Bloody Antietam (The Afternoon Battle), 17th September 1862

Sorry for the slow rate of blog-posts just lately!  My excuses are many and varied, but the main reason is that just lately I’ve been ill with Manthrax (like Man Flu but even worse) and ‘between computers’!  Sorry!

Anyway, friends will know that I always try to have at least one epic Big Christmas Game during the Chrimbo Limbo period between Christmas and New Year and this year was no exception.  However, this year’s game would be somewhere new – the Carmarthen Old Guard Wargamers’ club.  The subject matter would also be relatively new – 10mm American Civil War, fought using Brigade Fire & Fury 2nd Edition rules.   I recently ran the First Day at Gettysburg scenario again at Carmarthen as a taster and the lads were very interested in doing some more ACW over Christmas.

But what battle to do?  My collection is still fairly limited, despite recently doubling my stock of Rebs and I struggled to find a scenario that would fit my collection.  However, the Afternoon Battle sub-scenario for the Battle of Antietam in the 1st Edition Fire & Fury Eastern Battles scenario book seemed to fit the bill.  Note that for 10mm figures I scale everything down by 1/5th, so 1 inch in the rules = 2cm on my table (i.e. double all ranges in the rulebook and express them as cms instead of inches, so 12 inches becomes 24cms).

I had to adapt the orders of battle for the 2nd Edition.  This basically involved me using the 2nd Edition ‘army generator’ mechanism, though weighting the dice-rolls slightly to reflect the relative experience and fighting qualities of the opposing sides (the Rebels at this battle being generally very weak but veterans, while the Union IX Corps was strong but inexperienced).  Some brigades, particularly on the Union side, also had reduced morale due to the casualties suffered during the morning’s assault on the Rohrbach Bridge. The resultant orders of battle look like this:

Elements, Confederate I Corps (Longstreet)

D.R. Jones’ Division (1 Leader)
Kemper’s Brigade (E): 3 bases [3/-/1, Veteran, Rifled Muskets]
Garnett’s & Evans’ Combined Brigades (E): 4 bases [4/2/1, Crack, Rifled Musket]
Toombs’ Brigade (E): 3 bases [3/2/1, Veteran, Rifled Muskets]
Drayton’s Brigade: 3 bases [3/-/1, Veteran, Rifled Muskets]
J.A. Walker’s Brigade: 5 bases [5/3/2, Crack, Rifled Muskets]
Artillery Battery [Experienced, Mixed Rifles & Napoleons]

Elements, I Corps Artillery Reserve
1st Battery [Experienced, Mixed Rifles & Napoleons]
2nd Battery [Crack, Napoleons]
3rd Battery [Experienced, Mixed Rifles & Napoleons]

Elements, Confederate II Corps (Jackson)

(Arriving as Reinforcements on Turn 2)

A.P. Hill’s Division (E) (1 Leader)
Pender’s Brigade (E): 4 bases [4/3/2, Crack, Rifled Muskets]
Gregg’s Brigade (E): 8 bases [8/6/4, Veteran, Rifled Muskets]
Archer’s Brigade: 3 bases [3/2/1, Crack, Rifled Muskets]
Branch’s Brigade: 5 bases [5/4/3, Veteran, Rifled Muskets]
Brockenbrough’s Brigade: 4 bases [4/3/2, Crack, Rifled Muskets]
1st Battery [Experienced, Mixed Rifles & Smoothbore]
2nd Battery [Veteran, Light Rifles]
3rd Battery [Experienced, Light Rifles]

Union IX Corps – Burnside/Cox (1 Corps Leader)

1st Division – Wilcox (1 Leader)
Christ’s Brigade: 9 bases [9/7/5, Green, Rifled Muskets]
Welsh’s Brigade: 11 bases [11/9/6, Experienced, Rifled Muskets]
1st Battery [Experienced, Napoleons]
2nd Battery [Veteran, Light Rifles] (positioned east of the creek)

