Sunday, July 22, 2012

History Traveller: Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the opening action of the War of 1812: the British capture of the Fort on Mackinac Island.  The Michigan Historic Parks held a commemoration ceremony and reenactment right on the parade ground of the Fort itself, which today stands as a park and museum.  This event held a special significance for me, not only as a rememberance of events that took place in our own regional backyard, but also as the birthplace of my own lifelong pusuit of all things historical.  My Grandfather was an archeologist and cultural anthropologist who specialized in Michigan history, Native American culture and local geography and geology.  Many summers of my youth were spent wandering Mackinac Island, Northern Michigan and the Great Lakes.  However, it was the frequent access with my Grandfather to Fort Mackinac and nearby Fort Michilimackinac, a location with an even older history dating to the French and Indian War, that truly captured my imagination.  The journey to this event was as much a personal pilgrimage to revisit the origin of my own personal history as it was to commemorate the formation of our own regional story.

Your blogger at Ft. Michilimackinac - a long time ago

The event began with remarks from officials from Michigan, Canada and a representative from the local Odawa Indian organization, each giving their views on the significance of the proceedings.  Then a reenactment of the history of the Fort was presented, starting with the original building of the Fort by the British in 1780.  As a result of the Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolution, the Fort was handed over to the United States government.  When the Madison administration declared war on the British in 1812, the local British commander took the initiative and sent a force to take the Fort.  The British, with their Native allies, landed on the opposite side of island and pulled cannon to a position which overlooked the fort.  With one shot the British took the Fort unaware as the American garrison commander, fearing for the safety of his men and the local community, surrendered.  The British also commandeered local shipping represented in the reenactment by the reconstructed sloop Friends Good Will, which was anchored in the harbor. 

This did not end the involvement of Fort Mackinac in the War of 1812.  In 1814, an American invasion force landed on the island and fought an unsuccessful field battle with the British to retake the fort.  There is another event planned to remember the Bicentennial of that day in July 2014.  There are also a number of 1812 related ceremonies and reenactments planned around the Great Lakes region over the next few years that I also plan to attend. 

British hand over Fort 1796
Mackinac Island Harbor

British Invasion 1812
American Defenders
Lt. Hanks surrenders the Fort to Cap. Roberts

British and Allies Celebrate Victory

Friends Good Will

On To Richmond: Seven Pines

The scenario for this week's foray into 1862 returns to a more historical situation with General Johnston's attack on Seven Pines.  This is a small 2 turn tournament scenario which requires the South to attack east out of Richmond toward the better part of two Union Corps and pick up points by occupying Seven Pines, Fair Oaks and Savage's Station, and the bridge crossings over the Chickahominy.  Again I take the North and Mike L. the South. 
Dawn of May 31, 1862: Battle of Seven Pines
Turn 1: May 31, 1862
The day opens with rain as mandated by the scenario rules.  DH Hill moves up and attacks the Union positions around Seven Pines without breaking the line.  The Union reinforcements manage to cross the bridges of the swollen Chickahominy and stabilize the front.  Longstreet moves up and manages to push Casey back, but the Union army ends the day with a solid defense along the Seven Pines/Fair Oaks line.
Dawn of June 1, 1862

Turn 2: June 1, 1862
The South begins with attacks along the Union line.  Mike's corps assault and grand assault rolls fail to bring in the needed number of divisions to gain a decisive coordinated attack.  DH Hill and Smith exhaust their units attempting to breech the Union defenses.  In shame, Gen. Johnston throws himself under a Union wagon train.  That leaves "Old Pete" Longstreet, with his last intact Southern formation, to lead the army to victory.  Longstreet points his sword at Seven Pines and says "Roll a 6" and bang...the dreaded 6-1 dice combo slams into the Union III Corps.  "Do it again" says Longstreet of Fair Oaks Station and the Union line melts away.  The North reforms on Savage's Station, this single hex holding the victory points that will spell victory or defeat.  Longstreet is up to the challange and crashes into the considerable Nothern defenses.  Savage's Station falls and Longstreet has saved the day with a Confederate Marginal Victory. 
Night of June 1, 1862: Longstreet holds the field at Savage's Station

Monday, July 9, 2012

On To Richmond: The Gates Of Richmond

The 1862 campaign continued over several sessions during the month of June.  This time we went with the larger seven turn Gates Of Richmond scenario; once again settling into our now familiar roles with Mike L. taking the South and I the North.  This scenario is one of the most intriguing of the game, offering the central hypothetical of the entire campaign: what if McDowell had been allowed to march to Richmond and reinforce McClellan's army.  The system showcases the less unified early war command structures of both sides with typical corps formations containing no more than 2 divisions.  This makes for a very compelling chess-like game with small scale unit activations switching back and forth as each side attempts to gain advantage.
Gates Of Richmond Setup - Morning May 26, 1862
The situation opens with the Army of Potomac straddling the Chickahominy River ready to advance on several different avenues of attack.  The North is awarded points for occupying various important terrain features in the region: railway stations heading NW toward the Shenandoah valley, the defensive redoubt system surrounding the city, the forts guarding the southern approaches along the York River, and finally the city of Richmond itself.  The Confederates earn points, naturally, by preventing this occupation, but also by denying the Union access to its supply line along the railroad back to White House Station on the Pamunkey River. 
Night of May 27, 1862

Turns 1 and 2: May 26-27
I opted to try for a move on Richmond by crossing the Chickahominy north and wheeling around to approach the city from northwest.  This would put me closer to McDowell's marching forces and put me in a postion to push into the unoccupied redoubts in this sector of the Southern defense.  However, this strategy would come at the cost of uncovering my supply line to White House Station.  I was willing to take the risk and see how much strength Mike was willing to commit to take the rail line.  The first day the forces started slowly turning toward the western side of the city.  Day 2 saw rain which slowed everyone to a crawl as the units kept moving in the direction of the plan.  By the end of the day the North had everyone on the North bank of the Chickahominy and the South sent a force toward the supply line.  In the west, the Northern cavalry was able to push into the redoubt line before the South could adequately react. 

Night of May 30, 1862

Turns 3-5: May 28-30
The morning of May 28 found the Union army ready for action as they won a series of activations that marched the balance of two Corps into the western portion of the city itself and crossing over the river into Manchester.  The South positioned to counter-attack the next day.  May 29 was rain again which slowed all operations on both sides.  On May 30 the South launched their attacks which forced back the North from several hexes of the city and out of Manchester, but they could not move the units dug in around the President's House and Hollywood Cemetary.  Longstreet sent a division up the Union supply line which threatened White House Station.
Night of June 1, 1862: The Union holds West Richmond among the blood of Fatigue 4's

Turns 6-7: May 31-June 1, 1862
Turn 6 opened once again with rain.  Along the northern approaches, McDowell and AP Hill slowly made their way to the city battle, but effectively rendered each other hors de combat with their own battles NW of the city.  In the east, Longstreet's division took White House Station.  In response, Sumner sent a division to retake the supply line.  Turn 7 opened with renewed assaults by the South to dislodge the North from Richmond.  After several massive assaults they managed to push Franklin from the President's House, but at a considerable body count.  McClellan managed to hold onto the Public Square and Hollywood Cemetary.  At this point the game came down to who would control White House Station on the Union Supply Line.  Could Longstreet hold against Sumner's race to the river?  The point spread was so narrow that the outcome of this attack would declare the victor.  The final odds for the attack were close so we rolled the dice and the devastating 6 and 1 die roll combination came up in the North's favor!  A win for the North.