Waddell and his raider).

For two years Waddell, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy before going South, scourged the seas, sinking, bonding or capturing 38 ships.  He circumnavigated the globe, leading Union warships on a merry chase from the Atlantic to the Indian and Antarctic, past New Zealand into Pacific and finally to the Arctic.  No other raider covered so much of the globe, or showed the flag in so many oceans, seas or ports.

When Waddell learned from his last victim of the war’s end, he sailed on for another three months, searching for a port where he and his crew, now deemed pirates for carrying out acts of war after the cessation of hostilities, could surrender in safety and honor.   He found that port in Liverpool, on the banks of the Mersey where his ship was built.  On November 6, 1865 Waddell lowered his flag and surrendered CSS Shenandoah to a British warship, on condition that he and his men be paroled.

Not only did CSS Shenandoah fire the last shot of the war, she was the last Confederate force to surrender.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chickamauga: The South’s Last Great Victory

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

September 20, 1863 –   Chickamauga: The South’s Last Great Victory

            Historical Event:    Bolstered by the transfer of General James Longstreet’s corps from the Army of Northern Virginia,  General Braxton Bragg turned on Union General William Rosecrans, crossing the “River of Death” to deal a devastating blow that threw the Yankees out of Georgia and back to Chattanooga.  September 20 was the third and final day of the epic battle, which although a defeat for the Union would have been far worse had it not been for the stalwart rear-guard stand of  General George Thomas, who would win fame as the “Rock of Chickamauga.”  Among the 34,000 casualties in the battle was Confederate Brigadier General Ben Hardin Helm – a brother-in-law of Mary Todd Lincoln.  Rather than mourn the loss, she cheered it, adding that she hoped that all of her relatives in the Confederate Army would suffer a similar fate, for “they would kill my husband if they could, and destroy our government – the dearest thing of all of us.”

            Game Connection:    Although primarily a naval game, the land war is represented in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, and General James Longstreet is a counter and a card - CSN Card 79.  He gives the South not only an additional die in a Counterattack, but also aids in defense against all attacks in the space where he is assigned.  To represent the South’s ability to move him and his corps from front to front, the Confederate Player is allowed to be used in a different space each turn. The failures of General Braxton Bragg at Chickamauga (and on other fields) are represented by the Lack of Brains card (USN Card 7), which bears his likeness and requires the Rebel player to re-roll a die of the Union’s choosing.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Antietam: The Bloodiest Day

This day 150 years (+1) ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

-Dedicated to Civil War episodes, battles, people and ships that also appear in my game, GMT’s Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.  Although normally this feature focuses on what occurred 150 years ago, today is a date that is special and personal to me, for 151 years ago this day an epic battle was fought outside the little town of Sharpsburg, along the little creek named Antietam.

September 17, 1862 –  Antietam: The Bloodiest Day

            Historical Event:   On this day in 1862 my ancestor in the Irish Brigade stood for half an hour firing buck and ball into the Rebel regiments behind the fences along what would become known as The Bloody Lane.  Although wounded, he survived to fight again and again – but some 3,500 other men – North and South – would not.  More Americans died on that field that day than on any other in U.S. history, and another 20,000, like my ancestor, were wounded – and many of those would perish in the next few months or live on permanently disabled.   Although hailed in the North as a victory in that it repulsed Robert E. Lee’s invasion, the price paid for that victory was a sobering one, as Matthew Brady’s photographs of the dead would bring the images – and the horror- of war to the public.

            Game Connection:      Rebel Raiders is primarily a naval strategy game, but as it is a strategic game it also covers the land war, although in an abstract way.  CSN Card 77 – Lee Moves North can be played to symbolize his march into Maryland in 1862.  USN Card 45 – Three Cigars – represents the famous incident where Lee’s plans for that invasion were found wrapped around three cigars, and CSN Card 102 – Matthew Brady: The “Shutter” of Horror – reflects the impact news and images of that, America’s bloodiest day, had on the people at home.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay Part III: 1864 Loose the Fateful Lightning

Rebel Raiders Replay:  1862 Jump Start Part III:  1864 Loose the Fateful Lightning

The Developer & A Naval Historian Team Up Against the Designer in the 1862 Scenario

Parts I and II of the replay describe the initially successful Confederate defense, followed by the sweeping of the seas of all things Gray and “The Nightmare Year” of 1863 in which the South was gutted.  Undaunted, the Rebels counterattacked, thus making Union victory far from certain…

With more ships than it had jobs for them to do, throughout 1864 the Union spent most of its builds on buying extra attacks, thus enabling it to make four assaults a turn. Play of Loose the Fateful Lightning (USN Card 34) added yet an additional attack for EACH remaining turn.  The Union used these well, driving still deeper into the South, and then responding to desperate if successful Rebel counterattacks by regaining for the Union what the South had but briefly taken back.

