Monday, February 4, 2013

Crossing Catfish Creek: A Volley & Bayonet "Wing Scale" Adventure

Played an operational-level engagement involving 2 large American Civil War Brigades using Volley & Bayonet Rules however stands represented Regiments as opposed to Brigades.  Instead of Division and Corps architecture, Brigade commanders took the place of Division Commanders in the real game.  The Division Commander is now the Corps Commander per his role in the rules anyways.

Diced for scenario and for sides - the Rebs charged with attacking across "Catfish Creek" to seize the crossing and conduct follow-on operations turning the Union Right flank in a major battle.  First Brigade on the Rebel left was to demonstrate at the actual bridge while Second Brigade conducted the crossing at a ford located down stream.

Starting points.  Reb First Brigade (3 regiments) demonstrate against the actual bridge.  Reb 2nd Brigade (4 Regiments) attack across the ford (visible upper right of pic)
Regiments were all strength 3 and morale 5.  Artillery Batteries were strength 2 morale 6.  Brigade breaking point was 5 or 6.
Union reserve atop the hill overlooking "Stephenville" and the Catfish Creek Crossings.

Union troops would go stationary blocking the bridge.

Union Division Artillery cross-attached from Corps.  They would eventually move down and cover the ford.

Union forces covering the bridge.  You can't tell, but the Union Battery has a straight line of sight  down the turnpike and can see the approaches to the bridge.


The first shots were fired by the union artillery at the actual bridge against the Rebel limbered battery without results (damn saving throw!).  Meanwhile the rebels at the ford positioned perfectly with 2 Batteries setting up to shell the approaches and the covering units.  While not close range, they will still have 4 dice total to offer cover fire.  The plan is to shell the Union positions for 2 x turns before launching the assault at the ford...
Union forces score a hit!  Only to have it negated by the save...

Rebel forces mass at the ford.  It's becoming apparent that the ford is the Rebs' main effort

Rebel forces demonstrate at the bridge

2 Batteries offer their fire at the Union defenders at the ford.

The Rebs are in position and the artillery begins its work.  Most of the Yankees are unaffected by the shelling.

That Battery would eventually make its way into the clearing between the 2 union regiments, meaning the assaulting Regiment would have to assault Smooth bore field pieces from the front.

Rebs massing for show
The first Regiment of the Second Rebel Brigade crosses the ford and assaults the guns.  They are unsuccessful and ultimately wiped out.  The rifle fire exchanged by both sides over turns has worn them down and the assault wipes them out.  Next Regiment up!!
Rebs forming for the next assault...

Before the first reb assault

The first Regiment goes in!!

And is ultimately wiped out.  2 attack dice are nothing against 5.  The Artillery and supporting Infantry Regiments will need clear fire lanes to support the next charge.  A costly mistake...

intense rifle fire.  things are getting hot as the regiments on both sides  firefight.

Next full-strength Rebel Regiment crosses.  They are automatically disordered crossing the bridge and fail their morale test.  They then disorder the unit behind them as well.  It's not looking good for the rebel main effort.

meanwhile a union Regiment is knocked out due to high casualties but the brigade passes its exhaution test barely.  THey commit the Division reserve down at the ford.

The battery covering the ford is tired, but still functioning!  One more assault and they might go.

final dispositions.  The same fate befalls a Regiment against the bridge on your right as it fails its morale test and retreats, disordering a Rebel Regiment..  Rebel forces retire from Stephenville as they now face the prospect of a Yankee counter attack (which of course never materializes! - Union forces regroup, the old hotheads from the 2nd Maine rejoin their comrades following the glorious and harrowing victory, wait a minute.....what?)

LESSONS LEARNED:  It's obligatory that I write small lessons learned after each Volley and Bayonet battle I play.  I do this because I believe in the rule system as being extremely accurate for the level of war it represents.  In this case I have tweaked it so the player takes the position of a Division Commander in the Civil War, as opposed to the Corps or Army commander.  These poor guys ahve been based, rebased, and then rebased again.  They will remain on the Regimental sized stands for good now.

Force Ratios:  The old maxim that attacking forces need a 3:1 Ratio at the attacking point is, in my opinion, validated here.  Unfortunately they faced a very difficult choice because 3:1 was almost impossible to achieve crossing a Bridge and fighting.  There was only room for 1 Regiment.  I found out as the game progressed a few things:

1. The best way to silence an enemy battery is with stationary musket/rifle fire.  Sorry but it's true.  No saving throws here - if you can spare the manpower.
2. Manage your fire lanes so your units can join in the melee and provide the covering fire you need.  The Rebel plan was sound, but at the moment of execution, it was found that there was not enough room to deploy both covering Batteries and Regiments.  so if that becomes the case with you:


Without the room for the dedicated units to provide fire support, why go in the way you said you would?  "Well sir it's orders" I guess so.  But I knew the second assault would fail right after the first one failed.  

I started seeing more success when my Regiments became stationary and were able to equally exchange fire with the yankees.  5 dice against 5 dice instead of 2 against 5.  A few more turns of that, and there would have been a better opportunity to carry out the assault.  

Recommendation for river crossings:  Send up "shock" troops to exhange fire with the enemy while your assaulting teams are behind them, waiting for the word to go.  The level of war is such that you don't have to worry about what happens when the assaulting regiments move "through" your shock regiments.  Let the captains down on the line straighten things out!

Prepare for high casualties among the assault units.  If your order of battle doesn't support the river crossing, think about involving more units.  I think in this case the rebs had the people to do the job, but committed them without timing the support piece properly.  The fire support plan started getting results, AFTER the assaulting regiments were toast.

And of course - if there isn't enough artillery, quit!


  1. A lot of courage to croos those bridges, and a lot of very nice pictures!

    1. Thanks, Phil! They were too good not to include in the post. Yeah, I thought about those poor guys (notionally) in the assaulting regiments. Definitely learned alot in that battle - how not to force a river crossing.

  2. Nice report and very good looking troops and table. I'm just finishing rebasing all of my ACW figs from JREB to V&B. We'll do Gettysburg in March.

    1. Thanks, Mike. I think ACW is probably my favorite Volley & Bayonet period to play.

      Wow you're a JREB guy? I played JR III for awhile and eventually had to quit - too depressing for me and my buddies to play...

      We tried almost everything we could to "take" a position. 3:1 odds, artillery in support, skirmishers, and still the attackers always got chewed up.

      It's no fun playing with guys who are melancholy before the game because they know their glorious charge is just going to end in a pile of bodies with the defender still in his position!

      A good friend of mine painted the Rebs. I painted most of the yanks up.

      What did you think of using the Regimental stands? I thought it really brought out a more "tactical" flavor. I will most likely play that way from now on.