The Action at Shiloh Church, 6th April 1862 (Part 1)

After something of a break due to the build-up to my recent demo game, I decided to do an American Civil War game in club last week, once again using the superlative Brigade Fire & Fury 2nd Edition rules.  I decided to play one of the smaller scenarios from the excellent new Great Western Battles 2nd Edition Scenario Book; namely the ‘Shiloh Church’ sub-scenario from the Battle of Shiloh scenario (which includes the main ‘grand battle’ scenario and two smaller sub-scenarios – ‘Shiloh Church’ and ‘The Hornet’s Nest’).

It’s worth mentioning at this point that the author Rich Hasenauer has included smaller sub-scenarios and ‘focused’ small scenarios for some of the battles presented in the book and while there is some overlap, the list of battles presented is actually quite different to the 1st Edition scenario book.  The full list of scenarios in the 2nd Edition is:

Shiloh 6th April 1862
Shiloh Church (Shiloh sub-scenario)
The Hornet’s Nest (Shiloh sub-scenario)
Corinth (1st Day) 3rd October 1862
Corinth (2nd Day) 4th October 1862
Perryville 8th October 1862
Murfreesboro 31st December 1862
Champion Hill 16th May 1863 (we actually play-tested this scenario earlier in the year)
Chickamauga (1st Day) 19th September 1863
Chickamauga (2nd Day) 20th September 1863
Pleasant Hill 9th April 1864
Atlanta 22nd July 1864
Hardee Turns The Flank (Atlanta sub-scenario)
Cheatham Enters The Fray (Atlanta sub-scenario)
Spring Hill 29th November 1864
Franklin 30th November 1864

Above:  The map for the full Battle of Shiloh scenario.  The Shiloh Church sub-scenario happens on the left-hand three feet of the map and up as far as the ‘Cavalry Field’.  It starts with Ruggles’ Confederate Division (Polk’s Corps), intermixed with some of Hardee’s Corps, assaulting Sherman’s Union Division, which is surprised in camp near Shiloh Church.  Cleburne’s Union Division meanwhile, is still in its tents to Sherman’s rear.

Above: The left wing of the Confederate army advances through the woods to assault the Union encampment.  As with so many ACW battles, the bulk of the table here is classed as woodland, with the few open fields being delineated by fences.  Here the area to the left of the river is woodland, but the area to the right enclosed by the fence, is open (marked as the Rhea Field on the map).

Above: Cleburne’s Brigade leads the assault, being the left-flanking brigade for Hardee’s Corps.  Hardee isn’t on table, but the scenario rules allow him to influence any of his units within 6 inches of the right-hand table edge (reduced to 2 inches through woodland).  This means that at the start of the game, Cleburne lacks a senior leader to provide encouragement.  Cleburne is however, an Exceptional brigadier, so can manage reasonably well on his own.  The second line is formed by Anderson’s Brigade, which belongs to Ruggles’ Division of Polk’s Corps.  Ruggles is the mounted divisional leader to the left of the line.  These troops are all Green and poorly-armed with smoothbore muskets.  Their artillery is little better, being poorly-trained and armed with mainly smoothbore pieces, with only an occasional Napoleon or rifled piece.

Above:  On the extreme Confederate left flank is Pond’s Brigade, which also belongs to Ruggles’ Division.  Pond also has some boggy ground to contend with on the left flank, in addition to the water-obstacle of the Shiloh Branch.  Again, these troops are Green, but there are at least a few rifled muskets among the ranks this time.

Above:  Hastily roused from their beds and deploying from their lovingly-modelled tents 😉 , Sherman’s Division rushes to occupy defensive positions along the edge of the wood, facing the Shiloh Branch.  There is a strip of open ground along their side of the river (the edge of which is delineated by the fence), which potentially gives them a killing-ground in which to stop the Rebs.  On the left of Sherman’s line (on the right of this picture) is Hildebrand’s Brigade with an attached battery of 12pdr Napoleons.  In the centre is Buckland’s Brigade with an attached battery of rifled guns and on the right flank (out of shot) is McDowell’s Brigade, which is facing Pond’s Confederates.

Above:  A view of Sherman’s left flank, with Hildebrand’s Brigade closest to the camera and Shiloh Church (which is little more than a log cabin) to the rear.  Next to Shiloh Church, Raith’s Brigade of McClernand’s Division is still lounging around in its encampment, unaware of the approaching Rebs.

Above:  To Sherman’s rear is the rest of McClernand’s Division (Hare’s and Marsh’s Brigades, plus a couple of artillery batteries), still fast asleep and widely dispersed in its encampments.

Above:  Cleburne’s Confederate Brigade advances to the Shiloh Branch, partly surprising Sherman’s Bluebellies.  The Union troops only fire with half-effect, but there are an awful lot of them!  Cleburne is still on the edge of woodland and gains some cover-benefit from that, though Cleburne’s men are soon suffering casualties and disorder from a withering hail of fire.  The Rebs attempt to return fire, but are hampered by their short-ranged smoothbore muskets.

