Fire & Fury Antietam
June 2011 saw 10 players from Central London refight the Northern Battlefield element of the morning of Antietam using Fire & Fury and 10mm figures, inside Swiss artist Christophe Buchel's latest project, the Piccadilly Community Center. After peeling away the layers of confusion and irony around using an artwork designed to look exactly like a community center as a community center, we'd realised that this was a free room in the middle of London's West End, which we could use all day - and doing a major American Civil War battle seemed the best way to take advantage of the offer!
The scenario was pretty much taken from the Fire & Fury Scenario book, although given the level of expert knowledge of the battle amongst most of the players I'd decided to appoint the least knowledgable of the group to be the Union General McClennan, and provided two different briefing sheets to the two sides, both of which can be downloaded here. The end result was a game that had been "fiddled" so that it looked like there would be vast numbers of Confederate reinforcements, which would in turn hopefully force McClellan into being cautious
The Northern Battlefield at 6:00am - the Union arrive!
The Rebels wait nervously in the Sunken Lane
Union troops advance through the Conrfield and the North Woods
Hartsuff & Christian's men advancing cautiously through a combination of poor motivation rolls and generally unmotivated commanders!
The Union troops deploy artillery to pound Lawton's men behind their defenses
Earley has advanced his Rebels to goad the Union into attacking on their left, drawing troops away from the two objectives
Rebels teem in the West Woods
The Union advance is painfully slow - the Union commanders start to blame each other !
Finally the Union commits abrigade or two to dislodging the Rebels from their forward positions and send out a couple of half-hearted probing attacks
But Lawtons men take full advantage of the Rebel Charge bonus, to rush over the fenceline and send the Union reeling back into the North Woods in disarray!
A grey-clad Confederae officer cleverly spots an undefended fenceline and asks Lee permission to occupy it
Lawtons attack has now almost been obliterated, but the Union are still stuck in the North Woods as the boys in blue are forced by the successful counter-attack to fall back almost onto their millions of reinforcement
As Union reinforcements start to stack up, they commence a general assault on the thin Grey Line
It's all hands to the pump, but the Rebels hold on- for now as General Dave's brigade of 5 chaps and a dog hang on in there
How many men can the Union fit into such a small space? Finally the Union are getting their act together and the entire army seemed to come in together in an unstoppable wave of blue.
The union troops marching up are being raked by long range artillery fire from the Confederate batteries by Dunker Church
Happy in the woods, the Rebels wait ...For what seemed like hours, the immovable rock of Dave's men have held off whatever came against him, never outnumbered by less than 6:1 (thank God it stops counting at 3:1).
Finally the blue tide gets in sight of the Sunken Road, but the Rebels are holding a high line, and DH Hill's troops have moved out to fight the Union men in open ground. With the sunken road objective never threatened they have chosen to advance and pressure into the Union traffic jam - which may yet stall their left flank's attack.
A massive general engagement starts with the Union still yet to make a meaningful push past the first fenceline, being too battered and shaken by Rebel artillery to really commit
Finally the Union make a breakthrough, and sweep up the hill towards Dunker Church - by by now the Confederate reserves are all in place and a strong second line awaits them in the West Woods. Will Union numbers finally be telling - they break like a tidal wave across the centre and throw the Rebels back into the woods at the top of the central ridge. Then within the half hour the Union are finally on the first objective - the one they should have occupied by lunchtime.
The Union advance is thrown back in dissarray under a hail of cannister and Rebel Charges. The battle ravaged Union troops falter in the wavering light as the rebel yell goes up along the entire Confederate front line and with a glorious charge the game is up, a Rebel Victory!
Dogged Dave's picket fence has replaced the sunken road as the pivotal place of Reb victory.
I've fought this battle before - with a remarkably similar outcome see the report here
I also have pictures from the real battlefield
McClennan's thoughts on the battle
Saturday, 11 June
As I have just written to my wife, 'Those in whose judgment I rely tell me that I fought the battle at Antietam splendidly and that it was a masterpiece of art. ... I feel I have done all that can be asked in twice saving the country. ... I feel some little pride in having, with a beaten and demoralised army, defeated Lee so utterly. ... Well, one of these days history will I trust do me justice.'
There are those who accuse me of vacillation and of siting my headquarters too far to the rear, and thus not being sufficiently appraised of the foe's strengths and vulnerabilities. There are even those who accuse me of not aggressively exploiting the opportunities afforded the Army of the Potomac to push back the strong Rebel forces that assailed us.
Nonsense: we launched repeated endeavours with the utmost exertion against the overwhelming odds arraigned against us. I personally accompanied brigade after brigade through the Eastern Woods up onto the Rebel-fortified plateau before Sharpsburg. My horse had to pick its way between mountains of our brave dead to reach the rebel batteries that we overran at the edge of the West Woods. And I personally led the charge by our one brigade that succeeded in evicting the foe from Bloody Hilltop.
Had we been able to hold that prominence against the full force of the counterattack -- by at least two fresh enemy corp -- we should have carried the day and the Confederacy would have fallen. The fault lies not with my generalship or with my men's heroic exertions but with the supine commanders you, Mr President, had foisted upon me.
I must single out General Allen, who took a full seven hours to advance though his own positions and reluctantly push back a small group of Rebel skirmishers mounted on underfed nags. I sent countless orders for him to advance with the utmost despatch, which he ignored. In the course of the day his forces suffered only one dead and several cases of indigestion occasioned by overindulging in a second breakfast.
And in that space of time we in the East confronted and advanced a full mile against a foe that outnumbered us at least three to one -- and lost 30,000 dead and wounded as we charged again and again through withering cannonades and volleys.
Mr President, if one man can be blamed for the continued existence of the Confederacy that guilty man must be General Allen.
However, I must commend General Porter to your Excellency: despite being a Quartermaster (and a most efficient one at that) rather than a Field General, he seized the moment and he led charge after charge towards the enemy's bastions in the sunken road over the plateau. This is the sort of general Union needs. The solid blue that coats the now-red grass of the Sharpsburg plateau is testament to his commitment to our Cause.
Your obedient servant,
General George B McClellan.