Lost Battalion Dispatch #9 for the Week of August 28, 2022

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The Lost Battalion Dispatch

Lost Battalion Dispatch #9 for the Week of August 28, 2022
This Week in History

War and Peace Author Born. Wargamer of Wargamers Passes On.

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy was born on August 28, 1828, (according to the calendar in use at the time in Russia) into an aristocratic family on an estate about 130 miles south of Moscow. He was educated by a tutor and then attended the University of Kazan where he studied a bit and caroused extensively, leaving without earning a degree. He joined the military and fought in the Crimean War where his meritorious service earned him promotion to the rank of lieutenant.

The diaries he kept during his time in the army became the source for short stories that brought him to the attention of the literati in Saint Petersburg. He was not interested in high society however and soon left to organize a school for peasant children on his estate. After marrying the daughter of a wealthy Moscow physician, he began devoting all his attention to composing his epic novel War and Peace.

The novel contains a historical account of the wars between Napoleon and Russia. His descriptions of combat focus on the chaos of the battlefield. Generals, he claims, imagine they can anticipate contingencies and control the outcome, but battles are really decided by “a hundred million diverse chances.” This is consistent with his idea that the infinite complexity of human behavior cannot be accounted for by any system of philosophy or religion. Sandwiched among his historical narratives are accounts of fictional characters who illustrate the psyche of the Russian people, both the elite and the peasants. He also includes essays satirizing attempts to formulate theories of history and pointing out the biases inherent in writing historical narratives. He is especially suspicious of the Great Man theory which holds that history is shaped by the decisions of generals, political leaders, and intellectuals. Tolstoy maintains that history is instead shaped by the sum of an infinite number of small decisions made by common people.

Tolstoy’s other great work, Anna Karenina, is a journey into existential angst that can be summed up by the first sentence of the novel, “All happy families resemble each other; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” After writing this novel, he became increasingly despondent, likely due to his views that the actions of individuals were essentially irrelevant. He turned to the Russian Orthodox church for solace, but quickly decide that all churches had corrupted the true message of Christianity and devoted the rest of his life to his own version of the religion which stressed five of Christ’s statements from the Sermon on the Mount: do not be angry, do not lust, do not take oaths, do not resist those who do evil to you, and love your enemies.

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Stonewall Jackson painted by Mort Künstler. Click the link above to see more of our friend Mort’s artwork.
The Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) was joined in earnest on August 29, 1862. Stonewall Jackson precipitated the battle by unexpectedly attacking the Federal supply depot at Manassas Junction during the early hours of August 27. This move threatened to cut off the lines of supply and communication for John Pope’s Union Army of Virginia. Jackson then took up a strong defensive position near the site of the first battle of Manassas while waiting for the main Confederate army to arrive.

A fierce preliminary clash at Brawner’s Farm on the 28th failed to dislodge Jackson so Pope laid plans to surround and destroy Jackson the next day. Pope’s complicated plans for attacking Jackson’s position led to confusion in the Union ranks. They were completely disrupted by the arrival of the first elements of James Longstreet’s corps which broke through the Union lines to link up with Jackson, effectively sealing the fate of Pope’s army during heavy fighting on the 29th.

