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.