The C.S.S. Stonewall begins her turn to port in order to engage the rapidly closing frigate - the U.S.S. Sacremento
The U.S.S. Sacremento was gaining rapidly on the stern of the C.S.S. Stonewall but her course would take her some four points off the Rebel ship’s starboard side. Seeing the course of the Yankee ship Captain Longsdarff decided to circle to port as tightly as he could so that he should be able to engage the aft quarter of the enemy frigate. It would also enable him to see how the second enemy ship was placed in relation to his main target, the fast approaching frigate.
“Something wicked, this way comes….” The closing pair of Union sloops attempting to convince their enemy that they are in fact, but a single vessel. The ruse will be spotted but as long as they are able to both close the range and manoeuvre into a favourable position it will not be in vain
As the C.S.S. Stonewall heeled tightly into her turn the Captain focused his attention on the second enemy ship. The sloop had pored on all steam and every scrap of canvas as she attempted to fall in with her flagship. Her approach was a little untidy as she seemed to be adjusting her course in a seemingly random fashion.
Something gnawed at the back of Captain Longsdarff’s mind. The other ship heading towards him looked somehow different from previously. For sure she had all canvas set and was steaming hard but there was something not quite right her appearance. Her approach was very untidy and indicated poor levels of seamanship so he felt even more confident in the ability of his command to be able to dispense with her as well. She was making enough of a show for two ships he mused - the thought that it was two ships did not enter his thoughts. Satisfied that the haphazardly approaching enemy warship posed no immediate threat the captain turned his attention to the looming enemy frigate.
Turn 1. No firing due to range so straight to initiative. Union 4 Confederate 5 so the Confederate opts to let the Union ships move first.
Captain Longsdarff eases the turn of his ship as the reason for the poor seamanship of the smaller enemy warship is revealed - there is not one but two of them! His instinct that something was not quite right was correct but it was scant consolation as he now had three enemy warships to contend with. Should he cut his losses and make best speed to get away? The thought was dismissed even before it was fully formed - he would fight one of them and then get away. His target would be the Yankee flagship.
Turn 2. The C.S.S. Stonewall opens fire at the frigate and the leading sloop - the U.S.S. Kearsage. With her gunnery factor (GF) of 2 the Stonewall rolls 2d6 against the frigate scoring a 1 and a 4. Her penetration factor (PF) is 3 whilst the armour factor of the frigate (and the other two Union ships) is 0 as they wooden built. This means that a a plus 3 modifier is added to each score making revised scores of 4 and 7 meaning that the frigate has taken a point of damage for the adjusted 4 whilst the adjusted 7 is a critical hit! The location of the single hit is rolled scoring a 1 meaning that a flotation point is scored. The critical hit comes up as a 4 which is a gunnery factor hit, reducing the nearest gunnery factor by 2 or by 1 with an additional flotation point hit. The Union ship opts to take one on each in order to preserve her artillery for the moment. The C.S.S. Stonewall then fires at the U.S.S. Kearsage with her forward artillery.
As this is at maximum range for the type her gunnery factor of two loses a point so a single d6 is rolled. A natural 6 is scored! With the plus 2 for her penetration factor the score is 8 meaning that a critical hit is scored! A further 6 is rolled - FIRE! The U.S.S. Kearsage catches fire!
There is no return Union fire so it is straight to initiative. Union 4, Confederate 3. The Union player lets the Confederate ship move first.
The C.S.S. Stonewall opens fire on both the U.S.S. Sacremento and the U.S.S. Kearsage scoring telling hits on both whilst she continues her turn. Captain Longsdarff noted the tell tale orange glow of a fire aboard the Union sloop which he hoped would take her out of the fight. Every seaman dreaded the outbreak of fire and on a wooden ship even more so. The U.S.S. Kearsage pulled away from the approaching Confederate allowing the U.S.S. Niagara to position herself off the stern of the Rebel ironclad. Meanwhile Commander Howard on the U.S.S. Sacremento urged his men on as the great ship swung her helm over to engage the enemy.
Turn 3. The U.S.S. Kearsage attempted to douse the flames on her fore deck. To the huge relief of the captain and crew a 1 was rolled so the flames were extinguished. She was able to rejoin the fight. The U.S.S. Niagara opened fire at point blank ravage into the stern of the rebel ship. She has a gunnery factor (GF) of 4 but adds a d6 due to the range making 5d6 in all. Her penetration factor (PF) is 2 but the armour factor of the ironclad C.S.S. Stonewall is 3 meaning that each d6 will have a minus 1 modifier. The firing was abysmal with scores of 1, two 2s, a 3 and 4 - all of which were reduced by 1 for no effect other than a copious expenditure of powder.
The C.S.S. Stonewall fired again at the Yankee frigate. She rolled a pair of 3s which each added a plus 3 PF/AF modifier meant that two sixes were the result for two lots of two point hits. The location rolls were 1 (flotation point) and 3 (gunnery factor). The U.S.S. Sacremento opted to take the two gunnery points off her port battery meaning that she was now 4 gunnery on the starboard and three on the port side.
For initiative the Union rolled 5 whilst the Confederates rolled a 1. Once again the Union allowed the Confederates to move first.
It was rather like a bullfight. The C.S.S. Stonewall (the bull) would have the measure of any of the three ships (the matadors/picadors/toreadors) against her - if only she was allowed to concentrate on them one at a time! The Union plan worked after a fashion although the flagship had taken some telling damage, as had the U.S.S. Kearsage. The rebel ship was able to manoeuvre at will but was not able to isolate a single enemy shop so as to administer the coup de grace with her ram. She had to keep moving and all the while the Union ships were doing the same. Captain Longsdarff later described the situation as being like ‘herding cats’.
With the C.S.S. Stonewall having to break off the action (and being fortunate enough to be able to do so) and head to a safe haven to effect repairs the Union had succeeded in disrupting the Confederate plan and most importantly, had gained some time to organise an effective response. The key thing now was to not lose sight of the Confederate warship and hope that sufficient force could be assembled quickly enough to deal with her.
The action played out in much the way I expected it to but a few areas of the rules needed a second look. There was nothing wrong per se but some of my written passages seemed to have lost their meaning somewhat. I was very pleased with how the whole wooden ship versus an ironclad played out and certainly the game reflected the history rather well. Still, for all that quantity has a quality all of its own and so it was only a matter of time before damage started to get inflicted on the ironclad given the number of ships and guns the Confederate ship was facing.
I am quite sure that I need not mention the historical action that inspired the game - suffice it to say the outcome was actually not too dissimilar!
It was a great way to spend a couple of hours or so.