The Volunteers -- a TC2 1st Battle of Manassas AAR

Started by JasonPratt, May 14, 2015, 10:07:58 PM

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I hope to get more worked up and posted on this over the weekend (I already have more worked up, just not ready to post yet); and I hope to get farther than only 1st Manassas (aka 1st Bull Run).

Until then, here's the narrative prologue, and some historical notes afterward.

Eventually I'll come back and post a link here to the start of actual combat, for anyone who wants to skip the preliminaries.  ;D
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


THE VOLUNTEERS -- Prologue, "A Thousand Miles Away"


"I guess you did somethin' to impress General Longstreet, Cap'n," the courier shrugged. "Here's a horse. You're gonna need it."

"But... but General Holmes...?" I blinked in shock.

"Didn't make it. Or did, but he's out of action, I dunno." The courier was handing me the reins of the animal. Horses and I didn't get along well, and...

"...what's his name?" I vaguely stared in its direction.

"Scorch, sir. And she's a she." That didn't bode well. "Here are some pips for your collar, and," he handed me the new insignia, "well, I guess they'll work out the details later. Good day, Colonel, gonna be busy!" The courier saluted and turned his own steed to go.

"But, wait, don't we have orders?!"

Distant thunder rolled in from somewhere, rising and falling. The courier, as well as everyone else, looked around alertly, but the sound faded away.

"Same as before, what Gen'ral Holmes was doin' I guess!" And off he trotted at a quick step until he was clear of the camp and could really fly.

"...I hope you and I can come to an understanding," I muttered at Scorch, and fed her an apple from my bag that I had been saving for a mid-morning snack. She near took my hand off at the wrist. And glared. Apples had arsenic, I thought I recalled a doctor saying back home in Dyer, thousands of miles away, roughly west-southwest. Maybe not thousands of miles. Couldn't be much short of a thousand, though.

And that was about a quarter after 5 in the morning, in a grassy field out in the middle of Nowhere, Virginia, July 21, 1861.

I wondered if my brother was a colonel already.

The men in the 2nd Confederate Tennessee Regiment, like those of the 1st Arkansas nearby, were not exactly breaking camp, but were thinking about it somewhat as they ate their cookfire breakfasts, and messed with their rolls and kits. We had been camped here since the 19th, having force-marched up the rail line from our posting at Acquia Creek, under General Holmes, to support General Beauregard. General Johnston had arrived yesterday, or had begun to arrive by rail rather, pulling most of our 3000 men into Longstreet's division to boost what we thought at the time would be the center of McDowell's advance across Bull Creek to the Manassas Junction. Two regiments remained behind, ourselves and the 1st Arkansas, to provide security for six nearby guns, themselves also obviously in the far rear reserve.

That was fine. Since being mustered into the Confederate Army in May, with a few weeks' quick drilling by West Point cadets, providing security for artillery had been our primary assignment: specifically, the heavy batteries rapidly dragged behind equally rapid fortifications (which we had helped in finishing), at the mouth of Acquia Creek where, more importantly, the Potomac River emptied into the Bay.

Even though we hadn't fired our own guns in anger, that had been an important assignment, since that fort had effectively shut down river traffic. We got salted-in when, during late May and early June, a set of Federal warships had dueled with the heavy guns. That had seemed like the world was coming to an end. In reality, only a few houses, a chicken, and some horses had come to an end.

And one General. But we hadn't known that then.

I found my co-captain, showed him the pips, told him the news from Longstreet, and then together he and I stepped briskly over to find the Arkansas colonel and his captains. I hadn't really gotten to know my fellow captains in the other regiments yet, being too busy with helping train mine.

"Didn't make it, hm," the Arkansas colonel observed. "You might be cursed, Pratt."

My captain bristled at that, but I answered ruefully, "I can't honestly disagree with that, can I, Colonel Drake?" and shook my head.

"Didn't think preachers believed in curses," an Arkansas captain spat to the side. That was Grubb.

"Preachers believe a lot of things," I shrugged. "I'll just have to pray whatever's happening doesn't rub off on anyone else."

"Except on General Holmes. And Colonel Bate," the other captain said. That was Boyle.

"Now that wasn't anyone's fault but Bate's," my captain began, and started to explain what drill marching in Lynchburg, in the hottest May on record, will do to a man too overweight to ride a horse and too stubborn and too honorable to refuse to try to keep up on field maneuvers.

"That shrapnel from the ship's cannon wasn't anyone's fault at all," I added, "including the doctor's, who thought he had gotten it all from General Holmes."

"Just a bad way to get a promotion before the shootin' even starts," the Arkansas colonel said.

"You were there, too! -- the shooting did already start for us, and that's why General Holmes -- " my captain began, but Drake continued on. "And I guess you know Longstreet. Or your daddy does. Or their Grandaddies knew each other."

"I've never met Longstreet but once, when he came to camp yesterday to pick up most of our regiments," I said, "and then we didn't speak. You were there, too. And just to be clear, my father was a carpenter, far away from anywhere that General Longstreet has ever been. And his father came from South Carolina where, I might as well tell you since you're going to hear it from scuttlebutt anyway, he fought as a Tory brigade commander against the Swamp Fox himself. So no, I don't have any connections to the Brigadier General, and I don't know why he promoted me to command the brigade instead of assigning you."

But I could guess, as could my regiment. Which is why my captain opened his mouth again and refused to be shushed: "Captain Pratt and his brother helped get two companies together back early this January. JANUARY! -- and the captain marched us three hundred miles through the late winter in Tennessee to the capitol, making sure we trained as we went." Well, more like a hundred and fifty miles, but the roads could be pretty winding. "When we marched into Nashville in April, we were by far the best company for maneuver in the whole regiment! I bet Holmes said something about that to Longstreet when he left for the divisional hospital last night, just in case!"

Gore had been elected co-captain with me based on that success. I coughed politely. "Now, captain, these men are also volunteers -- from our neighbors next door across the Mississippi," here I raised my voice over a mutter about them not being Tennessee volunteers, "and they're the first Arkansas regiment to be commissioned to protect their state! So they leapt early at the chance to help protect their people, too!"

"Whereas," drawled Captain Grubb, "you're the second. From Tennessee. The second 2nd Tennessee Regiment even, not the first. And I hear the 1st Tennessee is serving with some other artillery colonel near the front. So are they the first 1st Tennessee Regiment, or...?"

"Well, someone has to be first, that's all," I smiled, trodding my captain's foot before he reminded the Arkansas offers that they themselves were serving here with us as rear-rear artillery guard. "It's what we do together from here on out that matters, right? And they're a better trained regiment overall than us, and got here first, so -- "

"Hey. You said yore granpa helped the British fight my granpa!?" the other Arkansas captain finally realized.

"And he was very sorry afterward, as he should have been," I emphasized, "and moved out west into what was North Carolina frontier at the time. Along with Bigfoot Spencer, one of the first scouts in West Tennessee.  Or just after him rather. He told my father stories, and then told me while I was growing up, and fought line battles for me with little lead soldiers. He did that, so one day when I grew up I'd help protect our nation from invaders instead, if necessary. Foreign or domestic. I'm here to right my Grandfather's wrongs. Y'all can understand that, right?"

"So your other grandfather knew Longstreet then?" "...oh, yeah! -- we ain't stupid, you had to have two granpas," nodded his fellow captain.

"Now that's an interesting story, because you see my mother was born in Arkansas! Yep!" I told them truthfully as they blinked. "I'm half Arkansas, too! That grandpa I never knew, because he married my grandmother, whose parents were some of the first settlers in West Tennessee, at a young age, and moved across the river to Crowley's Ridge. But then, in that Year Of No Summer, he died in the early winter. And my grandma packed up my ma as a little baby and all by herself drove that wagon and team of oxen, with my uncles and aunts, all little children, back across the mile-wide Mississippi, while it was frozen, home to her folks! So you see, I was VERY pleased and proud to find out I'd be serving with fine folks a lot more Arkansasian than me! You'd've been my neighbors, and I'm glad to finally meet you!"

And I held out my hand.

And they thought about it. And the colonel took it. Eventually.

"So," I said, "let's just focus on helping protect the people here in Virginia from invasion first; and then on staying alive and going home, as many as we can, to tell the tales to all our parents and kin and sweethearts. As far as I'm concerned, that's my job now, to make sure those officers above us don't make us do stupid things that'll only get us killed, right?" I laughed.

They didn't exactly laugh. Or nod in agreement. Exactly.

They did say, one of the captains did:

"...uh, why's that artillery captain pointing his guns at the forest?"


That's when I knew what kind of day this was going to be.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


Dropping out of character for some extended historical-and-gamenote commentary.

Okay, yeah, that's a lot of plot setup to explain why I'm commanding the brigade instead of Holmes -- whatever. Pretty much everything noted is true, minus five or six generations of course, except for the following.

1.) None of my grandfathers fought against the Swamp Fox in South Carolina. Or however-many-greats. Two Reed cousins did sign up for different sides of the Civil War, one Union, one Confederate (that one was my ancestor), but they never fought each other, and I don't know what their war record was. But I had to come up with a reason why I would have some relevant command skilz, which I have set in-game at 1 (for now) by the way, as a green brigade commander. A Tory officer grandfather trained in British world-class warfare made some sense, as well as providing some dramatic motivation.

