Basic principles

The American Civil War was the first truly modern war, and the first total war in the modern sense. In fact it is often credited with a long list of firsts, the main ones being the first appearance on the battlefield of large quantities of rifled small arms and artillery, and repeating rifles; the first use of railroads as a major means of transporting men and supplies; the first extensive use of trench warfare; and first widespread use of telegraphic communications, resulting in the rapid dissemination of information direct from the battlefield. These 'firsts' revolutionised tactics and strategy and were to have far-reaching effects.

There is another 'first'; the American Civil War used to be the war with which many people began wargaming — mainly due to the fact that in the early 1960s Airfix produced a range of cheap

American Civil War figures. In more recent years a vast range of Napoleonic figures has become available, both in plastic and in metal, and the colour and dash of Napoleonic wars has ruled supreme for some years. However, I am sure a revival of interest in the American Civil War is on its way and many Napoleonic buffs will soon be painting new armies, or dusting off old ones to return them to American Civil War battlefields!

Although the American Civil War is a 'modern' war, with trenches, sieges and victory by attrition, at its outbreak in 1861 weapons, strategy and tactics were still of the horse-and-musket era. The men marched to war in uniforms as colourful and fancy as any of the Napoleonic era, armed with smoothbore, muzzle-loading muskets and artillery, and in some cases still with flintlocks. They formed up in tight ranks and closed with the enemy for a musketry duel at short range, followed by a swift bayonet charge if successful.

This was the situation in the first half of the war but gradually the introduction and perfection of new weapons brought about a change to more stagnant warfare, with one side taking up a defensive position and the other side unable to capture it, even with odds of three to one, without suffering casualties so severe as to make any victory Pyrrhic. Gettysburg, July 1-3

Rebels make a dashing but foolhardy frontal assault against entrenched Federal troops during a wargame set in 1863.

Rebels make a dashing but foolhardy frontal assault against entrenched Federal troops during a wargame set in 1863.

A war game set in 1867 with CSA forces attempting to seize control of a turnpike. Note the extensive cavalry melee, backed by solid blocks of troops, and the open battlefield.

1863, is often quoted as the turning point.

It is this change during the course of the war which I feel has made, and will make again, the Civil War so popular with wargamers. The Napoleonic player can enter a new yet familiar field with the first half of the war, and find himself led into the future; the 'modern' player can recreate the second half of the war with its devastating firepower and find himself investigating how it developed from the earlier fighting; and the newcomer can plunge in feet first with the knowledge that once he has mastered the American Civil War he will be able to spread in both directions with a fair grasp of the weapons, organisation and tactics of both eras.

The aim of this first chapter therefore is to provide those newcomers with sufficient basic information to enable them to recreate the Civil War on a wargames table and understand the main principles of the rules. So let us first see precisely what is needed to set up a game.

First, two opposing 'armies.' Airfix produce plastic figures which enable Federal and Confederate armies to be built up for a small outlay: details of these and of metal figures available are at the end of the book. Airfix figures are 00/H0 scale, which means they stand between 20 and 25 mm high. Most metal figures are 25 mm, though some from the USA are 20 mm. Unfortunately it is not really possible to mix metal and plastic figures because of the scale variations, for although men vary in height, wargamers prefer to see all their men the same height. Personally I regard this aesthetic approach as the first indication that wargaming is for fun and not an attempt at achieving absolute realism in miniature: no real army has all its men of identical heightl The model figures are painted in the uniforms of the period —this research and painting can be a rewarding aspect of the hobby by itself —and organised into battalions, squadrons and batteries.

The next step is a battlefield, usually the dining table with a smooth green cloth over it, or a plywood, chipboard or framed hardboard playing surface placed on the table to create a larger playing area. The size of the playing area depends entirely on the space available and may be anything from 5x3 feet to 9 x 6 feet or more. No playing area is ever big enough, as you will find your armies always expand to fill it, on the basis of 'If I'd had just one more battalion I would have won!'.

Since no battlefield is like a billiard table, terrain features are added. Trees, stonewalls, buildings, bridges and even river sections may all be purchased in model shops. Roads can be cut from card or vinyl floor covering; fields can be made from corrugated cardboard or hardboard with walls or fencing round the edges. Hills are usually represented by contours, that is rounded ceiling tiles or chipboard stacked on top of each other to the required height. The model figures are set out and manoeuvred on this model terrain, their movement, firing, state of morale and the casualties suffered all controlled by a set of rules.

