Just for you good folk who have contacted me concerning military
history and war gaming - well, as you can see herewith - I have indeed
played many war games, but not necessarily ones along conventional
Arguably the largest outdoor war game ever played, my 1971 American
Civil War battle was a fictional affair, but roughly based on events
occurring during the Seven Days Battle of 1862.
Using almost 14,000 Airfix H0/00 figures, and a battlefield measuring
10 meters by 15 meters, the whole battle took two days to complete,
this being allowed for by the fact that, being plastic, the figures
could remain outdoors during the night, and a untypical British summer
dry-spell, when it did not rain for four consecutive days!
The rules were taken from Donald Featherstone's book 'War Games,'
together with additions giving greater scope for troop deployment and
movement. I also included rules which allowed for a change in orders
to various divisions and brigades, but which had to be delivered by
couriers, who were susceptible to being captured. wounded or killed,
thus creating a "Fog of War." Troops not receiving orders
were to proceed as per the initial instructions given to their
commanders at the commencement of the game. By the same token, if a
commander could throw a five of six on the dice, then he was allowed
to act upon is own discretion, or as circumstances dictated.
The Union army consisted of three corps; each with three divisions
containing three brigades of three regiments each. A regiment was
roughly 100 strong, giving a total of around 8,000 men. Each corps had
12 cannon in four batteries of 3 guns each. When the wagon train and
staff were added the grand total came close to 8,400.
The Confederate army contained two corps; each of three divisions of
three brigades each. Each brigade had three regiments of approximately
100 men each, and each corps had four batteries of artillery with 3
guns each. This gave the Confederates a total of just over 5,500
troops, when staff and wagon trains were added.
On the Union side there were four players, one for each corps and an
overall field commander who wrote out the original battle orders for
each of his corps commanders to follow, plus issuing additional
instructions as the game progressed. The Confederate "team"
sported two corps commanders plus a commander-in-chief who, like his
counterpart on the Union side, issued battlefield orders.
Not being able to find the original notes that were taken as the
battle progressed, I will endeavour to explain what occurred briefly
period by period.
The battle was a simple affair. The object of the Union army was to
drive the Confederates from their position and capture the town of
Mechanicsville. The object of the Confederates was to stop the Union
achieving their goal. The discrepancy in troop numbers for the
Confederates was made up for somewhat by their being on the defensive,
plus also having field works along most of their forward position.
The action was divided into eight game periods. This was decided upon
owing to the time factor involved in moving thousands of troops, and
having to resolve each artillery and infantry move plus fire effect
and morale, together with alternate instructions being issued by each
commanding general, all of which took over one hour to complete. Thus
the first day of the battle lasted from 11 o'clock in the morning
until 4 o'clock in the afternoon, by which time, even allowing for
refreshments being constantly available, most of us thought it time to
wash-up and pop back to the pub (the battle was fought in the orchard
of my [then] public house, 'The Oak" at Defford/Woodmancote,