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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Recollections of Hell and the American Civil War:
The Story of a Union Infantryman​
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Table of Contents

*****

1. Leaves on the Wind

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A generation of men is like a generation of leaves; the wind scatters some leaves upon the ground, while others the burgeoning wood brings forth - and the season of spring comes on. So of men one generation springs forth and another ceases.​
~ Homer​
Why do generations of men fade away? What causes are there in today’s world for death? Men of science and government proclaim that we Americans have reached the pinnacle of reason and civilization. However, countless people still fade away into death: their passings no more significant than the disappearance of dust upon the wind.

Though I am neither philosopher nor studier of society, my life’s experiences – so soaked with blood were they – have led me to formulate several conclusions upon death. Mainly, I believe generations fade apropos of the ugly and ravenous beast we call war… Conflict stole many years of my life. It forced many men I called friends to abandon mortality. In short, war has efficiently torn apart my family and my country.

Many seasons have passed since my tour of combat. I have left the battlefield and settled peacefully in the far West. Here I have found obscurity and peace, as well as a great deal of unoccupied time. Thus, I set myself to the task of recording both my memories from the war and the stories of other souls I crossed paths with during that fateful period of turmoil... With luck, posterity will someday come to understand the futility of wars, such as mine, and bring about harmony.​
~ J. Harper, 1882​
 
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TheExecuter

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Good start!
I can't wait to hear what this guy and his interviewees went through...

I assume you're playing the 1861 scenario?

*subscribed*
TheExecuter
 

coz1

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Excellent start. I recall your past work and am excited to see a new AAR. Good luck. :)
 

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Events of the Civil War
Spring 1861: The conflict begins in earnest as the yearly thaw arrives. Union generals tentatively order troops to move south into the Confederate territory of Stanton. Meanwhile the rebels mount an assault on Union territory near the capital city. The outcomes of these campaigns are yet to be seen.​
2. Leaving Home: An excerpt from the memoirs of Union infantryman James Harper

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There's nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know, but a tree and truth.

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes​
The morning was unreasonably frigid, and an unseasonable frost clung to the ground. Ominous clouds of gray slate blanketed the sky, depriving the hilly terrain of both sunlight and cheerfulness. Though cold and despair seemed to seep into my body from that barren world, I continued to trudge forward upon the wending road.

Having reached a bend in the trail, I paused for a moment to collect myself and gather breath. A chill wind scoured my face as it rushed by in search of warmer places. Shielding my eyes from the breeze with a hand, I looked back upon the way I had come. Barely visible in the distance was the harrowed land of my father’s farm.

Slowly, I turned away from my childhood home for the second time that morning. As my feet slowly began to shuffle forward upon the road again and I followed its contours along the bend, my eyes burned harshly. The cold wind had shifted directions and was again attempting to shave off my ears and nose.

I thought of many things as I walked. Mostly, however, my contemplations were focused upon my childhood. Seeing as how I was now leaving the safety of my father’s home – more a man than boy – I felt it appropriate to let myself be overcome by nostalgia for a spell. . .

I recalled regretfully that my birth had come at the cost of my mother’s life, and wondered whether I might ever return to the homestead of my youth – nestled as it was in the hills of western Massachusetts. My childhood had never been an easy affair, but I would miss it none the less.

I left home (that farm is the only place I have ever deemed worthy of the title) a fairly upstanding sort of man. Though I have never been much disposed to the labor of education, my eldest sister had literally whipped the abilities to read and write into my stocky frame. Because learning to decipher words meant repeatedly reading the Bible, which was the only book that ever took up residence under my father’s roof, a general appreciation of religion was also worn into my brain.

It is a sad fact that, had war not broken out between my countrymen and the Southern rebels, I might have lived a happy and pastoral life among the ancestral hills of Massachusetts. Alas, with the sounding of the war-gong I found myself drawn away from the pleasant woods of my youth. No longer could hunting squirrels captivate my attention. A more noble prey was to be pursued in the south. With the spring of 1861 arriving, I resolved to silently depart from the family residence and seek a position within the army and the wider world..

*****​

Comments: Thank-you all for your kind words. My last AAR failed because health concerns drew me away from the internet for awhile. I'm very excited to be starting something new. :)

I am playing the 1861 scenario, and I plan to update this story about once each week.
 

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Events of the Civil War

July 1861 – In the war’s eastern front, intrepid Union forces successfully defend their capital city from Confederate attack. Northern generals, who fear that numerous rebels are rushing up from the Deep South to reinforce their defeated comrades, hesitate to pursue the beaten secessionists into their own territory. Meanwhile, the Confederates turn back a Union assault on the province of Stanton.

