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The saga of Humphreys and Birney

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The saga of Humphreys and Birney

Post  Jess on Tue Mar 07, 2017 11:35 pm

The saga of Humphreys and Birney

I was Birney

The Scenario was Rising Waters the 2nd day of Gettysburg, McLaws, Hood, and Anderson's Divisions vs. the two Divisions of US Third Corps. I'm sure your all familiar with Genl Dan Sickles, the 3rd Corps commander, marching his Corps forward from his assigned place in the line. Thus leaving both his flanks in the air, far away from any support by the rest of the Union Army. Only to be almost immediately assailed by Confederate troops massing for an attack on the Union left/center.

My friend Jim and I are still learning the game, and have been playing this scenario for weeks now trying to keep from being slaughtered by the Rebs. This time I played Birney on the left, while he played Humphreys on the right. While Humphreys has two Brigades in line with a third not far off to his left rear in reserve. Birney is scattered to hell and gone with troops on Humphreys immediate left at the Peach Orchard stretched all the way to Devils Den. (What was Sickles thinking!!).

In the Past the Confederate AI has either ((Option one)) Struck the Union center immediately and very hard to break the link between the two Yankee divisions. Then proceed to destroy Birney in detail and roll up Humphreys left flank. Or ((Option two)) Hold Birney and the Union center in place then maneuver to come crashing in to Humphreys open right flank. Hancock and his 2nd Corp up on Cemetery Ridge could prevent this, but they never do. Sickles must always pay for his mistakes.  

Prior to this battle. We realized that the AI always seemed to take advantage of gaps and angles in the enemy line. This time we determined that there be none. To that end, at the opening of Hostilities I ordered Grahams Brigade to form up and hold at the Wentz farm. This is near to Humphreys left hand Brigade (Brewster) as he can get. We also asked Sickles for artillery support in the center and we got it! I would have ordered Graham to support Brewsters left flank, but can’t figure out how to tell him that? Any of you experts know how to tell a unit in your own command to support or go the aid of a unit in someone else’s command I’d be glad to know how?  

I then ordered my middle Brigade, De Trobriand, to move right and link up with Graham’s. While my left Brigade, Ward’s,  (So far left I could barely see them) was ordered to come in to support De Trobriand. Thus we hoped, at least a solid line would be presented. Alas the Johnnies did not give us the time. It was ((Option one)). No sooner had I set my troops in motion then McLaws entire Division crashed into Graham at the Wentz farm. He was in place at the Wentz farm though and took the blow. Artillery was up to support him and his flank were covered by Brewster on the right and De Torbriand on the left though still coming right from his initial position.

There was a terrific, but brief fight. Graham’s Brigade of six regiments was soon down to three exhausted ones, but he held the line. I knew not for much longer so I ordered him back to the Trostle farm in his rear and slid De Trobriands over to fill the gap. All the while the battle spread toward my friend Humphreys and the air was filled with smoke.

Meanwhile De-Trobriand stood and fought an epic battle for the next two hours. He did not budge; he did not lose a regiment to panic or route. He provided the glue that kept Birney’s division in the fight and the Yankee left from being rolled up like a carpet. He covered himself with glory.

I knew he could not last much longer so I brought up Graham’s now rested three remaining Regiments to try and relieve him. De Trobriand had trouble extricating himself though and fought on till his whole brigade finally broke.  Graham was up by then though and the line did not fail.

What of Ward you ask? (Or at least I hope you do?) Ward is my best officer, but on this day he seems to have fought his own private battle. He did most of this on the far right of our line with Humphreys and even in advance of Humphreys. I did not see it. Nor did I see Ward march most of his command from far left to far right. I have no idea why he did this. He left one Regiment on the left, some distance away in the woods. This was the 20th Indiana and it too was in its own private fight. Soon I had the 20th in support of Graham, but I was running out of troops. There are just too many Confederates and the Yankees are never going to win this battle. So we decided to end it by withdrawing back toward were Sickles should have left us.

On my right Humphreys is the other part of this saga. He had his own epic contest and I’ll leave him to tell it.

