Behind the Lines
September 2009

In This Issue

 

Grazing Fire

A little bit of historical True or False...

This reflexive, sugar-coated learning process was first discovered and analyzed by a team of eminent German scientists, during the period 1943-1945, in a top secret project whose ultimate purpose was to uncovered the location of the actual Holy Grail. After realizing that Hitler would accept uncritically any kind of pseudo-mystical codswallop they submitted in their monthly reports, the scientists concocted a mixture of obscure historical details, Latin mumbo-jumbo, inscrutable Symbolist drawings, and crumbling fragments of ancient maps and charts, interwoven with dark hints of cabalistic plots on the part of the Knights Templar, the Masons, and the ever-useful World-Wide Zionist Conspiracy. Hitler devoured this nonsense whole, congratulated the scientists on their diligence, and pretty much left them alone to continue Doing Their Thing.

But what the shadowy committee devoted 95 per cent of their time to, was a project of their own devising: researching a revolutionary new method for effortless, almost subconscious, absorption and retention of large blocs of pure knowledge! Taking some of Jung’s most obscure, speculative papers as their starting point, they eventually developed a working hypothesis for a technique they labeled “Schwammengelehrsamkeit” or “Sponge-Learning”, and in its first fully controlled test, Prof. Ewald Schlitzentrinken, an eager volunteer with impeccable academic credentials, successfully “absorbed” the entire 1936 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, with a retention rate of 91 per cent accuracy, in only four sleepless days! No doubt this was a landmark scientific accomplishment, even though, eight minutes after he closed the final volume (marked “Zoology to Xylophone”) and rose, creaking, from the special chair he’d been fastened to for the previous 96 hours, Prof. Schlitzentrinken suddenly keeled over dead, from a massive brain hemorrhage.

According to the fragmentary notes that survived the fire-bombing of March 12, 1945, the key element in the new process was for the subject to keep the pupils of both eyes fixedly dilated to a radius of precisely 2.43 millimeters. Unfortunately, the page describing HOW this was accomplished did not survive the blaze.

So... True or False? Tune in next month for the answer!

Enjoy the newsletter,
The Newsletter Team

Comments? Questions? We'd love to hear from you through our general feedback contact form.



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This Week's Historical Short: A Gallery of Rogues - Rush C. Hawkins and Ambrose Burnside

The Historical Short section is designed to provide a brief snapshot of an interesting historical event or trivia that is a little off the beaten path of regular historical discourse.

A Gallery Of Rogues And Heroes With Biographical Sketches And Thumbnail Accounts Of The Deeds And Misdeeds

Rush C. Hawkins and Ambrose Burnside

Well-heeled, well-connected, and politically ambitious, Rush Hawkins was a successful attorney, a hardcore Zuoave Groupie and a serious student of military history, and thirty years old when the war broke out. Whether it was his soldierly attitude or the snappy outfits he provided, his 9th New York Zouaves was a very popular outfit. With such troops Hawkins expected, one day soon, to overtake and eventually surpass the fame of Ellsworth and his Chicago Supermen. Not only did he provide his troopers with equally resplendent clothing (the cockades on the fez caps were especially gaudy and martial-looking), not only did he rehearse them studiously in complicated Zouave maneuvers, but he also added a nice theatrical touch by having the men chant in unison, according to the rhythm and tempo of the drill being conducted, a unique and always crowd-pleasing “battle cry” shouted when the right foot struck the ground: “”ZOU-ZOU-ZOU!!” It was all very macho and that’s the way the impetuous Hawkins liked it to be.

Here we see him in full dress kit, striking a manly pose. He was certainly courageous – at times almost recklessly so – but he could cross the line to insubordination if a superior happened to give his unit orders that Hawkins judged to be beneath their dignity or demeaning to their worth as warriors (in the middle year of the war, he barely escaped a court martial for insulting and calling out to fisticuffs no less a personage than George McClellan; many a career would have ended on the spot, but by that time no one took McClellan seriously as a combat leader. From the army’s supreme windbag, George had been demoted to a desk job in Washington, one in which he could indulge his fantasies of Caesar-hood by maneuvering battalions of file jackets and triplicate forms rather than spill the blood of real men as he had done so copiously in one badly fought engagement after another. Professionally speaking, Hawkins had put a noose around his neck by challenging the former commander-in-chief to a fist-fight and by actually cocking his arm back to hurl the first blow, but although there were numerous witnesses, every one of them so despised McClellan by that time that it’s doubtful if Hawkins would have been sacked, even if “Little Mac” had shown up before the board of inquiry sporting two black eyes and a couple of cracked teeth. It was said that when Abraham Lincoln heard an account of the incident, he chortled wickedly at the thought of McClellan’s discomfiture and declared Rush Hawkins to be “a man after his own heart”.

