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Offline Tripoli

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The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« on: March 03, 2021, 06:43:21 PM »
The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862

I recently started playing Scourge of War again.  I’m thinking about doing the complete Antietam campaign.  For a warm up match, I decided to play the Battle of South Mountain (Fox Gap).
 
For those unfamiliar with the Antietam Campaign, the Battle of Fox’s Gap was fought on 14 September 1862, several days before the more famous battle at Antietam. The battle was the first major engagement between McClellan and Lee during this campaign and resulted from Lee’s actions early in his invasion of Maryland.  During that invasion,  Lee used the Shenandoah Valley as the invasion route for his army  However, the Union garrisons at Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry did not evacuate.  This forced Lee to divide his army to clear his intended lines of supply and communication down the Shenandoah Valley.  Against the normally sluggish McClellan, such a division of forces was a minor risk.  However, in this case, a copy of Lee’s orders detailing his dividing the confederate army was unknowingly lost by the Confederates and subsequently recovered by Union troops.  Armed with this intelligence, McClellan uncharacteristically began to aggressively press forward against Lee.  By 13 September, Lee, perceiving McClellan’s threat to his widely divided forces recalled them and prepared to retreat back across the Potomac River to the safety of Virginia.   Between the two armies lay South Mountain, a 2,150 foot tall mountain that is part of the northern extension of the Blue Ridge Mountain range.  Lee ordered the single nearby confederate division under D.H. Hill to hold the mountain until the dispersed confederate forces could reunite.

Military movement across the mountain in this area is largely restricted via one of five passes.  The southernmost gap lies along the banks of the Potomac River and the rail line that runs along the bank. Further north lies the second pass, known as  Crampton’s Gap. The next gap to the north is Fox’s Gap, through which the Old Sharpsburg road passes through.  Just north of Fox’s gap the mountain is crossed by the National Road through Turner’s Gap.  The northern most pass in this part of the mountain is Orr’s Gap.  Because of the need to quickly prevent the junction of the Confederate Forces and to relieve Harper’s Ferry, the Union Forces moved to seize Crampton, Fox, and Turner’s Gap, which lay astride the likely lines of communication between Lee and his separated forces and offered the quickest path to relieving the besieged Union army at Harper’s Ferry.


Sources: Sources http://www.mapmanusa.com/cci-print-bw-18.html
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/pivotal-moment-maryland-campaign-case-south-mountain

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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2021, 07:24:04 PM »
For this battle, I will be playing the role of General Jesse Reno, the commander of the US IX Corps.  I'm going to play this using the courier system and giving orders only to my division commanders, which will then execute them.  The game rates the various division commanders according to their experience, ability, command, control, leadership and style.  What that means in game terms is that my orders will both be delayed, and may be imperfectly followed.  Additionally, couriers can be captured, so the orders may not be received at all.

The IX Corps consist of 4 divisions, as laid out below

Division #Troops/Brigade Commander           Experience     Ability          Command     Control    Leadership    Style
1st               3267/2BDE          BG O. WILLCOX       Seasoned      Average       Competent    Good         Competent   Balanced
2nd              3244/2BDE          BG S. STURGIS       Veteran         Competent    Good           Good          Good          Balanced
3rd               2812/2BDE          BG I. RODMAN        Volunteer      Competent   Competent    Competent Good           Balanced
Kanawha      2948/2BDE          BG J. COX               Irregulars      Mediocre      Average        Average     Competent   Defensive

The scenario starts with the 1st and Kanawha divisions already in contact with the confederate forces.  2nd and 3rd divisions are approximately 10 minutes to the rear along the Old Shapsburg Road.  The US has one hour before nightfall to secure Fox's Gap.  Additionally, the CSA forces may be reinforced.  These forces will likely come from either the west along the Old Sharpsburg Road, or from the north. along a trail that runs along the ridge of the mountain from Turner's Gap  (and today is part of the Appalachian Trail).

My plan is to have 1st and Kanawha division remain in contact but not attack until the 2nd and 3rd Divisions are brought up.  The 3rd Division will move to the Union right and then attack NW to cut the trail from Turner's Gap as well as remove the CSA artillery batteries that are situated near the trail and hitting Union forces coming up the Old Shapsburg Road.  The 2nd division will attack with the 1st Division west to Fox Gap.  The 2nd will attack through the juncture of the 1st and Kanawha division, while the 1st division will angle off to the NW, supporting both the 3rd Division attack towards the trail, and the 2nd Division attack towards Fox Gap.  The Kanawha Division will tie down CSA forces facing south of Fox Gap. When the 3rd Division attack begins to advance, the Kanawha division will guard the left flank from CSA forces  coming up from the west.  If the opportunity arises, the Kanawha will also attack from the south towards Fox Gap.  However, because of the inexperience of the commander, I am reluctant to have the division engage in heavy offensive operations, particularly in the heavy woods  to the south and west of Fox Gap.

Union OPPLAN
« Last Edit: March 04, 2021, 12:09:54 PM by Tripoli »
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2021, 12:16:33 PM »
To help orient readers to the battlefield views, I am including images of the right, center, and left flanks of the 1st Division, and the center of the Kanawha Division at the start of the game.  The white house in the images is the Wise farmhouse, and it marks the approximate position of Fox Gap.  The Confederate artillery battery that will be the focus of the 3rd Division assault appears on Image 1, on  the cleared field near the woodline.
 