Thanks for Reading
Jess

P.S. When I called Graham back to the fight I watched them come up. Trailing one of the regiments was a single Yankee soldier, and I swear he was limping??! He looked for all the world like a wounded man trying to keep up. I pointed this out to Jim and he saw it to. We both laughed and marveled at it.  I’ve been playing war games for 5 decades and can’t recall ever being more charmed by an unnecessary bit of programming.
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Re: The saga of Humphreys and Birney

Post  Mr. Digby on Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:16 am

Great AAR Jess, really enjoyed reading it.

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Re: The saga of Humphreys and Birney

Post  Interlocutor on Wed Mar 08, 2017 1:06 pm

Fabulous Jess Cool .

I'll make very effort to get Humphreys' AAR up today.

Jim ;-)
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Re: The saga of Humphreys and Birney

Post  Interlocutor on Wed Mar 08, 2017 8:46 pm

The Saga of Birney and Humphreys.

I was Humphreys...
______________________________________________

Damn, he thought, looking up at the late afternoon sun, this day has been entirely too hot for my taste, and I fear it will get hotter yet. Best get about my business…

It was July 2, 1863, at about 4:30 in the afternoon, some 2 miles southeast down the Emmitsburg Road from the quaint Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. Brigadier General Andrew Humphreys, West Point class of '31, sat his saddle a short distance from a farm owned by a man named Wentz.

He knew this because a private in the 26th Pennsylvania of Joe Carr's First Brigade had been born in the little Pennsylvania town. Earlier that afternoon, back on the ridge to the east which had been his division’s first position of the day, Humphreys had ridden to the 26th Penna and asked Bob Bodine, the major currently commanding it, if any of his men knew the local countryside?

Bodine pointed out a lad who looked no older than 16, name of Alexander Grant, who had been born in Gettysburg! Humphreys had pulled out his map and gone over it with the lad, learning many local place names in the process.

So now, at least, I know where I am, he thought ruefully. I wish I knew how the Hell I got to this spot, though.

He looked back over his shoulder at the ridgeline where his division, the Second Division of Dan Sickles’ Third Corps, had been posted just a few hours earlier. He had been much surprised when Sickles had ordered his division westward, to a position on some high ground just east of the Emmitsburg Road. Devil Dan never asks my opinion, he thought grimly, but then, what do I know, being a West Pointer and all! Oh well, there’s nothing for it but to do our duty as God sees would have us.

He had moved his division forward as ordered, a brave sight in the afternoon sun, posting Brewster’s Second Brigade just northeast of the Wentz Farm, hard along the east side of the Emmitsburg Road, with Carr’s First Brigade on Brewster’s right, extending the line. He knew Birney’s First Division was deployed mostly to his own division’s left, with Graham’s brigade just to Brewster’s left.

Well to the rear his own Third Brigade, George Burling’s, had been detached by Sickles to serve as a general corps reserve, but it made Humphreys nervous to go into battle with “one boot off”. He turned to Adolphus Cavada, his young aide-de camp, and said “Send a courier to Burling. My compliments, and order him to come up behind Brewster’s left rear.”

No sooner was the courier away than there came a roar of artillery fire to the southwest, beyond the Emmitsburg Road! Several Third Corps batteries were deployed in and around the Wentz Farm and the peach orchard just to its southwest, and they began to reply to the Reb fire as Humphreys urged his horse forward.

So it begins, he thought as he rode up beside the 72nd New York, Brewster’s leftmost regiment. He raised his binoculars, looked away to the southwest, saw many Rebel battleflags advancing on the First Division’s positions, and thought Damn me, but I think old Birney is about to catch Hell!

He swung the binoculars around to the northwest, and could just make out more Reb battleflags in the treeline along a long ridge. Many more battleflags. This could get chancy, he thought. My right is completely in the air, nobody to Carr’s right. Devil Dan said Hancock would come forward in support, but…

He looked behind him again, at the ridgeline to the east. It was crowned with Union banners, waving in the slight breeze, but there was no sign of movement. Hancock is not coming, he realized grimly. Turning again to Cavada again, he said “Send a courier to Sickles. My compliments, and ask him for artillery support on Carr’s right.” Maybe that will give Carr a chance if those Rebs along the northeast ridge decide to get into the fight, he thought.

He looked back to the northwest, and saw skirmishers well out in front of Carr’s position, exchanging desultory fire with some Rebs he could not see. He knew these to be from the First and Second U.S. Sharpshooter Regiments of Ward’s Brigade, part of Birney’s division. I hope those boys don’t stir up a hornet’s nest with the Rebs in front of them, he thought fervently.