Historians are divided, to say the least, about the ultimate ranking of General Ambrose Burnside, On the one hand there was his dithering, pokey, piece-meal commitment of troops at Fredericksburg, which literally invited Lee’s outnumbered defensive troops to slaughter Yankees as fast they could load and pull a trigger, yet on the other hand, there is the sheer intuitive brilliance, the instinctive comprehension of amphibious warfare’s many specialized needs, the unfaltering tactical grip, and the dynamic highly visible penumbra of charisma that surrounded his great bald head like a golden halo as he sailed zig-zag through his expeditionary armada in a sparkly little private steam launch, tipping his trademark bowler hat to the cheering soldiers lining the rails to catch a glimpse of him, milking the drama for all it was worth and treating every soldier he made eye contact with as though that buck-private were the most potentially impressive hero since the dueling titans of Troy. His soldiers trusted and admired him, and with good reason, if we are to judge him not by his abysmal, clearly over-matched performance at Fredericksburg, but by his stunningly efficient, almost flawless handling of the largest and most complicated amphibious operation, thus far, in the annals of the United States Navy, whose initially skeptical senior commanders he eventually charmed as he did his own infantry; he somehow pulled the rabbit out of the hat and made army-navy cooperation a living, dynamic new genre of warfare and not just a cynical slogan.

Let me jump to the bottom line, for it was the eastern one-third of my own beloved state that ol’ Chrome-Dome subjugated with such fantastic timing, ballet-master’s finesse and at an almost incredibly cheap cost in blood. During a period lasting from June, 1862, until the coming of peace, with an absolutely minimal number of troops and in the face of several determined Rebel counter-offensives, Burnside’s coastal enclaves on mainland North Carolina (which could be swiftly and powerfully reinforced by sea in about 36 hours) posed a festering, round-the-clock threat to Lee’s biggest and more critical supply line – the railroad net that ran from Wilmington to northern Virginia, the artery that pumped munitions, saddle leather, surgical kits, strategic metals, breech-loading Whitworths that could shoot out a frigate binnacle light at a range of two miles, first shot and every shot, everything from printing plates for Confederate money to whalebone corset stays for the elegant ladies of Atlanta, it all came through that pipeline, and the fortified coastal bastions were a round-the-clock threat that Lee could never forget about, always had to factor in to any offensive operation and usually had to detach scarce good units of cavalry or mounted infantry to keep watch on.

But that’s the long, strategic scope of Burnside’s coastal campaign. More immediately, what Ambrose had achieved was breathtaking:

He had conquered, occupied, or taken out of production due to the proximity of his fortified enclaves a total of THIRTEEN North Carolina counties, many of them among the state’s richest agricultural regions: 2.5 million acres, inhabited by 120,000 whites and 55,000 blacks. The antebellum productivity of this region was extraordinary: 5.2 million bushels of corn. $3-5 million worth of cotton, and vast quantities of “naval stores” (tar, turpentine, pitch and a dozen other sticky sappy vital substances that just oozed naturally out of those tall Carolina pines – provided anyone was there to collect them.

From this vast region, the Confederacy would not only collect no more supplies, but it would also obtain no more taxes and no more conscript soldiers; important/prosperous towns lost to Burnside’s invasion included New Bern, Plymouth, Morehead City, Beaufort, Edenton, Elizabeth City, “Little” Washington, and a dozen smaller but highly useful localities.

No longer could the blockade runners dash to safety through the half-dozen inlets on the Outer Banks, across Albemarle Sound and into safe harbors at Beaufort or New Bern; now they could only try to reach Wilmington, which reduced the difficulties of the US Navy’s blockading squadrons enormously and naturally made foreign goods, especially manufactured military gear, much more costly for Richmond to import.

From the day Burnside sailed back to Washington until the day Wilmington finally fell, the Confederacy was forced to detach large forces to patrol the almost deserted regions of coastline west of Burnside’s enclaves. Had those enclaves been secretly reinforced and a surprise attack launched in a westerly direction, there simply HAD to be enough Confederate reserves in the region to block it, or the CSA might have been cut in two across the width of North Carolina, with a Yankee-blue corridor carved along the Raleigh/Wilmington railroad, effectively cutting off Lee’s whole army from its most important source of supplies.

And because Burnside had accomplished all this at a cost of fewer than 500 battle-deaths, because he fought a smart, shifty campaign and did not squander their lives in frontal assaults against fortified objectives, his soldiers worshiped him.

Even an insubordinate hothead such as Rush C. Hawkins.

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Historical Perspective

The Historical Perspective section is intended to give readers the "history behind the game." This month, Will Trotter gives us the first part of an exciting mix of AAR and historical fiction with From The Diary of Oberst Wolfgang Wurstfangler. This first installment details the events leading up to his AAR and the tactical considerations surrounding the scenario - check back next month to get into the actual action of the AAR!

