Stephen Rochelle
United States
Huntsville
Alabama
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It is July 1861, three months after the Civil War opened at Fort Sumter. The Union Army of Northeastern Virginia, under General Irvin McDowell, has assembled outside Washington and is at last moving against General P.G.T. Beauregard's Confederate Army of the Potomac near Manassas, Virginia. Unbeknownst to the Union commanders, Beauregard's outnumbered force has been hastily reinforced by General Joseph Johnston's Army of the Shenandoah while McDowell fought to straighten out his formations and supply system (see Scenario 3 for the hypothetical engagement prior to Johnston's reinforcing move). The Union army has now scouted its approaches for attack and sets off at 2:30 AM to surprise the Confederate defenders.

This day will see the battle known variously as First Bull Run or First Manassas, and while casualties are light by Civil War standards, it will make clear to both sides that this is not a three-month war; within weeks, Presidents Lincoln and Davis will have called for a million more soldiers with extended service commitments.

This scenario is a single day and presents the Union player with objectives on each flank of the Confederate line; the Confederates additionally have a key objective in the Union center (Beauregard was historically massing for an attack of his own when McDowell moved early that morning).

This is a solo play-through.
Scenario overview. Note the undefended crossings above and below the Confederate army.
Scenario Comparison
It's worth examining how the starting conditions and objectives for this historical First Bull Run differ from those in the hypothetical two-days-early Scenario 3.

First, the orders of battle: the Union has shed two manpower (a mid-game event in the prior scenario) as 90-day enlistments expire, but has rested its troops and shifted one division a few miles closer to the upper Bull Run objectives (the Stone Bridge and Groveton). That repositioning saves about 1 fatigue level for that division; in a single-game scenario with only four fatigue to spend, that's a definite improvement though fairly slight overall.

The Confederates show more improvement. First, Johnston's reinforcements are already mostly at hand, with 10 additional manpower deployed across three brigades in a reserve position and with 5 more manpower already entrained without fatigue (a cheat of at least one fatigue level over requiring the player to conduct the entrainment), though the latter effect is offset by restrictions in when that reinforcing rail move can be made. Additionally, most Confederate units holding the Bull Run crossings have completed their entrenchments; no units in the prior scenario had any defensive bonus but most here have 2x-multiplier breastworks. Mysteriously, Evans' brigade on the extreme left flank of the Confederate line has dismantled its under-construction works from the prior scenario and has no entrenchments here. Finally, some minor units have shuffled near Manassas Junction: the junction itself has one fewer manpower within (and also lacks entrenchments), but two additional manpower have advanced nearby from a rear area.

In sum, the manpower shifts suggest that the Union should generally find this scenario more difficult than the preceding hypothetical version, as Confederate manpower in in-theater tactically superior units has risen from 30 to 44.

The victory point thresholds, meanwhile, are unchanged. Technically the Union victory thresholds are all 4 VP lower in this historical scenario than in the hypothetical, but the Union also starts with a 4 VP deficit — the net effect is that each scenario requires the Union to net 10 VP to reach a Marginal victory. This does not offset the Confederate gains via unit deployment.

Finally, the victory point awards themselves. On the lower battlefield, Manassas Junction remains as important an objective here as before (15 VP, in itself a Union Substantive victory), though it cannot now also have its railroad station burned for VP; the award for capture of Bull Run Bridge is reduced. Groveton is somewhat more important (a max of 12 VP here versus 10 VP in the preceding), Gainesville somewhat less (1 VP versus 4 VP). No award is made for Bristoe Station in this scenario, but given its distance from the Union front, it's unlikely that it would be a serious objective; that change can be discarded.

So far, the VP shift slightly favors the Confederates: the big change is that Bull Run Bridge is now a less valuable target (VP reduction) that is also more strongly held (defending unit entrenched at 2x combat value). The big change, though, is the Union base of Centreville. In the hypothetical, its fall was a 4 VP penalty, or a one-level shift in victory. Here it is worth 15 VP, equal to Manassas Junction. Where before the Confederate player was incentivized to the defense, denying Union VP, this scenario prompts both players to attack.

In total, the Confederates have more combat-ready troops and more VP opportunities in this historical take on First Bull Run than in the hypothetical scenario.

0230, July 21, 1861
The scenario opens by stacking the historical deck. First, the Union player has up to three initial initiative wins in the form of "night marches" from the advanced game, a more-or-less one-shot option in the full campaign to replicate McDowell's 0230 kickoff of his flanking move. These initiatives cannot activate any one unit more than once (as the idea is volume of troops moved over a fixed amount of time, not a long-duration march by one formation) and are restricted in their ability to directly approach and engage enemy units.