August 1861 – Union troops led by General Getty brashly attack a Confederate contingent stationed in the province of Fayetteville, a rural area in the West. The campaign is a victory, and the unit begins attempts to subjugate the countryside to Northern authority. However, reports from scouts indicate that a unit of rebel scum may be preparing to launch a counter-attack upon Getty’s forces.​
3. Guns and the Young: From the memoirs of Union infantryman James Harper

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But don't think that I am home sick or disheartened for such is not the case […] Indeed I wish never to return home permanently until this wicked & God forsaken rebellion is destroyed.
~ Newton Scott: Private, 36th Infantry, Iowa Volunteers​
Though the apex of summer was approaching, the nights were still rather cool. This tendency of the weather was much to my liking, for I found the chill evening winds refreshing after hours of combat training under the spiteful sun. Such was the case when, upon a particularly mild night in July of 1861, I reclined in exhaustion under the stars with a handful of other soldiers. It had been a month since my enlistment in the army, and I was brimming with eagerness to see some action.

A pleasant fire burned nearby, and the other men were betting on dice. Gambling such as this, though frowned upon by the more fastidious officers, was quite common among the common soldiers. The long summer nights, which brought nothing but boredom to us warriors not yet upon the field of battle, were incubators of vice... I am proud to say that I was able to resist the temptations of gambling.

Never the less, it had become a habit of mine to sit up late into the evening, watching as my fellow soldiers bet their pay upon tumbling dice and fickle cards. Thus, I lazily observed as two of my acquaintances, named Reynolds and Dobson, wagered upon dice rolls. My full attention, which had previously been wandering in the night sky, was summoned to their game when Reynolds let out a terrible roar of anger. The spurned man rose quickly to his feet: a position from which he towered over Dobson.

Shouting ensued as the two men argued passionately over the result of a toss. Both soldiers felt they were being cheated and their tempers flared with unfettered intensity. Dobson – a rash and unthinking soul – soon took it open himself to end the quarrel in a violent manner. From a pocket he withdrew a revolver. The pistol’s black metal gleamed menacingly in the semi-darkness; everyone in the vicinity watched fearfully as Dobson waved the instrument of death about foolishly… Time slowed to a crawl… Sound faded….

Then, with a deafening crack, the revolver let loose its lethal cargo. Out of the night rose chaos, and into the shadows fell I. From a distance I watched as the offending pistol was taken out of Dobson’s hands. Meanwhile, a young medic tended feverishly to Reynolds, whose blood shown brightly crimson under the moonlight. My gaze froze upon the pooling blood; my heart pounded relentlessly. A wave of nausea crashed upon me, and I vomited.

I can not recall with certainty the length of time I stood – removed from the other soldiers – in the darkness. All I can profess with certainty is that I was transfixed with horror for a great while. The allure of war suddenly dissipated. As I watched Reynolds bleed swiftly, like a river flows, I could only think apprehensively and fearfully about the battles to come in my future… Looking back upon that night in regretful hindsight, I realize that it was at the moment of Reynolds’ death that I first comprehended the seriousness of my situation. A child facing the undiscriminating beast of death for the first time, I was struck by a suspicion that I was going to die alone, slowly, and painfully.

*****

Comments: Thanks for the support, guys! It's nice to hear from some other folk who live in the fine state of Mass.​
 
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TheExecuter

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Quintilian said:
A child facing the undiscriminating beast of death for the first time, I was struck by a suspicion that I was going to die alone, slowly, and painfully.

*****

Comments: Thanks for the support, guys! It's nice to hear from some other folk who live in the fine state of Mass.[/INDENT]

Hmm...good to know the 'prophecy' did not come true...at least before he's finished writing this entry!

Do you know how to make screenshots? I'm a little hazy on all the Victoria provinces in the U.S.

Keep up the good work!
TheExecuter
 

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Unfortunately, it never occurred to me to take screenshots. Never the less, I opened a new 1861 campaign and took some pictures of the layout. The Union troop movements I’ve described in my posts are illustrated by blue lines, while Confederate movements are shown via gray lines… From now on, I'll take screenshots as I play the game! :)

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Union troops move to Stanton, Confederate troops move toward the Union capital

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Union troops move south into western Confederate territory. Meanwhile, the rebels launch an attack into Union territory noth of Texas.​
 

TheExecuter

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Thanks!

Immediate feedback! mmm....good author pandering to me...

<basks in glow of self-importance>
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Events of the Civil War
September 1861 – Union General McClellan is hesitant to embark on an offensive campaign in Confederate territory. Eventually, he is forced into action by a direct order from President Lincoln. He moves all of his troops in the Eastern front into a direct assault on Manassas, where Confederate troops are located. The battle and ensuing campaign to subjugate the countryside are a resounding success.

October 1861 – McClellan, whose confidence has been greatly inflated by his victories in Manassas, moves further south. He moves into the unoccupied province of Stanton, but is subsequently assaulted by a large contingent of rebel scum.​
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McClellan engages Confederate forces

4. Dance with the Devil: From the memoirs of Union infantryman James Harper

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The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.
~ Ulysses S. Grant​
September 12, 1861 - Manassas;
Smoke rose into the heavens. Bullets flew through the air with deadly inaccuracy. With each passing minute, another dozen men fell onto the blood-soaked ground never to rise again. Screams reverberated through the air… And it was a beautiful day.

Far above the carnage of battle, the sky was a light, pearly blue. The hue of the heavens that day reminded me of home, for birds with feathers of subtle blue used to nest within my father’s forest. Those masters of the sky were forever singing sweet mating songs to each-others.

