Shiloh: The Hornet’s Nest, 6th April 1862

I’m very pleased to report that Mrs Fawr, after years of resistance, has now finally accepted that I am a man with needs that need to be satisfied and has once again relented to me playing with myself in the house! 🙂 

However, with only 5×3 feet of available table-space, my choice of playable wargame scenarios is pretty limited, but thank goodness for my 10mm ACW collection!  That investment in 10mm that I made on a whim in 2018 (at roughly the same time I started this blog) has been worth every penny; doubly so at the moment!

This time I decided to play Rich Hasenauer’s ‘Shiloh: The Hornet’s Nest’ sub-scenario from his superb Great Western Battles 2nd Edition scenario book, which covers the eastern half of the Battle of Shiloh of 1862.  The rules of course, are Rich’s own Brigade Fire & Fury 2nd Edition.  We played the ‘Shiloh Church’ sub-scenario at club in December 2019, so this was one I’d been looking forward to playing.

These two scenarios cover the first day of the Battle of Shiloh, when Major General Ulysses S Grant’s Union Army of the Tennessee was surprised by General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Confederate Army of the Mississippi while encamped in a terrible position, in swampy forest on the banks of the Tennessee River.  The Confederates initially achieved complete surprise and overran the forward Union positions, but as coordination broke down in the confused fighting, the Union army eventually managed to form a solid defence and the Confederates were forced to fall back from what was up until that date, the bloodiest battle in American history.  Rich’s scenario allows the whole battle to be played as a single scenario, or as mentioned above, as two smaller sub-scenarios.  Here’s the initial deployment map for the whole battle:

My thanks to Rich Hasenauer for allowing me to use his maps and also for very kindly giving me one copy of the map with all the troops removed, so I can show the movements in my game. Here’s the cut-down map for the ‘Hornet’s Nest’ sub-scenario, which is essentially the lower-right portion of the main map.  When playing at my reduced scale for 10mm figures, all distances are reduced by 20%, so this map becomes 4 feet by roughly 3.5 feet.  I therefore had to trim a few inches off the east and west edges of the map in order to fit it onto my table, but it didn’t make any difference in terms of game-play:

The key objective for both sides in this scenario is to retain control of the Sunken Road (between Points Y & Z on the second map).  The Union Army has been surprised in its scattered encampments, so most of the troops still need to form up and march to the sound of the guns.  The closest Union brigades must roll a die in the first turn, in order to determine how surprised they are during Turn 1.

The vast majority of this table is wooded, with just a few key cleared fields dotting piercing the woodland.  I used fences and walls to delineate the edge of the cleared fields.  Visibility in the woods, normally limited to 4cm using my re-scaled variant of Fire & Fury, is slightly more open at this time of year, but it still limited to just 8cm, which means that artillery is of rather limited value in this scenario!  It also somewhat negates the range-advantage of rifled muskets over smoothbore muskets (the Union side here are rather better-equipped with modern weapons than the Rebels).

Note that the account is peppered with terms such as ‘Double-Quick’, ‘Hard-Pressed’, ‘Withering Fire’, ‘Galling Fire’, etc.  Where capitalised, these are specific terms from Fire & Fury, which will be familiar to players of these rules.

Above:  Wood’s and Shaver’s Rebel Brigades, with Generals Hardee and Hindman in attendance, encounter Peabody’s Union Brigade in the woods.

Above:  Miller’s Brigade is just spilling out of its tents and forming up on the Spain Field, along with two batteries of field artillery and General Prentiss.

Above:  Well to the rear, Hurlbut’s Union Division is still lounging around in its tents at the Cloud Field.

Above:  Stuart’s Union Brigade is also still in its camp at the Larkin Bell Field.  Stuart’s Brigade included the 54th Ohio Zouaves, so I’ve shamelessly stuck my be-turbanned 114th Pennsylvania Zouaves on the table again!  However, the 54th Ohio were slightly more restrained in their dress-sense, with artillery-style shell-jackets trimmed in red, light blue Zouave trousers with red stripes and a red fez with blue tassel.

