Stephen Rochelle
United States
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In mid-1862, the Union advance on Richmond has been broken and Robert E. Lee marches his Army of Northern Virginia north to reclaim the strategic initiative. Following a skirmish by "Stonewall" Thomas Jackson's lead elements with Union defenders (see Scenario 1), the Confederate army consolidates behind Clark's Mountain. Lee plans to cross the Rapidan River against the weak left flank of John Pope's Army of Virginia, isolating and destroying it before George McClellan's Army of the Potomac can return from the James River. Between Confederate logistical delays and a Union cavalry raid, though, Pope learns of Lee's whereabouts and begins to withdraw from a vulnerable position before the Confederate advance begins. This scenario supposes that Lee is not historically delayed and launches his offensive two days early, striking before the Union is alerted.

This is a solo play-through.
Scenario overview

The Confederate objective in this scenario is to reach and cross the Rappahannock River ahead of the Union army as part of Lee's wider goal of isolating Pope's Army of Virginia (deployed here) from McClellan's Army of the Potomac (off-map). To represent this, the scenario awards VP for three types of events.

The primary source of Confederate VP is control of Rappahannock Station and/or Bealeton Station, both just north of the Rappahannock. Control of the railroad proper is not particularly relevant to the Confederates in this scenario, but denial of the railroad to the Union is strategically important. Full control of both objectives (Confederate control and no nearby Union presence) is sufficient for the Confederates to win the scenario outright, but should not be considered a probable outcome.

The Confederates also receive VP for each Union division that fails to withdraw north of the Rappahannock—Hazel—Thornton River line — again, an abstraction of the goal of isolating the two Union armies. Combined with the first objective (Confederate control of the DC bank of the Rappahannock), it also represents a wider opportunity to trap and destroy Pope's army against the river.

Finally, the Confederates (and the Union) receive VP for causing Rout results in combat in addition to the usual VP for casualties; these VP vary with the size of the force routed.

The designer's notes for the re-release mention that this scenario was rebalanced largely by reducing it from 5 days to 2; as such, it's worth highlighting that movement is at a premium here. The first day's march is not enough to reach objectives to set for a pitched battle on the second day, and so combat versus mobility is a tension point for both armies.

Day 1 (August 18, 1862)
The Confederates decide to open the game with the "Short" route shown above, pushing Reno's IX Corps aside in an effort to reach the Stevensburg—Brandy Station line before Pope can react. Buford's cavalry stalls Lee's van at Raccoon Ford but has to fall back toward the Cedar Grove Church; Longstreet crosses Somerville Ford with D.R. Jones to engage Fererro's division. Stuart's cavalry then crosses Raccoon Ford and Morton's Ford to threaten Stevens' division. Neither mounted formation is fit to directly engage the Union infantry, but they constrain Stevens' ability to reinforce the rest of IX Corps.

The Union wins an initiative before Longstreet can launch his attack and activates McDowell's powerful III Corps (two divisions of 18 Manpower each; roughly double any two other Union formations). A poor movement roll leaves them short of Mitchell's Station, a few miles shy of Reno, when the Confederate attack gets underway. To conserve movement, Lee elects to pursue a frontal attack on Reno without developing flank threats; Longstreet's push routs the Union defenders and sends them streaming back past McDowell's attempted reinforcements.

Longstreet then shifts to the rest of his corps. Hood's division moves north to the Cedar Grove Church and Pony Mountain; Kemper and Wilcox's divisions move to engage Stevens' now-isolated division. This second assault is poorly coordinated, as Wilcox misses the order to move forward, but Kemper's troops plus Stuart's screening cavalry are enough to force Stevens back to Brandy Station.

With the Union infantry cleared out, Longstreet turns to moving his divisions north to block Pope's withdrawal and to clear the roads for Jackson's corps to follow. Hood's division reaches Stevensburg and pushes Buford's cavalry further from the Confederate line of advance; Stuart takes his cavalry through Salubria to stand astride the Orange & Alexandria Railroad near Fleetwood House.
Unit positions early on Day 1. Longstreet's corps has driven Reno's IX Corps off the lower Rapidan River.
Hood's division threatens to occupy Brandy Station and block the Union withdrawal before Pope can react.
Current VP: 17 (Union Marginal victory)

At this point the Confederate player elects to rest Longstreet's corps at 3 Fatigue, leaving full actions for tomorrow, rather than tiring them today and risking disorganization on extended march rolls. However, as a brief counterfactual, Hood's division could have pressed north to block Pope's rout and the recorded dice rolls would have been sufficient (even with low movement and a pro-Union base combat roll) to rout Stevens again and block Pope's direct path through Brandy Station; Stuart could then have moved northwest to obstruct the roads to the Hazel River. Forcing the Union to fight through Confederate troops on Day 1 would likely have been a superior option.

