The Battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg as it was known in the Confederacy, remains the bloodiest day in the history of the United States to this day; 25,000 casualties of whom 4,000 were killed. So it was not without some trepidation that we embarked on our latest game of Two Splendid Lines, following the history of the Fourth Texas Infantry through the Civil War, battle by battle.
For those who've missed the preceeding posts, TSL is a 6mm game based on the Give Them The Cold Steel ruleset. It focuses on the morale and tactical dynamics of regimental-level combat - all about the snapshot of a battle.
This is how the battle opened. The infamous Miller's Cornfield is towards the top, and the Federal attack is coming along the road. Hood's now-famous Texas Brigade is hasilty deployed - the 1st and 5th Texas are just off the top of the board at this point and don't take any direct part in the battle. We're facing off against the equally tenacious Iron Brigade...
From our angle you can see the challenge we face. The ground is difficult and varied, which means it will be difficult to attack in line - but the fact that there's a regular U.S. Army artillery battery preculdes a column approach!
This is how the Federals begin. Because of their slightly awkward start, they can't deploy in a full line as the 19th Indiana advanced too quickly. The 35th New York, on the other end of the line, would have to stand in front of the guns to complete the line. Instead, the 19th forms an impromptu line with the 7th Wisconsin and the New Yorkers march by the flank (ie. sideways) to get behind them in support.
Contrary to experience and practice, the 19th Indiana let loose a battalion volley at 80 yards. This sounds bad, but is actually ideal for the Confederates - at that range the majority of the shots will fly high, and the entire regiment is left standing there with empty muskets. Still, we lose about 20 men in one volley!
In response, I double my regiment forward to about 40 yards, fire a volley of my own just as the Yankees are reloading, then charge! At that very close range the fire of my Texans is much more devastating and the 19th are forced to withdraw in disorder, to avoid being impaled. However, I can't advance any further myself because my own ranks are disordered from all the running and the men are tired. I've just won a little bit of ground. Reading the official records, this is how about 95% of all bayonet charges went, and accounts for the low casualty figures. They were shock weapons rather than physical ones.
The other two regiments put up a brave fight. The Georgians and Hampton's Legion cannot advance any closer because of the vicious canister fire from the artillery, so with their flanks secure they expertly alternate their two regiments to hold off our three - one fighting, the other resting. To break the stalemate, I despatched my lieutenant colonel with two companies of skirmishers to go into the woods and harras the enemy. This prevented the 19th Indiana from rallying, and also stopped the 'recovering' regiment from resting so easily. Also, they scored a big hit when Brigadier General John Gibbon was shot in the upper arm and carried from the field. (Our fate dice showed that he subsequently died following an unsucessful amputation).
With this, the Federals started to withdraw, but there was no way our shattered brigade could advance any further. We soon withdrew - both sides had been stopped, but at tremendous cost. Out of 422 men, the 4th Texas lost 43 killed and 64 wounded (a slightly smaller proportion than in real life). I quote the following passage from the colonel's report after the battle:
EdNo words can convey the depth of emotion and admiration I hold for the men of the 4th Texas; they responded instantly to whatever order I gave as if on the parade-ground and seemingly disregarding the scores of dead and wounded about them. Each man who stood on that field deserves, and has earned, a higher praise than I can herein give.