Demo Game Plans… The Battle of Murfreesboro at Warfare 2021

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it previously… but I have the signal honour to be the reigning holder of the trophy for Best Demo Game at the Wargames Association of Reading’s ‘Warfare’ show…  OK, I might have mentioned it once or twice, but I think I got away with it…

That was in 2019, but nobody turned up to challenge me in 2020 (they must have had something else on, or something…), so I’ve kept the trophy by default.  However, Warfare is definitely on this year, at its new venue of Ascot Racecourse over the weekend of 27/28 November, so I finally have to take the trophy back! 🙁 

That said, I’ve decided to mount a robust defence of my title and Mark M has badgered me into doing an ACW game this time, using my collection of 10mm figures and Fire & Fury 2nd Edition rules. 

After much trawling about for scenarios, I’ve settled on the Battle of Murfreesboro (a.k.a. Stone’s River), which took place on 31st December 1862 in Tennessee.  The battle features in both the 1st and 2nd Editions of Rich Hasenauer’s ‘Great Western Battles’ scenario book for Fire & Fury and was a hard-fought engagement, infamous for having the highest casualty-rate (as a percentage of the combatants engaged) of the war.  A few people have recommended it as their favourite battle to wargame and specifically as their favourite Fire & Fury scenario, so it seems a good bet.  The terrain is also fairly straightforward and once built should all fit in the back of my car (a critical design feature)! 🙂 

As I’m using 10mm figures with an altered ground-scale, I’m able to include a larger portion of the battlefield on an 8×6-foot table.  This means that I can have some of the off-table Confederate reinforcements actually on the table at the start and can also include the little cavalry action that took place on the flank of the battle.  I’ve therefore re-drawn Rich Hasenauer’s original scenario map at my altered scale (1 inch in the rules becomes 20mm in my version, so distances are reduced by 20% and I can get more map on the available table-space). 

Here’s my revised version of the scenario map.  As I’m able to fit more of the battlefield onto my 6×8-foot table, Zahm’s Union cavalry brigade and Wharton’s Confederate cavalry brigade are now both on the table, along with most of Breckenridge’s Confederate division:

I’m going to use the same construction method as last time; namely 2-foot squares of high-density polystyrene with terrain features such as rivers cut out of a thinner layer of polystyrene that will then be glued on top.  This is far easier and looks a lot better than trying to cut rivers etc out of the base-board itself.  Here’s what the terrain for my previous game looked like in its ‘raw’ unpainted state, with the river-valleys and trenches cut out of the top layer, which was then glued down onto the base layer:

Last time I used 25mm thick base-boards, with 12mm thick boards glued on top, but this time I’m going with 20mm base-boards and a 10mm top-layer, then more 20mm boards to make the hills.  

Although the battlefield wasn’t covered in snow, it was still very much a winter battlefield, being fought on New Year’s Eve.  I’m therefore going to use muted, wintry/dead shades of Woodland Scenics flock for the grass, farmland and woodland areas. 

I’m also going to use a lot of bare tree armatures (again by Woodland Scenics) for the woodland.  Instead of using bases, the trees will be ‘impaled’ on sewing needles and these can then be stabbed into the terrain-boards.  This doesn’t damage the boards and does look very effective, as the trees blend seamlessly into the terrain, as can be seen in this shot of the Cassinga game:

In terms of troops, I’m using my own collection of Pendraken 10mm figures.  I thought I already had enough, but needed ‘a few bits and pieces’… I now suddenly find that I have a packed painting-schedule from now until November! 

Strictly speaking, both sides would have been very much in ‘winter mode’, with the Union troops in particular being equipped with greatcoats, as shown in the picture above.  The Union Army in the Western Theatre also tended to wear slouch-hats alongside the ‘classic’ peaked blue forage caps, which can also be seen above.  However, I don’t plan to make specific ‘winterised’ or ‘westernised’ armies, as that way lies madness, so my existing troops will have to do! 

That said, as my existing Confederate army is geared toward the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, the flags are almost all of the classic Confederate ‘Battle Flag’ type, which was hardly used in the Western Theatre at this time.  I’m therefore making a stack of new brigade command stands, divisional leaders and corps leaders for my Confederates, featuring the various designs of flag that were used by the Army of Tennessee.  I should mention at this point that Leon at Pendraken very kindly did a special order for me of thirty cavalry standard-bearers, for use as headquarters flag-bearers.  Thanks Leon! 🙂 

Regiments within the same division tended to have the same design, so here’s a flag-sheet I’ve knocked up which will hopefully make the Confederates look rather more in keeping with the Western Theatre (below).

My Union regiments don’t need any alternate flags, though I am going to make a new command stand for Morton’s special Pioneer Brigade, featuring a blue & white flag with crossed axes that was recorded as being used by the Pioneers of the Army of the Cumberland some time later (below).

