Jump to content
Game-Labs Forum
mrm5117

Union Strategy at Cold Harbor

Recommended Posts

I’m playing a Union campaign and haven’t been able to make it through the wilderness campaign through Cold Harbor with my appointment as army commander. I had lots of trouble with the Chickamauga campaign and the Cold Harbor campaign, side battles included which I usually had no problem winning. I’ve been replaying and eeking out draws, but now I head into Cold Harbor with 33 reputation and no choice but to win. So what is the optimal strategy for the Union to achieve its victory conditions at the Batrle of Cold Harbor? I am uneasy assaulting fortifications so now with most battles featuring that I tend to stay defensive. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Assaulting fortifications is a tricky thing in some cases.  The best way to crack them is to use a tactic made famous by Emory Upton at Spotsylvnia C.H. and used in game it works also.

Take 3-4 brigades.  Order the first two or three not to fire.  Double quick them right up to the enemy lines and charge.  The first brigade or two will be repulsed, but the 3rd usually breaks their line.  The 4th allows a follow up to start peeling back the entrenchments.  Once you've broken through in one point, exploit the flanking abilities and you can peel back entrenched enemy forces fairly easily. (Works well at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania also)

As for myself at Cold Harbor I focus on the extreme flanks and then peel to the middle.  If you hit the far right of the Confederate line in that form you can peel back the enemy there and usually keep rolling with flanking fire.  I also like to slash the far left of the rebel line with a smaller force after I've hit the right flank.  The computer usually starts pulling troops away (In response to the threat at the other flank), thus making my job easier.  I'm not sure its the best strategy for Cold Harbor, but it seems to work for me.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can vouch for that, just finished Union campaign and was getting sick with all those trenches and forts. Throwing mass amount of men usually routs the enemy where you can flank the other trenches. Often you suffer heavy casualties, but that is the cost of war.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hence why I’m every corps I build I have an “assault” Division. The brigades get the traits that help them in endurance and melee. Then in the setting up the battlefield I deploy them in locations I decide to make the smashing assault. Keeps the casualties down to only a couple brigades instead of across the board. Also, make sure you have artillery with good accuracy, helps ensure hits against entrenchments. Get them up where they can do damage before you launch your assault.

Be like George Thomas or James Longstreet, get the assault all set and then move forward in an unstoppable assault.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Buford Protege said:

Assaulting fortifications is a tricky thing in some cases.  The best way to crack them is to use a tactic made famous by Emory Upton at Spotsylvnia C.H. and used in game it works also.

Take 3-4 brigades.  Order the first two or three not to fire.  Double quick them right up to the enemy lines and charge.  The first brigade or two will be repulsed, but the 3rd usually breaks their line.  The 4th allows a follow up to start peeling back the entrenchments.  Once you've broken through in one point, exploit the flanking abilities and you can peel back entrenched enemy forces fairly easily. (Works well at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania also)

As for myself at Cold Harbor I focus on the extreme flanks and then peel to the middle.  If you hit the far right of the Confederate line in that form you can peel back the enemy there and usually keep rolling with flanking fire.  I also like to slash the far left of the rebel line with a smaller force after I've hit the right flank.  The computer usually starts pulling troops away (In response to the threat at the other flank), thus making my job easier.  I'm not sure its the best strategy for Cold Harbor, but it seems to work for me.

A neat thing to do if you're sending in melee assaults to open a crack in fortifications is to detach skirmishers and have them walk up first ahead of the infantry. They'll eat the volleys on the way in and give your infantry a better shot. If you're still using melee cavalry, you can also have them mass in behind the skirmishers and contribute to your punch.

Most maps have at least one point, however, where you get at least okay cover and you can sort of shoot it out with the enemy with 3 brigades to one and push them off that way, if you don't bother keeping dedicated melee brigades.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/17/2017 at 6:54 AM, Mukremin said:

I can vouch for that, just finished Union campaign and was getting sick with all those trenches and forts. Throwing mass amount of men usually routs the enemy where you can flank the other trenches. Often you suffer heavy casualties, but that is the cost of war.

A lot of these battles also have casualty limits to win so sacrificing 3-4 brigades to a frontal assault rout seems like it wouldn’t work. I’ll give it a shot though. 

