Wednesday 30 October 2013

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

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

My force will ambush the Union Army of the Ohio in Atlanta with the result that the Yankee advance will disintegrate We will be succeed because:
  1. The enemy will be on the move so will be unable to deploy to fight effectively.
  2. We will have the element of total surprise.
  3. We will be fighting to protect our kith and kin, and motivated to aid our brave brothers-in-arms defending our beloved Atlanta.

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 of any Yankee assault and will be made possible by:
  1. The high levels of motivation amongst the ranks of the Army of Tennessee.
  2. The support of the population who are anxious that the city should not fall into the hands of the Federalist aggressors.
  3. The Yankee advance will be disrupted by Confederate cavalry attacks.

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

The Army of the Tennessee will continue to follow the plan of campaign it commenced in March 1864. It will increase the pressure on the forces of General Johnston surrounded in Atlanta with a series of probing diversionary attacks that will oblige the General to array the bulk of his forces against us. This will divert his attention away from the main attack by the Army of the Cumberland from the western side of the city. Furthermore, attacks by the Army of the Ohio - in concert with this plan - will add to the demands on the defenders forces and obscure the real threat. This will occur because:
  1. The Army of the Tennessee is confident in its ability and in the ability of its leaders.
  2. The Army is strongly posted astride the supply lines of the Rebels, and is in possession of ample supplies of its own.
  3. The countryside constantly brings news of the approach of the other Union Armies.

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

The Army of the Ohio will march from the Kenesaw Mountains to the city of Atlanta. We will leave the railroad to our right and extend our left to connect with the right flank of the Union Army of the Tennessee. At Atlanta, my forces will probe the enemy’s positions. This will divert the Rebels from the operations of the Union Armies of the Cumberland and the Tennessee, thus resulting in a decisive Union victory. My army will be able to accomplish this for the following reasons:
  1. The Army of the Ohio is rested and has a secure line of supply.
  2. The Rebels are bottled up in Atlanta without cavalry. My cavalry will co-operate with those of Major General Thomas’s army to screen its march, so that the enemy will be surprised when the Army of the Cumberland assails them.
  3. My army has high morale after it defeated the Rebel raiders, and forced their hasty retreat to Macon to lick their wounds.

From: General John Hunt Morgan CSA (GOC Morgan’s Cavalry)
Morgan’s Cavalry will move to Atlanta in conjunction with Bedford’s Raiders, and set an ambush for the Yankee Army of the Ohio as it moves to reinforce the siege of Atlanta. We will be successful because:
  1. We are completely rested and superbly motivated, having never suffered a defeat at the hands of the Blue-belly City Boys.
  2. The Yankees will be very vulnerable moving in our own home terrain, and will be unable to react quickly enough to defend themselves against the onrushing Legions of Avenging Southern Warriors.
  3. The Yankee Army of the Ohio has so far failed to accomplish anything in this campaign apart from resting. Therefore, lacking confidence in their martial ability, there will be mass desertions when faced with another savage mauling from the Feared Southern Horsemen.

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

I shall, during the month of September, advance along the railroad to take up positions outside Atlanta and ferment the local Blacks to provide information concerning the plans and movements of Bedford’s raiders, with the result that any actions that they take against the Union Forces in Georgia are made less effective. This reasons that I shall be able to do this are:
  1. The local Blacks in rural Georgia make up a large proportion of the population, so nothing shall escape them.
  2. The Blacks are inspired to help us because the Rebel yellow-bellied cowards ran away before the implacable advance of my forces.
  3. The General Forrest’s desperate attempt to restore their lagging morale by indulging in a little ‘cross-burning’ has served only to inspired the Blacks to turn against them.

Campaign Events
After a month of preparation, both sides embarked upon what they hoped would be the final battle of the campaign. Whilst Johnston’s troops hurriedly but effectively strengthened Atlanta’s defences, Generals Forrest and Morgan tried to defeat the advancing Union Armies. Unfortunately for the Confederate cavalry, the Union Armies of the Ohio and the Cumberland had switched their axes of advance, and were made aware of the presence of Bedford’s Raiders before the Rebels were able to attack. A brisk series of skirmishes between the Union and Confederate cavalry resulted, during which both sides suffered casualties. The advance of the Armies of the Ohio and the Cumberland was therefore delayed but not stopped, but valuable time was gained for the defenders of Atlanta.

Whilst these minor battles were being fought to the north of Atlanta, Sherman’s forces made several minor attacks upon Atlanta’s defensive perimeter. They were, however, to little avail as the Army of the Cumberland was not in position early enough to exploit the weakening in numbers of the defenders facing its section of the siege lines. September therefore ended without the expected mighty clash between the Armies having taken place, but with the Union ever tightening its grip upon Atlanta.

As usual, General Sherman wrote to General Grant about events in the South.
To: Lieutenant General U. S. Grant, Virginia

Dear Sam,

Things are coming to the boil nicely here in the South. George has joined John in the Kenesaw Mountains and trains are running all the way back to Nashville.

Johnston’s holed up in Atlanta with no chance of relief - even those jayhawkers Forrest and Morgan have scuttled off into the backwoods to the southwest. Our friends in the countryside tell us that they are played out, and have nothing but sick horses and miserable, tired men.

Deserters are coming in daily with a similar tale. It seems that many of the locals are blaming Johnston and saying that he will not fight us. You remember him as I do, and I do not under-estimate him. However, if the Devil himself had offered me the present position back in March when I set out, I dare say I would have taken up the offer and be damned!

Yours in high spirits,

Bill Sherman

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.

Please click on the charts to make them larger.


  1. I can't help but feel that the Confederate raiders should be off in Nashville and Chattanooga, tearing up the rail lines.

  2. Simon Miller,

    I must admit that they do seem to have made a tactial error in not causing more disruption to the Union supply network than they have done so far ... but they probably consider the threat to Atlanta requires their efforts to be directed elsewhere at the moment.

    All the best,


  3. Sometimes one has got to hit them Yankees where they aint!

  4. Simon Miller,

    If only that were possible!

    All the best,


  5. I form the impression that the Cavalry corps of Forrest and Morgan are just too weak to make much impression upon the Union armies. Forrest, Morgan - and Wheeler too - were very capable cavalry commanders (tho' Forrest and Wheeler didn't get on apparently), yet historically they were capable of little more than pin-pricking raids against Union supply lines and depots.

    From that point of view, then, the campaign has followed history - in broad terms - very closely. Given that Joe Johnston had two opportunities to strike at a portion of the Union armies stymied by Hood's ... errors of judgement ... his continual retreat to Atlanta - barring the pause at Kenesaw mountain - is understandable.

    Speaking of 'fog of war', I am reminded of a couple of 'Battles and Leaders' articles relating events leading to Chickamauga. Bragg complained about the Union movements being masked by mountains - a concealment more solid even than fog. Brig E. M. Law pointed out that those same mountains ought to have been able to mask Bragg's manoeuvrings from the Union!

  6. Archduke Piccolo,

    The Confederate cavalry gave a degree if striking power ... but it is more if a nuisance than a decisive force.

    It was interesting to compare the real final outcome of the campaign with the one that the Matrix Game produced,

    All the best,



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