Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Trent Affair - Pickett's Charge

RMS Trent is stopped by the USS San Jacinta

Historical Backdrop to Scenario
The Trent Affair

In November 1861 the RMS Trent set sail for Great Britain with two Confederate States of America
envoys and their families. Their names were James Murray Mason and John Slidell. Their mission was to persuade GB to recognise the CSA.

The times of sailing and destination were well known to everyone and on 8th November 1861 the Union Steam Ship USS San Jacinta, under Captain Charles Wilkes , intercepted the Trent and after a little bickering between Trent’s captain and Wilkes’ first officer, Slidell and Mason handed themselves over to the Union officer.

This was fairly universally liked by the citizens on the USA. However it soon became apparent that a
major diplomatic storm was brewing and Lincoln eventually let Slidell and Mason go and they continued on their mission to GB. Their mission was, as we are all aware, unsuccessful and GB decided not to recognise the CSA.

The fallout from the Trent incident was that the GB government carried out an extensive review of the British military situation in Canada. They were appalled. They had 3000 British troops plus the Canadian Militia. The artillery was old and in terrible disrepair and most of the powder was damp and unusable.

In December 1861 GB dispatched 11000 troops plus batteries of artillery and various fresh munitions. At the same time plans were drawn up to invade the USA although no physical preparations were made.

What if?
This game was set up on the premise that GB had, in fact, recognised the CSA. Canada was now secure from US invasion and it was decided that GB could now play a more direct part in assisting the CSA.

The British have now sent “Military Advisers”. To paraphrase Richard Nixon, “there are no British
combat troops in America. You now know better. The advisers have been set up at a farm somewhere
in Virginia and have the first two CSA regiments under training. The British troops consisted of two line regiments, riflemen, a battery of Whitworth guns and two squadrons each of light and heavy cavalry.

At this point Allan Pinkerton managed to find where the training camp was and, more surprisingly for the Union, got the numbers correct. He had to get something right at some point after all. Lincoln
immediately ordered McClellan to destroy this camp and force the British out. McClellan dispatched his very best division. These units were well trained and considered to be elite for the purposes of this
game. This force consisted of three infantry brigades each of five regiments with their own artillery plus a cavalry brigade of two regiments.

The confederates knew that this force was on its way and sent their own forces to reinforce the training camp. This force consisted of two infantry brigades each of five regiments with their own artillery plus a cavalry brigade of two regiments. These troops were veterans but not yet fully trained.
This game was organised by me, Steve L  and our players were Mr Steve, Steve H, Steve M and …. Dave. But he did say his middle name was Steve so that was OK. The rules were Pickett's Charge.

Dave and Steve H took the parts of the Union troops whilst Mr Steve and Steve M took on the

Dave took the Union right with an infantry brigade and the cavalry and pushed forward over the hills
and through the woods heading for their target whilst Steve H, with two infantry brigades, moved up
the left in column and on the road, As he rounded a corner he was spotted by the British Guns. In
Pickett's Charge, Whitworth Guns fire using the effective table, even at long ranges. This battery opened fire and inflicted the first casualties of this encounter.

Steve H shook his units out into skirmish order. This was going to be the norm for all the troops in this game. Any units in line or column would quickly take casualties very quickly.

Meanwhile on the confederate side Mr Steve took their left with the smallest infantry brigade and the
cavalry and headed for Dave. On the right Steve M had the larger brigade and headed over the hills
towards Steve H.

The training unit was ensconced behind the walls and fences of the farm … waiting. Steve H pressed
forward in skirmish order, got his own artillery into action and forced the formed British units into
skirmish order themselves and they moved back from the fence lines to get behind the farm walls.
There was a general move forward on all fronts with Dave pressing his cavalry forward very quickly
trying to get to the farm before the confederate reinforcements got there. The first cavalry regiment
arrived and dismounted and moved forward into a withering long range rifle fire from British Riflemen.

The Union cavalry pressed on but they were no match for the well trained riflemen and decided to fall back out of range and wait for the infantry to arrive.

Steve H moved one brigade to the fence line on the extreme left and waited for Steve M to get there.
His other brigade moved towards the farm and there then ensued an exchange of fire that lasted the
game. Casualties mounted on both sides but nobody withdrew. Meanwhile Steve H’s artillery pounded away or rather became what Mr Steve calls self-exploding. Throw low and the rules put casualties on your own unit.

Meanwhile Mr Steve moved his forces forward towards Dave, his cavalry in the van. Steve M on the
right filtered his troops though the woods in skirmish order, his artillery moved around these woods.
As casualties mounted on both sides everyone was shouting for reserves. Now we could have
introduced them as Mr Steve had brought his figures with him, but if we had then we would still be playing the game at ten at night.

The game continued and the rates of attrition increased on both sides. Now a vagary of these rules is
that morale or “Elephant Test” only occurs at certain times and no amount of casualties brought this
into being. We checked and double checked the rule books but that was the way it was.

Mr Steve eventually managed to push the Union right back by force of his dismounted cavalry , infantry and British Riflemen. On the Union left Steve H was pressing forward and a duel was continuing with Steve M who was just about holding his own. Steve H pushed his other brigade towards the farm and was pinging away all the time. Lack of morale checks was proving to be a bone of contention for all players.

As we neared the end of the game, time constraints, Steve H charged into the farm and pushed the
defending CSA unit back. However, there, in front of his troops were British heavy cavalry who charged and forced them back. The cavalry pursued and cut them down to a man.

At this point we stopped the game. It was a well fought battle and it was the easiest game to umpire.
The rules were picked up very quickly as the Reference Sheets are pretty good. I gave the game to the
Confederates but then I may be slightly biased. Sorry Dave and Steve H.

It is not often you play ACW fantasy games. The British were just there in small numbers and I was not sure if I was going to continue with this “Intervention Force”. I am now seriously considering this. The intervention force may well include French from Mexico. I will look this at a future date.

At the end of the game we had a discussion about the rules. The consensus was that we liked the
command and control and movement of Pickett's Charge but Fire and Fury for the rest. Perhaps there is scope for having a mess around and see what happens.

I have been asked to list what figures, terrain etc. was used and where I got them so here goes:
  • Rule Set – Pickett's Charge 
  • British Troops - Lancashire Games.
  • ACW troops – Mostly AB but I have had these a long time and are now very expensive. I am now using Blue moon figures – Old Glory UK, 50% infantry command stands and a lot of the artillery are Blue Moon and they did not look too bad. . Mr Steve supplied the Horse Holders. 
At this point I would like to acknowledge the fact that all the troops were painted by Nick S and thanks to him.
  • Buildings Mr Steve brought from Pendraken. My own I got from and Hovels 
  • Trees, ploughed fields and other bits and bobs – were from Buffers near Axminster, a very congenial place and you get a cup of tea or coffee. This type of stuff is used by war gamers and model railway people. Yes I have that as well which I use with my brother.
  • Roads and Rivers – Search Fat Frank on EBay.
  • Snake Fences – also on EBay. Search 15mm snake fence.
  • Walls – I’m pretty sure they came from Pendraken and came ready painted but I can’t remember the link.
  • Hills – Not seen but were under the cloth were from Total Scenic Systems
  • Battle Cloth – Tiny Wargames
I hope all this helps but if you have any questions just drop a comment and I will try to help.

1 comment:

  1. A bloody and spectacular battle, great looking terrain and minis, nice write up with some famous carachters, even Nixon! Nice one sir...