Monday, September 10, 2012

Volley & Bayonet ACW Battle: Gettysburg's Peach Orchard

Played a "small" Volley & Bayonet ACW Battle last night.  Well, small for Volley and Bayonet I suppose.  Last night I gamed the Rebel I Corps' assault against Sickle's III Corps Salient at Gettysburg.  For anyone that doesn't know, General Dan Sickles, for reasons that still elude us, advanced his Corps off Cemetery Ridge on Day 2 and moved out towards I guess what he thought was better ground to his immediate front.

The resulting bulge in the Union lines stuck itself into one of the most powerful Corps formations in the Rebel army, as it was positioning itself for an echeloned attack against the Union positions on their left flank.  The battles that were fought in and around that area of Gettysburg are some of the most heroic, terrifying, and costly battles in the annals of the American Army to this day.

Brigades and Batteries posted along the Emmitsburg Road go stationary.

Sickles' III Corps after their initial advance.  The Plum Run is visible on the left with the Rose Farm next to it. The Trostle Farm is visible in the lower right.  THe Peach Orchard is along the road.

General Sickles' Headquarters at the Trostle Farm.  Pretend that "1" is a "3" ...

This battle had some unusual and unexpected conclusions. The result was not at all what I expected to happen.  Although Volley and Bayonet usually delivers predictable results, last night's engagement was a complete reversal of fortune.  I will get into why I think that happened.
Barksdale's Brigade advances against the Peach Orchard

Union guns ready themselves for action.

INto the fray

After the initial assault, Barksdale's Brigade evaporated (???) Union Brigades hold firm with heavy casualties. A direct assault along the Peach Orchard would not occur the rest of the Battle in that kind of mult-Brigade strength.

Assaulting the Wheatfield.  

Rose Woods.

Defending the Stone Wall against Hood's Texans

De Trobiand's Brigade in the Wheatfield

Nowhere along the huge front did the Rebel's find their attacks succeeding.  I attribute this to several planning mistakes I made both laying out the terrain and assigning movement values.

Since Volley & Bayonet's movement for massed units is 16 inches, I changed movement and range to centimeters, however I kept the ground scale the same as if it was in inches.  That's a problem with scenario design for a few reasons:

In the actual Battle, union brigades arrived, and were almost immediately attacked.  In Volley & Bayonet terms, I do not believe they would have had time to "go stationary" however they met the Rebel Assaults with 7 melee and 5 fire dice.  Not good prospects for the Rebs.

Also in the actual Battle, the Rebs achieved excellent local superiority and had supporting Brigades in their assaults.  I was, at best, only ever able to achieve 2:1 on the assault for the rebs and 4 dice are still no match for 7 fire dice.

One last thing is terrain density.  Since my ground scale was so convoluted, I believe I made the terrain more restrictive than it should have been.  The Rose Woods was too close to the Rose Farm and the Wheatfield, and did not give the Rebs the maneuver room they needed to flank the positions around the Peach Orchard and Wheatfield.  The Rebs never had a chance.

Marker marks the position of the Battery that was captured by the rebs, mins 1 Strength Point.

Captured and re-crewed the guns!  First time that has ever happened in a Volley and Bayonet game for me.

US Excelsior Brigade counterattacks in the Peach Orchard driving Semmes' Brigade out

Final Dispositions - All Union Brigades hold their ground with significant casualties
In all, this battle was much more like Shiloh than Longstreet's assault on Sickles' Corps.  I even tried echeloning the assaulting divisions, which ended up being deadly for the Rebs as they could not support each other.  The actual battle was a quick and intense encounter and in some instances, New York and Pennsylvania Regiments were literally swept out of Barksdale's way.  In this battle, Barksdale's Brigade was annihilated.  Kind of unexpected.  A cracking good time though, and my next 6mm ACW adventure will be First Manassass.  Huzzah!


  1. Good looking game. V&B is a great system. Your bases are very nice. I like the way you have put terrain on them.

    1. Thanks, Mike. That's one of the best things about 6mm and Volley & Bayonet (the perfect gaming combination?) are the huge bases that can accomodate entire battalions of 6mm troopers.
      Many of these guys were painted by a good friend of mine, Dave F of the Charge Bayonet blog. They gave up their lives as Fire & Fury / GHQ MicroForce stands to spend an eternity as Volley & Bayonet rebel Brigades. Most of the yanks were painted by me.
      You and I agree completely about V&B. I think to game an entire battle, there isn't a system better out there that will deliver more realistic results.

  2. Steve,
    Another excellent AAR with the pros and cons both given equal importance.

    I'm glad to see the boys are making their way onto the gaming table! :-)

    1. Thanks, Dave.
      Your troops are the backbone of my rebel forces.

      I wouldn't dream of writing an AAR any other way. We'll only get better if we're honest about our shortcomings and our talents!

  3. Hi Paul:
    Interesting AAR on a what sounds like an exciting game. It's refreshing to see a game based on an historical scenario.
    I needntompick your brains about 6mm scenery since I am just dipping a toe into 6mm Napoleonics.

  4. Very nice AAR, looking fun and interseting, nice photos!

  5. Very nice looking game. What size bases are you using, the standard 3 inch?



    1. Todd,
      Using the standard 3" bases per the rules. I screwed up the ground scale by changing my movement rates to cms and not adjusting ground scale appropriately. I think a refight is in order.