026C - Battle of Chancellorsville
Why Should You Play This Scenario?
Robert E. Lee's masterpiece and Stonewall Jackson's final battle. The Battle of Chancellorsville is one of history's most improbable upsets as Lee's army defeated the much larger Federal army in stunning fashion. Based on that, you probably want to relive that glory, right?
Sure. But you won't be able to do it in this scenario. The Federal player is not Hooker and he knows exactly what the situation is.
Against a quality Federal player, this scenario might be unwinnable. But Lee was counted out in 1863 also. Can you match General Lee and lead the Army of Northern Virginia to victory?
This is a tough battle with a hard setup for the Confederates. Let's step back and look at it more and see if we can identify any strengths we can use to defeat Hooker.
This is a scary large Union army when compared to our own at Chancellorsville. They have twice as many regiments and brigades than we do. They have more C or better rated troops than we do in our whole army.
The Federals have a ton of infantry here. While the Rebels have a large advantage in quality, does it make up for the 36,897 extra men the Federals have? This is debatable. In my book though, give me the extra 36,897 men and I will find a way to overcome the quality deficit. Therefore, I have to give the edge to the Yankees.
With nearly 100+ artillery pieces, and over 4,000+ artillery rounds, the Federal artillery is very scary in this scenario. Neither side has very many batteries but each will pack a giant punch if stumbled across in the thick woods around Chancellorsville.
With only a limited number of supply wagons, and a three-day battle to fight, you desperately need to watch your ammunition supply and guard your wagons. The Federals have the same problem.
The Army of the Potomac gets the advantage here. How could I say that? Read below.
The Federal high command at Chancellorsville is not bad at all. They present a solid army with quality leaders in high places. This alone though would not be enough to get them the edge in this category if it weren't for the absence of Longstreet. His absence creates a hole in the Rebel command which removes a "rung of the command ladder" and causes a one-grade reduction in possible quality for McLaws and Anderson (and then their subordinates). The technical explanation is long but, suffice to say, missing any corps commander in a battle is a bad thing.
When you combine the surprisingly effective Federal command staff, and the absence of Longstreet, I think the Federals have a slight advantage here. At worse, it is equal.
The Battle of Chancellorsville begins with the Federal army in position around the small crossroads of Chancellorsville and the Confederate army in line to their east (coming from Fredericksburg).
The two armies build up during the afternoon of May 1st though the Federals always maintain a large advantage in numbers from start to finish.
The Confederate reinforcements largely arrive along the road from Fredericksburg. But the Federals arrive from two different roads from the east. Two divisions of Meade's Fifth Corps arrive during the evening of May 1 in a position nearly behind the Confederate right flank. Reynolds's First Corps arrives early on May 3rd from a position north of the Rappahannock River.
Neither side has a very good setup here. Both start with their forces largely deployed in line and with some new forces available behind the front. But the fact that the Federals have two good divisions arriving practically behind your army gives them a massive advantage. You have to worry about those Federals and prepare for them from the very start.
Chancellorsville is not worth playing if you have any expectation of recreating the historical battle. The Federals know our numbers, they know our locations, and they know they can wear us down the longer the game lasts. A good Federal player will not waste manpower with early assaults but will let you come to them or let you risk the ever-growing Union army swallowing you whole as they expand around your flanks.
One good thing, there are no roads around your flanks. At least you have that. The Federals will have to monotonously move through forests to reach your flanks. But with 133 turns, they have plenty of time to do just that.
My advice is to try and defeat them on day one if at all possible. If you can attack and break their spirits by capturing or inflicting grievous losses on them, maybe they will surrender early before they fully concentrate. Failing this, by day two, the Federal army should be solid enough to resist any attacks and begin to maneuver against you. Once this process begins you will have a long second and third day ahead of you.
1) Don't get caught in the open fields.
This might seem obvious, but because most of the Rebel army begins the battle in open fields, I thought I would mention it. Never fight in open fields if you can help it and especially never fight in an open field when the Federals are utilizing the cover of the forests. If you are defending, make them cross the open fields and try to utilize all the modifiers (forests, high elevation, breastworks) that you can.
2) Don't underestimate Hooker's army.
The Army of the Potomac in this battle is solidly led and contains some solid troops. They are also backed by some very scary artillery with enough ammunition to fire non-stop from beginning to end. Defeating their army will be no simple thing. We always remember the ease with which Jackson broke Howard's line on May 1. But we forget the bloody following days where Lee's men were nearly outfought before Hooker lost his nerve and retreated.
3) Don't expect them to be timid.
They know your numbers here. Unless your opponent is super conservative then you should expect them to be aggressive in attempting to derail your plans and force you back into a corner.
I must admit that I am not a fan of this battle setup at all. Replaying a historical battle which relied on audacity and surprise against an opponent who knows your plans and army size is just not much fun. As a result the battle is nothing like the historical one. If you go into it like it's just any old battle, and not Chancellorsville, you might actually perform better here.