Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Kernstown....

While I wait for bases and pikes to arrive for the emergent English Civil war Project, just a little post to tidy up this phase of the "other Civil war" project.. 

My American Civil War project is based round the Battle of Kernstown - not one of the better known battles of the war, but it is best known as the only battle Stonewall Jackson 'lost'.. whilst doing my research for the last Union regiment I found this book online and it's amazing reading..    recommended if you have any interest in the conflict...

...the following is an extract dealing with the specific regiments in my project, and their part in the battle..  I've put linkages to the posts featuring the units where relevant...



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"The Battle of Kernstown, entered its second phase when Colonel Nathan Kimball [clicky], weary of the dominance of Jackson’s cannons, sent Tyler’s 2,300-man brigade to silence them.

Tyler.. ran headlong into the lead regiment of the Stonewall Brigade - the 27th Virginia [clicky] - badly outnumbered, these 200 men .. fell back behind a half-mile-long, shoulder-high stone wall that ran east to west and rose and fell with the broken landscape.


Tyler’s opening gambit.. was a grievous mistake.. To take his men more efficiently through the wood, he had formed them in “column by divisions.”.. instead of long, linear, two-man-deep battle lines.. Two companies made up the front line; behind them stretched the other forty-eight companies in twenty-four lines.. in that configuration they indeed moved easily through the woods on the northern part of Sandy Ridge.

Minutes later.. Tyler’s lead companies found themselves at the edge of the leafless wood, looking 150 yards across open ground to the stone wall, from which poured volley after volley of musket fire... while their rebel opponents shouted “Bull Run!”.. Jackson’s artillery opened up with canister on the Federal left, and Union soldiers, who were not trained to fight in a box formation, immediately found themselves in serious trouble. Once the firing started, it was almost impossible, because of the noise, smoke, and confusion, to shake themselves out into conventional battle lines by companies and regiments.... The fire was so hot that the 110th Pennsylvania fled backward through the ranks of the 29th Ohio just behind them

Jackson saw that he needed more soldiers, and began to feed the fight. Under his orders, Lieutenant Colonel John Patton and the 21st Virginia Regiment [clicky], 270 men strong, advanced to the stone wall, where they poured a hot fire into the Union ranks. .. two regiments against five.

Tyler’s first, unsuccessful assault had been on the eastern end of the stone wall. Now he noticed that the western end was undefended, and ordered an attack there... 23rd and 27th Virginia Regiments [clicky] coming forward after being cannonaded for the better part of two hours, saw the same weakness .. a deadly footrace. The [Union] 1st West Virginia .. from the north, while the [Confederate] Virginia boys lunged from the south. The Confederates won, by seconds. They set up quickly behind the wall, 500 of them, opening up with their smoothbores loaded with “buck and ball” (a bullet attached to three pieces of buckshot that combined the characteristics of a musket and a shotgun) on the West Virginians, who were only fifty yards away. At point-blank range, the effect .. was deadly.

Tyler .. had been repulsed twice... Confederates .. began to bring additional regiments to the wall. Brigadier General Richard Garnett [clicky] finally arrived .. with the rest of his Stonewall Brigade, and inserted the 33rd Virginia [clicky] just to the right of the 21st Virginia Regiment [clicky] ... 2nd Virginia [clicky] came up, too, as did the Irish Battalion, to fill another gap in the wall. The Federals, meanwhile, had managed to untangle themselves into disorganized clots of men at the edge of the woods, 150 to 200 yards from the stone wall.. able, from behind trees and rocks and declivities, to deliver a constant stream of fire. Along the wall, the Confederate soldiers who fell almost invariably did so with horrible head wounds, many of them lethal, caused by huge .59-caliber minié balls..

By 4:30 p.m., a little more than half an hour into the fight, Jackson’s 1,200 men behind the wall had created a stalemate with the larger force, which was disorganized and strung out along a four-hundred-yard front that was fifty to five hundred yards from the stone wall.

Jackson had .. had less than half the troops his enemy had on the battlefield. His men were armed with smoothbores, while all but three Federal regiments had far more accurate rifled muskets. He had only three rifled cannons against the Union’s fourteen. .. he still had three regiments in reserve and less than two hours of daylight, and the odds had gone up considerably for a drawn battle - one that would accomplish everything he had been ordered by Johnston to do, and more.