2.) I haven't researched who the real captains and colonel were for the 1st Arkansas. So don't anyone take offense, please!

3.) No company was raised from Gibson County or surrounding ones until a full regiment was raised, the 47th TN, late in 1861. Anyone wanting to join before then, in time for 1st Manassas, would have certainly had to march or otherwise travel to Nashville or, more likely because it was closer, to Memphis in Shelby County. That's where the other, first "2nd Tennessee Regiment" was raised, at about this time, by the way. Walker's regiment was mangled soon afterward in a relatively minor scrap at Belmont, and then after reconstituting for a while, including at the Corinth depot in Mississippi, fought at Shiloh where they were mauled so badly they had to merge with another regiment. They were Tennessee's first, and maybe only, Irish Regiment. (That Colonel Walker is different from the Captain Walker whom Holmes' reserve brigade was guarding here at 1st Bull Run.)

The 47th company, from Gibson and surrounding counties, also fought at Shiloh, and then under Bragg up and down Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi, and lasted until Chickamunga, when only a few survived to surrender.

4.) Colonel Bate of the 2nd Confederate TN regiment, wasn't a casualty of the regimental training in May, and served from 1st Manassas at least until Shiloh when he was heavily wounded and promoted. (Yes, both of the 2nd TN regiments fought at Shiloh. That was also around the time that the Confederates started consolidating and renaming regiments to a less confusing standard. ;) ) 2nd Confed TN led a busy life throughout 1862 and afterward, constantly fighting in the battles of Tennessee (including Chickamunga) and some other points south like Corinth and Atlanta, until surrendering to Sherman (back under Johnston again after serving under Hood) in late April '65. So the 2nd ConfedTN went home (mostly) after 1st Manassas.

On the other hand, the 1st Confederate TN Volunteers, most likely the first mustered in the state, gained fame as the "Tennessee Brigade" and the "Tennessee Volunteers" in the Army of North Virginia through practically all the major and most of the minor battles of that department, including Gettysburg, before surrendering under Lee at Appomattox, 1865. Like the 2nd they were present at 1st Bull Run (and at the 2nd Bull Run, unlike the 2nd TN, and now you are insane ;) ), apparently passing from Bee's command after his death to Colonel then General Stonewall Jackson. The Volunteers didn't come under heavy fighting until Seven Pines, however, and so weren't involved with Bee's retreat and his rally "behind the Virginian". They ended the war intact, but with an aggregated total of 2/3 casualties, and are heavily responsible for Tennessee coming to be known as the Volunteer State. My goal in this campaign is to lead the 2nd Confederate Volunteers to as much glory as the 1st Volunteers. Though we might fight at Shiloh anyway before coming back. ;)

I recall checking what happened to the other 1st TN Regiment, but I don't recall what they did. Their career isn't as famous as the Volunteers.

5.) General Holmes wasn't wounded at the artillery duel down at the mouth of the Potomac, and didn't subsequently die of latent complications (or of anything else) at 1st Manassas. Although ranking as high as anyone else at the battle, he stayed behind with the depleted reserve brigade once most of its 3000 men had been reassigned under Johnston; but eventually he led the brigade, including 2nd TN, in a desperate seven mile march, partly under heavy artillery fire, to shore up one of the fronts (not apparently at Stonewall's stand). What happened to him afterward I'm not sure. He seems to have fought at Shiloh, but then was replaced sometime afterward.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


THE VOLUNTEERS -- Chapter 1, "Sunday Morning Preaching"

"Excuse us, Captain, um... Oh, I'm Colonel Pratt, promoted to replace General Holmes for now in command of the Holmes Brigade, and this is my captain and my fellow -- "

"We're a little curious why you're pointing your artillery battery into the woods," my fellow colonel, Drake, got to the point.

The ancient creature squinted at us youngsters and gleamed, far back in his eyes, under that gnarled brow. "Heh. Told my men I expected there were Yanks on the other side of them woods, and they'd better git those guns ready to go, pronto, before the Federals worked their way through. Then we'd surprise 'em, but on the other hand we wouldn't be able to see and fight until they were right on top and ready to charge. No use lookin' for 'em, they'll be crafty and quiet, until BAM!" we kind of jumped a little, "it's too late. For them or for us. YOU-ALL LOOK SHARP NOW, DON'T LET 'EM RUSH US!" he called out. His cannon crews were working hard to get ready in time, fumbling around more than a little, and more than a little panicked.

We opened and closed our mouths several times, as we each considered and discarded replies or observations or inferences about that. At last I offered, "Would you like us to deploy on either side for security, sir?"

"I wouldn't if I were you, son. Let me know if a courier arrives, I got work to do, thanks." And since I was a brigade commander now, if only a small one, he threw a salute just in case, and walked up to chivvy his men on with harsh whispers.

"...Captain, colonel, go tell our men to line up in waiting columns per regiment," I gave my first official order. "They can sit if they want. And tell them under no circumstances to mess with Captain Walker. Ever."

"Yessir. Do not annoy crazy officers with cannons, I'll make sure they understand, sir," Colonel Drake acknowledged, so distracted in awe he saluted me without stopping to think whether he ought to or wanted to or not. Seeing a real Captain, who from the look of it hadn't needed cannons to win the Revolution by himself, was... bracing.

Up until just after six in the morning, we stood and watched the show.

Well, the columns did; I was busy inheriting what was left of General Holmes' headquarters and crew, up to and including a personal mounted guard. I also took some time to try trotting on Scorch around the meadow, far enough that I could see what I hoped were a few regiments of Ewell's camp lining up for maneuvers, more than a thousand yards westward.


Around 6 am, expecting to start receiving couriers any time, I ambled over between my two regiments, and spread a map on the ground for my officers and anyone nearby to look at. Drake and Gore, and some other soldiers, met me in the middle.

"Our, um, noble artillery captain could in theory have a point," I admitted. "Beyond those trees is Bull Run, and then a whole lot of more trees; but not too far away there's also a road, leading down to McLean's Ford."

"And that road leads back up to a town called Centerville, between us and Washington DC." There were some nervous murmurs about this. "Now, it isn't very likely many Federals crossed that river, or even that ford, which Longstreet or rather Johnston's whole corps is guarding, along with others here, and here. But yeah, the enemy might be off in that direction."

"Spe-cif-ic-ly, Jones is guardin' McLean's ford," grumbled Captain Grubb, "or so I heard last night."

"Think the Federals woke up really early this morning to try to deep flank our line on the right?" Captain Gore asked.

"Not likely," I snorted. "Take it from me, I'm a preacher: I doubt any of those shopkeepers ever had to wake up before sunrise on a Sunday before."

"Well, didn't we hear a bit of cannon about an hour ago? Or was that thunder do you think?" Colonel Drake looked back and forth at his pocketwatch and at the clear morning sky.

"Clearly not an attack," I answered. "Or we'd've been hearing a lot more. Just another old captain getting in some practice for new recruits, more likely."
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


Back to some extended out-of-character gamenote and historical commentary.

The first thing the AI really, no fooling, does, honest to God, in this little pocket of troops, is unlimber the arty battery we're guarding, and aim at the trees. This is... um... not standard protocol under the circumstances, even if an enemy is expected to come from there.

Strictly speaking, since Bull Run Creek is on the other side of those trees, the enemy could theoretically flank the whole fighting area and try to slip into the rear from this direction, but in reality I have no idea if the computer thinks troops are starting this far right-and-southward crossing the creek, and is cheating to see them coming, or not. This is supposed to be a historical start, so from outside the game I have no reason to believe any enemy troops are there.

In real life, though, the Union General McDowell did wake up a large portion of his troops at 2:30 am to steal a march in the dark, since he guessed correctly that trains were starting to bring in reinforcements already from Johnston down at Manassas Junction. Marching green troops that early in the morning snarled up his lines terribly, but almost gave him an immediate victory anyway! -- and he did spend much of the morning, as on previous days, trying to figure out how to safely flank around Beauregard. He sent cavalry scouts on this side, but they met Longstreet and some other brigades already reinforcing the fords, and didn't come down as far as McLean, or to Union Mills and the railway bridge nearby. Not historically -- what the computer might try, who knows yet.

Ewell, southeast of even our position on this morning, was parked near Signal Hill, on our side of the creek across from Union Mills. Beauregard intended for him to lead the main spoiling attack planned for the day, probably over that rail bridge or across Mills ford; but Ewell never got the orders and stayed parked. Signal Hill nearby did tell Evans, at 8 miles distance to the northwest -- far to the far other end of the Confederate line! -- that his left flank had been turned, not long into the morning. And that was the world's first combat usage of wig-wag flag semaphore!

The cannon fire heard around 5:15 (portentously echoing a distinct lack of specific orders from Longstreet back in the prologue!) was from Richardson's Union Brigade giving Beau a bit of a wakeup call in his headquarters at the McLean house, where he happened to be eating breakfast already. This doesn't occur in the game, unfortunately, partly because the clock starts at 6 am, but I wanted to include it in the story.

