First Shots Fired in the Battle of Shiloh

Club member Sean gets a few turns in fighting the exciting, close run Battle of Shiloh (April 6,7 1862) at home.

In a dawn surprise attack the Confederates threatened to inflict a pyjama-clad rout on the Federals asleep in their tents. We’re playing with modified Fire and Fury rules in 6mm and will have, when the Union soldier finally wake up and get out of their tents, about 4,500 figures on the table. There was a naval element in the battle (the Lexington and the Tyler ironclads, not the casement Carondelet and monitor Pasaic gunboats shown) and the Great Western Battles F&F scenario book allows them the strength of half a battery and an indirect fire range of 16″. Any Rebs silly enough to go within 2″ get canister. But the airforce, in the shape of the balloon, was not present, so is only for decoration.
Two Union, gunboats await the Rebs on the Tennessee River at Pittsburgh Landing
Two miles to the SW three Confederate corps face only two Union divisions roused tousled & disordered
Sherman’s division holds them up but takes losses
The Confederate columns push rapidly towards Shiloh Church, more shed than church
Meanwhile 3Corps, on the right, makes a fast march north to outflank the whole Union position

Hopefully Sean will be able to get back to this game soon with an update on the action.

Building A 15mm ACW Ironclad

Stephen is inspired by a piece of balsa…

I had a spare bit of balsa planking I’d used for a previous project where a piece had been cut out of it that left the remainder with a prow-like curve at one end.

I just happened to see it and then a thought popped into my head: ‘that looks like the prow of an ironclad.’

And that’s how this project came to be.

The first decision I had to make was size. It was going to be a gaming model not a scale model. Assuming that 15mm is 1/110 scale that would mean a scale model would need to be about 2 feet long.

That wouldn’t be practical since this would be used in big battle games and ground scale comes in to play.

But it had to ‘look right’ next to a 15mm figure, as if a crew could actually get in it. So it couldn’t be too small either.

The bit of balsa I had was 25cm long. I got out a 15mm figure, put it next to it and…it looked about right.

The starting point and tools.

So that’s the scale I went with – the gamer’s favourite ‘looks right’ scale.

This proved to be a simple model to make, though some processes were repetitive.

I used Wills Scenics embossed plasticard for the wooden decking. With that done I then sanded the sides to make sure it was all nice and smooth.

Hull planking added

Next came the superstructure. This was built in thick card and then clad in plasticard.

Superstructure added.

The plasticard was incised using a compass to represent the iron cladding. This got really dull! It was only after I had stuck it all together that I suddenly realised I had forgot to add any rivet details. I thought about doing it retroactively, but then I thought about the amount of rivets I would need to do and thought, ‘sod that – this is a gaming model.’

Broadside gunports and more tools.

The funnels were made from styrene tubing with a bit of styrene wrapped around the top for where the stabilising wires were attached. Guide holes were drilled and they were glued in place.

Funnels added

The wheelhouse went through two versions. Some pictures show it with sloped sides, some with slab sides. The first version I did was sloped. But when it was glued in place it gave the whole model a modern ‘sports boat’ look with all those slopes. It just didn’t look right. So I took that off and made a new, square, one. The rest of the hull furniture was made from bits of styrene and chain from an old necklace.

Second attempt at the wheelhouse and deck furniture added

Then on to the paintjob.

I got this wrong as well.

I’ll confess I don’t know too much about ACW river ironclads. I remember from ages ago seeing an ironclad game where the hulls had been painted silver (presumably to represent the iron). If I’m honest, that always seemed wrong to me, but I just respected other’s knowledge.

So I painted my model with metallic sides.

It just looked wrong and too shiny. I thought the matt varnish would dull it down, which it did. But it still looked wrong.

Time for a quick bit of research. Sure enough, my instincts were correct – they weren’t left bare metal! Black, dark grey, and light grey seem to have been the preferred colours. Even sky blue!

I prepared myself that I might have to do a re-paint.

Before that, though, I thought I’d do an experiment – an all over black wash. That seems to have worked and saved me a re-paint. It now has a darker finish, the black wash has taken off the metallic look but left it with just enough to suggest wear and tear.

The finished model

No re-paint needed.

On the river

The Battle of the Little Round Top

What I like about the American Civil War for gaming is that it is a simple period.

There’s only a couple of troop types, and uniforms were uncomplicated. Compare that to the nightmare that is Napoleonics…

So I decided to have myself a game, using my own rules. In fact, I thought the Battle of Little Round Top would be ideal.