Turn 1

Above:  As the Confederate army approaches the Union encampments, the Rebel generals each take personal command of a brigade:  General Hardee attaches himself to Shaver’s Brigade, and Hindman attaches himself to Wood, while both Johnston and Withers attach themselves to Gladden.  The Rebels are hoping for complete surprise, but Peabody’s Union Brigade is alerted at the last minute by a ‘Hasty Alarm’.  They manage to form up, but their firepower is halved and they only manage to disorder Wood.  The return volley is Withering, throwing Peabody’s Brigade into disorder and Peabody himself off his now-departed horse! 

Above:  Despite their surprise, the devastating casualties (reducing them immediately to ‘Worn’ status) and Peabody being temporarily detached from his brigade while searching for a fresh horse, the Bluebellies do not immediately collapse.  However, they are Hard-Pressed and grudgingly give ground to the Rebels.  Wood’s Brigade is already low on ammunition due to the intense opening volleys (the three markers at the back of Wood’s brigade are an officer figure to show that Wood is an Exceptional Leader, a loading soldier to show Low on Ammunition and a casualty figure to show Disorder).

Above:  Gladden’s Confederate Brigade can only charge Miller’s Brigade with a Double-Quick result on his Manoeuvre Roll, but with both Withers and Johnston attached he achieves that admirably.  Miller is completely surprised in the Spain Field, which means that his men are Disordered as they scramble from their tents and the two supporting batteries are silenced!  Miller’s ragged volley causes no damage whatsoever to Gladden’s Rebels, but Gladden’s return volley is Withering.

Above:  Gladden’s men are also now low on ammunition following their blistering hail of fire, so now fix bayonets and shout the Rebel Yell as they charge onto the Spain Field!  Like Peabody, Miller doesn’t immediately collapse, though his men are Hard-Pressed and grudgingly fall back across the Spain Field.

Above:  However, the steady withdrawal doesn’t last long, as Miller’s men pull back beyond musketry range, into the woods north of their camp, while Peabody’s men make a full retreat!  While all this action is taking place, Brigadier-General Chalmers finds a side-road to the east, which will enable him to march around behind the Union left flank.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 1.

Turn 2

Above:  Sabre in hand, General Johnston urges Gladden to pursue Miller through the camp.  However, Gladden is subjected to Telling Fire and his charge stalls among the tents of Miller’s former camp.

Above:  Hindman’s Division charges through the camp to reach Peabody.  However, Peabody’s brigade again fails to inflict any casualties on the Rebs, who then subject him to yet more Withering fire.  Tragically, Peabody is shot dead while still trying to find a horse.  Now Spent and Wavering, the late Brigadier Peabody’s Brigade retreats to the Barnes Field.  Prentiss’ gunners meanwhile, are whipping their teams into a lather as they attempt to reach a better defensive position.  

Above:  Despite having halted Gladden’s Rebels, Miller’s Brigade is still Wavering and falls back out of musketry range, through the woods, before crossing the Purdy-Hamburg Road to reach the open ground of Sarah Bell’s Cotton Field.

Above:  However, Stuart’s Union Brigade has been alerted and is now moving to attack Gladden’s flank.  Gladden spots the threat to his flank, but his men have become fixated on the prospect of loot in Miller’s abandoned camp!

Above:  Support for Gladden’s open flank is coming in the form of Jackson’s and Chalmers’ Brigades (Withers’ Division), but they’re too far away to stop Stuart from charging.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 2.

Turn 3

Above:  Unable to charge into contact, this turn, Gladden’s and Wood’s Brigades pause to loot the Federal camps.  This means that they automatically become disordered, but lose their Low on Ammunition status.  This is small compensation to Gladden, as Stuart’s Zouaves charge his exposed flank!

