Brother against Brother – First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) AAR

By Wargamer Staff 20 Apr 2015 0

The war has just started. Two inexperienced armies face each other, both planning to attack their enemy in what will be the first full scale engagement of the American Civil War. The resulting battle, called either The First Battle of Bull Run or The First Manassas depending on whether you are Union or Confederate, came as rather a shock to both sides. Instead of deciding the war in a single blow it presaged years of bloody conflict – in fact, although seen as bloody at the time this battle was soon exceeded in terms of casualty rates as the war progressed.

In this AAR using Matrix Games’ latest release, Brother against Brother: The Drawing of the Sword, we follow the Union side as they try and achieve what couldn’t be done in real life, the defeat of the Confederate army.

This is the first part of what should be a three part series. And so, to battle …



July 21, 1861 First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) and my take on a “what if” type attack, so I haven't stuck to history regarding moments of units, but have them in their historical starting positions at 10am.

I play as the Federal Army and the overall Commander-in-Chief. The aim of the AAR is not to show off how I play, but to see if I can alter the outcome of the battle, with the same units involved at the start, while the AI has to counter my different moves.

The settings used in this refight are shown below:



As you can already see on the side map in blue for the Federal army and red for the Confederate army, the general routes or starting positions of both sides and their main advances and defending positions. While I may differ to some degree, the general attacks will be in almost the same places. The stars are the Main VP or victory points / places where both sides will try and hold / defend or capture by the end of the day.

For this game I used the BAB_V1.0RC_b version.


I start first with my movement phase and I plan on a quick thrust towards Henry's Hill while units elsewhere move to attack the fords - or at least get into a position to attack later in the day, as not all can be reached in a few moves so I will have to move them over a number of turns.

As the small map above shows, the battle is in 3 sections / parts. The attack / quick approach on Henry’s Hill and the heights and strong defensive ground around there, controlling the middle section of the whole map and area.

2nd the attack on the stone bridge and then push to the fords.

And 3rd, but by no means last, the attack on the Confederate units defending Blackburn's Ford which will open up easier access to other fords and split the defenders and stop them reinforcing Henry's Hill or other fords in the area. So that's the plan.

It's now 10am and a few hours after the sun has risen, I make my moves and start the Battle of Manassas.


I start off moving my units in front of Blackburn's Ford with the aim of first getting them into better ground and positions to over look the ford, and once all in place change Brigade orders to hold while I wait for the rest of my units to get into place to do a combined attack or assault on the ford, while the defenders try and block me or reinforce the area. As you can see, at the moment I can't see what or how many units are at the ford as yet, as the FOW for of war is covering it all.



Next are my units around the stone bridge. While some of these are not yet able to move, whatever units that are able to I move to the front, meaning them to attack as soon as the rest become unlocked from off guard, which is at 11am.



Now we come to my main force, which are quite away from where I need them to be. So I order a quick march of them for a few turns to get them in place around Henry's Hill, or at least that's the plan …



The side map shows my directions of travel and the area's where I see the CSA defenders, so move from my camps towards them to engage.

Once all moves have been made I end my turn and then sit back while the AI makes the CSA moves, and here is the end of turn report for 10am.



Little contact was made by either side as both are still moving units into position.


Turn 2 - at 10.20am most of my forces are still moving to the front lines to gain better positions



I get attacked at Buck Hill on the way to Henry's Hill and will have to deal with these units before moving on. I only see 2 units but there could be more, so while the rest are on the way I change out of Brigade March orders and into Advance Brigade orders to meet the units I see in front of me, while I keep moving other units around to keep the pressure and advance on Henry's Hill going.


Turn 2, at 10.20am - end of turn report. A 2nd brigade commander from the 5th Division of the army of the North Eastern Virginia has been killed in a skirmish.



Turn 2, at 10.20am - end of turn report.



Only light skirmishes happen and I meet little resistance or spot many CSA forces along my routes of travel. 


Turn 3, at 10.40am - while I continue to move along my main access routes of my plan, I send scouts to look for the enemy.



With most of the fighting is currently around Blackburn's Ford, it's quite elsewhere as I’m still moving units into place so I focus on the ford to show units in position almost ready for the off. Won't be long now as I’m almost in place and in the right stance to assault the ford.


Turn 3, at 10.40am - end of turn report.



My units around Buck Hill make steady progress and bypass the defenders there who just probe my forward units which I parry.


Turn 4, at 11am - while I make steady progress at Lewis and Ball's Ford, I start to meet heavy resistance elsewhere all along my main routes of advance as the CSA / AI tries, and succeeds, in slowing me down.



Turn 4, at 11am - end of turn report. While I make good progress to start off with, I am now being held almost everywhere, but the cost to the CSA defender is high.



Turn 5, at 11.20am. The CSA still hold me up and slow my advance down, they can't keep taking this number of losses for long, so either the morale or looses will in the end make them fall back, as my numbers start to tell. I move more units around to the flanks and bypass the defenders.



Turn 5, at 11.20am - end of turn report.



We are both at the same point at the ford. One side or the other is going to have to give ground soon or the cost will be to high in men and supplies, so who wants it the most? As I have reinforcements on the way, I hold on and hope the CSA breaks first.


Turn 6, at 11.40am. Now I’m ready on all area's to change from advance and hold Brigade orders to assault, and I move the attacks to assaults on all 3 fronts.




Turn 6, at 11.40am - end of turn report. 2 of my units rout from the line at Blackburn's Ford.



Turn 7, at 12pm. Now that I’m all in line, with skirmishes out and now in Assault Brigade orders, I start to push the CSA defenders back on most of the front and hold my own everywhere else.



Turn 7, at 12pm -  end of turn report. The CSA crosses my T and breaks my attack with one of its own. I now change my unit here back into Brigade Hold orders and rush in support from the flanks to plug the holes.



Turn 8, at 12.20pm. As a unit surrenders rather than carry on and get wiped out, it seems the plan to assault on all fronts takes it first toll.




Turn 8, at 12.20pm. I push back a CSA defender, one of the best bit's of news I get today. Now I try and fill in the gaps made by their push up the road.



Turn 8, at 12.20pm. The stone bridge falls, and is my second bit of good news for the day. Now I need these troops to mop up the defenders quickly and join the rest of my troops on Henry's Hill, when they finally get up there that is.



Turn 8, at 12.20pm - end of turn report. Finally, with the CSA defenders back where they started off on their side of the ford, I change my units back into attack orders again and move to try and assault the ford at Blackburn's Ford.



Turn 9, at 12.40pm. One of my unit commanders gets killed attacking across a ford.



Turn 9, at 12.40pm. All doesn't go well at the ford as it seems CSA wants it as bad as I do - so the fight for it goes on, with the loss of one of my unit commanders and 4 units routing. I again put the troops into hold orders by brigade and try and rally my men, for now this ford will have to wait while I concentrate on the battles elsewhere. This will need more troops to crack it, which will hopefully be freed soon enough from other fronts.



Turn 9, at 12.40pm - end of turn report. While my assault and attack on Blackburn's Ford stalls, everywhere else the battle goes well.



Not only taking and crossing the stone bridge, but also getting past Buck Hill and across the stream in front of the stone house, where I will wait for a turn or two and rally the men, before carrying on the attack and trying to link up with the troops across from Lewis and Ball's Fords, before moving down to Blackburn's ford and the VL down there ...

Again that's the master plan, not saying it will happen, as all plans never go fully your way.



Log in to join the discussion.

Related Posts from Wargamer