2nd Division – Sturgis (1 Leader)
Ferrero’s Brigade (E): 10 bases [10/9/7, Experienced, Mixed Muskets]
Nagle’s Brigade: 8 bases [8/7/6, Green, Rifled Muskets]
1st Battery [Crack, Napoleons]
2nd Battery [Veteran, Light Rifles] (positioned east of the creek)

3rd Division – Rodman (1 Leader)
Fairchild’s Brigade: 6 bases [6/4/2, Veteran, Mixed Muskets]
Harland’s Brigade: 11 bases [11/10/8, Green, Rifled Muskets]
1st Battery [Veteran, Napoleons]
2nd Battery [Experienced, Light Rifles] (positioned east of the creek and off-table)

4th Division – Scammon (1 Leader)
Ewing’s Brigade: 6 bases [6/5/3, Experienced, Rifled Muskets]
Crook’s Brigade: 12 bases [12/9/6, Green, Rifled Muskets]
1st Battery [Veteran, Napoleons] (positioned east of the creek)

IX Corps Artillery Reserve
1st Battery [Veteran, Light Rifle] (positioned east of the creek and off-table)
2nd Battery [Veteran, Light Rifle] (positioned east of the creek and off-table)
3rd Battery [Veteran, Light Rifle] (positioned east of the creek and off-table)

Elements, Sykes’ Division, V Corps (Unattached)
Lovell’s Brigade: 7 bases [7/5/3, Experienced, Rifled Muskets]
1st Battery [Veteran, Napoleons]
2nd Battery [Experienced, Light Rifles] (positioned east of the creek and off-table)
3rd Battery [Veteran, Light Rifles] (positioned east of the creek and off-table)

N.B. Leaders marked with ‘(E)’ are rated as Exceptional.

All Confederate brigades start the game in single line, while A.P. Hill’s brigades will enter the table on the south-western road, in march column.

All Union brigades start the game deployed in supported line.  Lovell’s two off-table batteries are deployed just off the north-eastern corner of the table, so measure all ranges and lines of sight from there (they are positioned on a one-level hill).  The remaining four off-table batteries are deployed on a one-level hill, approximately 1km east of the Rohrbach Bridge, so measure all ranges and lines of sight from the point at which the eastern road leaves the table and add 24cm to all ranges.  No batteries deployed east of the Antietam Creek may be moved.
The scenario lasts 8 turns, starting with the Union 1530 turn and ending with the Confederate 1900hrs turn.  The last turn for both sides is a Twilight turn, with maximum artillery range being reduced to 48cm.

To win, the Union player has to end the Confederate Turn 8 occupying at least one of the eight ‘garrisonable’ city-blocks of Sharpsburg with an unspent brigade.

However, thanks to considerable command disagreement and inertia, only Rodman’s and Wilcox’s divisions are free to manoeuvre from the outset.  The remaining forces (Scammon’s division, Sturgis’ division and Lovell’s independent brigade) will be released if there is an unspent Union brigade occupying a city-block of Sharpsburg at the start of a Union turn.

[Edited to add unit labels – 30/9/21]:

Above: An overview of the battlefield at 1530hrs: Having taken the Rohrbach Bridge following a bloody assault during the morning, the Union IX Corps has finally established a strong bridgehead east of the Antietam Creek.  In front of them stands D.R. Jones’ weak division, manning a pathetically-thin line east of the city of Sharpsburg.

Above: The Union left (southern) flank (Ewing’s brigade of Scammon’s division).

Above: Rodman’s division, in the Union centre.  The larger brigade is Harland’s, while the smaller unit is Fairchild’s brigade, which included the 9th New York Zouaves.  As we were slightly short of Union infantry figures, I confess that I used the Confederate Tiger Zouaves (with a suitable Union command stand) to represent this unit, as they wore a very similar uniform of blue jacket with red trim, topped off with a red fez and blue tassel.  However, the 9th New York Zouaves had blue trousers, while the Tigers had blue & white striped trousers, as shown here (what the heck…).

