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Rainbow Brigade, Episode 6: A Bridge on the River Patapsco

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  • Rainbow Brigade, Episode 6: A Bridge on the River Patapsco



    Prologue to Battle:


    In the aftermath of Sharpsburg, the Army of the Potomac withdrew to the North. Scouting reports indicated that the loss of several key leaders, such as Hooker to a wound, might have been the cause. That, or as some seemed to think, the Yankees “must think there are a million of us”. Either way, the losses to their Cavalry arm and the Army in general at Chantilly showed, as Stuart’s troopers did not have much in the way of competition for their scouting.


    Seizing the opportunity, and with a number of Rainbow officers agreeing either to an aggressive course of action or specifically to making a move to cut Baltimore from Washington, the Army of Northern Virginia gets on the march early in the afternoon of the 20th with Rainbow Brigade in the Van. Stuart’s Division skirmishes with all comers towards Hagerstown, cutting telegraph lines and railroad tracks in an effort to deny intelligence or supply to the enemy. Captain Dashwood and Major Pruitt work their troopers hard scouting ahead of the Army and ensuring that foraging parties get to any substantial stores of food or fodder, Lee having left behind the bulk of his train in favor of maneuver.


    In the ranks, the mood is heady, and the men are impetuous. They are also exhausted, after fighting three major battles and several minor ones in the last month. Nevertheless, straggling is low, a combination of pride in embarassing Billy Yank repeatedly and the knowledge that they are not in Virginia and stragglers can not so easily return to friendly lines. Abandoning the majority of the supply train also means that the wounded have all been sent back across the Potomac, and foraging parties politely yet firmly pillage the countryside. Jackson, Lee, and Longstreet all strictly enforce a policy of not unnecessarily taking or destroying private property, but privately all will admit a desire to visit upon the Yankee the insults that have been visited upon Confederate farmers and tradespeople over the past year, in an effort to further cement the futility of this war upon the national psyche.


    And so the Army marches, to Middleton, then east through Fredricktown towards New Market on the 23rd. Fitzhugh Lee’s Cavalry ride southeast towards Rockville to gather intelligence on any moves made by the VIII Corps garrisoning Washington and the other major cities. On the 24th, riders from Hampton’s Brigade bring word that the Army of the Potomac is force marching in pursuit. After mulling over the uncharacteristic action, Lee concludes that Lincoln has replaced McClellan, and from his days in the US Army he believes that Maj. Gen. Sumner is the only one who could so quickly turn that force about and drive them singlemindedly.


    On the 25th, riders from F. Lee’s Brigade bring word that troops appear ready to march from Washington, and with the way that the limited Federal cavalry there are active, Fitzhugh Lee expects them to march within the next day or two. As the Army reaches Lisbon on the 26th, Major Pruitt encounters a small party of Marylanders in Union Blue at a creek. From the one bank, Pruitt yells across telling them that Maryland is being liberated. From the other, the riders tell him that has yet to be decided. The Maryland cavalrymen then ride East towards Ellicots Mills and Baltimore. Pruitt’s Cavalry are unable to catch up with the small party, but scout the river and find the bridges still intact, and some visible defenses.


    That night, the officers meet in the farmhouse Lee is using as his headquarters. “Gentlemen, it appears that we are once again on the horns of a dilemma. If we continue East, we will find ourselves trapped against the river and Washington, and Sumner’s battered Army of the Potomac reinforced by the VIII Corps. If we turn South, we might brush aside the VIII Corps reinforcements and return to Virginia, but Lincoln would call our campaign a raid, and the Yankee would not find removed any of his capacity or will to wage war against us.”


    Jackson speaks up: “I am of a mind Sir, that we should divide our army. I can take my Corps south, defeat the VIII Corps separately, and then turn on the Army of the Potomac.” Lee looks at Longstreet, who opines “We passed a goodly ridge near Poplar Springs, with steep bluffs on the North looking down on the creek. It would be a good place to make a stand, especially in anticipation of a maneuver to flank from the South.” Stuart merely states that he anticipates we will be caught up by the Federal force between the 27th and 30th even if we continue to move East, and his scouts report no serious activity to the North that would indicate major troop movements.


