West Des Moines
A recent computer upgrade left me in possession of my AAR-in-progress for the campaign scenario for Burnside Takes Command, but not my VASSAL save file. Lacking a reliable way to recreate the board position, I've decided to post the AAR as-is. I can't recommend this module enough - it's an entertaining challenge to be on the defensive with Lee's army and be on the offensive with a cumbersome, but strong, Army of the Potomac.
I hope this partial AAR gives anyone who likes the GCACW system a reason to track down Skirmisher #2 (where this module was published).
Scenario 4, Burnside Takes Command, 11/15/62 – 12/15/62
You have 30 days to get the Army of the Potomac from the vicinity of Warrenton, Virginia to (ideally) Bowling Green, Virginia. A trek of about 65 miles as the soldier marches. Certainly feasible with the time allowed except for the small matter of Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
Alternatively, the Union can march for Gordonsville, Virgina; a march of only 49 miles. The catch is that the most direct route is through Culpeper, where the ANV is currently headquartered.
The victory conditions put the weight of offensive action on the Union. Decisions, decisions…
Regardless of the ultimate objective, at some point the Rappahannock River has to be crossed. However, if the Union crosses over into Rappahannock or Culpeper counties on Turn 1 or 2, the Confederates are immediately released from their movement restrictions. This means, depending on the initiative rolls on Turn 2, the Union has at least one day and as much as two, to move without the Rebels being able to respond. But how far, realistically, can Burnside hope to get in that time that it would really make all that much difference?
November 15, 1862
[The Union depot is placed at Warrenton. The Confederates have their choice between Orange Court House or Gordonsville. They choose Orange Court House.
Random Event: Pontoons Delayed 3 days until November 21st]
Hearing that his pontoons have already been delayed, Burnside abandons his plan to cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. He also disregards the recommendations of his staff to cross the river in the vicinity of Rappahannock Station, where the ground is relatively clear and doesn’t offer any particular advantages to the defender. No, Burnside decides the Army of the Potomac is going to cross the mighty Rappahannock River now, effectively going with the Lincon-Stanton Plan. He orders Hooker to move his Grand Division across at Waterloo. Franklin and Sumner will follow.
Butterfield’s V Corps moves to join Stoneman’s III Corps, then the entire Center Grand Division cross together. Stuart’s troopers soon get wind of what’s going on, and a courier is sent in a dash to Lee at Culpeper.
Willcox brings his IX Corps across and towards Jefferson. Stuart’s cavalry demonstrates quite effectively against Burns’ I Division and then retreats behind the Hazel River. Willcox pushes on and reaches the river, but Stuart is content for the time being to watch the Federals across the way.
As soon as he gets the word, Lee consults with Longstreet. They both quickly agree that it better to get the boys moving rather than sit and wait for Burnside to dictate the terms of the coming engagement. Pickett, McLaws and Anderson all have large, healthy divisions. If they can catch any one portion of the Army of the Potomac, they should be able to overwhelm it. Until Jackson’s corps arrives from the Valley, Longstreet is going to have to nibble at Burnsides’ edges.
When Stuart’s courier reaches Lee to inform him that Willcox’s corps has reach the Hazel River, Lee and Longstreet push on and cross the Hazel River at Wellford Ford. Longstreet wants to trap Willcox against the river and disable his formation before the rest of the Union army can intervene.
No sooner do Pickett and McLaws get their division across the river than a courier from W.H. Lee’s cavalry rides up to inform them that Hancock’s division has crossed the Rappahannock at White Sulphur Springs and seems to be leading a large column; almost certainly the rest of II Corps, and possibly more.
Reynolds takes I Corps south through Fauquier County and through Fayetteville. Franklin wants him to cross below Hazel River and try and get behind the Rebels.
November 16th, 1862
[Smallpox Rages: Anderson’s Division – Fudge! One of Longstreet’s big divisions is hamstrung. With Ransom and Hood quite a ways away, Longstreet’s job just got harder. I think now he’ll have to pull back towards Culpeper (or further) and link up with Ransom and Hood before he can consider getting into a fight. We’ve got 29 days to go yet…can’t get too aggressive too early.]
Reynolds steals a march on Longstreet as Doubleday’s division crosses the Rappahannock at Beverly Ford shortly after sunup.
With Lee’s decision to withdraw rather than push Anderson’s poxy troops any harder than necessary, Longstreet gets off to a sluggish start. Fortunately, though, Pickett and McLaws are able to quickly recross the Hazel. Stuart also pulls back. He leaves F. Lee (who is joined shortly by W.H. Lee) behind Muddy Run to keep an eye on potential developments in Longstreet’s rear, while he and Hampton swing around Longstreet’s flank to Brandy Station.
As Sumner’s Right Grand Division marches along and Willcox’s corps reaching the Muddy Run, McLaws enters the town of Culpeper with Pickett just to the southeast. Hood is just two miles away.
Hampton holds Doubleday up for a while before retreating south of Culpeper. While Reynolds is frustrated at the lack of progress, it does allow his corps to regather after getting strung out during its river crossing.