Here's a map via Wikimedia for the far right wing, early July 21, before the start of the battle. Even much of this area is beyond what I can see at the moment.

Obviously I'm where Holmes was camped.

Beauregard's divisions are camping west of this (and sparsely deployed along Bull Run rather far to the northwest of this), although he was at McLean's house there. Johnston's troops are arriving at the Junction south off map, far to the rear of anywhere there will be fighting; the Orange and Alexandria RR on the map leads to the Manassas Junction, though Johnston's troops are coming in from the west down the Manassas Gap RR.

In real life, nowhere near enough of Johnston's troops had arrived Sunday morning for Johnston to feel safe marching off to support Beauregard. Despite some brutal skirmishing north of here throughout the morning at the creek crossings, the real action didn't heat up until well after noon, when McDowell got tired of fiddling around and decided to make the safest push he could (keeping in mind he felt enormous political pressure to do something but had almost entirely green troops to work with, so he was trying to protect them.) By then he had delayed long enough for Johnston to make it a fight, and we know how that ended.

I mention this because I don't think TC2 can model reinforcements arriving. At any rate, whoever designed the TC2 version of 1st Bull Run has brought EEVVEERRYYYONNEEE onto the field already, as though all of Johnston's troops were available to both guard the fords and also to support an attempt by Beau to force a meeting engagement. This will explain a lot of oddities showing up from chapter 2 onward.

Meanwhile, I think the game map replaces the O and A Railroad with a smaller creek or a road or something. We'll see presently, because the game, as I've learned from multiple starts while testing how the mod is working, packs up everyone about the same way at the start of the day for marching.

Speaking of...
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


"Hey... HEY!" Captain Gore exclaimed while straightening up from where he'd been studying the map. "Captain Walker's riding off!"

We scrambled to our feet, but no faster than his battery were themselves scrambling to follow his gestures, and soon his impatient barks, to limber up and fall in behind him. The gun caissons actually started rolling off before the gun crews could wheel their arms into place!


"...did anyone see a courier arrive? -- and leave?" I looked in all directions but couldn't find anyone. My officers were no less confused; but squinting off northward, Drake said he saw another battery out toward Jones' area limbering up to march. Maybe Captain Walker had seen a signal?

[Gamenote: yep, this happens, too. I think the game usually DOESN'T play its game 'in the saddle by courier', only when it wants to communicate with me; but thinking ahead to the eventual problems, in hindsight, I'm going to call this not actually a courier or signal issue, but rather Walker seeing the other arty heading off and not wanting to be left out of the action.]

"...did we miss a signal??" I asked, looking back in General Ewell's direction toward Signal Hill.

[Gamenote: TC2 doesn't handle 300 foot elevations or anything close to that. So, no Signal Hill. Just pretend it's there. A signaling and/or courier failure kept Ewell out of his critical spoiling offensive role in the battle, you might recall, if you didn't understandably skip over some of the extended historical asides. ;) So this is, uh, actually a brilliant verisimilitude!]

"Even if they signaled, can anyone here read those wagging flags yet!?"

"Maybe Captain Walker got special instructions early as an artilleryman?" I shrugged in reply to Gore's apt question.

"More importantly," Drake continued, "if we don't know whether we got any orders or not -- what do we do?"

"Pretend we haven't gotten any yet, and keep on doing what we were previously ordered. I guess...?" guessed Captain Gore.

Less tentatively I said, "We protect Captain Walker. That was our job, and until we know for sure that that hasn't changed, it's still our job. God knows he needs it," I coughed; then, "To your regiments, let's get marching!"


1265 men, myself included, of the Holmes Memorial Reserve Brigade of the Army of the Potomac, briskly curved to a jaunty pace.

Then we had to stop for a few minutes because Captain Walker led his plodding artillery train across our path. To be nearer the trees on our left, I guess. Some of them drove through the edges of that grove eventually.


"Do not mess with crazy cannon officers," I murmured repeatedly as I stepped Scorch back down the waiting regimental columns, nodding left and right in inspection. "Since this is a Sunday, even though you aren't in church, and especially since we're marching to war," I said more loudly, "you might want to take this time as an opportunity for prayer JESUS CHRIST!!"

The men leapt and staggered out of the way as an arty lumbered through, its driver morosely adding, "Sorry, y'all got in front of us and cut us off, we can't turn all that sharp once we're moving forward --"

"Move on," I waved, "we'll call that my fault, then," and managed not to sound altogether sarcastic. "I see my well-trained Volunteers, from the grand state of Tennessee, have snapped right back in line! Just like a surprise test against an artillery powder puff!"

"Say," said Captain Gore, "is that Colonel Early's brigade marching off over there? Away from the fords?"

"He must have been assigned to follow Johnston and the others as rear guard," I agreed, looking through a spyglass my aide, or bodyguard, handed me. "Uh... don't worry, I'm sure there are strong brigades remaining behind to watch the fords." That could have sounded more reassuring, but didn't for good reason: I couldn't see any. I would learn why a little later that morning.

"Speaking of which," said Colonel Drake, "I'm glad our artillery brothers won't need a ford in crossing that creek. And going into the woods." And he pointed.

I rode up to see for myself. Yes, Captain Walker was leading his battery directly across this creek, and across the Orange and Alexandria Railroad on the other side, and into the woods beyond them.

"That," muttered my aide, as I distractedly gestured left and right for my regiments to move up in columns, "is at least forty percent insane."

"His enemies cannot anticipate him," I marveled. "They shall go out to catch birds with a fishing net, and to fish with a bow and arrow!"

"That sounds like a proverb, sir. I heard you're a preacher?"

"Not today."

"Why not today? It's Sunday, right?"

"...well, I can't say I have a good answer to that!"

So I turned around and stood to face my regiments as they prepared to pass me on either side across the little rill, and said (as they got near)...

"I'll try not to bore you too much: but since I'm a preacher, and you-all aren't in church today, the church can come to you!

"Now, some of you, not many of you I hope, may be standing in front of the Lord Almighty before the end of the day. Maybe me, too -- because while I won't be riding out in front of your guns too often," I joked, to a few chuckles, "I'll be sitting up here on my horse, praying hard that the Yankees didn't bring any squirrel shooters!" More chuckles more generally. "But I want you all to be ready to stand before God, without having to explain in shame what it was you were doing the moment you were called!

"Now, maybe you think I mean you shouldn't be caught dead running away! I'm not going to lie to you, sometimes running away is a great idea! Though it's safer if we all run away together, okay?" More laughs. "But let me say, if we run away, we're throwing over our duty to help protect the people of Virginia from invasion.

"We'd want them to come help us, and they might have to come help us someday. And if they do, we wouldn't want them running away and leaving our loved ones that much more open to pillage and rape!" I barked. A few men jumped. "So if we have to pull back, let's pull back together, and so help defend each other, and be more prepared to stand and help defend our hosts here in Virginia again.

"And by the way: you better not be caught dead having to explain to God that your commanding officer had to put you down in a grave with his pistols or with his sword -- and I was taught from an early age how to use them, boys -- because you were treating any civilians with any less respect than I would expect you to treat my mother! Test me on this at your peril: I will show you no mercy.

"But also, and this is just as important: don't you be caught dead being unmerciful to your enemy."

That got more of their attention, and some confusion. "Yes, you have to fight today; and sooner or later we'll most likely have to kill some Federal soldiers." A whoop or two from the line. "But they aren't the criminals here -- not yet, unless they start pillaging. Their leaders drove them to this. And so our job today is to drive them back. I mean WE MUST PUT THE FEAR OF GOD'S OWN JUSTICE IN THEM!" I roared as hard as a leatherlunged Tennessee Baptist preacher could roar, startling everyone up and down the line. "If we can do that, they'll naturally run away, and we can spare their lives.

"And boys... no, let me tell you men: that's what this whole battle is about." By now they had passed the creek, and I started riding back up between the columns. "If we can scare those Yankees back up into Connecticut and Maine, where they left their Mommas cryin', then everyone will be happy. Them, their Mommas, our Mommas, and God Himself, because we were merciful and able to stop a terrible fight between men who ought to be brothers, here in this country, to one another!

"They don't want to be here, most of them. They want to be home. So let's do our best to send them home, and not on to stand before God unless we have to!

"For I have seen a shining Gospel writ in rows of burnished steel: AS YE DEAL WITH MY CONDEMNERS, SO WITH YOU MY GRACE SHALL DEAL!"

Now we were approaching the woods where the artillery were crunchily vanishing. I paused a moment to let my sermon settle in.

"Behind those trees, somewhere, is fear, and thunder, and ripping blood. Well, you can't fight a Minnie bullet. You can't fight a cannonball. But you can fight two things:

"Fear! And uncharity!"

"The Lord said, to encourage us, 'Dread nothing, for I have overcome the world!'

"And He also said, to warn us, that we shall be forgiven, only so far as we are willing to forgive those who sin against us.

"So fight with bravery and honor today, and for every day that comes, for as long as it is called Today! -- until we can all go home, one way or another: in honor and in justice!!


And I got some amens. And they entered the woods, beyond which none of us could see.

"Good enough," my aide said as we waited for the columns to pass.


"...see something up the rail line?"

