Butkovich, Brad. The Road to Atlanta: Regimental Wargame Scenarios for the Atlanta Campaign May-June 1864. (Historic Imagination: January 2015). 104 pages, 10 scenarios and orders of battle, 20 maps.  ISBN: 978-0-9904122-3-6. $13.99 (Watermarked PDF ) and $20.13 (Paperback)

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RoadToAtlantaCoverMiniatures gamers hoping to war game the Atlanta Campaign now have, as of late January 2015, another (excellent) option available to them.  The Road to Atlanta: Regimental Wargame Scenarios for the Atlanta Campaign May-June 1864 is a new scenario booklet by Brad Butkovich covering the early battles of the Atlanta Campaign in May-June 1864 from Rocky Face Ridge to Kennesaw Mountain.  The scenarios range from the well-known and historical (McPherson at Resaca, assaults at Kennesaw Mountain) to those which will be new to many gamers, including what-if scenarios.  The book doesn’t adhere to any particular set of rules, instead offering up a variety of time scales and basing scales in order to appeal to the vast majority of American Civil War war gamers out there.  A second volume covering the Battles around Atlanta is expected later.

Brad Butkovich (http://www.historicimagination.com) is no stranger to war gaming scenarios or the Atlanta Campaign.  He already has scenario books out on Chickamauga (The River of Death: Regimental Wargame Scenarios for the Battle of Chickamauga) (TOCWOC review HERE), Pickett’s Mill (Criminal Blunder: Wargame Scenarios for the Battle of Pickett’s Mill), and great fictional battles focusing on common tactical issues encountered during the Civil War (Musketry Like Thunder: The Greatest Civil War Battles Never Fought).  In addition, he is the author of detailed tactical studies of Pickett’s Mill and Allatoona Pass in the History Press series of Civil War books.

SCENARIOS

There are ten scenarios in this scenario book, covering the well-known to the less than well known.  Note that there are NO scenarios involving the Battle of Pickett’s Mill.  Mr. Butkovich already covered that battle of the Atlanta Campaign in detail with Criminal Blunder: Wargame Scenarios for the Battle of Pickett’s Mill.

Crow Valley, May 9th, 1864 (What If?): The Army of the Ohio and the Army of the Cumberland skirmished with Johnston’s main Confederate army near Rocky Face Ridge and Dalton while McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee launched a flanking move to Snake Creek Gap.  In this what-if scenario, Butkovich explores the question of, “What if Schofield’s Army of the Ohio had launched a more vigorous attack in Crow Valley rather than simply engaging in heavy skirmishing to hold Johnston’s attention?”

 

Map Size: 5’ x 7’

Start Time: 1 p.m.

# Turns: No end time.

 

Stevenson’s Attack, May 14th, 1864 (Historical):

This scenario covers the attack of Stevenson’s Confederate division against the Union left flank, manned by Stanley’s Division, at the Battle of Resaca on May 14, 1864.  The scenario is a medium-sized game with the potential for two divisions to participate on each side.

 

Map Size: 4’ x 6’

Start Time: 5 p.m.

# Turns: [19/13/10]

 

McPherson at Resaca, May 14th, 1864 (Historical):

After failing to take a relatively undefended Resaca days earlier, McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee formed the right flank of Sherman’s army group at the Battle of Resaca, nestled up against the Oostanaula River.  McPherson ordered several brigades to take a hill in front of them manned by Cantey’s Brigade in Polk’s Corps (or the Army of Mississippi).  Historically, they did so, and the hill commanded the bridge out of Resaca across the Oostanaula, Johnston’s only retreat route.  This historical scenario pits McPherson vs. Polk in a battle for the key high ground on this end of the line.

 

Map Size: 5’ x 5’

Start Time: 6 p.m.

# Turns: No end time. Game ends when neither side can advance.

Note: Sun sets at 7:30 p.m. on turn [10/7/5], and twilight lasts until turn [13/9/7].

 

Lay’s Ferry, May 15th, 1864 (What If?):

Sweeney’s Union division of the Sixteenth Corps crossed the Oostanaula River with two of its brigades on May 15, 1864.  Historically, Walker’s Confederate division responded less than aggressively to this challenge, and Johnston evacuated Resaca as untenable that evening.  What if Walker’s division had aggressively attacked Sweeney’s bridgehead?  This scenario explores that possibility as a Battle of Resaca what-if.

