Seven Pines

submitted by Elias Nordling.

Game: Seven Pines
Player: Elias Nordling solitaire
Scenario: Seven Pines 5.5: Johnston's Offensive
Rules used: All, including optionals.

Day 1 morning:
The first thing to do for the confederates is to clean up the orders mess. Since everybody would be well on their way to their objectives before accepting new orders, I thought it pointless to give any units entirely new routes. Better let them stay on their routes but be more aggressive. Anderson was ordered to attack along the Williamsburg road towards 2631 and not wait for Huger to cross. Huger, on the other hand was ordered to attack north from Portugese road towards Seven Pines.

Whiting was ordered to put half of the division at each of the victory hexes near the houses of Cartney and Dr Trent, supported by ample artillery from the army reserve, and defend. This way they would both hold the victory hexes and hold off the reinforcements coming from the north map edge while strong forces destroy the 3rd and 4th corps. DH Hill, finally, was left with its orders to await reinforcements.

Because of the new restrictive command rules, all orders were D2. Anderson and Huger accepted their new orders at 10:00, but by then, the traffic jam at Gilie Creek was already a mess. Whiting didn't accept his blocking orders, vital to the plan, until in the afternoon.

>From the Union viewpoint, there wasn't much to do but await the onslaught. 4th corps took positions along redoubts 2, 3 and 4. The right flank looked vulnerable, so 3-3 took initiative and moved to a defensive position at redoubt 5. This allowed 2-4 to shift its position somewhat to lessen the gap to 1-4 near Seven Pines.

Day 1 Afternoon:
The first firing occurs at 12:00. Long distance artillery fire, as Anderson comes out of the woods and start to deploy for the assault. at 1:00, as Anderson starts his preparatory bombardment, Whiting finally accepts his important orders and start to move out from Old Tavern.

At 1:30, the attack start in earnest. 2-4 took a beating from Anderson at 2 hex range, and it looks like the position around redoubt 3 and 4 will fall quickly. With DH Hill coming up behind Anderson, Huger coming up from the south next turn, and Whiting getting into position just in time to block reinforcements, it looks like Johnston's modified plan will work after all.

2-4 is rapidly pushed back by Anderson's division from its position at redoubts 3 and 4 towards Seven Pines. 1-4 still holds a strong position, but with two more divisions closing in on it, the position of 4th corps looks precarious. To add to the trouble, the corps is rapidly running out of ammunition (lots of 11s and 12s rolled).

Meanwhile, Kearney with his two brigades at redoubt #5 start to look very out of position and alone, surrounded by enemy columns. Seeing this as an opportunity rather than a threat, he manages to get initiative (for an attack order, no less) to attack the forces near Cartney and help open thereinforcement route from the north. Now it looks like it is Whiting'sdivision that are in risk of being surrounded and destroyed. The impending fight around Cartney suddenly loses a lot of its drama, however, as bothsides (ie me) realize that no reinforcements will arrive from Duane's and Woodbury's bridges.

Keyes fails his defensive orders at 3:00, when both of his divisions are wrecked. Most of the 4th Corps artillery is lost in the retreat to the crossroads at 26.31. Meanwhile, the reinforcements from 2nd corps are essentially bottled up near Dr Trent, trying to deploy in the marshy terrain. Kearney sighs in relief as his two-brigade attack into lots of artillery suffers Corps Attack Stoppage. Happily, he starts to move back to his corps headquarters, where he is sorely needed. A single brigade, 1-3-3, is all that stand between the Confederates and the wrecked 4th corps. The only consolation is that the Confederates are now suffering from low ammo and empty supply wagons too. Meanwhile, the fighting at Dr Trent starts to get serious, as 2nd Corps manages to get untangled from the swamp. The Union now have 5 brigades to 3 here, but the Confederate's 10 artillery points make a telling difference.

