Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Battle of the River Raisin - January 22, 1813

"Remember the River Raisin" is the battle cry we remember today on the 206th anniversary of the 2nd Battle of Frenchtown or River Raisin.  This battle from the second year of the War of 1812 is located in Monroe, Michigan, near the banks of Lake Erie between Detroit and Toledo, Ohio.  The River Raisin National Battlefield Park has the distinction of being the only land battle found in the Northwest Territory to receive this recognition, with that honor only established as recently as 2010. The nearest battlefields of equal import are all administered by state park systems or in Canada, including Fort Mackinac in Michigan, Tippecanoe in Indiana and Moraviantown in Ontario.

National Park - Monroe, Michigan

River Raisin Battle Line

The 2nd Battle of Frenchtown was the final action in a series of skirmishes taking place from January 18-23, 1813. Detroit had surrendered to the British and William Henry Harrison launched a winter campaign to retake that strategic location. Moving from Ohio toward Detroit, an advance American force had pushed into Frenchtown on the 18th in what is considered the First Battle the River Raisin.  On the 22nd the British, Canadian, and Native American combined forces counter-attacked the poorly prepared and inexperienced United States defenders. This surprise morning attack took the Americans under fire from three sides and they were soon routed.  Despite a heroic and disciplined stand by the Kentucky Rife units on the American side, all forces were persuaded to surrender. The prisoners were marched off to Canada, but the wounded were largely left behind. On January 23, the Native Americans raided Frenchtown, killing the wounded and setting fire to many of the buildings in what would be know as the River Raisin Massacre.

2013 Bicentennial Event

This incident shocked a young nation and the headlines screamed "Remember the River Raisin!" This rallying cry outraged public opinion and fueled enlistment drives for the American militia, setting a precedent for future U.S. public responses to similar military events such as "Remember the Maine!" from the Spanish-American War or "Avenge Pearl Harbor!" from World War II. As one of American's "forgotten wars" the War of 1812 and the Battle of Frenchtown are likewise largely overlooked in the historical boardgaming community.  The 200th anniversary did see the publication of two games that encompass the events at the River Raisin, albeit at a strategic scale. Clash of Arms Games "Amateurs To Arms!" is a card driven game that examines the entire war at a grand strategic level. GMT's "Mr. Madison's War," also a card driven design, focuses on the operations conducted along the Great Lakes.

Michigan Territory - Amateurs To Arms!

Frenchtown - Mr. Madison's War

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Falling Sky

The ancient tradition holds that the first multiplayer game day of the new year be brought in with blowing snow.  Today held a series of firsts as it was the first multiplayer game in the new Palatine War Room as well as my first attempt at a COIN game.  The game is GMT's Falling Sky, a counter-insurgency examination of Caesar's conquest of the Gaulish tribes.   We more or less chalked this up to a learning test run, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that we had a good time!

Falling Sky
Friends, Roman, Gauls!

David Martin wrote up a nice little summary of our misadventures in Gaul:  https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/250706/item/6673037#item6673037

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The 2 Half-Squads: Episode 214: Mad Hattten in Flames

In the latest episode of the 2 Half-Squads you can hear Dave tell the story about my completely botched defense in scenario WO20 Sealing Their Fate.  When a scenario SSR offers you the choice to deploy your entire starting force, you should probably consider deploying your entire starting force. Next time, Mr. Kleinschmidt, next time!

Katyn Massacre Memorial - Saint Adalbert Cemetery

Location: Saint Adalbert Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Features:  Memorial situated in Polish-Catholic cemetery.

History:  In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to a non-aggression pact that secretly allowed for the separation of Eastern Europe into their respective spheres of influence.  For Poland this was to foretell a new division of the country.  On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and so began World War II in Europe. Several weeks later the Soviets rolled through eastern Poland, quickly capturing what little remained of the Polish Army shattered by the Germany attack.  In accordance with their treaty, Germany and the Soviet Union split the country in two.  The Polish prisoners captured in this rapid advance were held by the NKVD, the Soviet state security organization. While most of these prisoners were from the Polish officer class, there were also many intellectuals, lawyers, doctors and government officials.  In March, 1940, Stalin ordered that these prisoners be executed by the NKVD.  When it was done, some 22,000 Polish nationals had been killed.  These executions occurred at various interment camps in Russia, but the discovery of mass graves at the forest near Katyn presented the world a name for these massacres.

In 2007, a memorial to the Katyn Massacre was established at Saint Adalberts Cemetery in Niles, Illinois, here in Chicago's Near Northwest suburbs.  There is a long history of Polish settlement in Chicago, which is considered the largest community of Poles outside of Poland.  Saint Adalberts Cemetery was established in 1872 to serve this growing community.   Named for Poland's first saint, the cemetery's 255 acres are filled with a beautiful display of over 300,00 historic graves, shrines and memorials.  The Katyn Monument was designed by noted Polish artist Wojciech Seweryn, who immigrated to Chicago in the 1970's.  More significantly, Seweryn was the son of a Polish Army officer killed in the Katyn massacre.  To add to the tragedy, Wojciech Seweryn was killed, along with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, in the 2010 Polish Air Force Crash near Smolensk. Along with Seweryn and the President, several government officials as well as relatives of victims of the Katyn Massacre were on their way to mark the 70th anniversary of the event.  All aboard were lost.  A new monument was placed in 2011 nearby the Katyn Memorial to honor those lost in the disaster.