Troops were deployed as their historical counterparts and then it was up to me from there. The table stretched from the Round Tops in the south, up through Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, with Codori farm to the north. The Confederate forces consistent of Longstreet’s I Corps (minus Pickett’s division), and the Union III Corps under Sickles.

The game started with a general advance by the Confederates. Hood’s division was looking at the Devil’s Den and Little Round Top, where the union brigade led by Ward was ensconced with an artillery battery. This looked like it would be a difficult approach for the Confederates so the rest of Birney’s division looked north to where McLaws’ confederate division was covering Codori farm and the Wheatfield. This would make the union have a strong presence in the northern part of the battlefield – with Humphrey’s division and most of Birney’s concentrated that way.

Sure enough, things got off to a good start for the union. The artillery at Codori farm and the Wheatfield gave Barksdale’s brigade a hefty pummelling. They advanced under heavy fire. They tried to force it to a charge, but they’d taken a serious bombardment and any charge would come to nothing. So McLaw pulled them back and advanced Wofford’s brigade to cover.

Meanwhile, Hood’s division plodded forward. The union artillery on Little Round Top opened up on them, but the fire wasn’t that effective. The confederates took the risk on a steady approach – rather than the infantry charging forward they moved up at a pace with their artillery.

Like in the actual battle, there was a lot of fighting around Codori farm (which would see even more fighting the next day, being on the south of Pickett’s ill-fated charge). Both Union and Confederate were beating the living daylights out of each.

This left the centre.

Graham’s union brigade advanced through the Wheatfield. Opposite was Kershaw’s confederate brigade. A firefight started in the Wheatfield. Realising he could soon be outflanked by Trobriand’s brigade, Kershaw made the decision to charge.

And in he went!

Not only did he push Graham back to Plum Creek, but he followed up the charge by rushing the artillery battery that had been holding back Carr and Brewster at Codori farm.

This signalled a change of confederate fortunes.

Hood’s division had moved up to Devil’s Den, with only Ward and a single artillery battery opposing them! Trobriand, in the middle, had made a bad decision – he should have been looking south where he could have outflanked Hood, but instead had been distracted north by the hard fighting there and Kershaw’s advance.

Ward and his artillery pulled back to the top of Little Round Top, hoping to delay Hood’s advance. The union artillery under Burling turned south, where it could make a long shot against Hood’s advance along Plum Creek.

Then it became the turn of the Union to see what it feels like coming under sustained artillery fire.

McLaw’s artillery batteries on the Emmitsburg Road opened up and caused massive destruction amongst the union troops but left them low on ammo (they all rolled 10s!).

This, effectively, did for the union north flank. And with Kershaw’s push in the centre leaving the union in disarray, it meant the sole focus would now be on Little Round Top – with Ward’s brigade trying to hold off Hood’s division and what was left of McLaw’s.

At that point a victory was declared for the confederates!

It had been a tight victory.

In hindsight, the Union had failed when they allowed themselves to be distracted by McLaw’s advance, concentrating all their brigades except one on stopping him. This left Hood to advance pretty much unmolested until it was too late. The guilty party had probably been Trobriand who was in an ideal position to outflank Hood’s advance but had, instead, been spooked by Kershaw, who he should have left to Birling and Graham.

ACW Rescue

Stephen delves in his lead pile and recovers some long lost figures.

Many moons ago I bought some 28mm ACW figures in a bring ‘n’ buy with the intention of doing some skirmish games with them. I think they are Essex Miniatures. They then languished in the lead pile for a couple of years until Covid 19 came along and I had run out of anything else to paint. So, due to a global pandemic they managed to wriggle their way to the top.

I still haven’t decided what rules I will use. There’s Rebels & Patriots and Sharpe Practice, but neither is really exciting me. Still, got to get them painted before you have a game with them. Rules can come later.

I based them on Renedra 25mm bases and added some filler. They were then given an undercoat with Humbrol ‘Dark Earth’ model spray (the confederates will get a grey undercoat). That was the point at which they then found themselves abandoned in the lead pile.

The first thing I tend to do is base coat the flesh. This was done with Vallejo Saddle Brown. I also base coated the rifle as well using GW’s Mournfang Brown and the bayonet was done with Revell acrylic Steel. I then washed the rifle and bayonet. Normally I would use GW’s Agrax Earthshade, but I’m out of that. So I went old skool – a watered-down version of a dark brown acrylic paint.

So, the flesh. The base colour was Vallejo Medium Flesh and then highlighted by adding a drop of white. Beard and hair was done with Vallejo Golden Brown. I decided I wanted the uniforms to be a bit random – fabric, dye, and supplier would have varied during the war.