I shook my head. "Manassas Junction is up there, where the Manassas Gap line meets this line. I hope someone is protecting that. Operationally, that's why we're here." I sighed. "But I don't see anyone marching to protect the rail line."

"...well, if we win tactically, and if we win strategically, we won't have to win operationally. Right?" he quirked a smile.

And into the woods we went as well.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!



Chapter 2 will cover a lot more ground a lot more quickly (figuratively and literally), but while I'm working on that, let's talk about that big red star in the sky, shall we?

As I got the brigade to the treeline, and was looking around to take some snapshots, some concerns that I had been having began to coalesce, in two connected flavors.

1.) I had really expected my AI commanders to be sending me couriers with orders by now.

Granted that the computer naturally moves its pieces around the way most people would do, by direct order (or part of the AI directly moves some generals, and then another part of the AI tells those generals to directly move other generals, etc., down to the regiment) -- the only way it can communicate to me what it wants me to do, is by the courier system.

EVERYTHING that I have read so far leads me to expect I should be receiving orders. But I'm not. So what am I supposed to do?

1.1.) Stand around back in the clearing where we started? In real life that would make it a lot easier for a courier to find me, and not miss me with orders, but I strongly suspect the couriers in the game always know where to find the player and just sometimes have trouble plotting a path. Besides, that would be more boring than what I'm currently doing, yo. ;)

1.2.) Guard the artillery battery? Obviously this is what I had chosen to do instead of something else, but this is where I began to wonder if I had made / was making the right call. Well, I couldn't figure out a way in-story to do something else (yet), so for story's sake this still made / was making the most sense. But the star in the sky over there was worrying me.

1.3.) Operate detachedly on my own recognizance? Aside from being out of character, doing what exactly? I only have two regiments, only one of which is a veteran (2nd TN starts that way in-game, thus my little story about me training them on the march from Trenton Camp to Nashville to explain that, as well as to help explain my rapid promotions). I don't have any supplies, and for any long-term fight I had better stay near where the supply wagons ought to be (if I can find them). Providing flank protection for Walker's artillery still sounds like a good mission for a brigade this small; or perhaps acting as a flanking agent in a larger fight, chewing at the edges from the outside -- and following the arty might get me to that larger fight.

Or, I could be operating in detachment doing something else, which brings us to my second coalescing concern:

2.) Those red and gold stars indicate primary objectives for the whole battle. (Minor ones assigned by the AI, or by me to any subordinates via the courier system, would be only gold.) I happened to have already found the mod file which provides the four objectives, and I can confirm them by the UI in game. They aren't MY objectives as Colonel-previously-Captain Pratt, but the lead 'general' for each side ought to be acting to achieve them.

Specifically, the four objectives are

A.) hold one road, in real life the O&A railroad, going to Manassas junction, near the bottom of the map (which is the objective shown by the star in that screenie);

B.) hold the other road going to Manassas near the bottom of the map (it's much farther west than where I ended this chapter, btw);

C.) hold a crossroad at the Wheeler farm, left of the Confederate line where the Union has some chance of going around and getting to it (a minor original objective for this mission);

D.) hold Centerville in the upper right of the map behind the Union left flank.

The problem becoming apparent to me, is this: the AI on my side isn't trying to secure the O&A Railroad into Manassas. Double-checking the in-game map, which shows me all my side and as much of the Union as anyone on my side can see (which is rather unreal for a baby colonel, so I don't use it much), I can tell there aren't any red troops stationed at those map places yet.

Now, that might not be a problem if the three objectives behind the Confederate line start the mission already counted as being held by us -- I can't tell yet. But I can't tell yet, so it might be a problem, since I CAN tell that the game doesn't count them as "occupied".

Even if the Confeds still have to take those points (30 minutes in-game for most of them in order to score), the AI might be calculating to go for a fighting score, and only send forces to 'take' those points when there are shattered regiments and brigades wandering around who are no good for much combat, and/or only if we're losing as the day goes on (perhaps being driven back) and these would be ways to get points back.

But I'm not sure the AI has been programmed that cleverly. After all, it's driving artillery straight over creeks and through forests to get somewhere (we'll see where next chapter), rather than using more of the road system. It doesn't LOOK as though it knows better than me about the most effective way to get where it's going, and it certainly doesn't LOOK as though it has been taught to care much about how exhausted the cannons might be when they get there rather than by using the road system (where movement doesn't create exhaustion). But then again, maybe limbered arty doesn't get tired regardless.

I just don't know enough yet to be able to tell if the AI is being clumsy about not securing those points.

I do know that securing those points would be the job of a small brigade like ours. Nominally I'd be sending someone like 'me' to go do that if I were running the battle from Beau's post, assuming they don't start out as counting for our score already; and then bringing me up for reserve as the fighting wore on, later around noon (since it takes real time in-game to get from point to point, and more in-game time to secure them.) One little brigade like this won't make much difference in a fight unless it's being VERY cleverly operated; we aren't a couple of cav regiments who can run around looking for trouble to make.

On the other hand, spending three hours in-game securing those points, though possibly important for winning the battle overall, would be a duller story than even what I'm managing so far. ;)

At any rate, I'm going to follow the arty through the trees and try to help it. But I thought I ought to explain some over-game concerns I started having here, which I wouldn't be able to talk about in-character, or not at this point anyway (and possibly not later).
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


Minor but potentially significant update: I'm far from ready to post chapter 2 yet (mainly because I got much less computer time this weekend than I was expecting). But while working on converting some playtime over to my AAR doc, and checking some map snapshots I had taken for referencing where the Confed leadership is early in the fight, I discovered that there were in fact no less than TWO Confederate couriers at the time I entered the woods.

They were also both waaayy on the other side of Bull Run, doing God-alone-and-maybe-the-Confed-AI-knows-what.

Their existence leads me to question what the hell. At several levels.

They're on a road system roughly surrounding a large woods where (unbeknownst to my character yet) one of the Confederate divisions has taken up station. Are they trying to get to him? He's the only logical target, but why send two couriers? Did the AI change its mind about what it wanted that division to do, that quickly? And why only two couriers, to only that division, while moving other divisions around directly? Or is one of the couriers meant to work its way farther east, perhaps to one of the small divisions or large brigades guarding the fords? (My character wouldn't know this yet, but D. R. Jones instantly crossed his ford two minutes after 6 am and is securing the ford on the Union side of the River; there's some kind of Confederate expeditionary brigade down near Union Station, too.) Or to Ewell, who is leisurely marching up on our side of Bull Run from the Union Station ford? And if one or more is meant to be sent to a Confed commander over near where I started (instead of to that divisional commander they seem to be circling in the woods), then why didn't they go by the safe road system on our side of the river?? I had heard that the courier pathing was radically messed up, but this messed up? And again why only two?

Or were those couriers meant for me, since a courier is the only way the Confed AI can assign me orders? That would make sense, possibly including a second set of orders sent due to changing conditions somewhere northwest, but then the couriers are even farther out of any rational pathing to get to me -- and who sent them? From the data files I gathered my immediate superior is Longstreet, but if he sent me the couriers they ran in EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION from anywhere I was at! Nor, by the way, are those couriers going to find me for at least the next ten game minutes (as I already know) after those screenshots were taken.

Could super-insane courier pathing be an intentional bug, so to speak, in order to try to simulate the real-life difficulties in sending couriers any significant distance, combined with the time/space scaling issues which would otherwise see them arrive too quickly?

These are issues I'll be looking into for better understanding as I go forward with the battle. But I did want to correct my earlier misimpression about a lack of couriers: it's still radically weird that I haven't seen any by now (much moreso by ten game-minutes from now when I'm much closer to all the most important commanders), but at least I can confirm the game is sending them out.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


Further update: I finished my first 'battle' of the battle last night, where incidentally I also received my first courier orders -- which were insane, and which have led me to wonder which of three potential paths I ought to fork next. Without going into plot spoilers: stay in the area, try to advance, or try to retreat? Each has very significant dangers for doing or not doing, and to be honest I've decided to play out each of the three ways to see which will make a better chapter 3.

Still, real combat starts in chapter 2, for me and a bunch of other people. To give only a hint, it's basically that old Civil War joke: "It's a trap, sir! There's TWO of them!"
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


THE VOLUNTEERS -- Chapter 2, "The Wooded Knoll" (Part 1 of 2)

"Good lines," I was saying as the columns of the Holmes Memorial Reserve Brigade marched through the woods, following rough paths already pushed by a poor artillery battery with an insane or hardcore captain. "Whatever we see when we come to the edge, try not to worry much yet. It can't be fighting, surely, or we would have heard it. We aren't marching to a Sunday picnic, but... well, okay, Captain Walker might have decided to march his battery to a Sunday picnic, I can't really discount that possibility." That got some chuckles.

But we could all see another artillery battery off to our right, also methodically plowing through the trees.


They couldn't all be crazy, right?

Then we stopped at the forest's edge, and saw...

...a huge number of Confederate troops gathering yonder across a field, to march on a road heading west-ish.

"How in the world did Walker's artillery get that far ahead of us?" exclaimed Captain Grubb.