Image 1. 1st Division Right Flank



Image 2. 1st Division Center


Image 2. 1st Division Left Flank


Image 1. Kanawha Division Center

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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2021, 01:12:51 PM »
By 1750, both  1st  Kanawha Divisions are heavily engaged.  Despite the order to the Kanawha Division to not attack, the 11th Ohio charges a confederate regiment at the Wise house and is repulsed.  A subsequent countercharge by the confederates sends them retreating to the rear.  Meanwhile, the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division reaches a stone wall on the eastern edge of the field (upper right in the image below)

Image 5. 141750 Oct 1862 Wise House looking Northeast


At 1752, the lead elements of the 2nd Division are coming up the Old Sharpsburg road.   It will still be about 10 minutes before I can get them into action.  From my position in the center of the Union line, a confederate regiment appears to be retreating or routing from the Kanawha Division's attack. Because of this possible success, I send a courier to General Cox, directing him to probe towards the Wise house.  This will hopefully exploit his success there by keeping the pressure on the confederate forces facing south, while Sturgis and Willcox prepare their attacks.  I'm still a little worried about the Kanawha division holding the left flank, as it is "in the air", and the woods on the left are a perfect cover for a CSA strike against my left.

Meanwhile, on the Union right, the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Division is shooting it out with several confederate regiments and the artillery battery.  The 1st Brigade is nowhere to be seen.  I'm going to have to track it down.

Image 6. 141755 Oct 1862 Wise House looking Northeast


« Last Edit: March 04, 2021, 01:16:17 PM by Tripoli »
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2021, 01:31:54 PM »
Much to my surprise, General Willcox  deployed the 1st Brigade as a reserve on the right at the bottom of the hill.  At about the time I discovered this, the confederates did also, sending two regiments down the hill and flanking the 2nd Brigade, whose unsupported right flank was in the air.  The 1st Brigade should be able to recover the situation, if Willcox gets them out of column and into a counter attack.  Of course, the attack will be uphill, but it doesn't look the the two confederate regiments are supported, and their artillery will have difficulty in supporting them in those woods.  However, to relieve pressure on my right, at 1757 I send an order to General Sturgis to attack towards the Wise house, despite having only one of the 2nd Division's two brigades properly formed up.

Image 7. 141755 Oct 1862



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Offline Sir Slash

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #5 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.
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2021, 02:39:13 PM »
Loving it Tripoli!  O0  My Brother and I visited that battle site back in 2006 I believe. Beautiful country.
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.
(emphasis added).
« Last Edit: March 04, 2021, 03:21:49 PM by Tripoli »
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2021, 06:15:47 PM »
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
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2021, 06:40:10 PM »
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
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2021, 07:29:34 PM »
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


« Last Edit: March 04, 2021, 07:31:55 PM by Tripoli »
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2021, 07:54:11 PM »
The end result of this battle is a "Major Defeat" for the US, although I'm not sure what I did wrong.  The Union captured Fox Gap, and had a positive victory point total over the CSA, so I think I achieved the victory conditions, albeit according to the game, my point total was too low for a win. Historically, the USA suffered 889 casualties, while the CSA suffered 433 killed or wounded and 210 captured.  So the game result of 1234 US and 1554 CSA were much greater than the historical numbers, had this happened at the real battle of Fox Gap, I think it would have been a Union victory.  Certainly, DH Hill's unit would have been severely hurt before the battle three days later at Antietam.  Surprisingly, the Kanawha Division achieved the best results in this scenario, accounting for 60% of the total Union score.  This was despite having the most inexperienced commander and relatively inexperienced units.  All in all, I enjoyed this scenario.  If others would like me to continue this series, please let me know.  Also, I'm experimenting with the idea of doing these as a video series, so I would be interested in hearing any opinions on that idea.




Addendum: I may not have captured Fox Gap according to the game program.  I thought I had occupied the objective with the required number of troops for the required amount of time, but I may have erred.  In any case, it was well behind my lines at the end of the scenario, and no longer a threat so I'll call this a win :)
« Last Edit: March 04, 2021, 07:59:07 PM by Tripoli »
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Offline Sir Slash

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2021, 09:14:46 PM »
I'd love to see more.  :notworthy:
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2021, 09:51:39 AM »
Here's a couple of images of the South Mountain Battlefield, taken between 1912 and 1922.  Now, most of Wise's field is wood land, although attempts are trying to restore it to its 1862 appearance.

Drawing of Wise's Farm from the North


Old Sharpsburg Road, 1912 (The road is now called Reno Monument Road)


Wise Farm from the Ridge Road looking South


View from Wise's South Field, Looking North.  North field in background.  Ridge road on left.  Reno Monument in Center right of photo


« Last Edit: March 23, 2021, 07:12:48 PM by Tripoli »
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Offline JasonPratt

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2021, 04:52:47 PM »
Someone studied those photos well when working up that scenario!

Let us know if you develop a video production of the fight.  :notworthy:
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Offline Tripoli

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Re: The Battle of Fox Gap-14 September 1862
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2021, 07:10:26 PM »
Someone studied those photos well when working up that scenario!

Let us know if you develop a video production of the fight.  :notworthy:

I took a video of the fight.  I'm debating with myself on how to present it.  I'm toying with the idea of not speaking, but occassionally throwing in a slide that talks about what I am attempting to do, and/or some historical background to the actual fight: quotes from soldiers who fought in it, etc.  I don't know if that would be interesting, though.  Whatever I ultimately decide, I will probably do  a series on the entire South Mountain battle.  If that is well received, I may do Antietam as a follow up.
“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” -Abraham Lincoln