Unlike other major wargaming periods, such as the Napoleonic Wars and World War 2, there are (at the time of writing) no universal rules for Civil War wargaming and, more than in other eras, each club or group of players tends to stick to the rules they have drawn up for themselves; rules which are constantly changing as fresh information is discovered, new ideas tried out, old ideas dropped because they failed- to produce the required results. And periodically, as the rules

A reconstruction of the ACW battle of Murfreesboro, fought as a wargame. with the Federal line forced back and Confederate attacks going in.

become too unwieldy, people revert to their original simple rules of two or three pages in order to just gain the maximum enjoyment from a game.

You may have gathered by now that wargaming is a highly individualistic hobby, and there are really no rules except those you make yourself, or those of others which you traditionally

A selection of the figures available in the Airfix US infantry, CSA infantry. US cavalry and ACW artillery sets.

A wargame terrain set up with Bellona stream lengths, bridges and walls; Mini-tanks and Merit trees; home-made roads (cardboard), fields (hardboard), and bushes and hedges (sponge).

Some of the figures from the Airfix Cowboys and Wagon Train sets which can be used for ACW armies.

A wargame terrain set up with Bellona stream lengths, bridges and walls; Mini-tanks and Merit trees; home-made roads (cardboard), fields (hardboard), and bushes and hedges (sponge).

A basic layout with the boundaries of two dense woods marked in chalk, the remainder of the table unadorned. Lack of cover and room to manoeuvre made this a game of attrition.

Hills can be made from plaster, which is more realistic than other materials, as may be seen here, but in practice such hills have a limited use because of lack of space for figures and the half inch chipboard used in layers to represent contours is far more effective.

The quiet before the storm: a wargames table set up with elaborate scenery. The background is made from railway scenery paper on hardboard.

(always remembering you can develop the rules to suit the second period) and whether he would prefer the close-knit east coast fighting or the more widely spread western theatre. The information supplied in the next three chapters should give some help, but most beginners would be advised to start with 1861 in the east. The rules listed later are intended for the actual playing of a game and for space reasons (and ease of playing) they are rather general in scope, although they lean towards 1861-3 in the east.

Figure, ground and time scales

Although there are no universal rules for our period, there are basic principles for all rules, and the most important of these are figure, ground and time scales, for upon the understanding of these depends the success of any set of rules. I will deal with them in some depth, for once you grasp them you are well on the way to a lifetime of enjoyment.

accept when playing against them in their home or club, and perhaps use as a basis upon which to create your own rules. It follows therefore that the rules outlined in this book will be my rules! You are welcome to accept them, reject them, discard parts, enlarge on other parts; this is how I got mine. I make no excuses for being a wargamer who merely enjoys the game, but I have tried to include sufficient information in the following chapters for anyone wishing to formulate more complex rules to do so. My own preferences are included in the hope that they may give enjoyment, or at least inspiration for more ideas, to others.

Additional complications in the case of Civil War rules are the two phases of the war with two different types of warfare, and the vastness of the USA, which meant several theatres of operations, each with its own characteristics. It is not really possible to cover such wide variations in one set of rules and a wise move at this stage is for the player to ask himself which half of the war he would like to concentrate on first

Another plaster hill, this time with a firing step carved out.

Federal troops battle with Indians fighting for the CSA in the Indian Territory.

Another plaster hill, this time with a firing step carved out.

Civil War regiments averaged 500 men and it is obviously not possible or even desirable to have one model figure per man. The most popular method of scaling down such numbers is one model figure equals 33 men: with this scale a regiment can be represented on the table by 15 model figures. Officers are not included in this representation and usually count as one man for a

Federal troops battle with Indians fighting for the CSA in the Indian Territory.

A struggle for a New England town, with both players feeding troops into the fight from reserves 'off the table.' Skirmishers in the wood at top left are Federal, this player being nearest the camera.

Another triumph for the CSA! The end of a game named Bitter Creek, showing Confederate regiments in line, two deep. In the centre a depleted regiment illustrates that casualties may be removed despite the use of bases to speed up moves.

Another triumph for the CSA! The end of a game named Bitter Creek, showing Confederate regiments in line, two deep. In the centre a depleted regiment illustrates that casualties may be removed despite the use of bases to speed up moves.