"While going over a field! They even passed... uh... whoever that was from near Jones' brigade, the battery that marched off first!" Boyle observed.

"Maybe Walker knows what he's doing after all?" Gore didn't sound so sure, but the evidence before us was hard to argue with.

"Well, I'm not about to waltz us across multiple fences and some farmer's summer crop, if I can help it," I declared. "According to our map," I pulled it out, checking my memory, "that road in front of us, on this side of the field, meets up with where that road is going on the other side. We'll take that turnpike, and get ahead of them, and meet them when they arrive, and we'll be rested and ready to go do whatever!"

So for the next ten minutes, that's what we did. My plan worked flawlessly.

Except that one of my inferences was wrong.

[Gamenote: it occurs to me while writing this AAR -- this isn't my wrong inference, we'll see that in a minute -- that there is a fundamental design flaw of scale in the game. The maps are intentionally scaled down both to 'fit' in the game's play-capable area and to match the scaled down regiment sizes. Technically the regiments are sized correctly in numbers, but the program doesn't draw them all on-screen, so the game designers scaled the maps to compensate. What they didn't scale was the time, so we're moving four times as fast, or something like that. This means no battle will ever take a historical amount of time. Kind of a trivial problem right now, but it might be important later so I'm making a note of it. Right now it mainly means we're marching 20 miles an hour on the road... ;) ]


"March sharp, boys! We're passing Walker's battery here!" In fact by the time we crossed the farm's creek, we had pulled ahead of most of the artillery trundling along on that parallel road.

A few minutes later, with a proud sigh and a "Well done, boys!" I led them around the corner to the crossroads at the edge of the farm.

Which was when I first saw it.

"...what." That was what I and most of my officers said together.

The giant artillery column had wheeled rightward, instantly creating a line, and was now trundling north through a copse of woods and into field.

Our own artillery had outmaneuvered us. We were left standing alone at the T-fork, waiting on allies who had already left us behind.

"...yeah, I for one, sir," called out Captain Grubb, "no longer care very much about trying to protect that artillery! Sir!"

Into the wry laughter behind us I called out in answer, "Well, it wasn't for lack of trying at least!" And that got louder laughs and some proud whoops.

But that didn't solve the problem of what the hell. As in, "So what the hell should we do now," Captain Gore was muttering as the regimental officers approached.

I grimaced. "I have to say, as much as I don't like trying to catch up even farther by going back down this other road -- since Walker's battery is clearly on the other side of the arty line from us -- we could still go help secure their eastern flank."

"Looks to me like they've got a couple of small brigades for that already," said Colonel Drake. "And that line of artillery won't need a lot of protection. That's dang near a division by itself."

"So noted," I nodded. "Seeing as how we still haven't received any orders, and our battery has been arguably delivered safely to a reinforced area, we do have other options. Roughly speaking, left or right."

"Go back right?!" Captain Boyle didn't like that idea.

But, "Longstreet might still need some help on those fords; the arty line might still need some help securing its flank after all; and while that might not sound especially glorious, remember there are roads leading to Centerville over there. And if Beauregard is dragging his forces this way, he must expect a Union thrust from the northwest, not the northeast. Longstreet or Ewell maybe could have orders to try a thrust up those roads. That would be a fine adventure to join in!

"Or, we can turn around south and try to secure one of the two roads to Manassas -- " That was met with snorts of derision. Although frankly, I was worried nothing was being done about that.

"Or we can work our way west and try to help secure the New Market crossroad.

"Or, we can go north from here, along the left flank of the advancing artillery line, and see why those men from... a Louisiana regiment..." I squinted through my new spyglass, "are already routing off the field. Take note, men!" I called out. "Don't you shame yourselves by running away like that! March smartly to the rear if we have to withdraw!"

There weren't many laughs, and several nervous mutters, which I expected under the circumstances: we hadn't heard an ounce of fighting yet, so if those men were already running away that seemed to suggest an utter trainload of Union soldiers up the road.

"No clear road to New Market from here," said Colonel Drake.

"Looks like plenty of soldiers about to crush together up ahead already," said Captain Gore.

"Well, if securing two important points to the south is too boring, then I guess we march back east and see what Longstreet is up to!"

I would later learn that Brigadier General Johnston had already arrived at New Market and was desperately throwing together a patchy defense from whatever he had at hand, against a major Union thrust down the road to that point. But I didn't know that yet, and didn't have any clear orders, and the boys didn't want to go secure the roads, so back to Longstreet I chose to march.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


THE VOLUNTEERS, Chapter 2, "The Wooded Knoll" (Part 2 of 2)

[Gamenote: That's a heavily updated version of the full southern half of the map of initial Fed / Confed positions Sunday morning, according to what my character can see or learned about later. I would show the game map from here, but it has more information than my character ought to know (such as what the Confed brigades at the rightward fords have been doing, and where Beauregard is.) It's kind of distressing that by this time, only 20 minutes after the computer started moving troops around at all, Union forces have already pushed far down past the Henry House where Jackson made his historical stand! But my character doesn't know about any of that, remember.]


Along the way back east, we passed the odd site of the 8th Louisiana regiment just standing north of the road. They didn't look like they were in reserve for anyone, and I didn't rank high enough to bring them along. I guessed they had been left behind without orders when the artillery caravan turned north off the road. To me they seemed to be nervously watching for whatever north of here their cousins in that other regiment were fleeing from.


A little before 6:30 we took a rest in front of the Smith Farm house, as servants brought us water from the nearby irrigation creek.


That was when we first heard the guns.

The farmhands jumped more than we did. We had been on the receiving end of large naval guns recently, and had trained with powder in line for a couple of weeks. But still. Somewhere north of here, regiments were fighting in anger.

We could see regiments off in the distance, across Bull Run and other farmland, and we could barely make out they were allies, but not what they were doing.

After a rest we continued on back east to the fords.

Soon we could see a general ahead of us: Ewell, by his flag and my spyglass. He was riding, by himself (and his aide), to Mitchell's ford.

"That," I muttered to everyone in particular, "does not bode well."

"Where're Longstreet and the other small divisions?" Captain Grubb was holding his hand above his eyes as though that might help a little. "We'd be seeing at least two now, right?"

"Hell with that: where's the rest of Ewell's division!?" Captain Boyle grated.

"Well," drawled Colonel Drake, "I'm either increasingly glad or increasingly sorry we came back this way!"

"At least he's riding toward the north," I shrugged. "He has to be riding toward his troops, who've crossed the river. With Longstreet and the others. Pressing toward Centerville. Right?" I thought I could see regiments belonging to Jones much farther ahead, still guarding their ford, too. I sent a rider back to Captain Gore, who was marching his regiment behind the Arkansians, with the peculiar news.

As we approached the fork leading from the farm to Mitchell's ford, our Arkansas captains said they felt like the enemy must be near somewhere. That wasn't unreasonable, since by now we were pretty sure some of the gunfire was rolling down from the woods across the ford.

"Who's that in the trees over there!?" pointed Colonel Drake, bringing his regiment to a tense halt.

I whipped out my spyglass, and tried to steady Scorch enough to make out some details. "...just a headquarters, I'm sure! And, ummmm... oh, it's General Beauregard!"


As we rounded the corner to the ford, and stopped to rest, I trotted over to get any information the general, or rather his aides, felt like giving me. Which wasn't much, because they didn't know much.

Beau didn't know where Longstreet was. At all.

He had sent Generals Longstreet, Jones, and Bonham across their respective fords to probe for a clear march to Centerville -- Jones had crossed the river at sunrise in fact -- and General Ewell's troops had followed when they arrived not long afterward, while Ewell stayed behind with a few regiments posted sort-of near the fords on our side. Since then, Beauregard's headquarters had heard constant fighting, and then scattered reports that Jones had pulled his HQ back on this side of Bull Run, and that Confederate regiments were running back to this side of the river and hiding.

Our mission was to probe across the river, but not very far, find out what was going on, and send news back to General Beauregard.

"Well I'm all excited to be part of this plan!" Colonel Drake announced as I pointed out where I wanted the regiments to muster on the road once we crossed Bull Run. Soon we were knee deep in the water.

"Pee while you can, boys!" Captain Grubb sang out.

I was already across and trying to get any idea at all what was happening here. I could see a regiment or two off in the distance where the road looped around through the trees, and they seemed to be moving, but...


A cannon shell airburst over the road. Fortunately between myself and the Arkansas Vols.

"Pee while you can, boys!" Captain Gore called out behind them, as the Tennessee Vols were still down in the riverbed crossing. Captain Grubb stabbed a rude gesture in the air.

"Ohhhhh good they brought their artillery," Captain Boyle was muttering loudly, and Colonel Drake was calling forward, "Off the road, off the road!"

I pointed into the trees on our right, signaling for double-time.

"I don't know where those cannons are, or how they can see us, or if some sniper is just salting the road in case," I told them as I shepherded them to safety, sort of, "but I can see Yanks marching around on the other side of these woods. So move as quietly as you can. I don't think they know we're here yet."

It took a painfully long two minutes for the regiments to line up for fighting -- Captain Gore was too eager and moved too far forward, so that the lines of both Vol regiments overlapped -- and then to march into the woods. Meanwhile I could see Confederate forces behind us in the woods on the other side the road. A lot of them. Moving forward, too. Tentatively.