Above:  By some miracle, Gladden manages to hold his ground, though there is a Desperate Struggle (i.e. a draw), where both sides take losses.  The mêlée goes into the second round with Gladden now Worn and at an even greater disadvantage.  Amazingly, there is another Desperate Struggle and the melee goes into a third round with Stuart also now Worn!  To much astonishment, Stuarts men Falter and fall back!

Above:  Despite Prentiss’ attempts to stop the retreat, Peabody’s Brigade Panics and flees as an unformed mob up the Eastern Corinth Road!  However, reinforcements are on their way and Prentiss orders his two batteries to establish a new defensive position along the Sunken Road.

Above:  General Hurlbut, with Lauman’s Brigade and another battery, is alarmed to see the state of Prentiss’ Division, but wastes no time in establishing a new line along the Sunken Road.

Above:  Praying that Miller will stop retreating and form up on his right, Williams, with a battery in support, moves his brigade into the Sunken Road at the Peach Orchard.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 3.

Turn 4

Above:  Encouraged by General Withers, Jackson’s Brigade charges across the Locust Grove Run to to take Stuart in the flank!  

Above:  Jackson’s flank-attack works far better than Stuart’s own effort!  Stuart is Swept From The Field and keeps running until he leaves the table!

Above:  Chalmers’ flank-marching Brigade finally arrives at the Larkin Bell Field to find Stuart long-gone.  The Rebels become disordered as they set about looting Stuart’s former camp.

Above:  With reinforcements pouring in, the Rebels reorganise and strengthen their lines in preparation for the next phase of the assault.

Above:  Despite the initial disaster, the Bluebellies already hold the Sunken Road in considerable strength with Williams’, Miller’s and Lauman’s Brigades and four batteries already emplaced.  Tuttle’s Brigade is also approaching, together with yet another battery.  These new arrivals are mostly Experienced troops, generally outclassing the universally Green Rebel Army.  The Union brigades also have a greater proportion of rifled muskets, which they can use to dominate the open ground in front of them.

Above:  At the Review Field, forward of the Union right flank, Hare’s Brigade has appeared.  This brigade is the left-flanking unit of McClernand’s Division, which is engaged to the west.  As such, it can’t move more than 4cm from the table edge and can’t move south of the Review Field, but will prove to be a thorn in the side of the Rebel left flank.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 4.

Turn 5

Above:  Sure enough, as they emerge onto the Purdy-Hamburg Road, Wood’s Rebel Brigade get the worst of a firefight with Hare in the Review Field and falls back to the cover of the woods along the road’s verge.

Above:  As Shaver’s Rebel Brigade appears at the edge of the woods along the Hamburg-Purdy Road, they are subjected to Telling long-range rifle-fire from Miller’s Brigade and suffer casualties.  Unable to respond with their smoothbore muskets, shaver orders his men to fall back into the trees and to wait for the artillery to come up.  In the meantime, Gladden’s battered Rebel Brigade falls back out of the line, allowing Gibson’s fresh brigade to form up in the centre, between Shaver on the left and Jackson on the right.  Large quantities of Rebel guns also move forward.  The Union artillery attempts to engage them as they unlimber, but to no effect.

Above:  Yet more Rebel reinforcements appear; this time from Breckenridge’s Corps.

Above:  On the Rebel right, Chalmers has finished looting Stuart’s camp, but it Tardy in moving forward.  Stephens’ Brigade (Cheatham’s Division) in the meantime, has also arrived at the Larkin Bell Field and pushes on over the creek, aiming to turn the Union left flank.

Above:  However, as the Rebels make a move, the Union immediately make their counter-move; General Wallace arrives at the head of Sweeny’s very strong Brigade.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 5.

Turn 6

Above:  There is something of an ‘operational pause’, as both sides build up their strength and the Rebels ponder the best way to assault this strong position.  In the meantime, Prentiss manages to rally the remnants of Peabody’s Brigade before they run to the hills and General Grant arrives, but can’t stay long.

Above:  Artillery is the key, but the Rebels’ elderly smoothbore pieces, crewed by Green gunners, are barely making an impression.

