Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sesquicentennial Gettysburg Game

This month, July 2013, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and earlier this week a band of enthusiasts came together to mark the occasion with a wargame using 54mm toy soldiers.  The real battle was fought over three days but we opened our action on day two of the struggle:

Overview of the field from Rock Run Creek looking west

The union forces are concentrated in a salient between the two roads that stretch from cemetery ridge where General Meade has made his headquarters all the way back to Little Round Top, the ground rises steadily from the town of Gettysburg up to the surrounding hills. Flags are placed to mark initial troop deployments (some are dummies) and are replaced by actual units when the umpire decides that they are in line of sight at ground level.

Meade's headquarters defended by a Regiment. of elite Zouaves and an artillery battery.

The rebel attack opens from the east of Gettysburg.

As in all good toy soldier games the cannon are matchstick firing but the guns have been issued with limited amounts of ammunition and conserving ammo starts to become critical as the game progresses, particularly for the Confederates who have limited resupply.

Union infantry occupy the woods to the east of Cemetery Ridge.

Battle opens on the Union right as the confederates advance over open ground towards the woods opposite Meade’s HQ. and push up the road towards cemetery ridge. The woods are occupied by Union infantry and a hot artillery duel ensues which sees heavy casualties on both sides but rebel pressure tells and the Feds are pushed back up the ridge.

Overview of the initial action.

The artillery duel begins.

Confederate Command, with an English observer, Captain William Widdirington: late of the Steam Steel and torpedoes blog

The Confederate Command watch as their attack goes in.

The Confederate advance from Gettysburg along the roads up to the ridge

More Confederate Regiments appears on the Union left, working their way south towards Little Round Top, to close the line with another two Regiments believed to be hidden in the woods.  Up on the hills above, three Union Regiments with two Batteries await them.

The fighting becomes much hotter on the right and a Regiment is rushed from the centre to stiffen the Federal flank.

The Union left flank is rocked by the rising crescendo of the Rebel Yell!

Up on Little Round Top the Yankee commander starts to get anxious that the expected rebel attack against him might just be a faint and he makes a probing advance to force the issue. Too late he discovers that he has been duped, the main attack is well advanced on the right while he has been sitting on the left with half the army and it’s guns.

Union troops on the left advance across The Wheatfield and form line around the Peach Orchard.  (the plant markers were used to indicate geographical features)

The Union left makes up for lost time, engaging the Rebel right to the relief of the hard pressed Zouaves holding the centre.

Effective Confederate artillery fire takes out the first Union battery.

Good shooting from the Rebel guns took a fearful toll on the massed ranks of Union troops squeezed into the salient.

Pressure builds up on the right as more Confederate regiments are fed straight into the attack as they arrive in the line.

And yet more Rebels!  the whole of the South must be here today.

The struggle to hold the woods continues

The Iron Brigade and Berdans Sharpshooters join the line as the last reserves are thrown in to face the final assault of the day

As dusk closes in the last couple of moves are played out, on the left the effect of massed rifle fire sweeps away the the Confederate right wing but in reply the Rebel counter battery fire finds the Union caissons and blows away the entire battery. 

It was planned to play the game over two days and as the first came to a close honours were fairly even. The Confederate right had been destroyed and their artillery were now running perilously short of ammunition but their main strength remained intact on the left and in the centre. Union forces still held the ridge but had taken a fearful pounding and had lost nearly all their guns, both sides settled down to spend the night on the battlefield, in the morning they would redress their lines and continue the struggle.

Sadly I was unable to stay for the second days play so this is all I have to offer you but hopefully the story will be taken up and continued on the Megablitz and more blog of Mr Tim Gow who commanded the armies of the South on the day.
The game didn’t follow the path of the original battle and it was never intended that it should do so (especially with the well known Rebel sympathies of some players on the Union side!). All the players contributed several regiments each, the sight of so many toy soldiers set out on an extensive terrain was quite inspiring and made the effort of painting them up all the more worthwhile.


  1. That just looks like amazing fun. Wish I could have been there.

  2. Ah, the anniversary explains the proliferation in American Civil War topics in a lot of blogs of late! Even a lot of the British wargaming blogs seem to have gone ACW crazy at the moment!

    Excellent photo recreation.

  3. I'll get the first of my reports posted at the weekend. Brian, you did right to not come back for day 2.....

  4. It was great fun and I am pleased to be able to share some of the day with a wider audience,

    Tim, your comment does not bode well for the fortunes of the North!

  5. Hi Brian, Fabulous post as usual! Bravo! There was some concern here in the USA that people really wouldn't care about this anniversary, but not so. Hundreds of thousands have flocked to Gettysburg for reenactments and other celebrations to honor those that took part 150 years ago! Thank you again Brian for your great posts and please keep up the great work!

    Brad DeSantis

  6. Thanks, Brad, glad to hear people are honouring the memory, it was a momentous occasion in American history.

  7. Looking very good! Nice pictures...

  8. Back in 1962, I visited the Battlefield with my family whilst collecting my MARX and other Civil War soldiers and devouring Bruce Catton and "The American Heritage".
    I followed the actual reenactments this year on YouTube with keen interest, Brian, but only today am able to catch up on what you all did over that fateful weekend.
    Thanks so much for akll you do in our wonderful hobby!

  9. See....This is wargaming at it's finest! You've captured the real "Little wars" flavor... Great photos....

  10. Very cool to see! I've been thinking about doing an outdoor American Civil War battlefield with some of my cheaper plastic figures and doing a basic paint job mainly to be viewed as an overall battle. Feel free to check out some of my creative works on here as well.

    1. Glad you liked it Patrick, I enjoyed seeing your blog and look forward to following the development of your outdoor battlefield.