The 8th South Carolina, heavily reduced already, was closest to us; and I could see the flag of General Bonham not too much farther up that line. We had accidentally become the leading flanking edge of a divisional thrust!


We slowly seized a wooded knoll, around which on the east and south the Bull Run river wrapped. To our east, we could now faintly start to see at least one Union division trying to work their way across the river...

...maybe two.

I wended on Scorch through the wooded knoll as quickly back and forth between my slowly advancing regiments as I could, telling my men, "Now, someone has made a bad mistake. And someone is just about to exploit that mistake. And in case you're wondering who's who, well, we've got heavy cover and a height advantage, and we're supporting each other. And we're fresh for the fight."

"Like shotgunnin' fish in a river," whispered Captain Boyle.

Someone among our allies had noticed our advantageous position, because soon a courier had found me!

"Who's Major Huff?" Captain Gore wanted to know.

"No idea," I said after sending the courier on his way. "But we were gonna do this anyway, and if that was some kinda trick by the Yankees, I think they're gonna be sorry!"

My Tennessee Volunteers happened to be the first regiment to get in range on a target, with their twenty-year-old Belgian muskets. Their accuracy, to be blunt, was terrible. But in this situation we didn't need much accuracy.


"YANKEEES!" I roared, in the echo of the very first volley fired by the 2nd Confederate Regiment of the State of Tennessee. "GOOOO HOOOOOOOMMMME!!"

They didn't. But it wasn't from our lack of trying.

Due to a quirk in the trees, Colonel Drake and the 1st Arkansas could see farther -- and shoot farther, too, with their US 42 muskets. Still far from great weapons, but American made. No less than three divisions in their sights, as many skeet as they wanted to shoot.

Though these skeet were shooting back.

With balls that tore and shattered through a man.

Our casualties weren't anywhere near the horror we were inflicting on those poor trapped Yankees. Only a few of our men were even injured at all. But still, I rode back and forth lending courage to each line, as they took their first casualties, feeling the blood of their friends spattering around them.

A specially sorrowful tale was told on the Union side by the numerous dead couriers, crumpled next to or under dead horses, dotting the slope leading down to the river. They had been dead when we got here; we hadn't been the first Confederate defenders to work from this knoll. Now that I knew what to look for, I could see the blood on the leaves, the detritus left behind by regiments.

The 2nd Tennessee didn't have quite as many enemies to shoot, but still two good full regiments tangled up below them in the running river waters, washing their blood away.

"Go home!" the Volunteers were shouting. "Go home! You ain't even seen the beginning of it! For the love of God and your mothers, git on home!"

Time passed. Bonham's brigade began pushing more panicking New Yorkers into the river, to replace the ones we were chewing up.

There sure were a lot of Yankees over here on this side of the battle. Caught in a bad spot, fortunately for us, but disturbing. Fighting them on even ground wouldn't be something to wish for.

There were so many regiments nearby, in fact, that some were being pushed around our knoll to the south, still in the river. 2nd TN was having to rotate on a hard angle to keep them under fire, and was doing well, but Lord the TN Vols were spitting through their ammunition! Much faster than 1st AR, and they had more targets to work on!

Despite our crushing victory, I felt increasingly uneasy. Sure, plenty of Union brigades were simply giving up and running away. But they weren't running north, back home.

They were running south.

And despite the pounding, plenty of Union troops seemed to be haunting the area nearby across the river. And if the flow of troops seemed right, more were coming in from the north on our side of the river, too.

Indeed, on my next trip over to check on 1st Arkansas, they were wheeling to shoot at a New York regiment (how many regiments had New York sent?!) which... good grief, it was standing where Bonham's division was supposed to be! How had that happened!?

And more blueheads coming up behind them.

"Time to go!" I ordered Colonel Drake. "You get our boys back into the woods, disengage as soon as you can! Double-time-it once you start, but fall back in order!"


Soon Arkansas was standing deep in the wooded knoll, back to back with their Tennessee volunteer brothers, who were taking a breather after driving away a regiment from Pennsylvania.

"Gentlemen," I said, not too loudly as I didn't want the Yanks to get a good idea where we were, "this has been a God-Almighty defense! Let's not turn it into catastrophe. We haven't gotten new orders, but our allies have gone, and all I see around us are Yankees. Let's rest up a bit, if we can, and then we'll start -- "

We started shooting at a Union regiment advancing along the riverbank, outside the woods. They quickly broke and ran. But stronger regiments were coming up.

"Might've waited a bit too late, Colonel," said Captain Gore.

"Or a bit too early," grumbled Drake. "These Yanks need to be slapped on the nose a few more times, so that they'll leave us be!"

The Arkansas Volunteers got to slapping.

Tennessee, although dangerously winded, soon joined the fray, even advancing up farther a few minutes later to hassle some depleted Union regiments stuck in the river -- having effectively traded places with the Arkansians.

Although we didn't know it, we had broken the back of the advancing Union reinforcements -- not without a lot of help from Bonham's men of course. But later we heard them talking about the two regiments of Volunteers who had whipped two Union divisions!

Yet as the final Union regiments were being dispersed, down in the river for their baptism of war, I couldn't help but continue to worry. Sure, it didn't seem like we had too many things to worry about nearby.

But we now had a ton of scattered Union troops who had routed into our own rear!

That, I opined to my men, as the Vols took a well-deserved rest, seemed a recipe for disaster.

So far as we could gather from polling my various officers and sergeants, this was what we could see.


"We've got scattered allied brigades meandering around, apparently out of command, but they won't join us -- sorry, Colonel, you just don't rank enough," grumbled Captain Gore.

"And more scattered Yanks. Including a divisional headquarters across the river somewhere in those trees," said Captain Boyle. "The only regiment we can actually see is those Pencils your Tennessee boys were shooting down in the river for a while. They're stupidly restin' down there, rather than climbin' the banks and into the trees!"

[Gamenote: I can't begin to explain that in-story. But it's potentially important, so I figured I'd better mention it.]

"Most importantly," said Drake, "we don't know for sure how many other Yankee regiments are around here. But we do know there's a lot of artillery."

"Which," said Grubb, "I'd shore like t' march around an' take if we could! You boys don't have much ammo left, and they prob'ly got a supply wagon up there somewhere."

"I can see three plans here," I said. "Go forward, stay here, go back."

"That's about it," Boyle drawled.

"Okay, option one: go forward. That means we find a way to circle around the artillery, capture them from behind, if we can, and then go on to Centerville. It'd be a hell of a coup, for sure, pardon my Biblical Greek," I grinned, and got some laughs. "But," I started ticking off points with my fingers, "we don't know how many Union regiments are really in the area; we don't know how dangerous they are; we do know that artillery is dangerous, and these have snipers for spotters apparently; if they shotgun us coming out of the woods, well, remember what Captain Walker was training his crew to do this morning!" That got some real grimaces. "We don't really know for sure if there's any ammunition wagons; we don't know what's between the artillery and Centerville; we don't know what we might have to fight at Centerville; we don't know how long it might take us to resupply at Centerville while we secure it; and we don't know how many Yankees we might be fighting afterward until our Allies catch up with us. If ever.

"And we might be letting ourselves in for a serious problem south of us, which gets us to option 2: go back.

"The point here is that we know a ton of Yanks are running around behind our lines. Scattered they aren't a threat, but if a ranking officer or two can get them rallied, they might march on to Manassas and that would be a disaster, even if we've taken Centerville meanwhile. We're in a position we can go defend one road at least, and maybe send back to Manassas for resupply. We know we wouldn't be facing many problems yet if we go now, and it might help win the battle as much as punching on to Centerville, even assuming we manage to knock out those cannons along the way. It ain't glamorous, and it ain't daring, but I have to say it seems the smartest play: the best results for the most of our men returning home alive."

Not many of us had died yet. Or even been hurt. But some had. And some were outright missing. Which was worse.

"Option three? Stay here. We've clearly got a good position, and it isn't one the cannons seem able to hassle. But the enemy also knows where we are."

"It's a trap, sir, there's TWO regiments in there!" twanged Colonel Gore with a Yankee accent, to widespread laughter.

"Uh, well, that's funny until they surround our leafy fortress here -- which, by the way, they're already doing! -- and we can't get out, and five minutes later the 2nd Tenn runs out of ammo. Being able to maneuver," I said, "might be a lot better defense. But it's a legitimate option to consider. And also the only legal option, because we have orders to defend this area, and no one has gotten new orders to us yet. We're allowed to retreat if we're pressed, but that's it. So if we go forward or back, well, y'all won't be in trouble, but I might be. Except we'll all be in a bagful of trouble if we go forward, for sure. And we might all be in a bagful of trouble if we stay.

"Going back, I'm almost certain to be the only one in trouble for doing that. So don't think for a minute this is about cowardice. Going back is a legitimate operational goal, that someone needs to do, and we might be the only ones who can do it -- although that's true about taking Centerville, too -- but if we fail to impress the generals that we did the right thing, I'm the one who gets in trouble either way, whereas you-all will be in a lot less trouble personally, I guess, if we go back.