 

Map Size: 4’ x 4’

Start Time: 12 p.m.

# Turns: No end time.  Game ends when Confederates can no longer advance or all Northern units have been destroyed or forced north of Oostanaula River.

 

 

Gilgal Church, June 15th, 1864 (Historical):

The Battle of Gilgal Church is recreated in this historical scenario.  Joseph Hooker’s Twentieth Corps attacks mostly Cleburne’s crack division, which is well dug in.  Historically, Geary’s Division performed well and Butterfield’s performed poorly.  Can you do better as the Union commander?  Do you have what it takes to capture the Confederate works?

 

Map Size: 4’ x 8’

Start Time: 5 p.m.

# Turns: [19/13/10] (8 p.m. ending)

 

Latimer Farm, June 18th, 1864 (Historical, heavy skirmish):

The heavy skirmish at Latimer’s Farm, fought in a downpour and remembered as a battle by veterans who participated, occurred between French’s Confederate division, defending a salient near the left or southern end of Johnston’s line protecting Marietta, and elements of the Fourth Corps, Union Army of the Cumberland.  Butkovich chose this scenario as an example of the massive skirmishing operations on the lines Johnston held in early to mid-June 1864 between the “Hell-Hole” fights and the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.  Rules for fighting in the rain are included.

 

Map Size: 4’ x 3’

Start Time: 8 a.m.

# Turns: No end time. The Confederate objective is to inflict as many casualties on their Union counterparts as possible.

 

Noonday Creek, June 20th, 1864 (Historical, cavalry):

This fight occurred on the first day Johnston’s Confederates occupied the imposing Kennesaw Mountain line on its far right flank.  Joe Wheeler’s Cavalry Corps faced off against the Second Division of the Army of the Cumberland’s Cavalry corps, commanded by Kenner Garrard.  Wheeler was stationed behind the overflowing Noonday Creek, a particularly formidable obstacle given the recent torrents of rain, but he did not contest the crossing.  The Federals advanced across, at which point Wheeler attacked.  Two Union brigades armed with repeaters, including the famed Lightning Brigade, managed to hold out until dark.

 

Map Size: 5’ x 4’

Start Time: 5 p.m.

# Turns: [19/13/10] (8 p.m. ending)

 

Bald Knob, June 20th, 1864 (Historical, skirmish):

Bald Knob was one of two hills which dominated the skirmish lines between the opposing armies on the Kennesaw Mountain line.  As such, it was a key point to hold.  On June 20, 1864, the Federals attempted to take this height from its Confederate defenders, elements of Hardee’s Corps.  After multiple rounds of back and forth fighting, the Union troops from Stanley’s Division were ultimately driven from Bald Knob, requiring a second, successful attack the next morning.  Can you do better as the Federals, capturing both of these key points on the skirmish line?

 

Map Size: 4’ x 3’

Start Time: 4:30 p.m.

# Turns: [27/18/14] (9 p.m.)

 

Pigeon Hill, June 27, 1864 (Historical and variants):

One of the major attacks at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, this one by the Army of the Tennessee,  is represented by this scenario.  Butkovich produces a strict historical version but also offers up several variants to provide a more balanced fight.

 

Map Size: 4’ x 5’

Start Time: 8 a.m.

# Turns: No end time. Scenario ends when one side or the other can no longer continue the battle.

 

Cheatham Hill, June 27th, 1864 (Historical and variants):

One of the major attacks at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, this one by the Army of the Cumberland, is represented by this scenario.  Butkovich produces a strict historical version but also offers up several variants to provide a more balanced fight.

 

Map Size: 4’ x 5’

Start Time: 8 a.m.