 

18 hours ago, Hitorishizuka said:

A neat thing to do if you're sending in melee assaults to open a crack in fortifications is to detach skirmishers and have them walk up first ahead of the infantry. They'll eat the volleys on the way in and give your infantry a better shot. If you're still using melee cavalry, you can also have them mass in behind the skirmishers and contribute to your punch.

Most maps have at least one point, however, where you get at least okay cover and you can sort of shoot it out with the enemy with 3 brigades to one and push them off that way, if you don't bother keeping dedicated melee brigades.

Did either side actually have dedicated assault brigades or divisions? I haven’t heard of that. I would hate to go too far from historical just to meet the campaign’a requirements. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I took the objective (as the Union) on the 1st day, 2nd phase, of the Battle of Cold Harbor and instantly won the entire battle. It felt a bit cheap because my right flank was crumbling and I was about to have my 4 brigades routed that had just barely taken the objective but the moment that objective was mine the battle was declared won, but I can't complain because I kept drawing this battle in the past and absolutely had to win it to keep command based on my reputation score.

I don't like that you have to know what objectives will win the battle on what phase of what day and can't just play through the campaign using your best tactical and strategic judgment, but still a great game overall. Maybe have an option where you can continue the campaign as a new army commander after you are relieved of command or have an option to remove the reputation system?

 

Some of the win/draw/loss objective scenarios are quite complicated toward the end of the battle, but viewing the victory conditions doesn't even explain it well. Maybe there should be more thorough explanations saying that you could hold one of these objectives and all of these to win, or just get this one objective on phase X of day Y.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/18/2017 at 10:47 AM, mrm5117 said:

A lot of these battles also have casualty limits to win so sacrificing 3-4 brigades to a frontal assault rout seems like it wouldn’t work. I’ll give it a shot though. 

 

Did either side actually have dedicated assault brigades or divisions? I haven’t heard of that. I would hate to go too far from historical just to meet the campaign’a requirements. 

It was much more common in European warfare to have dedicated assault units than the American school of thought at the time. Though Grant essentially used the II Coprs AOTP as his sledgehammer during the campaigns of 1865-65. The American School is thought was in tactical flexibility.  We wouldn’t see a return to specified assault units until The Great War (spoiler alert, skip ahead if you don’t want your mind blown by a different conflict). In The Great War we see a return to trying to crack entrenchments and so we see a return to grenades and specialized units. The Germans brought forth their Stosstruppen and the Italian Arditi among others. 

What you see later in th war, when dealing with entrenchments, was a change in tactics. Emory Upton pioneered a change tab Spotsylvania with two assaults.  First they tried a small scale test and then due to its succsss in cracking the Confederate entrenchments it was tried again in a large scale. In Upton’s plan the 1st wave would go in with rifles unloaded so the men wouldn’t be tempted to stop and fire, therefore getting pinned down. The second wave would go in with the same configuration. The 3rd would go in with rifles loaded, but without the percussion cap being affixed. The fourth wave would have the weapons loaded and capped and essentially be tasked with the following up and exploiting the breach. The tactics succeeded at Spotsylvania to the point the Stonewall brigade was annihilated and the Confederate division that opposes the assault was ruined and took a counterattack by John Gordon and a re-alignment if the lines on the Confederate side. It was tried again at Cold Harbor, only undone due to the distance of open ground the Union troops had to cover and the fact Grant always started his assaults at the same time of day. At Richmond they broke through and routes A.P. Hill’s corps. 

Essentially the idea was that at the time to go back to Napoleon’s assault columns, but update the tactics to dealing with a rifle equipped enemy instead of a musket armed enemy.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/16/2017 at 6:19 PM, mrm5117 said:

I’m playing a Union campaign and haven’t been able to make it through the wilderness campaign through Cold Harbor with my appointment as army commander. I had lots of trouble with the Chickamauga campaign and the Cold Harbor campaign, side battles included which I usually had no problem winning. I’ve been replaying and eeking out draws, but now I head into Cold Harbor with 33 reputation and no choice but to win. So what is the optimal strategy for the Union to achieve its victory conditions at the Batrle of Cold Harbor? I am uneasy assaulting fortifications so now with most battles featuring that I tend to stay defensive. 

