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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Ab Ovo

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Yup, just another reason to update my CSA AAR. Hurrah for Dixie!
 

GreatUberGeek

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Subbed! I remember lurking your Ottoman AAR, so hopefully this one will be good as well.
 

Jape

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I: Manassas


Abraham Lincoln's first presidential inauguration


February 23rd 1861 saw perhaps the most humiliating entry into Washington every made by a new president. Warned of an assassination plot, Abraham Lincoln slipped through Baltimore disguised as an invalid passenger on a special train, arriving in the capital unannounced before dawn.

North and South were not yet at war but teetered on the brink. Seven states in the Deep South had declared independence from the Union by Christmas 1860, convinced that Lincoln and his victorious Republican Party were bent on freeing their slaves. At this stage Lincoln was no abolitionist, his focus being on the preservation of the United States. He still hoped that Southern supporters of the Union would restrain their hotheads and it was to these moderates the he reached out to in his inaugural address on March 4th. ‘We are not enemies, but friends… Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.’

Moving words, but they came too late. The new Confederacy was created in mid-February and chose Jefferson Davis, a former Mississippi senator and secretary of war a president. Perhaps his experience at the War Department had made him aware how ill prepared the South was for conflict, for when he informed his wife of his appointment he told her ‘as a man might speak of a sentence of death’.

The Confederacy’s only chance was to enlist into the struggle the Upper South, especially Virginia. It was the most populous state in the whole South, with more industrial capacity than all the Deep South states combined. Lincoln had made clear, that all though he did not want war, he would not surrender federal property. This quickly turned Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, the cradle of the secession into the flashpoint. Southern firebrands hoped a battle for the fort would force the Upper South to fight. Finally after weeks of stand-off, Davis ordered Confederate artillery to open fire on April 12th. Short of supplies and ammunition, the Union garrison surrendered after a day and a half and were allowed to return north with the Star and Stripes. Displayed a week later in New York , the flag from Fort Sumter became a rallying point for Northerners, who flocked in their thousands to answer Lincoln’s call for troops to suppress what he called illegal ‘combinations’. But it was also the tipping point for the Upper South.


Battle of Fort Sumter​

Within five days Virginia had sided with the Confederates, along with Tennessee, North Carolina and Arkansas, all unwilling to bear arms against their southern brothers. Only after desperate effort by federal troops and Unionist gangs was Maryland held, avoiding the encirclement of Washington by rebel states. Missouri and Kentucky teetered too and would prove key battlegrounds in the coming war. On both sides men flocked to the colours. Lincoln called up the troops for ninety days. This was actually for legal reasons but it seemed to sum up the expectation of both sides of a quick war. Southerners believed the ‘Yankees’ were too soft to fight; Northerners were sure the ‘Rebs’ would fold as soon as force was applied. The rival capitals little more than a hundred miles apart, many believed a single battle would decide the secession.

Brigadier General Robert Crittenden was appointed to command the Army of the Potomac. At 35,000 strong it was the largest forcer ever assembled on the North American continent. Once in this capacity, Crittenden was harassed by impatient politicians and citizens in Washington, who wished to see a quick battlefield victory over the Confederate Army in northern Virginia. The proud Crittenden took offence to this, believing his (limited) experience of the Mexican War had made him far more qualified to judge the situation than those around him. Inspired by his idol Napoleon and ignoring the totally untried nature of his forces, Crittenden proposed a convoluted three-pronged attack, splitting his superior forces to confound his enemies before reuniting for a singular battle of annihilation.

In late June 1861 the army marched out of Washington en route to Richmond. Its mood was cheerful and its progress was slow. Sweltering in the summer sun, the troops kept breaking ranks to pick blackberries and get water. The three columns quickly became disconnected and on hearing the strategic Manassas rail junction lay undefended, Crittenden rushed his own 9,000 men forward, leaving behind munitions and artillery to speed his advance. While the gambit worked, it left him exposed to Robert E. Lee’s 24,000 strong Army of Northern Virginia. Assuming his command of the high ground would scare the ‘Rebs’ back to a more defensible position further south, Crittenden made no serious effort to contact his other columns. When Lee’s artillery opened fire on July 6th, cavalry officer Philip Sheridan claimed his commander, who was enjoying lunch at the time, ‘bolted upright from the chair, his eyes agog, his mouth wide open’.