Additionally, the Confederate player cannot reposition their army commanders from their initial position and also suffers from "Command Paralysis", which cedes the first two initiatives that would be won by the Confederates with a roll of '6' (on a d6) to the Union; both special cases reduce the ability of the Confederate army to quickly react to whatever the initial Union move is. Finally, Elzey's brigade entrained to the west cannot move to the battlefield until the Command Paralysis event is ended (on average, 12 or so initiatives into the game, the balance of which will probably fall to the Union).

As I noted in my write-up for the preceding scenario, Bull Run is one of the few Civil War battlefields that I've walked, and the only one thus far that I've walked with an eye toward matching historical movements (versus sightseeing key locations without matching the timetable) — I've even done this one in July heat. Given that, I've got an amateur's appreciation for the initial route of advance that McDowell selected (north to the Sudley Springs area and then behind the Stone Bridge) and figure that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it. Therefore, the Union opens its night marches by that route.

First Tyler's 1st Division and then Hunter's 2nd (fixing the historical error that sent Hunter's troops through Tyler's, clogging the roads) step off toward the Stone Bridge and Groveton with McDowell accompanying Hunter. Both divisions roll well for movement; Tyler's brigades are between Sudley Springs and Sudley Church, with Sherman's brigade one hex from Groveton. Hunter's division separates; Burnside follows Tyler around the Confederate line while Hunter marches Porter's brigade up to the eastern side of the Stone Bridge to play anvil to Tyler's hammer.

The Union right flank is well in hand, and the Union player now considers the center versus the left. The new victory conditions in this scenario make Centreville a tempting target, and currently only one brigade (Richardson's, which can float between Tyler's 1st Division and Miles' 5th; by not marching out with Tyler, he is effectively in Miles' sphere for this battle) screens any of the approaches the Confederate army could use. The Union could send one of their two remaining divisions forward to occupy more of the crossings. Instead, though, McDowell orders Heintzelman's 3rd Division to turn the right flank of the Confederates, pushing for the undefended Bull Run fords below the Bull Run Bridge in an effort to bypass Beauregard's army and strike straight at Manassas Junction. Heintzelman's movement roll is the bare minimum, and the Union player opts to force-march the division, trading better than half of its combat value for distance.
After the night march, the Union 1st and 2nd Divisions are well-positioned to take objectives on the
Confederate left flank. Heintzelman's 3rd Division force-marched to gain position on the opposite flank, sacrificing combat power.
Current VP: 0 (Confederate Substantive victory)


The Union wins the first contested activations of the game and Tyler's division continues to march toward the northern objectives. To represent the limited command-and-control abilities of leaders at this stage of the war, only the first unit activated in a group activation is eligible to attack; this limits quickly-developing flanking maneuvers and is the reason that Hunter split his division in the night march to establish his anvil. Tyler takes Sherman's brigade to the Warrenton Turnpike and attacks east to clear Evans from the Stone Bridge. Evans' position is completely enveloped by Union ZOCs, but the bulk of that flanking threat is offset by Bull Run; Evans has no need to defend against impassable riverbanks. The Union attack is well-developed, though, and Evans' command is eliminated by combination of combat casualties and being forced to retreat through Sherman's ZOC. Sherman moves forward to seize the Stone Bridge as the rest of Tyler's division moves through Groveton to Henry House Hill and Gainesville. The first contested initiative of the game sees all three northern objectives fall to the Union.

Following that action, Hunter activates his division. He transfers to Burnside's brigade while McDowell remains with Porter's. Burnside marches past Groveton to take up position along the Manassas Gap Railroad between Gainesville and Manassas, providing a roadblock to any Confederate attempts to maneuver cleanly to engage the Union troops behind him. Porter countermarches around Sudley Springs rather than tangling with the Confederate ZOCs restricting movement across the Stone Bridge.
The initial Union attack by Tyler's 1st Division takes Groveton and the Stone Bridge. Evans' defending
Confederate brigade is eliminated by a combination of combat losses and an inability to retreat away
from Sherman's attacking troops (those routes are blocked by Bull Run).
Current VP: 13 (Union Substantive victory)


The Confederates gain their first initiative of the battle and Johnston takes his Valley troops — the brigades of Jackson, Bartow, and Bee — and moves west toward the Union attack at Groveton. Jackson and Bartow move along the railroad to Bethlehem Church, ready to engage Burnside's brigade, and Bee marches along the southern road to establish a flanking threat. Before Johnston can attack, initiative reverts to the Union.