At .. around 4:30 p.m. .. Kimball [clicky] gathered up regiments on his unthreatened left and sent them  into the fight at the eastern end of his battle line. .. at the wall, the last hour of the fight.. Kimball’s fresh troops were shouldering into Jackson’s bone-tired, battle-weary force. For Jackson it was a race to darkness. The fighting at the wall, brutal and constant for a full hour, now turned desperate.

At about 5:30 p.m, as the sun was setting .. the Confederate soldiers at the wall began to run out of ammunition. It began .. with the courageous 27th Virginia [clicky] , the men who had started the fight at the stone wall. They had carried only forty to sixty rounds in their cartridge boxes to begin with, and whatever ammunition the valley army had was sitting several miles away, back on the valley pike .. Fresh, well-armed Federal regiments were coming up to replace regiments that were themselves running out of bullets. Kimball was beginning, at last, to use his numerical advantage to extend his line.

..two fresh [Union] Indiana regiments, the 13th [clicky] and 14th [clicky], hit the eastern part of the wall, whose defenders had virtually no ammunition left. Fearing envelopment, Garnett, at about 6:00 p.m., called retreat. .. Jackson, incredulous, then rode back and forth .. loudly exhorting the men back into battle. .. he was too late, as were the reserve 5th and 42nd Virginia Regiments he had summoned, who arrived at about 6:30 p.m but could do no more than help cover the retreat.

..the rest was messy. Men fell back in disorder; regiments fell apart in the oncoming darkness; the army became formless. The Union cavalry for once showed some aggressiveness, riding around the disintegrating Confederate left flank and rounding up several hundred prisoners, who were later paraded through the streets of Winchester. .. Jackson ordered the bloodied army into bivouac about five miles south of the battlefield.
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Jackson’s men .. had marched twelve to fifteen miles in the morning, had been subjected to galling artillery fire, then had stood with astounding bravery at a stone wall for two hours under a barrage of Union lead. They had fought to their last bullet .. The almost universal feeling was that with ammunition they would have held. “The . . . little army had been heavily engaged, and although confronted by large odds, held its own, and only retired after shooting all its ammunition away,” wrote John Worsham of the 21st Virginia Regiment [clicky]. “It seems to me that the 21st Virginia would have held its line indefinitely if it had been supplied with ammunition. It was a regular stand-up fight with us, and as stated the men . . . fought as I never saw any fighting during the war.""

Amazing...

From "Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson" by S C Gwynne - read it here... [Clicky]

9 comments:

  1. Sounds like a game worth umpiring with players who are unaware of the battle, perhaps a disguised scenario set in the western theatre.

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    1. Will - may well do that - either umpired, or I play as the Rebs and have a hidden "ammunition" rule known only to me...

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  2. An enjoyable read Steve, and especially so on the day after I ordered myself some 28mm Renegade ACW figures! Must dig out Battles and Leaders of the Civil War again for more inspiration.

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  3. Lee - I have a tendency to always pick battles/scenario's early in whatever war I'm basing my project on... so Kernstown/Edgehill/Desert WWII/France 1940/Blenheim etcetc are all early in the wars I have chosen to model... in the Sudan I originally chose Omdurman but back pedalled quickly to the Gordon Relief (phew).. the only one I have stayed late with is the AWI Project (Yorktown).... which is a by way of a long preamble to me saying I look forward to your project developing, and steer clear of Gettysburg - there's lots and lots of interesting little battles early on! :o))

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  4. Hah, that's what happens when you make comments using someone else's laptop! I (not my friend) was saying that I also tend to pick early battles as I have grandiose and unrealised plans to fight the entire war. Only really getting close in the Sudan!

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    1. Leagatus/Sofe, weird I know, but I believe I am drawn to the early battles as it is the period before desperation and hardness leaks in.. don't think I could ever start an eastern front WWII project for example... later period ACW is just desperation, later period Sudan is just industrial... at the start of wars every one has hope that something good will come out of the decision..

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  5. As much as I hate to admit it, this seems like a perfect scenario for Johnny Reb III. Almost as if a game like Black Powder or Rank & File could do it no appropriate justice...

    Wow that's a powerful account of American Civil War combat.

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    1. Steve - just my cup of tea - the perfect battalion/regimental level game...

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