Lee's first battle and Crittenden's last​

Most the soldiers on both sides had never fought before. Their aim was poor, their morale shaky and, wearing a variety of uniforms, it was often hard to distinguish friend from foe. The Union forces quickly lost cohesion as cannonballs tore through their ranks. Southern numbers began to tell and with a rebel yell, Lee’s men surged forward. The exhausted Northerners, many of them ninety-day men whose term was almost up, decided they had had enough. Retreat soon turned to rout, until mobs of soldiers and civilians choked the bridges of the Potomac. Had the Confederates been any better they may have been able to seize Washington then and there instead they celebrated the whipping of Yankee hides.

Shocked by the shambles of Manassas, Lincoln called for another 100,000 troops – this time for three years, not three months – and appointed a new commander to whip the army into shape. Henry W. Hayes had shot to fame securing western Virginia for the Union. In the mania following Crittenden’s humiliating defeat he was lauded as the Republic’s saviour and quickly won the adoration of his troops, removing unpopular officers and greatly reorganising the Army of the Potomac. Despite the plaudits Hayes was no Napoleon and was aware of the fact. ‘Gunner Hayes’ was a career artillery officer and before confronting Lee on August 19th ensured his artillery was not left behind. Union cannon held a three-to-one advantage. For all Lee’s tactical finesse, he was outnumbered and outgunned; artillery hammered the Confederate lines, while Hayes merely used his infantry to protect the guns. After several hours the Northerners finally advanced and swept Lee from the Junction. The Second Battle of Manassas removed any doubt the war would be a gentlemanly affair. The death toll had been triple that of the first battle, with not gallant charges but industrial firepower winning the day.

After the victory at Manassas, Hayes was in no rush. Making sure to keep his troops together, his supply lines secure and his precious artillery train protected, the Army of the Potomac lumbered south, delaying actions by Lee slowing it even further but unable to deliver a killing blow. Although Hayes’ army was intact, his pace was becoming an irritant to Lincoln and his Cabinet and was allowing the Confederates time to prepare the defence of Richmond. While encamped near Fredericksburg in late October following the successful siege of the town, Hayes received word a new Confederate army had mustered, bringing their numbers in northern Virginia to 50,000. Outnumbered for the first time, Hayes sent word to his former second-in-command Alexander Clemens, now leading an army of his own in Unionist western Virginia, to come to his aide. Clemens responded quickly and began the march west, intending to outflank the enemy. Confederate spies raised the alarm to Richmond and Lee split off half of his forces to meet Clemens, giving command to his own lieutenant, Thomas Jackson. While this relieved Hayes of his fears, true to form he did little to capitalise, instead he prepared to winter in Fredericksburg and await reinforcements. Little did Lee and Hayes know that their subordinates’ sideshow would become the most brutal campaign of the entire war.

 
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DensleyBlair

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Good stuff with which to start. Not looking good for the Union, but these are only early days. I'm confident you can turn things around. That said, a loss here and there is always healthy for an AAR – are you getting your quota out of the way early? ;)

Looking forward to more.
 
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GreatUberGeek

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Interesting historical parallel with the Battle of Manassas. The history-geek in me wants there to be a 2nd Battle of Manassas, where the Union loses to Lee. But the gamer in me wants to see how you manage this war, including not seeing any losses.
 

Jape

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DensleyBlair: Trust me, if there's a quota I'm not even close to done!

GreatUberGeek: Thanks. I actually tried to play the ACW quite historically so there might be some other parallels. And don't worry Lee will get his revenge.

Sandino: Cheers. I thought the Union in '61 would be something a little different.

------------

Right guys apologies for the first post it was a bit of a grab bag as I didn't know how to tackle the 'intro', the ACW is so well known yet the lead up so messy it was very difficult to write. Also hopefully I'll be adding some graphics as we go along, Mondo was kind enough to give me some pointers so with luck this AAR will kinder on the eyes in time.

Update tomorrow most likely.

Cheers,
Jape
 

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Southern men the thunders mutter, Northern flags in south winds flut-

I mean... a promising start! I look forwards to seeing where this goes.
 

