Wrapped in Flames: The Great American War and Beyond


A question for you English.

With the North fighting the British and the South; is there any chance Lincoln might ask the Mormons for aide?
Chapter 52: A Butternut Whirlwind
Chapter 52: A Butternut Whirlwind

"Should warlike weapons fail us, disdaining slavish fears,
To swords we'll beat our ploughshares, our pruninghooks to spears,
And rush, all desperate! on our foe, nor breathe till battle won;
Then shout, and shout America! and conquering Washington!" - War and Washington, Jonathon M. Sewall

“On the 29th of April, Lee made his opening moves in the Maryland Campaign. Leaving French to command the ‘Corps of Distraction’ Lee turned his forces west and north, moving into the Shenandoah Valley.

Jackson, as befitting of his experience and ability, took the lead with his First Corps. The movement wound up from Culpeper northwards into the Valley where the extreme most pickets of Jackson’s corps and pickets had wintered at Winchester. They had watched the third division of Sigel’s XII Corps under Schenk which had been guarding Harper’s Ferry since the summer of 1862 after Jackson’s triumph at Winchester.

Sigel’s corps had suffered in the skirmishing throughout the Valley in August and November, Schenck’s division had suffered heavily at the Battle of Limestone Ridge and been forced out of Virginia. Being rotated out of line he had been replaced by Steinwehr’s division. His two brigades, Buschbeck’s and Barlow’s were stationed at Charlestown and Harper’s Ferry.

Buschbeck was headquartered at Charlestown, a few miles from Limestone Ridge, behind a series of entrenchments and forts which were built to protect his men from any descent by Jackson. Notably, his pickets had failed to establish any presence on Limestone Ridge which effectively blinded them to any movements by Confederate troops. Steinwehr’s men meanwhile were encamped in and about Harper’s Ferry. Small batteries had been thrown up along the fords and lookouts established in the hills nearby, but the difficulty of the terrain and the exhaustion of the men in November had precluded any attempts at fortification of the region. In total the two divisions numbered 8,080 men with 31 guns.

Lee’s forces had entered the valley with Jackson entering at Thorton’s Gap, while Magruder’s Corps had trailed through Swift Run Gap, allowing Jackson to precede them with Longstreet’s troops taking up the rear of the column. Lee was now using the Valley as a highway to move 86,000 men into the North, and so far all without detection. Moving his men hard, Lee’s three corps arrived in Winchester on the 9th of May, moving 102 miles in 10 days.

Here the first complexity of Lee’s plan came to pass. With his movements shielded in the Valley and the Federals blind behind Limestone Ridge, he dispatched Magruder to the task of dividing McClellan’s attention.

Magruder was tasked with once again driving McClellan to distraction. Alongside French’s ad-hoc corps they would create the appearance of trying to envelop McClellan from the east and south, which would pin forces in place as Lee moved north in his great turning movement. On the morning of the 11th, Magruder’s troops struck east as Jackson and Longstreet prepared to move north. Meanwhile, McClaw’s division struck out for Limestone Ridge, taking positions above it while moving to mount a reconnaissance in force of the Union fortifications at Charlestown. The marches began at 5:00am. Griffith’s troops moved to invest Harper’s Ferry while Jones’s men would act as a reserve to react in case of trouble…

…trouble only became apparent to Buschbeck as his lookouts sighted Confederate battle flags appearing on the high ground at 10:00 am. His messengers heading to Harper’s Ferry ran into Griffith’s troops moving along the Charles Town Turnpike, Buschbeck found himself suddenly cut off from communications with his superiors. All he could do was ready his positions and prepared to sell his life dearly.

McLaw’s division (Kershaw, Semme’s, Wofford’s and Barksdale’s brigades) moved rapidly to surround the Union strongpoints at Charlestown. The town was encircled by earthworks, alongside three strong redoubts, nicknamed Harper’s Battery, facing towards Harper’s Ferry, Battery Sigel, facing Limestone Ridge and Battery Berlin, facing towards Bull Skin Run. His men, the 29th New York, 154th New York, 27th Pennsylvania and 73rd Pennsylvania alongside a single squadron of the 12 Illinois with four batteries of artillery, numbered barely 2,500 men. Facing them were facing the 9,200 men of McLaw’s four brigades.