 

There are two stages to the Union Strategy... well okay 3.

1. Throw the 3 stars and 2 stars into a 5 x 2500 men 1 x 15 art brigade into the 1st division that contacts your enemy. You need to hold the Crossroads as HAARRRD as possible and that means the BEST MEN. Just focus on holding and maintaining a cordon. Employ skirmishers to cover your flanks and use cover/fortifications only when necesssary.

2. Assuming you hold your position, you'll get taken to the 2nd stage where you are fighting to hold a series of points in the forest. Only hold the points you need. This should be quite easy due to available fortifications. Just cluster your men around the points you need to defend.

3. I've been using an exploit for Cold Harbour that is... well terrible, but useful. Victory conditions actually mean that you ONLY NEED TO TAKE THE CONFEDERATE FAR RIGHT, which is by the map border and it has a big weakness.

Take 2 (Maaaaybe 3) of your best divisions and approach. As you approach, CLIIIIIIIING to the bottom map border and outflank the Confederate far right fortifications. To prevent your own brigades from being outflanked, face a brigade or 2 to the enemy to protect your other brigades edge-clinging into position. Once you're ready, assault, 4 brigades, perhaps 6, in two columns, moving slowly and then charging at the last minute.  This will hard-crack the confederate far right which b/c you've outflanked their fortifications, will allow you to roll them off. As soon as you've done so. Stop.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/17/2017 at 3:59 AM, Buford Protege said:

Assaulting fortifications is a tricky thing in some cases.  The best way to crack them is to use a tactic made famous by Emory Upton at Spotsylvnia C.H. and used in game it works also.

Take 3-4 brigades.  Order the first two or three not to fire.  Double quick them right up to the enemy lines and charge.  The first brigade or two will be repulsed, but the 3rd usually breaks their line.  The 4th allows a follow up to start peeling back the entrenchments.  Once you've broken through in one point, exploit the flanking abilities and you can peel back entrenched enemy forces fairly easily. (Works well at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania also)

As for myself at Cold Harbor I focus on the extreme flanks and then peel to the middle.  If you hit the far right of the Confederate line in that form you can peel back the enemy there and usually keep rolling with flanking fire.  I also like to slash the far left of the rebel line with a smaller force after I've hit the right flank.  The computer usually starts pulling troops away (In response to the threat at the other flank), thus making my job easier.  I'm not sure its the best strategy for Cold Harbor, but it seems to work for me.

image.thumb.png.15d7418d9b5f3ea223e053e1bffa6b8c.png

map from Wikipedia -- Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9063969

Being a descendant of one of Lee's soldier's, I would offer that the arrangement of Longstreet's highly successful attack and break-through at Chickamauga in 21 September 1863 was the model followed by Emory Upton in 1864.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Chickamauga

"Wood was perplexed by Rosecrans's order, which he received around 10:50 a.m. Since Brannan was still on his left flank, Wood would not be able to "close up on" (a military term that meant to "move adjacent to") Reynolds with Brannan's division in the way. Therefore, the only possibility was to withdraw from the line, march around behind Brannan and form up behind Reynolds (the military meaning of the word "support"). This was obviously a risky move, leaving an opening in the line. Wood spoke with corps commander McCook, and claimed later, along with members of both his and McCook's staff, that McCook agreed to fill the resulting gap with XX Corps units. McCook maintained that he had not enough units to spare to cover a division-wide hole, although he did send Heg's brigade to partially fill the gap.[78]

At about this time, Bragg also made a peremptory order based on incomplete information. Impatient that his attack was not progressing to the left, he sent orders for all of his commands to advance at once. Maj. Gen. Alexander P. Stewart of Longstreet's wing received the command and immediately ordered his division forward without consulting with Longstreet. His brigades under Brig. Gens. Henry D. Clayton, John C. Brown, and William B. Bate attacked across the Poe field in the direction of the Union divisions of Brannan and Reynolds. Along with Brig. Gen. S. A. M. Wood's brigade of Cleburne's Division, Stewart's men disabled Brannan's right flank and pushed back Van Cleve's division in Brannan's rear, momentarily crossing the LaFayette Road. A Federal counterattack drove Stewart's Division back to its starting point.[79]

