Thursday 22 September 2022

A Change of Pace

The Battle of Atlantic - a rather fanciful but hugely evocative image from the series of ACW prints by Kurz and Allison

The boardgame of the campaign published by Battleline in the late 1970s

Whilst the final stages of the ACW project are under way - at least that of the naval side - my thoughts have been turning towards the land side of the War between the States. For the most part I have been looking at how this can tie in with the naval side - meaning largely the western theatre - and I am happy that this will work well enough. However, I have a hankering for something exclusively land based and so have been thinking about the Atlanta Campaign of 1864

I rather like the very asymmetric nature of the campaign - the Union outnumbered the Confederates heavily, more so in the latter stages - and the tactical challenges faced by the Confederates as they were successively outflanked and forced back to Atlanta itself. When the city eventually fell the road was open for Shermans’s ‘March to the Sea’ - cutting a swathe of infrastructure destruction across the southern heartlands. I actually fought an action loosely based on the campaign using my block armies and the Axis and Allies gaming maps which made for a lively game. My working premise is that whilst the Confederates are continually retreating they can still inflict some telling blows on the Union forces. Essentially it is a long fighting retreat and let’s be honest, history is replete with them!

Could the Confederates have won? Certainly not but I believe that they could have slowed the Union advance rather more effectively. Unfortunately the temperament of the two Confederate commanders aided the Union cause as Johnstone was overly cautious whilst Hood, has replacement was the polar opposite - with servers consequences for the South. W.T. Sherman versus the cautious Johnston and the ‘hellfire’ Hood with the Union general being lauded as ‘the first modern general’ by no less a personage that Basil Liddell-Hart. What could have possibly gone wrong? Well, actually quite a lot - at least for the Confederates anyhow.

Sherman once said that “Grant supported me when I was mad and I supported Grant when he was drunk. Now we just support each other”. Certainly an interesting match up of command.

For me there is definite potential for a series of linked games using my block armies. The aims of each side are quite simple - the Union needs to get to Atlanta whilst the Confederates must delay and tie up as many Union troops as possible. In many ways I am reminded of the Kobayashi Maru exercise from Star Trek - the famous ‘no-win’ scenario - but without the benefit of Captain Kirk’s reprogramming!

My ACW library has yet to feature any specific titles about the Atlanta campaign - for the most part Vicksburg has taken up most of studying time - but this is something I will look to address.

Meanwhile though, back to the floating part of the ACW - the ships!


Archduke Piccolo said...

The Atlanta campaign could have been more interesting had Joe Johnston been better seconded by his corps commanders, Polk and especially Hood. Twice his planned counter-strikes during the retreat were stymied by Hood's and Polk's overcaution (would you believe?) and insubordination. Johnston could rely only upon Lt-Genl Hardee for reliability.

David Crook said...

Hello there Archduke,

That would be the splendidly named Leonidas Polk I believe - my research journey to Atlanta is at early stages thus far - who one would have thought would have been good at holding a position at the very least! Looking forward to getting some games under my belt using the block armies again.

All the best,