Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gettysburg 150th Anniversary Game

On June 29th and 30th a group of 14 players gathered at the American Legion hall in Appleton, WI to refight the battle of Gettysburg.  We gathered players from this area of Wisconsin and four players from Minnesota.  We set out to refight Gettysburg at the regimental level using Johnny Reb III for rules, needless to say it was quite an undertaking.  The count that we arrived at was in the neighborhood of 4-6000 figures on a 6' x16' board modeled with terrain to represent the historical battlefield including a scratchbuilt seminary building.  The entire months of May and June were dedicated to getting ready for this (hence the lack of blog activity) including playing practice games of Johnny Reb.

We began by gathering Friday night for a traditional Wisconsin fish fry at the Legion Hall.  The American Legion staff were excellent hosts all weekend and did a great job of seeing to our needs.  We are already thinking about what our next "mega-game" will be.  After service was done, and the hall began to clear we were free to set things up for the game which would begin the next morning.  Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera that night, but my friend Michael did.  You can see pictures of the set up at his blog here:

Saturday morning we gathered bright and early to begin the conflict.  The table awaited us, quiet, as was the historic Gettysburg on June 30, 1863.

Miles away, General Meade works to take command of the Army of the Potomac.  The band plays to rally the spirits of the army on the march.

Several of our players knew the battle quite well, so they asked me (as organizer and GM) to mix up the arrival orders and such so that people didn't anticipate things that should have been unexpected.  I let the commanders chosen to be Lee and Meade choose the order of march for their columns and then also messed with the arrival times to throw a few spanners into the works.  From here on I'll let the pictures tell the story.

 General Buford's cavalry deploys (mounted!?) on Mc Pherson's Ridge awaiting the hard marching Confederates.

In the distance, VI Corps marches up the Emmitsburg Pike moving rapidly to reinforce Buford as the cavalry calls for help.
The lead brigade of Pickett's division, Longstreet's Corps arrives to push the "militia" aside.  In a bold (and surprising) move, the union cavalry attempts a mounted charge.  The results are predictable, but they do mess with the rebel deployment, bottling up the division for an hour while the engagement plays out and both sides reorganize.

VI Corps moves into position on Seminary Ridge to hold while I Corps moves up in the background behind Cemetery Ridge.  They hoped to use 1st and 2nd divisions to hold the rebs while 3rd division moved into Gettysburg or up onto the heights.

In the face of VI Corps the rebs that occupied Seminary Ridge fall back to McPherson's Ridge and form a large artillery battery.  The union positon on Seminary ridge would become quickly untenable.

Far to the Confederate Left, Hood's division arrives and moves up the Railroad Cut.

I Corps moves from the Tanneytown road and begins to file onto Cemetery Ridge and the Round tops.

Hood leads his boys past the Lutheran Seminary.

The weight of numbers (3 divisions) begins to push back 3d division of VI Corps.  They become embroiled in a close range musketry duel with part of Longsreet's corps.  Meanwhile, behind them, the VI Corps artillery and 1st and 2nd div VI corps are redeploying on the Emmitsburg road at the fence line.  These boys fought hard to buy the Union the time to set the line.

The V Corps arrives to add more length to the long blue line.

Th situation at the end of Day 1.  The Union is in position on Cemetery Ridge and along the Emmitsburg Pike.  3rd Div of VI corps is in retreat as night falls having lost through casualties or rout 7 of 11 regiments.

The view of the same from the Union lines.  The union ceded the town to the rebels when Ewell's corps began arriving to the North with only one brigade in a position to slow them.  The obstacle of the town was enough of a barrier to slow the rebs so 3rd Division could move into position on Culp's hill.

The long line that is I Corps strung out behind Cemetery Ridge.
Thus ended day one of Gettysburg.  We gathered the two commanders and the GM (me) and worked out the lines for dawn of day 2.  The union elected to withdraw VI Corps (so I could focus solely on running the game--I was Sedgwick) and deploy I, XI, and V corps on the table as well as half the artillery reserve.  This was something I more or less held them to since we wanted a decent game, and with the Union already on the heights, even the whole rebel army would have little chance to take them away.  On to the redeployments.

The Confederate left.  General Lee plans to personally oversee the attack on Culps/Cemetery hill.

The center of the Confederate line.  General Longstreet commands here running the grand battery deployed on the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary to support Lee's attack.

A view of the same part of the table looking straight to the South.  More Confederate reinforcements stream into Gettysburg.

The view of I Corps deployed on Cemetery ridge.

On the Confederate right, general Hill's entire Corps, supported by Hood's division, moves on the round tops.

General Hood waves his boys forward.

The town of Gettysburg swarms with Confederate regiments moving into the attack.

Lee orders a charge up cemetery hill against XI corps.  Several failed morale rolls later, the confederates have taken the first line of works.  The cemetery would change hands five times throughout the day.

Confederate regiments overrun the first line of works.

On the Union left, Generals Hill and Hood lead a corps+ of troops in an attack the size of which had been unseen since the time of Napoleon.

Massive columns of rebel troops advance.

V Corps awaits them dug in on the round tops.

A panoramic view of Hill's attack.  To the left of the frame Hood's division can be seen moving into the Rose woods and Devil's den.

The confederates deploy the entire Corps artillery in a single grand battery.

As the Confederate columns make contact with the Union lines, driving back the 20th Maine, XII Corps is deployed to reinforce.

I Corps waits patiently at the quiet center of the Union line.  In an effort to give Hill more to think about one division wheels down the hill to threaten Hood's flank.  Longstreet sends forward a brigade of his own to counter.

Hood's troops take the "worst ground he's ever seen."

The Confederate grand battery in front of the Seminary supporting general Lee's attack on Cemetery Hill.

The attack on the Confederate left manages to take the hills of the "hook".  The Union withdraws to reorganize.

On the Confederate right, after losing multiple brigades in the dense woods of the round tops, the confederates have gained a toe hold. the long run, there was little hope of punching through THAT.  It would have been a meat grinder that ate troops all day long.

On the Union right, the troops were organized for a counter attack.  The rebs had bled to take the hills, but there is still another six DIVISIONS that are not on table ready to counter attack.
We called it for time at that point.  We were approaching mid day of day 2 game time, but we were out of playing time.  Several of the guys had a long drive back to MN.  I called it a reb moral victory because they successfully attacked.  We all agreed though, that if the whole Union army had been unleashed  (six more divisions and a couple of dozen guns) it would have been "mission impossible" for the Confederacy.

The group of guys that played the game (minus one who was only there on Saturday)

Battle over, the field is taken down by an exhausted crew.  All in all, a great time was had by all.  We all got to spend a weekend with new and old friends alike.  The American Legion in Appleton was a great host, and we plan to hold more games there in the future.
Throughout the weekend three different TV stations showed up.  Here's a link to one of the stories.  Click on the video to view.
Also check out my friend Michael's blog.  He did multiple entries on the battle (and take better pictures than I do).
Thanks for reading.  I hope you all enjoyed.  We sure enjoyed the game.  Thanks too to all the guys who helped make this possible.


  1. Well done, nice posting. Much more geographical information than I had at hand for mine. And a big, public "THANK YOU" for being the driving force and inspiration behind the project.

  2. I just glad we had fun. I have to admit, when you guys said, "let's use JR III and use all the regiments," I began to question then sanity of more than just myself. :)

  3. Thanks to everyone who make this game possible. I had a gerat time, and feel I learned a great deal by seeing the actual terrain and orders of battle.
    I look forward to the next big event!