Saturday, 27 February 2021

Onwards and Upwards

 Up early this morning, too early for a Saturday, it used to be you had to fight to get someone to come for whatever, now I have tradesmen wanting to come before I am awake, cooker guy today, bang on 7.30, suppose I shouldn't moan at least he turned up.

After the great battle at Keetsville the campaign has moved on now to the vicinity of Elkhorn Tavern where once again the Confederates have been brought to bay, 'Old Pap' Price really needs to win here if he wants to maintain any hope of keeping the Rebel cause alive and rescuing his tarnished reputation. I will hopefully deploy the armies today and might get started tomorrow, so all to play for.

 I have almost finished my Early War Germans and apart from the odd figure here and there they should be done in the next couple of days. I am still waiting for the Russians I pre-ordered from Warlord to turn up so expecting a bit of free time I ordered up the first of my EW vehicles for Barbarossa. The Russians got a Trenchworx T28, along with aT26 and BA10 from Rubicon, the Jerries a Rubicon PAK 36, yes I have one for late war but it is not grey (mad, moi?) also still to come from Blitzkrieg Miniatures are a SdKfz 233 armoured car, a SiG33 Bison and a Panzerjager I, and I nearly forgot the 76mm infantry gun for the Soviets from Company B. These are Phase I, the Phase II wish list contains a StuG III, BT7, PzIII and maybe a PzIV, these additions should bring me up to the end of 1942. I don't think my finances could take another lockdown.

 With the prospect of a face to face game receding until mid May I have got an iPad clamp for the wife's music stand and a small tripod for my iPhone, I am determined to give 'online' gaming a go as so many seem to enjoy these virtual games. I have a couple of volunteers already and hope to get something off the ground after the ACW campaign.

 I am awash with map work at the moment, Helion must be a busy place just now, this past week it was the Italian Wars, the Argentine Navy in the Falklands, the Sino-Russian conflict, next week is WWII Burma, the Atlas I hope is hurtling towards the end as well having just drawn the siege of Yorktown.

I am now on book 5 of The Expanse and still enjoying them, I have also started on the TV adaptation Season 5, nothing startling yet but good entertainment and I am becoming less patient with the Belters. Fighting for something else to watch I found 'Der Pass' which was a surprising hit, I took to the Austrian detective character right away, highly recommended. On a Continental wave we gave 'Tribes of Europa' a look, what a crock, terrible acting, ridiculous story line and every cliche in the book. The nice eco friendly Originees thrust into confronting the evil world outside the forest and harking back to the tales of the wonderful Europe which was destroyed, bucket please. Having said that I would watch the second season simply to laugh at the god awful over the top bad guys and of course the even badder size 6 women, The Crows, this lot fall into the category of so bad you have to watch. You have been warned. Last night it was 'I Care A Lot' on Netflix, a movie lauded but I had to give up, I did not like the premise or the characters, all of whom deserved something dreadful to happen to them, maybe it did, I didn't care. I did cheer myself up with another run at 'Open Range' a great western with one of the best gunfights ever.

 I now have the deployments so off to set up Elkhorn Tavern.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Pea Ridge 2: Keetsville

 After the disappointment of the action at Flat Creek Price fled south, the disorganised Union Forces were unable to mount a pursuit right away so camped on the battlefield. As the weather closed in and a storm raged the Federal forces made their way back to McDowell and shelter, the Confederates however were caught in the open and spent a miserable two days in arctic conditions barely making any headway. When the weather improved on the 20th the Federal cavalry, set off in pursuit, further down the Telegraph road they skirmished with Price's rearguard which managed to hold them off, Colonel Taylor of the 1st Mo. Cavalry reported the main reason was the lack of moral fibre of Major Meszaros of the 4th Mo. who repeatedly seemed to delay engaging the enemy. Due to this report Curtis reorganised all the Union cavalry into one brigade under Taylor.

Meanwhile Price received word that Ben McCulloch had arrived at Keetsville with his division and was resting up after the storm. As Price's men ambled into the town McCulloch demanded to know why Price had not ordered up Pike's Indian brigade, McCulloch having a more favourable opinion of the natives, Price immediately sent a courier off to find Pike. It was agreed that the army would make a stand at Keetsville.

Finding a good defensive position just outside of town Price put his Second Brigade on Macdonald's Ridge while the Guard held the eastern edge and the centre, McCulloch's troops were to hold Gopher Hill, the idea being that Price would attack the Union right while McCulloch held in place. Curtis on arriving and taking in the Rebel deployment decided to employ the tactics which had won him the fight at Flat Creek, he decided this time to put most of his troops on the left and attack Gopher's Hill and sweep round to cut off the Telegraph Road, his right flank was to hold and defend between the Johnson and Winn farms.


