A very brief summary of an American Civil War battle I fought at Deeside recently, with a few pictures. My co-conspirators (Andy and Luke) and I had succeeded in making and painting enough figures to make a decent fist of a battle, and I picked the Battle of Olustee out of an old Miniature Wargames magazine as a nice even and easy scenario.
For those who haven’t come across this fight before the date is 1864, and the Union forces have landed on the coast of Florida in the hope of defeating the Confederate military in the state and installing a pro-union civilian government. Commanded by Brigadier General Seymour the Yankees have overstretched themselves in aiming to destroy a distant railway bridge, and met the rebels coming the other way. The rebels, under Brigadier General Finnegan, have managed to get overexcited and left some perfectly good defences behind to settle for this fight in sparse pine woods with few other features. Both sides are evenly matched in numbers (approximately 5,000 men a side historically, 18 regiments a side in our re-fight), and arrived on the battlefield in our battle at a simplified rate of a brigade every couple of turns. Luke, normally a rebel, had to turn his coat and join my Union troops to even the numbers, and he took command of 2 infantry brigades, while I had 1 infantry and 1 cavalry.
On to the battle and the cavalry arrived first, with Andy’s first into the central field to control the middle, and mine, not fancying the fight, heading off in a right hook flanking manoeuvre. Luke’s biggest brigade of infantry was first on the scene for the union, and marching at double quick speed up the centre he gave the rebel cavalry a bloody nose before settling for a tit for tat fight over the field with Andy’s central infantry brigade, first pushing them back, then being driven back to the far side of the field where they stayed. My cavalry’s big chance to turn the tide of battle in the Yankees favour came when another of Andy’s infantry brigades ventured too close to them while still in march column, but command failures meant they didn’t charge and the chance was gone. The rebels gradually extended their line so their infantry was no longer threatened in the flank while it traded fire with Lukes men.
On the union left my large infantry brigade gradually deployed to face an equally big confederate brigade, but slowly came off worst due to Andy’s correct deployment of artillery in the gaps between his regiments, while mine was stuck towards the rear. The union aim was to inflict 60% casualties on the Confederate forces, but after 3 hours we could safely say we were nowhere near that total! A final desperate charge by my infantry and cavalry on each flank was ill judged and we lost a number of regiments, putting a gloss on the rebel victory that really wasn’t needed. History was repeated and Florida stayed for the South!
|Andy's central brigade arrives.|
|The Rebel horse take up positions in the field.|
|Some very confused rebs fighting for the Union - Lukes troops.|
|Opening few turns - Union to the right, Rebels to the left. Lukes Yankee infantry are closing in on the cavalry in the field while my cavalry are taking up a wide position near the buildings on the right.|
|Union infantry vs Rebel horse.|
|My infantry brigade arrive in march column along the road.|
|The union cavalry near the farm.|
|Luke's infantry meet Andy's which is at an angle due to the threat from the Union horse.|
|All the troops are on the battlefield and moving into position, Union to the right once more.|
|Luke's troops clashing with the Rebels in the centre.|
|And again - cavalry being defeated by infantry in combat.|
|My infantry taking a beating from closing fire.|
|The centre and right of the Union forces, with the Confederacy troops expanding to form a continuous line across from the pond.|
Post Battle Thoughts:
The victory conditions were unrealistic, even if the rebels had suffered some shocking reverses – troops in Blackpowder rarely disappear that quickly! The union plan (when we belatedly decided to have a plan around turn 2-3) was to threaten the Confederate infantry centre with my cavalry on its flanks with the aim of causing it to form up at an angle which would leave it vulnerable to being hit in the side by either my horses or Lukes infantry. Sadly more rebel infantry arrived and got in the way, while Andy extended his troops to plug the centre gap. On the right it was a straight fight, and because I pressed into close range I came off worst. One of the oddities of the deployment was that it always appeared to us that Andy had more troops, but he had simply extended his line to overlap ours, while our troops were in deeper formations. In the end this aided him because he was able to get more rifled muskets too bear.
Things I learnt:
The armies, despite their 6mm size, look very good on the table top, and the whole battle was very aesthetically pleasing. The 6ft by 4ft table space was also great to use even with such large armies due to the troops scale.
Cavalry are no match for infantry in a fight – the infantry win firefights and combats, best to be used as a nuisance.
Scenarios make the game; straight Blackpowder fights between equal forces are more likely to turn into a stalemate.
The brand of Blackpowder we used may be a bit too ‘vanilla’ for a decent ACW taste (person point of view), in need of a few tweaks to make it more interesting and specific. Alternatively I’ve long liked the look of Longstreet (but its expensive), or Fire & Fury (less expensive, but still a good chunk to spend on an experiment.