The confederate pursuit of the wrecked 4th Corps is slowed as much by the rugged terrain as the brave rearguard action by 1-3-3. Furthermore, at 5.00, Anderson's division suffer attack stoppage (the division isn't wrecked, but Anderson was wounded earlier in the assault.), leaving DH Hill alone against increasing federal resistance as the rest of 3-3 division arrives.

At the same time, the three confederate brigades at Dr Trent start to give way from the weight of the entire 2nd Corps, but they have already caused more than twice as many casualties as they have taken. At 6.00, the tired 2nd Corps finally manages to capture Dr Trent, and the confederates lose most of their guns in their retreat. Sensing that he is in no position to push through the additional brigades and artillery near Cartney, Sumner takes the initiative to hold the gained ground near Dr Trent and await the night.

DH continues to push the 3rd Corps with success, despite now being alone and outnumbered in the assault. Sickles newly arrived brigade is routed on contact. DH Hill gets to within 3 hexes of 3631 before being stopped cold by concentrated federal artillery. Disorganized and wrecked, the division streams back towards Seven Pines. Rains' brigade is the last to break, and is punished hardest for it. Hit by a devastating salvo (20 points from three hexes), the brigade is permanently wrecked. 3rd Corps, true to its orders start a counterattack, but it is stopped before darkness.

At 7.30, the fighting has ended for the day. Both sides apprise their

The confederates have lost 66 steps, and most likely caused more. Most of the brigades are, after recovering stragglers, fresh enough to stand a fight, but only Anderson's and Whiting's divisions are usable in offensive combats. Furthermore, a VP count gives a massive rebel victory for terrain alone! The confederates thus decide to stay on the defense and hold the taken ground the next day. Putting the offensive burden on the Union will probably increase their losses further. The only worry is that artillery ammo is almost out, only 10 shots left.

The Union has suffered 75 step losses, but no brigade is permanently wrecked. Hooker's division is in the best shape, while the 4th Corps is the most roughed up. Realizing they have to recapture some ground and/or wreck confederate formations to have a chance to win, the federals decide to try an offensive with 3rd Corps, supported by 2nd Corps, the next day. The Union plan to rely heavily on artillery, since they still have 24 shots left.

Both sides use the night to rest and redeploy...

Day 2 morning:
The burden of attack is now on the federals, but realizing that they are in no real hurry, they decide to wait for dawn before drawing up any orders, to get a better picture of the confederate positions. At dawn, these looks as follows:

Anderson's division is guarding the Williamsburg road, and have a firing position on the railroad at Orchard station. Daniel Hill's division is guarding Fair Oaks station, supported by lots of artillery. Whiting's division is deployed at the Cartney house, but two brigades and some artillery is guarding the Meadow road. Finally, Huger's division is deployed in move mode at Seven Pines, and is clearly a mobile reserve.

The federals consider their alternatives: A frontal assault in Anderson's division would probably result in an equal-odds slugfest which would gain only more losses on both sides. DH Hill's division looks tempting, but is hard to get at, due to the fact that the other rebel divisions watch the roads leading to Fair Oaks. Whiting's division would be the easiest to concentrate on, but the position looks strong, and if reinforced by Huger, could probably hold.

Finally, there is the whacky plan: Take the third corps on a hidden flanking move along the Portugese or Charles City roads (using the roads on map F) and march on Richmond! A few city hexes would most certainly help the VP balance, but the plan is likely to end up in embarrassment if Huger's division manages to halt 3rd corps, while the rest of the confederates go on to smash the shaken 4th Corps. The federals chose the whacky plan, if only to see what happens.

The preparations run into delays, and it isn't until 9.30 that the flank movement start. The flanking move is successful, and the Union column has amost reached 45.16 before being detected by confederate pickets.

The rebels are now in a fix, as they don't know where the 3rd corps is going for sure, and will have a hard time catching up. Johnston, who has been waiting with Huger, immediately and forcefully orders Huger to move back along the Williamsburg road to Hughes Tavern and try to halt or pursue the federals there. Huger fails to realize the urgency, however (D1).