Then he turned his gaze again to the southwest, where billows of smoke from small arms fire were rising. He rode forward a ways, across the Emmitsburg Road, to get a better view, and saw long lines of Rebs advancing south of the peach orchard.

Graham is being hard pressed, he thought. I’d better see if I can give him some help.

“Adolphus”, he said, not taking his binoculars from his eyes, “Send another courier to Burling. My compliments, and order him to face his brigade to the southwest.” He rode back in that direction, saw that the order was being carried out.

Then he rode into the Emmitsburg Road, turned northeast himself, and rode quickly up the road toward Gettysburg. I must pay a visit to Carr while things are still relatively quiet on our front, he thought, see his position, see how things look from his perspective, make sure that artillery I asked for is coming up.

It took him some little while to reach his division’s extreme right. Carr had posted his men well, sheltered behind fence lines along the slight rise just east of the Emmitsburg Road. As he rode through the position, he saw several batteries of Third Corps artillery moving up behind Carr, toward the brigade’s right. He stayed a while longer to make sure it was deploying where he thought it needed to be. Then he rode back into the Emmitsburg Road and hurried southwest again, back toward the Wentz farm. He noted that his visibility from the road was limited, as the road was slightly sunken. He would remember this observation later…

Just before he got back to the Wentz place, a courier arrived from Birney, saying he was being heavily attacked, that Graham had given way but de Trobriand was standing firm against the Reb attacks.

“Send a courier to Birney, Adolphus,” he said to Cavada. “Give him my compliments, and tell him I’m nearly back at the Wentz place. Tell him further that Carr and Brewster are well positioned along the Emmitsburg Road, are thus far unengaged, and that I will try to position some of Burling’s brigade to assist de Trobriand.”

As the courier rode off, he arrived at the Wentz Farm. He saw that two of Burling’s regiments, the 5th New Jersey and the 115th Pennsylvania, were still standing in reserve just northwest of the Wentz place. He rode around to the southwest of the Wentz buildings, and saw Birney conducting a valiant defense around the peach orchard and in a large wheatfield to its east. He watched this for a short time, and looked at his pocket watch. It was not long after 5:00 of the clock; the battle had been raging for little over 30 minutes, but it seemed much longer to him.

Perhaps I should lead Burling’s reserve regiments into Birney’s fight, he thought. He rode back around the Wentz buildings to the northwest, and paused for a moment to look to the north and northwest to see if anything had changed with Carr and Brewster.

At first he couldn’t quite understand what he was seeing, reflexively tightening his grip on his binoculars as he tried to bring the scene into clearer focus, to make sense of it all…

Who in God’s name are those troops, he thought, as he watched a line of Union infantry advancing northeastwards, well to the northeast of the Emmitsburg Road. Is that Carr? What in God’s name has happened since I left the right flank? Why are those boys moving toward that ridge, the ridge where all the Rebs are standing in the treeline?

Then he picked out a brigadier’s banner, and he was stunned as the realization hit him. It’s Ward, by God, he thought, incredulous. Ward’s whole brigade, it looks like, moving toward that ridge as if on a parade ground! Damnation and hellfire! I know that man is impetuous, but this is damned foolhardy! Birney cannot have ordered this! Ward is advancing on his own initiative towards more Rebs than he can possibly handle! That magnificent bastard is going to get himself and his boys all kilt!

How did I miss seeing Ward move out there, he thought, he must have passed right through Brewster, and across Brewster’s and Carr’s front? I must have been moving back down the Emmitsburg Road from my visit to Carr, down in the roadbed, and then had my view in that direction blocked by the Wentz buildings. He was mortified, embarrassed by his failure to see this until now, and in dread fear for Ward and his men, advancing so bravely against twice their numbers, maybe more…

He sat his horse a while longer, thinking furiously. I told Carr and Brewster to hold their positions, so they’re not likely to go out to help Ward. He panned his view around to the north, and saw that, sure enough, Carr’s and Brewster’s boys were still standing in their serried ranks on the rise to the east of the Emmitsburg Road, at least insofar as he could see them.

