Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My ACW - Adding the Who to the What (Updated)

OK, now that the essential, practical details are settled, like rules, size of stand, numbers of figures per stand, number of stands per regiment, number of regiments per brigade and how the units will relate to scenario units on both an interim and long term basis, I figured it was time to figure out how to figure out which unit is which and who the Generals are.

There are a couple of simple, common ways to do this.

  1. The Blue & The Grey. The easiest and least satisfying is not to worry. I got a big box of blue guys and a box of grey guys, how many do we need today? This is made easier since there are no regimental facings and the like to worry about.
  2. Order of Battle. One option is to pick an actual Order of Battle for a certain organization on a given day, usually at a given battle, then you build it.If you are going to actually fight that battle or better, the campaign during which that battle happened, this is a good option. As soon as you want to fight a different campaign, its a problem unless you essentially revert to option 3.
  3. My Fav's. The Grant option as described in the Wargame Companion is a good one. Based on his article for the Wargames Digest, Charles Grant essentially named his units and Generals after various historical ones and then used them in any or all of his wargames.

The current infantry of the Confederate Army of Acadia. Three brigades totaling 10 regiments. The new Red dot indicating 1st Regiment of the 1st Brigade can just be seen at the right rear of the leading regiment.

Since I started resurrecting the figures I had painted 30 years ago in order to play a campaign against my friend Jerry for control of the Annapolis Valley, without worrying how or why, it was already decided that this was about playing wargames that evoke the Western campaigns of the American Civil War not about refighting historical battles. I didn't think much more about it until I started thinking about flags.

The kicker is that while the ANV carried the now famous battle flag for almost the whole war, the same was not true out west. There almost early army carried its own design of battle flag and many regiments kept these for some or all of the war, even as they were transferred or armies were amalgamated. So when you see the flag, you know who they are. What's worse is that most of these flags do not evoke the ACW for me. A red flag with a yellow crescent moon or a blue square with a white circle don't say "Johnny Reb" the same way a blue St Andrew's cross with white stars on a red background does. To make matters worse, while some western units served in the ANV and carried their flags, the only, brief appearance of eastern units in the west was for Chickamauga. So, you can find Mississippi regiments in Virginia but not the reverse. So much for randomly picking favorite units.

One other small issue raised it head as I pondered why I even needed to identify units if the uniforms were generic. If I do end up with 32 regiments per side, how am I going  to remember which of the 6 Airfix units is the 76th Mississippi or be able to say who it was made the desperate stand when writing up battles? I decided to reorganize the existing troops into  their 4 stand regiments and start painting extra stands where needed while all this sorted itself out in background mode. Many of the existing stands have discrete regimental and brigade codes in the form of small Roman numerals on the back of the stand; codes so discrete they are nearly impossible to see on the table. Reorganizing meant re-labeling at least some stands so I decided on a new, bolder scheme with a swatch of the brigade colour on the back of the stand reaching over the top so they can be seen from above. The position would indicate seniority. It was while doing this that it all came together.

So, the decision is made. For ease of memory, all of my brigades will normally be drawn from one state with only Western States being represented. The regiments will be numbered regardless of where the matching historical unit served. The scheme will mix seniority based on when they were painted with their brigade number.

For example, the first Confederate brigade is made up of the Airfix figures I painted 30 years ago supplemented by a few more to raise one of the 15 man units to two 16 man ones. Having noticed that General Winfield Featherstone commanded a brigade of Mississippeans under Loring in the Vicksburg and Atlanta campaigns, he seemed to be just the man for the Airfix Brigade. The 4 regiments therefore are the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th Mississippi. The 3rd Brigade will be from Alabama and will thus be the 31st, 32nd, 33rd and eventually 34th Alabama.  Thus the units will be bogus but will sound plausible and be easy to figure out and remember.

That leaves flags. The first brigade is settled. Currently all of their flags are torn and unuseable but they were all raised with the familiar ANV battle flag and these will be restored. Some units carried the Stars and Bars instead of a battle flag so at least one brigade will carry these. Since I eventually intend to form 2 Divisions, I just may use the flags to indicate which division my units belong to and not worry about all the flags carried in various historical campaigns. After all, the units earmarked for the Acadian campaign might have all been issued new flags but the phrase "print the legend" comes to mind.
Update.  For some reason, some of the old Airfix felt more like "Georgia" than  "Mississippi" to me while some of the new mixed units did but I thought I'd give them pride of place. Since the flgas haven't been issued yet and one of Bluebear Jeff's ancestors fought in the 23rd Georgia which would fit my numbering scheme if the 2nd Brigade were Georgian, I'm going to shuffle some of the regiments and the 2nd Brigade will now be  The Georgia Brigade with the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th Georgia Regiments led by General Hudelson (once I paint him up). Since the best brigades have nicknames, this one will of course have a nickname, the Bluebear Brigade.


  1. I had four ancestors who fought in the "War of Northern Aggression" . . . i.e, they were Confederates . . . so when I did a little ACW gaming 25-30 years ago I created a brigade of the units they served in:

    2nd Arkansas
    23rd Georgia
    57th Virginia
    19th Texas Cavalry

    I based the last of these as dismounted. They actually weren't really involved in the war, they were used against the Indians . . . although one of my ancestors, John Henry Hudelson, was discharged due to injuries during the war, they were not from combat but rather because his leg was severely broken during a regimental wrestling match.

    I like your choice of a solution since I doubt that you have any real connection to any units like I do.

    -- Jeff

  2. Ross, I am honored by your update.

    For the record, my ancestor with the 23rd Georgia was Captain John Leander Steele . . . and I have his "mustache cup" (like a fine china coffee cup with an extra piece on top to protect the mustache while your drink).

    -- Jeff

  3. Hi Ross,

    I have some painted Civil War Airfix, that I'll try to get to Joseph's before the end of the month. I'll let you know to arrange a pick up.

    On topic, my grandfather's grandfather, Samuel Hingley went south to Boston seeking adventure during the Civil War and joined the 3rd Reg. New Hampshire Volunteers. This is a link to his life experiences expressed in his own words...

    The narrative starts in 1863 and isn't too long.

  4. Thanks Rob,

    Interesting article. Infantry to cavalry and back again!

    I see Confederation didn't rate even a passing mention. Good sourcing on the cost of fish and other goods though for those interested in such campaign details.