Jape

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II: Appalachia


General Alexander Clemens​

As the snows began to fall, Alexander Clemens’ Army of the Shenandoah crossed the Appalachians. Charged with relieving the pressure on Hayes and splitting Lee’s 50,000 Confederates, Clemens had his work cut out for him. Invading the heartland of the Southern war effort in the depths of winter and lacking any intelligence bar what his scouts could give him, Clemens was relying on the element of surprise. He hoped a swift advance east would not only threaten Richmond but seize the breadbasket of Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley. Sadly for the general and his 24,000 men, Rose O’Neal Greenhow’s Washington spy ring had been providing high-level information to the Confederates ever since Fort Sumter [1]. As they approached Staunton on November 11th, barely ten miles into enemy territory, the Army of the Shenandoah was confronted by the hero of First Manassas, Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. Positioned amongst the many hills and ridges of the area, Jackson was able to hide the majority of his 27,000-strong army from view. Clemens, a lawyer who had won his commission through his relationship with the Governor of Pennsylvania, took the ruse at face value and marched confidently on his opponent.

Leading from the front Clemens’ infantry slogged through the mud and snow, slowly pushing back Jackson, ridge by ridge and suffering hideous losses as they went. By late afternoon, just as the battle seemed won, Jackson unleashed his three brigades of cavalry. The counter-attack broke the Union troops but unlike at Manassas they fell back in order. Clemens, furious at Jackson’s deception, led the rear guard, threatening to shoot any man who ran. The Union had suffered over 10,000 casualties, the Confederates some 7,000. With many regiments all but annihilated in the fighting, Clemens was forced to march all the way back to Huntington to lick his wounds. The battle horrified public opinion on both sides. The New York Herald scathed ‘Bloody Clemens’ and in early December Lincoln seriously considered removing the general. Despite their losses, the Army of the Shenandoah loved their commander, respecting him for his personal courage at Staunton. The President also had to accept the realities on the ground. Following his victory, Jackson was in hot pursuit, hoping to regain West Virginia for the Confederacy before the start of 1862. For the time being there was simply no one else. Clemens, humiliated at Staunton, wrote Lincoln ‘I have been taught a terrible lesson by Mr Jackson… and I have always considered myself an excellent student’.


Battle of Staunton​

On December 4th, Clemens surrounded Jackson’s cavalry vanguard on a mountain road. The Battle of Spruce Knob was a slaughter, as concealed Union marksmen took apart their opponents. After little more than an hour the Confederate commander surrendered. For the loss of 82 men, Clemens had removed 6,000 of Jackson’s finest from the war. His opponent, shocked by the reversal and unwilling to risk further advances in the winding trails of Appalachia, called off the advance. In a matter of weeks Clemens had gone from a monster to the darling of the Union, his epithet now a badge of honour. The campaign however was not over. West Virginia, having ‘rebelled’ against Richmond on secession was emotionally and strategically vital to the Southern war effort. Jackson was provided a further 25,000 men for his upcoming invasion of the region. Believing his advantage lay in the freshness of his troops, Jackson led his huge army south and crossed over the mountains in early January aided by pro-Confederate militia who had seized the passes around Bluefield. Although Jackson surprised Clemens when he appeared near Huntington on January 16th, the Army of the Shenandoah had not been idle. Reinforced to 45,000 strong, they had constructed an elaborate network of fortifications around the strategic town, Clemens having employed an entire brigade of engineers for the task. Undaunted, Jackson and his men threw themselves at the Union defenders. The battle not only eclipsed Staunton’s body count but turned out to be the single bloodiest day in American history. 25,000 men, three quarters of them Confederate fell in the trenches around Huntington.

