Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
‘Last Stand at Herr Tavern - Gettysburg’ or ‘How to employ a reverse slope defence and render enemy artillery useless’
This is my second run-through of the Herr’s Ridge scenario for GMT’s Three Day’s of Gettysburg (3rd Ed., 2004). In my first play I’d accidentally included Devin’s brigade, meaning the Union had far more strength then they should have. You can read that report here:
This time around, I ensured it was just Gamble’s men on the board.
I utilised cyberboard for my second run-through, and this is where I’ve taken the images from.
With two activations each, this turn essentially sees both sides advancing towards a meeting point around Schoolhouse Ridge on the Chambersburg Pike west of Gettysburg.
At this stage early Gamble, under Buford’s leadership, decides to keep most of his cavalry mounted for the increased mobility and increased cohesion rating. In the very least, it will enable his units to respond quickly to any Confederate attempt to flank his position. With only one Union brigade in the area, Gamble also opts to focus his defence entirely on the northernmost VP space.
Heth also decides to focus his attention in the north. He sends Archer’s brigade south-east along the Chambersburg pike under advance orders, whilst Davis’s brigade is sent along the unfinished railroad cut further to the north. Pegram also moved his artillery south-east along the Pike to a new position atop Wisler’s Ridge. The image below shows the results of these opening moves, with Davis’s brigade under March orders at the top of the map.
The 0800 turn begins fortuitously for Heth’s men. He receives the maximum three activations (4-1 due to absence of A. P. Hill) for the turn, whilst Buford receives his minimum of two activations (1+1 due to Buford’s Activation Rating).
The Confederates win the initiative, and they use this to quickly march the newly arrived Brockenbrough and Pettigrew brigades south-east towards the front lines. Pettigrew’s strong units march south-south-east in the direction of the southern VP location, whilst Brockenbrough’s brigade marches towards the northern end of Heth’s front line, linking up behind Davis’s brigade
Another one of Heth’s activations follows, and he uses this to advance both Davis and Archer’s brigades towards the union lines. Pegram’s artillery fires into Gamble’s Union cavalry, causing two units on the Union right flank to become disrupted. Archer and Davis have cleverly guided their units towards a focal point on this right flank and this barrage thus creates some difficulties for Gamble and Buford, as seen in the image below:
The power of the strong Confederate artillery is immediately clear to Buford, and he thus orders Gamble to withdraw his brigade and adopt a reverse slope defence behind Schoolhouse Ridge. It means giving valuable ground to the Confederate infantry, but it saves the health of the Union cavalry for the coming infantry fight. The Union artillery also withdraws to a position where it can still provide covering fire across the Schoolhouse Ridge plateau.
This is followed by another Buford activation, and Gamble uses this opportunity to successfully rally both his disorganised units and dismount some of his cavalry. Now that they are in a more secure defensive position they will stand and fight, rather than attempt to manoeuvre away from their current position.
This is followed by two of Heth’s activations in a row, and he uses these to change Archer’s orders to Attack, and his brigade advances towards Schoolhouse Ridge. Davis also tries to change orders but his brigade retains its advance status. Pegram also decides to advance his artillery around to the northern side of Schoolhouse Ridge in the hope of opening up some lanes of fire into the Union positions. With two full turns to go, the Confederates are in a very good position. The lead unit of Archer’s brigade is only about 700 yards from the northernmost VP space, and the southern VP space is undefended. Archer is poised to attack, and Davis’s strong units have Buford’s weak northern flank in a precarious situation.
Efficiency fortunes swing against the Confederates, and Heth will only have one activation this turn (his minimum), compared to Bufords two (his minimum). The Confederates win the initiative though, and they use this to activate Heth’s Division (primarily as they need to clear space for the reinforcing brigages to march up.
Thus, Pegram’s artillery takes up a position on the north side of Schoolhouse Ridge. The lines of fire are still poor, but with only one activation they can’t do much. Davis again tries to change orders, and fails. His units fire into the Union flank and disrupt the defending cavalry. Archer cautiously approaches the centre of the union line, but without Davis’s support on his northern flank, and with Union forces at full strength, he decides against a charge.
The Confederate March activation follows, and Pettigrew drives his men south to secure the southern VP objective, whilst Brockenbrough marches his men close to the front lines.
Buford’s two activations follow, and to meet the pending threat he again reorganises his lines. He again withdraws the Union artillery to a more secure position, whilst Gamble’s men carefully refuse both flanks to ward off any Confederate flanking attempt. The Union cavalry is now greatly outnumbered, but they hold a decent defensive position and maintain, for the most part, a good defensive formation given the circumstances.
With three activations each on the final turn, this may be a close fight to the finish. The Confederates win the initiative, and choose to use their March activation marker first in an attempt to utilise Pettigrew and Brockenbrough’s men. Both their attempts to change orders succeed, and those brigades will thus join in the assault on the Union defences.
