|Oak Grove 25th June, 1862
January 15th, 2010
We played a great game the other evening at Wally HQ. American Civil War action using 'They Couldn't hit and Elephant' by Too Fat
Lardies. The scenario was based on the Oak Grove scenario adapted from Paul D. Stevenson's excellent 'Guns at Gettysburg
Scenario book 3 - On To Richmond' (Partizan Press) available from Caliver Books
Table Set up below
Then the game began to take on a remarkable twist.
As luck would have it most of the Union chips kept getting
drawn and then 'Cawfee' would appear. Slowly the Union
forces began to recover. Turn after turn no Confederate
chips appeared. I had to keep showing everyone that they
were indeed in the bag. Several turns were just 'Cawfee'.
Incredible as it may seem we must have had at least six turns
where no Reb chips came up or it was just Huger's chip and
he was hit by the Cautious/Political chip. Credit to the
Confederate players Max and Paul who were a little peeved
but typically for them actually found it very amusing. Lesser
men may not have taken it so well.
Max had his Veteran/Aggressive units mostly in skirmish
order and we did question what they would do when faced
with a close order line infront of them At 'Cawfee' any
commands which have not had their chips drawn are allowed
to fire small arms and close range artillery. Aggressive
troops with attack orders, and who are within 8" of the enemy
must continue their move. As the Confederate units were in
skirmish order we questioned whether they would continue
and charge in skirmish order or would stop and fire. In the
end I ruled that they should stop and fire, though Daz has
since suggested that they could do either, which has pleased
The Confederates stood rooted to the spot whilst the Union
forces with their longer ranged rifled muskets began to take
a heavy toll. Max's troops were on the brink of becoming
permanently defeated. Paul's troops were just about hanging
in there but laden with casualties. Both Confederate
commander had lost a unit routing and due to the lack of
chips been unable to halt it in time.
The inactivity in the Rebel forces had allowed the Federal
troops to reorganise and redeploy to an extent and to begin
to rally for another attempt on the enemy. Clive and Nige by
now had realised that no Rebel reinforcements were
forthcoming and that it was just a ruse. Even Robinson's
two-gun 3" rifle section had begun to cause casualties on the
enemy who stood in defiance. Fortunately most of the Union
forces had only taken light casualties as they had routed not
because of combats but because they were burst through or
had been of defeated status when a nearby unit had routed.
The Confederates chips started appearing at last but was it
too late to salvage a win or even a draw?
Paul's large Regiment finally broke after trying one charge
too many in an attempt to stop what seemed an inevitable
Federal victory. The Confederate players were now looking a
tad desperate but they needn't have worried.
Just when victory seemed almost a certainty my troops,
Carr's Brigade, routed after a lousy firefight result yet again.
Nigel's command, Grover also ground to a halt.
Max attaching his commander to his last half decent unit
charged against Sickles leading Regiment. With an
advantage of only one, Max threw a double six in close
The blue ranks broke as if a wave striking rock. Regiments
behind were burst through and joined in the throng along
with several of Robinson's defeated Regiments.
The Union had snatched a defeat again from the jaws of
King Schoolhouse Road
The game is set during McClellan's Peninsular campaign of 1862.
Hooker and Kearny's Divisions, of Heintzelmann's III Corps (Army of the Potomac) had been ordered to advance against Huger's
Division (ANV) that was holding the extreme right of the Confederate line.
The scenario presupposes that the Heintzelmann was infact more aggressive than in actuality in complying with McClellan's wishes. In
the real action Heintzelmann ordered his Divisional commanders to withdraw once they met serious opposition.
The table is relatively open with light woods which I counted as Light Terrain, however north of the Williamsburg road is soft ground
slowing movement by 50%. Fences do not restrict movement as such but count as soft cover for a unit sheltering behind them and
conveying a terrain advantage in close combat.
I used Brian Wethersby's excellent article on ACW commander listings from the TFL 2009 Xmas Special to work out the individual
commander ratings using Todd Fischer's research for Johnny Reb. This is an incredibly useful resource for TCHAE and can be found
in the files section of TFL Resources Yahoo Group.
Clive took the field as our overall commander Hooker (Professional) and also played the brigades of Sickles (Cautious/Inexperinced)
and Robinson (Inexperienced). Nige commanded Grover's (Inexperienced) Brigade and controlled our dummy blinds. I played as
umpire, photographer, chip puller, coffee maker and also controlled Carr's Brigade (Inexperienced).