Then he looked further out, and saw that the two batteries which had been deployed to Carr’s right when he last saw them were now advancing northeast, obviously intending to support Ward’s right. Finally, looking back to watch Ward’s advance, which was now almost to the farm that he knew belonged to the Slaub family, he saw long lines of Rebs break cover from the treeline on that northeasterly ridge and begin to advance toward Ward!

He broke into a cold sweat as he counted more than a dozen Reb battleflags. His view of the whole scene was quite good from where he sat his horse, on a rise just northwest of the Wentz place. The ground was relatively clear out that way, and sloped down slightly from the Emmitsburg Road before rising again toward that cursed, tree-lined ridge to the northeast.

What to do? If I do nothing, those Rebs are going to roll over Ward like a mudslide, and likely keep on coming at Brewster and Carr afterwards. Likely overrun the guns that have moved out to support Ward as well.

But if I move my boys out to help Ward, I’ll leave Birney’s right in the air, except for those two regiments of Burling’s, standing here beside me.

I could send Carr, and keep Brewster in hand, but would Carr be enough? No, if I send my boys into that fight, it must be all of them. Montrose had it right; “He either fears his Fate too much, Or his Deserts are small, That dares not put it to the touch, To win, or lose, it all.” With that thought, he felt a sense of calm returning.

He turned then to Cavada. “Adolphus, send a courier to Birney. My compliments, and tell him Ward’s brigade is advancing upon an entire Rebel host, out northeast of my position, near the Slaub Farm. Tell him further that I am moving Brewster and Carr out to support him, and will absent myself from this flank for some time. Say that he may make what use he will of Burling.”

As that courier rode off, Humphreys went on. “Adolphus, another courier, to Carr this time. My compliments, and tell him to advance his brigade 1000 yards. He will know from that what I intend, given what he can plainly see for himself to be happening to his front.”

He then waited a spell as the courier to Carr rode off. Brewster sat his own horse nearby, and he needed to wait until Carr’s orders had nearly reached him before ordering Brewster to make his own advance, lest the two brigades move out of step with each other.

As he waited, he watched Ward and the Rebs come within range of each other, and saw clouds of smoke begin to rise between them. After some little while had passed he deemed it time, and said to Cavada, “Adolphus, send me a courier to Brewster, my compliments and will he please take his boys forward 1000 yards, and into that fight he sees before him!” With that, he realized, his job for the day was largely done. It was the boys’ fight now.

He waited a while longer, until he saw Brewster’s men step off across the Emmitsburg Road, moving northwest. Then he turned to his staff and said, “Young gentlemen, I intend to go in with this attack. I presume, of course, that you will wish to ride with me?” With that, he put spurs to his horse and moved off to the northwest. Pulling out his pocket watch, he saw it was just quarter past 5:00 of the clock.

Once he was a ways across the Emmitsburg Road he came to a little rise, and had a better view to the north and northwest. He paused to put take in the scene, and what he saw stirred his soul. My great God in Heaven, he thought, what a magnificent sight!

Off by the Slaub Farm, Ward’s brigade was fully engaged, with Rebs beginning to lap around both flanks. But coming up behind them from the east swept both Brewster and Carr, their long lines in near perfect order, their banners unfurled to the summer breeze! My boys, he thought, just look at my brave boys! It’s enough to make this old soldier’s heart burst with pride!

Carr’s and Brewster’s respective advances were diverging slightly from one another, he saw. This was due, no doubt, to their somewhat different facings when they began to advance. No matter, though, he thought, in fact it will work out well, for they will come up on either side of Ward! Perhaps luck is with us today!

Just then, Ward began to give way. Carr and Brewster were still not quite up, but Ward’s boys streamed back between them, and as his own regiments swept past them he saw Ward’s regiments halt and rally in the gap. Then, after Brewster and Carr began engaging the Rebs, and a few moments had passed, Ward led his men forward again! What courage!

The next half hour or so seemed something of a blur to him. He rode forward, took a position behind the Fire Zouaves of the 73rd New York of Brewster’s brigade, and tried to make himself useful, exhorting the men as they fought. Brewster’s boys lapped around the Rebel right flank, and the Rebs began to break and run! The smoke cleared somewhat, and he rode a little to the rear, back to the small rise from where he had watched the initial advance. Only 30 minutes, he thought, but it seems a lifetime…

The Rebs were falling back everywhere. Carr was still engaged a ways to the north, but Brewster’s boys were resting a bit. Then a courier from Birney rode up, saying that Birney’s boys could not hold out much longer.

