After Action Reports > Digital Gaming AARs

The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862

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Sir Slash:
Loving it Tripoli!  O0  My Brother and I visited that battle site back in 2006 I believe. Beautiful country.


--- Quote from: Sir Slash on March 04, 2021, 01:45:16 PM ---Loving it Tripoli!  O0  My Brother and I visited that battle site back in 2006 I believe. Beautiful country.

--- End quote ---
I was there in 2004. It is very pretty. I would like to go back, as it is an interesting battle.  I just haven't had the time.  It is really an under-rated battle in terms of importance, IMHO.  While preparing for this AAR, I came across this statement from a former confederate, R.K. Charles originally published in "The Confederate Veteran", Vol XIV, Feb 1906, pg. 65.  He summed up the importance of this piece of terrain well, stating:

--- Quote ---During the next day we received news of a heavy attack on D. H. Hill at South Mountain Pass (Boonsboro). Now it had not been the intention of Gen. Lee to defend South Mountain Pass longer than to allow Jackson to join us ; but Jackson had been delayed in the capture of Harper's Ferry, and, moreover, McCIellan seemed to have recovered from his confusion as to our movements and, abandoning the defensive, had marched directly on us. so it became necessary to hold this pass at least a little longer Gen. Lee hurried his immediate command back to the pass by a forced march, and reached it some hours before sundown, and now occurred the apparently slight error that decided the first campaign into Maryland and sent our troops back- across the Potomac discomfited. Instead of putting the troops immediately into line of battle on the mountain, which, by the way, is a most impregnable position for defense. Gen. Lee, on reaching the foot of the pass, had halted his troops on the road for several hours within half a mile of where D.H. Hill was holding the pass against the whole of McClellan's army. At last, toward sunset, Longstreet was hurried up the pass, but it was too late to get into line of battle ; the whole Federal army was upon us, and as darkness came on we withdrew, leaving the pass in the hands of the enemy. Why this delay of Gen. Lee I could never divine; for if we had gone into line of battle on the mountain as soon as we arrived, the whole Federal army could not have dislodged us from such a position. As we rode down the mountain in the darkness 1 happened to fall in with Col. Venable. and said to him : "Colonel, this is bad." He replied : "No. it is of no consequence ; Jackson has taken Harper's Ferry and will join us to-morrow." We halted at the foot of the mountain and Gen Lee had a tent pitched.
--- End quote ---
(emphasis added).

Sturgis moved quicker than I thought he could, launching his attack at 1800 (These are the units with the vertical white-blue-white strips on their colors).  The Kanawha Division is also gamely moving towards Wise Farm/Fox gap from the south (some of its troops are emerging from the treeline in the extreme center left of  image 8 below).  I'm still concerned about its left flank, as  its leftmost regiment is engaged with at least two confederate regiments.  However, Sturgis' attack up the Old Sharpsburg road should relieve some of the pressure to the left flank.

Image 8. 141800 Oct 1862

Meanwhile, on the right flank the 1-1 Brigade has formed at the foot of the hill and is attacking.  I suspect there is only a single unsupported confederate regiment in the woods, so it should be quickly sent packing.  Contrary to my plans, the 3rd Division under Rodman has not gone to the extreme right of the Union line, but instead attacking between the two separated 1st Division brigades.  This is understandable, as there was a pretty significant gap between the two brigades.  The good news is that by filling it, the 3rd division will get into action more quickly, and effectively the 1-1 Brigade has effectively extended the Union right, accomplishing what  I had planned for 3rd Division.

Image 9. 141801 Oct 1862

By 1803, the confederates are slowly withdrawing from their positions around the Wise house, and by 1806 the single confederate regiment faceing 1-1 Brigade and the 3rd Division begins to retreat up the hill.  By 1807, all but one confederate regiment has retreated from the first stone wall that forms the major block to seizing Fox Gap from the east (Image 10).  Flanked from the south, this unit won't be able to stand up to the concentrated Union firepower from 5 or more regiments, and it retreats at 1809.  At this point, there appears to be a single confederate regiment defending the Wise house/Fox Gap objective. Willcox is directed to seize it, and the Kanawha  Division is ordered to probe to the west to secure the left flank of the 1st Division.

Image 10. 141808 Oct 1862

At 1813, BG Cox of the Kanawha Division sends an urgent message that he is under attack and requesting immediate reinforcement. However, the attack was discovered to be a probe by only two unsupported confederate regiments advancing from the west against his flank.  Cox was able to meet this threat after  repositioning several of his own units.  At this point, the confederate units on my right are retreating up the hill towards the ridgeline.  The enemy artillery battery is still in place, but it should be pulling out soon. (Image 11).

Image 11. 141815 Oct 1862

At 1817 the single South Carolina regiment that was defending the Wise house retreats north across the Old Sharpsburg road.  Image 12. All that remains is to clear confederate forces from the immediate area of the objective, then push them down the mountain.

Image 12. 141815 Oct 1862

At 1817, several of the South Carolina regiments that had been retreating north came under fire from Union regiments on the right flank.  This was too much for them, and they turned and routed down the Old Sharpsburg Road.  Aside from these units, there was no indication of confederate forces to the west, so I ordered the first division to advance halfway down the western slope of South Mountain along the Old Sharpsburg road.  The purpose of this move was to push the retreating CSA forces off the mountain.   Because of the woods on the western slope potentially concealed additional confederate units, I directed 1st Division to advance in line with a reserve.  This was a mistake on my part, as I neglected to have them send out skirmishers. The Kanawha Division is directed to secure the left flank of 1st Division, but face SW to block any attempt to retake Fox Gap from that direction.  While the Kanawha Division has fought well, its commander is inexperienced, and its regiments are very tired, so I'm afraid it is "brittle" at this point. Consequentially, I don't want it to engage in any offensive action, at least not until the 2nd and 3rd division are available to support it, once they finish driving the confederates off the northern portion of the battlefield.

By 1819, most of the CSA units have retreated to the wood line at the northern edge of the battlefield.  Only three confederate regiments and the artillery battery are still contesting the field. (Image 12)

Image 12. 141819 Oct 1862

By 1824 the Confederates are being pushed off the ridgeline and down the western slope of South Mountain. (Image 13)  At this point, BG Rodman (3rd Div) sends a message insisting he is being pressed by superior forces and needs reinforcements.  A quick look at the skirmish in his section of the field shows he has the situation well in hand, and is already being adequately supported.  I'm not sure what he was all excited about, but whatever it is, he won't be getting any further reinforcements. 

Image 13. 141824 Oct 1862

At 1825, the confederate artillery stationed at the north end of the field retires under heavy pressure from the US forces on my right. (Image 14).  The remainder of the confederate forces there follow suit, leaving the US in control of Fox Gap and cutting the ridgeline road to Turner's Gap (the road just visible to the left of the image below).
Image 14. 141825 Oct 1862


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