The jacket was done with a mix of Vallejo Oxford Blue, a drop of Royal Blue, and a bit of black. I varied the ratio between batches to give a bit of variety. The base coat was highlighted with a drop of grey rather than white.

The sky blue trousers were a mix of Vallejo Sky Blue with a spot of brown and grey to dirty and vary the shade. Again, the ratios were varied to reflect different supplies. This was then highlighted by adding white.

Leather straps were done in black and highlighted by adding browns and greys. This helps vary the type of black, which can vary depending on material and quality of dye being used. The shoulder bag was undercoated with Vallejo khaki and then highlighted with Revell Beige.

That just left the rifle. All I did was touch up the wood with GW Mournfang Brown. The bayonet and fittings were done with Revell Steel. The bayonet point was highlighted with Vallejo silver.

That leaves the basing. A coat of PVA then sprinkle with ballast and let it dry. And then a blob or two of more PVA and sprinkle with static grass.

And that’s that done.

ACW Vicksburg Campaign Turn 1: The Battle of Bloody Creek

Stephen takes us through the first installment of the 2020 ACW campaign.

At the last meeting we had the first turn of this year’s campaign – an American Civil War campaign based around the Union attempt to capture Vicksburg.

Although the campaign background is historical, the forces are fictional. This is a chance for club members to carve their place in history as great generals and strategists!

Leading the Union corps is Major General John Roche with Generals Kim Heath and Alan Ockleford under his command. In control of the Confederate forces is Major General Mark Harris, ably assisted by Generals Jeremey Claridge and Tony Gibbs.

The campaign works using a map for strategic movement and when a battle occurs we move to the games table. Small skirmishes with pickets and scouts are not gamed and are resolved with a dice role.

Corps commanders were given a pack which included a map, orders of battle, mission brief, and objectives. They would have autonomy to achieve their goal anyway they wanted. Responsibility would fall on their heads.

Each turn a random event card is drawn. The two sides then put together their supply dice (based on how many supply depots they control). These can be used to move brigades up quicker, but are also used for actions such as burning/building bridges and for replenishing broken units.

So Turn One began!

The Union officers were quick to set up camp (in the far corner of the hall) and were promptly goaded by the Confederate players for their studiousness and planning. However, that soon changed when the full scope of what they had to achieve dawned on them – they also soon gave way to planning and plotting! In fact, when it was time to conduct the first move it was the Confederate players who dallied – still pouring over the map and making plans.

Each brigade, battery, and picket is given its own counter. Brigades from the same division can occupy the same square, but divisions are not allowed to mix. The Union set up their supply depot at Grand Gulf on the Mississippi, and deployed their corps in and around that area. The Confederate corps was more thinly spread, trying to protect the towns at Vicksburg and Jackson and the forests in between.

The first few strategic moves were cautious, as you would expect as players got used to how the rules worked and also their opponent’s demeanour.

The Union brigades kept coming up against Confederate pickets which were easily chased off but this also meant the Confederate scouts were able to identify Union troop movements and strength, which gave the Confederates some idea of what was coming. The Union corps didn’t seem to be using its pickets quite as efficiently, preferring to move entire divisions at a time to advance on the Confederates.

There then started a bit of jockeying for position with both sides trying to concentrate their divisions for battle, but one side or the other refusing to give battle until the situation suited them. General Claridge, commanding the Confederate 3rd Division protecting Jackson, started to bring his troops west to support General Gibbs and his 1st Division troops near Edwards Station who were being threatened by the Union 1st and 3rd divisions.

Meanwhile, further west, the Union and Confederate 2nd divisions started to coalesce around Warrenton.

When battle first came it was a surprise – it looked more likely to take place somewhere in the middle near Edwards Station, but in the end it was the two 2nd divisions that finally came to blows outside Warrenton.

Both generals gave the order to battle!

This initial action was a comparatively small affair. This was just as well, since it would give both sides chance to see how the battle rules work without too much at stake.

The Union deployed with their cavalry brigade, dismounted, along a creek. Behind them, in support, was Heselbrigge’s brigade, with the rest of 2nd Division and its artillery in the rear. The Confederates arrayed in line with their artillery protecting the flank and looking over a farm.

Rumour has it that Major General Roche had ordered General Ockleford not to cross the creek and, instead, to take up a defensive position and use the artillery to force the Confederates to either quit the field or attack their positions. It is unclear whether these orders never got through, or if General Ockelford decided to ignore them or if, in the heat of the moment, he acted rashly.

What happened was that the Confederates, realising they would take a pounding from the Union artillery, pulled back into the woods to take up a protected position in cover. This was soon followed by the Union brigades crossing the creek, ahead of the artillery moving up, to take the battle to the Confederates.