Humphreys called for another courier, and said to Cavada, “My compliments to Colonel Brewster, and tell him to move his brigade to the southeast, back to the peach orchard.” He then rode off in that direction himself. I’ll leave Carr to manage whatever Rebs are left up here, he thought.

Arriving at the Wentz farm some time later, he saw Burling’s 5th New Jersey and 115th Pennsylvania still resting in reserve where he had left them, oh so long ago. He rode around the farm building, and saw Birney and de Trobriand still fighting bravely, but assailed by many Rebel infantry. He led Burling’s boys around the farm and into the fight. Looking behind him, he saw Brewster’s brigade coming down from the north. And at that point…
______________________________________

Here Jess and I, conferring on TeamSpeak, decided to halt the battle. We’d been playing for about 2 hours, and felt it was time to call it a day. As I recall, Jess’ (Birney’s) division had suffered losses near 80% (!!), while my division (Humphrey’s) lost 60%.

But we had held the Rebs for two hours, and learned a great deal about divisional command. We were quite content.

About the above literary “flight of fancy”  Smile . At several points I attributed thoughts or words to General Andrew Humphreys that he either did say himself in real life, though not at Gettysburg, or which were really thought/said by others. I meant no disrespect by this, and certainly did not mean to appear personally boastful about my performance in this game, which I think was middling at best. Rather, I did it to honor the brave men who served both sides in this very bloody conflict.
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From Birney

Post  Jess on Thu Mar 09, 2017 3:10 am

Wonderful my friend. You can smell the gun powder.

I wish Ward were a real person, he could write one hell of a narrative as you have. As it is we will have to pin a medal on him at his Court Marshall Smile

The reality is that both Sykes and Hancock did try to come to 3rd Corps aid. This would be a fine battle to fight with a couple more players, one a division from Hancock, or maybe just Hancock himself, and one a division from Sykes

Regards Jess
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Re: The saga of Humphreys and Birney

Post  Mr. Digby on Thu Mar 09, 2017 11:08 am

Really nice narrative. With literary skills such as these you should consider running a campaign.

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"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: The saga of Humphreys and Birney

Post  Interlocutor on Thu Mar 09, 2017 12:56 pm

Thanks Jess, Digby.

I actually felt the emotions which I ascribed to Humphreys in the AAR. Particularly, when I first saw Ward advancing on Seminary Ridge all by his lonesome, I was both astounded at his temerity and horrified by my own failure to see it earlier Shocked . And later, as I watched Brewster and Carr sweep forward to Ward's rescue, I had tears in my eyes at the pageantry of it all. All the while, I felt almost like I was really there, on that battlefield.

This game is truly wonderful. It is as immersive an experience as I've ever had in wargaming, particularly now that I've figured out how to get rid of that immersion-killing toolbar. And like Jess, I've been wargaming for nearly 60 years.

Digby, you unknowingly hit below the belt with your campaign comment Surprised . Campaigns are my great love in wargaming, my lifelong interest. But they are soooo time-consuming for the designer/moderator, if they are done right, or at least, done in the way I like to do them. And I'm not sure I have the time right now.

Are you familiar with the boardgame series, "The Great Campaigns of the American Civil War"? If not, check out this link, and look particularly at the magnificent maps:

http://www.gcacw.com/

I have "adapted" that game system to build a campaign system for ACW miniatures campaigns. With considerable work, it could be made to serve as a campaign vehicle to generate SoW-GB battles.

But each resulting battle would require the creation and design of an SOW-GB scenario, and I've never done that. How hard is it?

Jim ;-)
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Re: The saga of Humphreys and Birney

Post  Mr. Digby on Thu Mar 09, 2017 2:00 pm

I've created dozens, if not hundreds of custom OOBs and scenarios generated by campaign map encounters for SoW, so its easy for me, just a little time-consuming.

The admin work behind the scenes is the time consuming part.

I will investigate your link.

Meanwhile if you could drop any further comments or interest here, I'd be grateful:

http://forum.kriegsspiel.org.uk/t1927-another-mini-campaign-idea

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"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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