    Lee considers his subordinates advice. “Gentlemen, I believe your ideas have merit. From Sharpsburg we know that while the Yankees are more numerous, their morale is low, they are at least as exhausted as our own men, and their supply can be in no way superior to our own. But more importantly, we captured or destroyed a number of guns at Sharpsburg. Despite our dearth of industry, our boys have bought in blood a fleeting supremacy in our artillery arm. It is a bold plan, to divide so in the face of destruction, but I believe we have opportunity now to soundly defeat the Federal Army while it is disorganized and at a dearth of arms. He must attack, and I am certain that Lincoln is mustering reinforcements both South and East in an effort to crush us in a fist. We must use all our advantages, and seek the favor of Providence, but our boys have never failed to deliver when required, and I would not doubt their courage or skill.”


    Poring over the map, Lee makes his decision. “General Longstreet, you will dispose your Corps as you see fit in the area of Poplar Springs. General Jackson, take your Corps South and throw back the VIII Corps, I suspect they will be bringing a substantial artillery train to replace losses in the Army of the Potomac. General Stuart, you will of course take your Division with General Jackson, and plan to guard his outboard flank.”


    General Longstreet points out the potential of threats to the East and North, most especially if the garrison of Baltimore has been given similar orders as the garrison of Washington. Lee relents, and orders General Hampton to remain to guard Longstreet’s right. As to Baltimore, after looking at the map, Lee concludes that there are four places a column could easily cross the Patapsco, too many to be protected sufficiently lest the Army be weakened into uselessness. Instead, he decides on a bold course of action.


    “Colonel Fawcett. You will take your Rainbow Brigade East and threaten Baltimore. You must seize and hold Ellicott’s Mills, as that is the most direct route into the rear of the Army. But more importantly, you must impress upon the Federal commander a significant threat to his charge. To keep him from simply sending a column by a different bridge or ferry, you need to force him to stand before the city and protect it. Force him to muster his full strength near the city, where he cannot intervene in the fighting here.”


    Thinking for a moment, Lee also says “This war has killed its share of great leaders, and your brigade has not been an exception. General Sennef killed, Captains and Majors killed and wounded, and Colonel Bates riding in a wagon as I heard, suffering the ill effects of a concussed head. Consider yourself to be Brevetted to Brigadier, Mr. Fawcett, for the duration of the campaign.” Turning to Stuart, Lee says “Also, General Fawcett may draw from Hampton’s Brigade what additional guns or regiments he might require to complete his task”, but he quickly adds, “Harry, remember that anything you take from General Hampton may not be available at Poplar Springs when the Army of the Potomac arrives. We must carefully husband our forces if we are to finally bleed this blue army white and end this awful war.”


    With that, the meeting breaks up, and General Fawcett goes back to Rainbow to bring them the news and the orders. Arriving back at his own headquarters, he looks at the map Major Pruitt’s scouts were able to make of the area of Ellicot’s Mills, and the all-important Patapsco River, which will either contain the Yankees from attacking Longtreet’s rear…..or will contain Rainbow to be annihilated.
    Last edited by TacCovert4; 30 Aug 18, 23:31.

  • TacCovert4
    replied
    0920hrs, North to South:

    General Hampton remains with General Fawcett to observe the situation. He dispatches Chiswell's cavalry to accompany, assist, and screen for Finch's men as they form column and march to the rear towards the bridges. While the sheer discipline of Rainbow's troops shows in their remaining in place, the Sergeant Major reports to General Fawcett that there is a quantity of grumbling in the ranks as it appears that Rainbow is about to retreat in the face of the enemy, something that they are ill accustomed to.

    Meanwhile, small parties of Green Jackets empty powder from the magazine at Mount Catons for approximately 10 minutes while there is a lull in the mortar fire inflicted on the position. With mortar fire resuming, they withdraw to meet with Gardner's gunners, who are all too happy to fall back considering the brutal casualties they've sustained today. With the balance of the Green Jackets to the rear of the position, and Freeman's remaining troops huddling in bombproofs or behind the dirt walls, the mortar fire is steady but relatively ineffective. Freeman is able to observe that the mortars have moved significantly closer and are now well within range of his single 20lbder if he ever gets an order to open fire.

    Bates keeps looking over the top of the hill for an opportunity to open fire on the Federals reforming and starting their approach to the saddle once more. However, slow but continuous fire from the siege guns keeps him from rolling his guns back onto the crest, as with frightening regularity the gunners are hitting the spot where his Napoleons would be able to fire from should he attempt to use them from the hilltop.

    Down in the wood, the fire from the siege guns pushes the walking wounded of the Rainbow Guard to fall back deeper into the trees to avoid being spotted or struck by splinters. Everywhere else, Rainbow simply hunkers down in place, as if waiting for the other shoe to drop. Leroy moves his Tigers into position, but in the open and without Finch's plethora of tools, they're unable to develop much of a covered position as they spread out slightly and kneel or go prone in anticipation of combat.