Not a good move! Not only did the creek slow the Union advance, exposing them to artillery and musket fire, but they then halted in the open without charging the Confederate line. Realising their mistake, they soon ordered the charge! But it had come too late. Advancing against the dug-in Confederates, and wavering in the open, had exposed them to withering fire.

The result? First victory went to the Confederates who named the encounter The Battle of Bloody Creek.

Time will tell if the Union have learnt their lesson.

The Battle Of Antietam

Stephen takes on the Union in this historical refight.

At a recent meeting we had an American Civil War game – the Battle of Antietam!

Being such a large battle, and the bloodiest in American history, we didn’t do the whole battle. Instead we focused on the action at the end of the day – the Union grab for Sharpsburg.

Our game took place after the battle for Burnside bridge. We set up the brigades as they were after the Confederates had been pushed back and Burnside’s corps advanced toward Sharpsburg.

Taking the Union were Jon Roche (Corps command plus Wilcox and Sturgis’ divisions) and Paul French (with Rodman and Scannon’s divisions). In control of the Confederates were Jeremey Claridge (Jones’ division) and Stephen Tucker (Hill’s division). There was no overall Confederate commander, with the two Confederate divisions (which were much larger than the Union divisions) acting independently.

The Union side also had a large artillery park with three batteries which were under Army command, so couldn’t be moved but would shoot at targets that came in range.

The Union objective was to get a brigade in Sharpsburg, the Confederate objective was to stop them!

Initially, Hill’s division was not deployed – his brigades were busily marching up the road from Harper’s Ferry to bolster the Confederate line. So at the outset the Union outnumber the Confederates. As such, the Union made an advance on the Confederate line. Not so on the southern edge – Scannon’s division was a bit tardy in its approach. Meanwhile, John deployed his artillery in a field, near to the Army artillery park, which would provide a powerful incentive for the Confederates not to counter-attack on that side.

Hill’s division came on, but was hampered in its deployment due to cramped conditions – it was proving hard to fit the brigades and artillery where they were needed.

Eventually the two sides came to blows – Jones’ division to the north around Cemetery Hill facing off against Wilcox and Sturgis, and Rodman (waiting Scannon’s arrival) to the south coming over Centre Hill.

The early part of the battle was going slightly in favour of the Confederates. The artillery to the north was making it hard to take the battle to the Union, so Jones’ brigades and artillery dug-in and pushed back the Union attacks.

On Centre Hill, Rodman came over the top, took a round of musketry, and then pulled back! Much to everyone’s amazement (not, least Burnside’s!). Paul did try to explain this (ahem) ‘cautious’ move.

But maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Because emboldened by this withdrawal, Hill advanced his brigades over Centre Hill and took the battle to the Union with a wild rebel yell. And paid the price for charging the guns.

Equally emboldened, Jones advanced Drayton’s brigade against the Union brigades and artillery to the north. After a round of pummelling from Union Corps and Army artillery they soon regretted it and hobbled back all but destroyed.

In the end our game had a very historical outcome – the battle just fizzled out. The Union didn’t have it in them to continue the push to Sharpsburg and the Confederates didn’t have it in them to counter attack. Like the actual battle itself, it was a no-score draw – both sides had taken so many casualties neither could carry the day.

My thanks to Jeremey and Andy for taking some pictures.

Chain of Command – and no Chain of Command

 

We had two games running at our last meeting.
The first was 15mm refight of the opening clash of the American Civil War, the First Battle of Bull Run. The second was a 25mm action using Chain of Command.
In the first game Andy and Jon led the Federal Army against Steve and Mark with the combined Confederate Armies of Beauregard and Johnston.
This used Steve’s 15mm figures and was a third playtest for his home grown, Brigade level rules.  One of the features of this action was the fairly chaotic command arrangements of the newly raised, largely volunteer armies, which arrived over the course of the action.  This means that units from the same command were set up to appear at different points on the battlefield, meaning that many brigades were hard to co-ordinate as they were out of their command radius.

We managed to reverse history with this one with the Federals seizing the high ground and seeing off all of the Confederate attempts to get it back.  Steve’s rules make for an enjoyable and fast paced game and after a few tweaks to fine tune things are ready for another outing!

In our second game fast forward to 1944 and Dave and Pete led their American paratroopers (with some help from an attached Sherman tank)against a position defended by German paratroopers under Alan and John.  Figures and terrain from Alan’s 25mm collection.  Alas the Sherman support was to no avail – picked off in an ambush by a Panzer killer team armed with Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust anti-tank weapons.  These rules can be the source of some nasty surprise if your opponents save up command points to deploy ambushes!