Thursday, 31 October 2013

The March To The Sea: An American Civil War Matrix Game – October 1864

Messages Sent
From: General Joseph E Johnston CSA (Army of Tennessee)

The Army of Tennessee will continue to strengthen the defences of Atlanta. This will result in the defeat (with heavy Yankee losses) of any Federal assault and will be made possible by:
  1. The high levels of motivation amongst the ranks of the Army of Tennessee.
  2. The low morale in the Yankee armies whose attacks have again been repulsed.
  3. The Yankee preparations will be disrupted by rather more enthusiastic Rebel cavalry attacks than the ineffective demonstrations which took place last month!

From: General William Tecumseh Sherman USA (US Army of the Tennessee)

In the month of October, the Armies under my command shall prosecute the siege of Atlanta such as to obtain the capture of the City. Whilst the combined cavalry will screen the operation and the Army of the Tennessee continues with a series of probing diversionary attacks, the Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Ohio shall disengage from their present positions on the West and North of the City respectively and march in a clockwise direction behind the Army of Tennessee to take positions to the South of the City. As a result, the Army of the Ohio will be to the left of he Army of the Tennessee, and the Army of the Cumberland to the left of the Army of the Ohio. Every effort will be made to mask this movement so that the attack of the Army of the Cumberland, supported by the Army of the Ohio will be a surprise, coming from a totally new and unexpected direction with little or no defensive works. This will oblige the Rebel forces to fight in open battle against the Union Armies and be overwhelmed. Atlanta will fall. This will be achieved because:
  1. The Union Armies are all assembled and well supplied.
  2. Their morale is high thanks to recent successes against Rebel raiders and the manifest success of their leaders plans to date.
  3. The Rebel forces are dismayed by the constant failure of Southern Armies, uninterrupted retreat since March, and the lack of supplies in a city cut off since July.

From: General John M Schofield USA (US Army of the Ohio)

The Army of the Ohio will take orders directly from Major-General William T Sherman. The self-styled ‘President’ of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, will remove Joe Johnston from the command of the Rebel Army of Tennessee, and replace him with the aggressive John Bell Hood. This will result in the Rebel army falling into so much disarray that they will fight less effectively. This will occur for the following reasons:
  1. ‘President’ Davis has no confidence in General Johnston; Johnston has fought only once, in May. Since then he has run back to Atlanta, allowing three Union armies to invest the city and cut his railroad communications, unchallenged! In contrast to General Sherman, who regularly writes to the General-in-Chief, Johnston has failed to submit a single written report to Richmond that might have excused his performance.
  2. Much of Georgia has now been abandoned by the Rebel army. From these areas, the families of Rebel soldiers will have communicated their fears (of blacks, bushwackers, and Union foragers) to their kin. Many of the Rebels will therefore desert the colours to protect their homes.
  3. General Hood is a fighter! He opposes Johnston’s strategy and has been conspiring to gain command of his army. However, no doubt due in part to his crippling wounds and the use of morphine, Hood is a highly abrasive and disruptive officer. Few of the Rebels believe he can lead them to anything but a bloody disaster.

From: General John Hunt Morgan CSA (GOC Morgan’s Cavalry)

Morgan’s Cavalry will, in conjunction with Bedford’s Raiders, raid into Kenesaw Mountains and destroy the railroad track in numerous places with explosives, avalanches, and dismantling the track, with the effect that no more supplies will reach the three Union Armies around Atlanta. This will force them to divert considerable forces to the defence of their lines-of-communication, and reduce the effectiveness of the troops left in the trenches around Atlanta. We will be successful because:
  1. The Kenesaw Mountains are rich in tunnels, cuttings, bridges etc., which will be perfect targets for our operation.
  2. Destroying railroad tracks is our forté, having carried it out it on numerous occasions during our spectacular raids through Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio earlier in the year.
  3. The Union troops will have difficulty living off the land at this time of year. Their supplies will rapidly dwindle, especially as they now have to feed the Black population of the area, who were forced to give over most of their own caches of hidden supplies by unscrupulous Yankee Quartermasters.

From: General Nathan Bedford Forrest CSA (GOC Bedford’s Raiders)

The Army of the Ohio will disengage its forces from Atlanta, with the result that General Joe Johnston will find a gap in the encircling Union forces. This will happen because:
  1. General John Schofield was severely wounded during the running skirmishes with Forrest’s Cavalry and Bedford’s Raiders last month.
  2. The loss of their Commander has produced a state of melancholia and inertia in the Army of the Ohio.
  3. The famous, brave boys of the South are in the rear of the Army of the Ohio and threaten the railroad link and supply lines to the Army of the Ohio.

From: General George Thomas USA (US Army of the Cumberland)

During the month of October, the morale of the general population in the city of Atlanta will plunge into the very depths of despair, resulting in the effectiveness of any Rebel forces in the city being reduced. The reason’s that this shall happen are:
  1. The transparent failure of the Rebel cavalry to disrupt the Union advance on the city, despite the desperate promises of General Joseph E Johnston.
  2. News of the support provided to the Union forces by local Blacks invokes mistrust and suspicion of the local slaves on whom the administration of the city depends.
  3. Uncle Bill’s refusal to allow civilians to depart the city for the past two months has reduced the supplies and standard of living for the civilian population below bearable levels.