Above:  While Cleburne mounts his frontal assault, Ruggles orders Anderson’s Brigade and a battery of artillery to deploy on Cleburne’s right.  One of Hardee’s batteries also attempts to deploy on the right flank, but is immediately driven back by Union fire.  Nevertheless, Ruggles’ gunners are soon inflicting damage on Hildebrand’s Union infantry.

Above:  Pond’s Confederate Brigade on the opposite flank has still has not contacted McDowell’s Union Brigade, thanks to the boggy ground along the banks of the Shiloh Branch.

Above:  Back at Shiloh Church, Cleburne’s dynamic leadership quickly sorts out the disorder in his brigade’s ranks and the ‘Rebel Yell’ is heard for the first time this day, as his men throw themselves across the river and the open ground beyond, to assault Buckland’s line.  The joint effects of close-range musketry and canister inflict further losses on Cleburne, but effective return fire disorders Buckland’s line and Cleburne’s boys close to contact!  A prolonged combat sees both sides suffer casualties, but Cleburne’s men are finally forced back across the Shiloh Branch.  But no matter, as Russell’s Brigade (the first brigade to arrive from Clark’s Division of Polk’s Corps) is already formed up and ready to renew the assault.  Two more artillery batteries have also been added to the Confederate right wing.

Above: On the Confederate right flank, Anderson’s Brigade has crossed the stream and moves forward as the Rebel artillery starts to punish Hildebrand’s Union Brigade.

Above: Over on the left flank, Pond’s Brigade has finally struggled across the Shiloh Branch and is skirmishing with McDowell.


Above: As Pond engages McDowell more closely, General Polk arrives with reinforcements in the form of B. Johnson’s Brigade and a battery of artillery and moves up to support Pond’s attack.

Above: Buckland’s Union Brigade struggles to reform its ranks following the combat with Cleburne and Russell’s Rebel Brigade is swift to take advantage!  The Rebel Yell is heard once again as Russell’s boys charge across the Shiloh Branch.

Above:  On the Rebel right flank, Anderson’s Brigade continues its flanking move, clearing the gun-line and thus allowing the Rebel artillery to support Russell’s attack.

Above: Unseen by the Union side, Hardee is also moving Confederate formations (primarily Hindman’s Division) to outflank Sherman’s line at Shiloh Church and these brigades will soon arrive on Anderson’s right flank.

Above:  The battle at the bridge is hard-fought, but Buckland’s Union Brigade is grudgingly forced to give ground and falls back on its camp.

Above: Despite Russell’s success, Cleburne struggles to rally his worn brigade south of the bridge.  At the bridge, two newly-arrived Rebel batteries suffer losses from accurate Union counter-battery fire, but at long last, the Union line is starting to crumble and one of the Union batteries has withdrawn along with Buckland’s Brigade.

Above: Following the combat against Russell, Buckland initially only fell back as far as the camp.  However, his men then suffered a further crisis of confidence and retreated back through the woods to form a new line near Shiloh Church, leaving Russell’s men to loot their camp at leisure.

Above: On the Union left, Hildebrand’s Brigade had not been in close combat, but had suffered a constant trickle of casualties due to accurate Confederate artillery and musketry fire.  then, with the collapse of Buckland’s Brigade on their right flank, their confidence was completely shattered and the brigade broke and ran for the relative safety of McClernand’s Division!  finding themselves suddenly alone, the supporting artillery pull back to Shiloh Church, where Raith’s Brigade is finally starting to form up.

Above:  As Hildebrand’s men stream back in panic, McClernand’s Division forms up on the road and prepares to march to Sherman’s aid.

Above:  On the Confederate left flank, Pond’s Rebels finally get to grips with McDowell.

Above:  With only light casualties on both sides, McDowell withdraws steadily through his camp, under intense pressure from the Rebels.

Above: McDowell is in a very isolated position and is facing increasing numbers of Rebs.  McDowell therefore takes the decision to pull back further, anchoring his right flank on the bog, his left flank on Buckland’s wavering Brigade and using the open ground of the Howell Field as a killing-ground (all the while waiting for McClernand to support him).

Above:  As McDowell pulls back, Pond’s Rebels pause a while to loot the camp.

Above:  As McDowell pulls back through the Howell Field, he breathes a sigh of relief as he spots one of McClernand’s Brigades approaching from the rear.

Above:  Having finally roused himself, McClernand quickly deploys his division to receive the Rebel assault.  In the distance, Hare’s Brigade is sent to the right wing, to support McDowell, while the centre is reinforced by a third battery of artillery at Shiloh Church.  In the foreground, Raith’s Brigade forms a new line at their camp and attempts to plug the gap left by Hildebrand’s routed Brigade.

Above:  To Raith’s rear, Marsh’s newly-arrived Brigade moves to cover the left flank, but is alarmed to spot new Rebel formations approaching from that quarter (these new Rebels are the lead elements of Hindman’s Division of Hardee’s Corps, which have appeared on the flank of Sherman’s former position).  McClernand therefore deploys an artillery battery to sweep the open ground of the Review Field (on the right of the photo) and support the left flank.  In the distance, Veatch’s Brigade is also on the march.

Above:  With their immediate front suddenly clear of enemies, the Rebel guns cease fire and limber up to join the advance…

We will be continuing this game at the weekend… 🙂



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