My friend John and I sat across the table to face one another after setting up the game board, then reading the news that U.S. Grant was taking over the Military Arm of the Union. Grant had been out in 'The West' for so long, no one, especially on the Confederate side of the lines, knew what to expect from him. No one, that is, except one person, who did...Robert E. Lee. He knew that if Abraham Lincoln was going to put his all into winning the war, he would have to do it with a general who had unbridled ability, and the guts to end the war…now.
In this man, U.S. Grant, Lincoln got what he wanted, and Lee, got what he expected Not War, But Murder.
John took the forces of the North, while I chose the Southern Confederacy. Neither of us had played the game before, so we had differing opinions of rules along the way, which we clarified peacefully, as we keep our 'wars' on the tabletop.
Soon enough, it was clear that the difficulties that each general faced, were now, quickly becoming our own...
Grant had more men, supplies, and armaments, though a lack of compelling leaders to take charge of what was available for them to utilize effectively.
While, across the river, Lee had the vision necessary and the ability to have his orders carried out without compromise, yet the quantity of men available to him was far less than the legions of men that the North had available, at their disposal. Not only that, but as time progressed, from late May, to early June, the ability to replace 'fallen men' became a significant matter decidedly against the South.
From Lee’s Diaries…Though the force of the Confederacy rests entirely with the fate of our command, I can only wish for more men to further the desires of this campaign. Grant, it is clear, has his own brand of waging war…taking it to the front lines, always pushing forward, seemingly without regard for the loss of men that he pushes mercilessly. The more casualties we inflict, it seems, the greater strength fills in behind the void, continuing an endless assault. We send troops to take away the roads to Richmond, yet as we do, he continues to slip through the barest of cracks…
May 27, 1864 ~ Looking across the North Anna River through my field glasses, I see the bristling bayonets of the Northern troops, supported with artillery and a supply train that seems to go on all the way back to Washington D.C..
Our men are well entrenched, and I reasonably doubt that Grant would be foolish enough to send a frontal assault into the teeth of our defensive works, across the wide North Anna. As I surmised, and so it comes to pass, that Warren crossed into South Anna, across the Little River. Along with Early, we dispatched them back from whence they came. These boys sure know how to rise up and fight when the enemy presents himself. Health is good.
To the South, Sheridan crossed the Pamunkey River into Hanovertown, setting the cavalry of Hampton, Fitz, and W.H.F. Lee onto their mounts and away to the South and the east. With time, and God’s will, they may be able to hold off the advance guard from deepening their hold. Luckily it was Burnside, and he began a waiting game, as the Northerners seem to be fond of doing.
May 28 ~ Burnside seems to have broken tradition by sending Sheridan on a push, and he breaks through from Hanovertown into Haw’s shop. Hancock assaulted Hill across the South Anna from Taylorsville, was repulsed and pursued by the Rebs, reducing II Corps to a single division plus artillery.
Warren assaulted across the South Anna west of Taylorsville, where he managed to secure a contested bridgehead south of the river.
May 29 ~ Quiet, as we begin to reposition South, and see how the troops of Northern Aggression begin to seek a weak point in our ever thinning line…feeling more tired by the hour.
May 30 ~ Warren crosses the South Anna River, that we have vacated, taking our entrenchments, and contesting Ellett’s Crossing. Grant pushes into Taylorsville, contesting the bridges that span both the Little River into South Anna, and the South Anna River, into Wickham’s Crossing. Sending Hill, along with Heth, they immediately begin an assault that pushes Grant back to Hanover Station. While to the South, Burnside, after pausing for two days, crosses an undefended bridge into Norman’s Ford.
May 31 ~ From Grant’s papers ~ crossed the Pamunckey at Hanovertown and supported Wright and Sheridan's drive south to the Chickahominy.
Smith's XVIII Corps arrived at Mangohick Church, crossed the Pamunkey at Hanovertown and supported Wright and Sheridan's drive south to the Chickahominy
Lee’s Diaries…Health failing, yet we must strike them a blow…
June 1 ~ Situation tenuous. My health is failing without respite. The Chickahominy River is being threatened at Cold Harbor, and at New Cold Harbor. Atlee’s Station falls.
June 2 ~ From Grant’ papers ~ With the road to Richmond open, Warren moved South, but was intercepted by elements of Hill and Early's Corps.Richmond Times ~ Hoke's brigade, too long out of the fight, marched forth this morning from Richmond to defend the Seven Pines and to its east, Savage Station. Lee ~ We have Warren surrounded at Atlee’s Station. If we can push on him, in force, the day will be ours…if only I could rise from this cot and, with steady hand, guide the movements on the filed…
June 3 ~ Richmond Times ~ Our venerated leader, Robert E. Lee lacking the strength, but never the resolve, finds that Hill’s corps that assaulted Warren at Atlee’s Station was repulsed.
With it, it sealed the fate of the Confederacy…though we will Rise Again!
So, John and I, sighing greatly, and deeply shaken from the nervous tension of the last three hours, smiled, shook hands, and began planning when we would gather together to bring this battle to the table once again. (The first of four such battles…)
Please look at these websites...
= This is a great site for photos of areas that that are represented on the map of NWBM.
= This is perhaps one of the best photos of the trenches, showing the condition and the vantage point, from the Federal perspective.