Thursday, December 29, 2011

DANG 2011 - Up The River

DANG (Dave's Annual Naval Game) for 2011 was an American Civil War river mini-campaign titled Up the River. The game is based on David Manley’s Red River Blues solo campaign system for his Iron and Fire rules, with a few of my own modifications. The basic premise of the game is that Union has heard a rumor that the Confederates are building and ironclad on a nearby tributary of the Mississippi River. The Union players must organize a force to move up river and destroy the ironclad. The Confederate players will have to organize their defenses as best they can with the spread-out forces that are on hand. We decided to use the new Steam and Sail Navies rules from Bay Area Yards to resolve the battles.
A view of the battle to come.
I pre-generated the river course and terrain, including locations for Confederate batteries, and created a map for the players.
The Carnot River, the site for this year's game
Everyone began arriving at my place just after 9:00 AM and we spent the next hour saying hi, catching up on things, talking about the projects we are all working on and planning, along with various movie and book reviews (which also continued throughout the day).

We split up sides for the game and reviewed of all the rules. Scott, Dale, Kevin, David S and George chose to be the Union Mississippi River Squadron, while Mark, Arthur, and Dave C. played the Confederate River Defense Squadron. Each side then took some time to review the situation and select the ships in their squadron. I had provided each side with a list of ships and points available to buy the ships.

The Union selected the casemate ironclads Tuscumbia and Essex, supported by the timberclad Tyler, Ellet ram Monarch, and tinclad gunboats Naumkeag and Rattler. The Union also had a pair of side-wheel transports and three barges carrying supplies and troops.

The Confederates selected the casemate ironclad Missouri for their ironclad, which would be supported by the side-wheel rams General Beauregard and General Bragg, along with the spar torpedo boats Hornet, Scorpion, and Squib. The Confederates also has an unarmed tug and a number of two or three-gun shore batteries.

With everything organized, we started the game with the Union Squadron moving from the Mississippi into the Carnot River.
The operational map at the start of the game.
Commodore Smyth moves the Union Squadron.
The first encounter was at Sullivan's Ferry, where a Confederate battery of three 32 pounders waited to engage the Union ships. Since there were no Rebel ships in the area the Union engaged the battery while landing troops to chase off the Rebel gunners and destroy the guns. This would be the standard tactic for how the Union squadron dealt with shore batteries for the whole expedition. The rest of the day was uneventful and when night fell the squadron anchored for the night. During the night, the Confederates decided to launch a cavalry raid on the Union ships, hoping to damage or delay the Union force. Unfortunately, the cavalry weren't informed that the Union had brought troops with the ships; the raid was decimated and several members were captured. The captured cavalrymen provided information about the shore batteries along the river, which would allow the Union squadron to make plans to deal the shore guns.

The next day the Union squadron continued up the river to the town of Hannahville. The Union commander decided to search the town and confiscate Confederate stores under the naval "Prize Laws." But the locals had hidden most of the stores before the squadron arrived. The search delayed the Union squadron's movement and the commander decided to anchor at the town for the night.

Meanwhile, the Confederate River Defense Squadron was not idle. The engineers working on the ironclad Missouri informed the Confederate commander that the ship should be ready to get underway in 3 days, assuming there were no setbacks. The other ships in the squadron moved to positions to delay the Union advance. The three spar torpedo boats joined together into one unit and moved to launch a night attack on the Union Squadron at Hannahville, leading to our first real battle of the game.