McDowell completes his countermarch into Groveton as Heintzelman moves past the Confederate right flank. His first march brings his lead two brigades (which are also his weakest) into contact with the Confederate garrison at Manassas Junction; Confederate command paralysis gives him time to bring the third brigade up as well, though they suffer straggler losses. The Confederates immediately attempt to reinforce by countermarching Bee's brigade (none of Beauregard's troops have clean road access to ensure a quick route to the Junction), but a poor movement roll leaves them just shy.

Heintzelman's assaults, though, fare poorly. The first assault attempt fails to go forward at all and fatigues out Howard's brigade; Heintzelman's best-case attack falls from 2:1 odds to 1:1. The second attempt is poorly coordinated and only Franklin's brigade engages, dropping the odds further to 1:2. With only a third of the intended Union strength actually committed, the Confederate defense holds and Heintzelman's troops are done for the day. Due to low numbers engaged, there are no casualties for either side at the game's level of resolution. Nonetheless, the Union has increased its lead in the game by threatening Confederate control of Manassas.
Heintzelman's assault on Manassas Junction fails as only one of three brigades attempts its attack orders.
Johnston has moved troops to engage the first line of Union defenses around Groveton.
Current VP: 16 (Union Decisive victory)


1400, July 21, 1861
Heintzelman's failed assaults mark a significant shift in how the game is played. In a one-day scenario, Heintzelman's Fatigue-4 division is unable to take any action for the remainder of the game and can be completely discounted as an active threat by the Confederate player (it still provides a flanking bonus against Manassas Junction, but most other Union units are sufficiently fatigued as to make follow-up attacks unlikely). The Confederate decision space has therefore been simplified: nothing need be sent or spent on the defense of the most valuable Union objective, and so massed force against Centreville looms large. Similarly, the Union has no offensive objectives remaining and can focus on consolidation.

The Union player continues to win the balance of initiatives. Keyes' brigade burns the rail station at Gainesville to consolidate that VP award (given for either occupation or burning, but not both) and permit a fallback toward Groveton. Miles pulls the 5th Division into Centreville and the dispersed elements of the 4th Division begin marching toward supporting positions at Centreville and the Bull Run Bridge.

Finally, the Confederate Command Paralysis event ends and Elzey's brigade is released to move toward the front. With Gainesville's rail station burned, that hex represents the absolute limit of Elzey's rail move and Keyes elects to preemptively fall back toward Groveton. Elzey moves just past the Thoroughfare Gap, the limit of a 1-fatigue rail move. From that point, Elzey can reach Hay Market with a worst-case movement roll in march and potentially further. "Potentially" doesn't enter the equation, though; Elzey's march roll is a minimum and the Confederate player elects to force-march Elzey to develop flank threats before the brigade fatigues out.
With Heintzelman's thrust toward Manassas Junction spent, the Union develops defensive positions
around Groveton and Centreville. Beauregard's main force remains uncommitted.
Current VP: 16 (Union Decisive victory)


Johnston is the first Confederate general to attack, assaulting Hunter's lead brigade along the Manassas Gap Railroad in an effort to open the path to Groveton. As with Heintzelman's efforts earlier, the first assault roll fails entirely and the second permits only a single brigade to attack. Jackson's outnumbered Virginians go forward and though they win a technical victory, they suffer more casualties, spend the brigade for the day, and do not compel a Union retreat. Hunter voluntarily withdraws his troops toward Groveton to better close possible flanking threats and Johnston's force is spent.

Sherman's brigade voluntarily cedes the Stone Bridge in order to prevent Hunton's Confederate troops along the river from marching directly toward Groveton, which is a more significant VP shift. The Confederate player then abandons any serious attempt to retake Groveton (Jackson's brigade is now clogging the primary route of approach in favor of moving on Centreville; Johnston marches east to regain contact with the brigades near Beauregard. Hunton's regiment reoccupies the Stone Bridge as Johnston takes two brigades to the Warrenton Turnpike midway between the Bridge and Centreville. Beauregard follows up with another high movement roll and marches three more brigades across Bull Run toward Centreville with an eye toward encirclement; Ewell's brigade holding Bull Run Bridge is the only significant available Confederate combat force left on the western bank. Elements of the Union 4th Division maneuver to counterflank the outlying Confederate formations.
After failed attacks near Groveton, Generals Johnston and Beauregard move five Confederate brigades
to surround Miles' 5th Division at Centreville.
Current VP: 15 (Union Decisive victory)


The Confederates win the next initiative and Beauregard leads DR Jones' troops against the tactically inept New Jersey formation attempting to pin them against Miles. With a strong modifier and a near-perfect roll, the Confederates all but annihilate the Union reserves, sending the remnants directly to a Demoralized-2 state. The Union player then activates Miles' division; despite the loss of a full flank benefit, Richardson's brigade in turn routs DR Jones' brigade to the east and Beauregard is carried out of the battle. Richardson marches into Centreville with the rest of the 5th Division and Miles adjusts his formation to refuse his flanks to Johnston's encircling troops.

