Murfreesboro 1862: The Northern Flank

As mentioned in my Review of 2023, I’ve repeatedly used one small corner of my Murfreesboro demo game terrain as a small, ‘what-if’ scenario to introduce new players to Fire & Fury 2nd Edition rules, though completely failed to record those games!  However, I recently dragged the scenario out again at W.A.S.P. and this time remembered to take some photos.

The original Murfreesboro (Stones River) scenario by Troy Turner can be found in the excellent Fire & Fury 2nd Edition Great Western Battles scenario book.  I slightly adapted and expanded that scenario for my own demo game and this small scenario uses the corner of the map highlighted below.  I’ll present the full ‘vignette’ scenario next time (once I’ve drawn a separate squared-off map), including unit-labels for those who want to give it a go, but for our purposes the game was fought on the triangular area bounded by the railway and the north-west corner of the table.

Historically, General Rosecrans’ Union Army of the Cumberland, marching from Nashville in the depths of winter, had encountered General Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee drawn up in defensive positions just outside the city of Murfreesboro.  Deciding to launch a left-hook against the Rebels on the morning of 31st December 1862, General Crittenden’s Left Wing was in the process of crossing over the Stones River at McFadden’s Ford, aiming to assault the Rebel right flank atop Wayne’s Hill.  However, the Rebels got their own left-hook in first, completely crushing the Union right wing!  Rosecrans therefore cancelled his own attack and those troops were then used to hold the line along the railway.

In this version of history, we ignore the disaster afflicting Rosecrans’ right wing and instead speculate as to what might have happened if Crittenden was permitted to press home his attack on Breckenridge’s Confederate division around Wayne’s Hill.  Crittenden’s Left Wing has already deployed Van Cleve’s Division (Price’s, S. Beatty’s and Fyffe’s Brigades) across to the east bank of the Stones River, while most of T. Wood’s Division (Harker’s and Hascall’s Brigades) is deployed in column, marching north toward McFadden’s Ford.  Wood has left Wagner’s Brigade to defend the Round Forest and the ford in front of it.  Each division consists of largely green troops, though they are reasonably well-armed and are well-supported by artillery.  In addition, there are two army-level assets in support of the attack; Morton’s Pioneer Brigade and the Chicago Board of Trade Battery, which is the only ‘pure’ battery of rifled artillery in the battle.  Battery ‘H’ of the 4th US Artillery will also provide support from a nearby hilltop, though for scenario purposes may not move from that position.  No other units south of the railway are involved in this scenario.

On the Confederate side, Breckenridge’s Division starts the scenario with three brigades on table; Hanson’s brigade of veterans defends some hastily-built breastworks atop Wayne’s Hill, together with Cobb’s Battery.  Hanson himself is an Exceptional brigadier.  In support to the rear are Adams’ and Palmer’s Brigades.  Preston’s and Jackson’s Brigades will arrive later as reinforcements, along with Washington’s Battery and Peagram’s Cavalry Brigade.  The Confederates are all experiences troops, though suffer from a lack of modern firearms, having a lot of smoothbore muskets and artillery.

Above:  The starting positions as seen from the northern end of the battlefield, behind Union lines.  Van Cleve’s Division is on the left, with Price’s Brigade deployed in column on the left flank, then the 7th Indiana and 3rd Wisconsin Batteries and S. Beatty’s Brigade.  Fyffe’s small brigade is marching up from McFadden’s Ford.

On the right, Morton’s Pioneer Brigade and the Chicago Board of Trade Battery are deployed near McFadden’s Farm, guarding the fords.  Arching up the road toward them come Hascall’s Brigade, the 8th Indiana Battery, Harker’s Brigade and the 6th Ohio Battery.  Wagner’s Brigade remains in the Round Forest, while Battery ‘H’ of the 4th US Artillery stands on the high ground.

Above:  A close-up of Morton’s Pioneers.  This brigade was something of a throw-back to the ‘converged’ elite battalions of previous wars, being assembled from the Pioneers of every infantry battalion in the Army of the Cumberland.  They would not have carried colours, so I’ve given them the flag that was recorded as being carried by the brigade headquarters in 1864; namely a rectangular pennant, vertically striped blue/white/blue, with a central device of blue crossed axes, surrounded by a blue wreath.

Above:  Hanson’s Brigade and Cobb’s Battery defend their breastworks on Wayne’s Hill.  As with many other Confederate formation-commanders in the Western Theatre, General Breckenridge had designed his own Battle Flag, which was carried by units under his command.  This consisted of a plain blue field, charged with a simple cross in red, studded with 13 white stars.  Some sources also show a white border.

