Thursday, June 7, 2012

Battle of Untietam: The Bloody Finish

What had been looking like a long, difficult slog ended rather abruptly.  Like the real Antietam, this was a close-run thing, a Confederate tactical victory but one from which they could not claim any strategic advantage.  The Union continued to press in the center, and they had begun to clear space across the bridge, but before they could maneuver their troops into columns for the crossing, the Union right collapsed.  With their second brigade defeated, the Union force was spent.  The two intact regiments would face fresh Rebel artillery and two fresh regiments.  At best these forces would bludgeon each other to a draw.

Here, the Confederates look out upon what remains of the Union right.  With this brigade freed up, the Union pretty much lost all hope of securing the victory that had eluded them the previous September.

The only hope for the Union was to make the crossing at the railroad bridge, where the now-shattered Colored Brigade had roughed up the defenders on the far side of the creek.  With the Iron Brigade marching forward, the Union had a chance to turn the tide and roll up the Confederate line from the south.  However, the timely arrival of the long-delayed Confederate cavalry surprised the advancing Black Hats.  This was the first-ever charge in one of my Black Powder games.  It was a cavalryman's dream, a full-on supported charge into an unguarded flank.  However, those midwesterners proved to be tough.  Note to self: Civil War cavalry should lay off the Napoleonic crap, no matter how tempted they may be.  The Black Hats held off the charge and routed one of the cavalry regiments.  However, when they tried to wheel to finish off the cavalry, bad communications caused the Iron Brigade to blunder their orders, marching away from the front line.  By the time this sad little combat was resolved, two Union brigades had broken, and the day was lost.

So, in the end, it was a bloody, inconclusive scrap.  The Union lost but inflicted severe casualties on the Confederates.  The rules provided everything that people who like Black Powder like, and everything that those who hate Black Powder loathe: lots of sudden reversals, units that stubbornly refuse to do what their commanders want, and the rumble of fistfuls of dice.
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