Above:  The Union IX Corps viewed from the rear, looking toward Sharpsburg.  The bridge in the foreground had been the scene of bitter fighting during the morning.

Above:  On the Confederate right flank stands Toombs’ weak brigade and a supporting battery of artillery.  Toombs had been instrumental in defending the bridge during the morning’s battle and was only forced out of position once the Union forces discovered a ford that allowed them to outflank his position.  Toombs’ infantry are concealed in a cornfield, which at this time of year is fully-ripe and much taller than a man.  The cornfields block line of sight (reducing visibility to 2cm), though are removed once a unit has trampled through them in line or supported line formation.

In the Confederate centre, Kemper’s and Drayton’s brigades, with a second battery of artillery, take cover behind a low stone wall on the forward slope of the ridge.

Above:  On the Confederate left, the remaining two batteries occupy dominating positions on Cemetery Hill, with Evans’ brigade (actually a combined unit formed from the remnants of Garnett’s and Evans’ brigades) deployed in support on the rear slope.  Walker’ brigade meanwhile, guards the western approaches to Sharpsburg.

Above: Rodman’s division surges forward in an effort to eject Toombs’ and Kempers’ weak brigades from their strong position on the ridge.  Fairchild’s Zouaves in particular, are eager to carry their bayonets to Kemper’s Rebels!

Above: After a surprisingly tough fight, Fairchild’s Zouaves are only able to push Kemper’s boys grudgingly back from the stone wall to the crest of the ridge.  In the foreground, Harland’s assault stalls in the face of intense artillery fire from Toombs’ supporting battery.  

Above: In the distance, Welsh’s brigade makes heavy going through the small patch of woodland on Fairchild’s right, while Christ’s brigade by contrast, ignores the threat of the guns on Cemetery Hill to launch a bold direct attack on Sharpsburg.

Above: A short while later, Kemper’s and Toombs’ brigades have been destroyed and Toombs himself is mortally wounded and carried from the field.  In the distance, Welsh’s brigade destroys Drayton and the ridge is completely cleared of Rebs.  However, Christ’s brigade suffers heavy casualties during its assault and is routed.  The Union artillery exacts vengeance on Walker’s brigade and crushes it.  Evans now finds himself leading the last remaining brigade of Jones’ division and withdraws from Cemetery Hill, hoping to mount a close defence of Sharpsburg.  Only A.P. Hill can now save the day…

Above:  In the nick of time, A.P. Hill’s division streams onto the field…

Above: Rodman’s division might have taken the ridge, but both brigades are low on ammunition and now find themselves under fresh assault by A.P. Hill.  The corps commander rides forward to encourage the men, while in the distance Welsh leads his brigade on to enter Sharpsburg!

Above:  With Welsh’s brigade having gained a foothold in Sharpsburg, the rest of IX Corps starts to move forward to exploit their success.

Above:  In the foreground, Ewing’s brigade moves forward to Snavely’s Farm, but comes under fire from newly-arrived Reb artillery.  In the distance, Harland’s green troops might have taken the ridge, but now come under pressure from Hill’s veterans and look set to lose what they have gained.

Above:  Branch’s Rebel brigade, accompanied by two batteries, takes up position along the stone wall opposite Ewing.

Above:  On the ridge, the Rebel brigades of Brockenbrough and Pender take Harland to task on the crest of the ridge.

Above:  Fairchild’s Zouaves find themselves in an even worse situation, as they have now broken through Kemper’s brigade and its supporting battery, only now to find themselves isolated and unsupported on the reverse slope, faced by Gregg’s far stronger Rebel brigade.  Already weak, Fairchild’s brigade is rapidly crushed by enemy fire and is soon annihilated.  General Rodman attempts to rally them, but falls to a shot through the head from a Rebel marksman.

Above:  Despite sudden reverses on the ridge, Sturgis’ division (Ferrero’s and Nagle’s brigades) forms columns and marches forward eagerly into the fight.  Crook’s brigade meanwhile, struggles to extricate itself from the woodland along the banks of the Antietam.