The preliminary maneuvering to battle was finished by 1:00pm. Magruder opened the battle with his artillery mounting a bombardment of the town, focusing on Battery Sigel and Battery Harper. Kershaw and Wofford’s brigades went in. Kershaw’s South Carolinians mounted a spirited attack against the earthworks of Battery Sigel, but despite heavy fighting over two hours, they were repulsed. Wofford’s Georgians made better headway, but Buschbeck shifted his reserve, in the person of the 73rd Pennsylvania, to that sector and they too were thrown back.

By 2:30pm the attacks had petered out. McLaw’s now observed by Magruder himself, felt compelled to throw his whole force forward to capture the town. Barksdale’s Mississipian’s led the renewed assault at Battery Sigel, while the combined force of Kershaw’s and Wofford’s men attacked Battery Harper, and Semme’s Georgian’s pressed the defenders at Battery Berlin. It was a brutal affair, and despite the artillery, Buschbeck’s gunners managed to keep many of their guns firing until the infantry overwhelmed them...


The attempts to storm Charlestown were costly

By 5pm portions of the town were afire and Buschbeck himself was mortally wounded, alongside his senior commanders. Despite heroic resistance, the regiments (who had been at half strength before the fighting) were depleted and individual surrenders were being accepted by the brigade commanders. The last holdouts surrendered in the town square, having barricaded the main bank and surrounding houses as strong points. Of the 2,500 men who reported for duty, only 1,600 would be captured, while only 600 of those were completely unwounded. McLaw’s men, who had 9,000 men go to battle, would leave 600 men dead on the field, while 1,100 were wounded during the fighting, having literally blasted portions of the town apart with artillery. The casualties and prisoners would delay the move northwards to join Lee, but did not appreciably delay the fall of Harper’s Ferry.

While McLaw’s had fought a bloody engagement at Charlestown, Griffith’s troops had stolen a march on the Ferry Garrison. Barlow’s four regiments were spread thin, and the sight of a large Confederate army discomforted him. Immediately Barlow began preparing to retreat, as with no communication from Buschbeck all he could do was telegraph Sigel’s headquarters at Leesburg of the impending threat. Leaving a few pickets to commence token skirmishing, he commenced burning all the supplies he could not carry with him.

As Griffith’s men closed in they faced unexpectedly light resistance, and despite some tough skirmishing they occupied the town by 4pm and proceeded to put out the fires raging in the Union supply dumps. Barlow’s men slipped away across the Potomac in the direction of Frederick…

…Lee’s lightning movement allowed him to steal a march on McClellan before McClellan even had a chance to react. His possession of the Valley enabled him to mask his movements well, and by the dawn of the 11th, his troops were crossing the Potomac in force.

Jackson’s men began moving north, crossing the Potomac at Shepherdsville and moving towards Hagerstown. Longstreet moved to follow Magruder’s troops across at Harper’s Ferry, the two corps moving towards Frederick Maryland…” – The Maryland Campaign, Tom Hutchins, University of Pennsylvania, 1981
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Chapter 53: A Thief in the Night
Chapter 53: A Thief in the Night

“The first warning McClellan had of any movement on Lee’s part came when reports trickled into his headquarters from sympathetic sources on the 7th. His intelligence gathering apparatus, clumsy as ever, attributed this at first to a movement by Jackson back into the Valley. However, by the 9th news of major skirmishing and finally a warning from Sigel that Jackson and Magruder were in the Valley in force.

Reports from Mansfield indicated that Magruder’s corps remained encamped in front of Fredericksburg, and all indications were that Lee’s army was along the Rappahannock. McClellan was faced with a difficult choice, turn to face this threat and potentially leave his rear uncovered, or march south and leave an enemy force in his rear. News of the Anglo-Confederate flotilla’s movement up the Chesapeake made the choice harder, not easier in his mind. However, for Stanton it leant credence to the idea the northern movement was the true threat. Increasingly urgent messages from Washington besieged McClellan’s headquarters almost hourly as Stanton exercised the now near dictatorial powers he had gained on May 8th.

Gambling, he dispatched III Corps under Hooker to conduct reconnaissance along the Rappahannock, leaving Sickle’s division at Centreville to hold his rear The remainder of his forces set out to Maryland on the night of the 9th. McClellan was now moving to counter the Army of Northern Virginia.