Above:  Realising that his numerous but weak artillery is not going to break the Union line, Johnston orders General Withers to take Chalmers and Gladden’s Brigades, plus a battery, to reinforce Cheatham’s flanking move on the right.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 6.

Turn 7

Above:  As Johnston shifts forces to the right, the artillery duel continues.  At long last, the Union battery supporting Williams, Brigade is silenced by Rebel guns as Williams, outflanked by Chalmers, also suffers casualties.  However, Chalmers can’t exploit this with a flank-attack, as he is himself threatened by Sweeny’s Brigade.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 7.

Turn 8

Above:  As Sweeny’s massive Brigade advances to support Williams’ flank, Stephens forms up on Chalmers’ right as Gladden and a battery also rush to the scene, in an attempt to match Sweeny.

Above:  However, Sweeny charges Stephens before Gladden is in position.  Sweeny suffers Telling Fire, but charges home, Driving Back Stephens.

Above:  Stephens’ retreat disorders Gladden.  With the Rebel right now in disarray, Sweeny seems unstoppable!  However, thanks to the early defeats, total Union losses have been mounting…

Above:  With Williams’ disordered and his supporting battery silenced, Jackson takes advantage of the situation and charges through the Peach Orchard!

Above:  Jackson suffers Telling Fire during his charge, but charges on into the Sunken Road.  Williams meanwhile, suffers Withering Fire from a combination of Jackson, Chalmers and the supporting Rebel guns.  

Above:  Despite the heavy losses to enemy fire, Williams is in a strong position and Jackson’s charge bogs down into a Desperate Struggle (draw) and both sides suffer casualties as the combat continues.  Eventually Jackson’s Brigade Falters and falls back to the Peach Orchard. 

Above:  However, Williams’ Brigade is now Worn and the Union Army as a whole has reached its Greater Losses threshold.  The ripples of fear and uncertainty spread through the ranks and the courage of Williams’ men starts to Waver.  Abandoning their position in the Sunken Road, Williams’ men fall back out of rifle-range to the Wicker Field.  Thankfully, Tuttle is made of sterner stuff and is able to shift his position to the left, reoccupying Williams’ abandoned position at the Peach Orchard. 

Above:  In the Union centre, the space created by Tuttle shifting to the left allows the 23rd Missouri Regiment to reinforce Miller’s Brigade in the Sunken Road.  The addition of these reinforcements gives Miller’s men fresh heart and raises their status to ‘Fresh’.  On the Rebel left, Wood and Statham use the cover of the trees to push forward to the Duncan Field.  However, this sector contains the greatest concentration of Union guns.  With the battle about to re-intensify, General Grant leaves…

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 8.

Turn 9

Above:  Despite their earlier crisis, Gladden and Stephens Rally with Élan and form a new, stronger line in concert with a battery and Chalmers’ Brigade.  The contagion of defeat now seems to have spread to Sweeny, as his brigade steadfastly refuses to advance.

Above:  In the centre, the thinning of the Union line has not gone unnoticed and Gibson moves forward to support Jackson’s left as Shaver moves forward through the thick brush to engage Miller.

Above:  On the left, Wood and Statham launch a general assault on Lauman.  The Bluebellies have considerable firepower here, but the Rebel infantry’s sacrifice is allowing their supporting artillery to deploy unmolested along the edge of the Duncan Field.

Above:  Somewhat astonishingly, given the quantity of canister fired at them, Wood and Statham each suffer only Galling Fire and charge home on Lauman.  However, their attack Falters as it reaches Lauman and both brigades fall back to cover.

Above:  At the eastern end of the Sunken road, Jackson’s weakened Brigade, supported by canister fire from Gage’s Battery, charges for a second time and ejects Tuttle from the Sunken Road!  With the Rebels now having established a foothold in the Sunken Road, Union morale sinks even further.  