Further Union activations adjust the remaining 4th Division troops screening Miles' rear, and Tyler sends Sherman's brigade to retake the Stone Bridge. The stage is set for Johnston's assault.
Positions immediately prior to Johnston's assault on Centreville. Note that Beauregard has been carried
clear of the battlefield (near Fairfax Court House) by routing troops.
Current VP: 18 (Union Decisive victory)


Johnston successfully initiates an assault with his three stacked brigades (Bonham, Longstreet, and Early) and then coordinates a grand assault to incorporate Cocke's brigade as well. The complete inclusion of Confederate units brings Johnston to a roughly 60% chance of occupying Centreville and the roll is favorable; Miles' entire force is routed with heavy losses. The fall of Centreville coupled with Union casualties results in a 17 VP swing.

With virtually all combatants exhausted, and no prospect of the Union retaking Centreville, the players mutually agree to end the game. Some minor opportunities to inflict casualties remain, plus long shots for Confederate garrisons to march on Groveton and risk defeat, but nothing likely to substantially alter the outcome.
Final positions, units only. In addition to the combat casualty VPs, the Union is awarded VP for control of
the Stone Bridge, uncontested control of Groveton, burning the Gainesville railroad station, and
contesting Confederate control of Manassas Junction. The Confederate player is awarded VP for
occupying Centreville.
Final VP: 1 (Confederate Substantive victory)


Closing Commentary
This game hinged on two high-value assaults: Heintzelman's low-odds attack on Manassas Junction (around a 30% chance of forcing a Confederate retreat) and Johnston's somewhat-better chance at Centreville (40% to 50% or so); both assault results favored the Confederates and collectively decided the game. Miles' rout at Centreville would also, strictly in itself, have triggered Union army panic in the campaign game.

Those single-point failures point all the way back to the night march that opened the game: when Heintzelman's movement roll was poor, in the wake of highly-successful rolls to set up the Groveton area, should the Union player have instead moved to pin Beauregard's troops at the Bull Run fords? It's a reasonably palatable option; a token threat in being (rather than a fatigued-out division) would have kept more Confederate troops in that area instead of at Centreville. However, it might also have freed more troops to engage McDowell at Groveton. I think on balance, though, that the Union should avoid the "Hail Mary" toss used in this game. A strong push at one, but not both, major objective probably also leaves an acceptable defense for Centreville.

Spreading the defending troops along Bull Run also limits the ability of the Confederate player to set up the mass assault that ended this game. Contesting river crossings, even if forced to retreat, lets the Union player tire Confederate troops before they threaten Centreville, and a forward defense should in some cases permit retreat into Centreville itself for a second defense. Spread units will also better restrict Confederate movements via their ZOC.

I'm not experienced enough with this system to provide a conclusion on the balance between this scenario and its hypothetical predecessor as discussed above, but the final positions do prompt an discussion of what would happen the next day. The armies have largely marched past one another — how should that be scored? McDowell has a strong presence and little opposition at Groveton, and coupled with Heintzelman's weary troops, is in excellent position to take Manassas Junction and scatter what few troops remain between the two wings of his army. Johnston, meanwhile, has a massed body of troops — slightly more than the largest Union division, and in generally good order — with no meaningful opposition until Washington. Who is compelled to react to the other?

I went to the Advanced Game's campaign VP to get an idea of how things might project forward. Confederate control of Fairfax County (where Centreville is located) more or less offsets Union control of Prince William County (Manassas Junction); in each case, finalization of control by the major force is assumed though not yet actualized. However, the Union is better positioned to pick up additional VP, by marching further toward Richmond seizing county seats and burning rail stations, than are the Confederates. Additionally, Union destruction of the Confederate depot will hamper Johnston's supply more quickly than will his presence (real, but not spread to cut wagon lines) behind McDowell's army. That means Johnston probably has to move to withdraw first — but the Union army is the one that panicked. All told, I think this probably lands as a Confederate Marginal victory edging very close to a draw. Johnston's success at Centreville (and the panic it caused) should compel McDowell to fall back somewhat and regroup, but the probable loss of a major supply facility hampers any Confederate attempt to maintain their position this close to Washington. The Confederates also suffered higher casualties than the Union; only the public relations nightmare of Miles' rout and subsequent panic salvages the overall Confederate victory.
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