On the 30th, more of Longstreet’s troops arrived and the Confederates went on the offensive, routing the Union forces. Confederate cavalry moved to cut off Pope’s retreat, but a heroic effort by John Buford’s cavalry at Lewis Ford drove the Rebels off and prevented the destruction of Pope’s army. Pope was relieved of command two weeks later. Buford, who was wounded at Lewis Ford, would again be the savior of a Union army when his cavalry succeeded in holding the high ground during the first day of the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Alam el Haifa began on August 30, 1942. This was German General Erwin Rommel’s attempt to outflank the strong Allied position at El Alamein after his initial assault had failed. Rommel planned a night attack spearheaded by two Panzer divisions that would break through the British right flank and drive north to the sea, cutting off the British 8th Army and forcing it to surrender or be destroyed. The German attack had some early success, but, hampered by lack of fuel supplies and attacks by Allied air, they were forced to withdraw after five days of hard fighting. The German’s lost nearly 3000 men during the operation, weakening Panzerarmee Afrika to such an extent that it had no hope of resisting the British attack at the Second Battle of El Alamein two months later.
British soldier pays respects at the grave of a dead German tanker with a knocked out Panzer III in the background
General George Tecumseh Sherman
On August 31, 1843, General George Sherman launched six of the seven Union corps facing the city of Atlanta on a sweep to the south of the city. His resulting victory in the Battle of Jonesborough cut off the remaining rail lines supplying the Confederate defenders and prompted John Bell Hood to order his army to evacuate on the night of September 1st. The next day Sherman occupied Atlanta. On November 15 most of the city was burned to the ground as Sherman departed on his famous March to the Sea.
Contemporary Woodcut of USS Wasp’s Encounter with HMS Avon
During the War of 1812, the 22-gun sloop USS Wasp encountered a 10-ship supply convoy protected by the 74-gun ship of the line HMS Armada on September 1, 1814, capturing and destroying the brig Mary before the ponderous Armada could react and drive Wasp away. Later that day, Wasp met an opponent more her size, HMS Avon, an eighteen-gun brig. The battle was opened in full darkness at around 9:30 that night. Wasp’s first broadside devastated Avon, dismounting some of her guns and bringing down sails and masts that masked the British ship’s remaining weapons. Forty-five minutes later, Avon surrendered. Wasp was lowering boats to take the sailors from the stricken ship captive, when nearby British vessels intervened, forcing her to flee. The crew were rescued by their compatriots while Avon sank.
On September 2, 1944, the TBM Avenger piloted by future President George Bush was hit by anti-aircraft fire during a bombing run on radio facilities on the island of Chichi Jima. According to Bush, “Suddenly there was a jolt; as if a massive fist had crunched into the belly of the plane. Smoke poured into the cockpit, and I could see flames rippling across the crease of the wing, edging toward the fuel tanks.” Bush continued the bombing run, dropping four 500-pound bombs on the target, and later bailed out over the ocean. One of the other two crew also bailed out but his parachute failed to open. The third man when down with the plane. Bush spent several hours in a life raft suffering from a head injury due to an impact with the vertical stabilizer of the aircraft during the bail-out and jellyfish stings while in the water. He was rescued by the submarine USS Finback and later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
LT. JG. George Bush in an Avenger Cockpit

Donald Featherstone passed on from this life on August 3rd, 2013. He was perhaps the most influential wargamer of the 20th century. Born in 1918, his introduction to the wargaming hobby was H.G. Wells’ seminal book Little Wars (which is available for free at Project Gutenberg as is the lesser-known companion volume Floor Games).

Featherstone served in the 51st Battalion of the Royal Tank regiment during World War II. His talent for writing and ability to type consigned him to a role as a clerk in the Orderly room, but he had a brush with death when a shell landed in the mess tent where he was eating with his comrades. Don was one of the few to walk away uninjured, a fact for which wargamers throughout the ages can be thankful.

After Featherstone left the service in 1946, he came across an issue of Jack Scruby’s Wargames Digest and his interest in the hobby was reignited. He met noted ancient wargaming enthusiast Tony Bath and they began engaging each other over floors and lawns using the 54mm (about 2.13 inch) tin soldiers available at the time. He also became acquainted with wargamer and historian Paddy Griffith. The two of them realized that wargaming could provide valuable insights into the understanding of military history.

Jack Scruby decided to discontinue Wargames Digest in the early 60s. Wargamers were a rare and eclectic audience at the time. (The first UK Wargame Convention in 1961 was a sparsely attended event in Featherstone’s house.) Nevertheless, Featherstone and Tony Bath foresaw a market that could be nurtured into growing and prospering so they took over the publication of Wargames Digest. In 1962, Featherstone hired a hotel conference room to accommodate the 20 attendees of his second convention. In April of that year, he began publishing his Wargamer’s Newsletter which he continued to write monthly for the next 18 years. Through his efforts and those of Tony Bath and others, the hobby continued to grow. The production of 1/72 scale plastic Airfix soldiers facilitated this, providing an inexpensive means of building miniature armies.

In 1962, Featherstone published War Games, the first of over 60 books he authored about wargaming and military history. Many of these have been reprinted by The History of Wargaming Project.

Featherstone was adamant in his belief that wargaming was first and foremost a social hobby. He would be deeply saddened by the migration of wargaming to impersonal online computer games. At Lost Battalion Games our goal is to preserve Donald Featherstone’s vision of social interaction through wargaming.

Donald Featherstone

Enemy In Sight is an exciting card game of skill and luck for two to eight players that puts you in command of a fleet of Age of Sail warships. Sail your line of battle into harm’s way, open fire with broadsides, dismast the enemy, grapple, and send your Marines to board through the smoke! If things go badly, put out the fires with a bucket brigade and send your ship back to port for repairs. Whatever happens, don’t give up the ship! Check it out by clicking here: Enemy in Sight.
A short video preview of Enemy In Sight
Watch a short video preview of Enemy  In Sight here if clicking on the image doesn’t work.
About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne forest during World War One.

At Lost Battalion Publishing we take inspiration from the historical Lost Battalion that never gave up, never lost hope, and persevered despite a series of devastating setbacks.

You can keep up with the latest from Lost Battalion Publishing on our social media channels by clicking the icons below.
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