Above:  In the centre, Shaver’s Brigade is unable to reach Miller due to the thick underbrush, though a fierce, point-blank firefight erupts, in which a limbered Rebel battery is damaged and Miller’s brigade suffers Withering Fire, which cancels out the morale-gain from the arrival of the 23rd Missouri and also kills Prentiss’ horse!  Shaken, Miller withdraws from the Sunken Road.  However. at the eastern end of the Sunken Road, Williams has rallied and with close-range artillery support, is moving to eject the weakened Jackson.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 9.

Turn 10

Above:  Shaver’s Brigade occupies the centre of the Sunken Road and quickly deploys a battery to take Williams under point-blank canister fire.

Above:  However, Jackson is getting the worst of the firefight with Williams at the ‘Bloody Pond’ (which is where Williams is situated – I don’t have a model pond and in any case, it has no effect in game terms) and is now Spent.  Jackson has two batteries in close support, but the terrain (which is wooded on the Union side of the Sunken Road) means that they can’t see any targets.  

Above:  At the Duncan Field, the newly-established Rebel batteries are quick to damage and drive off one Union battery at the western end of Lauman’s line.  However, the two Union batteries at the eastern end of Lauman’s line similarly damage and drive off a Rebel battery that was deployed to support Statham on the Eastern Corinth Road.

Above:  Most critically, Lauman’s Brigade, which has hardly suffered any losses, though Shaken by the defeatism infecting the Union Army, retreats from the Sunken Road.  The artillery heroically fights on in the centre and the gap is rapidly filled by Hare’s Brigade, but the writing is on the wall for the Bluebellies…

Above:  On the bank of the Tennessee River, Sweeny’s Brigade still refuses to advance.  The gunboats USS Tyler and USS Lexington perform harassing fire against Stephens’ Brigade from the river, but to little effect.

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 10.

Turn 11

Above:  Shaken by the point-blank canister fire, Jackson is finally forced to pull back from the Sunken Road.  However, the position is quickly re-occupied by Gibson’s fresh Confederate brigade.  Williams is soon Wavering and falls back to the safety of McArthur’s Brigade at the Wicker Field, taking his supporting battery with him.

Above:  Statham tries to push forward against the two batteries, but his attack stalls in the face of Telling Fire from the two Union batteries (including one of heavy artillery) still holding the crossroads.

Above:  Hare suffers Withering Fire from Rebel canister-fire, but manages to hold his brigade together as he prays for support to come.  But no help is coming…

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 11.

Turn 12

Above:  Forrest’s mighty cavalry brigade arrives to save the day!  Hurrah!

Above:  It’s difficult to know what Forrest can possibly hope to achieve, but the cavalry adds tone to what until now has been a vulgar brawl.

Above:  Breckenridge moves forward to Statham’s Brigade.  Seeing their corps commander leading from the front, Statham’s men Rally with Élan and surge forward through the brush!  The Union artillery again inflicts Telling Fire, but Statham this time charges home, capturing the 5th Ohio Light Battery and driving off the Missouri Heavy Battery! 

Above:  The only part of the Sunken Road still in Union hands is the western end, next to the Duncan Field.  Wood’s Brigade charges once again, but is checked by Telling Fire from Hare and his supporting battery.

Above:  Despite halting Wood’s charge, Hare’s men are Wavering and soon retreat northward, leaving the entire Sunken road in Rebel hands.  Only a single Union battery remains on the western side of the Duncan Field, but that is quickly silenced by Rebel musketry.

Above:  General Wallace attempts to push McArthur’s uncommitted brigade forward at the Bloody Pond, but to no avail.  In any case, it would merely have been reinforcing failure.

Above:  A fleeing mass of blue-coated humanity skedaddles northward.  The Union Army has suffered catastrophic losses (more than three times the casualties suffered by the Rebs) and is forced to retreat!

Above:  As US Naval artillery continues to whistle overhead, Sweeny’s Brigade withdraws in good order as the Rebels jeer them on their way!

Above:  The final positions (North/Union at the bottom).

Above:  The situation at the end of Turn 12 (end of the game).

