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Little Round Top – 1700-1800 hours – ‘Race for the heights of Little Round Top!!!
This continues from my earlier report of the 1600-1700 turn (see here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/985670/little-round-top-... ). As I noted there, a lot is happening on a tactical level so I’m writing this up based on hourly turns (which take me a week of game-time to complete).
Here is a quick glimpse of the situation at the end of the first hour:
As you can see, two regiments of Ward’s brigade, plus an independent unit in the far south, block the Confederate advance on Little Round Top. Vincent’s (3 1 I – Blue and Orange with Green dot) has also rushed along the Taneytown Road in an attempt to secure the heights before the Reb’s can get up there.
The 1700-1800 turn begins disastrously for the Confederates. They receive an Efficiency Marker of ‘1’, meaning that all brigades will begin with a basis of ONE activation for the entire hour. In contrast, the Union forces receive an Efficiency Marker of ‘4’. I’ve complained about this system previously, it really takes a deep, historically-based, realistic-feeling conflict-simulation and #^(%$ it right up. I’m soloing this, and I’m rooting for the Union, and even I’m pissed off about how this is ruining the simulation value of the game (and my enjoyment of it). Nonetheless, I continue, and deal with the situation.
Once again, the focus needs to be on Hood’s Division, as his lead regiments are a few hundred yards from Little Round Top. So Longstreet uses his Efficiency Rating to increase Hood’s activations by 1. Hood also has an Activation Rating of +1, so this brings his activations up to three. McLaw’s Division in the north will have to make do with their ONE activation.
On the plus side, the Confederates hold on to the initiative, and so Hood is given the first activation. All other Activation Markers (AMs) are thrown into the cup.
With his initiative, Hood orders his brigades to charge at the Little Round Top – this is now a race for the heights. Laws and Benning lead the charge brilliantly, surpassing Hood’s expecations by forcing three of Ward’s regiments to rout! This opens up a huge 600+ yard gap in the Union lines, and a clear path through to Little Round Top. At the end of this activation, the lead regiments of Law’s brigade are just 250 yards from the heights of Little Round Top.
To the north, dust rising into the air signals to Hood that more Union reinforcements are flooding to the area. Crawford and Ayres bring on their Divisions and try to rush them to the scene of fighting. Congestion on the roads forces many regiments off to the side, where they race their compatriots to the front.
Birnay’s activation follows, and Ward tries to make some sense of the situation. In the north, he links up with de Trobriand’s brigade (3 1 III), whilst in the south, the isolated 33 PA fall back in a brave attempt to slow down the Confederate advance.
Barnes’ activation follows (this includes Vincent’s brigade). The Union breath a sigh of relief as Vincent’s men begin to climb the eastern (right) side of Little Round Top. However, tension soon builds again as these Union men are slowed by the rough terrain. They cannot reach the heights this activation, cannot secure the two critical VP locations, and, instead, finish their activation only half way up the hill.
Barnes’s activation is followed by the arrival of more reinforcements under Caldwell, then the Confederate artillery takes its single activation to move close to the front. In an embarrassing blunder, Eshleman’s Confederate artillery have become lost behind the field of battle. They’ve taken wrong turns and have wandered into difficult woods. They haven’t even fired a shot yet, and at their current rate of advance, are unlikely to do so before the day is out.
Then, Confederate hearts rise as Hood receives the next activation! Anderson’s men advance along the northern side of Big Round Top and pin Ward’s isolated defenders in place, then Law’s Brigade charges up the hill! These men who have just crossed over a thousand yards of rough terrain charge up the Little Round Top like their lives depended upon it, but momentum can only take them so far. They finish their activation one space short of the top of the hill. Control of the heights will certainly come down to who will get the next AM – Hood or Barnes.
Benning advances alongside Law’s brigade on the left, whilst Robertson’s men take up a position along Houck’s Ridge to protect the northern flank and threaten Birnay’s position.
As quick as the Confederate hopes rise, they sink, as Barnes receives the next activation. Vincent’s men reach the northern summit of Little Round Top (one of the two VP locations), but, being under Advance orders, they are not allowed to advance adjacent to Confederate positions and must hold. In the north, Tilton’s men protect Vincent’s flank.
A series of Union reinforcement AMs follow (ie: AMs of the units entering), and these begin to line up in droves behind Little Round Top. From his vantage point, Hood can only see clouds of dust rising up behind the hills ahead, but from our perspective, it is an ominous sight seeing so many Union regiments preparing to enter the fight, unseen by their opponents on the other side of the hill. This is only the beginning of the Union build-up, more are on their way along the crowded roads to the north.
As regiments crowd into position behind Little Round Top, Barnes’s men finally get a chance to reach the top. Vincent changes his men’s orders to Attack, the word passes around, his men charge, and they finally secure both heights of Little Round Top. In the ensuing shock combat, they manage to force Law’s men back away from the heights.
McLaw’s finally receives his activation in the north, and uses this to tentatively approach the Union positions. Confederate attempts to threaten the defenders with small arms fire is replied to by the booming volley of the Union Napoleon artillery guns, after which, McLaw’s men decide that discretion is the better part of valour.
More Union reinforcements rush to the front, before Hood finally receives his last activation of the turn. He can now see Union reinforcements crowding around Little Round Top to the north and south, and he knows there is more to come. He MUST take that hill before Union forces flood the heights. It MUST be now! He orders Laws to advance his exhausted, disordered and heavily weakened Brigade. They must advance, charge the Little Round Top, and capture the summit! Laws, reluctantly, accepts. His bedraggled men climb their way up the hill, launch themselves at the Union defenders, and, for the most part, are soundly defeated. Against the steep slopes of the Little Round Top Law’s men fall back in dismay, but in the more favourable terrain immediately to the north they, with Benning’s Brigade’s support, succeed in forcing Tilton’s men back. This may not seem like much, but it does expose the flanks of the Union positions on Little Round Top. With the situation developing in the south, this may mean that, in the near future, Hood’s Division may be able to slowly squeeze the tip of the Union position on the heights of Little Round Top. The only question is whether his men can sustain the losses. One brigade has collapsed, and several more are close to it. Benning’s Brigade has seen action, but they are still at full strength, whilst in the south Anderson’s brigade, whilst disordered is also still at full strength.
There are still two more hours left before dusk (and the end of the scenario). Union troops hold the heights, but if I’ve learned anything it is that a concentrated and determined assault can very quickly dislodge a defender. It may be best for the Reb’s to get Benning and Anderson to slip around the sides, and cut in on the heights from there, instead of attempting another charge straight up the steep slopes again. In any case, Law’s men are simply not up to another frontal assault – they can’t bear the losses. Henry’s artillery (of Hood’s division) is also close to getting into position, and pretty soon they’ll be able to direct some heavy firepower against Union positions on the Little Round Top.
Here is one final view of the overall situation at the end of the 1700-1800 turn: