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Here Come the Rebels!
My war game buddy and I were transported back to 1862 yesterday. He threw in with the Confederates, I helped the Union.
15 September, 1862
It all started on the morning of September 15th, 1862. The armies of Lee and McClellan were already tired from the recent battles at South Mountain, but Washington was on McClellan's back to push the Confederates back south of the Potomac.
Jackson and his Corps had taken Harper's Ferry back and were regrouping there. Lee and Longstreet, sitting in the small town of Boonsboro, decides to move back across Antietam Creek and take up position in Sharpsburg. The tired Confederates made good time and managed to barely get into position on the west side of the creek before exhaustion stopped their movement.
Union 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry moved far south, well into Virginia with the hope of getting around Charlestown in order to move up on Harper's Ferry.
In the north, the 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment moved rapidly into Washington County in hopes of flanking Confederate forces.
Hooker's 1st Corps, though tired themselves from the prior battles just days before, marched West into the recently vacated Boonsboro. The rest of the Union Army of the Potomac slowly trudged through the passes in South Mountain and searched for easier routes to the south.
Jeb Stuart, the young Confederate Cavalry officer, worked to gather his Cavalry regiments and begin the trek north to help Lee deal with the Union Cavalry forces north of Boonsboro.
In the meantime, General Walker moved his Division of Infantry to contend with the Union Cavalry forces roaming in south into Virginia.
There were minor skirmishes between Infantry and Cavalry forces the first day, with the Cavalry taking the brunt of the engagements and retreating in a disorganized fashion.
Longstreet, wanting to move the bulk of his Corps up to where they could more good for the Confederate Army, moved his command to the area near the Maryland Heights. From there he figured he would be able to push into the Union's flank and stop McClellan from being able to push significantly towards Sharpsburg.
16 September, 1862
As the dawn broke on the 16th of September, the Confederate forces, feeling more rested, began to hatch their plan to catch the Union in a pincher action. Longstreet moved the majority of his Corps north up to where Franklin's VI Corps of Union Infantry sat disperse along the Brownsville Gap. He hoped to catch Franklin in a spread out fashion and destroy the VI piecemeal.
But Franklin saw the Confederates coming! He also saw the expeditious movement of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment of Cavalry moving around the south of the Confederate's advance. Calling his forces through the Gap, Franklin managed to get his entire VI Corps formed up before Longstreet could get his men ready. As the 1st Rhode Island moved in to seal the trap, Franklin ordered an assault against Longstreet's Corps!
The battle was horrendous for the Confederates. The Union Cavalry caught his men by surprise, and the Union Infantry sliced into his troops. Longstreet's men were hit hard and broken up! Demoralized, with men dying around them, the Divisions of Longstreet's Corps routed back towards Harper's Ferry. Franklin had dealt such a solid thumping on Longstreet that it would essentially remove Longstreet from the rest of the battle.
Jackson, located in Harper's Ferry, got word from Lee that three Union Corps, the Ist, 3rd, and 9th, were all within a day's march of Lee's position, and the hold on Sharpsburg was tenuous at best. The bulk of Lee's defensive forces were Stuart's Cavalry forces, which could not hold against Union Infantry.
Jackson made haste to move up to support Lee in Sharpsburg, relying on Longstreet's shattered Corps to hold the Union out of Harper's Ferry, but also leaving one understrength Division behind to dig in for defense.
McClellan, hearing the news of Longstreet's defeat, calls on Franklin's VI Corps to move towards Sharpsburg. He sends Hooker's I Corps to cross Antietam Creek far north and then make his way south to Sharpsburg. McClellan calls the IX Corps and the II Corps to move up to the east side of Antietam Creek and prepare for an assault. He accompanies the XII Corps, Mansfield's Command, up to Porterstown and found the Middle Bridge across the creek undefended. Not waiting for the rest of his forces to come across the creek, he pushed to the outskirts of Sharpsburg.
That is what Lee was waiting for. Using Jackson's Corps as well as a couple Divisions from Longstreet's Corps, Lee launches as assault against McClellan and Mansfield's lone Corps. The Union was not ready, and took it's lumps from the Confederates. McClellan retreated with the XII Corps back across the bridge. The XII Corps was broken and disorganized, and McClellan knew it.
As the day grew late, a Confederate Division under Toombs found a hole in the Union lines up north and marched quickly through them. Ahead lay an open road all the way to Boonsboro. No word had reached Toombs as to where he was supposed to go, so he took the initiative and moved into Boonsboro, occupying the town for the Confederacy.
The day ended with McClellan receiving word that Confederate forces were back in Boonsboro. McClellan was furious! His forces were stuck on the east side of Antietam Creek, the Rebels had dispatched Cavalry troops on all of the bridges and had set up pickets north of Dunker Church in hope of stopping Hooker's I Corps. It was not looking good for the Union.
17 September, 1862
The 17th of September, 1862, dawned on the Union camps. McClellan called on Sumner's II Corps, located in Keedysville, to move back to Boonsboro and force the Confederates out of the town.
Even though Sumner's Corps was understrength, with French's Division still well east of South Mountain, he felt he had more than a strong enough force to oust the Rebels from Boonsboro. But his troops were slow.
As they took their time getting ready to march, activity in the south, near Harper's Ferry, began to put more worry into the minds of the Union forces. Longstreet's Corps was on the move!
In a bold move, the still shattered and demoralized Divisions of Longstreet's Corps moved north. Longstreet had received word of Toombs' bold move, and intended to move as fast as he could up to reinforce the Division in Boonsboro.