    An ill-equipped unit of militia comes off the southern end of the saddle, and despite taking some casualties from fire by The Tar Heels and Jeff Davis Legion, their numbers pushes the dismounted cavalry screen back even as a unit that appears to be more regular takes position in line opposite the Tiger Rifles.

    https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1...it?usp=sharing

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  • TacCovert4
    replied
    Looks like orders are pretty much in, I'll give another 24 hours or so for edits before I do the update.

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  • Rojik
    replied
    Sir, my compliments for allowing my boys to have the honour in proving their valour again in that operation, but we were roughly handled and now sit as the only mobile force between our boys on both hills. With heavy heart I ask that we remain where we are as a mobile reserve to make sure those people cannot and will not drive a wedge into your command.

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  • Khryses
    replied
    "1. Screened by available cavalry" - at your own discretion whether your cavalry is ready to move at this time, but once ready for renewed service please proceed to screen and support Finch's operations.

    I'm trying for longer-range orders now, allowing active subordinates the freedom they deserve to husband their resources and complete their objectives in their own manner.

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  • Rojik
    replied
    Waiting for orders sir. I think another 30 minutes would do my men and horses well, and having a reserve would not hurt, but we are ready if needed.

    Leave a comment:


  • Snowygerry
    replied
    Originally posted by Khryses View Post
    Tac advises new ammo is approximately 22 hrs away by wagon. Recommend looting the fallen or captured where possible.
    22 hrs ?

    It'll be a long day then…...

    Well at least we'll have time to loot, but first a turn of rest, exhausted men are useless


    Finch is to withdraw to the Baltimore Pike bridge, looting the seized Federal positions east of the crossing of charges, rounds and powder and using quantities of these as well as their tools to weaken and then blow the bridge with all Rebels safely on the western bank.
    Understood.

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  • Khryses
    replied
    Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post

    Give them a turn of rest then - send runners to see if we can acquire new ammo.

    The order to start digging again can be delayed untill they have recovered, given our new position is not in immediate danger.

    Tac advises new ammo is approximately 22 hrs away by wagon. Recommend looting the fallen or captured where possible.

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  • Khryses
    replied
    Oh I think we can be a little more ambitious than that. At least, if we move quickly enough.

    "My compliments to General Hampton, and let him know that the rumours of our demise are grossly exaggerated. The situation is, however, fraught and we would welcome the assistance of Chiswell's brave Marylanders while the General is surveying the field."


    1. Screened by available cavalry (possibly including Chiswell), Finch is to withdraw to the Baltimore Pike bridge, looting the seized Federal positions east of the crossing of charges, rounds and powder and using quantities of these as well as their tools to weaken and then blow the bridge with all Rebels safely on the western bank. They are then to move north along the western bank of the river to weaken the northern crossings, leaving one company of dismounted cavalry behind to contest the crossing as required. If there is a great quantity of powder or charges in the enemy position, take some with them to set up at the northern crossings.

    2. Leroy takes up positions to the right of the Rainbow Guard, extending our line against a possible left hook from the Yankees to our immediate south. By and large Rainbow's position at the Pike hill is developed and held, while Gardner withdraws to the wooded hill east of the northern crossing.

    3. Greenjackets loot enemy artillery ammunition, charges and powder from the Mt Catons positions, leaving Freeman enough to work with while transporting any excess to the rear (north) of their position and assigning manageable portions out between squads.

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  • Snowygerry
    replied
    Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
    0840hrs (North to South):
    Exhausted, Finch withdraws his men out of the line of fire and then back into a reverse slope anchoring Bates to Gardner's battery.

    Firing from Rainbow is practically non-existent, the sergeants encouraging the men to conserve ammunition...
    Give them a turn of rest then - send runners to see if we can acquire new ammo.

    The order to start digging again can be delayed untill they have recovered, given our new position is not in immediate danger.

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  • Pruitt
    replied
    "Gentlemen, let us be thankful for all of these targets! I want the Yankee mounted officers and color guards killed! I want you to keep at least one revolver in reserve for when they come to grips! My Compliments to the Jeff Davis Legion Commander and send a messenger explaining what we are trying to do!"

