AGY 5-6-19 Hammerin’ Iron

After several aborted attempts (thanks to wind devils hurling tree branches and ice daemons cavorting all over the pavement), I finally made it up to York again for another ACW naval action (the first was the one Miles produced set in Mobile Bay back in January).

The pre-game libations and feats of strength undertaken to propitiate the dice pixies. The broad, and decidedly muddy, Yahoo River flows from the bar south toward Vicksburg. This will be the scene of a mythical riverine fleet action (laid, I think, in the Spring of 1863).

The header image (from Wikipedia commons) shows a map of the actual campaign around Vicksburg. Likely our action (only slightly smaller than The Battle of the Heligoland Bight) took place somewhere south of Ft. Pemberton, the Yankee’s Yazoo Pass expedition having been wildly, if non-historically, successful.

Incidentally, I don’t know if these vessels are called ships or boats. Usually a boat is a small vessel that can be carried by a ship, unless it is a submarine (or about fifteen other things). I’ll call them ships.

The rules in use are Peter Pig’s Hammerin’ Iron which turned out to be a great deal of fun to play. Several club members have a bewildering array of ACW vessels but these were mostly Steve’s (I think) who set up the scenario and mentored on the rules (thanks, Steve). The help sheet is excellent – I just now read it!

As usual I kept no notes and, continuing to be thunderstruck by having other humans involved in a wargame, may misremember a good portion of what was going on. My two ship Confederate squadron had Greg’s to my right and Miles’ to the left but beyond that details are vague. The Yankee’s consisted of an indeterminate number of players who buzzed around like a cloud of flies over carrion (who knew at the time that we Sons of the South were the feast).

I recollect that the main opposition was Ed (him I have reason to remember well) and Jasper (publisher of WSS and visiting for the evening) who blew one of my ships out of the water! The rest is murky, particularly on the far shore. Chal and Keith were over there but which side they were on I have no idea. Tony would occasionally appear, like an Olympian god, to interfere in someway but, again, I don’t know which side he was on, if either.

In the foreground our glorious boys (red tags) sally out to meet the Despoilers of Southern Virtue. We are defending a group of commerce vessels (timber and cotton mainly) tied up along the eastern shore (just below the patch of sunlight). With our east flank protected by a line of well placed navigation hazards, our vague plan is to rush forward and engage the enemy near the island in mid stream!

Did I mention that rivers have currents? They do and we were working against it. It was sometimes hard to even stay stationary much less steam north.

Some of the early action. My squadron, the two ships in line in the center, is led by the Sumter, a lightly armed ram, with cotton bales for armor. Behind it is the iron clad Arkansas, capably gunned but slower. The Sumter is about to be rammed by the forces of darkness, but Greg has brought up his Virginia class iron clad and is engaging.
The Sumter (top) has managed to escape its tormenter but the current has drifted it into the starboard side of the Yankee. Imprecations and bits of shell casings are being hurled back and forth. Guns blazing, Greg continues the attack and is about ram the port side of the invader.
Disaster! Ed has easily crossed the hazards with a shallow draft, fast mover aided and abetted by the swift current. In the event stage of the turn, a Confederate spar torpedo boat appears and is about to attack the Yankee. A Confederate Shore battery (just north of the line of commerce vessels) bears silent (very silent!) witness to the passing scene. At the top of the pic my Arkansas is engaging the rest of Ed’s squadron, while the Sumter tries to turn south (and getting no help from the current). In a few moments it will be sunk by a sharp broadside from one of Jasper’s ships.
Both ships in the pic are Yankees and they are about to destroy our commerce fleet. Our shore battery STILL does not yet feel the moment is right to begin firing.
Although the battle is already won, action continues on the far shore before we decide we’d had enough.

Although I have almost always lived among the remnants of the late unpleasantness, I have never spent much time with the ACW in my wargaming life. If I keep visiting York this may change. As I have done a good deal of WW1 naval gaming these ACW naval games may very well be acting as a gateway drug!