Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Battle of Gettysburg

We've been following the 4th Texas Infantry through every engagement of the American Civil War.  From a minor scrap with McClellan's Peninsular army a year ago, we're now in Pensylvannia fighting the infamous Battle of Gettysburg - the war's bloodiest engagement, and one which would later come to represent the 'High Water Mark of the Confederacy'.

For this battle, we were representing part of the Texas Brigade's assault up Little Round Top, through the boulder-strewn Devil's Den.  We are using 6mm Baccus figures, and my own home-brew rules called Two Splendid Lines.

Special mention is also due to Dan and Michael (both members of our SB5 gaming group).  They let us use their newly-converted attic for the inagural game!  Here's to many more...

Battle Report




You can see above how the battle began.  A simple brigade attack, straight up the hill into the arms of a well-defended position.  A tough prospect, made much more difficult by the trees and boulders of Devil's Den.  My plan was to use the terrain to my advantage, getting as much protection as possible.


Here you see the action at the top of Little Round Top, from the Federal perspective.  I'd put my half of the regiment (marked 4 TX.) into column to snake through the boulders, but the Yankees took advantage of this to pour some canister fire into my tightly-packed columns.  I lost about half of my strength getting up the hill, and had to pause to redress the lines.  Fortunately, the added steadiness of both the colours and the colonel stopped them from running, although they were shaken.

The 44th New York is brought round and deploys its flank companies to try and block my skirmishers, under the command of Ollie.


Here, a lucky dice favoured the South.  After an exchange of fire, Ollie charged forwards with nearly 200 skirmishing Texans.  Dan, commanding the 44th, very sensibly elected to give ground rather than stand and be swamped - a perfectly common historical option to prevent the charge 'connecting'.  Unfortunately, the men got a little carried away and once he'd started them withdrawing, he couldn't stop them!  With a few more volleys, the New Yorkers were gone.  Very few casualties, but a good example of how momentum and fear, combined with crowd mentatlity, can lead to some astounding battlefield results.  Dan was very unlucky here as he had only a 10% chance of this happening.


Things started to unravel for the Union here, but they did not give up!  While Ollie worked round their flank, I reformed into line for a charge and had to withstand more vicious canister and rifle fire while I prepared.  I lost another 20% of my regiment in a single volley!


Soon after this picture was taken, the top half of Mike's 140th New York swung back round to refuse the left flank (exactly as Chamberlain of the 20th Maine famously did at just this moment in real life, about a quarter mile further south).  It was to no avail though, as...


The main body of the 4th charges!  With the added effect of flanking fire, and the withdrawal of Hazlett's guns to stop them falling into enemy hands, the 140th soon withdrew.  The 4th Texas stood proudly at the summit of Little Round Top!  However, as you can see, the 16th Michigan managed to drive off two shaken Confederate regiments with a gutsy charge!

Historical Accuracy

This deserves a mention here.  All our previous battles have roughly followed the pattern of the real-world history, but this was very different.  In real life the 4th attacked up the hill twice before withdrawing with heavy loss.  I ascribe our success to three factors:
  • Additional freedom in executing orders.  I had the chance to order columns, double columns and skirmishing attacks - it brought me much closer much more quickly, but I probably wouldn't have been allowed to do this!  Brigade attacks needed everything 'up front' to break through and complicated tactics like this would have left much more to go wrong.
  • Good command and morale dice.  The colonel's +D3 morale was crucial to maintaining enough order to stand and then make that final charge.  Also, the boulders aided as well since cover gives a +1 morale bonus.
  • Dan's bad Give Ground dice.  Rarely does a game turn so dramatically on a single roll.  This basically was the first domino that went, allowing me to break through and start rolling up the line.  Although we agreed that, shortly after the battle ended, I would have withdrawn the 4th.  The Confederates had no reserve left to put in by this point and my 300 men were now down to about 140.
That's it!  What a smashing game, very well fought by our two volunteer Union commanders and we've scratched that ACW itch for a while... until next time, which is Chickamauga...


4 comments:

  1. Fantastic battle report - looks like it was a great game!

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    1. Thanks Mordian, it really was - as you can see we got into the spirit of it!

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  2. Fantastic stuff Ed! Glad you have a newer larger place to play bigger games too.

    I like how your rules describe unit losses in more than just casualties.

    Looking forward to the next installment!

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    1. Thanks Dai - it was after our conversation that I tweaked the rules. You now suffer slightly higher casualties, but at the end of the battle you get 2/3 back as 'walking wounded'. Very few units are killed where they stand, they all just leg it now.

      Thanks! Might be a few weeks as we have some RJW stuff coming up, but it should be another corker.

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