Standing many miles away from my home, I tried desperately to remember the mellow songs of the blue-birds. I hoped that their melodies might bring me calmness and sanity of mind. Alas! The only music I could hear upon that summer afternoon was the beating of the war drums. Peace of mind eluded me as I marched swiftly into my first battle with the rebel scrum.

The engagement was a fierce one, and its outcome was never an assurance of victory for the Union. From strong defensive positions, the Confederates neatly massacred the first ranks of men we sent toward them… Rushing across the wide and open field of battle – it might have been a lovely meadow if not for the bodies strewn across its delicate grass – I prayed franticly that I might avoid the sting of a bullet.

To avoid the oncoming peril of bullets, I tried to weave a little as I moved toward the enemy lines. In a way, I danced across the battlefield; I pirouetted my way into the very mouth of Hell… Standing chest to chest with Satan, I fired my rifle at the gray-coated foes and prayed that they might feel the sting of a bullet.

Darkness began to invade the domain of the sun. Night was approaching, and the Confederates, though weakened, refused to break. Suddenly, with what seemed like the speed of a blink, the middle of the rebel force’s defensive line collapsed into chaos… Some easily frightened unit had decided to fly into the safety of the night. I can’t blame them for their choice; I would have done the same.

Thus, the Battle of Manassas was a victory for us Union boys. We lived to fight another day: to dance with the devil again.​
 

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Comments: Thanks for reading, guys; I appreciate it... And I'll gladly pander to anyone willing to endure my writing, Executer! I hope the screen-shot I included with this post is useful. :)
 

TheExecuter

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And so first blood. Our hero mastered his feelings quite well...I know in my fist few experiences 'under fire' in paintball matches I was quite overcome by fear and I knew I wasn't in mortal danger.

Also thanks for the picture!

TheExecuter
 

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Quintilian said:
Comments: Thanks for reading, guys; I appreciate it... And I'll gladly pander to anyone willing to endure my writing, Executer! I hope the screen-shot I included with this post is useful. :)

Wow I'm glad I decided to catch this, now that your adding screen shots too I know how the overall situation is, its like the perfect style for me :D but I have to say I enjoy the writing a lot so far.
 

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This is pretty cool, can't wait for more :)
 

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Excellent so far. And a nice scene above when the soldiers spies blood up close and personal. It can only get worse.
 

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Events of the Civil War

November 1861 – Despite extensive losses, many of which are the result of his faulty battle tactics, General McClellan succeeds in turning back a Confederate assault on the newly liberated province of Stanton. He then orders his beleaguered troops to march with haste to the – supposedly weakly defended – rebel capital in Richmond, Virginia.

December 1861 – While partisans rise up in the province of Manassas to protest Union occupation, McClellan assaults Confederate General Lee and his battle-hardened troops at their defensive position in Richmond.​
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General Lee defends Richmond

5. It Can’t Hurt: From the memoirs of Union infantryman James Harper

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For certain is death for the born
And certain is birth for the dead;
Therefore over the inevitable
Thou shouldst not grieve.
~ Bhagavad Gita
December 2, 1861 – The Battle of James River, Virginia;
The pain was excruciating… It burned and stung and pounded with devilish intensity. Blood poured forth from the wound with startling speed. Within moments, I began to feel dizzy, lightheaded. My entire world had become consumed by pain. Though all around me a vicious battle was being waged, I could think of nothing other than the ugly hole in my leg.

The parasitic bullet that had lodged itself firmly within my thigh sapped my energy and strength with each passing minute. Slowly, my vision began to blur, to fade; my limbs were loosing sensation. Everything was coming to a close; I was going to die alone and unknown in some God-forsaken field. My eyes fluttered shut. Darkness became my world.

*****​

I didn’t want to die. I was scared of what would or would not come next. There were many things I still wanted to do with my life: find a wife, raise a family, make something proper of myself… So I fought the darkness that was crushing my mind; I refused to go softly into the night.

Suddenly, the darkness disappeared. Blinding light replaced the blackness and searing pain rushed through my body. Looming above me was a burly surgeon. He held an evil-looking knife in his hand. I sensed an aurora of ineptitude about him as he learned toward me…

*****​

I screamed, bellowed, and yelled. After I was done doing those things, I hollered a bit for good measure. The pain was astoundingly powerful, and the surgeon’s operation did nothing but intensify my discomfort. The only point I admired about that doctor’s “work” was that it did not entail chopping off my leg.

In the end, I lived to see a bullet separated from my flesh and be moved away from the font-line of battle. The continuation of my life, however, was not an assurance. Removed from the roar of battle and placed in a dingy hospital camp, I was an easy target for the most dangerous of foes: disease.
 
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Comments:
TheExecuter - I was thinking that our hero was probably too overcome with fear to feel anything during his first battle. All other emotion was blocked out of his head...

Contradiction - Thanks! I hope you continue to enjoy the story. If there are any particular screen-shots you want to see, then ask me, and I'll try to take them.

Volga -Thank-you, sir! :)

Coz1 - Indeed, the worst is yet to come... McClellan's horrible battle tactics and the fact I'm fairly bad at playing as the USA will have dire consequences for our hero.​