Longstreet also received Bragg's order but did not act immediately. Surprised by Stewart's advance, he held up the order for the remainder of his wing. Longstreet had spent the morning attempting to arrange his lines so that his divisions from the Army of Northern Virginia would be in the front line, but these movements had resulted in the battle line confusion that had plagued Cleburne earlier. When Longstreet was finally ready, he had amassed a concentrated striking force, commanded by Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood, of three divisions, with eight brigades arranged in five lines. In the lead, Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson's division straddled the Brotherton Road in two echelons. They were followed by Hood's Division, now commanded by Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law, and two brigades of Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws's division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw. To the left of this column was Maj. Gen. Thomas C. Hindman's division. Brig. Gen. William Preston's division of Buckner's corps was in reserve behind Hindman. Longstreet's force of 10,000 men, primarily infantry, was similar in number to those he sent forward in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg, and some historians judge that he learned the lessons of that failed assault by providing a massive, narrow column to break the enemy line. Historian Harold Knudsen has described this deployment on a narrow front as similar to the style of the German Schwerpunkt in World War II, achieving an attacker/defender ratio of 8:1. Biographer Jeffry D. Wert also cites the innovative approach that Longstreet adopted, "demonstrating his skill as a battlefield commander." William Glenn Robertson, however, contends that Longstreet's deployment was "happenstance", and that the general's after-action report and memoirs do not demonstrate that he had a grand, three-division column in mind.[80]

Longstreet gave the order to move at 11:10 a.m. and Johnson's division proceeded across the Brotherton field, by coincidence to precisely the point where Wood's Union division was pulling out of the line. Johnson's brigade on the left, commanded by Col. John S. Fulton, drove directly through the gap. The brigade on the right, under Brig. Gen. Evander McNair, encountered opposition from Brannan's division (parts of Col. John M. Connell's brigade), but was also able to push through. The few Union soldiers in that sector ran in panic from the onslaught. At the far side of the Dyer field, several Union batteries of the XXI Corps reserve artillery were set up, but without infantry support. Although the Confederate infantrymen hesitated briefly, Gregg's brigade, commanded by Col. Cyrus Sugg, which flanked the guns on their right, Sheffield's brigade, commanded by Col. William Perry, and the brigade of Brig. Gen. Jerome B. Robertson, captured 15 of the 26 cannons on the ridge.[82]

As the Union troops were withdrawing, Wood stopped his brigade commanded by Col. Charles G. Harker and sent it back with orders to counterattack the Confederates. They appeared on the scene at the flank of the Confederates who had captured the artillery pieces, causing them to retreat. The brigades of McNair, Perry, and Robinson became intermingled as they ran for shelter in the woods east of the field. Hood ordered Kershaw's Brigade to attack Harker and then raced toward Robertson's Brigade of Texans, Hood's old brigade. As he reached his former unit, a bullet struck him in his right thigh, knocking him from his horse. He was taken to a hospital near Alexander's Bridge, where his leg was amputated a few inches from the hip.[83]

Harker conducted a fighting withdrawal under pressure from Kershaw, retreating to Horseshoe Ridge near the tiny house of George Washington Snodgrass. Finding a good defensible position there, Harker's men were able to resist the multiple assaults, beginning at 1 p.m., from the brigades of Kershaw and Brig. Gen. Benjamin G. Humphreys. These two brigades had no assistance from their nearby fellow brigade commanders. Perry and Robertson were attempting to reorganize their brigades after they were routed into the woods. Brig. Gen. Henry L. Benning's brigade turned north after crossing the Lafayette Road in pursuit of two brigades of Brannan's division, then halted for the afternoon near the Poe house.[84]