The battle, often considered the first ‘modern’ engagement in military history, broke the Confederate invasion. Cold, hungry and carrying many wounded, Jackson’s army limped south. Clemens had no intention of letting them get away. The two armies met again near Roanoke on January 26th. Despite being a much more traditional battle than Huntington, Clemens again triumphed, numbers and morale pushing Jackson back towards the Shenandoah Valley. The final battle of the Appalachian Campaign took place once more at Staunton on January 31st. Wise to Jackson’s tricks and facing a shadow of their former foes, the Union men swept the rebels aside. Jackson, his reputation in tatters, was recalled to Richmond. Personally harangued by President Davis, he was sent west to watch the Kentucky border, an inglorious exile for the ‘Stonewall’. He would not be the only one. Lee, having been denied the reinforcements ultimately sent into West Virginia had been forced to keep up his hit and run attacks on Hayes and the increasingly large Army of the Potomac. They were little more than pin pricks and, perhaps due to a populace keen for revenge after Huntington, the Confederate commander regained his pre-war nickname, ‘Granny Lee’[2], the Richmond papers mocking him as a ditherer, unwilling to meet Hayes in battle. As Jackson went to Tennessee, Lee was ordered to Arkansas to command the Trans Mississippi Theatre.


While Lee might have had legitimate reason to avoid his opponent head-on, the same could not be said for Hayes. Controlling over 40,000 men and hundreds of guns, Hayes had barely moved from Fredericksburg since October 1861. Despite the supposed ineffectiveness of Lee’s forays, they had kept his opponent spooked. In January a small band of raiders had penetrated behind Union lines and hit Manassas Junction. In response Hayes ordered an entire corps, 12,000 men intended for the Richmond assault, to stay north to stop further ‘efforts at encirclement’. At the same time as Hayes dithered, Clemens had cut off Richmond from the west and by mid-February his scouts were within sight of the Confederate capital. The President sent a blunt telegram to Hayes on February 19th. It read ‘CLEMENS AT THE JAMES. ADVANCE. NOW.’ Hayes dutifully lumbered south and arrived near Richmond unmolested on February 24th only to find the Stars and Stripes already flying over the city. Three days earlier, having heard of the fall of Norfolk naval yards and aware of Clemens, the Confederate Cabinet had reluctantly agreed to flee to Montgomery, Alabama to continue the war effort, declaring Richmond an open city. Though the Union had won a great symbolic victory, the Army of Northern Virginia and the South’s military and political leadership had escaped unharmed.

Lincoln had had enough. Hayes was stripped of command and the Army of the Potomac disbanded. War Secretary Edwin Stanton sent a scathing message to General Hayes, ‘for all you love your men, you have given them another year of war. Their blood will be on your hands.’ The removal of Lee and Hayes signalled the beginning of a new stage of the conflict. With the industrial might of Virginia now in enemy hands, the Confederate strategy in the East was to be a mobile guerrilla campaign intended to sap the Union’s will to fight. Although Albert Pemberton was given overall command of the Theatre it would be J.E.B. Stuart who became the leading light of Southern resistance in the Carolinas. His opponent was another bold young cavalry officer, the victor of Norfolk and the man who had raised the Union flag over Richmond, Philip Sheridan. As the rebels dug in for a drawn out campaign in the East, in the West February brought even more bad news: New Orleans had fallen.


[1] Thomas Jordan and Greenhow, a Washington socialite began their espionage as early as 1860 and after Jordan joined the Confederate army, Greenhow kept up the ring well into 1862 before being outed. She then fled and became an activist for the Southern war effort in Britain and France.
[2] Yes the Napoleon of the South was indeed known as Granny Lee until he proved his mettle in the Seven Days Campaign IOTL.
 
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DensleyBlair

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Liking the Virginia map. Good work with the graphics.

A mixed bag for Clemens and the Union, then. I'd be tempted to give Clemens the victory for the overall campaign, what with his victory being numerically more impressive than Jackson's. That said, the victory seems shaky at best. Hopefully the push south will continue to be successful. And more decisive.
 

unmerged(62170)

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Hurrah, hurrah for southern rights hur.... oh its a Union civil war AAR, my apologies. :happy:

Well it seems its slobber knocker at the minute but with Virginia and now New Orleans gone it must only be a matter of time, surely?
 

Jape

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Sandino: That's certainly a possibility but ah, I say too much.

DensleyBlair: Thanks! Yeah Virginia was earned with a pound of flesh and it wont be the only place. However we should remember the Union has a two.five-to-one advantage in men and similar in industry. So in the long run the Confederacy simply cannot afford to 'get as good as it gives' like this.

Dr. Gonzo: Yes quite the slobber knocker! We'll see how the Rebs deal with the constrictions of the Anaconda!

----

Update in a moment.
 

