Sunday, 19 May 2013

TCHAE: The First Battle of Kernstown

This is a report of a battle a played (solo) a little while ago using the TFL rules They Couldn't Hit An Elephant (TCHAE). This was the first time that I had played through a sizable action using TCHAE and I certainly was not disappointed. The Battle of Kernstown is the first of three scenarios given in the rules; it pits a significantly smaller confederate force against a larger union one, but the rebels have much better command. In particular the yankees are hampered by having no overall commander; Kimball has to act as both overall commander and command a brigade too. Historically this was one of Jackson's very few defeats; it did not turn out that here.

I tweaked the OOB slightly from that in the TCHAE book adding an extra bases (or two in some cases) to some of the very weak confederate units with only 2 bases. I also opted to start with all units on blinds and none deployed on the table. (My figures incidentally are mounted 2 to a base rather than 4 to a base.)

The table from the Confederate right
The Confederate plan was for Garnett and Fulkerson (the two blinds furthest on the left) to attack down the middle road and take Pritchard's hill (the big hill in the centre). Meanwhile Burk in the centre would take Kernstown itself and Ashby's small cavalry brigade on the right would demonstrate against the Union brigade opposite them. The Union, didn't really have much of a plan as they all start on 'Hold' orders, though there was an intention for Kimball in the centre to detach artillery to hold the high ground of Pritchard's Hill.

Close-up of the centre and Kernstown; Pritchard's Hill
is in the background. The central wall was my own
addition but in fact it did not prove significant .
The confederates clearly were much the keener as their blinds 'flew' across the table, quickly crossing the central wall and almost reaching Pritchard's Hill. The Union were clearly still asleep, failing to make any initial head-way; the coffee card (actually poker-chip), which ends the turn, came up before union blinds could move. Kimball did eventually advance towards the Hill, albeit slowly, but Sullivan on the Union left was stuck awaiting orders from Kimball.

A critical moment came when the Union CinC, Kimball did manage to get some troops onto Pritchard's Hill. These were then spotted and Kimball deployed his (still-limbered) artillery at the front of the brigade hoping to get them deployed in a commanding position - big mistake.

Unfortunately, this underestimated the speed at which Fulkerson, who was still on a blind could close and when Fulkerson's 'card' came up first his troops charged up the hill, capturing the guns and causing the rest of Kimball's command to fall back and one of his raw units to rout. [Sadly, this was so exciting, I failed to get a picture!!]

Meanwhile Kimball's command was also pressed
The wheels come off  Kimball's command
on the their right by Garnett commanding the 'Stonewall' brigade who were all rated as aggressive, which is very powerful in TCHAE. They caused serious damage to Kimball; pretty soon Kimball's command was down to just one functioning unit and two which were 'defeated' (or shaken).

On the confederate right things moved at a somewhat slower pace but Burk duly marched into Kernstown unopposed while Sullivan continued to await orders from the increasingly desperate Kimball.

Conf Right: Sullivan keeps a wary eye on Ashby.
Burk's command can be seen in the background

As Burk managed to get around the flank of Sullivan the threat did become more apparent and Sullivan finally received some orders. However, the confederates were able to deal with Sullivan's units one at a time. Before long two of Sullivan's units had been put to flight leaving just two more units on the far side of the hill.

From Jackson's position on Pritchard's Hill
all seem to be going well
So far all was very much going the rebels' way. However, before the Union position collapsed entirely, Tyler's brigade arrived on their right to reinforce Kimball and challenge the stonewall brigade. They were bravely led by a zouave unit, with an inspired leader, which took the fight to the rebels. They routed one unit as they counter-attacked Pritchard's Hill before ultimately being thrown back.

The final (successful) attack on Sullivan
However, things continued to go badly for the Union on their left. Sullivan's two remaining units managed to turn so that they could could defend the crest of their hill. This though was not enough to withstand the rebels as their reinforced attack went in with a resounding yell. Even the presence nearby of Kimball was not enough to save Sullivan and his command disintegrated.

Tyler's brigade withdraws
At this point, with two out of the three Union infantry brigades broken, I decided to call it a day. Tyler's brigade would withdraw in good order, but this was definitely a victory for Stonewall Jackson.

All in all this was an excellent game. I would highly recommend TCHAE to anyone with an interest in the ACW. The crucial point here was the abject failure in the Union command and in particular the CinC Kimball being pulled in too many directions as he tried to act as CinC and control his own brigade. In contrast Jackson was able to keep things going according to plan and his presence near Garnett (rated as 'Cautious') prevented the cautious 'card' causing the rebels any real problems.

I am very tempted to play it again to see what might happen if the Union is given a separate CinC (Shields who was injured). In that case I suspect the outcome would be very different.

1 comment:

  1. That looked fun.

    You should clearly come visit sometime for some SP or TCHAE :D