The game was still hanging in the balance in December 1864, normally the final turn of the game.  With five attacks the Union had to conquer three key cities.  Mark played the General Pierre Toussaint Beauregard (CSN Card 88) card to build a battery in newly recaptured Richmond and also deployed the cream of Confederate leadership: Lee, Jackson and even Longstreet! (CSN Card 79), giving the South a total of six dice to defend the ruins of the capital.   He also got Memphis back.  Now, to win, the Union would have to once again take Richmond and the diminished Memphis as well as the very heavily fortified city of New Orleans.  

Fred and Brandon had drawn If It Takes All Summer (USN Card 36), which gives the Union a chance for a possible 13th Turn.  That led a debate as to whether to go for the game-winning hat trick or attempt to storm Savannah and Charleston from newly captured Augusta.  They were held by three and two Batteries each, respectively, but possession of those ports would greatly improve the Union’s chances to add an extra game turn through play of that card.

Wary of pinning everything on a single die roll to get that extra turn, however, Fred and Brandon decided to go all-out for the three key Confederate cities in a final offensive surge.  One of those attacks was stymied by the Rebel play of Mud-Bound (CSN Card 59).  Undaunted, with Sherman, Grant and other cards in hand, on to Richmond, Memphis and New Orleans they came….

 Damn Yankees – they won all three fights, winning the game with but one attack still left in hand…

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay: 1862 Jump Start Part II: 1863 The Nightmare Year

The Developer & A Naval Historian Team Up Against the Designer in the 1862 Scenario

As noted in Part I, the South built up a strong crust defense and repulsed almost all of the Union’s attacks in 1862, yet despite an initial “happy time” was all but swept from the seas.  On to 1863:  The Nightmare Year

1863 was a nightmare for the South on land.  The Union broke through the crust defense, playing Three Cigars (USN Card 45) which stopped Stonewall Jackson and any Confederate cards from being played and enabled the Northern capture of Richmond. On the following turn the Union cracked the line at Chattanooga – despite a stout defense of three Batteries and J.E. Johnston – and used Grant and Sherman  (USN Cards 8 and 50) and other cards to dash down to Atlanta.  Suddenly there were no arsenals to build Batteries and very few Blockade Runners to bring in cargo. There were also fewer Raiders to destroy Union commerce for Victory Points – and even if more had survived, each turn’s Supply Roll penalties for losing Atlanta and Richmond, as well as the regular one die roll (three dice in all each turn!) would have rendered their point contributions moot.

Thus, the rest of 1863 and into 1864 were very difficult for the Confederacy but Mark did not despair; he mounted inspired counterattacks to keep the South viable. The Union had built a cordon around Richmond by seizing Fredericksburg, Norfolk and Goldsboro but Lee and Jackson nonetheless staged a whirlwind campaign, first recapturing Goldsboro with a regular counter-attack and then Richmond itself with The South Shall Rise (CSN Card 107) to regain the capital of the Confederacy. After Island No. 10’s capture, successive waves of Yankee Ironclads and gunboats conquered Memphis, which the South successfully retook with a Counterattack.

The Union responded to this last Rebel Western Theatre offensive success by marching west out of Union-held Atlanta to seize Montgomery and Vicksburg via its land approach and then on to capture the Fort of Baton Rouge.   This was complemented, after several failures, by Farragut at long last capturing the fort guarding New Orleans from the Gulf. As the nightmare of 1863 came to an end, the South pinned its hopes on a pair of Virginia gentlemen hunkering down in a smoldering Richmond, and on New Orleans, which with its defense of three Batteries, a Gunboat, and an Ironclad though isolated remained defiant and unbowed. 

Tomorrow: 1864 the year the Union players Loose the Fateful Lightning....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rebel Raiders Replay: 1862 Jump Start

 The Developer & A Naval Historian Team Up Against the Designer in the 1862 Scenario

For those who want to dive into the heat of the action, rather than do a slow burn, the alternate 1862 start scenario is the way to jump right into Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.  It begins with the Union half of the April 1862 turn. The Union enjoys a dream hand of cards that historically made that such a great month for the North – and a month after which, it was said, the South never smiled again.

Developer Fred Schachter and naval enthusiast Brandon Musler took charge of the Union, with Fred taking responsibility for the Gulf and Western Theater, and Brandon the Atlantic and Eastern Theater.   They began the game with a chance to conduct four attacks – as many amphibious as they wished – and three of four failed (save for Union capture of Key West).  Designer Mark McLaughlin rolled more “6s” on the dice than anyone should in a single or several turns, thus allowing the South to smile, perhaps a bit early, but grin broadly nonetheless.