Hooker aggressively pushes his Grand Division and marching in two columns, Humphrey’s division of Butterfield’s V Corps reaches the northern outskirts of Culpeper. Stoneman’s III Corps is just two miles away coming down the Sperryville Pike.
The Lees pull away from Muddy Run, that position rendered irrelevant by Hooker’s march, and move to straddle the Orange & Alexandria rail line.
November 17th, 1862
[Random Event: Pontoons Delayed. However, the roll of 1 is reduced by one for the second occurrence for no impact.]
Hooker senses Longstreet’s vulnerability and quickly gets his Grand Division into consolidated positions for an assault against McLaws in Culpeper.
Lee knows he has at least three more days before Jackson’s corps arrives in the area. He is also surprised at how aggressive Burnside is conducting his campaign; his actions do not jive with his reputation. Lee does not want to fight over Culpeper under these circumstances, but also doesn’t want to just fall back on his own supply lines. He really wants to take the initiative away from Burnside and buy time for Jackson to arrive. With little time to make a decision as Hooker’s men get on line, Lee decides to fall back to the east. With a little luck, an opportunity to hit Reynolds may present itself, and then Longstreet can push to cut Burnside’s own line of supply. That should keep him from advancing much past Culpeper and hopefully get him strung out in a pursuit of Longstreet’s forces.
The Battle of Culpeper
Griffin’s division of Butterfield’s V Corps marches into Culpeper on the heels of the withdrawing Rebels and he is able to catch Ransom’s division as they attempt to catch up with Longstreet. Caught on the march, Ransom’s men are taken completely by surprise, and the battle quickly turns into a rout, costing two Confederate MPs with no significant Union losses.
Sykes sends Hampton packing, but not before the Rebel troopers force his division to go on line and cost him precious time.
Random Turn End hits
November 18th, 1862
[Jackson Delayed – arrival now expected 11/21]
It appears to Lee that Hooker is not going to be distracted by Longstreet’s march. He orders Stuart to get in Hooker’s way while he reverses Longstreet’s route. Some quick marches gets Stuart’s cavalry into blocking positions at Mitchell’s Station and a crossroads three miles to the southwest and another three miles to the northeast. Longstreet’s men are paralleling the Rapidan.
Hooker pushes forward pushing Stuart’s cavalry back and then consolidating his Grand Division on Lee’s flank. Reynolds approaches Pickett on the other flank. Smith’s VI Corps is across the Rappahannock and pushing to catch up with Reynolds. Sumner’s Center Division reaches the vicinity of Culpeper.
November 19th, 1862
[Random Event: Rain]
The rain traps Smith’s VI Corps between the Rappahannock and Hazel rivers. It will take too long to march around, so they’ll sit tight for a day and hope the rain ends soon.
The Battle of Sommerville Ford
Hooker orders Butterfield to assault McLaws’ position with his corps. Griffin’s division goes in, but confusion prevents Sykes or Humphreys acting effectively. Unfortunately, Griffin is no McLaws and Butterfield is no Longstreet, and Griffin’s unsupported assault is repulsed with casualties for the Union.
With McLaws standing firm, but the river too high to cross, Longstreet brings Hood up to reinforce. Pickett pulls back from Reynolds to guard Longstreet’s back against Franklin.
Sumner and Burnside get south of Culpeper. Burnside is hoping to smash Lee’s army tomorrow.
November 20th, 1862
[Random Event: Rain]
Lee’s situation is getting desperate. Trapped against the flooding Rapidan River, he seems to be running out of options on how to escape the noose Burnside is pulling around his neck. Longstreet has McLaws and Hood pull back east away from Somerville Ford and close up on Pickett’s flank. If he can manage it, Longstreet wants to consolidate his troops on Pickett, which would be a very tough nut for the Federals to crack. Plus, Pickett is sitting on Raccoon Ford; the first sign of falling river levels, Lee’s army could slip across the Rapidan and be free to maneuver again.
Stoneman’s corps followed hard on Longstreet’s heels, keeping the pressure on. However, that’s not enough to prevent Longstreet’s planned consolidation.
The Battle of Raccoon Ford
[This is the biggest battle I’ve ever had. Union 60 MP, 27 artillery vs. Confederate 42 MP, 8 artillery]
Reynolds forms his men up for an assault on Lee’s position. Franklin then coordinates with Burnside and orders are passed through Hooker to Stoneman to assault with his corps from Lee’s opposite flank. Lee is caught within a classic pincer attack!
With McLaws facing off against Stoneman and Pickett against Reynolds, Longstreet uses Hood’s troops as a fire brigade. At the end of the day, as the firing slackens off, Lee and Longstreet are relieved that their troops have held and given the Yanks another bloody nose. Confederate losses: 2 MP, Union losses: 5 MP
November 21st, 1862
[Random Event: Pontoons Delayed 1 -2 = no effect; pontoons arrive ]
[US moves its depot to Culpeper]
[Jackson’s corps returns from the Valley and appears on map at Madison Court House]
With the rivers down again, Smith is able to get his VI corps across the Hazel River and into positions to strike at Anderson’s poxy troops outside Salubria.