One of the great advantages of wargaming the ACW is that it often only requires you to swap a command-stand over, to create a whole new unit! 🙂

Above:  A short time later, the Union artillery has all deployed and is hammering Wayne’s Hill at long range.  While Van Cleve’s Division advances on Wayne’s Hill from the north, Hascall’s Brigade, along with Morton’s Pioneers, crosses over the Stones River to support Van Cleve, while General Wood takes Harker’s Brigade down to Wagner’s position, intending to force a crossing at the ford in front of Hanson’s breastworks.

Above:  Another view of the Union advance.  On Van Cleve’s left, Price’s Brigade has deployed into supported line formation and aims to threaten the Confederate right flank.  Beatty meanwhile, is pushing directly toward Wayne’s Hill, with Fyffe close behind.

The sharp-eyed might notice that the Union generals are accompanied by red-white-blue horizontally-striped flags.  While we don’t know what headquarters flags (if any) were used by the Army of the Cumberland in 1862, they had formalised a system of flags by the middle of 1863.  By then, the Left Wing had become the new XXI Corps and adopted this headquarters flag.  The divisional headquarters carried a similar flag, displaying one, two or three black stars to show the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Divisions.

Above:  Although it’s firing at relatively long range, the sheer weight of Union artillery fire (six batteries) quickly silences Cobb’s Battery and then starts to take a steady toll on Hanson’s men.

Above:  Breckenridge deploys the rest of his division to face the Union attack.  On the right, Palmer’s Brigade wheels right to secure Hanson’s right flank, while Preston’s Brigade moves up in support.  On the left, Breckenridge decides to keep Adams’ and Jackson’s Brigades in reserve, in the dead ground behind Wayne’s Hill.

Above:  As Union forces push forward toward Wayne’s Hill, Breckenridge similarly pushes his right wing forward into the woods to meet them, hoping to negate the advantage afforded to the Union by their large quantities of modern, long-ranged rifled muskets.

Above:  Washington’s Battery has joined Cobb’s Battery on Wayne’s Hill, but is similarly being hammered by the Union guns.  Hanson is also being rapidly ground down by the incessant fire.  The Rebel guns reply, but only manage to silence one or two of the Union batteries for a short time.  Breckenridge meanwhile, continues to maintain a large reserve in the lee of Wayne’s Hill and this has now been reinforced by Peagram’s Cavalry Brigade.

Peagram has the option to dismount his troopers and fight on foot, though with only shotguns, pistols and civilian hunting rifles, they are unlikely to make much impact fighting as infantry.  He therefore decides to remain mounted as a counter-attack force.

Above:  The Union infantry continue to push forward and are now starting to form a coherent wall of blue in front of the Rebels.

Above:  As the Bluebellies get closer, Breckenridge does something rather unexpected… He orders Palmer’s and Preston’s Brigade forward to the edge of the woods!  His aide asks “Are you sure that’s wise, Sir?”  However, these is method in his madness; the Union infantry have now masked their supporting artillery and the Rebel infantry will still gain the benefit of cover from the trees, while the Bluebellies will be very much in the open.

Above:  Another view of the gathering storm… On the right of the Union line are Price’s and Fyffe’s Brigades from Van Cleve’s Division, then Morton’s independent Pioneer Brigade and Hascall’s Brigade from Wood’s Division.  Plunging into the woods and crossing the tributary ahead of Hascall is Beatty’s Brigade from Van Cleve’s Division.

Above:  On the other side of the Stones River, Harker’s Brigade of Wood’s Division waits, hidden in the riverside woods, formed into a column and ready to assault across the ford when the order is given.  Wagner’s Brigade stands by to back them up.

Above:  Hanson’s Brigade meanwhile, is being ripped apart by the Union guns and is now ‘Spent’ in Fire & Fury terms.  The breastworks provide scant cover and it’s only their experience and the presence of their exceptional brigadier that keeps them from running.  However, movement in the trees to their front signals that the Union assault is imminent.

Meanwhile, on Hanson’s left, Adams’ Brigade moves forward to cover the ford.  Adams becomes the target of every Union gun as he crosses the crest, but by some miracle, manages to reach the safety of the riverside trees unscathed.

Above:  Breckenridge continues to observe developments from Wayne’s Hill.  By some miracle, both of his batteries are in action, though have been hammered by Union counter-battery fire.  Nevertheless, the Rebel gunners still manage to silence some of the Union batteries at extreme range.

Above:  At last and after considerable artillery preparation, Crittenden launches his assault!  Hascall’s and Morton’s Brigades throw themselves against Palmer’s Rebels on the edge of the tree-line.

