Sunday, August 28, 2011

Battle of Belmont, November 7, 1861

The Battle of Belmont was the first combat test of the Civil War for Union General Ulysses S Grant, who faced Confederate General Gideon Pillow. Both Grant & Pillow were veterans of the Mexican War and fought together in that war. The Battle of Belmont (according to Wikipedia):

On November 6, Grant sailed from Cairo, Illinois, to attack the Confederate fortress at Columbus, Kentucky. The next morning, he learned that Confederate troops had crossed the Mississippi River to Belmont, Missouri. He landed his men on the Missouri side and marched to Belmont. Grant's troops overran the Confederate camp and destroyed it. However, the scattered Confederate forces quickly reorganized and were reinforced from Columbus. They then counterattacked, supported by heavy artillery fire from across the river. Grant retreated to his riverboats, and took his men to Paducah, Kentucky. The battle was minor, but with little happening elsewhere at the time, it received considerable attention in the press.
Map of the Battle of Belmont

The Battle of Belmont was the scenario for our group’s recent American Civil War (ACW) battle using 28mm miniatures. The rules we use are the Perry Rules, which are included in boxes of Perry Miniatures 28mm plastic ACW miniatures. The table for our battle was 12’ x 5.’ No one was aware before the game what battle we were going to re-enact.

The Confederate side:
Al – a retired Postal Worker from Belvedere IL.
Uncle Duke – a world famous wargamer, cool jazz musician, and retired carpet cleaning renaissance man from Janesville WI.
Bill – a retired factory worker from beautiful downtown Glendale Heights IL.

The Union side:
Ralph – a food product salesman, who likes to play the attacking side.
Dave – a Postal worker from Wheaton IL, who hopes his paychecks won’t bounce.

Ken, an attorney from St. Charles IL, designed the scenario we were about to play way back in the early 1970’s. Bob, a retired airline employee and bass guitarist from Glendale Heights IL, assisted Ken and together they both acted as our umpires. The game was played at Ralph’s home in St. Charles IL.

Our Battle of Belmont began with the Union forces tasked to advance on the Confederate camp outside of Belmont. Union forces consisted of 5 infantry regiments, 2 artillery batteries, and 2 companies of cavalry. The Yankees were told that this force is all they would have available for the entire battle. However in order to confuse the Confederates, twice as many Union troops were staged near the table appearing to be reinforcements that would arrive later. The Confederates had no forces that could be seen when the battle began and their actual strength was unknown, but also had many troops staged near the table.

The Battlefield looking south towards the Confederate camp near Belmont

The Union plan was to advance across the front with infantry, screened by a pickett line of cavalry.

When the cavalry crossed over the ridge in the center of the battlefield, a Confederate Infantry regiment was revealed to be deployed blocking the main road.

The Union pushed one of their infantry regiments over the ridge to engage the Confederates while moving their cavalry around the enemy flanks. In the Perry rules, units get only one operation per turn (move, fire, charge, etc.).

The Confederate regiment volley inflicted 10 casualties on the Union regiment, forcing it to retire. However, the Union cavalry was in position to envelope the Rebs, with more troops coming up in support.

The Union cavalry charges the Confederate infantry regiment. However, the Rebels bested the Yankees and drove-off the cavalry, both receiving heavy casualties. The Rebel regiment then fell back towards Belmont.

Rebel troops crossed the river from Kentucky and began coming forward from Belmont towards the enemy line.

The Union pressed forward, but it was now obvious that they would not be able to take the Confederate camp as the Rebel troop numbers now nearly equalled thier own.

On about turn 9, Union gunboats in the Mississippi River (not seen) began shelling the Confederate camp. After 2 turns of shelling the camp, the Rebels became demoralized and withdrew towards their camp while their shore batteries across the river in Kentucky engaged the Union gunboats. In the photo above, the Union is trying to fire at the retreating Rebels.

On turn 13, the Union gunboats had withdrawn and the Rebels ferried more troops across the river to Belmont and further upstream (see above left). The Rebels went over to the attack.

Being outnumbered, General Grant changed the Union orders, and their instructions were to now retreat to their base line and avoid further casualties. The Union commanders about faced their infantry, formed columns and moved away at the double. The rebels could not catch them.

The outcome of the battle: the Union lost their 2 small cavalry companies and had all their infantry units intact, though one regiment had suffered over 50% casualties. The Rebels lost one infatry regiment. Neither side could claim a decicive victory, as in real life. 
A word on the Perry Rules: These rules are driven by 6 sided dice. All movement and combat is determined by dice. Infantry move by rolling 2 dice. Cavalry double their dice throw for movement distances. For firing and melee, one die is rolled per figure firing or in melee. Units test morale whenever they receive casualties.

Further note: the cornfields seen in the photos were harvested during the time of the battle.

1 comment:

  1. Nice summary of our battle, Dave, you captured all the critical moments and provided a good flow to how the battle evolved. I like the idea of starting with the short Wikipedia entry to give some perspective before seeing the pics and your commentary. Hope you all had a good time.