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Subject: Mayhem at Murfreesboro rss

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Gil Hansen
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Mayhem at Murfreesboro

Prologue: The Battle of Murfreesboro, also known as the Battle of Stones River, was a three-day affair. Though tactically a draw, Gen. Bragg’s withdrawal from the battlefield signaled a strategic victory for the Union. The battle is known for the high percentage of casualties sustained by both sides…the highest of the war.

The field map lies west and east with the Stones River meandering from the northwest corner of the map in a southeasterly direction. The Union has an advantage in infantry and artillery; the Confederates have the advantage in cavalry. Bragg’s two corps under Generals Hardee and Polk (Gen. Breckinridge was a division commander attached to Hardee’s Corps) are spread evenly along the eastern edge of the map. Stones River effectively cuts off elements of Breckinridge’s force from Polk’s Corps. Occupying better than half the battlefield is Rosecrans’ three corps under Generals McCook, Thomas and Crittenden. Though the Union army is well-placed (their reserves are a bit far back), they are dangerously close to the enemy, particularly on the right, where the Confederate army can strike very quickly. Since this battle was fought on a corps level, 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: True to history, Bragg orders Hardee to assault the Federal right. The rebel general mobilizes his infantry and cavalry in a coordinated attack which crushes one of McCook’s divisions in short order*. Unable to provide succor to the beleaguered general, Rosecrans orders his reserves forward; his initial strategy being to drive on the Confederate center en masse in hopes of severing Polk from Hardee. Meanwhile, Hardee continues to savage McCook on the left. Another division sustains frightful losses and is forced to withdraw. Crittenden orders his two divisions to the river in an effort to threaten the Rebel right. But Hardee’s corps remains aggressive, shattering another of McCook’s divisions* and forcing the general to flee.

Seeing the disaster unfolding on his right, Rosecrans finally mobilizes his center in an effort to drive the graybacks off. Five blue divisions advance on either side of “Round Forest”, the strip of woods in the center of the battlefield. The attack succeeds in driving Hardee’s men back and inflicting heavy losses on the lone Rebel battery. Polk responds by assaulting the Union line. One division is badly mauled and another forced to retreat. Again, Rosecrans orders his men forward and McCook’s wing is able to wipe out Hardee’s division* and push a second back. But the rebel general still has lots of fight left and lunges forward again. A lightening-strike by the Union cavalry drives the Rebels back once more but Hardee counters with his own cavalry and yet another blue division is cut down*.

The situation on the Federal right has remained desperate from the start of the battle. McCook calls for reinforcements before his line completely caves in. A fresh division of infantry arrives in time to fill the gap. For his part, even the indefatigable Hardee takes a breather to rally his men. Crittenden, on the Yankee left, crosses one of his divisions over Stones River to take the high ground there. The general then attaches his command guidon to his artillery and opens up on Polk in the center. He succeeds in driving one division back to the river. An artillery duel ensues with Polk’s battery opening up a barrage on Crittenden. Because to the extreme range, however, nothing is decided.

Back on the Rebel left, Hardee and his staff have taken refuge behind a copse of woods. McCook attempts to position his cavalry for a raid behind enemy lines in the hopes of bagging his nemesis but before he can implement his plan, Hardee hits first and hard…McCook’s cavalry is butchered*. The Union general strikes back and succeeds in crushing the Rebel infantry* and blasting Hardee’s cavalry. Polk lashes out in the center but refuses to advance. McCook’s division now unleashes a murderous fire upon the butternut troopers and the unit is destroyed*. Both Crittenden and Thomas likewise urge their men to attack but with less spectacular results.

The fighting continues on the Confederate left, but this time with elements from Polk’s corps harassing McCook from across the bend in Stones River. Another bluecoat division is lost* and Crittenden’s artillery is driven back from its position in the woods. A Yankee division scores a rare coup when it succeeds in capturing Gen. Hardee and his staff* but with one more push in the center, Polk closes out the Battle of Murfreesboro by shattering one of Thomas’ divisions*. Turns: 11 1/2; Final Score: 6-4.

Epilogue: This battle was decided almost entirely on the Union right. As in the actual battle, the Confederate player seized the initiative and scored some rapid success. While the Union player was able to eventually mitigate some of the early advances by his opponent, his units fought more like “green” troops unable to score decisively, trading tepid blows with the more lethal ones of the Confederate army. This loss of initiative made it difficult for the Union army to focus upon a broader strategy and play to its strength in the center.
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