Jape

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III: Anaconda



When news arrived of Richmond’s fall, the North erupted in celebration. Even in New York, the home of ‘Copperhead’ anti-war sentiment, a carnival atmosphere reigned in the spring of 1862. President Lincoln and his Cabinet were less jocular. They too had assumed, had hoped, that the occupation of Virginia would gut the Confederate will to fight. However it was now clear the Southern leadership intended to bleed the Union Army, only total victory would bring the rebels to heel. General Winfield Scott, hero of 1812 and the Mexican War, had drawn up a strategy for the slow strangulation of the south; the Anaconda Plan. Scott had been given command of the Union war effort in June 1861 but the disaster at First Manassas and worries about the old man’s ability to lead had seen him replaced [1]. Now that the knockout blow had failed the Union would go for the throat. Anaconda required the total blockade of the Confederate coastline to deny the rebels money from cotton exports. In this the rebels had obliged the Union, burning vast bundles of the crop in an effort to drive up prices, forcing Britain and France to intervene in the war. Sadly for the South, alternate supplies from Egypt and India were readily available and the fall of Richmond had removed any chance of European assistance [2]. By the time they realised their mistake, the Union blockade was already in place. Part two of the plan called for the bisection of the Confederacy with the occupation of the Mississippi River, the heart of Southern trade, travel and communication.

Amos Morgan, in command of the Army of the Missouri was to march upriver and had tentatively begun so in late February. The far riskier venture was the march downriver, which required the capture of New Orleans. Major General Nathaniel Farnsworth, A Democratic Party lawyer and state legislator from Massachusetts had been given command of land forces for the coming invasion. Totally lacking in military experience, Farnsworth had won the command due to his astute political manoeuvres. He was prescient in raising the Massachusetts militia before the beginning of hostilities and his quick march on Maryland had secured the state for the Union in the early days of the war. Prior to the attack he had commanded garrison troops near Washington and had made the crucial decision to treat Southern slaves as ‘contraband of war’. This act, in effect liberating slaves whilst avoiding the legal ramifications would have a profound impact on the later Union war effort and Reconstruction [3]. Despite Farnsworth’s inexperience, the onus would be on his naval colleague David G. Farragut to breach the forts around New Orleans. Farragut’s strategy was simple; he would charge past the heavy guns at the mouth of the river, the Head of Passes. Beyond lay only rudimentary positions designed to repel infantry and were guarded by only 3,000 Louisiana militiamen.


Farragut attacked on February 25th. The sinking of the USS Brandywine almost blocked the approach to New Orleans but Farragut’s flagship, the steam frigate USS Minnesota was able to barge past the sinking hulk and clear the way. As Farragut had planned, the circumvention of the forts left the defenders in a hopeless position. Major General Mansfield Lovell, to the anger of President Davis, ordered his troops to evacuate the city. The next day Farnsworth began his occupation. The fall of New Orleans, the largest and wealthiest city in the South, was a terrible blow to the Confederacy. However it did little to effect the immediate situation. Farnsworth had only 15,000 men at his command, all of whom were needed to keep the restless population under control and prepare for the assumed counter-attack while the rebels simply did not have the manpower to launch such an assault [4]. Union plans were reliant on Morgan to march south towards New Orleans, however he was having trouble.

‘Granny Lee’, now charged with the defence of Mississippi had quickly blunted Morgan’s advance in March and begun his own attack north. At Malden the Union army was smashed and Lee soon capitalised, hoping to seize Chicago and reach the Great Lakes to provide the Confederacy with a much needed victory. Simultaneously his friend and fellow exile Jackson had crossed into Kentucky. Missouri and Kentucky were home to substantial Southern sympathies. The former had almost fallen to rebel gangs before Morgan had arrived in force, leaving many of the border counties effectively under military occupation. The latter had seen more nuanced power play. Governor Magoffin a slave-owning Southern Democrat had been in deadlock with the staunchly Unionist state assembly for some six months. The assembly had denied Magoffin’s request for a popular vote on secession, fearful of the result. Eventually a unilateral declaration of neutrality had been made by the Bluegrass State, a compromise that pleased no one. While the fighting had focused on Virginia and the hope of a knockout blow, both sides had treaded carefully, not wanting to push Kentucky into the enemy camp. By March 1862 that state of affairs was redundant. Jackson saw the state as ripe for the taking, and anticipated public support for his move, which in turn meant fresh bodies for his army [5].