What followed was a wonderful if lamentably brief “happy time” for the Confederacy. Its Blockade Runners brought in enough cargo to allow the purchase of two Batteries – in addition to the two normally earned each turn for the Atlanta and Richmond arsenals.  Mark employed his largesse to construct a strong “crust defense” by placing batteries at Memphis, Chattanooga, New Orleans, Mobile and Savannah.  This approach leaves the entrenchment of Richmond until later, entrusting its defense to Bobby Lee and Stonewall Jackson  (CSN Cards 60 & 104).  Mark deployed J.E. Johnston (Card 91) to command in the West and he also had cards in hand for the Ironclad CSS Manassas (CSN Card 71), Hulks, Rafts and Chains (CSN Card 110) and later the CSS Virginia (CSN Card 70) to help defend any port the Union chose to attack.

On land Confederate confidence was rewarded. For the remainder of 1862 the Union onslaughts were repeatedly repulsed, including two failed amphibious attacks on Galveston,  but at sea it was a different story. In four turns the South lost 25 blockade runners with the Union sinking them literally faster than they could be built.  As 1863 opened, there were more Raiders (five) at Sea than Blockade Runners. The number of Raiders would dwindle to three after the Union built packs of hunter-killer screw sloops.  For the remainder of the game the seas stayed blue in more ways than one.

Tomorrow Part II of the Replay: 1863, The Nightmare Year – but a Nightmare in Blue, or in Gray?

Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9, 1863 – Longstreet Goes West!

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

September 9, 1863 –   Longstreet Goes West!

            Historical Event:   On this day in 1863 President Jefferson Davis agreed to General James Longstreet’s request that he and 12,000 men from the Army of Northern Virginia be sent out west to aid General Braxton Bragg’s beleaguered forces.  General Robert E. Lee knew that sending the First Corps and his “Old Warhorse” would require his army retire behind the Rapidan and give up all hope of offensive operations in the east.   The movement of so many troops across the rickety, tortuous and infrequently interconnected Confederate rail network was something of miracle – and one that ten days later placed Longstreet on the field in the right place at the right time for what would be the South’s last great victory – Chickamauga.

            Game Connection:    General James Longstreet is represented in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas by Confederate Card 79.  He gives the South not only an additional die in a Counterattack, but also aids in defense against all attacks in the space where he is assigned.  To represent the South’s ability to move him and his corps from front to front, the Confederate Player is allowed to be used in a different space each turn. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

September 6, 1863 – Rebels Evacuate Battery Wagner

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

September 6, 1863 –   Rebels Evacuate Battery Wagner

            Historical Event:   On this day in 1863 Confederate General Pierre Toussaint Beauregard bowed to the inevitable and ordered the evacuation of Battery Wagner on Morris Island, long viewed by both sides as the key to his defense of Charleston.  The final decision was made following an intense close-in 36-hour bombardment by Union naval forces under Rear Admiral John Dahlgren. The fort’s commander reported that this “terrible bombardment” had killed more than 100 of the defenders and left “nearly all guns disabled.”  He added in his report to Beauregard that “repetition of today’s fire will make the fort almost a ruin,” and in an obvious plea for permission to withdraw asked “is it desirable to sacrifice the garrison?”
            Battery Wagner had withstood numerous previous bombardments and attacks – included the famous if ill-fated charge in July led by the 54th Massachusetts, which was depicted in the movie Glory.    
            The fall of Morris Island emboldened Dahlgren to send the ironclads USS Weehawken and USS Patapsco to bombard nearby Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter – whose defenses had been so reduced by the Union Navy and siege batteries as it was left with but one working cannon – which was fired but once a day in salute at the morning flag raising.  On the night of September 8-9 Dahlgren sent a force of 500 sailors and marines in small boats to storm the ruins – but they were repulsed by 350 defenders.

            Game Connection:  As it was in the Civil War, Charleston is a vital port for Blockade Runners and is the lynchpin of the Confederacy’s Atlantic Coast in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.  Confederate General Beauregard is represented in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas by CSN Card 88, and his engineering talents that proved so vital to defense of Charleston are depicted in the card’s ability to place an additional Battery free of charge on the turn the card is played.  His nemesis in 1863, Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, is represented by two cards: USN Card 31 – which bears his name, and USN Card 3 – “Yankee Guns,” homage to his talents in designing, producing and using the Union’s big guns – some of which also bore his name.