"So," I finished as we rested in the woods. "What do we do? I'm the commanding officer, but it's your lives on the line, moreso than mine. We have a responsibility to protect the people of Virginia, and we have a responsibility to get as many of us as we can back home to our families, and we have a responsibility to stop this war as soon as we can. I don't honestly know that we can hold Centerville, or even take it, or even get there past those cannons. But: if we could, and if our friends can get there, too...

"Washington, the Federal capital, is less than twenty miles away.

"We might not even have to get there, much less fight. Simply marching on that road might be enough for them to promise to disband their troops, and not split our nation up with their bayonets.

"We could all go back home."

Not even seven o'clock in the morning quite yet. And we might be deciding the fate of the war, and of our nation, right here.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


THE VOLUNTEERS -- Chapter 3, "An End"

We stood or sat or crouched in the midst of the deathly knoll, whichever way we could rest, and thought on the options before us.

"I'll be blunt," I said. "My grandfather, when he was playing lead soldiers with me, told me that any plan requiring more than three things to go right to succeed, was guaranteed to fail. And since only a fool would take a plan with a minimal chance of success, the real rule is this: no more than two things go right to succeed.

"A lot more than two things will have to go right to succeed in stopping this war, this fast.

"On the other hand: the reason we're all citizens of various States of America now, is because your grandfathers taught my grandfather that sometimes it's worth risking a plan that takes far too many things going right to succeed!" That got some sober nods, and a few "hell yes"-es. "Still, my grandfather wasn't wrong in principle. Just wrong that time in practice."

"We came here," said Captain Grubb, "t' keep Virginia from bein' invaded. We were all willin' to risk our own lives for that."

"And if the war's stopped, Virginia won't be invaded," said Captain Boyle.

"And none of our other states either," Colonel Drake agreed. "Not Arkansas, not Tennessee..."

"Not Maryland, not Pennsylvania, not Ohio nor Kentucky. Everyone wins," said Captain Gore. "Even the North if they lose, and lose right now."

I didn't bother mentioning that Kentucky wasn't backing the Union yet, nor the Confederacy either. The principle was what counted; and as a key border state, they'd be invaded either way. If the war continued.

"This whole battle," I reminded them, "is meant by either side to put a stop to the war right now. We're here to convince the North that they're gonna bleed and die if they come down here to oppress us. And the North is here to try to get to Richmond and, let's be fair, stop the war that way. Even though that wouldn't stop the invasions.

"But if we turn their strategy around, and march on Washington instead... we don't have to invade, just wake them up to what their war is going to cost us all."

"An' we'll be the greatest heroes in American history!" someone said, out in the troops. I hadn't wanted to make that appeal: commanders might talk about heroism to justify doing evil things.

But neither could I deny it. Or deny the shouts and cheers.

"That's settled then!" I said, and clapped my hat back on my head. "Get ready, boys, it's time to -- !"

Well, strictly speaking it was time for the Arkansians to shoot at a Union column meandering around north of the woods; but in less than half a minute they had run off toward Blackburn ford, where a few other Yankee regiments were standing around.

As we got the men lined up in a temporary defensive stance at the edge of the knoll, while 2nd TN finished resting -- their maneuvers having tired them out much more than Arkansas -- I called the officers back a little and noted, "To approach those cannon from the side, we'll have to deeply flank them. I think they're straight ahead of us up the road, on a rise. But if we go right, we'll definitely run into a bunch of Union troops. Going left, as far as I can tell, we'll only meet some of ours."

"Duh," Colonel Drake agreed, rolling his eyes.

"I'm saying this," I muttered, "because now that I look around a bit better, I'm worried that NO ONE IS HOLDING MITCHELL'S FORD! No one but the Union I mean. If we go on, we're leaving both fords undefended, and actually in the hands of the enemy, even if they're pretty whipped right now."

Fortunately, at about this time, none other than Brigadier General Ewell himself came riding up on the road across the ford.

I went out to speak with him briefly, and while his plans seemed disturbingly vague, he intended to gather some regiments -- he thought he had about twice what I did still under his command -- and go attack the artillery. Head on. After wandering back and forth in front of it.

[Gamenote: I gathered this from his plotted track that I could see after clicking on him. You can see those green down-pointed triangles, chevrons, in the screenie there.]

He didn't have any particular orders for us, and I thought it might be a good idea not to mention either the Major's standing orders to defend the knoll, or our own plan to flank the cannons.

"So. We're going to use him as cover and a distraction," said Captain Gore.

"I'm trying to look at it as, he's going to stay behind here and guard the fords from this side, while some other brigades, under Early, have gathered back up the Mitchell ford road on the other side to keep the enemy from moving along if they cross. Or so he says. But yes," I admitted. "If he's fool enough to risk the lives of his men like that, I can't stop him, but I can take advantage of it.

"Let's try to make their sacrifices count for an important gain! Is Tennessee rested now? Great. Column up, let's cross the road and start working our way around in a western loop!"


[Gamenote: Want to see what's going on nearby while I'm marching out of the knoll and across the road?


Truly, Early, you are a defensive force. :buck2:

18th Mississippi there, or its shattered remnants, is marching up to see what's going on at the river (or rather who knows what the AI thinks it's doing there? :P ) We're on the wooded knoll across the river, in the distance, since this photo was taken while we were resting -- think of it as news from Ewell as he passes by.


These guys to the east are an accidental detachment from Bonham's Brigade, who are otherwise occupied with hiding in "securing" the large forest we're currently marching into (about 400 yards west). South Carolina doesn't give a flipped bird in hell what their dumbass leaders are or aren't doing. During the previous fight, and for the next hour-plus in-game, if I run the camera back over to these two fords, I'm just about guaranteed to find one or more South Carolina regiments dominating all who oppose them. I thought they deserved some in-game recognition of this, so...


Oh, so that's who Major Huff is, the guy who dispatched us to guard the knoll after we had already arrived at the knoll to fight there... Good God, WHAT?

The reason a Major is second in command of Beauregard, and currently has 14358 men under his command, is the same reason why his personal score for the battle is almost -200, and why he's in command of a block of troops with 1/3 casualties after only one hour. Because over three/quarters of the Southern generals (don't know about the North yet) have themselves been casualties in the first hour of fighting. That's General Bonham standing around with Huff, who is now his superior officer somehow! They're deeper west into the woods we're currently marching into. There's a Union regiment hiding in the woods beyond them somewhere, too, trying not to get the attention of the many Allied regiments also scattered around out there who are trying not to get the attention of the many more Union regiments currently slugging it out at the New Market crossroads. Whew.

I think by now Beauregard has moved his headquarters over to that fight; I know it happens eventually, and soon after this photo if not already. Beau isn't doing well. (Bee, on the other hand, is still alive, ironically.)

I know for a fact that there are Colonels, and officers under that (like Majors for example, and even down to Lieutenants), who are being promoted to larger commands as their ranking officers go down; that must be what's happening here even though the game doesn't have mechanics to change the nameplate rank.

As we marched through the woods, we tried to peer out between the branches to get an idea where the cannons were placed; but the cover which screened us from them also screened them from us. Still, they had to be lined up over there somewhere.

Farther into the woods on our left, we could just make out regiments belonging to Brigadier General Bonham. Hopefully they, and Beauregard more generally, were smiting the Union hard, and not in any trouble.

But either way they were securing our flank safely from surprise, as we maneuvered.

General Ewell had long since disappeared, and his planned attempts at rallying up several brigades to fight those artillery and seize the road to Centerville hadn't materialized either.

[Gamenote: Major Huff at this point has dropped his score to -204, by the way.]

Crackling gunfire to our right alerted us to the sight of 3rd South Carolina squaring off against one of the many New York regiments in this area.


By the time we lost sight of them in the trees again, the flag of 2nd SC had appeared off their flank, and it looked as though New York was going to run away. I stringently reminded the men, through the chain of command, not to give away our position by cheering on our allies.

A few minutes later, I reckoned we had marched far enough around the probable cannon arc, to look at exiting the woods.

Now we could see the artillery line on the hill off to the northeast.

Leftward, only empty fields, with maybe one Union regiment and its officer far away across the fields on a road marching toward New Market. They wouldn't be any problem.

Ahead of us: a field and some farmhouses to screen our advance into the next forest.

"Okay men," I said, after shifting them about fifty yards farther west -- those cannons still seemed too close. "You're holding up well on this walk in the woods, and those of us in front can see the guns we're trying to spike. Once we make it across those fields, or even put the buildings between us and them, we'll be safe and can rest for a while -- but until then I expect you to run like someone is shooting shotguns over your head. Because someone might be shooting shotguns over your head. If someone gets hit, YOU KEEP ON GOING! God will take care of their souls, don't add yours to the tally, okay?

"Then follow me!"

I advanced at a walk out of the trees, my two Volunteer Regiments walking in order behind me. No need to exhaust ourselves yet unless --


-- more cannons, there were more cannons at the bottom of the hill on the road, had they been moved while we were marching, no time to wonder, that was a ranging shot above us --


Were the Union soldiers just bored, and had they been waiting for anything exciting at all? Shells airburst all over us, showering us with hot shards, trying to flatten us down with their concussions. Fortunately we had already tasted a lot of that back at the naval artillery duel; if the Union boys thought that would break or stomp us down, they would be shocked and surprised. And hopefully rather worse shocked and surprised soon.