Union lines.

Curtis loads the left.

McCulloch's boys fresh for the fight.

 The battle began as both sides expected, the Union cavalry dashed for the woods to their front as the boys in blue emerged from Bumpass Wood, this broken ground and the crush of troops in the area slowed the advance. The Confederates on their left had no such problems making a quick advance on the Federal right through the open fields. Franz Sigel however saw what was happening and ordered General Schaefer to prepare a line of battle around the Johnson house. Massed cannon fire met the Union advance and it was a bit more dangerous than it had been at Flat Creek, but once again several batteries had to retire due to lack of ammunition. Confederate skirmishers were causing problems and the advance had to deal with them before moving forward, the brigades also drifted to the right to make more room for the coming assault. The Federal cavalry also found the woods heavy going and only a couple of regiments could dismount and move in line while the rest remained in reserve, they seemed to have the jump on the defenders and Taylor was about to order a charge when he fell seriously wounded, leaving his front line in disarray, a lost opportunity for the troopers. 

Union stalled.

The Guard break through.

Assault on Johnson Farm.

 Meanwhile on the Confederate left Prices men were determined to get their revenge and swiftly closed with the enemy launching a series of charges at the Union centre, within a short time the Federal centre had been shattered, troops running for the rear and complete batteries being abandoned, the troops around the Johnson house now found themselves cut off from the rest of the army. A crises had been reached, Price needed more men to support his successful attack, but the Second Brigade was now making its main effort the Yankees at the Johnson farm, if these could be moved a third of the Union army would be gone. The successful Rebs however were in a precarious position as not all the Yankee's had run and the troops in the Bumpass cornfield were now altering their line to meet the threat to their flank. The battle was turning vicious.

Trouble on the hill.

The Cauldron.

Price's centre breaks.

 Meanwhile the main Union assault was getting ever closer to McCulloch on the hill, the crush of cavalry was being held off but the infantry were now in a position to launch some charges. Canister flew and close range musketry played havoc with the chargers, two brigadiers fell but a gap had been opened in the defence. Even although confusion reigned in the ranks while replacement officers made their way to the front enough troops remained to continue advancing, Division commander Jeff Davis himself leading the way. At last the cavalry were making headway supported by infantry, the Reb line began to buckle, several melees were resolved in favour of the Union troops and more Rebs fled, a small knot now remained on the hill around McCulloch.

On the right a few troops had made it out of the cauldron at the Johnson farm and they joined a new line protecting the Federal right as Curtis ordered his artillery to support them. Although Price's men had made a herculean effort to shatter the Union right they were now too weak to make any more attacks, half of his troops were already skedaddling down the Telegraph road away from the action. With McCulloch in dire straits on the hill 'Old Pap' followed the advice of his aides and rode to the rear. There was still some desperate fighting on Gopher Hill but the outcome was not in doubt as a wave of blue broke on the ridge.

Gopher Hill about to fall.

Both sides stare at each other.

 This turned out to be one of the best and most exciting games I have played in a long time, every time I was sure I heard the fat lady sing the troops put me right and continued to fight on. Troops who should never have rallied did, others aiming at close range ran out of ammo, some regiments simply refused to rout while others carried all before them, bullets whistled through the hats of officers leaving them unharmed, what a game. Casualties were heavy and returns show the Rebs suffered the brunt of them during their early assault.

Gopher Hill defences overrun.

Remnants of the Missouri State Guard rout.

 What did I think of the overall battle, I was surprised first of all by the success of Price's men, these guys were cold, hungry and desperate having spent two days in the open during a blizzard but they made a superhuman effort in the fight. In fact the initial attack may have been too successful which can happen in JRII, there were no follow up troops and having outreached any support the forward units suffered from the backlash, this meant several routed and refused to return, allowing the Federals to recover. The crush of Federal troops on their left slowed the advance towards Gopher Hill and at one point it looked like McCulloch would hold as he built up a support line behind the front, sadly for him one regiment ran for the rear and the subsequent gap in the line allowed the Yanks to start to outflank the defenders, some put up a struggle but most were swept away. There was to be no stalwart defence of the hill unlike the men at the Johnson farm.