In terms of senior commanders, I need a Union army leader base for General William Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland and featuring the headquarters flag of the Department of the Cumberland, which was the Stars & Stripes, though with ‘D.C.’ at the centre of the stars and an eagle superimposed on the stripes (below).  This flag probably postdated the Battle of Murfreesboro, but what the hell…

I’d also like to do some theatre-specific Union corps and divisional leader stands, but the organisational history is slightly complicated and the details of flags are pretty vague.  Here’s all the information I’ve got…

The Army of the Cumberland had been formed in October 1862 from the former Army of Ohio and at the same time was confusingly also designated as the Union Army’s XIV Corps, consisting of a whopping TWELVE divisions!  The Army of the Ohio had been divided into three unofficial corps, numbered I, II & III.  However, these were now re-named as ‘Grand Divisions’ or ‘Wings’, designated ‘Right’ (the old I Corps, under Alexander McCook), ‘Left’ (the old II Corps, under Thomas Crittenden) and ‘Centre’ (the old III Corps, under George Thomas). 

Neither the former corps of the Army of Ohio or the new Grand Divisions appear to have been given headquarters flags, which is rather boring from a wargamer’s perspective… However, in January 1863 (roughly a week after the Battle of Murfreesboro), the Grand Divisions were given formal Army Corps designations by Washington; McCook’s ‘Right Wing’ became the new XX Corps, Crittenden’s ‘Left Wing’ became the new XXI Corps and Thomas’ ‘Centre Wing’ retained the XIV Corps designation.  So I thought I might paint some commanders for the XIV, XX & XXI Corps, as even though they’re anachronistic for Murfreesboro, they’ll give it a Western flavour and will come in handy for later Western battles such as Chickamauga…

While the Army of the Cumberland doesn’t appear to have standardised its badges and headquarters flags to quite the same degree as the standardisation that happened in the Army of Potomac during May 1863, Rosecrans did apparently issue some direction on the design of flags as part of his General Order No.91.  However, the only part of this order I’ve managed to find online just covers the subject of hospital flags. 

McCook’s XX Corps HQ certainly had a headquarters flag at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863 (shown above), which was apparently blue with a gold or black eagle and gold fringe (light shining through the flag in the photo above makes it look pale).  I can’t find anything out about the divisional HQ flags.  In 1864, XX Corps absorbed the remnants of the XI & XII Corps and adopted the five-pointed star badge and HQ flags used by XII Corps under the Army of the Potomac.  

In 1863, XIV Corps HQ is known to have used a flag identical to McCook’s flag above, though with ’14’ at the centre.  Rosecrans’ General Order No.177, dated 1st August 1863 states that the divisional HQs of XIV Corps had previously used bright blue flags with black stars (the number of stars equaling the number of the division), but that they were now to be changed to dark blue flags with with white stars.  The stars were arranged vertically near the hoist.  XIV Corps changed its flags twice again before the end of the war.

XXI Corps was known to be using a system of red, white and blue horizontally-striped flags by September 1863.  The Corps HQ flag had a black eagle in the centre with ’21’ in a shield on the eagle’s breast (right).  The three divisional HQs didn’t have the eagle, but instead had either one, two or three black stars near the hoist.  The corps HQ flag had a gold fringe, while the divisional HQ flags did not have a fringe.

I can find the flags for XXI Corps available to download online, but nothing for XIV Corps or XX Corps for that period, though later flags are available and I do already have the staff for XII Corps, which could be used for XX Corps from 1864.  Or I could paint some new flags based on the descriptions for 1863… Decisions, decisions…

[Edited to add:] The Black Monolith of polystyrene has arrived!  Let terrain-building commence…

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

6 Responses to Demo Game Plans… The Battle of Murfreesboro at Warfare 2021

  1. Steve J says:

    Well I look forward to seeing more on this project, especially as you will be using 10mm figures from Pendraken:). I doubt I’ll get to the show but you never know…

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Steve, well fingers crossed! I’m going to be doing Crusade and Partizan next year and maybe some other shows. Partizan will probably be my postponed Cassinga game, but I’ll take Murfreesboro to Crusade.

  2. Paul Smith says:

    Hi Mark

    Looking forward to this project as well as Steve and hoping to get along to the show and say hello (we did actually meet at Bovvy when you did the Scottish Corridor game a number of years ago, I commanded the Monmouths). I was lucky enough to visit Stones River battlefield sometime ago and it is certainly is a very ‘even’ battle to refight numbers wise, but still very difficult for the Rebs to win. Mind you in reality having Bragg as your C-in-C didn’t help!

    Cheers Paul

  3. Pingback: ‘Hannover Siegt, Der Franzmann Liegt’: My 15mm SYW Hanoverian & German Allied Army (Part 2) | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

  4. Pingback: Demo Game Progress… The Battle of Murfreesboro at Warfare 2021 (Part 2) | Jemima Fawr's Miniature Wargames Blog

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