Though demoralized and in disarray, the Confederate troops moved quickly! Moving up the east side of South Mountain, the Johnny Rebs swept through Burkittsville and kept moving north.
Union forces further east, including French's Division from II Corps, moved as quickly as they could to try to make it to Turner's Gap before the Rebels could. Syke's Division, from Porter's V Corps, also began to march to reinforce French's Division, lest the Union be outnumbered by the Confederate forces under Longstreet.
Reaching the gap just a mere one hour before the first Confederates from Longstreet's Corps got there, French readied his troops! Looking east, French wondered who would get there first: the bulk of Longstreet's Corps or the reinforcements of Syke's Division.
Just in the nick of time, as the rest of the Confederate Divisions formed up, Syke's men joined up with French's Division to bolster their hold on Turner's Gap. Longstreet, knowing his men had nothing left to fight with, threw his hat into the dirt in frustration. He only hoped that by holding up the two Union Divisions, he gave Toombs the needed breathing room to hold Boonsboro.
Meanwhile, well east of any of the battle, Porter's V Corps boarded trains at a rail station and set out. Their destination was the Weaverton Rail Station, just three miles outside of Harper's Ferry.
Up at Boonsboro, Sumner's Corps formed up and the General tried to get them ready for an assault. The Generals under Sumner kept getting conflicting messages, and the assault never occurred as Sumner had hoped. He tried again, yet again the messages were not getting through properly. Much to the frustration of Sumner, the assault on Boonsboro never occurred. His II Corps would remain outside of the town. In the town, Toombs couldn't believe his luck. With so many Union forces, surely they would assault, but it never came. Did they not know his strength?
McClellan, his command moved to Cox's IX Corps, found himself looking across Antietam Creek wondering how he could reach the town. The Confederates had units dispersed to block all approaches.
In the North, Hooker's I Corps fought its way south towards Dunker Church. Stuart's Cavalry gave ground begrudgingly.
Disembarking at Weaverton Station, Porter formed up his understrength Corps for the march to Harper's Ferry, not really knowing what he would encounter there.
In the town of Bolivar, Thomas' Confederate Division dug in as the first scouts reported Union forces at the rail station.
Porter arrived on the far side of the Ferry, surveying the Confederate entrenchments. It would be a hard battle as his men would have to cross the ferry and attack entrenched Confederate defenders. Knowing that he had little time left, and the longer he took to decide the more likely that either his men would gain more fear or the Rebels could gain more reinforcements.
Quickly forming up his men, Porter ordered and assault against the entrenched Confederates. It was a bloody battle, but to the surprise of Porter, the Confederate's were severely understrength. Though bloody, the battle was swift and soon the Union troops were moving into the town. The Confederates had lost Harper's Ferry!
Outside of Sharpsburg, McClellan couldn't believe what he was seeing. The Confederates were pulling all of their forces into Sharpsburg. All of the Cavalry moved into town, leaving the way open and undefended across the bridges. Though McClellan was disgusted with Sumner's performance at Boonsboro, he hoped that this fortuitous occurrence would lead to Lee's defeat in Sharpsburg.
Moving across the bridges, McClellan formed up his forces southeast of the town. At the same time, Hooker's I Corps marched to the north of Sharpsburg, as they wiped out the last of the Confederate Cavalry defenders in their way.
Lee could see that the forces to his east were strong, but to the north, he saw Hooker's tired men of the 1st. Wanting to take advantage, he instructed his men to ready for an attack to the north. He would attempt to destroy the Union army one piece at a time if McClellan was going to offer them up that way.
But, this time, Lee did not act fact enough! McClellan got his men ready first and started the assault. Lee found his men being attacked on TWO sides! Though the attack was fierce, and losses were high on both sides, the Confederates held on to Sharpsburg! The fighting was so exhausting, though, when the last of the Union forces pulled back to their starting positions outside of town, neither the Union nor the Confederates had the strength to launch a counter-assault. Instead, Lee looked back towards the open road towards Ferry Hill and Shepherdstown. The road back to the South was still open. He still had an escape if he needed it. Perhaps tomorrow.
As the day grew late, word made it to Turner's Gap that Sumner's attempts to take Boonsboro had failed. French volunteered to hold the gap, as Sykes and his Division decided to march across the South Mountain and hopefully reach Boonsboro before night. French warned of Confederate troops from Longstreet's Corps hindering Sykes' movement through the Gap. Sykes knew the risks, but he also knew that he must try.
The lone Division from the V Corps moved through the Gap, encountering Confederates that tried to hamper their movement, and pushed west to the outskirts of Boonsboro.
As the lead elements of the Division marched into view of Boonsboro, the sun was just beginning to set. Sykes, knowing his time was short, decide to perform a hasty attack with what he could get ready.
Toombs, inside the town, looked at the new Union Division moving in and knew his time had run out. Sykes quickly got his men into line and pushed the attack. The Confederates put up a small fight, but knowing they were outnumbered, pulled out of the town to the north.
Sykes had done it! Boonsboro was theirs!
And that is where the Battle of Antietam ended!
Final result was a Marginal Union Victory. If Sykes had not taken Boonsboro, it would have been a Confederate Marginal Victory. If Porter had not managed to take Harper's Ferry, it would have been a Confederate Substantive Victory. As it was, even with Lee still in Sharpsburg, the Union managed to secure a victory.
That was enough to give Lincoln the win he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation!
This was a fantastic game!
Eddy del Rio
The die is cast.
You say OCD like it's a bad thing.
Really nice session report, but it's in the wrong category. This is in the review section.
I am BGG's official honey trap
Moved from Reviews to Sessions.
Great write up (pictures nice too) - thanks for sharing!