Tazewell: August 6, 1862


The Scarlet J and I got together this past weekend for our first ACW game in quite some time.This was our first time to play an historical scenario, so that’s a big milestone!

We chose the Battle of Tazewell, from the excellent book of western regimental level scenarios by Ryan Toews and George Anderson of Potomac Publications, titled Rebel Yell, Yankee Hurrah. Tazewell was, essentially, a skirmish between a Union and Confederate brigade in the Cumberland Gap during August 1862.  The Union commander, Colonel De Courcy, whose brigade was headquartered in the small town of Tazewell, was out foraging for provender, and this provoked a violent Rebel response.

The action opens with the 16th Ohio, supported by a section of 10lb Parrots, on picket duty. They are approached by two Confederate regiments, the 3rd Georgia and 4th Tennessee. Both brigades have reinforcements arriving over the first few turns of the game, so it’s imperative that the US troops hold, or retreat in the face of, superior numbers to allow time for their other regiments to come up.

We played to completion in just under 3 hours, minus setup/takedown time..We didn’t have appropriate command stands for this battle, so flags and such will not make any sense. Please don’t be annoyed.


Here’s the order of battle:


Rain’s Brigade, Stevenson’s Division
4th Tennessee
11th Tennessee
42nd Georgia
3rd Georgia (battalion)
29th North Carolina

Cherokee Georgia Artillery 1 6lb smoothbore, 1 10lb Parrott



Twenty-sixth Brigade, Seventh Division, De Courcy commanding
22nd Kentucky
16th Ohio
42nd Ohio

1st Wis. Bty. 3 10lb Parrotts

Attached from Twenty-seventh Brigade
14th Kentucky (crack troops)


Battle of Tazewell After Action Report

Tazewell battlefield in early morning sun...

Tazewell battlefield in early morning sun. Looking east…

I set this game up at my house before going to the game store to meet TSJ, thus the unfamiliar surroundings to regular readers of this blog. Ignore my horribly messy shelves, please. Hopefully there’s nothing embarrassing up there!

This view is looking east along a saddlebacked ridge. The two Confederate regiments deployed are the 3rd Ga. and 4th Tenn. The road snaking through the middle of the battlefield passes through the low spot of the saddleback. The big trees in the southeast are rough terrain. The other trees indicate relatively open forest, and were broken terrain, in Regimental Fire and Fury terms. To the north of the saddleback ridge are some more woods and a nice hill for an artillery position. I think De Courcy historically fell back to a position based around this northern hill.

First exchange of fire...

First exchange of fire, as a Union column moves onto the road. Looking northeast.

And here we are at the game store. I forgot to take a pre-game deployment shot, but the only difference is the column of Union infantry coming south down the road-The Union brigade receives reinforcements on the first turn. The 16th Ohio is armed with inferior rifled muskets, which gives me a range advantage. Of course, we don’t have any such advantage over that rifled gun! My Confederates need to move quick before those reinforcements even out the odds.

Confederates begin to close with the enemy...

Confederates begin to close with the enemy. That’s the 16th Ohio in extended line trying to delay the rebel advance.

I need to take advantage of the 2:1 weight of fire I could project against the 16th Ohio, and quickly move up. Both rebel regiments give an efficacious volley (I rolled a 9, which is the very best number you can roll in d10-based RF&F combat-10 puts you out of ammo!), and the 3rd Georgia (which consisted of a mere 8 stands!), personally led by Brigadier Rains, quickly charges the disordered and bleeding Union regiment with fixed bayonets!

Skeedaddle, Bluebellies, Skeedaddle!!

Skedaddle, Bluebellies, Skedaddle!!

Here we see the shameful sight of TSJ routing his Ohioans after a stirring (and successful) assault by the valiant 3rd Georgia. The boys from Ohio were to save face by not leaving the table, but were never a factor in the remainder of the fight. Note the 4th Tennessee advancing up the hill behind TSJ’s hand. The Union Parrott has retreated to safety at the next hill beyond these wooded elevations.

Reinforcements pour in, as The Scarlet J looks on in a very 19th century manner.

Reinforcements pour in, as The Scarlet J looks on in a very 19th century manner.

A tense moment...

A tense moment…

I advance my lead regiments into the wooded ridge/saddle, and am met with heavy fire. The fearsome crack 12 stand 14th Kentucky is marching down the road to meet my victorious Georgians, who are down to 7 stands after taking some artillery fire from the 3 gun battery of Parrots on the far hill.

A large crack Kentucky Union regiment tries to push around some poor 'ol southerners.

A large crack Kentucky Union regiment pushes the 3rd Georgia out of the woods, with the weight of their fire.

The 3rd Georgia cannot withstand the fierce musketry (and bad breath) of the Kentuckians, much less the weight of the Yankee battery raining shot down on them from the hill beyond. The 3rd takes some casualties, but successfully withdraws into the clear to the south. This move puts the Union regiments at an advantage for cover, but effectively screens my forces from the Union battery.

Climax of the battle...

Climax of the battle…

In a bold (read foolhardy) maneuver, my battery of a 6 pounder smoothbore and light rifle clatter up to unlimber and take position by the wavering 3rd Georgia. The Union forces fire all along the line, and the Kentuckians follow up their musketry with a charge onto my guns and Georgians. The fire from the 14th damages my rifle section, but in the key moment of the game, canister from my guns, and the fierce resistance of the beleaguered Georgians somehow drives off the Kentuckians, who subsequently retreat to a safer position in the wooded ridgeline.