It would not turn out so clean cut. While Kentucky had declared neutrality, both factions had been preparing troops for the possibility of invasion. Magoffin controlled the official State Guard and had used his influence to ‘purify’ it into a stolidly Confederate force. The state assembly meanwhile had been forming ad-hoc ‘Home Guard’ units on a county level. Though fewer in number, the Home Guard were concentrated in the north of the state and well supplied by Union agents across the Ohio River. As such Jackson rather than liberating Kentucky inadvertently triggered a localised civil war. The State Guard proved unwilling to leave their homes, fearful of Unionist raiders. Few civilians, perhaps put off by the news from Huntington and Staunton, answered Jackson’s call for men either, leaving whole wagons of rifles and uniforms untouched. Undeterred Jackson blitzed north, defeating two small Union corps sent to challenge him at Lexington on March 18th. However as they entered territory loyal to the North, the Confederates were forced to deal with constant guerrilla attacks. Forced to send numerous regiments to engage the Unionists behind his lines, Jackson was greatly outnumbered when confronted by Major General Ambrose Young at Louisville on April 2nd.



The hastily constructed Army of the Ohio numbered over 33,000 men compared to Jackson’s 13,000. Lacking in experience, the fresh conscripts and their equally fresh commander barrelled forward confident of victory. Just like at First Staunton, the rebel cavalry ran rings around their opponents, leading entire brigades of draftees into carefully planned killing zones. Ultimately sheer numbers forced Jackson to withdraw but only at the cost of 10,000 causalities. It was another bloody day for the Union and Jackson would spend the next month leading Young by the nose, sending outriders as far north as Cleveland, Ohio and inflicting a further 10,000 casualties before Washington finally dismissed their general, replacing him with Jackson’s old nemesis, Alexander Clemens. Further west, after being pushed back into Illinois by Lee, Morgan had been replaced Ulysses S. Grant. A former career soldier booted out for drinking, Grant craved the rigid military life and was a keen strategist. Unlike other Northern generals Grant understood were the Union’s strengths lay, manpower and firepower. Following an indecisive engagement at Malden in April, Grant asked for every conscript raised west of the Mississippi. With the focus in the East now on anti-partisan activities and Lee possibly within reach of bisecting the Union, Washington granted the request. As Grant slowly built up his forces he kept Lee occupied with numerous small-scale engagements, trying to pin him down.

On May 7th, the Army of the Missouri finally cornered Lee near Carbondale, a major coal town and the transportation hub of southern Illinois. Outnumbering his foe 2-to-1, Grant progressively squeezed Lee’s position. The Confederates had set up a series of trenches and fortifications in the hills and within the town itself. Over the course of seven days the area was scene to some of the most brutal close-quarter fighting of the war. On May 14th Lee was forced to admit defeat. Almost 35,000 men lay dead or wounded the majority of them Northerners. However while Lee’s invasion had been broken, the crème of his Virginians dead, the Army of the Missouri quickly recouped their losses with fresh conscripts. Seizing his moment, Grant sent 20,000 men south under Sherman to close off the lower of the Mississippi River. Meanwhile he harried Lee, pushing him west into the Indian Territory, away from the focus of the war. At the same time Farnsworth, now reinforced with several brigades, began marching north in June to link up with Sherman. The much vaunted river forts fell one by one to Union gunboats and with Lee on the run and Jackson reeling many wondered how long the secessionists could hold out.


[1] Basically all OTL plus he was a Virginian(!)
[2] The South pursued a commerce war strategy without taking rival markets into account… this is OTL
[3] Farnsworth is more than a game generated leader; he is my ersatz Benjamin Butler. Butler was such a ‘dynamic’ figure it would be a shame to miss out plus several of my generals will move into politics post-war and I plan on using ‘I can’t believe it’s not Butler’ quite a bit.
[4] Poor AI mimicking real life.
[5] This is all basically all OTL except it was the Union that ‘invaded’ Kentucky first.
 
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Ab Ovo

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How distressing :p Go easy on us during Reconstruction.
 

GreatUberGeek

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Love the detail as always; do you start with Grant?