Max took command of the Confederate forces as Huger (Political) and Wright's Brigade (Inexperienced), Paul playing Ransom's
(Inexperienced) Brigade and controlling the Rebel dummies.
I am well known for being a bit of a sneaky chap when it comes to scenarios and this one really appealed to me as it had a few twists to
it. For one thing Hooker believed he was outnumbered 3:1. When I briefed Clive I laid it on thick saying that though we had four
Brigades of Federals the Rebs had more, with reinforcements expected at some point in the game. It was essential that we gain our
objectives before the enemy reinforcements arrived.
To further create the impression Max and Paul were told that they had up to two dummy blinds. One of our house rules with 'Elephant'
is that the number of blinds available to each side is directly related to the C-in-C's ability. Gifted commanders get up to three dummy
blinds, with Professional up to two and Inexperienced up to one. Political get none. This is also moderated by adding a further one if
Bold or removing one if Cautious but also is also scenario specific. For this scenario both sides chose two dummy blinds each.
The Federals objective was simply to get the bulk of their forces across the King Schoolhouse Road and the Confederates to prevent
The entire Confederate force was on table at the game start. Max deployed along the Kings Schoolhouse Road, his left flank resting
on the Williamsburg Road. Paul deployed his blinds on the table edge covering the centre and Confederate right.
For the Federals only Grover and Sickles's Brigades were available initially deployed in the light woods, with the dummies, Hooker,
Carr and Robinson arriving on turn three anywhere on the Union long table edge. It looked pretty grim for the Federals facing five
enemy blinds with reinforcements expected!
In our games to indicate the turn number a ‘Turn chip’ is added to ‘the hat’ and the number of times it is draw is counted, not the
number of turns the ‘cawffee’ chip is drawn.
Clive's plan was simple. A swift advance up the middle with Brigades on Engage orders. Other Brigades would support the advance
when they arrived and possibly flank the enemy fixed by the initial advance.
The Confederate briefing had specified that Wright’s Brigade, Huger and one dummy blind could deploy anywhere, but not further
forward than the King Schoolhouse Road. Ransom and the remaining dummy were to be deployed anywhere 4” on the Confederate
long table edge..
The game saw the Federals able to exit the woods and advance upon the Confederate blinds lining the King Schoolhouse Road.
Only the Reb Grand Tactical chip was drawn in the first couple of turns allowing Paul to move one blind slowly forward to the central
road junction. Another bad side effect was that not having their blinds chip drawn prevented the Confederate commanders doing any
Unfortunately for them the turn chip came up very early too and before we knew it the Federal blinds were arriving in force. At this
point Max and Paul looked seriously concerned. They knew they had only two Brigades of troops and yet were facing seven enemy
blinds! However they kept up the pretence that they were expecting reinforcements, repeatedly asking what turn number it was. For
my part I kept the turn chip in the hat and kept drawing it after turn three even though it was now redundant. Even though I was a
Union player I like to see my own team sweat it out too....
Eventually the Confederate blinds chip had to come up and with the
Federal blinds only just over a foot away Max and Paul spotted Sickles
These two Brigades outnumbered the Rebel forces without adding in
Carr and Robinson's Brigades. Sickles Brigade consisted of six
Regiments all six bases large, all Average and armed with rifled muskets.
Grover's force, two Veteran and four Average Regiments strong, all of
five or six bases and also armed with rifled muskets. It was an
impressive sight as the serried blue ranks poured across the open fields
towards the, patiently waiting, unspotted Confederates.
Paul managed to move a blind to occupy the central road junction just
before being spotted. Now it was time for the Federals to feel a little
unnerved. Ransom's Brigade comprised five Regiments. All were
Average and smoothbore musket armed. Two Regiments were five
bases, two seven bases, and the last a huge NINE bases!
Paul immediately realised how problematic this command was. The blind
is only 16" wide and a nine base regiment would occupy nine inches
After a bit of consultation with Max he placed one Regiment in skirmish order in the central woods facing a Federal blind that had
arrived on turn 3. Another Regiment lined the central road in a flanking position towards one of Grover's Veteran Battalions. The
three largest Regiments were so big all that Paul could do was to put them in columns of march further back hoping that they would
be able to march to the fenced King Schoolhouse Road before the Union forces did so. The placing of the Confederate Regiment of
what we called 'The Angle' was a deft one and had far reaching effects. Grover had to wheel his nearest Regiment towards them to
ensure that his entire command wasn't flanked.