            Destroying Confederate Batteries in preparation for an Assault is one of the primary jobs of the Union Navy in the game, just as was in the war, and many of Dahlgren’s ships are represented in the game, perhaps most notable among them USN Card 26 the USS New Ironsides – first in a new class of warship, and one which historian Shelby Foote says at the time was “the most powerful battleship in the world.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September 4, 1863 – “Bread Riots” by Women of Mobile

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

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

September 4, 1863 –   “Bread Riots” by Women of Mobile

            Historical Event:   On this day in 1863 riots were reported in Mobile.  Severe shortages of food, medicine and even clothing sparked protests in many Southern cities that year.  Collectively known as the Southern Bread Riots, crowds of mostly women marched carrying banners demanding “Bread and Peace” and “Bread or Blood.”
  In Mobile, women carrying hatchets chopped down doors and broke into stores to steal food, medicine and clothing.  When the garrison commander, General Maury ordered the 17th Alabama to stop the rioters by force – the men mutinied.  They refused to fire upon the women, many of whom were their wives, sisters, sweethearts and mothers.   Maury then ordered the Mobile Cadets into action – a fancy militia company of older, wealthier men and their sons.  The Cadets strode forward mightily – and were put to rout by the women!  The city’s mayor and the provost marshal then went before the mob of hungry women and promised that if they would go home that the government would open military storehouses and meet their needs.

            Game Connection:    The gnawing attrition of a long war, exacerbated by the effects of the blockade on the Confederacy, along with the loss of territory and the severing of the Mississippi River lifeline to their western sources of gold and beef cattle are reflected in the Confederate Supply Phase die roll.  Each turn the Confederate player must roll one, and lose that number of Victory Points.  An additional die is rolled for each of Atlanta and Richmond that are lost, and an additional three dice are rolled if the Union has control of all three key cities on the Mississippi.
            Victory Points are essential to the South to purchase additional forces, cards and counterattacks – and to keep from losing the game.

            There are also cards that reflect the strain upon the civilian population caused by the blockade and other economic pressures, notably USN Card 40 Satin & Lace, No Guns, which reduce the value of cargo unloaded by Blockade Runners the turn it is played (reflecting that, as the card notes “Blockade Runners load up with luxury goods, not war material”) and USN Card 41 Plumb Wore Out…Southern Economy Falters, which add modifiers to the Supply die roll for ports and cities lost.    (Below are newspaper drawings of the bread riots in Richmond, which occurred in April 1863)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Rebel Raiders’ Happy (Almost) Birthday to the USNA - & Its Rebel Admiral

Sept 3, 1845 - Buchanan Takes command of the post at old Fort Severn, Annapolis

On this date in 1845 Franklin Buchanan – who later became the first admiral of the Confederate navy – took command of the post at old Fort Severn in Annapolis, with orders to prepare for the opening day of the United States Naval Academy.  That day came five weeks later on October 10, with “Old Buck” as its first superintendent.

Buchanan is represented three ways in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas; first, as a leader counter for the South, and then twice more in the cards – for the two ironclads he commanded during their historic encounters with the Union navy.

As James McPherson notes in his recent book, War Upon the Waters, Buchanan was a veteran of 45 years in the U.S. Navy. In addition to having been the first superintendent of Annapolis, he was also second in command of Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition that “opened” Japan and was commandant of the Navy Yard in Washington when the Civil War began.   When mobs rioted in Baltimore, the native Marylander tendered his resignation from the service to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.  Three days later, however, the hot-headed “Old Buck” realized as McPherson puts it that “he had acted rashly” and tried to withdraw the resignation.  Welles, however, explains McPherson “wanted no sunshine patriots in his navy.”  He refused Buchanan’s request, and told him rather “icily” as Mcpherson notes that “by direction of the President, your name has been stricken from the rolls of the Navy.”

Buchanan found a much warmer welcome when he went South – as did 258 other Southern-born naval officers.  In March of 1862 he personally took command of the CSS Virginia  (CSN Card 70 in Rebel Raiders) when it steamed out to attack Union warships in Hampton Roads.  During that action he became so incensed at Union snipers firing from the shore that he climbed OUT of the ironclad to fire a musket at the Yankees.  Wounded by the snipers, Buchanan had to turn over command of the ironclad – and thus missed out on the epic action the following day against the USS Monitor (USN Card 19).

Buchanan was promoted to admiral – the first (and until almost the very end of the war, the only) admiral in the Confederate Navy.   He helped organize the fleet and defenses of Mobile, and when Admiral David Glasgow Farragut (who also appears in Rebel Raiders as a leader and on three cards – USN Cards 1, 33 and 37 – Damn the Torpedoes, the Grand Fleet and USS Hartford)  steamed into the Bay, it was “Old Buck” who went  out to meet him in the ironclad ram CSS Tennessee (CSN Card 86).

That confrontation is dramatized in the classic painting by William Heysham Overrend (see below).

“Old Buck” survived the war – and outlived Farragut, who passed away on August 14, 1870 – by nearly four years. 

Despite having “gone South,” Buchanan has not been forgotten by the Navy or the Academy: three U.S. Navy destroyers were named for him, as is the house that serves as the superintendent’s quarters at Annapolis.