Railways played an important role in the American Civil War and there were even some skirmishes involving trains. Reason enough to bring tracks and rolling stock to the gaming table!
I’ve been collecting and building stuff for an American Civil War railroad for some time now. My starting point was the 15mm train from Peter Pig. It’s made of resin and definitely a gaming piece rather than an accurate model, but it looks quite nice. It fits TT gauge tracks, so I bought a bunch of those second-hand and based them on strips of plastic to provide them with rudimentary embankments.
My next step was to try my hand at scratch building special rolling stock. The first one was a mortar car. One such car, armed with a ‘Dictator’ mortar, was used by the Federals in the siege of Vicksburg. The mortar is from QRF/Freikorp15.
At the moment, I’m working on some scenarios featuring the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, one of the first African American regiments. In a curious skirmish around Jacksonville, the 1st S.C. fought against a Confederate railway gun armed with a 32pdr cannon. There are no images of this particular car, so I based my model on two photos of another such gun. Experts are not entirely sure if this is a Union or Confederate gun, but it certainly looks interesting enough and was easy to model.
I’ve not yet made a railway station building, but I’ve made a warehouse and a water tower to service the steam engine. The red brick building in the background is by S&S Models.
And finally a construction site. The handcar is scratch built using parts of a H0 model by Faller.
It was fun building those things and I’m looking forward to having them in a scenario of Sharp Practice.
Just a quick update on what I’m working on at the moment. For my birthday, K. gave me a gift voucher from my favourite miniatures producer, Peter Pig. I’ve kept the card for a while, as I enjoyed browsing the webstore and pondering what to order. Recently, however, I’ve started to work on a couple of scenarios for Sharp Practiceand decided I need more Confederate cavalry, so I got four packs of mounted and one pack of dismounted troopers. That still leaves me with a bit of money for another order! As always, the service from Peter Pig was exemplary.
The Texas Longhorn cattle you can see on the other painting tray are from Irregular Miniatures. I’ve got two dozen of them, as I want to make an impressive herd. This is going to be yet another scenario, namely the curious naval cattle drive of 1862, where sailors from the USS Kathadin drove 1500 Longhorns through enemy territory. Doesn’t that sound like a proper outline for a game of Sharp Practice?
I’ve also recently finished scratch building two log cabins. The basic structure is made from plasticard, with shish kebab skewers glued on as logs. The chimneys are cut out of blue foam and then covered with PVA and dunked into grit – looks a bit irregular but ok enough, I think. The houses will be used for ACW as well as FIW.
Shortly after we’ve moved into the new flat, I discovered that one of the few (if not the only) wargaming clubs in Vienna is right around where I now live. Naturally, I wanted to check it out. This week, I finally had the opportunity as Virago wanted to inaugurate his newly painted FIW force. He had scheduled a game of Sharp Practiceagainst Annatar and I dropped by to watch. Sigur and several others were also there and after setting up the table, we watched the guys play the Escort scenario from the rule book.
They both used 18mm Blue Moon figures on a standard 4×6 table without modifying the distances. This looks very good and I’d like to try it out with my own 15mm miniatures.
Annatar’s British deployed in open column, with the grenadiers escorting Lady Katharine in the middle. Their provincial rangers rushed ahead to secure the right flank.
Suddenly, two groups of milice canadienne appeared in the woods in front of the British rangers. At the same time, a line of marines marched out of the woods on the other side of the river and opened fire on the column.
The British commander ordered his first two groups to wheel to the left and check the French marines. Oblivious, his grenadiers marched on only to discover that they had left the column behind. Fearing that their mitre caps might make a good target, they headed into the brush beside the road. Meanwhile, the rest of the British formed line to engage the marines, which were still firing into them. The British gave back enthusiastically – in fact, they were so caught up in the smoke and noise that their commander couldn’t make them stop. A firefight developed across the river.
The French commander feared the massed firepower of the British line and retreated his marines behind a hill. Meanwhile, two groups of Indians were rushing through the bushes to hit the British from behind. On the way, they met the rangers which they promptly massacred. The sneaked up behind the British line… but the British commander had finally managed to get his men under control. Smartly ordering them to “right about face”, they turned around and poured a volley into the noble warriors. At first they were only stunned, but then they realised that their chieftain was hit badly. In fact, he was only knocked out, but his men got panicked and decided to fight another day.
As it was getting late, we called it a day and ended the game at this moment. The French would probably have retreated and the Indian chieftain would have been picked up by the British, who could have continued on their way to wherever they were headed.
Being the person with the most experience with the game, I did some rules counselling. However, having never played with anything other than ACW forces, we had to look up some of the characteristics of FIW troops. I didn’t envy the players when four people were shouting rules interpretations and tactical advice at them!
This was a fun evening. I was impressed by the club facilities – there are lots of tables and a nice selection of terrain – and the people I met were friendly and welcoming. I’m looking forward to going there again.