Moving north, he directed Sigel to gather his forces at Frederick and ordered his corps to concentrate in that vicinity. He sent Cavalry on wide ranging missions..." – The Maryland Campaign, Tom Hutchins, University of Pennsylvania, 1981

“McClellan’s use of his cavalry division was a step above what had been done in the year previous. Where before he had largely used it as pickets and scouts, he now decided to use it as his eyes and ears on the march northwards into Maryland.

The 1st Brigade under Buford was dispatched north to scout Frederick and its surroundings, while the 2nd and 4th brigades were to act as a screen for his own movements, and the 3rd Brigade under Averell would scout the passes on the Blue Ridge Mountains, trying to ascertain the Confederate movements…

…Averell’s troops crossed Catoctin Mountain at Leesburg, moving towards the Short Hills and Hillsborough along the Harper’s Ferry Turnpike to scout the enemy ahead of Leesburg. In doing so they ran directly into William “Rooney” Lee’s cavalry brigade.

Lee’s brigade consisted of the 2nd North Carolina, and the 9th, 10th and 13th Virginia cavalry regiments and Moorman’s Virginia Battery of Horse Artillery. Charged with screening the armies flank as it moved, he had ridden south east along the turnpike, aiming to blind Union scouts to the crossings at Harper’s Ferry. He’d settled in at the Short Hills, holding Hillsborough and chasing off retreating elements of Sigel’s command. The appearance of Union cavalry was noted by lookouts on the hills, and so Lee, audacious like his father, rode out to meet them.

Averell’s men had been travelling up the turnpike at an even pace. Using the North Fork of the Catoctin River to secure his flank, his command first made contact with the 9th Virginia at Crum’s Farm. The men of 1st Massachusetts taking fire from the fields around the farm.

Colonel Horace B. Sargent, having taken command of the regiment in late 1862, decided to dismount his troops, using the fences and hillocks to skirmish with the men of the North Carolina, and soon the Virginians were moving to engage the Union troopers. The 10th New York moved to the flank, and were soon engaged in a swirling melee with the men of the 13th Virginia Cavalry, while the 10th moved to counter charge them. The arrival of the 12th Illinois made the action heavy, and the two mounted arms skirmished along the river, the fiercest fighting coming Grubb House where the Illinois troopers moved to attempt to flank the Confederate troopers.

The Battle of Hillsborough showed the finer part of the emerging American cavalry tactics. While the Virginians and the New York and Illinois troopers fought mounted with pistol and sabre, the Massachusetts troops fought on foot with carbines, engaging as light infantry with the North Carolinians. The Virginian’s, while getting the better of the mounted fight, were suitably impressed by the discipline of the Union cavalry, and the North Carolinians did not manage to dislodge the Massachusetts men until the Virginians took them from the flank.

While the Confederates won the battle and succeeded in screening Lee’s movement, it was a step in the right direction for the Union cavalry arm…” – Cavalry in the Great American War, MG Amos Morrell (Retired), 1978, USMA


The clash of arms at Hillsborough

“While McClellan moved to interpose his army between Washington and Baltimore with Lee’s forces, Lee himself found an unfortunate delay in crossing the Potomac. Confused orders meant that on the 11th, both Longstreet and Magruder’s Corps found themselves attempting to maneuver across the river through Harper’s Ferry, creating in one of Lee’s aides words “a slithering mass of men, guns, wagons and horseflesh akin to a living Gordian Knot.”

The nightmare situation would delay Lee’s crossing a whole two days and leave Jackson’s movement north dangerously exposed. A fuming Lee would spend the evening of the 10th attempting to reassert some control of the mess while chewing out his Chief Quartermaster, James Corley. “The whole situation could have been avoided if my commanders were merely capable of following my orders.” Lee would angrily write to President Davis, regarding the delay.

Now, rather than moving the troops on parallel courses, Lee directed both Longstreet and Magruder to move to Frederick…” – The Maryland Campaign, Tom Hutchins, University of Pennsylvania, 1981

“Sigel’s jumpy and exhausted troops has massed at Frederick on the left bank of the Monocacy on the night of May 10th. Stretched between the city and Monocacy Junction to cover the approaches to Washington, they waited eagerly for the arrival of McClellan’s army.