Two-thirds of the way through the field, I called a brief halt with the buildings now between us and no shells arcing in -- though I worried they might try some mortar fire, or the equivalent thereof. We had only suffered a couple of casualties, whom we bandaged up and sent to the farmhouse while, after catching our breaths for a minute, we dashed on out of the wheatfield and into the woods beyond. I realized as shells detonated behind me that the Union guns were either trying to stop my regiments from following me, or were trying to kill me with cannons and not properly leading me so I was running out from under where I was when they shot the guns. At least, the shells were detonating between me and the men, so pretty harmlessly.

[Gamenote: I haven't got a single clue why my grade keeps increasing. We aren't fighting anyone, so aren't causing casualties or fallbacks or retreats or routs, we aren't reaching objectives, much less taking battle objectives... unless my own movement objectives count?? Huh.]

In the heightened senses that God has given us when giant shotgun shells are exploding nearby, I happened to notice that the Yankee regiment on the road wasn't marching toward New Market, but actually away -- meaning roughly toward us, and directly toward Centerville! I couldn't do anything about this yet; but since the men weren't completely tuckered out, I made the men march run considerably far into the woods after their dashes, before taking five minutes for a rest.

I couldn't really tell at the time, but later I learned that there had been some kind of brutal slaughter of both sides down at the crossroads where that cannon detachment was stationed.


ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


Chapter 3, Part 2 of 2

While we were resting, I sent some Arkansas scouts forward to find the main Union gun line.

Not only did they do that, but they found the 16th New York Regiment marching past the guns -- which must have been taking sniper potshots at distant regiments down at the ford we had crossed, like when we crossed it.

That wasn't good news. The 16th might be taking up a security post to protect the guns from what we were going to try. Or, if not that, they must have been heading back to Centerville, to secure that better in case any Allied troops managed to sneak past. Like us.

Still, we were there, so we might as well move up and see what we could try.


Scouts returning in a rolling line whispered that the New York regiment had not only marched away north, but that nothing apparently remained behind to secure the cannons' flanks and rear.

"Captain Walker was right," I made sure to whisper-pass back down the lines to buff up morale a bit; then I told my fellow colonel and captains where to line up the men.

The poor deaf cannoneers kept opportunistically shooting at threats they could barely see, safely far far away.

Then, Captain Gore, or maybe his men, got a little too anxious -- or a little too close to their first target on the rightward side of the Union artillery line, and someone heard or more likely saw them coming. At any rate, the 2nd Confederate Tennessee Volunteers lined up and unleashed a preparatory barrage before Arkansas was ready.

No reason for stealth anymore. "VOLUNTEERS! -- CHARGE THE CANNONS!!" I shouted with my Southern Baptist leather lungs.

The Tennessee Vols had surged ahead before I even said "Charge"; and hearing them go, the Arkansas Vols howled like razorback hogs, cutting through the underbrush, to swarm upon the guns.


There were a lot more guns than I had been expecting. Not even counting the battery down at the bottom of the hill, which we couldn't reach.


But in a few seconds, pre-assigned sergeants and crews were turning our captured guns on the ones at the bottom of the hill.

I quickly gave several men officer promotions even up to my rank, and by the miracle of tongues God instructed them how to operate cannons correctly despite their lack of training, so with an artillery duel erupting I quickly marched the regiments northward to the rear.


[Gamenote: yeah I really don't have any way of explaining in-game how and why various gamey things happen here in taking over those guns. So sure, miracle of tongues, let's just go with that. ;) ]

It wouldn't be a long duel anyway. Half a minute later the crews at the bottom of the hill had been utterly slaughtered, or had detonated their guns and run away. Not all our new cannons were workable either, but we still had a respectable battery. I told them to hold this road and hill, and sent one cannon northward to watch the road leading back to New Market, to discourage reinforcemets.

We had a more important immediate purpose.

Capture that supply wagon!

Despite running up the road, however, we couldn't stop the wagon from hightailing it eastward into the trees, where the mules plowed through the brush so quickly the regiments just couldn't keep up. Eventually we lost it; and tuckered out, we had to rest for a while -- now with even less ammunition than before.

[Gamenote: actually, the game just flat refused to acknowledge I had overrun the supply wagon, and plodded the thing away. I managed to follow the wagon up to a point in the woods, with my 'officer' figure, where it stopped, and I set my regiments to flank north and south of it and let them rest a while before trying to capture it. But I made the apparent mistake(???) of assuming it would just sit there, and trotted my colonel back to something more like a 'realistic' distance which happened to be out of eyesight -- and then when the troops had rested and I advanced them where the wagon should have been, it wasn't there anymore. I never did find it, nor any evidence it had gone up or down a road on the other side the woods to link up with the Union again somewhere else. I'm more than half-convinced the game cheated me out of a supply wagon. But whatever.

Meanwhile, as we were resting, I found and checked on Beau. Would you like to know the Confederate score after my giant cannon-grabbing victory, for like 20 points each, bumping my personal score to 213?


That includes my aggregate score. It would have been half again worse if I hadn't captured those cannons.

At this point, by the way, Beau has finally moved up that almighty brigade of artillery into position to blast the absolute hell out of the New Market Crossroads, which you can see them doing in the background there, pointing north. Eventually Beau will join them; he's chilling back away from the sound of the guns right now, unaware that I just added about a battery and a half to his count. A few minutes later he's going to cross those woods and lend some moral support to Stonewall Jackson (I think) holding a road, which is why he isn't in this next map snapshot I made of the New Market area, for anyone who wants a better idea of what's happening there at the moment. The famous Henry House is well north of this, by the way; the Union never made it this far south in the real life battle.


Most of the red you can see there is artillery, mostly obscured by officers. The scattered blue dots are disrupted Union regiments. To be fair to Beau, he's about to start improving his score substantially. Still. Almost negative 520, Beau. That's pathetic. South Carolina by itself is probably scoring that much in positive instead!]

"Well," I said as my exhausted troops rested, "that worked. Mostly. Let us pray for a while," which we did.

Then: "Captain Gore," I told my Tennessee Regiment commander, "I'm sorry we somehow missed getting the ordinance wagon." Tennessee was hurting far more than Arkanasas for ammunition. "If regiments are holding Centerville, I don't know whether we'll even have the ammo to fight them with, much less that we'll win."

"We took more casualties than Arkansas in that assault," he answered still wiping his face in the summer heat under the trees, where no breeze could blow. "One of the Union guns got turned around and blasted a company with double cannister... was terrible." He shook his head, his face grey in memory. "But, on the other hand, we now have a few more reloads by proportion.

"I say we've gotten this far. Let's at least go look."

"I agree, of course," said Colonel Drake. "But let's go on east out of these woods. That supply wagon must have done so, and then gone north or south. More likely north, it seems to me, toward Centerville. Maybe we'll catch it after all."

So saying, and agreeing that if we saw the wagon we'd try to be cannier about taking it this time, we finished resting and then marched eastward through and out of the forest to the road.


[Gamenote: this is on the absolute eastern edge of the map, by the way, although the trees and terrain continue on for about 1500 yards of visible terrain. Also by the way, Beau has reversed his fortunes considerably, and now is only losing the battle by 335 points. Artillery flood: good for whanging up a score!]

Carefully topping the rise as we marched up the road, we saw... Union troops.

At all.

We had done it. Washington City, the Federal Capital, lay up the road only a couple dozen miles that way.

By some miracle, or by dozens of miracles, we were marching past the Centerville Church, only about two hours after Beauregard had ordered his eastern brigades to probe open a path for Ewell to follow.


But although they had fought and killed and died to soften the way, none of those brigades, no one in that division of the Army of the Potomac, had found the wherewithal to force, or even to sneak, a way through.

"Volunteers", I announced, perplexed at the number of people in Sunday finery out watching the fireworks in the distance -- it seemed more than the whole town's population!

"Set up skirmish scouts, and take a rest, and find some ammunition stores if you can.

"I'm sending couriers, any who will volunteer, to find General Beauregard or his replacement if he's out of action already.

"Tell him: the road to Washington has been taken.

ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!


Now updated with 1024 pix, and some textual corrections and clarifications. (Largely because I have a bad habit of thinking "east" does not exist as a lateral direction, only "west".  :buck2: )

Also because I'm thinking of picking back up with the next part of this battle. I got a lot farther last year, but haven't yet "written" it.
ICEBREAKER THESIS CHRONOLOGY! -- Victor Suvorov's Stalin Grand Strategy theory, in lots and lots of chronological order...
Dawn of Armageddon -- narrative AAR for Dawn of War: Soulstorm: Ultimate Apocalypse
Survive Harder! -- Two season narrative AAR, an Amazon Blood Bowl career.
PanzOrc Corpz Generals -- Fantasy Wars narrative AAR, half a combined campaign.
Khazâd du-bekâr! -- narrative dwarf AAR for LotR BfME2 RotWK campaign.
RobO Q Campaign Generator -- archived classic CMBB/CMAK tool!