Heth draws the first activation marker, and almost immediately Pegram’s artillery causes havoc on the Union right flank. Davis attempts to change orders, and he succeeds, but his men stand their grown. Pettigrew’s brigade drives north-east along the road, they are too far away to play a large role in the attack, but they do present a threat that the Union cannot ignore. And, not wanting to wait any longer, Archer urges his men forward against the Union defences. As the 7th Tennessee Infantry Regiment of Archer’s brigade reaches the heights of Belmont Schoolhouse Ridge, they are blasted with a volley of carefully aimed fire from the Union artillery which sends the unit reeling in disarray. But elsewhere, carefully aimed small arms fire from Archer’s brigade targets the union flank with excellent results. Archer’s men immediately charge into Gamble’s defenders, but the wily cavalrymen retreat before the attackers reach their positions. Brockenbrough’s men follow up from behind and take position in support of Archer’s brigade.
Buford gets the next activation, but there is little he can do. His men are formed in a rough half-circle around Herr’s Tavern, thus defending both the southern edge of the Belmont Schoolhouse Ridge, and the route along the Chambergburg Pike into Gettysburg. With nowhere to go, Buford’s men pour small arms fire into the Confederate brigades opposite them. Their Breechload Carbines are powerful at such close range (+3 drm) and they disrupt ALL of Archer’s attacking units. However, it is not without great cost, and the Union cavalrymen suffer heavy casualties themselves.
Buford again draws the next activation, and once again through small arms fire forces some of Archer’s units back. The lull in the fighting even allows Buford to attempt to rally some of his men, with mixed success. He has one success, but another attempt fails and results in the collapse of a unit in the centre of his lines.
Heth draws the next activation and, once again, drives his men against the Union positions. Confederate small arms fire pours into the Union defenders on three sides before Brockenbrough’s brigade moves in for the final kill, charging the northern VP location. The charge routs the Union defenders and sends a panic through the lines. At the end of the activation, four Union units are eliminated, two are routed, and the two remaining on the board are weak and disordered.
In his final activation of the turn Buford, facing up against four strong Confederate brigades and impossible odds, finally pulls his units back off the ridge. The two remaining units of Gamble’s brigade limp back along the unfinished railroad bed towards Gettysburg.
The Confederates have seized the ground and won the morning. Ultimately the strength of their four brigades firing together was too much for the solitary Union brigade. Even those Confederate brigades firing at a distance were causing the occasional hit or disruption against Union troops. Pettigrew’s brigade didn’t get too close to the action, but they still caused heavy losses on the Union flank. The Confederates were lucky to win the initiative, as it enabled them to get their March AM out of the way, and both order changes succeeded to enable Pettigrew and Brockenbrough’s brigades to join the attack.
Right up until the end I thought the Union troops would hang on. Buford’s counter-fire against Archer’s brigade gave the Union hope. All they had to do was disrupt the enemy to prevent them moving adjacent. However, the arrival of Brockenbrough and Pettigrew’s brigades was too much. They have some strong units, and they ripped apart the Union flanks. It then just took one small charge in the centre to send Union forces scattering in all directions.
Up until the final turn there had been an exchange of gunfire, but only 50 casualties to the Union side, and 0 to the Confederates. Any disruption caused had succesfully been rallied. Then, within a few short activations (two Confederate activations to be precise), the whole Union house came crashing down.
The biggest factor in this small scenario seems to be Confederate AMs, if they can get enough activations to get Brockenbrough and Pettigrew’s brigades to the front, they should easily be able to overpower the Union troops. Of course they also need to change orders in a timely manner, and some bad rolls here could hold up the attack. From Buford’s perspective, I think he performed well with just one brigade.
My frustration with the randomness of activations continues, but this really is just a small scenario, and I’m trying to keep that in mind. Hopefully these random effects will have minimal effect on the grander scale of a larger battle. I’ll find out soon enough as I’ve had enough of Herr’s Ridge and am about to up the ante.
- Last edited Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:03 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:53 pm
I Play With Toy Soldiers.
Thank you for an excellent report.
Menin Gate at Midnight, Will Longstaff, 1927.
"At the landing, and here ever since" - Anzac Book, p. 35.
Joey Sabin wrote:
Q: Frustration aside, what impact both positive and negetive do you feel the random activation had on the scenario?
Q: Could the Union forces have fallen back just prior to being flanked (with their last AM) to prevent their doom?
A. I like the chit activation in most games, it adds an unpredictable element to the game. The main problem in this scenario is that Heth has a 50% chance of only getting one activation in each of the 0800 and 0900 turns (the 0700 and 1000 turns are set by scenario conditions). With a low number of activations Pettigrew and Brockenbrough won't even reach the Union lines, which makes the scenario just a series of manoeuvres. In small learning scenario like this, it may be best (for both new players looking to learn, and experienced players wanting an interesting situation) if Heth just had two activations each turn, or perhaps a total of 8-9 activations that are employed randomly throughout the four turns. This would at least get those two brigades into action.
In a two player game, I imagine the activation system encourages cautious and careful play. The number of Activations each side has is secret, so the Union, for example, will never know how 'active' Heth is going to be. I like that idea and I think it will work much better in larger scenarios.
A. The Union forces could have fallen back, and if this were part of a larger scenario they certainly would have. But in this scenario they need to prevent Confederate capture of Herr's Tavern, so I opted to have the units make a final stubborn stand around the tavern. I had hoped they may be able to make a fight of it, but weak and disordered they all routed or were eliminated.
- Last edited Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:31 pm (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:35 pm