This is where we called it...

This is where we called it…

His crack regiment driven off, two other regiments fairly chewed up, and with Confederate reinforcements finally getting into position on the Union front, de Courcy/TSJ decides to recall his troops to fight another day. The victory condition was to cause 40% casualties to the other side, thus driving them from the field. We didn’t quite get there-TSJ would have had to take 16 stands of casualties to get to 40%, and he’d only had 12. Historically, the Union commander held the Confederates off until 7:30 pm (presumably close to nightfall), and retreated in good order. The battle starts at 10:30AM, and we played 6 turns at 15 minutes each, so the Yanks only held out to noon on this day.

Thanks to brilliant generalship (read lucky dice rolling) by yours truly, the rebels drove the Yankee invader from _this_ spot of sovereign territory, while taking light casualties (7 stands).

In retrospect, I think the key issue in this scenario is how the defender takes advantage of that belt of woods along the saddleback ridge. My boys were unstoppable while the Yanks were trying to fight out in front of the forest with their batteries screened by the dense trees. It would be interesting to see if the Union could effectively fight a forward defense FROM the tree line. It would be a touch and go thing, with one section of Rifles and a kind of crappy Ohio regiment trying to hold off two regiments of Confederate regulars. I think De Courcy did the right thing historically, in trading space for time, and ceding what looks like excellent defensive terrain to the attacker. But what do I know? This is the first ACW game I’ve won in MONTHS.


Scenario Review

One caveat, I’m not a Civil War expert, so I can only judge this scenario as a game. That said, I’ve met Ryan Toews, and he’s definitely a scholar and gentleman. I’d bet he’s got the history right on. To the review…

This is an excellent little scenario. There are some interesting asymmetries in the order of battle-The rebels have one more regiment than the Yanks, but some of them are armed with smoothbores, and the Yanks have a large crack regiment on the field. Of course the Yanks have the Ohio regiment with inferior rifle muskets on the field to start the game, and it’s huge to be able to fire at them with full power, while the Yanks are only able to muster half firepower because of long range. Another asymmetry is the advantage in range and firepower AT range by the Union battery. I loved the tempo challenges-does the Union try to trade space for time? Can the rebels take advantage of their early advantage in numbers? Can the Union get its reinforcements in place in time to give the 16th Ohio some support? All this, with the interesting terrain layout makes for a rich game. And I’m not just saying I like it because I won! The Scarlet J was quite impressed by the scenario, as well, and wants to give it another try in the future.

Another excellent thing about this scenario is that you don’t need 200 infantry stands to play it. There are 50ish stands per side, plus leaders and guns. A nice little stepping stone, for the new ACW gamer who’s in the process of building up his or her (yeah right!) forces.

Give the scenario book a look. There are 10 scenarios, some of them considerably larger than Tazewell. The scenarios are presented in a detailed, yet generic manner. Numbers of men per regiment are given, as well as weapon types. The maps are very legible, but, for the RF&F player, beware that the ground scale is 1″=40 yards, so you’ll need to do a little conversion to 1″=25 yards. The history of each battle is described with a well written narrative, which will do a good job of whetting your appetite for the fight.

I’ll give it four out of four paintbrushes!

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  • mellis1644  On 10/20/2014 at 2:47 pm

    The table looks great and the figs with it. This was a fun battle report to read. Thanks I do want to give these rules a try at some point.

    • arkiegamer  On 10/20/2014 at 3:04 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for wading through my haphazard writing! RF&F are a good set of rules. They’re on the simulation end of the spectrum, but aren’t tediously complicated.

  • Frank Arey  On 10/20/2014 at 8:43 pm

    Very cool – and you won this one, right?

    • arkiegamer  On 10/21/2014 at 8:06 am

      Yes, a rare victory for me!

      I think you’d enjoy that book of scenarios, Frank. Of course, you’re perfectly capable of doing your own research.

      Here’s the scenario list:

      Fort Donelson
      Thompson’s Station
      Dutton’s Hill
      Ringgold Gap
      Pickett’s Mill
      Overall Creek

      Not exactly your usual suspects!

  • daggerandbrush  On 10/20/2014 at 11:29 pm

    Excellent battle report and the pictures really capture the action. Your approach to battlefield creation is as always awesome. Do I see right that you use a flexible mat with flexible roads on top of styrofoam hills? The trees are pinned down into the foam and can be removed if need be?

    I sometimes wished I’d play rules that do not need a strict border to terrain pieces ;), then I could replicate this awesome look.

    • arkiegamer  On 10/21/2014 at 8:11 am

      Glad you liked it!

      Yes, flexible mat and roads over carved polystyrene rigid insulation hills, and all of that is over the top of a layer of rubber interlocking athletic flooring. I can pin down the trees, and, as you observed, move them to make room for units. As a bonus, you can use scattered individual trees to pin down other elements, like roads and area terrain features, at their edges.

      We are supposed to be using strict borders for our terrain pieces! I haven’t made any area indicators for forests, yet, and my opponent usually brings pieces of felt, but he was running late that day, so I went ahead and set everything up. We were careful about expressing our intentions, and everything seemed to go smoothly.

  • dave2718  On 10/21/2014 at 4:45 am

    This is a great looking table – and a nice report too. thanks for sharing

  • tinpotrevolutionary  On 10/26/2014 at 10:27 am

    Great work as always!

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