Both forces are shattered and with another retreat on the books Price's men are being pushed to their limit and badly need rest. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Paints and Painting

 Another week passes, highlight of which was getting my vaccine jab yesterday, a very well organised set up, in and out in ten minutes, which is just as well as it was Harry Icers in the queue. But of course once again human beings like to push the boundaries, you are told not to come early yet the woman next to me was 15 minutes early, and when I came out the queue was round the block as our American cousins say, again not paying attention to the instructions. The stewards made them wait, result.

We had a Zoom meet this week and once again a treat as we all hunched over our desks painting away and chatting things wargaming, a lifeline for us under house arrest. Ryan asked me, presumably because I am ancient and lived in the 'olden days' if my painting was much different now than back then. Yes it is is the easy answer, when I first started the only paints available were enamels which meant Humbrol tins, I had no idea about primers or undercoats and popped the paint straight on to Airfix plastics, when I moved to metal I did undercoat. The colours were all block painted and that was that, no shading, no washes, no highlights. I wasn't a bad painter and I was proud that my King of Scots banner was actually a double tressure rather than a thin red line I also managed this on his surcoat and shield (25mm figure). I painted my 15mm ACW again by block painting back in the 90's, looking at them now a wash would work well but I am not going over nearly 5,000 figures.

 I remember when acrylics first came out, I journeyed into Glasgow with high hopes only to find the colours available were quite fluorescent so went back to enamels. As time passed of course the choice grew and I suspect have just about killed off enamels.

The first army I started shading and highlighting was a Swiss medieval army in 25mm and if I say so myself they were lovely, the old Foundry figures I think which you can still get, a treat to paint. I moved to shading using Army Painter and dipped around 2,000 figures which had been block painted and then immediately sold them, but the idea caught on. I wasn't keen on the dipping technique so started using proper washes and inks which you could now get in small bottles. I now wash all my figures to complete the painting, I still don't shade and highlight and admire people who have the patience to do so, my figures are wargame standard or perhaps just a tad better and that will do for me Tommy. I can paint well and a look at my Generals and characters should confirm this but I do not have the patience to paint hundreds of figures to that standard. A well painted army is inspiring and I have seen many, our club is blessed with some excellent painters, and I have played against some superb armies when I used to attend War and Conquest weekends. One of the most impressive I have seen is a Masai army painted by Rob Broom the WAC author, unusual but full of characters and beautifully done.

So what have I painted this week, three squads of Early War Germans, with the fourth squad on the tray and all the supports primed and based. This project is not going to take long, the figures are just so easy to paint, an hour goes a long way with these guys. My pre-ordered Russian squads have now been put back to March, I was expecting them this month, now either Warlord have changed things or I am losing it yet again, you choose. The big problem will be all the vehicles I want, I may have to cut these back a bit or the suits at the LMF might get worried.

 I got a tin of Panzer Grey sent to me, proper stuff seemingly (Reichs-Ausschuß für Lieferbedingungen und Gütesicherung 7016) and I had to scan ID and sent it before they would complete the sale, now that is a first. It looks very dark.

I am back at maps again having received two new projects, The Tudor Art of War and a history of the British 1st Division during WWI, still plugging away at the Atlas, but the completion date for this is April, so there is light now showing at the end of the tunnel after more than two years.

Getting the troops set up for the second campaign battle, now that's wargaming.

Sunday, 7 February 2021

Pea Ridge 1: Flat Creek

 I was determined as you know to get my ACW troops out this year having missed out last year so getting over Lockdown 3.0 blues I kicked off my Elkhorn Tavern/Pea Ridge Campaign. It is best played out with five players as a type of kriegspiel so that everyone can take some part in table top battles and no one is left behind as they say, I have found this doesn't quite play well remotely when only one person can actually fight the battle, damn you Covid-19. Anyway, two players had to fall out due to real life so I decided not to recruit anymore and would work with one Yank and one Reb.

Curtis (Fran) arrived at Springfield to find the Rebs had left hours before, so after a quick rest he pursued, but not before General Sigel had demanded to take his own part of the army on a detour to cut Price (James) off further down the Telegraph Road, Curtis placated Sigel and decided instead to send Jeff Davis with his division on the detour.  It soon became apparent the Price was making a stand at Wilson's Creek, messages were sent to Davis to flank the Confederate position but the terrain and the weather made it uncertain when Davis would actually turn up, Curtis decided therefore not to force battle as it was late in the day but deployed for the next day.

