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Battle Cry: 150th Civil War Anniversary Edition» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Sunken Hopes at Sunken Road rss

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Gil Hansen
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Sunken Hopes at Sunken Road


Prologue: The Battle of Antietam was the first major engagement of its size in the Eastern Theatre of the war, involving multiple army corps on both sides. It was also the bloodiest single-day battle ever waged on American soil with an estimated 23,000 casualties from both armies.

The field map lies east and west with the battle lines forming a diagonal from the northwest to the southeast corners of the map. The Union army enjoys a slight advantage in infantry and artillery. Their units are more compactly positioned in each section but Burnside’s Corps is handicapped by the necessity of crossing Antietam Creek. Sumner’s artillery is likewise poorly positioned. The Confederate army has the advantage of a cavalry detachment neatly concealed on their left and the Sunken Road will prove a difficult nut to crack for the Federals. However, their battle line is thinly spread like pickets and their lone artillery lacks an effective field of fire. On a technical note, the Union plays with two less cards…this could be huge!

Because the Battle of Antietam was fought on a corps level (with the exception of Gen. Hill, who was a divisional commander under Jackson, all of the generals represented were corps commanders), individual units will be treated as divisions. Though I was an active participant, this AAR will be a TPA. An asterisk (*) represents one flag.

Commentary: Both sides seek to take the initiative by going on the offensive. Gen. Burnside, eager to cross over Antietam Creek, orders an assault on the high ground on the opposite bank, where one of Gen. Longstreet’s divisions has taken up positions. With concentrated fire from his own divisions and a battery of artillery, the exposed Rebels are mauled badly but manage to hold their ground. Knowing that Burnside must not be allowed to cross the bridge, Longstreet throws a second division into the fray and orders Gen. Hill to bring up his reserve units to help block the bluecoats. From the ridge along the creek bank, the Confederates pour a withering fire upon the Yankees on the bridge. Burnside’s men are punished severely but refuse to budge. The Union general counterattacks, desperately trying to get his men across the creek. He succeeds in wiping out one gray division* and drives a second from the ridge.

Longstreet isn’t finished, however, and he orders an all-out charge upon the Federals crowding the bridge. His remaining division and Hill’s reserves smash into the hapless bluecoats, shattering two entire divisions**, clearing the bridge and effectively slamming the door on the remnants of Burnside’s command. The Union general is obliged to dig in and hastily throws up fieldworks. In the center, Gen. Sumner follows suit and constructs a defensive barricade for one of his exposed divisions.

With his right flank relatively secure, Lee orders his wing commanders, Jackson and Longstreet, to turn their attention to the center of their line, namely, the “sunken road”. Soon two butternut divisions are snuggly positioned in its swale and a battery of artillery is brought up to lend support. Though they lash out at the Federals facing their front, they succeed in inflicting only minor damage. Sumner challenges the Rebel position by moving one of his divisions up and shifting his artillery in the direction of the high ground to the southeast.

Leaving Jackson to keep an eye on Hooker’s I Corps on the left, Lee gives Longstreet carte blanche to deal with Sumner’s II Corps threatening his center. “Old Pete” wastes no time and attacks the bluecoats savagely. One of Sumner’s advanced divisions is badly mauled, suffering 75% casualties. The Federal line rallies and charges the Rebels, attempting to dislodge them from their positions. They inflict heavy losses on one division and force the second to retreat but Longstreet is having none of it; he orders his shaken units to assail the vulnerable bluecoats. An entire division is lost* and the second forced to withdraw.

What follows is a brief lull in the fighting as both sides take up a defensive stance, trading blows from a distance with minimal effect. The respite is quickly broken when Gen. McClellan, in an attempt to jump start his stalled offensive, orders both Burnside’s and Sumner’s artillery into action. Realizing his battery is poorly positioned, Sumner rushes it onto the ridge, threatening the Confederate defenders in the sunken road. Burnside’s battery, however, erupts with a deadly barrage on one of the grayback divisions on the opposite ridge, driving it away. Longstreet cannot allow Sumner’s artillery to remain where it is, overlooking his position in the road, so he orders his men to open fire on the battery. Though it remains in place, the unit suffers heavily. Meanwhile, the Confederate cannoneers notice Gen. Sumner and his staff just within range of their guns. They open fire on the general and score a remarkable coup: Sumner is mortally wounded*.

Word of the disaster reaches Burnside and he makes one last attempt to cross Antietam Creek. He succeeds in smashing a Rebel division on the ridge above* but can move no further. Sumner’s remaining division is likewise galvanized by their leader’s death and lashes out at their butternut adversaries, avenging his death by bagging another enemy division*. But their attack is unsupported and soon the dead general’s last division follows him to glory*. With the gate ever so slightly ajar, Burnside continues his push to get across the creek but the fate of McClellan’s army is sealed when Longstreet orders a sally out from the protection of the sunken road to eliminate the Union artillery on the ridge above*. Seeing his chances for bagging Lee’s army dissolve before his eyes, McClellan capitulates and withdraws the remnants of his battered army. Turns: 9; Final Score: 6-3.

Epilogue: Communication and coordination were severely lacking on the Union side. First Burnside and then Sumner were forced to fight alone, with Gen. Hooker remaining completely immobile for the entire engagement. Part of the blame for this ineptitude might be explained by the Union player having two less cards, giving him precious little to work with. The Confederate player succeeded in cutting off Burnside’s IX Corps, keeping it from reinforcing Sumner, who was then left trying to challenge Lee’s strong center position with only two divisions and one battery of artillery.
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Mayor Jim
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Nice report, thanks. Antietam is one of my favorite US civil war battles...and BC is a favorite game. I've played this scenario many times and my takeaway is that if the south can grab the sunken road position they are pretty much unbeatable.
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Gil Hansen
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Yep! It was a bad day for the Union all the way around. No cards, no luck, no hope...cry
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Jason Stansel
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I've played this scenario as the Union and was soundly beaten. I also tried to get across the bridge and was quickly wiped out. The sunken road did not play much of a role. Had I lasted longer it may have. Only having four cards is brutal. My cards were heavily slanted for the left flank which dictated my strategy.
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