Model guns should also occupy the ground area taken up by an entire battery; 82 yards frontage for a 6-gun battery, 55 yards for a 4-gun battery. This same-size base illustrates the type of base for a 4-gun battery. The dotted lines indicate the angle of fire permitted without changing front.

number less than 33. However, the organisation of Civil War regiments is such that this ratio does not fit conveniently and I prefer a ratio of one model figure equals 25 men. An artillery battery is usually scaled down to one model gun and crew. More details of these ratios are given in the next chapter.

In the same way that we scale down the figures, so we scale down the terrain over which they move. Battles of this period were fought over fronts varying from one to six miles and if we take the 25 mm figure's 4 mm = 1 foot scale as our ground scale, we would have a tiny combat area represented by the wargames table. Therefore, it is customary to ignore the figure height and settle on a ground scale of 1 mm = 1 yard, giving a good sized battlefield of almost one and a half miles by just under a mile on an 8 x 5 foot table.

This means we have an anomaly between ground scale and vertical scale, of which more in a moment, but this is unimportant—except aesthetically—for only the ground area occupied by a model figure's base is critical. The average base area for model soldiers is about 10 mm square, so a model figure is occupying an area of ten square yards —room for 100 men in close order. However, Civil War regiments went into action in open order, two ranks deep, so a regiment of 500 men would have a depth of only ten yards but a frontage of 250 yards at one yard per man. To scale this is 250 x 10 mm and therefore in open order (if 1 figure = 25 men) our model soldiers need a base frontage of 12.5 mm to obtain the correct ground coverage. Unfortunately it is not always possible to obtain the correct ground scale for depth, as in this case where we have a required depth of 10 mm but two ranks of figures occupying a depth of 20 mm. This is unavoidable and can only be kept to a minimum by making the movement bases, on which wargames figures are usually glued, as narrow as the figures' bases allow.

So we have a figure base requirement of 12.5 x 10 mm. To speed up movement of figures on the table it is usual to stick several figures on one base of a correspondingly larger size, using thick card or floor tiling. Because two figures represent a company in our organisation, it is best to have no more than two figures to a base, 25 mm long. To allow individual figures to be removed as casualties, and to operate

Early stage of the Bitter Creek game. Here a duster of three buildings represents a village, and beyond them a circle of trees represents a small wood.

some companies in extended order as skirmishers, it is recommended the 20 figures of a regiment be grouped in seven sets of two and six single figures.

Cavalry operated in fairly loose order and a base frontage of 25 mm best indicates this formation. Depth of base will be governed by the model. I

A is the actual line of vision because at our ground scale the figures would be 25 yards high.' B is the scale tine of vision taken from a ground scale level of five feet or I mm, which is the top of the figure's base.

prefer to mount each cavalry figure on an individual base for convenience in mêlées.

To return now to vertical scale. For visual reasons this is usually in proportion to the figure scale of 4 mm = 1 foot. Thus buildings, trees, fences etc are all in proportion to the figures, but two or three houses will represent a village—we have to consider the ground space being occupied—and a small clump of trees represents a wood, usually with the centre left bare to make movement of figures easier. The result is reasonable realism in scale but a layoutwhich is also pleasing to the eye.

The one really important item in vertical scale is high ground. Usually represented by layers of polystyrene or chipboard rarely higher than 15 mm, it is accepted that each layer represents a contour of 40 feet. However, because a 25 mm figure can 'see' over such a contour does not mean units facing each other across it may exchange fire. The same problem does not occur with buildings and trees, which are physically higher than the figures. For convenience these too are normally assumed to be an average 40 feet high.

Lastly there is the time scale. Because the distance a unit may move at any one time, or the number of times a man can fire his weapon, is governed by the length of time given for such movement or firing, there must be a direct link between time scale and movement on the table if a game is to achieve any degree of realism. It is generally accepted that2'/2 minutes is a good period of time, and each game move is presumed to have represented the actions of the figures in 2 'A minutes. Therefore a man capable of marching 110 yards a minute would cover 275 mm in a game move. It is usually found a time scale of more than

2Vi minutes allows units to move too far in one game move and the moves have then to be split to see where units were at particular times.

One final word on scale —casualties taken from the table. Because each figure represents 25 men, casualties are often reckoned in real numbers and a model figure removed every time a total of 25 is reached. The firing tables in my rules work on percentages so this casualty problem does not arise but if you use another method of inflicting casualties it is vital you remember one figure represents 25 men if you wish to have a realistic game.

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