# Turns: No end time. Scenario ends when one side or the other can no longer continue the battle.

 

 

ORDERS Of BATTLE

RoadToAtlantaPg11OOBs

The orders of battle in the book are designed to allow for a wide variety of miniatures rules sets.  Time is represented in 10, 15, and 20 minute increments per turn.  Turns are expressed as Turn [a/b/c], with a representing the 10 minute turn scale, b representing the 15 minute per turn scale, and c equaling the 20 minute per turn scale.  Each unit’s strength is expressed in historical numbers (Present for Duty, Equipped) as well as figure ratios for 20, 30, 40, 50 and 100 historic men per figure/stand.  A Status column gives ratings in terms of 1-4, with the best units being given a 4 and the worst a 1.  Some gamers might need to adjust a bit if their core rules use more or less than 4 ratings. A last column displays weapons used by the infantry formations.  Units with mixed weapons were simply given the weapon which more of their men used.  Artillery battalions simply have a status column, which is similar to the infantry status column, and an Armament column which lists out the number and type of artillery tubes a battery possesses.

 

MAPS

RoadToAtlantaPg13MapTerrainKey

Map scale is 33 yards per inch.  Butkovich mentions that this size “might seem unusual,” but he did this to help fix the tendency of the size and frontage of units in miniatures games being too large. The scenarios are generally designed for use with 15 mm miniatures.  The elevation of hills differs per scenario.  See the specific scenarios for details on how elevation works.  Most of the fences are post and rail fences, easily climbed over or taken down.  The woods are generally open and allow greater movement than one might expect.  For each scenario, one map shows unit setup and entry points for off map units.  A second map displays the ground without the units so gamers can better see the terrain.

The Road to Atlanta: Regimental Wargame Scenarios for the Atlanta Campaign May-June 1864 is a well-designed scenario book on the Atlanta Campaign which allows users of many ACW miniatures rules sets to quickly and easily set up games in their format.  The color maps are professionally designed with views showing all units and no units so you can better see how to create the playing surface.  The Orders of Battle provide both PFDE and figure strengths for easy conversion to any basing model.  Ratings are based on a four point system with suggestions for how to convert these to other ratings systems.  Butkovich picks a wide variety of scenarios from the possible list, including skirmishes and a cavalry action but also giving users some of the major actions of the major battles of the campaign, including Resaca and Kennesaw Mountain.  If you’re a miniature war gamer using any rules set and any basing model, you’ll find that this scenario book works for you with very little conversion needed.  Anyone interested in the Atlanta Campaign, even non-war gamers, will find value in this book.  I’ve often found that utilizing the maps in a war game scenario booklet helps me better understand the flow and initial setup of a given fight.  With The Road to Atlanta: Regimental Wargame Scenarios for the Atlanta Campaign May-June 1864 continues his line of excellent scenario books as well as his work on the Atlanta Campaign.  The best part is this is only part one!  Keep an eye out for the second installment focusing on the battles around Atlanta, coming soon…

Note: A copy of this book was provided gratis for the purposes of this review.

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Patchan, Scott C. The Last Battle of Winchester: Phil Sheridan, Jubal Early, and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, August 7September 19, 1864. (Savas Beatie: 2013). 553 + xxi, 7 appendices, 81 images, 22 maps, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 978-1-932714-98-2, $34.95

patchan-coverI own a lot of books on the Civil War: General histories, reference works, memoirs, campaign studies, books on naval actions, books on esoterica such as prisoners, railroads and economics, political studies, books on slavery, many biographies, and more than a few battle histories. (I’ve even read most of them.) The book under review may be the best battle history I have ever read.

This book is a natural sequel to the author’s Shenandoah Summer, published by Nebraska Press in 2007. A third volume is planned, but the specifics of what it will cover are still up in the air (this is based on email discussion with the publisher as of 1/2/15.) Shenandoah Summer covers the period from July 11, 1864 to right before Sheridan’s arrival in command of the newly formed Middle Military Division.