The Union forces were anchored in the river, with the two tinclads up the river, the transports near the Hannahville dock, and the remainder of the squadron slightly down river. All the ships had steam available, but couldn't start moving until a warning went out.
Union ships waiting for the Rebs.
Union transports at Hannahville.
Essex, Tyler, and Tuscumbia at anchor.
Overall Union setup.
As the three Rebel torpedo boats moved into visual range, the tinclads launched warning rockets, cut their anchor lines, and started their engines. Two of the torpedo boats (Hornet and Squib) headed for the tinclads, while the third (Scorpion) made its way toward the other Union ships.
Everyone ready for the battle.
Dave C. getting Squib into action.
Arthur moves Scorpion past the tinclads.
The tinclads maneuvered as best they could against the current, but each was attacked by a torpedo boat. Luckily for the Union side, these first two attacks were duds. But unfortunately, each torpedo boat had two spar torpedoes and the Union luck wouldn't hold for long.
George maneuvers his tinclads.
The Union players discuss tactics, or maybe movies.
Scorpion bypassed the transports and continued to hunt for the Union ironclads. However the first ship it found was the timberclad Tyler. Tyler fired a broadside at the little boat, but couldn't do enough damage to stop it. Scorpion lowered its torpedo and ran up to Tyler, triggered the spar torpedo, and blew up the timberclad's port paddlewheel. The explosion also blew a hole in Scorpion's hull and she began to sink.
Scorpion approaches Tyler.
Tyler loses a paddlewheel.

Scorpion's ship card, as it sinks.
The other torpedo boats continued to chase the tinclads, while the tinclads fired at them. The tinclads were hitting the torpedo boats, but not doing enough damage to stop them. Squib was finally able to get close enough to the tinclad Naumkeag and trigger its second torpedo. The explosion was enough to sink Naumkeag, while Squib escaped without any more damage.

Squib attacks Naumkeag.
At this point the Confederates, with only one torpedo remaining, decided to withdraw from the area. With one ship sunk and another heavily damaged, the Union side decide to torch Hannahville to teach any Rebel sympathizers a lesson.
Union transports with the burning Hannahville.
The Confederates discuss strategy after the battle.
The next day the Union continued up the river, defeating the guns of Battery Mickel, just before the bend in the river, and then on to Dave's Mill. The locals at Dave's Mill were a little more cooperative than those at Hannahville, allowing the Union forces to confiscate any stores in exchange for not destroying the town.

On day four, Union forces ran into and defeated another set of shore guns at Smyth's Ferry. Additionally, they captured the ferry boat pressing it into service to help tow the damaged Tyler.
Essex and Tyler capture Smyth's Ferry.
At the same time, the Union got word that the Confederate ironclad was on the move. Knowing that there were two more Confederate shore batteries (one at Kettler's Crossing and the Battery Murphy just north of Kettler's Crossing), the Union Squadron moved forward to make sure they destroyed those batteries before the ironclad could reach them and use the additional guns to beat off any Union attack.
Confederate ironclad on the move.
The Union plan seemed to be going well as they captured and destroyed the guns at Kettler's crossing without too much trouble, but Battery Murphy put up a little more of a fight. Before succumbing to the Union attack, one of the battery's 10 inch Colombiads caused a critical hit on Essex, knocking out her engines. The damaged Essex drifted down river and the rest of the Union Squadron chased after her and attached tow lines to keep her from running aground. Realizing that they probably wouldn't be able to take on the Confederate ironclad without Essex, the Union Squadron decided to move down river and find a spot where they could hopefully repair Essex's engines.

On the Confederate side things were not much better. While the ironclad Missouri was on the move, it was plagued with engine troubles. Just as the ship would get up to speed and head down river, something would happen and the engines would need to be shut down. Luckily, the tug Mosher was with Missouri all the way to prevent her from running aground. But knowing the troubles the Union was having, the Confederates decided to keep towing Missouri down the river, hoping to fix her engine problems before a battle could occur.

During the night the Confederates launched another cavalry raid, hoping to catch the Union ships off-guard. But after a hard fought battle, the cavalry was driven off. Essex's engineer was able to get the engine operating again and the Union Squadron was ready to meet the Confederates.

