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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fight at the Peach Orchard!

Over the Thanksgiving week I played a couple of games. Two of the games I played were for fun and further testing for the Civil War game. I played with a friend in Ohio (Mike B.) while visiting relatives there. The biggest and best game was a test of my Peach Orchard scenario for the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg. I had not tested any of the scenarios so I was itching to try it out. I knew the table size would not allow a complete scenario test but a portion of the field would do. I needed to know if the rules worked historically enough for these scenarios and exactly how big of a table I’d need.

The table we played on was 9’ x 5’. We didn’t bother with much of the fencing. I don’t have enough worm/snake rail fences yet but I do have plenty of post and rail so we stuck with that. I didn’t set up fencing around where we thought the Union artillery batteries and infantry regiments might have pulled it down prior to the fight on July 2, 1863. When setting up the table we laid out peach trees but after a bit I pulled them off for the test. They just got in the way. Since I also have not finished all the regiments and their Color Guards we used stand-ins for some and used the correct flags for the others. I also plan to assemble the correct historically accurate looking buildings but since I don’t have them yet, again, I used stand-ins from my collection and Mike’s.

If you look at a real map of the action at the Peach Orchard fight you will get a better idea of the fighting and what we used and what we left out. The space wasn’t big enough to encompass all I wanted to test but we couldn’t fit every thing on the table. Consult the horrible maps below that I have made to get an idea. Confederate artillery was off-board and Barksdale’s and Kershaw’s (two regiments only) brigades started the game ¾ of the way to the Emmitsburg Road. Seminary and Warfield ridges were off board. Not pictured on the above maps was the 8th Alabama from Wilcox’s brigade. I goofed when making the maps and left it off by mistake. It was on the extreme left of Barksdale and helped push the Union line back as well. Sorry.

I took a bunch of pictures early on and then forgot all about the camera as the action heated up. The game got intense and… I just forgot to take more pics. Oh well.

Part of the 17th Ms.

The basic table set-up for this scenario. North is the right table edge.

The artillery guns represent one section each. Thompson's battery had 3" rifles and Bucklyn's battery had 12 lbs. Napoleon's. Thompson's battery split one section North of the Sherfy house as shown.
Thompson's battery monument faces South but the picture is directed looking West. Barksdale's brigade crossed the fields in the distance. The road on the right is the Wheatfield road and the one across the photo is the Emittisburg Road.
Overhead shot with the 68th Pa along the Emmittsburg road fence (top) and the 2nd NH to the left facing south awaiting the South Carolina men.

The 2nd N. H. and 3rd Me  face South.
Northern part of the line. Across the road is the Sherfy house and barn. Bucklyn's battery is on the other side of the road. Supporting the guns is the 114th Pa (Collis' Zouaves), and the 57th Pa and the 105th Pa. further up the road. Gen. Graham waves his hat at lower right to encourage his men to aim low.
The game

We started the game with two turns of just counter battery fire. The Union artillery fired at Barksdale’s brigade ‘as well, coming out of the woods West of the Union line. We didn’t have enough board space and wanted to also simulate the artillery duel. The Rebs firing counter battery fire was horrible. Most of the shots slammed into the Wentz house and didn’t bother anyone else on the Union line. That was lucky for me because I knew I’d need to either stop or slow the Confederate infantry. I would need my artillery fire to come up big. Big is what I got. I ignored the solid shots flying all over the place and concentrated on two regiments in Barksdale’s brigade, the 17th Ms and the 18th Ms. I thought if I had a chance on winning I’d need to take these out of the equation or lose badly. Bucklyn’s gunners were told to stop the 17th and Thompson’s gun near the Sherfy house was supposed to direct all their fire at Barksdale’s smallest regiment, the 18th. I didn’t stop them but I put a severe hurting on them as they crossed the open fields to the West. By the time they were within Confederate rifle range they had both lost about 35% of their strength. Normally I roll very badly when it counts but in these instances I rolled so well that Mike was howling with agony. Coupled with his poor artillery rolling you could tell he wanted to make a beeline for my infantry and tear them to shreds in the worst way. He hardly stopped to fire as be got closer and closer which was exactly what he should have done.

Gen. Barksdale and staff drives his men.

For this scenario we thought it prudent to keep certain regiments in reserve and not activate them until turn Five and Six. For the Union we withheld: 7 NJ, 73rd NY and the 72 NY. These regiments historically were kept in reserve so it made sense. For the Rebs we kept the two South Carolina regiments out until turn Five and the 8th Alabama until turn Six. All these Rebs had a lot further to march than Barksdale’s regiments so this made some sense to us.

Gen. Graham and his staff direct traffic.

As the Rebel infantry came within rifle range I had two huge problems to deal with right off the bat. The 68th Pa received some well directed artillery on their flank from Reb guns to their Southwest. They had to make a Panic test after getting hammered with shell and caseshot. They suddenly broke and fell back leaving a huge and ugly hole in my line as the 21st Ms came dangerously close. This hole opened up the right flank of the 2nd NH and then had to refuse their right to avoid a similar disaster to the 68th. I pushed the 141st Pa into the gap and stemmed the tide while the 68th managed to rally and get themselves reorganized. The 21st Miss is a big regiment and they overlapped my entire left. Not only did I have to scramble to plug the hole but I knew the two SC regiments were coming on and I had no real way to hold them all back.

141st Pa comes to the rescue.