Instead, though, Longstreet rests and Jackson marches. Jackson's first two activations yield very poor movement rolls en route to Morton's Ford; Jackson eventually ends the day's march at Salubria instead of the hoped-for points along the railroad. Again, the Confederate player is cautious and holds at Fatigue 3, ceding position to guarantee maintaining combat potential for Day 2.

The Confederate army is virtually spent for the day before the Union begins to win initiative rolls. Pope, though, is finally able to move with Banks' II Corps, and the Union infantry pushes back Stuart's cavalry. Robertson's brigade fights a delaying action, but Fitzhugh Lee's brigade stands against Williams' division. Williams' advance is stopped, but Greene's division follows close behind and Stuart is forced back to Rappahannock Station.

Elsewhere, Anderson's rearguard division of Longstreet's corps marches behind Clark's Mountain to rejoin the bulk of the corps still near the Rapidan, and McDowell's III Corps moves past Culpeper. McDowell has the first Union extended march of the battle, and the green troops of the Army of Virginia suffer for it: while the Confederates only have a 1-in-6 chance of disorganization on a basic extended march, Pope's army has a 1-in-2 chance of that same result. Pope will lose substantial combat power simply by moving back to the Rappahannock.
Unit positions late on Day 1. Jackson and Pope each march for the Rappahannock; Longstreet has missed
his opportunity to preemptively block the Union avenue of advance.
Current VP: 16 (Union Marginal victory)

The Confederates pass for the remainder of the day, and so the Union moves its remaining forces eastwards. Sigel's I Corps reaches the roads north of Culpeper (avoiding the route clogged with McDowell's III Corps); Bayard and Beardsley's cavalry brigades withdraw from the western fords they'd guarded.

A late cavalry skirmish sees Bayard's troops join with Buford's to envelop the 2nd Virginia regiment attempting to screen Longstreet; the Confederate cavalry detachment is so scattered in its retreat as to effectively be eliminated.
Unit positions at the end of Day 1. Sigel's I Corps, like III Corps before it, suffers heavy
disorganization from the extended march necessary to reach the Rappahannock.
Current VP: 15 (Union Marginal Victory)

Day 2 (August 9, 1862)
Day two opens with the Union army having made up much of its positional disadvantage, though the effects of extended march have begun disorganizing their formations. Longstreet no longer has the opportunity to block Pope's line of march, but Jackson still has an open road to the Union rear via the fords at Paoli Mills.

In a reversal of the first day, this day's action opens with sustained Union initiative. Banks' II Corps first drives up the Orange & Alexandria, pushing Stuart out of Rappahannock Station and ending their march just shy of Bealeton Station. With the territorial objectives taken, Pope turns to blocking Confederate lines of advance. III Corps marches to hold Paoli Mills while I Corps joins Stevens' demoralized remnants on the roads near Brandy Station.
Unit positions early on Day 2. Pope's army has used a series of early initiative wins to steal a march
on the Confederates, blocking Lee's planned axis of advance.
Current VP: 13 (Union Marginal victory)

Following a lackluster attempt by Fererro's division to begin making its way to rejoin Pope's army, Jackson's corps springs into action. Rather than battering through Pope's divisions, Lee sends Jackson around the Union left flank to Barnett Ford. Three consecutive activations with strong movement rolls (average 5 on a d6) puts A.P. Hill into Bealeton Station ahead of Banks and sees Ewell at the gates of Rappahannock Station. The follow-up assault by Ewell exhausts his division for the day but routs the Union troops there; the only consolation for Pope is that Williams is able to follow a retreat path that leaves him north of the Hazel River and so successfully withdrawn.
Unit positions in the middle of Day 2. Jackson's flank march occupies both Confederate objectives,
though Banks still contests control of Bealeton Station with Greene's division. Jackson led Ewell's
assault on Rappahannock Station, but the rest of his corps is too far away for him to lead any
attempt to drive off Greene.
Current VP: 26 (Confederate Substantive victory)

The Union position is suddenly far more dire. The decision to confront Lee south of the Rappahannock now places them on the wrong side of that river to dislodge Jackson.