Above:  Finding himself facing superior forces, Ewing takes cover behind the stone wall at Snavely’s Farm.

Above:  But what’s this?!  It seems that despite being securely positioned within the houses of Sharpsburg and being accompanied by their divisional commander, Welsh has suffered a crisis of confidence and has ordered a withdrawal, which has turned into a panicked rout from the town!  Evans’ men send them on their way with a large volume of fire and Archer’s newly-arrived brigade takes advantage of the vacuum to occupy the buildings so recently vacated by Welsh!

Above: Wilcox manages to rally Welsh’s brigade and throws them once again into Sharpsburg.  Lovell brings his brigade down from Cemetery Hill to support the assault, but all to no avail!  Welsh’s men are cut to pieces by musketry from Archer and Gregg, while Lovell’s assault is halted by Evans and his supporting artillery.

Above:  In the meantime, a general assault on the ridge starts to develop, as Ewing, Nagle and Ferrero roll forward, supported by Crook and whatever artillery can find the range.  However, Rodman’s division has now completely disintegrated and the few survivors are streaming back across the bridge, taking the divisional artillery with them.

Above:  Branch’s Rebel brigade and its supporting artillery is being thinned out by long-range Union artillery and can’t hope to hold against the coming assault, but it all serves to draw Union forces away from the main prize…

Above:  A.P. Hill has learned from Jones’ mistakes and keeps Pender’s, Brockenbrough’s and Gregg’s brigades well behind the crest-line (marked by the fence) rather than expose them to the superior Union artillery power.

Above:  Evans’ and Archer’s men occupy Sharpsburg and jeer as Welsh’s brigade flees back up the road to the bridge.  However, Lovell’s brigade is rallying behind the Lutheran church and steels itself for a second assault… It’s now all-or-nothing, as the sun is setting…

Above:  Evans’ stalwart artillerymen load their guns once again and wait for the renewed assault on Sharpsburg…

Above:  Lovell surges forward once again, but runs into a storm of flying lead and steel.  His charge is halted and the survivors go to ground as darkness falls.  The assault on Sharpsburg has failed.

Above:  As fleeing Union soldiers head back to the bridge, Cox orders Sturgis’ fresh division to form the rearguard as IX Corps starts its withdrawal across the Antietam, leaving over a quarter of its men lying on the field of battle…

Thanks to all at the Carmarthen Old Guard for an excellent day’s wargaming!  Well done to the Confederate players for their remarkable victory against considerable odds and well done also to the Union players for actually achieving a result that was slightly better than the historical outcome!  It was a superb game and was on a knife-edge right down to the last roll of the dice!

It’s nice to reach the end of a scenario for once… And all done in under five hours. 🙂

This entry was posted in 10mm Figures, American Civil War, Fire & Fury (Brigade), Fire & Fury (Brigade) Scenarios, Games, Scenarios. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Bloody Antietam (The Afternoon Battle), 17th September 1862

  1. Rhys says:

    Looks like a great game you had there. The table looks top notch and it was interesting reading about the scenario. Are you a regular down at South Pembrokeshire Club? I noticed you said you’d gone to the one in Carmarthen too. I haven’t gone to either yet but I’m very interested as there’s nothing in N.Pembrokeshire as such. I probably won’t make it until the summer now, I’ll re-do the Car insurance and see if there are games on then.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi Rhys, yes, I’m a shift-worker, which makes things difficult, but I can generally make two club-nights out of four in Pembroke Dock and one out of four at Carmarthen.

  2. Jeff says:

    Great report and write up! Glad to have found your blog, I’ll be checking back in regularly. My group is really liking the latest edition of FF too, hoping to do the Gettysburg scenario sometime in January

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Jeff! Yes, we’ll be doing the full 1st Day at Gettysburg just as soon as I get the troops painted (which will probably take me until the end of January).

  3. Jeff says:

    Great write up, looking forward to seeing more of your blog!

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