Above:  On the Union left flank, Price’s and Fyffe’s Brigades are reluctant to close with Preston’s Rebels and instead exchange desultory fire through the trees.

Above:  There is no such reluctance at Wayne’s Hill however, as General Wood draws his sabre and leads Harker’s Brigade in a frontal charge through the ford and up the slope to the breastworks!  Generals Crittenden and Van Cleve similarly join Beatty’s Brigade as they charge from the woods against Hanson’s right flank.  Wagner’s Brigade meanwhile, moves forward from the Round Forest to engage Adams with musketry from across the river.

Above:  Back on the Union right flank, Price gets the worst of his firefight with Preston’s Rebs, while Morton’s Pioneers are stopped in their tracks by the weight of fire from Palmer.  However, Hascall’s Brigade has managed to avoid Rebel fire and now charges home against Palmer’s left flank!

Above:  On Wayne’s Hill, a devastating flanking volley from Adams causes massive casualties on Harker’s column and comes within a whisker of killing General Wood, as an ADC takes a bullet meant for the General!  Harker’s column stops short of the breastworks in considerable disorder.  However, Hanson’s weakened and demoralised brigade is only able to offer up token resistance against Beatty’s Brigade, which is soon storming across the breastwork!

Above:  In the woods, Hascall’s charge initially bogs down into a brutal slugging match along the banks of the stream, as neither side breaks.  However, Palmer’s Rebels are eventually forced to give ground and retreat back up the slope of Wayne’s Hill, leaving Preston to fight on alone in the woods.

[In game terms, the mêlée was initially a draw, despite Palmer having the advantage of both ground and troop quality!  Bad luck meant that he then lost the second round of combat, despite still having a net +2 advantage.]

Above:  At the breastwork meanwhile, Hanson initially holds off Beatty’s charge, but attritional losses mean that Hanson is now outnumbered 2:1 and with the Union troops being personally encouraged by both their divisional AND corps commander, Hanson’s remaining men reluctantly retreat from their breastwork.

[In game terms, Hanson’s Rebels were on a net -1, due to being Veterans, led by an Exceptional Brigadier on Favourable Ground, though being Spent, Disordered and outnumbered 3:2.  Hascall’s Bluebellies were on a net +4 for being Fresh, Supported and having two Attached Leaders, though being Green troops.  By some miracle, Hanson managed to pull off a draw in the first round!  However, the associated losses meant that he was now outnumbered 2:1, so suffered an extra -1, though this was offset by the Union now also having an additional -1 for being Disordered, so it was net -2 v +3.  This time Hanson’s luck didn’t hold and his brigade was thrown out of the position with only 2 troop stands (and Hascall) remaining.]

Above:  The situation was now dire for Breckenridge’s Rebels.  Hanson’s Brigade was now hors de combat and both artillery batteries were damaged.  Adams and Preston were both now out on a limb, isolated on each flank.  Breckenridge’s only fresh reserves were Jackson’s tiny infantry brigade and Peagram’s similarly-weak cavalry brigade.  Although Crittenden had not yet fully achieved his victory conditions (to clear Wayne’s Hill and unlimber an undamaged battery on it), Breckenridge conceded defeat.

Thanks to Al and Jack for a great game!  Congratulations to Al for achieving the first Union victory in four attempts at playing that scenario and congratulations to Jack for a highly-creditable performance in his very first ACW game. 🙂

Scenario to follow!

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

2 Responses to Murfreesboro 1862: The Northern Flank

  1. Old Pretender says:

    You’ll get me dragging out my boxes of old MPC plastic miniatures with articles like this! MPC were re-releases of the original Airfix Union/Confederate/US Cavalry/Artillery sets available back in the early 80’s in Canada, but made of plastic that was more rigid than the original Airfix figures. I was collecting them at that time for nostalgic reasons! This was because the first Wargames Club I belonged to was the Montreal Wargamers Association when I was 13 years old. It was there that I played my first real miniatures wargame, eg one with rules, an ACW battle where my Confederate battery managed to open fire and blow up a key bridge on the first turn. Pure dumb luck, but a proud moment for 13 year old me! Back around 2000 I painted up about 400 of these little fellas, but probably have at least another 400 to paint up. The project has languished due to lack of opponents and being unsure as to what rules for which to base them. I probably need to watch Ken Burns documentary again for inspiration.

    Thanks for the article.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Excellent! It’s funny, but I remember every game from my teens, but struggle to remember games I had last year! Thanks for your kind comments and I hope you get a bit of inspiration. 🙂



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.