Hindman's Division attacked the Union line to the south of Hood's column and encountered considerably more resistance. The brigade on the right, commanded by Brig. Gen. Zachariah Deas, drove back two brigades of Davis's division and defeated Col. Bernard Laiboldt's brigade of Sheridan's division. Sheridan's two remaining brigades, under Brig. Gen. William H. Lytle and Col. Nathan Walworth, checked the Confederate advance on a slight ridge west of the Dyer field near the Widow Glenn House. While leading his men in the defense, Lytle was killed and his men, now outflanked and leaderless, fled west. Hindman's brigade on the left, under Brig. Gen. Arthur Manigault, crossed the field east of the Widow Glenn's house when Col. John T. Wilder's mounted infantry brigade, advancing from its reserve position, launched a strong counterattack with its Spencer repeating rifles, driving the enemy around and through what became known as "Bloody Pond". Having nullified Manigault's advance, Wilder decided to attack the flank of Hood's column. However, just then Assistant Secretary of War Dana found Wilder and excitedly proclaimed that the battle was lost and demanded to be escorted to Chattanooga. In the time that Wilder took to calm down the secretary and arrange a small detachment to escort him back to safety, the opportunity for a successful attack was lost and he ordered his men to withdraw to the west.[85]

All Union resistance at the southern end of the battlefield evaporated. Sheridan's and Davis's divisions fell back to the escape route at McFarland's Gap, taking with them elements of Van Cleve's and Negley's divisions. The majority of units on the right fell back in disorder and Rosecrans, Garfield, McCook, and Crittenden, although attempting to rally retreating units, soon joined them in the mad rush to safety. Rosecrans decided to proceed in haste to Chattanooga in order to organize his returning men and the city defenses. He sent Garfield to Thomas with orders to take command of the forces remaining at Chickamauga and withdraw to Rossville. At McFarland's Gap units had reformed and General Negley met both Sheridan and Davis. Sheridan decided he would go to Thomas's aid not directly from McFarland's gap but via a circuitous route northwest to the Rossville gap then south on Lafayette road. The provost marshal of the XIV Corps met Crittenden around the gap and offered him the services of 1,000 men he had been able to round up during the retreat. Crittenden refused the command and continued his personal flight. At about 3 p.m., Sheridan's 1,500 men, Davis's 2,500, Negley's 2,200, and 1,700 men of other detached units were at or near McFarland's Gap just 3 miles away from Horseshoe Ridge.[87] "

                                 --Gael

The scene now presented was unspeakably grand. The resolute and impetuous charge, the rush of our heavy columns sweeping out from the shadow and gloom of the forest into the open fields flooded with sunlight, the glitter of arms, the onward dash of artillery and mounted men, the retreat of the foe, the shouts of the hosts of our army, the dust, the smoke, the noise of fire-arms—of whistling balls and grape-shot and of bursting shell—made up a battle scene of unsurpassed grandeur.
Confederate Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson[81]
The scene now presented was unspeakably grand. The resolute and impetuous charge, the rush of our heavy columns sweeping out from the shadow and gloom of the forest into the open fields flooded with sunlight, the glitter of arms, the onward dash of artillery and mounted men, the retreat of the foe, the shouts of the hosts of our army, the dust, the smoke, the noise of fire-arms—of whistling balls and grape-shot and of bursting shell—made up a battle scene of unsurpassed grandeur.
Confederate Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson[81]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/22/2017 at 5:55 PM, vren55 said:

 

There are two stages to the Union Strategy... well okay 3.

1. Throw the 3 stars and 2 stars into a 5 x 2500 men 1 x 15 art brigade into the 1st division that contacts your enemy. You need to hold the Crossroads as HAARRRD as possible and that means the BEST MEN. Just focus on holding and maintaining a cordon. Employ skirmishers to cover your flanks and use cover/fortifications only when necesssary.

2. Assuming you hold your position, you'll get taken to the 2nd stage where you are fighting to hold a series of points in the forest. Only hold the points you need. This should be quite easy due to available fortifications. Just cluster your men around the points you need to defend.

3. I've been using an exploit for Cold Harbour that is... well terrible, but useful. Victory conditions actually mean that you ONLY NEED TO TAKE THE CONFEDERATE FAR RIGHT, which is by the map border and it has a big weakness.

Take 2 (Maaaaybe 3) of your best divisions and approach. As you approach, CLIIIIIIIING to the bottom map border and outflank the Confederate far right fortifications. To prevent your own brigades from being outflanked, face a brigade or 2 to the enemy to protect your other brigades edge-clinging into position. Once you're ready, assault, 4 brigades, perhaps 6, in two columns, moving slowly and then charging at the last minute.  This will hard-crack the confederate far right which b/c you've outflanked their fortifications, will allow you to roll them off. As soon as you've done so. Stop.

This really works.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×