Luckily for Ransom his chip did arrive in time and soon the fenced King Schoolhouse Road was bristling with determined looking
tough southern boys with menace in their eyes....
In case you were wondering...
Figures - Peter Pig (Kev) and Minifigs (Clive).
Flags - Peter Pig, GMB and Cotton Jims.
Trees - Woodland Scenics.
Roads - S & A Scenics.
Cloth - S & A Scenics, sprayed with yellow and brown highlights.
Brick chimney - Hovels
Fencing - Hovels and scratchbuilt by me.
Desultory and sporadic firing now broke out between Ransom's advanced brace of Regiments and the Union Regiments on Grover's
left. The Blue ranks still surged forward toward their objective. Spotting by the Union forces had been pretty bad thus far but with
the arrival of Federal reinforcements the number of spotting attempts able to be made increased three fold. The two Union dummy
blinds deployed on the extreme left of the Federal position and advanced toward the Confederate blinds opposite them. Carr's blind
advanced towards Ransom's leading two Regiments at 'The Angle' whilst Robinson and Hooker's blinds supported Sickles rear.
Soon Max's forces were shown to be a dummy blind and Wright's Brigade. This last unit was composed of four Regiments four or five
bases strong armed with smoothbore muskets. All were hardened veterans tried and tested in the bloody crucible of courage so far.
In addition all were rated Aggressive. Two Regiments lined the road with a third in support. The fourth was in column of march and
heading up the Williamsburg Road. In addition a two-gun section of 10pdr Parrot (Light) Rifles accompanied Wright. This was the first
time most of us had used gun sections.
More commonly the rules group guns in batteries. However, the original scenario called for gun sections. For our purposes a gun
section consisted of a 1" square base with a model gun and two crew figures. In TCHAE guns roll one D6 per section of guns in the
battery. Max's crew was Veteran so adding +1 to the score needed to hit meant it was only really going to be able to cause any useful
casualties to close range targets in line or column of march, soft cover or those who became fighting, or to enfilade the enemy, or
limbered artillery. However, troops defending would still count them as artillery in support and their presence would help negate
The biggest downfall of having a two-gun section however was the fact that only one casualty was required before the remaining gun
would depart pronto. In the event this is exactly what occurred. Sickles' Regiments opened up at 8" and poured a hail of lead at the
waiting Confederates killing the crews.
The next few turns saw Paul spot the two Federal blinds opposite the Confederate right as dummies and Nigel spotting the blind
opposite him as a Rebel dummy. It was pretty apparent now that the Federals were not outnumbered at all and infact it was they that
had the advantage of numbers.
The sporadic firing between Grover and Ransom's Brigade had now erupted into a full fledged firefight. Ransom's huge Regiment
had crossed the road and was firing five D6 at one of Grover's Veteran units which Nige had sensibly deployed in skirmish order. This
Veteran unit though was screening the front of the Brigade and was haemorrhaging casualties at an alarming rate. Unperterbed the
Regiment braved the storm of lead to cause a few casualties themselves but it was just a matter of time. Grover's other veteran unit
was also taking heavy fire from the Rebel unit lining 'The Angle'. The Union advance in the centre was beginning to stall and they
were still way short of their objective...
It wasn't exactly all rosy for the Confederates either though.
Wright's chip just wasn't coming up and so Max's poor Rebs weren't able to close with Sickles Brigade despite their attack orders.
Their outranged smoothbore muskets were being outshot by the rifled muskets of the boys in blue. If this carried on much longer
then it could be dire for Max. He even resorted to revealing his 'Political' C-in-C Huger on his blind hoping that his close proximity to
Wright might enable him to activate the Brigade. Of course, all that happened then was that he fell foul of the Cautious/Political chip
freeing Sickles' from the burden.
In the centre Ransom's Confederates were still causing all sorts of problems for Grover's Brigade. The Rebel nine base Regiment was
now eight bases but continued in its bloody work halting all movement from the ranks of the Federal forces.
Carr's Union Brigade now entered the contest. Two four base Average Regiments with Smoothbore Muskets and a six base Average
Regiment with Rifled Musket had entered the table in the light woods and had advanced towards Ransom's Brigade and 'The Angle'.