Burnside has Sumner move his Grand Right Division through Mitchell’s station. With Hooker’s and Franklin’s grand divisions recovering from yesterday’s defeat, their job is mostly to keep an eye on Lee. Burnside wants Sumner to cross the Rapidan below Lee and attempt to come up behind him, ultimately surrounding Lee with the entire Army of the Potomac.
Jones’ cavalry heralds the return of Stonewall, initially reaching Waylandsburg at Crooked Run; within four miles of Getty’s division. Jackson’s foot cavalry is not far behind Jones.
With the river down and Hooker and Franklin seemingly content to just sit and watch, Longstreet pulls his corps across the Rapidan through Raccoon Ford
With fresh orders in hand, Bayard pulls his cavalry back north of the Rapidan, crossing at Morton’s Ford, and passes behind the Army of the Potomac to screen Sumner’s flank. Farnsworth is also pulled back to screen against the approaching Jackson.
Stuart tries to lead Hampton around behind the Federals, but is stopped short by the strong presence of XI corps guarding the depot at Culpeper.
November 22nd, 1862
[Random Event: Pontoons Delayed – no effect, they’re already here]
My first thought is that with Jackson on the field, what does Burnside do about him? Upon reflection, I think the answer is nothing. He’s no more capable to stopping the juggernaut than Longstreet as long as they are apart; and right now, they’re separated by the Army of the Potomac. I think Burnside’s best plan is to get across the Rapidan and go for Lee’s depot. That will force Lee to react for a change.
Jackson gets orders from Lee to pull back from his current position and move to combine with Longstreet before Orange Court House. Stuart’s cavalry leads the way to guard Jackson’s path.
Smith’s VI corps crosses at Morton’s Ford to begin putting pressure on Lee’s flank.
F. Lee moves to block Somerville Ford.
Burns’ division leads the line of march of Sumner’s Grand Division as it approaches Rapidan Station, and easily brushes W.H. Lee’s cavalry back across the river. Burn’s men get within 2 miles of Orange Court House when word comes back that strong rebel forces are in the area and blocking the way forward – Jackson’s corps made it!
Willcox gathers his corps in front of D.H. Hill’s division while Couch collects Howard and French against the river to guard Willcox’s flank. Hooker also gets his Grand Division across in good order, consolidating Stoneman’s corps until Longstreet makes his intentions known. Butterfield, after driving off F. Lee’s cavalry, gathers his corps southwest of Chestnut Hill with Stoneman’s corps at Orange Church. If Longstreet wants to join Jackson, he’s going to have swing down to the Old Turnpike to avoid the Yankees.
That’s what Longstreet does when Lee finally decides it’s time to move. His corps doesn’t get as far as he’d like, but with a little luck they can steal a march first thing in the morning. In the meantime, at least there aren’t any more Federals between him and Jackson.
November 23rd, 1862
[Random Event: Jackson Delayed, no effect]
At dawn’s early light, Butterfield’s corps finishes its movement to fall in next to Willcox, extending the Union line out onto Harvey Hill’s flank. Jackson responds by pulling him back and consolidating his corps at Orange Court House. That puts over 30,000 men into a consolidated position which is not going to be easily assailable.
With his supply secured by Jackson, Lee orders Longstreet to turn about and hit Franklin. Letting the Union army consolidate can only be bad for the Confederates, so Lee wants to hit Franklin’s Grand Division before it can either consolidate or link up with the rest of the army. With luck, he can push Franklin back and threaten Burnside’s supply lines sufficiently to cause him to pull back across the Rapidan and free Jackson up to maneuver again.
Reynolds sees the trap for what it is and follows Franklin’s instructions to avoid engagement in favor of reuniting the army.
Gregg’s cavalry swings back through Mitchell’s Station to confront Jones at Rapidan Station.
November 24th, 1862
[Random Event: Rain]
Burnside got his army across the Rapidan just in time. As the rains fall, the river rises and Jones and Gregg are contemplating their own private war cut off from the main armies.
The Battle of Orange Court House
Willcox gets his corps organized for an assault on Jackson’s position at first light. Sumner supports the attack and prepares to order Couch in to support the attack. Burnside, however, gets cold feet and refuses to give the necessary orders, leaving Willcox to assault a superior force alone.
With Getty’s division in the fore, the blue troops go in valiantly. Fight valiantly. Die valiantly. But to everyone’s astonishment (including Willcox, who was haranguing all within hearing about Burnside’s cowardice), the Federals carry the position! Even though the flanking columns did not directly participate in the attack, their mere presence tied Jackson’s hands and prevented him from responding as effectively as he should have and was soon forced to give way as the battle became a rout. Jackson’s men don’t stop running until they reached Madison Run Station. (Union loses 1 MP, Confederates lose 5)
Anderson moves his poxy troops along the Old Turnpike to at least stay in the vicinity of the rest of the ANV.
The Union was up for the next activation before I lost the save file.