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Bartlett's Farm (1863): ACW at the War Room

Rob rolled spectacularly during yesterday’s Sunday game at the War Room. The scenario, using his 15mm collection, pitted Rob and Neil’s Confederates against Union forces led by Doug and me. Phil was umpiring using Black Powder rules amended to his specifications.

Doug’s initial Union deployment at Bartlett’s Farm

The Confederates had four brigades (16 units in total) and were tasked with defeating Doug’s two brigades (nine units), deployed at Bartlett’s Farm, before the latter were reinforced by another three brigades (11 units) arriving randomly on the back edge of the table.

The terrain ostensibly favoured the Federals, with hedges, a stream, fences, and the farm itself, presenting a good, if extended, defensive position.

Rob’s lead brigade begins its flank march

While Neil pinned Doug’s two brigades in place, Rob’s two brigades advanced on the Union left flank, assisted by gleeful dice rolling which allowed him to make several 36” moves during the game with his lead brigade.

Rob’s second brigade occupies the wood near the Union left

Meanwhile, his second brigade initially took cover in woods close to the Union left, near the bridge.

Doug received his reinforcements early on, including one brigade on his right flank, two in the centre, and one on his left flank. I took charge of the two closest to the Union left.

Neil and Doug face off across the stream, near the Union centre

While Rob’s brigades homed in on the Union left, Neil advanced selected units against the Farm, while his second brigade waited further out at a picket fence line.

Neil demonstrates with units of his first brigade

Doug and Neil spent much of the game exchanging musketry and artillery fire at a distance.

My first brigade covers Doug’s left flank

Midway through the morning’s play, I deployed my first brigade in support of Doug’s left wing. My brigade was holding the flank, but risked the prospect of facing both of Rob’s brigades from opposite directions.

Under pressure from Neil and Rob, two of Doug’s units in the left-hand brigade at the farm were routed, leaving a gap in the line which was eventually filled.

Neil keeps up the pressure on the farm

Neil was still keeping Doug’s firing line busy along the front with ranged fire and close combats. However, both of Neil’s brigades lost the majority of their units, including those which ventured forward towards the occupied Farm, by end of play.

Rob’s lead brigade rounds the hill to fall on my left flank

Rob now arrived close to my flank with his lead brigade after swinging round a hill. He quickly charged through a wood and began to assault my artillery.

My brigade in danger, as Rob threatens the artillery

By lunchtime, however, it seemed that the Confederates had failed to make any significant progress; all the Union reinforcements had deployed – giving Doug and me the numerical advantage.

Nevertheless, the bridge near the Farm was becoming the pivotal point in the game; my brigade was reinforced with another close by, and both my brigades and Doug’s first brigade formed a hook here, faced by Rob’s two brigades and one of Neil’s.

Regardless, Rob’s attacks were now proving relentless, with a lot of lucky dice rolls; meanwhile I inflicted very few casualties, and my right flank was exposed to enfilade fire, which I couldn’t prevent.

I pull back to shorten the line

Rob’s lead brigade bore down on my left, forcing me to pull back to the farm with both my brigades in order to shorten the line. However, one unit failed to do so, and, as Doug retired one of his own units, exposed its flank to attack from Rob’s other brigade as it crossed the river.

Two of Rob’s units attack Doug’s artillery and fall on my right flank

Doug’s artillery at the bridge tried, but failed, to stop Rob’s second brigade charging into it and destroying it. Rob had hit the vulnerable point in our line with aplomb.

The Union left was now in disarray, and in danger of collapse, as two of my units were routed and Doug’s artillery was destroyed; Rob’s Confederates were viciously shooting down my men in droves with coordinated fire and whooping like varmints.

Doug's furthest brigade arriving to support the devastated left flank

Doug now had to pull out the brigade on his right flank, which began a march to the left flank to prevent a total collapse. Neil’s left was by now too badly mauled to attack the Union right.

Still, two more of my units routed on the Union left. Only now did Rob fail to activate for the first time in the game, so he couldn’t advance and exploit his success. But his second brigade now occupied the outskirts of the farmstead.

A gleeful Rob occupies a field next to Bartlett’s Farm

Doug was forced to pull out certain units from the Farm in order to prevent a Confederate flanking move.

Doug averts disaster by redeploying this brigade on the Union left

While it looked grim for the Union, Doug did manage to redeploy his right-flank brigade into the centre and finally to the left. This, along with some retiring Confederate units and a failed melee, checked Rob’s advance, but some fields and the farm were now in Confederate hands.

Confederates secure the hedgerows near the farm

Rebels secure the farm

My last unit (of seven!), cowering in a wood, was destroyed by Rob’s fire, and Rob consolidated his position behind some hedges near the farm.

Near end of play: Union brigades are deformed after incessant pressure from Rob and Neil

Three more of Doug’s units at the fence line were forced to retire after failing morale tests. Doug also failed to activate two brigades, which were frozen. Doug was left with barely two units on the fence line, but Neil’s units were in no shape to attack them.

Doug called a stop to proceedings at 5.15pm. The Union had lost the game, with nine infantry units and three artillery units routed. The Confederates had lost six infantry units and one artillery unit.


All in all, the game proved to be decisive and very enjoyable. Rob was on top form with excellent dice rolling, while mine was execrable. Doug did well to hold the line against Neil, and averted total disaster by redeploying his brigade to the left, but it was not enough to save the day.

We discussed Black Powder, and Phil’s amendments (alternate moving and firing specifically), and everyone seemed to see the merits in the rules we played, even if our comments were influenced by the result. While it did seem very difficult to resist a concerted advance, the consensus seemed to be that they are definitely worth sticking with, particularly for Friday club nights.

Thanks to Phil for umpiring, and to Rob for setting up and hospitality, for what was a memorable War Room experience.


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