Notes:  This is a repost from my 2014 survey of local monuments near my then home in Park Ridge. Saint Adalberts Cemetery in nearby Niles is a scenic destination for cemetery walkers with its rich, gothic architecture and stonework. These memorials are of particular meaning to me considering my own Polish-Lithuanian heritage, but you don't have to be related to appreciate and honor the artistic expression of those who seek to remember.

Resources: Saint Adalbert Cemetery - Archdiocese of Chicago

Katyn Memorial

Katyn Memorial

Katyn Memorial

Memorial to the 2010 Air Disaster

World War I Veterans Memorial - Saint Adalbert Cemetery

Location: Saint Adalbert Cemetery, Niles, Illinois

Features: Monument on cemetery grounds.

History:  Before World War One Poland no longer existed as a country.  It had been partitioned by surrounding nations, its territory broken apart and ruled by Germany, Austria and Russia.  With the outbreak of war in 1914, many hoped that Allied victory would see the restoration of Poland as a sovereign state.  The United States entered the war in 1917 and many Polish-Americans volunteered to fight in the US armed forces.  Additionally, many Poles from the United States and abroad volunteered to join the ranks of the Blue Army.  The Blue Army, or Haller's Army, was an independent unit of Polish soldiers who fought alongside the Allied forces in France with the objective of promoting a free Poland. The name Blue Army was taken from their distinctive blue uniforms, but they were also know as Haller's Army after the name of the Polish General, Jozef Haller, who commanded the unit.  With the Allied victory secured in 1918, Poland was restored as a nation.  This monument honors those from the Chicago Polish community who served in the United States Armed Forces during the First World War as well as those who volunteered to serve in the Blue Army.

Notes:  This is a repost from a survey of Chicago area World War I monuments I published in October 2014 for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.

Resources: Haller's Army WebsiteSaint Adalbert Cemetery

Veterans Memorial



Haller Army


Monument Park - Edison Park

Location: Edison Park, Illinois

Features: Small neighborhood park with granite monument.

History: Located in the far Northwest Chicago neighborhood of Edison Park, this granite monument was dedicated in 1919.  According to the Chicago Park District, members of the Illinois Volunteer Training Corps offered this monument to honor all citizens of Edison Park who served in the United States Armed Forces during World War I.  It was accepted and maintained by the Edison Park District before being incorporated into the Chicago Parks District in 1934.  The granite column is itself an historical artifact, a remnant of the old Cook County Courthouse which was demolished in 1906.  The monument suffered from vandalism and wear over the years and was recently restored in 2008.

Among the individuals named for their service on the memorial plaque is that of Thomas A. Pope, United States Medal of Honor, British Distinguished Conduct Medal and French Croix de Guerre recipient. Corporal Pope saw his first and only action at the Battle of Hamel, July 4, 1918.  American units, including Pope's 33 Infantry Division were attached to an Australian offensive in France against German defenses.  As Pope's battalion advanced on an enemy machine gun nest, he charged ahead alone into the surprised crew and eliminated them with the bayonet.  Then he picked off nearby German squads with his rifle while the rest of his unit caught up with him in the trench.  The Battle of Hamel was an important moment for the Allies as it showcased the success of their efforts to improve cooperation between the various nations and demonstrated the power of new combined arms tactics that would defeat the stalemate of trench warfare.   For Thomas Pope, however, the war was soon over.  Two days after his heroic moment, he was the victim of a gas attack and shipped back home to Edison Park.  For his actions that day he was the first American to receive the Medal of Honor in France, and the longest American soldier Medal of Honor recipient to survive, passing in 1989 at the age of 94.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Notes:  This is a repost from a survey of Chicago area World War I monuments I published in October 2014 for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Stalemate on the Peninsula!

After several months of play, Dan K. and I finished up our play of the monster 7 Days campaign.  The final VP tally was in the very narrow draw range.  Throughout the game we evenly matched each attempt to dislodge the other from their defensive positions, resulting in high casualty rates. The final bid to break the stalemate was to attempt the Union supply train rebase, but Dan managed to cut off the supply wagons from reaching the James River.  This left us with two exhausted armies facing off, each unable to gain advantage on the other...by any analysis a draw.
For this extended day campaign model to fit with the Brigade Series rules, you really need to use the optional fatigue rules...but they sure are cumbersome.  Way too much bookkeeping, literally tracking every shot taken and even being shot at!  However, if you have the time and the space, there is nothing that compares to this as the total Civil War experience.

Final Positions 

Stalemate at the Union Siege Line

Battle at White Oak Bridge