Sigel makes the first response move by working to cross the Rappahannock both above and below Ewell's division, laying the groundwork for flank threats to be exploited by McDowell's oversize divisions. Before his march is complete, though, Robertson's cavalry brigade moves to block Beverly Ford, the crossing needed by Sigel's northern formation. As Longstreet concentrates his corps, Sigel attempts to press Robertson back — but needing enough movement to reach Ewell and Rappahannock Station, Sigel marches his divisions in-line rather than launching a mass attack. Robertson holds by his fingertips and the Union I Corps is left exhausted on the wrong bank of the Rappahannock, though Schenck's division successfully crosses the Rappahannock below the Confederates.

Longstreet marches into the void left by the withdrawing Union troops and routs Stevens' division once more; Hood's division force marches to pin Sigel against the Rappahannock in preparation for a possible killing blow.
Unit positions late on Day 2. Sigel's attempt to push Lee out of Rappahannock Station is undone
by a cavalry stand against infantry at Beverly Ford.
Current VP: 22 (Confederate Marginal victory)

As the armies reach their fatigue limit, Union options have become very constrained. Playing conservatively, the Union stands a good chance of maintaining the current marginal defeat when McDowell withdraws III Corps behind the Rappahannock. Banks is likely safe from any Confederate attempt to push him away from Bealeton Station, as Jackson is unable to coordinate a move by Hill and Taliaferro to develop a flanking position without risking an empty Bealeton Station for Banks to march in to. Longstreet is likely to be cautious in such a situation, as one bad combat roll could swing casualties enough to flip the game to a narrow Union win.

However, the Union can instead gamble on pushing Lee out of Rappahannock Station with Banks' troops thanks to the flanking threats developed by Sigel and McDowell. Completely retaking one objective increases the chances that the Union can win outright, and so Pope orders that course of action.

Unfortunately for Pope, the Union doesn't get the two consecutive activations needed to advance to and then attack Lee; A.P. Hill instead marches out of Bealeton Station and in turn flanks the Union troops, attacking in march. Banks' last division is routed and no plausible Union counterattack on either objective remains (McDowell could strike at poor odds across a bridge, but that is likely all). With the Confederate victory sewn up, Longstreet strikes a more aggressive posture and advances on Sigel's trapped corps, routing it and capturing the bulk of its troops as they retreat past Confederate divisions.

What Union troops are able finish withdrawing behind the Rappahannock; in the rear, D.R. Jones routs Reno and Ferrero in one final combat as they attempt to catch up to the rest of the Union army.
Unit positions at the end of Day 3.
Final positions, units only. Four of Pope's nine divisions — and three of his four corps commanders —
fail to withdraw behind the Rappahannock; the Confederate army has a secure line of communication
over Beverly Ford to consolidate.
Final VP: 38 (Confederate Decisive victory)

Closing Commentary
This game was, on the whole, much closer than the final score appears. As already noted, the Union player gambled to win rather than accepting a close loss and the gamble came up short. Just prior to that, though, the low-odds defense by Robertson's cavalry to prevent Union troops from crossing the Rappahannock meant the difference in which player had to consider long-shot odds in late combats — Longstreet having to attack across defended fords puts that much more pressure on the final limits of Confederate fatigue. Note that much of this decision is driven by the endpoint of the scenario — in a larger campaign game, Union withdrawal in good order (looking ahead to day 3 and beyond) would take a higher priority than a desperate strike here.

Otherwise the game was a series of lessons in the dangers of not marching hard quickly. Longstreet could have moved to Fatigue 4 on Day 1 (accepting the loss of capability on Day 2) and perhaps blocked Pope's army entirely to make the scenario a run-away. Banks could have marched into and past Bealeton Station (perhaps to 2714 for the creek as a defense line) instead of jockeying Sigel's corps in front of Longstreet; that would have forced a Confederate attack, rather than a march, to take the objective. Conservation of force is critically important in a multi-day scenario, but recognizing when to sacrifice that force for position (particularly when fatigue is at a premium) is a subtle skill of its own.
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