HMGS-South Founded March 1996

How the West Was Lost Book 1
Grant's 1863 Vicksburg Campaign

Back in 2004 I undertook a project to build a battlefield encompassing all of the works at Vicksburg and the important batteries in and around the city circa May, 1863. The battlefield also included the all-important Mississippi River and Desoto Point which played such a pivotal role in the campaign. I ran the scenarios campaign style at Cold Wars and Recon 2004. The boards then went into storage for nine years in my attic crawl space where they were attacked by bugs and dust. When I decided to bring them down and run the campaign again for Recon and Historicon 2013, much work was required and bugs apparently like to eat foam putty. At one point in 2007 our drier vent developed a leak and before we noticed and repaired it, half of my Vicksburg boards looked as if the belonged in the Ardennes in December of 1944.

After about two weeks of repair works the boards were ready to transport to Orlando for Recon 2013. I did add some features to the boards to include some of the caves where civilians hid during the campaign and more of the Big Muddy. Also added were some nice lighting effects for the naval portion of the game which famously, took place at night. We used Fire & Fury classic brigade rules for landside action while Age of Iron was used for the water-borne battles.

Friday - Lightning on the Mississippi - Porter Runs the Guns (April 16, 1863)

Historically Admiral David Dixon Porter suffered few losses during the passage of the Mississippi Union Ironclad flotilla past the guns of Vicksburg. The fate of our game was not to be the same. Porter's fleet of gunboats and Ironclads included the following ships:

USS Benton
USS General Sterling Price - chained to the starboard side of Benton
USS Lexington and Tyler - timber clad vessels of Shiloh fame
USS Lafayette - huge, slow and unwieldy side wheel Ironclad
USS Pittsburgh, Louisville, Carondelet, Mound City - all Eades city-class ironclads
USS Tuscumbia - unique design Ironclad

The fleet ran into immediate trouble with eddies and currents around Desoto point. Benton ran aground almost on top of the Confederate river battery and was set aflame twice. Sterling Price broke its lashes and continued on its own. This turned out to be unwise as the unarmored vessel received a critical hit and sank. Benton finally knocked out the river battery and freed itself. Tuscumbia raced past (in Ironclad terms, racing is about 8 knots) and made it all the way though first. Lafayette received an unlucky critical hit and burned until it sank. Tyler received a magazine hit and exploded and Lexington which was close by, also rolled a critical hit and took more hull damage than she could sustain, sinking as well. Several Confederate shore batteries were knocked out with a resulting 45 - 25 Union Pyrrhic victory. Having run this scenario numerous times over the years, the Yanks have never lost any ships in the fight. However, the Confederates rolled an unnatural number of critical hits in the game. This fight set the tone for what was to come.

Saturday AM: - Charge 'em to Hell - Grant's May 19th Assault

We had seven Yanks to command the three corps deployed by Grant around the city. Four Confederate players manned the works. The Yanks assaulted simultaneously with all three corps. However, as in the real campaign, the maneuvering of these three corps quickly fell victim to the terrain and delays made the assaults less coordinated. The center (XVII Corps) battered themselves continuously against the center works which included the Great Redoubt and 2nd Texas Lunette. Each time a critical melee occurred during the morning scenario, the Confederates seemed to roll 7 - 9 while Union players topped out at 3. Given the difficulties of assaulting such formidable breastworks and fortifications, the chances of success were less with each wave. However, attacks against this sector were relentless and always seemed on the verge of success. This encouraged the commanders to continue attacking with diminishing returns.

While XVII Corps bloodied themselves against these Confederate works XV corps assaulted the most difficult positions on Fort Hill, the Stockade Redan and the 26th Louisiana Redoubt in the north. These attacks were never close to success. At one point the Union players lost a melee against Fort Hill by 18 points! In Fire & Fury every point difference over ten means lifting an additional stand as casualties. This caused a once fresh brigade to evaporate in a single turn.

In the South XIII Corps had some initial success and actually took some Confederate breastworks between the Railroad Redoubt and the Square Fort. However, Confederate musketry forced them back and they failed to garner support from any follow-on attacks. At the end of the scenario all the works were in Confederate hands. The victory point total was now CS 103, US 25.

Saturday PM: - Bring up the Guns, Grant's May 22nd Assault

The final scenarios saw the theme of Confederate high-rolling on critical assaults continued. Unfortunately for Billy Yank, it also saw the string of poor luck continue for the Yankees. The Confederate center continued to be pounded by XVII Corp, now with artillery support. The heaviest Union guns were of the 20 and 30 pound Parrott gun variety and accompanied XV Corps. These guns were capable of causing severe damage. However, due to poor dicing and some very well aimed Confederate counter-battery fire, these guns did not relieve the blood-letting in the north. By the end of the scenario both XVII and XV Corps had their manpower reduced by 40-50% and many brigades evaporated in the combat. A second assault against the Stockade Redan lost by 10 points!

The only real hope for success in the assault was in the south. XIII Corps had a numerical superiority. However, maneuver rolls slowed an attack against the Salient Works while the Confederate commanders successfully shifted troops from South Fort to meet the assault. A Union assault in this sector lost by 13 points! The bad dices at critical moments in the Union camp was impossible to overcome. However, Confederate casualties also began to tell. In the end the battering of Porter's gunboat fleet and the poor luck on dice for the Yanks was too much to overcome. Curiously, in the many times I have run this scenario, this was the first Confederate victory. It was a decisive one.

The final victory point total was 126 - 50 in favor of Johnny Reb. Grant would now have to settle in for a siege, which is historically accurate. Luckily, I could now safely deploy my stands of civilians equipped for cave dwelling. A good time was had by all.

Bill Moreno
May 10, 2013