All in all an excellent game!  I was surprised at the outcome, though it may well have been different with a human opponent.  The Rebels had the disadvantages of poor troop quality and poor weaponry, but they were replete with leaders and virtually every brigade in the front line had at least one attached leader and/or Exceptional brigade leader at all times.  The Union leaders by contrast, were run ragged and could rarely concentrate on one brigade under their command.  Grant himself only turned up for three turns!  The Confederate leadership certainly made a massive difference, as did sheer luck; the Rebs seemed to have the luck of the Devil, while the Bluebellies must have stepped on a black cat while putting shoes on a table under a ladder… On a boat captained by a woman who had just caught and killed a dolphin… 

Deutschmeister Doug’s Dastardly Purple Dice of Doom, which normally only favour Austrians, must have caught a whiff of Wienerschnitzel around the Rebel HQ…

Models & Terrain

The figures are all 10mm models by Pendraken Miniatures.  The terrain cloth is by Tiny Wargames, the buildings and breastworks (used to represent the Sunken Road) are by Timecast, the rubber roads and rivers are by QRF, the fences are by Blotz and the trees are made from Woodland Scenics bits & pieces.

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

10 Responses to Shiloh: The Hornet’s Nest, 6th April 1862

  1. Norm says:

    Thanks, a ton of work to share this, I very much enjoyed seeing a big battle play out on a domestic table.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Norm! Yeah, there’s not much choice at the moment. My spontaneous decision to invest in 10mm ACW two years ago has paid dividends! 🙂

  2. Jason says:

    Great write up! Particularly like the reference to the Dougmeister’s doomed dice! They only work for Austrian cavalry!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Yes indeed! I have seen a painting of an Austrian hussar officer acting as liaison to Lee’s headquarters, so that’s probably the reason for it 😉

  3. Stewart Blain says:

    Congratulations on setting up a beautiful table, having a great game, and writing an excellent AAR. Thanks for sharing and I really enjoyed reading it. I especially like the situation maps at the end of each turn. Shiloh is probably my 3rd favorite ACW battle but posts like these make it climb in the ranks! 😀

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Stewart! 🙂 Yes, Rich was very kind to give me that ‘blank’ version of the map. Then it was just a case of drawing rectangles and moving them around on Powerpoint. Playing at home over a couple of days also gives me the time to take plenty of photos and make notes, which certainly helps when trying to remember what happened!

  4. Paul Smith says:

    Hi Mark

    Another great report using one of my all time favourite set of rules! I was lucky enough to visit the battlefield some years ago (the Americans really do know how to look after their battlefields (generally) compared with us). Interestingly the ‘sunken road’ only really provided cover if you were laying down in it and only varied in height from around a few inches to a maximum of around 30 inches, so not much of an obstacle.

    I was wondering if you would mind me putting a link to the battle report on the Pendraken forum?

    Cheers Paul

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi Paul, yeah the Sunken Road didn’t provide any more defensive bonus than the surrounding woods (+1) EXCEPT where it passed through the area of dense underbrush next to the Duncan Field, where it went up to +2. Please do post away! 🙂 That’s a good point – I completely forgot to add my usual bit at the end about models…

  5. James Fisher says:

    So pleased that she let you as it was a fabulous game! Your figures and terrain looked a treat. It is always so pleasing to see lots of trees on the table. I loved your turn of phrase “The ripples of fear and uncertainty spread through the ranks”. Mind you, they amazingly managed to hang around for another four turns.
    Shiloh is a favourite scenario for the American Civil War, isn’t it? I’ve not played it for many years, but the ‘encounter’ nature of it and resulting ebb and flow with reinforcements makes for a great game; like yours.
    Regards, James

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers James! Yeah, it sounds a lot better than ‘All Union units now suffered a -2 on their Manoeuvre Check’. 🙂

      I’ve got another ‘Pink Pass’ this week, but can’t decide what to do. Finding scenarios that will fit on my table is something of a challenge! 🙁

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