Campaign Events
The siege of Atlanta continued during October, despite a major and complicated redeployment of the Union Armies around the City and an increase in number and ferocity of the attacks made upon the entrenchments thrown up by the Confederate forces commanded by General Johnston. The Union Army of the Cumberland were, in fact, able to break through the Confederate front-line trenches in several places, but spirited - though costly - counter-attacks prevented these breaches from being exploited.

One of the reasons why the Union assaults lacked success was, in part, due to the lack of ‘fire’ the Army of the Ohio exhibited during their attacks in support of the Army of the Cumberland. This may well have been due to the rumours within that Army’s ranks that General Schofield’s injuries, suffered during the skirmishes with Confederate cavalry in September, were more serious than at first thought.

News of unrest amongst the civil population in Atlanta filtered out to the besiegers, but this disquiet did not manifested itself in any form of action, save requests to President Davis to do something to aid the plight of those contained within the City. The President’s response was to order General Hood to Atlanta to take over command of the Confederate forces there. Unfortunately, the copy of this order that was sent to General Johnston was captured by a Union cavalry patrol, who brought it to Sherman’s Headquarters.
To: General Joseph E Johnston, Atlanta

General Johnston,

I have today ordered General Hood to Atlanta to take over command of the Army of Tennessee. You will, on his arrival, hand over command of your Army, and give him all assistance in ensuring that the siege of the City of Atlanta is raised forthwith. Upon the success of this operation, you will report to me in Richmond so that I may reassign you at my convenience.

I regret that I have had to take this action, but your inactivity in the face of the three Union armies that stain the soil of the Confederacy by their presence has forced my hand. I can always dispose of civilian complaints about you, if I can show that you are fighting, but since Vicksburg sieges are seen as a sure admission of defeat.

Further, your lack of communication with the Capital has made you many enemies here. Many do not understand why you are not fighting the Yankees in the open, and liken you to a timid rabbit, hiding in a burrow waiting to be dug out. Without dispatches, these views cannot be refuted.

I remain, Sir, your servant,

Jefferson Davis
Sherman’s glee at Johnston’s discomfort was, however, short-lived when he discovered that his own letter to General Grant had been captured by Forrest and Morgan - along with several supply trains - and had been copied, printed, and distributed throughout the South. Furthermore, the disruption of his supply lines seemed likely to force him to make an all-out assault upon Atlanta, a situation he had so far sought to avoid.
To: Lieutenant General U. S. Grant, Virginia

Dear Sam,

As you see, I am still outside Atlanta which pleases me not at all. Sieges do not suite my temper and I fret. However, everything else is working so well I should count my blessings. Joe Johnston is shut up in Atlanta short of everything except complaints from all and sundry. The local citizenry are irked about the ‘damage and inconvenience’ to their affairs, his so-called President is sending him nothing but advice - and plenty of that - and some of his officers are demanding that the Army be led out to attack us!

I trust you are receiving your due share of the Southern delicacies I have been sending back to supply the farmers to the North. Here the harvest has been got in by our ‘contrabands’ and the barns are full so I have used the empty wagons on the returning trains to ship out our surplus. We would have to bun it otherwise.

The country hereabouts has emptied over the past months - my cavalry patrols say they can ride for days now without seeing a white person. Some did not even wait to remove their livestock! Our black neighbours give us news of Forrest and Morgan’s movements so that when they tried a surprise us, we surprised them!

Atlanta has held out longer now than Vicksburg but it can’t last. I hope the Thanksgiving present I sent you will have a capital ‘A’ on it.

Yours in anticipation,

Bill Sherman
As to the ‘Southern delicacies’ that Sherman referred to, these were used by Forrest’s Raiders and Morgan’s Cavalry to replenish their own supplies, and their presence in the Kenesaw Mountains appeared to threaten the Union Armies’ lines-of-communication with the North.

Please click on the map to make it larger.

Troop Strengths

  1. As from the beginning of July, The Army of the Cumberland will have a +1 increase in its Combat Effectiveness when it is in Nashville.
  2. Any unit whose Basic Combat Effectiveness falls to -3 has a 50% chance of surrendering to the enemy at the beginning of the next month.
  3. Any unit whose Basic Combat Effectiveness falls below -3 is destroyed

  1. Any unit whose Basic Combat Effectiveness falls to -3 has a 50% chance of surrendering to the enemy at the beginning of the next month.
  2. Any unit whose Basic Combat Effectiveness falls below -3 is destroyed.
Please click on the charts to make them larger.


  1. I've never been able quite to make up my mind about Hood. He was a professional soldier, and it has to be admitted, that after the fall of Atlanta, he actually forced the bulk of Sherman's army back 100 miles by placing the Army of Tennessee upon the flank of the Union LOC. He learned that trick from Bobby Lee. It was only then that Sherman realised he could simply cut his ties to the railroad and march to the sea. Given an enemy capable of 'living on air' so to speak, there is no strategy that will defeat it.

    Hood's failings seem to have been in execution rather than conception. But he never had the numbers, anyway, to carry the fight to his opponent the way he did.

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    As you say, Hood was a more than competent general, but did not always have the manpower available to achieve decisive results.

    All the best,