The battered troops of XII’s corps were positioned to protect Frederick and Monocacy Junction. Schimmelfennig’s 3rd Division was directly ay Monocacy Junction, while Schenck’s troops were at Frederick and Steinwehr’s ‘division’ which now stood at brigade strength, was held in reserve there. The men were exhausted and demoralized, having been roughly handled throughout the last six months, and rumours of Lee’s army bearing down on them had Sigel and his commanders all looking imploringly south for the tell tale signs of the army of the Potomac coming to reinforce them.

Instead, on the morning of May 14th, they saw plumes rising from the west. Lee’s army had arrived first…” To Arms!: The Great American War, Sheldon Foote, University of Boston 1999.


The desperate stand of XII Corps

“It was Longstreet’s Second Corps which first engaged XII Corps at Frederick. Shaking out at 3pm the two sides formed for battle. Having marched hard, Longstreet’s men were tired, but their morale was high. Sigel’s men were fresh, but demoralized. Schenck’s troops, Stahel’s and McLean’s brigades of the 1st Division, moved to the west, positioning themselves between the town and stretching their lines to connect to Schimmelfennig’s 3rd at the Junction. It was a perilously thin line.

Longstreet, while taking some fire, brought Early and Pickett’s divisions to bear. Early brought his brigades (Lawton’s, Trimble’s, Hay’s and Smith’s brigades) to bear on Schenck, while Pickett arranged his own (Kemper, Hunton, Pryor) Schimmelfennig’s (Hecker and Kryzanowski) aimed to shield the Junction. Huger’s division was held in reserve, and by 5pm the two sides were blazing away.

The attack began at the junction where Pryor’s Louisianan’s led the way, skirmishing with both sides battling over the bluffs along the Baltimore Pike. Hunton’s troops moved to flank the Union line, and Hecker’s troops pivoted to control the flank, but were steadily pushed back. The fighting was fierce, especially amongst the trees of the nearby orchard, which quickly became the focus of the battle as the 26th Wisconsin of Kryzanowski’s brigade hunkered down in the trees and became a thorn in Prior’s side. However, after an hours hard fighting, the men of Schimmelfennig’s division were falling back across the Monocacy, numbers gave way.

In the north, Schenck’s men endured a charge from Early’s division, emerging from the woods near Frederick. Though they put up a spirited defence, they too were driven back slowly, and by 6pm were dangerously close to breaking. Sigel fed what remained of Steinwehr’s division into the fray, but a renewed attack by the men of Trimble’s brigade, preceded by the keening rebel yell, broke them. They dashed across the river, many drowning as they attempted to swim, for all intents and purposes the division ceased to exist, and XII corps began retreating towards Baltimore. Early was only slowed by his men stopping to collect souvenirs from the battlefield.

By 7pm darkness was beginning to fall, and the shadows were growing long. Longstreet moved to secure the Junction and Frederick, running pickets across the river, he awaited the arrival of Magruder’s troops. Sending his mounted troops across at the Junction, the took up positions at Gamble Farm for the night. His troops rested on the west bank of the Monocacy.

During the night however, troops began arriving along the west bank. Firing and shouts were only the first sign of trouble, and at 1am the cavalry retreated across the river in disorder. They reported they had been attacked by Union forces. The Army of the Potomac had come at last.” – The Maryland Campaign, Tom Hutchins, University of Pennsylvania, 1981
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Chapter 54: On the Banks of the Monocacy
Chapter 54: On the Banks of the Monocacy

"The flashing billows beat the whiten'd shores:
With cries promiscuous all the banks resound,
And here, and there, in eddies whirling round,
The flouncing steeds and shrieking warriors drown'd.
As the scorch'd locusts from their fields retire,
While fast behind them runs the blaze of fire;
Driven from the land before the smoky cloud,
The clustering legions rush into the flood" - The Illiad, Homer

“Once dispatched, McClellan had moved swiftly across the Potomac, swinging north and east to come at Frederick with XIV and IV Corps from the East along the Baltimore Pike, while V Corps moved up from the south along National Pike.

During the night McClellan had come along the stragglers and shirkers moving east from Frederick. In the darkness McClellan ordered them to stand aside and to wait until morning. However, it produced no small roadblock, and XIV and IV Corps were slowed significantly. That left Rosecrans V Corps as the only force blocking Lee’s army early on the 15th.