After Action Report

From The Diary of Oberst Wolfgang Wurstfangler - Commander of “Kamppfegruppe Mengelberg”

Part 1

William R. Trotter

My first action involving tanks was during the second week of the Polish Campaign, when I commanded a reconnaissance force comprised of PzKw-I’s and PzKw-II’s – little more than training toys by today’s standards, but fast and reliable. My first tank-action occurred on 10 September, 1939, when I was serving with General (now Field Marshal) von Bock, who commanded XXI Corps during the war with Poland. We had surrounded a sizable Polish pocket, more than regimental-sized, near the town of Wyszkow, except for one small railroad-line corridor, through which they were receiving a steady influx of reinforcements from Warsaw, where of course the preponderance of German power was tied-up in a bitter siege action. After studying aerial photos and maps I pin-pointed the location of the railhead through which the Poles received their infusions of fresh troops. And hard on the heels of that knowledge came my tactical plan for dealing with it.

It was not without trepidation that I appeared at the General’s headquarters and announced that I -- a mere Kapitan – had a plan for forcing the troublesome Polish pocket to surrender. I expected a stern dressing-down, but instead Von Bock favored me with a fatherly smile and escorted me to the big situation map that covered one wall of the conference room, saying as he did so: “If you’ve come up with a sensible solution, Herr Kapitan, I’m eager to hear it. In a few more days, the Poles we have ‘trapped’ against the Vistula will outnumber my own forces and their commander, General Szymanowski, is no fool. The moment he feels strong enough, he will attempt a break-out and march to the relief of Warsaw – a move which, if successful, could prolong this misbegotten war for weeks if not months. Here, son, take the pointer and show me your idea.”

Click here to continue From The Diary of Oberst Wolfgang Wurstfangler.

Enjoying the article so far? Then check out Operation Barbarossa - The Struggle for Russia!

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Game Spotlight: Heroes of Stalingrad Screenshot Gallery

Mark H. Walker's Lock 'n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad is a turn-based World War II tactical game currently under development by Lock 'n Load Publishing.

About Mark H. Walker's Lock 'n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad

The Lock 'n Load franchise comes to the PC with Lock 'n Load: Heroes of Stalingrad. Designed by Mark H. Walker and programmed by elements of the team responsible for bringing you Panzer General Online, Heroes of Stalingrad remains faithful to Lock' 'n Load's ease of play and immersive format, while incorporating all the advantages of playing on your office flatscreen.

The game features two, branching campaigns. One that is playable from the Soviet side and one from the German point of view. The campaigns are story driven, using graphic novel-type panels to propel the plot. A turn-based game, Heroes of Stalingrad retains Lock 'n Load's engaging impulse system while adding features, such as flanking fire, hidden units, and residual machine gun fire, that would just be too fiddly for the boardgame.

In each campaign gamers will not only need their tactical wits as the fight company-sized battles in, and on the approaches to, Stalingrad, but will also need to manage their troops in the campaign interface. It is in the campaign interface that they decide who to take into to battle, how to spend their precious resource points, and whether to lead a tank-heavy for, vulnerable to enemy infantry in the streets of Stalingrade, or a less mobile, infantry only, contingent.

Heroes of Stalingrad ships with 12 stand alone missions for those who want to jump right in to the fighting. There are bridge seizures, Partisan ambushes, and even a reprisal of several of the scenarios from Lock 'n Load Publishing's fast-selling Not One Step Back.

As you have come to expect from Lock ‘n Load Publishing, the art is superb. David Julien, Marc Schwanebeck, and Nicolas Eskubi have combined to make soldiers, tanks, and maps that pull you into the conflict and won’t let go. The game includes, Soviet Guards, Rumanians, Partisans, and about a quarter-jillion types of German squads, not to mention (but we will) MG34s, DP28, T-34s, T70s, PzIIIj, on and on.



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Latest News

In this section we provide a rundown of the latest updates from Matrix Games, just in case you missed a press release or two.

  1. Gary Grigsby’s Eagle Day to Bombing of the Reich Is Now Available! - A wave of thrilling air campaign action has been spotted on radar heading this way!
  2. War in the Pacific: Admiral’s Edition Updated! - The first official v1.00.84 update for the WWII Pacific monster strategy game is now available!
  3. War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition Wins Gold Award! - Congratulations to Henderson Field Designs and 2 by 3 Games for a now award-winning effort!
  4. Operation Barbarossa: The Struggle for Russia Now Available! - The Fate of the Eastern Front is in your hands!
  5. Empires in Arms Gets a Major Update! - A new Scenario Editor, many fixes and an improved AI on the way to gamers!
  6. Conquest! Medieval Realms Now Available From Matrix Games - Conquer your Foes, Exercise your Brain – This is Conquest!

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A Parting Shot

As September draws to a close, Matrix Games fires up our "Holiday Season" mode where long hours, lots of work, and lots of fun are common. Every year we try to run a mad man's release schedule to bring gamers quality titles that they've eagerly been awaiting and a few that they didn't see coming.

Also, we here at Matrix would once again like to congratulate the War in the Pacific - Admiral's Edition team for a job well done and for the prestigious Gold Award they just won from Gamer's Hall. The new emblem up on their product page is no doubt deserving and we expect plenty more stellar reviews on the way as time goes by.

And as always, anyone who would like to drop us a line and give us some feedback, complaints, etc., please don't hesitate to do so through our general feedback contact form.


Thanks for reading and happy holidays!
The Newsletter Team


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