Sharp Practice: Battle Report

Once more Cpt.Shandy invited me over for a game of Sharp Practice. This time it’s a full proper cavalry affair!

The good captain once again had worked out a detailled scenario based on historical events. On this day we’d replay Mosby’s Rangers’ Raid on Seneca Mills which took place on June 10, 1863.

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice
“Col. John S. Mosby, C.S.A.”, by Mathew Brady, 1865, Library of Congress

43rd Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, widely known as Mosby’s Rangers / Raiders / Men, were a cavalry formation who operated around Middleburg, VA, and into Maryland. Between January 1863 and March 1865 they performed numerous raids, employing lightning attacks and shock tactics, dispersing afterwards and melting into the local population and countryside.

They did wear uniforms of some sort, at least their clothes, according to one of Mosby’s men’s autobiography, had to be “something grey” as a prerequisite.

The Scenario

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

Confederate Forces: Maj.John S.Mosby (Status III), Capt. James W. Foster, Lt.Thomas Turner, Lt. George H. Whitescarver (all Status I), 4 Groups of Cavalry (armed with a lot of revolvers and the odd shotgun or carbine). Force Morale: 11

Union Forces: Capt. Charles W. Deane (Status II), Lt. Robert A. Moon (Status I), Lt.John S. Joslin (Status I), 4 Groups of Cavalry (armed with breech-loading carbines). Force Morale: 9

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice
Capt. Charles W. Deane, Image courtesy of Library of Congress

One of the groups has to be deployed at the forward picket camp deployment point. If Confederate troops manage to take the camp before this happens, one Union group is lost (surprised and taken prisoner), and it counts as a primary Deployment Point lost.

The overall goal is to reduce the opposing force’s force morale to 3 or less.

The Game

Things started a bit weird, in that we got two chapter ends pretty fast right in the beginning. So one could say that the game took a while to get moving.

Early Game

Here’s an overview of the early phases of the game:

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

Cpt.Shandy quickly gets a group deployed on the forward Deployment Point. As they spot my first two groups approach they swiftly take off to take shelter behind fences and start peppering my boys with their horrible repeating carbines.

I do my dearest to have that not happen, and the Confederate Rangers manage to catch up to them right after they crossed the fence.

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

A whole lot of revolvers are unloaded unto the Union cavalrymen (dismounted at this point). The survivors (two troopers and Lt.Joslin) try to flee on foot, but are caught and taken prisoner.

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

As my boys triumphantly want to show the prisoners to their leader, Capt.Foster, they realize that he somehow got knocked to the ground and is out cold for the time being. On the one hand a great victory, having gotten rid of a full group of enemy cavalry with next to no casualties (I had to have one trooper lead the prisoners away), on the other hand one of my leaders got knocked out for a good while.

At this point my force morale is at 10, my opponent’s at 5(!).

Mid-Game

At this point Cpt.Shandy has brought his three remaining groups on the table; Capt.Deane (his overall commander) with two groups of cavalry and Lt.Moon’s group.

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice
They even brought a flag!

At this point I’m in a tough position I absolutely do NOT want to get into a slug fest with these guys and their breech-loading carbines across the creek, so I have to keep on keeping up the pressure, get across the creek as quickly as possible and should get rid of Moon’s single group. If this worked this should reduce their force morale to below 3.

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

Somehow things grind to a halt on my side though, while the enemy dismounts, takes position and opens fire. Despite some light cover the damage is done by this and the subsequent salvos, killing a few troopers, and causing a lot of shock.

My (at this point) pretty beaten up troopers cross the bridge. They are in pursuit of the dismounted Union cavalry, but they are pretty adept at their fighting retreat towards the barn.

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

My opponent has his commander Capt. Deane order one of his groups to turn about to help out the dismounted cavalry, while his other group covers the other bridge (at which my still leaderless cavalry group is lurking, waiting for their knocked out boss to get back on his feet. Spoiler: He gets up again WAY later in the game and did not have any further impact on the game, same as his group).

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice
Not quite a crossfire, but the way these carbines don’t require any reloading between shots takes it toll, namely my poor Lt.Whitescarver and some of his men.

Then, FINALLY, Mosby and his cavalry group show up. They spent two phases gallopping down the road, and quickly move up and try to keep the wavering attack going. At this point my force morale had slipped to 4, Cpt.Shandy’s troops barely held on to their force morale of 3 or 4.

For a bit Mosby takes the beaten up and now-leaderless group under his wing, but all the fire was too much, and the group retreats behind their comrades.

Sitting around, trying to rally shock points won’t help a bit at this point, so I have Turner’s group (what’s left of them) commence a desperation charge against the dismounted cavalry. They perform very well, drive the enemy off behind the barn and later-on follow up and the remaining members of that Union group surrender.

Meanwhile Mosby’s group charges right ahead towards the other group…

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

An overview of the late phases of the game:

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice
In the left you can see my leaderless group shambling towards the bridge (with the formerly knocked out leader following up across the field), in the far right the remainder of my cavalry group has driven off the enemy group, at the centre we got Mosby charging.

The group charged by Mosby’s Raiders crumbles..

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

…and flees right into the back of their leader’s group, causing quite a lot of chaos on the way.

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice

The game ends with Confederate force morale of 4 vs. Union force morale of 2, resulting in a very, very close Confederate victory.

Conclusions

Another fun game of Sharp Practice. First time I played an all-cavalry scenario. Lots of movement, less to worry about formations and getting those volleys in where they hurt the most, much to worry about breech-loading carbines. Way too often I end up being at the wrong end of those. ­čśŤ

It’s an interesting scenario and as so very often with Cpt.Shandy’s scenarios it’s based on historical facts, which makes it all the more interesting. Speaking of which, here are some detail shots of scenic items he uses to liven up the table.

Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice
A sassy Southern Belle.
Skirmish Wargame Sharp Practice
Not quite at the centre of the table, but one of the centre pieces – the canal transport, drawn by mules.

So yeah, good fun. Extremely close game, which is to the credit of the scenario (and the rules) given the extremely different forces.

Thanks for reading this battle report. I hope that you found it interesting and entertaining. If you have questions or other messages, please use the comments section below or get in touch via the Tabletop Stories Facebook page, Battle Brush Studios, the Battle Brush Studios Facebook page or via e-mail!

2 thoughts on “Sharp Practice: Battle Report

    1. Cheers. If I was to guess I’d say he scratchbuilt it (because that’s what he does), but I’ll ask.

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