The other two Corps slowly filtered in throughout the night and morning of the 15th. V Corps occupied the heights on the east bank of the Monocacy, overlooking the Junction. XIV Corps shook out blocking Crum’s Ford and the Baltimore Pike. IV Corps was placed supporting XIV Corps, and watching the river to the north at Monocacy Road blocking the bridge there. The dishevelled XII Corps was held in reserve. By the morning of the 15th, McClellan had 80,000 men placed across the river.

Magruder’s men arrived during the night and morning, bringing the total number of men facing McClellan to 50,000 on the afternoon of the 15th. Both sides positioned and maneuvered throughout the day, with artillery duels intermittent between them. While Longstreet’s Second Corps stood south of Frederick, Magruder’s men occupied the lines northwards towards Monocacy Road. Lee established his headquarters at Frederick, while McClellan established himself at New Market.

Both sides were exhausted, and other than skirmishing and artillery duels throughout the 15th, neither side made to attack. Lee was awaiting Jackson, who had thus far been out of communication for nearly a week. McClellan was simply looking to stymy Lee’s advance to the east and on, he assumed, Baltimore. Other than a few probing attacks against IV Corps along the river, Lee stood his ground.

The 16th dawned bright and sunny. The weather was cool and damp in the morning, but as it gave way to afternoon gave way to morning, the ground was warmed and both sides expected action. Lee would not disappoint. Having spent much of the previous day reconnoitring the ground, he determined that the weakest part of the Federal line was to the south of the Junction across a ford discovered by Stuart’s cavalrymen.

Longstreet had placed Pickett’s men along the line, and his division was to carry the attack, while Huger’s troops would demonstrate across the river. Magruder was tasked with defending the Confederate left flank, and if at all possible, making contact with Jackson…” – The Maryland Campaign, Tom Hutchins, University of Pennsylvania, 1981

“The two armies occupied a line stretching almost 7 miles, each group was stretched thin, with Lee committing all his forces, while McClellan held some forces in reserve. Lee anticipated Jackson’s arrival, but would not sacrifice his timetable further, and expected to be able to drive McClellan back with a flanking movement to the south. He fully believed Early’s division of being able to accomplish this task. Longstreet would hold the enemies attention, and Magruder would keep them from launching a flanking maneuver of their own…

At 11am Early’s troops began moving across the Monocacy, though this move was impossible to ignore, it was partially masked by Magruder’s men storming into the teeth of prepared positions to the north and engaging in heavy fighting at Ogle Farm, which soon turned into a bloodbath.

Rosecrans V Corps was waiting though. Ord’s 1st Division was placed along the river, watching for enemy movement, and Early’s audacious attack was seen coming. Though Early succeeded in driving across the river, his men bogged down fighting in the rolling hills on the far bank. Ord’s brigades (Tyler’s, Allabach’s, and Barnes) skirmished throughout the hillocks, stymying Early’s turning movement. Tyler’s brigade refused its flank as Early crossed, and Allabach’s men delivered a withering fire from the hills into Early’s troops. Only the Confederate artillery allowed Early to establish himself on the east bank. By 1pm, the fighting had died down.

Longstreet had no reserves with which to push the attack…” – The Battle of Monocacy, John Simon, Pennsylvania Press, 1963

“Magruder’s push across the Monocacy, capturing the stone bridge, proved similarly fruitless. The Federal formations on the bluffs were too strong to dislodge in a frontal attack. By 2pm the battle had devolved into heavy skirmishing as both sides were exhausted…

Lee was concerned over Jackson’s absence. By this point he had been out of contact with the army for three days. Though he had directed Jackson to concentrate his forces at Monocacy Junction, he seemed to have vanished from the battle…

Jackson had been moving steadily north since crossing the Potomac. He had harassed Federal garrisons and towns on his march north, scattering the local militia and sending people to the hills. Though his forces played ‘Maryland My Maryland’ they found their reception amongst the locals lacklustre at best. Some did turn out to cheer, but most hid in their homes as Jackson moved through. Paying in greybacks for most goods, Jackson nonetheless made little effort to reign in his men’s excesses.

Crossing the South Mountains on May 15th, he soon turned his men south, aiming to link up with Lee by the evening of the 16th. His men earned their epithet of ‘foot cavalry’ and moved vigorously through Maryland, marching 10 miles in a single day. By 5pm on the 16th, his men had made contact with the extreme edges of Magruder’s line. Lee directed Jackson to feed his men across the Monocacy, and over the course of the night on the 16-17th his troops crossed north of the town at Ceresville.