One who does realize the urgency is DH Hill. Using initiative, he orders his division to march hard along the railroad and try to get to D 31.24 before the 3rd Corps. This would leave the Seven Pines position vulnerable if 3rd corps intended to march back along Williamsburg road to catch Anderson's division from the rear, but hopefully Huger would be able to handle that.

Day 2 afternoon:
The federals, realizing they are discovered, start to march harder too, but DH Hill wins the race, and at 12.30, the federals encounter Rodes brigade at D 32.24. Meanwhile, Johnston decide to renew the assault on 4th Corps near 26.31 with Anderson's division, and if 2nd Corps which has been in position at Dr Trent since yesterday, try to reinforce 4th Corps, Whiting will advance too.

At 1.00, Anderson's division start to advance. Sumner react immediately to Keyes pleas and send one of his divisions to support Keyes. Meanwhile, DH Hill is quite successful in holding the 3rd corps, but it won't last long, as the division is now broken. And Huger is nowhere to be seen.

At 1.30, after some lousy die-rolls, Heinzelman loses his nerve and stops the 3rd Corps attack. DH Hill sighs in relief. Johnston has moved up to Whiting to issue new orders to him. Taking a look at the strong position at Dr Trent, he decides instead to let Whiting leave two brigades to guard the Cartney house and advance the rest of the division down Meadow road to help in the attack on 4th Corps.

At 2.00, with both of its divisions wrecked again, 4th corps break and stream off to map F. 2nd Corps is now alone in holding the line in front of the confederates. 3rd Corps, meanwhile, try to form a defensive position at the crossroads at E 40.01, to avoid being flanked and protect its gain. Huger still haven't got a clue.

To add insult to injury, 1-2 division sent to support Keyes also breaks. The federals made a mistake sending that division. Its commander was wounded the day before, so the division was bound to be very shaky when left on its own. At 3.00, the fighting dies down, as the federals retreat towards Dr Trent and Savage Station. Neither side see much point in resuming the fighting, so the game ends. The Confederates have exactly one artillery shot left, while the Union still has plenty.

Victory count:
No division is permanently wrecked (though both DH Hill and 1-4 are close) The confederates have 21 points for terrain (E26.20, E19.16, E27.35 and E28.32). The Union have 3, for 45.16. The Confederates have caused 97 casualties, which give them 19 VPs. The Union have caused 82 casualties, for 14 VPs. The net result is -23 points, for a super-duper-double-whammy massive rebel victory.

Final analysis:

>From a first play, it seems fairly easy to achieve a massive rebel victory, but I know how deceiving first plays can be. If Whiting had been just one turn later in activating his orders, for example, the 2nd corps would have arrived at Dr Trent first, and there would have been an entirely different game!

The Union second day plan failed as expected, and 4th corps was severely punished for it, but had DH Hill not been successful in getting initiative immediately, the plan might have worked! And even with Hill's fast reaction, his division was very nearly crushed. Huger's failure to activate until the fighting was over could have spelled disaster for the confederates.

The Confederates stumbled on a very successful plan by using Whiting as a blocking force. My defensive setup for the second day was also a good one, and all in all, I played the rebels very well. I was not at all as successful as the Union player. The Union must really concentrate the forces they have at hand at start to not have them defeated in detail, which I failed. On the second day, I failed to utilize the Union superiority in artillery.

A blocking move towards Dr Trent is a very real threat that the Union must be aware of. Sending 3-3 towards Dr Trent by initiative might prevent that, but then, the 4th corps will have to fend on its own. And the rebels might just decide to move down Meadow road for an encirclement of 4th corps instead!

This game has something of the character of a shell game, as both players will have to guess the other side's plans and counteract them, but guessing wrong can mean disaster. I've got the feeling that this is the kind of game that no one play is ever the same, and I look forward to trying it again.

This was definitely one of the best CWB game I've had so far, and it has been quite a few now! Thanks, Dave, for another great game! For those of you that haven't yet tried out this battle, please do. It is a small battle that plays like a big one. Fast and ferocious! To those of you that don't even have the game, all I can say is: Why?

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