Bucklyn's battery hammers away while the 114th Pa stands idle.

In the middle of my line Bucklyn’s battery was doing some good work and I was itching for the chance to give the battered 17th a taste of canister. The problem with their position was it was too exposed and the 114th Pa had no way of helping with their rifles since they blocked their view. Historically, Capt. Randolph, the commander of the 3rd Corps artillery, rode up to the 114th Pa and shouted, If you want to save my battery (Bucklyn’s), move forward!” The 114th rushed through the artillery battery and slugged it out at close range so Bucklyn’s guns could withdraw. They saved the guns but paid a price with their blood. I only wish I had thought of that. I was too excited to fire canister into the faces of the on coming Rebs and miscalculated the time I’d need to withdraw the guns. I had the 114th move up a little and opened lanes to let the guns pass through. This was a big mistake on my part. It allowed the 17th Ms to captured two sections but the right section was able to get away.

I became so angry with my foolish move that I sent Gen. Graham to lead the 114th Pa in a counter charge to try and recapture the guns. The 114th was able to set the 17th back on their heels but not enough to break them. They still outnumbered the 114th and I knew it was only a matter of time until they would either come right back and sweep the Zouaves from the position or Volley them to death with the aid of the 13th Ms. to their left.

At the Sherfy house things were going very well for me. The 18th Ms regiment was the smallest Confederate regiment on the field. It had been battered by Thompson’s section north of the house and I had 3 regiments, albeit small regiments, to hold the line as long as I didn’t get into trouble before the 8th Alabama got closer. The 8th was a big regiment and I wanted desperately to punish the 18th before the 8th was engaged.

Mike was sensing a big victory and he got a little greedy. He sent the 18th directly at the artillerymen to capture the guns. I got the section out of trouble well enough, not wanting to repeat my stupid mistake twice. I pushed the idle 57th Pa into the fray and shifted them by the Right Oblique. I waited until the 18th was at close range and let him have it with volleys from both the 57th and the 105th Pa. I seriously considered not even firing at the 18th fearing I might stun them so bad he’d pull them back and I’d miss the opportunity to charge. I wanted a bucket of blood to make up for my earlier mistake. Some measure of common sense came over me and I settled for the volleys delivered at point blank range knowing that if things went against me I would get hammered even worse when the 8th Al. was engaged. Well, it was the wise move and the 18th was torn up so badly that the only thing left of the Mississippians of the 18th was their Color Guard and they limped back with a Corporal’s guard to the west and out of range. They lost most of their officers and the Colors were shot from the splintered flag pole.

57th Pa near the Sherfy house.

Back to the southern section of the field things went from bad to worst. The 3rd Me was having a rough time with Kershaw’s two regiments. A few volleys from them and the 3rd had had enough. They routed off the table. The 2 NH didn’t do much better but at least they stayed on the field, huddled around their beloved colors. They couldn’t be much help any more and they were in the way of the 68th and the 141st so I had them back-peddle off the table so I could reestablish my line. The 7th NJ was coming into line and they needed room if they were going to stabilize my left.

The 114th was valiant but they couldn’t hold out much longer. I brought the 73rd up at the Double Quick to fill the gap. I was hoping to retire the 114th and fill their spot with the 73rd but with the Rebs collapsing my left it was going to be a difficult maneuver to balance. I managed to swap them but the 17th and the 13th delivered a crushing volley on the 73rd just as they halted and dressed their line. They could not handle it and broke almost immediately. I cursed my usual bad dice and they fell back. The two Confederate regiments poured through the gap between the Sherfy barn and Wentz house and was almost in my rear.

monument of the 114th Pa with the Sherfy house in the background.

With my left now in a hopeless state, my center busted wide open and the 8th Al. exchanging volleys with the Union regiments north of the Sherfy house it was hopeless. Couriers were sent all over asking and begging for fresh Union regiments but there were none to be had. The line had finally broken into bits. The game was over.

The Sherfy house looking west from the Emmitsburg Road.
The game was a lot of fun and it worked very well historically. Being a dice game anything can happen and it usually goes bad for me anyway once I start rolling. There wasn’t really much I could have done in the circumstance anyway. The Confederates are too powerful. They have too many men for the Union regiments and are coming from two directions. The extra Union artillery is nice to have but you can’t sacrifice all your guns just to buy a turn or two and just lose big regardless. It’s never what they would have done and would not have made sense. The bottom line was that the scenario worked very well, it was a lot of fun and was very historically balanced so we were happy. I suppose with a large table and more regiments on the field it might have been somewhat different but not enough to overturn history. If you try this scenario please remember to send the 114th Pa Zouaves in quicker to save Bucklyn’s guns.
Mississippi state monument along Confederate Ave. on Seminary Ridge.

The Sherfy barn with the Peach Orchard in the background. This view is on the Confederate side or the west side of the house and barn.
Hey, check out this website for more information on Lt. John K. Bucklyn if you are interested. He was awarded a Medal of Honor. The website tells all about him.


  1. 114th Pa., are just too cool looking. Nice report, the staged photos are better than in play anyhow since there aren't any dice cluttering up the table.

  2. Vince,

    Actually they were not staged pics. I managed to avoid dice, beer bottles and coffee cups off to the side in all the shots.


  3. Good report Don. This is the scenario I'm building my forces for.

    Tom O

  4. Tom,


    Well you should have fun then. I did.