During the night Price made a successful withdrawal but on reaching Flat Creek on 17th February decided to stand and defend the crossing, ever looking over his shoulder for news or sight of Ben McCulloch's Arkansas forces, the weather and terrain was playing havoc with the couriers of both armies. Curtis, arriving on the morning of the 17th at Flat Creek decided to attack without Davis who was trailing behind on the Telegraph road but close enough to take part should the Rebs put up a determined resistance.

Price's forces covered the creek crossing and both sides of it, this time the Federals instead of stretching out the Confederate line decided to throw most of their weight against the Rebel left, Curtis maintained a reserve to the left of the road and dismounted cavalry extended the Union left along the creek. Should the Reb left break the reserve and Davis were to push forward and complete the victory.


Battery with no ammunition pulls out

 Once the Union army had deployed and showed its strength on his left Price immediately began to send what reinforcements he could to help 2nd Brigade. Lady luck seemed to have abandoned the cause of the Confederacy or perhaps Price just had a bad quartermaster, battery after battery began to run out of ammunition and Kelly's battery lost a gun to Union counter-battery fire, all of this had a detrimental effect on the defence, reserve batteries were ordered up. Meanwhile the Union lines crept forward only taking minimal artillery fire. Musketry now swept the woods but once again the Reb fire was mainly ineffective their poor weapons causing misery in the ranks. The Federal fire was the opposite and the Reb line began to wilt.

Davis arrives on the Telegraph Road

Rebs begin to retire

Confederate left smashed

  Sensing the weakening along the Rebel front Colonels Greusel and Osterhaus threw their men forward in a wild charge. The 44th Illinois swept all before them breaking both Bevier's and Hughes' Missouri battalions capturing the latter in a mad run through the woods. Rosser's battalion on the other hand stood firm and halted the attack by pushing back the 36th Illinois, this action bought Price time to start reorganising his defence and start withdrawing his troops. Over on his far right the Union cavalry boldly began to push across the creek, although no great danger and 1st Brigade sent troops to counter the move the move still caused Price concern.



As the afternoon wore on Price ordered the Missouri Guard to act as the rearguard while the rest of the army skedaddled down the Telegraph Road, Casualties on both sides were relatively light considering the number of troops involved, the Rebs suffering around 80 not including the loss of Hughes' battalion, it remains to be seen if any stragglers from Bevier's battalion will rejoin the army. The Federal forces suffered almost 400, many of course wounded.


Rebs camp prepares to move.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Tempus Fugit

 Yes, yet another week gone, I have managed a lot more this week than previous weeks. I got on with the 23rd Foot Welsh Fusiliers and finished them at last, I hit a brick wall with this battalion and painting all the fiddly bits was a pain, my own fault I suppose as these guys wore mitres instead of the normal tricorne and that's a lot more effort. However the end result is pleasing and they are ready to stand in line, I looked back and I think they only took ten days so my huffing and puffing was pretty much pointless, no matter, it will be a few months before I venture back to the Seven Years War, painting at least.

 I notice this morning that the British Army can field at best an understrength infantry division supported (for the moment) by possibly one armoured brigade, and there we are in Lithuania prodding the Russian Bear. Laughable.

I digress, I am at last starting to receive all my orders to set up my Early War Germans and Russians, the latter are on preorder so still to turn up this month. I did get a Russian 75mm infantry gun from Company B as the Plastic Soldier Company were out of their version, the crew are nicer than they look but have the very early metal helmet which I don't like, so I bought an artillery crew from 1st Corps, and a nice little bundle they are. Although the Germans are supposed to keep me painting until Lockdown ends they just won't, I have the first squad ready for varnish and basing and I think they took about four or five hours all told, so maybe a few weeks to get the whole platoon done along with supports. Yes I have a wish list of early war vehicles to get but they won't take long either as I really enjoy building and painting them. The Germans are from Crusader and are very nice figures, I do have one complaint however, they do not put bipod's on the MG34, why, it just looks daft without one, I made one myself but this is not the first time I have had to make one.

The campaign continues, in fact I am fighting a battle at the moment, the first as the Rebs withdrew from their positions at the last meeting. The Union troops are bravely assaulting a waiting Confederate line of battle, Hurrah Boys Hurrah!


 I asked for information on running games by Zoom or something similar and John Michael of Wargaming in 28mm and sometimes Smaller very kindly got in touch and took me through his set up on Zoom, it was also good to 'meet' another blogger and John does some really good stuff with Chain of Command. Zoom would be no good for me as you are limited to 40 minutes unless you cough up £139 I think, so I am going to look at something else and try it out when the ACW campaign frees up my table. Just in time to invade Russia I suspect. I really see no alternative here in Lancashire for most of the year.