Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 30, 1864 – Pickett and the Pirates: Cutlasses and the Charge that Wasn’t

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.

January 30, 1864 –   Pickett and the Pirates:  Cutlasses and the Charge that Wasn’t

Historical Event:  On January 30, 1864 General George Pickett, eager to erase the perceived stain upon his honor and restore his reputation after the doomed if gallant charge at Gettysburg, marched his division out of Kinston, North Carolina with the intention of regaining the port of New Berne for the South.   His three brigades of infantry and small force of cavalry contained only about 4,500 men, but were supplemented by 14 pieces of artillery and Colonel John Taylor Wood’s piratical rowboat flotilla – a ragtag force of local men armed with old naval cutlasses and antique muskets.

Pickett did advance upon the Union positions of General I.N. Palmer, but decided they were too strong to attack head-on (proving he had learned something going up that long, low slope toward the Copse of Trees the summer before).   Instead, he pinned his hopes on taking out the Union warships that were supporting Palmer and his 3,000 troops.  In the early morning hours of February 2  Wood’s cutlass-wielding pirates performed a successful “cutting out expedition” to board and capture the USS Underwriter, one of four armed steamers that were anchored in the Trent and Neuse Rivers in support of Palmer’s defenses.  Unable to build up steam in the cold boilers in time so he could get underway and attack the rest of the Yankee flotilla, however, Wood burned the warship.   He and his men made their way back to Pickett’s lines, but with the Union forces now on alert and still backed by three other gunboats, the longhaired Confederate general felt it best to retire.

Game Connection:    In Rebel Raiders as in the war, New Berne is an important port for blockade runners, especially those on the more lucrative run to and from Europe.  It also provides a beachhead for an attack up into Goldsboro, from which the Yankee army can either threaten Richmond or strike south toward the port of Wilmington and from there down the coast toward Savannah and Charleston, to take those key cities from the land side.  Taking back New Berne or any other key city or port captured by the Union can throw off the Union timetable and gain valuable time for the Confederacy, and to do so the Southern Player can purchase a Counterattack in the build phase – or play one of the cards (such as CSN Card 103 – Uprising or 107 – The South Shall Rise) that allow for a Counterattack (and one hopefully more successful than the abortive attempt led by Pickett at New Berne). 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Southern Belles Fund the “Ladies’ Ironclad” CSS Charleston

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.

January 29, 1864 –   Southern Belles Fund the “Ladies’ Ironclad” CSS Charleston

Historical Event:  On January 29, 1864 the naval yards at Charleston completed the fitting out of the ironclad ram that bore the city’s name.  Funds for the CSS Charleston were raised by “The Ladies Gun-Boat Society,” which hence led to it being nicknamed “The Ladies’ Ironclad.”  

Despite its rather cute epithet, the casemate ram CSS Charleston was a formidable and manly warship, encased in four inches of armor.  With two nine-inch smoothbore guns (one each fore and aft) and four seven-inch Brooke rifles (two per broadside) the “Ladies’ Ironclad” was meant for close-in action in defense of the harbor, and was also fitted with a heavy wrought iron ram.   When completed it was chosen, quite appropriately, as the flagship for the Charleston Squadron.   When Union forces marched on the city by land in February, 1865, the warship was scuttled and blown up by its crew.

Game Connection:    CSS Charleston herself does not appear as a separate card or counter in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, and is instead represented by the generic Ironclad counters.  The Southern player can build ironclads in Confederate ports, and there are cards that can cause ironclads to show up in such ports in response to a Union attack  (notably CSN Card 78 – Mallory’s Miracle)

Images:  KHS 1:600 model and Ecardmodels 1/250th scale CSS Charleston

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rebel Raiders' 6th Best Game of 2013 - Marco Arnaudo: "I Loved it!"

Rebel Raiders Named 6th Best Game of 2013 by Noted Reviewer Marco Arnaudo

Every January the esteemed and entertaining Marco Arnaudo releases his top ten list of games for the previous year, and Rebel Raiders on the High Seas just won the sixth slot on that prestigious roster.

In his video blog, Arnaudo summed up the purpose and play of the game, and noted that it is "great fun," a "tense game," and one that "does a good job creating opportunities and challenges."  In short, concluded Arnaudo "I loved it!"

Marco explains how he appreciates that as a game focusing on the oft-ignored naval strategy of the conflict, Rebel Raiders allows players to "see the American Civil War from a slightly different angle than you have usually." He also praised the "dramatic richness" of  the "entire experience," of playing the game, which he added "is extremely rich, extremely fascinating."

To view the entire 28-minutes plus blog (the four-minute section on Rebel Raiders starts just after the 8-minute mark) please visit Marco's Top Ten at:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January 14, 1864 – CSS Alabama Burns The Emma Jane Off Coast of India

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.