Part of what makes the book under review so good is that the author spends a lot of time and pages—and spends them well—setting up the situation which existed at the time of Sheridan’s attack on Early’s force near Winchester on September 19, 1864. Both armies maneuvered across the Lower Valley landscape, searching for an opening, and there were several sharp fights at places such as Guard Hill, Charlestown, and Berryville. Much is often made of Sheridan’s numerical edge, which was huge (once the entire force was assembled), but the fiery Union commander used the time before launching his attack to learn about the polyglot force under his command. One thing he learned was that his cavalry completely dominated the Confederate horsemen, and could go toe-to-toe with most of the Confederate infantry as well. Like almost all commanders in the Civil War, Sheridan over-estimated his opposing force, so he was waiting for some recently arrived Confederate reinforcements to return to Richmond. Patchan also reminds the reader of the political situation which existed in the late summer of 1864—the Federal cause could not well sustain a disaster in the Valley, even after Sherman’s capture of Atlanta. As for the Confederate side, Patchan twice quotes Early’s postwar comment that the 1864 Shenandoah campaign was all “bluff.” Unfortunately, Early allowed his opponent’s apparent disinclination to fight to convince him that Sheridan was overly cautious, writing in a postwar memoir, “The events of the last month had satisfied me that the commander opposed to me was without enterprise and possessed an excessive caution which amounted to timidity.”

The heart of the book consists of Chapters 1220, which tell the tale of the immediate prelude to the battle and then the battle itself. We read of the role of Rebecca Wright, the young Quaker Unionist who lives in Winchester and gets word to Sheridan that General Anderson, with Kershaw’s infantry division and Cutshaw’s artillery battalion, has left the Valley to return to Richmond—this was a key prerequisite in Sheridan’s mind for any attack. In my opinion, Patchan’s great skill in constructing his narrative is the right mixture of “large formation narrative” vs. “individual narrative;” in other words, we are given a clear outline of the general flow of the battle, interspersed with enough personal accounts to keep the narrative lively. The author is especially good at using informative footnotes, i.e., using his footnotes to explain issues that are unclear even to him, and why he came to the conclusion he did (but still presenting the other possibilities), or even to simply provide more detail. Because there are almost no Confederate reports on the battle, probably because their command structure was badly hit by casualties (Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes, Brig. Gen. Archibald Godwin, Brig. Gen. Zebulon York, and Col. George S. Patton, were all killed or mortally wounded), Patchan has found and used a plethora of newspaper accounts and other postwar writings to construct the story of the battle from the Confederate side. He does a good job of showing how several aspects of the terrain east of Winchester gave the Confederates some advantages or even opportunities to discomfit the Federal attack.

For those who are not familiar with Third Winchester (or, Opequon Creek, as many Federals called it), here is a brief outline. Sheridan’s force was concentrated around Berryville and Summit Point, some 16 miles to the southwest of Harpers Ferry. Early’s infantry was extended from Winchester to near Bunker Hill, over a front of about 11 miles. Sheridan sent all three infantry corps—Sixth Corps (Wright), Nineteenth Corps (Emory), and the Army of West Virginia (Crook)—through Berryville Canyon to attack Early’s right flank, located more or less due east of Winchester. The Federal cavalry forced crossings of Opequon Creek further north and moved against Early’s left. The Federal advance was slowed considerably by forcing the entire infantry force along a single road that passed through a narrow defile. This delay allowed Early to concentrate his own infantry to contest and even, briefly, halt the Federal attack. This shift to his right left a weak Confederate force to contend with the Yankee horsemen, who pressed southwards toward the left flank of the Rebel line. Just as the Federal horse began to make their presence felt, Crook’s Army of West Virginia launched a third and decisive attack against the Confederate infantry. Early was forced to retreat in some disorder.

The book is not without flaws, and while they do not detract much from the overall quality of the narrative, I do believe they should be mentioned. Like several recent Savas-Beattie books I have read, it was indifferently edited. (The reviewer is a professional editor for a mathematics journal, so this is a bit of a pet peeve.) I don’t say this to offend the author or the publisher, and it obviously is no reflection on the quality of the research underlying the book; I say it in the hope that the problem can be solved. I’m sure it is a cost issue—getting people to read final copy closely and mark all errors for the author’s attention is not cheap. I found several grammar errors, and one footnote that was simply wrong (the text cited an early 20th century history of the campaign, but the footnote was only to the OR). The most serious problem, in my opinion, concerns a series of circa 1885 photos of the battlefield that were supposed to illustrate the narrative (the battlefield today is all shopping centers and suburban sprawl). The quality of reproduction of a few of the photos is, in my opinion, very poor, and it might have been better to use some form of enhancement—either digital or via a graphic artist. Again, this would involve a cost.

