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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Battle of the Yazoo Bend, 1862

Ironclads, Bill’s Ironclad Rules, big toy variant, 1/50 scale

This week Thursday was om a Tuesday. Rather, we usually meet on a Thursday, but this week Edinburgh’s Navy Club is being used as a polling station, so we switched days. We also swapped games. the plan was to play Napoleonic single ship actions using Post Captain, but in a week and a bit Bill is playing a big American Civil War game, and he wanted this opportunity to try out his naval rules. You see, Bill has ironclads in two scales – a sensible collection in 1/600, and this lot, which is compatible with his 28mm armies. So, this week we found ourselves doing battle with ridiculously large ironclads, in a game designed to playtest Bill’s big ship variant of his Ironclad rules. The rough premise for this fictional game was that the Confederates were busy converting a river sternwheel steamer into a gunboat, and so two Union monitors – the Montauk and the Onondaga were sent up the Yazoo River to destroy her. She was tied up at the landing below Colston’s Bluff, but as the two Union ships approached, they saw two ironclads heading towards them. These turned out to be the Tuscaloosa and the Jackson.  The first was a small casemate ironclad, while the other (a fictional ship) was an ironclad paddlewheeler, looking a little like the Mississippi or the Nashville. Anyway, her Achilles heel was her exposed paddlewheel. Also, while her frontal armour was thick and her forward guns were large rifled pieces, her side armour was thin, and she only carried light smoothbores.For their part both of the Union monitors carried heavy guns, mounted in turrets – one on the Montauk, and two on the Onondaga. The Confederates also had a gun battery perched on Colston’s Bluff, with two medium smoothbores mounted in it. Campbell and I commanded the Union ships, while Bill and Young Michel took charge of the rebels. Mark was in charge of the gun battery. The battle began with the Montauk creeping towards the battery, firing as it came, and the Onondaga swinging out into the middle of the river to engage the Tuscaloosa.  Both sides blazed away at each other, but the fire of the heavier Union guns was more telling. Then, after deftly avoiding a ram attempt by the Tuscaloosa, the Onondaga rammed the Confederate ironclad amidships.

That punched a hole in the side of the Tuscaloosa below her waterline, and as the Onondaga backed away her turrets blasted at the Tuscaloosa’s casemate. So too did the guns of the Montauk, which had now come up alongside the port side of the Confederate ironclad. This fire penetrated the casemate, but by that time it was all over for the Confederate ship. Her damage control teams couldn’t stop the flooding, and she sank in the river, just in front of Colston’s Bluff. That left the Jackson.Ignoring the rather ineffective fire of the shore battery the Montauk steamed on past the wreckage to engage the unarmoured Confederate gunboat General Bragg, which was busy raising steam. A medium gun had been manhandled down the landing stage and onto her bow, and this began blazing away at the monitor. The shots just bounced off, and as the General Bragg got under way she was pounded at point-blank range by the Montauk’s two heavy guns. Her funnel was hit, her wheelhouse was shattered, and eventually she ran aground, her hull blazing fiercely. Meanwhile the Onondaga was busy engaging the Jackson. Her fire was even more effective, smashing into the makeshift ironclad’s starboard side, damaging her paddlewheel and dismounting both of her light guns. Then her wheelhouse was hit, and the Jackson began a long lazy turn to starboard, which ended when she ran aground below Colston’s Bluff. This was probably just as well, as by now she was down to one hull point, and would have sunk in the next turn or two. So ended the crazy but strangely enjoyable little naval battle. It looked spectacular, and we all had great fun, but I can’t see myself replacing my 1/600 ships with 1/50 scale one any time soon!


10 Responses “Battle of the Yazoo Bend, 1862”

  1. 8th June 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Great game. Since the game I have made some minor changes needed to the rules.

  2. 12th June 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Interesting scale and battle report. Apparently the tops come off the CSA vessels to act as a sunken marker which is a neat idea. I’m curious, given, the low waterline on the monitors, do they have something similar?

    • 13th June 2017 at 1:20 pm

      Well, you can leave the turrets and funnels sticking out of the water, as they’re removable too. It’s still a crazy scale…!

  3. john pullen
    28th April 2019 at 4:07 pm

    I think it would be cool to make a felt copy of the ships hull with its name on it. When the ship is sunk, put the felt copy of the hull down and if a ship touches any part of it. Roll a dice to see if it hangs up on it or causes any damage to the passing ship.

  4. leonard brewer
    12th November 2019 at 2:30 am

    I play Ironclads ACW in 1/1200 scale and in 15 mm scale. The 15 mm ships games are for local events and conventions games.
    Any chance of getting a copy of these rules for convention game’s?

    • 12th November 2019 at 3:24 pm

      I’ll get Bill Gilchrist to drop you a line. He’s the one who wrote them.

    • 12th November 2019 at 3:38 pm

      I will reply direct to your email address about my rules. Happy to supply the rules and ships stats to you.

  5. 21st May 2020 at 6:16 pm

    Very cool and only mildly insane in 1/50. Somewhere in the shed I have a bunch of 1/600 ACW Ironclads. If I knew of a decent set of rules it would take but a trice to have the Tay as the background to an ACW encounter.

    Hi Bill 😉

  6. Chris Johnson
    25th April 2023 at 5:03 am

    This is a great report! I have approached ACW naval gaming several times over the years, but only recently made the plunge–at 72, I figure if I don’t do it now….(and boy, is that a depressing line of thought!)
    I’ve located a number of interesting sets of rules, but am always on the lookout for the simplest set that will give a good game (and not incidentally make it easy to get my two young grandsons involved as well). Is there any possibility of my getting a copy of Bill’s rules?

    • 25th April 2023 at 6:59 am

      I’ll ask Bill, old timer, and ask him to hurry! What am I saying? I’m only 9 years your junior… Seriously, Bill will be in touch with you.

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