    Major Pruitt, Tarheel Legion Cavalry

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  • TacCovert4
    replied
    0840hrs (North to South):

    Rainbow has been on the march for nearly 18 continuous hours, and fighting for the last 6 or close to it, with many of the men digging deep into their reserves of constitution and endurance on the warm September day. With mortar fire continuing to steadily rain down, and Bird able to see wagons arriving and departing from Catons, presumably with more ammunition, the Green Jackets retrograde on Mount Catons out of range of the fire. Freeman has his men take cover in the Federal battery works on top of the hill, and being able to spread out to take advantage of the cover prevents many additional casualties while they retain control of the single 20lb Parrott in anticipation that they might have opportunity to use it. Receiving their orders, the Badgers once again fall back to the hayfield, keeping any eye on the Elysville Road for any further federal incursions. Meanwhile, in their sheltered position on the lee of Mount Catons, Lieutenant Rojik continues to rest horse and man, letting the troopers organize a water party for their horses as they cool down.

    Fawcett's aide rides towards the unknown column coming down the Pike and finds that it peels towards him. He rides back to the General, though by the time he arrives Fawcett can clearly see the Stainless Banner flying from the front of the column and receives a galloper. "General Hampton approaching on orders of General Lee to inspect the situation, along with six score troopers Chiswell's expatriate Marylanders Sir. Lee thought you were dead sir"

    Exhausted, Finch withdraws his men out of the line of fire and then back into a reverse slope anchoring Bates to Gardner's battery. Bates merely has to pull his guns back off the crest of the hill, just in time as the pair of big Federal guns begin to fire ranging shots into the hill. Looking south towards the Federals, Finch can see that the Marines have taken up position in his old trench and are anchoring a half-moon shaped federal line that is forming up across the Pike from Rainbow.

    With their wagons emptied, the teamsters drive them up near the lines, and then with the help of the remaining Guards, Jaegers, and the wounded Rainbow Guard unit, they flip them on their sides to firm up the barricade and fortification in the treeline. The teamsters then join the Rainbow Guard to add a little bit more fire from their carbines to the mix if necessary. Leroy pulls his battalion back, only lightly expended and with nearly full cartridge boxes, to be the reserve.

    Firing from Rainbow is practically non-existent, the sergeants encouraging the men to conserve ammunition as the last of the ammo is passed out to the Dreyse-armed troops and some of the other men begin taking apart Dreyse cartridges for their components as makeshift cartridges for their own rifles. Most of the lines are out of sight or range of one another anyway, with only the longer ranged rifles able to reach.

    Pruitt, reinforced with the JDL, observes a battalion of regulars come over the hill, practically pushing what appears to be a battalion of militia or recruits in front of them as they begin to cautiously make their way towards the thin skirmish line.

    https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1...it?usp=sharing

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  • TacCovert4
    replied
    Apologies, the whole family has been sick the last few days. I'll be updating this within 18 hours.

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  • Snowygerry
    replied
    Originally posted by Khryses View Post
    (…) Withdraw all foot elements behind the crest of the ridge we are currently on and around, with Finch and Bates fortifying themselves along a line between Bates' current right and Gardner's position.
    Once again - ignore my orders above then.

    Finch instead orders his men quickly to the assigned position, after lining up with a good field of fire, the rear rank is ordered start digging again, covered by the other two.

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  • Khryses
    replied
    Alright... my inner Fawcett is urging me to advance, advance, but under the circumstances (and with the identity of the mounted party approaching from the west uncertain) it seems a moment of caution may be in order.

    Rainbow South

    We cannot outgun the Federal heavy artillery to our fore, and presently do not have the weight to carry a charge into the teeth of them without unacceptable losses. Withdraw all foot elements behind the crest of the ridge we are currently on and around, with Finch and Bates fortifying themselves along a line between Bates' current right and Gardner's position. Leroy is to form the Brigade reserve, forming in the interior of the line as a rapid response force while the tatterdemalion Rainbow Guard are to dig in in place and reorder themselves.

    The JDL and Pruitt's Tarheels are to form a skirmish line covering the rear of our position, less out of any illusion that they can hold a substantial assault and more that, on the off-chance that the column approaching from the direction of our army is not one of Stuart's elements, it will give time for Leroy and others to reorient ourselves.

    Rainbow North

    Under relentless enemy fire, the elements of Rainbow North are to retire to the northern crest of Mt Catons and fortify facing southwards, with the Badgers taking up positions in the hayfield.

    They are advised to hold the eastward road open, as we anticipate redeploying towards Baltimore later this morning.

    Rainbow Scouting

    Fawcett sends a junior lieutenant off on his mount westwards to get a better view of the uniforms proceeding towards us. He is not to close with them however friendly they may appear, but is to report back to me immediately with any identification (from uniform hue to visible banners).

    Leave a comment:

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