But I do not want my criticisms—all editorial in nature—to mar what is intended as a very positive review. This is a great book. In several places, including a kind of summary chapter, Patchan comments on various mistakes made by both commanders, such as Early’s excursion with two divisions to attack the B&O railroad at Martinsburg (which gave Sheridan his opening and caused him to change his battle plan from turning the Confederate right flank to going straight at Ramseur’s Division astride the Berryville Pike) and Sheridan’s decision to funnel his entire infantry force through the narrow confines of the so-called Berryville Canyon (although Patchan makes clear that Sixth Corps commander Horatio Wright exacerbated this situation by bringing the corps trains with him, in direct violation of orders). The division of Federal cavalry under Brig. Gen. James Wilson missed a day-long opportunity to turn Early’s right flank, a failure that ultimately allowed the Confederates to escape. Patchan points out that, while Sheridan did have a large numerical edge, many other Federal commanders had been unable to win battles with numerical superiority—Sheridan was able to get tired and worn-out troops to continue to press forward until the numbers became decisive. The author also suggests that, by keeping two infantry corps and two cavalry divisions away from the Army of the Potomac, Early may well have accomplished the ultimate purpose of sending him to the Shenandoah. The reviewer concedes that point, but is of the opinion that, by campaigning in the open terrain of the Valley, Early’s force was more vulnerable to heavy losses. A stalemate in both the Valley and at Richmond-Petersburg would be a better outcome for the Confederacy than decisive defeat in the Valley and stalemate in the siege. Grant, it is true, would have had more troops to work with in the Petersburg lines, but Lee would have had more men to entrench in front of him. It is worth noting that the decisive breakthrough at Petersburg on April 2nd was made by Sixth Corps.

The treatment of the Battle of Fisher’s Hill—almost an appendix of sorts to the fight at Winchester—is covered briefly in Chapter 21. I would have liked to see a map of that action, but I do understand that maps cost money.

The book also has a large number of Appendices, detailing the organizations of the armies, strength and casualty estimates, and a very nice discussion of the soldier accounts from the Shenandoah Campaign.

Anyone with an interest in the 1864 campaign in Virginia should read this book. Not tomorrow—today. It is that good.

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Civil War Book Preview: The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864 by John Horn

by Brett Schulte January 26, 2015

Shipping from the printer this week is the second edition of John Horn’s H. E. Howard book on the Battle of Globe Tavern and Grant’s Fourth Offensive during the Siege of Petersburg.  The second edition is entitled The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, and contains, according to the author “expanded […]

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Confederate Reinforcements & the Second Manassas Campaign

by Ned B. January 23, 2015

I have been reading about the Antietam campaign and a question occured to me.  It is generally acknowledged that before entering Maryland, Gen. Lee was reinforced by a column of roughly 25,000 troops consisting of the infantry divisions of DH Hill, McLaws and Walker; a cavalry brigade under Hampton; and the reserve artillery under Pendleton. […]

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US casualties at 1st Winchester: Will it ever be accurately reported?

by Ned B. January 15, 2015

The first battle of Winchester, Virginia was fought on May 25, 1862 between forces under Confederate General Thomas ‘Stonewall‘ Jackson and those under Union General Nathaniel Banks. For US casualties in the battle, almost all books and websites I have seen report the same thing: 62 killed; 243 wounded; 1,714 missing/captured; for a total of 2,019.  See this […]

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Quiner Scrapbooks at the Wisconsin Historical Society Online

by Brett Schulte December 19, 2014

In my recent web wanderings searching for Siege of Petersburg material, I came across a fantastic resource on Wisconsin Civil War military units at the Wisconsin Historical Society web site.  The ten volume “Quiner Scarpbooks” contain letters from Wisconsin soldiers which were printed in newspapers during the war.  The Wisconsin Historical Society allows you to […]

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Leadership Lessons from the Siege of Petersburg: Richard J. Sommers

by Brett Schulte December 7, 2014

Dr. Richard J. Sommers, author of Richmond Redeemed, recently reprinted in a Second Edition by Savas Beatie, recently gave a talk about leadership at the Siege of Petersburg which aired on CSPAN.  Luckily for us, as Dr. Sommers writes in an email, it’s now available online: C-SPAN filmed a presentation on “Richmond Redeemed: Enduring Lessons […]

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