Over on the extreme right flank Sickles now crossed a Regiment over to the soft ground and began to threaten the flank of Wright.
It was beginning to look decidedly unhealthy to be wearing a grey or buttenut uniform. One decent push from the Union and it could
well be over.
At this point I started to insist on Clive rolling a D6 each time Sickles command came up. He looked most surprised. No one but myself
was privy to the reason. In the actual battle one of Sickles' Regiments broke in panic sending the whole brigade streaming to the rear.
In the original scenario it detailed the fact that Sickles men were really concerned about A Confederate Brigade commanded by none
other than Armistead (of Gettysburg fame) off table to their right front. It had a mechanism for scaring that I decided to use. If a six
was scored by any Regiment moving to the north of the Williamsburg Road that regiment concerned would make an immediate move to
the rear and every Regiment in the Brigade would be required to make a status test. Those units failing the test would then also have
to make a retreat to the rear. So far Clive had not needed to make the roll but by moving a unit into the soft ground he had triggered
It was at this point that the Union began to defeat itself. The two Veteran Federal Regiments in Grover's Brigade had held up
remarkably well, due in no small part to their being in skirmish order. Inevitably as they begun to deteriorate the Rebs of Ransom's
Brigade charged them forcing them back through their supports. The supports were then routed by the big Reb regiment in an epic
charge spectacular in the extreme . Great rolling from Paul and the whole of Grover's Brigade suddenly imploded supports routing
headlong and defeated units in close proximity joining in the rout. A gaping hole suddenly appeared ominously in the Federal line as
at least 2,500 men fled in panic.
Then it got worse.
Carr's Brigade had begun a spoiling fire on the Confederates in the central wood. The Rebs formed up and charged into the Union
Brigade. The resulting firefight saw the Union lose and pushed back.
Wright's Brigade finally got its chip drawn and crossed the King Schoolhouse Road taking them into range of their smoothbore
muskets. Max had also just realised that his aggressive troops should have done so two turns earlier at 'Cawffee'. Doh!
The Regiment of Sickles' Brigade that had crossed the Williamsburg Road suddenly threw a one and was forced to retreat for a full
move. Luckily the Brigade's other Regiments all passed their status tests.
Robinson's Brigade which had been supporting Grover then had to try and hold the line. Composed of three Average Regiments with
smoothbore muskets, each four bases strong and accompanied by a two-gun section of 3" Ordinance (Light) Rifles. Once again the
large Reb Regiment, only now six bases strong managed to rout its opposition. It looked like game over for the Union...
Paul described the game as a 'game of extremes' and it was certainly that.
Initially misled by their briefing, and me, the Federal forces had actually made quite a good show of things. Max and Paul said that we
hadn't done anything really wrong. Once Clive and Nige had realised how weak the Confederates were the attack was indeed pressed
with vigour and we had been unlucky.
Luck had played its part, true. Whenever we needed to win a firefight or a key combat, we lost. Paul had managed to fight two
Brigades to a standstill in a desperate and heady contest, and hold the entire centre position whilst Max's chips failed to turn up again
and again. Infact Paul had almost won the game singlehanded for the Confederate cause, effecting a near total collapse in the blue
Luck works both ways however. When we needed to reorganise and redeploy, the Confederate luck with the chips was found wanting
We found we had the time to stabilise and even go back over to the attack.
The Union had the luck of the chips, the Confederates the luck of the dice.
It was an act of sheer desperation when Max managed to finally managed to break the spirit of the Union soldiers. Hooker waived his
hat and turned his horse.
Casualties were very heavy. The longer ranged rifled muskets of the Union Regiments had wrought a deathly harvest amongst the
flower of the Confederacy. Out of just over 5,000 men involved the Confederates lost at least 2,500. The Union lost around 2,000
from its total of almost 8,000 men.
It was almost so different though. Had the Reb chips come up after the initial Union collapse the casualties on both sides would have
been less than half of their end total. There is no way the Union could have stopped the rot. The dearth of Confederate chips had
allowed the boys in blue to rally, reorganise and re-enter the contest, for which the only winner was surely death itself.
A truly remarkable game in which we were almost spectators. It was if the game had a life of its own. Packed with drama and crisis
and played in the best of spirits as usual.