Come morning of the 17th, Lee felt he was ready to strike again…

Though McClellan was aware of a Confederate crossing in the night, he assumed this was Magruder’s men, and only directing King’s division to hold the flank and refuse it from the expected Confederate flanking maneuver. Jackson’s troops, though they had been marched hard, had rested overnight as best they could and were ready for the assault. King’s troops, were caught completely off guard by the ferocity of the attack, and soon were retreating back into IV Corps line. Franklin, shocked by this development, had to reorient himself to face Jackson’s sudden appearance in force on the flank.

News of Jackson’s attack rippled along the flank, and it was supported by another push by Magruder attempting to storm the Federal works on the heights. Jones’s division steadily pressed the Federal troops under Morrell on the ridge, and finally Sykes regulars were committed to stop the attack completely. However, they were soon pulled out of the line attempting to prevent Jackson from enveloping the army’s flank. “There was great confusion, as none knew the strength of the Confederate force on our flank. Was it Magruder or was it Jackson? None could say for certain,” Franklin would later recall in the aftermath.

Garnett’s division was quickly pressing King back, allowing D.H and A.P Hill’s divisions to move parallel to the flank, where there were almost no Federal troops to oppose them. Sykes moved to support King, but the flank was quickly losing cohesion. McClellan now made the fateful decision to commit XII Corps to the fight. Still shaken and demoralized from the early attacks and the retreat, the diminished divisions of XII Corps were shaken by the hard marching and vicious attacks of the two Hill’s.

Piercing McClellan’s flank the two divisions were soon in amongst the staff and support troops, and McClellan was scrambling to maneuver his men into something resembling a blocking force. XII Corps began a fighting withdrawal down the Baltimore Pike, leaving Franklin’s men dangerously exposed and close to being enveloped between Jackson and Magruder. It was here when Rosecrans would make his mark.

Leaving Ord’s division holding the heights against Longstreet, Rosecrans moved Reno’s troops to fall into line with the men of Porter’s Corps. Filling into place they became the bulwark against Jackson’s attacks. By 11am Rosecrans had managed to stabilize the flank, but they could not hold the field, as Longstreet was renewing his attack with vigor. Ord managed to withdraw in good order, and soon V Corps formed the rear of the retreating Federal army. Though Jackson would move quickly, his exhausted troops could not break the Union defenders, and Lee was forced to allow McClellan to withdraw in the direction of the capital. Eager to speed the Union on their way, Lee ordered a halt to the pursuit as McClellan withdrew to Parr’s Ridge…

Establishing his headquarters at Ridgeville, McClellan drew up his battered army on the high ground, fully expecting the Confederates to resume the attack on the morning of the 18th. Unfortunately, as night feel on the 17th, he discovered the Confederates were already in his rear…”– The Maryland Campaign, Tom Hutchins, University of Pennsylvania, 1981

Odd to be cheering for the Confederacy. It feels like cheering for the Soviets against Hitler. Enemy of my enemy leaves a bad taste in ones mouth.

Probably fine to cheer for the individual commanders, but definitely won't try to make you cheer for the Confederate government!

In any event, I'll be giving you a reason to cheer for the Union soon enough :biggrin:
Probably fine to cheer for the individual commanders, but definitely won't try to make you cheer for the Confederate government!

In any event, I'll be giving you a reason to cheer for the Union soon enough :biggrin:

As Long as they occupy part of Canada there is never a reason to Cheer for the Union.
As Long as they occupy part of Canada there is never a reason to Cheer for the Union.

From a Canadian perspective, definitely not!

Is this the end of McClellan? It seems to me like he's got nowhere to run.

Well he can fall back to the coast, and force Lee to pursue him, but where precisely he falls back to will be what Lee needs to consider...

Have yall seen Baz Battles? This TL would look awesome in that format!

I have watched Kings and Generals, which does something similar. They have a good video on Shiloh. Honestly, if I was a better map maker I would experiment with making battle maps, but the dearth of information on some places I've chosen as battlefields and the amount of time that would take away from writing leads me to write it off as a sink rather than a big win. So I just hope to find good maps and share then with you.