It is a just past 9:00 AM on a sleepy morning in a little corner of Tennessee. Except on this particular morning no one is sleeping. About 3 hours ago Confederates from Hindman’s brigade of Hardee’s 3rd Corp of the Army of the Mississippi came howling out of the woods and struck the Union 25th Missouri Regiment a terrific blow. The battle of Shiloh was on and in earnest.
Those Missouri men are pretty good. They did some savage fighting just to keep from being overwhelmed by the huge force that descended on them. They survived, although much diminished in number, and withdrew back to the rest of their brigade. This is Peabody’s brigade and it just barely had time to deploy before the ever-increasing tidal wave of Rebs plowed into it. For the next hour Peabody’s men bend, but they do not break. It is a desperate attempt to stem the tide. They are being flanked on both sides when Peabody himself is killed. Then pressed beyond their limit they finally collapse and break for the rear.
All along the line of Union camps now an unsuspecting Northern army wakes up to the sound of gunfire. The woods are alive with the enemy and he is headed their way. Next to feel the heat is Sherman’s Division on the Yankee right. This is William Tecumseh Sherman. Soon to be one of the most celebrated soldiers in the history of America. On this day however, he is hard pressed just to keep a single division in the field. He is lucky though, as all famous generals are, for all has not gone well with the Confederate assault.
On Sherman’s extreme right the Confederate General Pond is attacking, but it has not gone as planned. Pond finds himself confused in the midst of all this smoke and fury. He does not deliver a coordinated attack. The Reb’s here eventually take the Union camps, only to driven back out of them at the cost of many lives. They are disorganized now and the Yankee force seems more then willing to continue the fight.
Pond vs. McDowell, the Yanks counter attack
Next in line to Pond is General Pat Cleburne, an immeasurably more skilled officer. He Strikes the Yankee General Buckland of Sherman’s command with a well-timed and coordinated assault. He is not supported on either side though and is soon out of ammunition. In these heavy woods it will be some time before he can resupply. To his extreme disappointment he is effectively out of this fight before it’s hardly started.
Sherman’s outfit stands tall as the first wave of attacks break against it and recedes. However thousands more enemy are coming up now. That awful rebel yell fills the smoky woods along the entire front as Sherman’s tired and frightened troops gird for another attack. Raith’s Brigade of McClernand’s Division has come up to re-enforce him from their camps just to the rear. Will it be enough to hold out?
Events on the other side of the Union line are about to make Sherman’s position hopeless. Here two entire Confederate divisions have struck both the remnants of Peabody’s brigade and its companion Miller’s brigade. These men are from Union General Prentiss’ division and despite that officer’s valiant attempt to rally them, they have routed. As General U.S. Grant arrives on the field, all that stands between the Union Army and disaster is a thin line of Yankee stalwarts and the fog of war.
The collapse of the Union left, note all the routed troops in blue
Is this the history of the first three hours of Shiloh? No it is not. This is a wargame that I’m currently playing. I’m once again trying to change history as I have been for many years with this wonderful series of Civil War battles.
The games place you on the battlefield to try your hand at out thinking and outfighting the Generals you’ve always read about, Robert E Lee, Grant, Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and many others are all here. Each battle is researched so that the army you command is historically accurate. All the Regiments of infantry and cavalry are here, and all the guns. You move and fight your army within a framework of rules designed to recreate war in the mid 19th century. Type of terrain, supply, fatigue, and moral are all taken into account as you grapple with your foe in the dark heavily wooded forests of Tennessee, or the rolling farmland of Virginia. The battles are turn based. First one side takes a turn, then the other. They can be played against the computer AI, or against an opponent by e-mailing turns back and forth. There are sound effects for rifle fire, artillery, and hand to hand combat. Even the music of the period is available to you while you ponder your next move.
These games are excellent as published and may be edited for even more realism. New battles and scenarios are created all the time. There is a large and growing Civil War gaming community with wealth of knowledge about the games and the history they represent so well. Similar games and gamers exist for the Napoleonic era. New members are always welcome. So if you feel like traveling in time, step up, lock and load.