The next day the Union Squadron set off again to find the ironclad, while the Confederates decided to push back up river to delay the battle. But the ironclad Missouri's engines continued to cause problems for Confederate planning. As night was falling, the Union squadron hunkered down for the night and the Confederates considered their options.
The Confederates consider their options.
The Confederates decided that since the previous night battle had worked out pretty well, they should do another one, this time with all their remaining ships. Not wanting to leave any ship out of the action, the Confederates decided to tow Missouri, which could only make 1 knot on her engines, into battle. It was a risky idea, but they thought it was worth the try.
Confederate River Defense Squadron prepares for action.
The Confederate Squadron consisted of the rams General Bragg and General Beauregard, the spar torpedo boat Hornet, and the ironclad Missouri (towed by the tug Mosher).
Side-wheel ram General Bragg
Side-wheel ram General Beauregard
Spar torpedo boat Hornet
Ironclad Missouri under tow
The Union Squadron was at anchor, consisting of the Ellet ram Monarch, the ironclads Essex and Tuscumbia, and the damaged timberclad Tyler, with the tinclad Rattler acting as picket.The transports had been left behind.
Tinclad Rattler
Ellet ram Monarch
Ironclad Essex
Ironclad Tuscumbia
Timberclad Tyler
Both sides set up for the final battle.
Initial setup for the battle from the Union side.
The setup from the Confederate view.
As the Rebel ships came into view, Rattler fired off a warning rocket and started reversed engines to get away from the oncoming Rebels. The Rebel rams and torpedo boat sped up to close with the Union ships, while the towed Missouri lagged behind.
Here come the Rebels!
Cannon fire was exchanged as both sides tried to figure out their best course of action.
The two sides close in.
General Beauregard was able to catch and ram Rattler, sinking the tinclad. After pulling away from the sinking Rattler, General Beauregard looked to be in a position to try and ram Tuscumbia, but couldn't get up enough speed or turn tight enough to catch the ironclad.
General Beauregard rams Rattler.
Beauregard pulls back from Rattler.
The battle raged around the Union center as Essex moved up to support Tuscumbia.
Tuscumbia appears at the center of the action.
Hornet tried to move into position to use her last spar torpedo, but was turned into matchsticks when Essex ran her over.
Essex shows the other Union ships how to deal with a torpedo boat.
General Bragg moved through the Union Squadron, turned back up river and was exchanging fire with Tyler, when it rammed into and sank Smyth's Ferry.
General Bragg rams the ferry.
Missouri was bringing up the rear and attracting the attention of several Union ships.
Monarch and Tuscumbia approach Missouri.
Unable to maneuver effectively while under tow, Missouri found herself the target of the Ellet ram Monarch and broadside to Tuscumbia. Monarch was at full speed when she plowed into Missouri, doing enough damage to start the Rebel ironclad sinking.
Monarch rams Missouri.
Unfortunately, Monarch found that she was stuck hard in the ironclad's side and was having trouble getting free. Just as the water was starting to flood over her deck, something popped and Monarch was freed.

Being out numbered, out gunned, and with their ironclad sunk, General Bragg and General Beauregard decided to withdraw from battle.
Final positions as the battle ends.
With their mission completed, the Union Squadron decided to return to the Mississippi River and we added up the Victory Points. Even with some setbacks (losing the two tinclads and having Tyler damaged early on), the Union force completed its mission in workman-like fashion (nothing flashy, just a solid effort). The Confederates had some bright spots (like the attack by the spar torpedo boats), but in the end it wasn't enough to overcome their losses (two torpedo boats, all the river shore batteries, and the ironclad) and prevent a Union victory.

The final result from the campaign rules stated "A Stirring Union Victory - gets a good write up in ACW history books, the campaign warrants a larger book and is regularly refought by ACW wargamers of the future."

Overall it was a fun game and a good day of battle. Thanks to everyone that participated.
DANG 2011 participants: (L to R) Arthur, Kevin, Dave C. George, Mark, Scott, David S., Dale, and me.


  1. Now that's an after-action report! With pictures, lots of pictures! Great job Dave, another superb DANG. Thanks to you and Lynn for hosting a super event.

  2. Nice pictures and after action report.