January 14, 1864 –  CSS Alabama Burns The Emma Jane Off Coast of India

Historical Event:  On January 14 1864 the Confederate cruiser CSS Alabama intercepted and burned the Union merchantman Emma Jane while raiding off the coast of British India.  Three days later Captain Raphael Semmes put in to the Indian port of Anjenga to take on supplies and to disembark the passengers and crew of the Emma Jane whom he had taken aboard prior to destroying their vessel.  The CSS Alabama continued  westward on her Indian Ocean raid, reaching the Comoros Islands on February 9, a Muslim settlement of which he and his men soon grew tired, noting in his log that  “There was no such thing as a glass of grog to be found in the whole town.”   

Game Connection:    CSS Alabama not only graces the cover of Rebel Raiders of the High Seas, but also is represented by a named counter and card (CSN Card 63).  Recreating Semmes’ storied acts of piracy (as Union newspapers, diplomats, shipowners and naval officers called them) in the Indian Ocean and other sea zones shown on the map board is part of the fun and the strategy of the game – as is the hunt for the elusive raider, whose actions across the world’s oceans can otherwise reap great rewards for the Confederate cause in Rebel Raiders of the High Seas.

Friday, January 10, 2014

January 10, 1864 – USS Iron Age Lost on Blockade Duty

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.

January 10, 1864 –  USS Iron Age Lost on Blockade Duty

Historical Event:  On January 10, 1864 the 420-ton Union gunboat USS Iron Age ran aground and was lost while trying to salvage a Confederate blockade runner at Folly Inlet, South Carolina.  The Confederacy hailed its loss, for the USS Iron Age had been one of the two warships that in November had captured the pride of the Rebel blockade runner fleet, the CSS Robert E. Lee.

Game Connection:  The USS Iron Age is one of many classes of warships represented by the generic Gunboat counters in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.  The principal role of these ships is to man the Blockade Stations off Confederate ports, where they can attempt to intercept Rebel Blockade Runners as they bring vital cargo back home to aid the Southern war effort.  Many of the more famous individual ships involved in this duel are represented by cards and counters in the game, including the CSS Robert E. Lee – (CSN Card 69 pictured below)-, which the USS Iron Age (along with another Gunboat, the USS James Adger) captured off the North Carolina coast on November 9, 1863.

The USS Iron Age was built in Kennebunk, Maine and in the late summer of 1863 was assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. On her first week on station she gave chase to a Blockade Runner and forced the Rebel ship to run aground while seeking the protection of the Confederate guns of Fort Fisher.  The USS Iron Age participated in a raid that destroyed Rebel salt works at Bear Inlet, and with USS James Adger captured the famous CSS Robert E. Lee – one of the few Blockade Runners that was actually part of the Confederate Navy.

In January 1864 the Union squadron gave chase to the Blockade Runner Bendigo, which ran aground off Holden Beach in Lockwood’s Folly Inlet, S.C.  The USS Iron Age was then sent in to frustrate Confederate efforts to offload the valuable war supplies it had loaded at Nassau in the Bahamas and to prevent the Rebels from refloating the Bendigo.  Unfortunately, however, the Yankee ship also ran aground – and the vessels sent to save her were driven off by Confederate guns, including a battery of 30-pounders.  Rather than let her fall into Rebel hands, the captain of the Gunboat set her afire – and when flames reached her magazine in the pre-dawn hours of January 11, the USS Iron Age exploded.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

January 2, 1864 – General Banks Aims For Galveston-Again

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.

January 2, 1864 General Banks Aims For Galveston-Again

Historical Event:  Galveston was the most important port in Texas, and the only port ever regained by the Confederates after its initial capture by the Union.  In December 1863 General Nathaniel Banks decided to try and get it back, and launched a campaign on the Texas coast.  His combined army-navy task force managed to Fort Esperanza at the entrance to Matagorda Bay on December 30,  and then proceeded to occupy other key positions controlling the inlets and passes from the Sabine River to the Rio Grande.  On January 2 Banks began his march toward Galveston – but never quite got there, as he was recalled by General Henry Halleck with orders to instead prepare for a major offensive up the Red River in the spring.

Game Connection:   Galveston is a key port for the Confederates in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, just as it was during the Civil War.  It is made even more valuable if the Maximillian Card (CSN Card 61) is in play, as that card not only places a blockade runner free of charge in nearby Vera Cruz during each Confederate turn in which the card remains in play but also provides a die roll modifier for the Confederate Supply roll for Galveston and each of three other ports in the west that are in Rebel hands.  Taking Galveston not only cuts off all of those benefits, it also counts as a city toward victory for the North and means there is one less port for the Union Navy to guard in the Western Gulf.

The fated expedition up the Red River is also represented in the game through play of Confederate Card 76 (Red River Fiasco) which requires the Union to remove pieces from the map, place them on the card and roll for their possible destruction.