Battle of Dranesville - 20th December 1861


Union artillery fire down onto advancing Confederates at Dranesville

After the Battle of Ball's Bluff in October, both sides retired their armies into winter quarters, only occasionally sending out small forces on foraging and scouting missions. It was one such foraging mission that Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart in command of a mixed brigade, approached Dranesville from the South, escorting wagons collecting what they could to feed the main army.

By coincidence a Union force led by Brigadier General Edward O.C.Ord was travelling East to West along the Leesburg Pike at right angles to Stuart's force. Ord also had a mixed brigade, although he had started with over twice the number Stuart had, he had left half behind at Colvin Run Mill to guard his lines of retreat in case of an emergency. So when these two forces both ran into each other it was a complete by chance encounter and both sides having roughly the same amount of men.

First contact was made when Stuart's advance cavalry pickets stumbled upon the marching Union force; they were quickly driven off back to their main army by Union cavalry, and at that point both small armies deployed for battle.


Suggested initial set up for the Battle of Dranesville 20th December 1861

ORDERS OF BATTLE - Using a 1 to 50 figure scale


UNION ARMY

Brig.General Edward O.C. Ord - Commander-in-Chief - veteran, experienced, tactician

6th Infantry Pennsylvania Reserves (800 men) 16 figures - regular, trained, steady, muzzle loading muskets

9th Infantry Pennsylvania Reserves (800 men) 16 figures - regular, trained, steady, muzzle loading muskets

10th Infantry Pennsylvania Reserves (800 men) 16 figures - regular, trained, steady, muzzle loading muskets

12th Infantry Pennsylvania Reserves (800 men) 16 figures - regular, trained, steady, muzzle loading muskets

Kane's 1st Infantry Pennsylvania Reserves (800 men) 16 figures - regular, trained, steady, muzzle loading muskets

1st Pennsylvania Reserve cavalry (300 men) 6 figures - regular, trained, steady, revolvers, sword, carbine

1st Pennsylvania Reserve Artillery (8 guns and crew) - 4 models - regular, trained, steady


CONFEDERATE ARMY

Brig.General J.E.B.Stuart - Commander-in-Chief - veteran, experienced, elite, inspirational leader & tactician

1st Kentucky Volunteers (800 men) 16 figures - experienced, trained, stubborn. muzzle loading muskets

10th Alabama Volunteers (800 men) 16 figures - regular, trained, steady, muzzle loading muskets

11th Virginia Volunteers (800 men) 16 figures - elite, veteran, stubborn, muzzle loading muskets

6th South Carolina Volunteers (800 men) 16 figures - inexperienced, trained, nervous, muzzle loading muskets

Detachments of 1st North Carolina & 2nd Virginia Cavalry (250 men) 5 figures - elite, veteran, impetuous, pistols, sword, carbine/shotguns

Sumter Georgia Artillery (4 guns and crew) - 2 models - regular, trained, steady


THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED

After the initial contact between cavalry pickets the Union army wheeled around to face Stuart's men and the Confederates spread out from line of march to battle deployment. In the surprise of suddenly going into battle, the 6th South Carolina mistook the 1st Kentucky, who were deploying immediately to their front, as the enemy and fired off a volley into their ranks. The Kentuckians, in shock, turned about and fired back before both units realised they were friendlies and resumed their original positions. The sound of firing to their front though, roused the Union's 9th Pennsylvania regiment into thinking they were missing the battle and they charged across the open ground, but were halted in their tracks by volleys from the Confederate lines and quickly retreated back to their starting point.

An artillery dual then commenced, the opposing sides being only around 300 yards apart, and after a brief but intense exchange of fire the Union's greater numbers prevailed and the Georgia battery was knocked out of action. Ord then organised his force into a long skirmish line and advanced towards Stuart's men, his cavalry concealed in the woods ready to charge into an opportunity or likewise cover a withdrawal if necessary. The two infantry lines faced off each other for over two hours with repeated volleys, the Confederates suffering most by remaining in a close order formation.

At mid-afternoon Stuart was satisfied that his foraging wagons had retreated sufficiently to now be safe and he ordered his brigade to retreat also and rejoin them. Ord pursued Stuart's men for only half a mile before returning to the main road and continuing on his march to Langley.

The following day Stuart returned with reinforcements to attack Ord again, but found the previous day's battlefield deserted so returned to the main army again. .


WARGAMING THE BATTLE

We have chosen this battle as our first American Civil War offering as it is a relatively small and even sided affair that could go either way quite easily. Also from the numbers involved it is almost possible to re-fight this battle immediately with the Perry Miniatures American Civil War Battle In A Box (only an extra Union artillery piece would be needed or be "implied")

The Union army is pretty standard as far as capabilities, morale, equipment and training is concerned, where you will note the Confederate units are bit more varied which adds a little character and surprise to their performance on the field.

For those wanting larger looking battles simply change our suggested figure scale to maybe 1:25 or 1:20 and it would then lend itself well to a 10mm scale engagement.


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