And thanks again to Sigur for providing most of the images!
This scenario is based on a historical skirmish which took place on May 1 1863 during Grierson’s raid through Mississippi.
The historical situation
Since April 17, Union cavalry under Col. Benjamin Grierson had been moving through Tennessee and Mississippi, destroying railroads, burning Confederate stores and freeing slaves. The Confederates had dispatched several detachments to hunt down the raiders. Around noon on May 1, the Ninth Louisiana Partisan Rangers (Major J. de Baun), while on their way to intercept Grierson’s men, halted at Wall’s Bridge. As always, Grierson had sent his scouts ahead, which were nicknamed ‘Butternut Guerillas’ because they wore Confederate uniform. When some of the scouts confronted a Confederate officer, carelessness led to a shot being fired. This alarmed the Rangers, who took position to ambush the Union troopers.
Seeing his scouts bring in Confederate prisoners, Lt.-Col. Blackburn, who was in charge of the Butternut Guerillas, galloped towards the bridge, shouting to his men to come along. When they reached the bridge, a volley was fired. Blackburn and Sgt. Surby were hit while their men scrambled for cover. Pinned in the underbrush of the river embankment, they hoped that reinforcements would arrive soon.
The scenario started with a leaderless group of Butternut Guerillas (Union cavalry) positioned in cover at the river bank. A group of Confederate skirmishers were in the woods opposite the road. For the first two turns, only Leader 2 (with two units of cavalry) and two blue flag cards were in the deck for the Union side. The rest of the Union cards would be added at the beginning of the third turn.
K., wo played the Confederates, immediately deployed her infantry to block the road while her cavalry moved around the woods on her left flank, evidently trying to outflank me. I deployed two groups of cavalry on foot and had them take position at the river bank to the right of the bridge. The skirmishers sniped at my pinned scouts, but all the shooting caused a pall of smoke to hang before them (firing random event). I reckoned that this was my chance to get the Butternut Guerillas out of their predicament and rushed them back towards the other side of the river. Despite being shot at by a group of Rebel infantry marching along the road, they made it safely into cover.
Meanwhile, the Rebel cavalry had advanced to the river and was preparing to ford it. They were quite a spectacular sight and for a moment caused some unease in the Union ranks. However, when they came under fire from my dismounted troopers, a lucky bullet hit the Confederate leader, killing him instantly. Milling about leaderless at the embankment, the riders were no immediate danger for my right flank.
So, when the rest of my cavalry finally arrived, I decided to send them on a charge across the bridge. K. had deployed her infantry in single groups, so I hoped to drive them back without taking too many losses.
Regrettably, it didn’t work out as planned. The Rebs stood up against the charge and gave my horsemen a good licking. Broken, they retreated in panic. Fortunately, my Leader was able to rally them and prevent them from fleeing off the field.
Evidently, a more methodical approach would be advisable, so I dismounted my other group and had them take position to the left of the bridge. K. had meanwhile formed a line and for a while, Confederate and Union troops exchanged fire.
On my right flank, the withering fire from my repeating rifles had driven back one group of Confederate cavalry. The other group had dismounted and managed to wade through the river, intent on falling upon me with pistols and shotguns blazing.
They were, however, driven off by the concentrated fire of my dismounted troopers.
The situation was looking bad for the Confederates and it got even worse when I finally deployed my Woodruff gun.
After two shots from this light piece of artillery, the Rebel commander decided he’d had enough and retreated – with her Force Morale at 3 against mine at 7, K. conceded.
This was a bit of a mixed affair. We both hadn’t played Sharp Practice for a while and felt a bit rusty rules-wise, which interrupted the flow. Also, K. was really unlucky: her shooting was dismal and losing her cavalry leader early in the game completely stalled her counter-attack and allowed me to make my foolhardy charge without any real negative consequences. There was also a slight balance issue, as I’ve underestimated the Union cavalry’s repeating rifles – being able to deliver the double volume of fire makes them formidable enemies!
Historically, what happened was that the first group of Union reinforcements to arrive also rashly charged across the bridge, only to be repulsed by Confederate volleys. When Grierson finally arrived at the scene, he had his men dismount and advance on both sides of the bridge. They formed a skirmish line along the river bank while Cpt. Smith brought forward the Woodruff guns. When the skirmishers and the guns opened fire, the Rebel shooting started to wane. Grierson now advanced his mounted troopers, two groups fording the river on the flanks and one charging across the bridge. The Confederates broke and retreated.
In the afternoon of the same day, Grierson’s men had another close brush at Williams’ Bridge before they could cross into Union territory. They had covered over 600 miles in less than sixteen days, capturing and paroling over 500 prisoners, destroying around 50 miles of railroad and telegraphs as well as immense amounts of army stores and capturing 1000 horses and mules. Most importantly, they had created a diversion which enabled General Grant to safely land his troops below Vicksburg, leading to his taking of the city.