Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Jubilation T Cawnpone’s Art of War (and Survival)

Modelling Idiocy in the ACW [preview]

For many years now I have been fascinated with the difficulties of modelling in a fun, challenging manner some of the total losers of history, rather than the usual suspects on the (much shorter) genius list – you know, good old ‘Unfortunate Mack’ (1805), any Frenchman in 1940, English/Russian in the Crimea; you know the sort of thing. Well just recently I have been getting into the American Civil War in a big way (some old history mags plus superb lecture series on YouTube).

As anyone with even a passing knowledge will already know, the massive and sudden expansion of forces on both sides meant that the pool of trained officers was stretched mighty thin – and many of those were not great when the test came (MacClellan the ‘Little Napoleon’ has always been a favourite idiot). So, lots of posts were given to amateurs – political appointees for the most part, so all had ‘friends at court’ providing a degree of resilience save in the even of total disaster – and sometimes several, before they were removed!

[Yeah, ok, got that – get on with it…]

OK, the rest of the preamble can wait for the mini-megagame at SELWG next year, but in the meantime I wanted a simple, non-roleplayed system which could be operated by any players (with or without period knowledge) and provide a consistent approach. The game structure is therefore one of the old favourites, a ‘cardboard simulator’ of command, ©1863…

In this game, both sides are given a ‘success points’ chart by which to measure their performance at the end. The difference is that the Confederate side will be given a chart which is considered ‘normal’ – possession of key objectives, disruption of enemy logistic routes, rolling-back of front line etc etc. However, the Union side will have a chart which emphasises personal activity – going forward in a vaguely southern direction (“On To Richmond!”), winning any form of encounter, of any size as long as you are in command, keeping well supplied; you get the idea. This should thus ensure that these personal factors feed directly into the planning and co-operative actions of both sides and offset any significant advantages the Union might have in terms of numbers, supply and so on.

The rules for moving and combat involving said forces are identical, give or take the odd +/- for elites etc. The critical factor is how good the senior commander is at getting there ‘firstest with the mostest’. Or not.

I hope to demo this at some point using a faked-up (but all-too real) scenario under the opposing commanders ‘Maj Gen Hiram N Fireum’ for the Union vs ‘Norman “Epping” Forrest’ for the South. Please note that it is entirely possible that both sides will ‘win’ using this system, or can claim to have done so. That’s fine by me, as – until late 1864 anyway by which time most of the senior idiots had been removed – this seems to have been a common result! Of course, even when both sides had ‘sidelined’ most of the idiots away from the Real War, fate had a way of showing the funny side, when both forces met by accident and were led by an array of inept, cowardly bullies….but that’s another scenario!

Be seeing you.

Further research: (one of my faves!)

and of course, just to show it’s not one-sided…



One Comment
  1. Peter Merritt

    I should perhaps add a note that ‘Little Mac’ was a fabulous administrator – the Army of the Potomac loved him after the debacle of First Bull Run; he really created the Union Civil War army from the hodge-podge of militias, 90-day volunteers etc. And he was a fair strategist – the attack on Richmond via the thinly-covered Peninsular, using massive Union shipping assets to make the logistics problems a doddle was a good idea. It’s just that when it came to the crunch he had no confidence in himself, or putting the issue to the final test of battle…

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