Civil war battlefields were dominated by their hills. Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and, my favorite, Champion Hill we all battle sites chosen for advantages conferred by their high ground. Holding higher elevation did not always translate into easy victory. In fact, Pemberton and his Army of Vicksburg lost the battle of Champion Hill despite holding higher ground. Nonetheless, generals of the period sought out hills and ridges for both the tactical and strategic advantages they afforded.
Troops stationed on a hill had the following advantages:
Battlefield intelligence – Generals could easily see the movements of enemy troops from atop a high hill. Conversely, troops just over the sloop of a hill or crest moved virtually invisibly.
Visibility – Troops stationed at higher elevations than their target would have an easier time seeing their targets. This seems like a no brainer but the advantage here is quite staggering. Weapons of this era had theoretical ranges in the hundreds of yards and could shoot with accuracy for up to a mile. On a flat surface it might not be possible to see for more than a couple of hundred yards and therefore the not use their weapons to their full potential.
Overlapping fire – Troops can’t shoot through friendly troops. Well… not without irritating them. The sole exception occurs when one unit is at a higher elevation than the other. It was a common tactic during the war to place infantry on the facing slope of a hill or at its base while placing cannons on its crest. This provided very good mutual protection for both artillery and infantry.
Hills for McPherson and Revenge will will confer a range bonus to units at a higher elevation than their target and a range penalty to units at lower elevations than their target. There will also be rules for firing over infantry with artillery.
My hills came in a box. I bought them about 10 years ago. They were manufactured by a Portland company called Geo-Hex and are cool enough that I don’t feel too much pressure to make new ones from scratch. This is the only terrain element I will not be scratch building.
The hills are six sided polymorphic and have about a 2” slope. The fully hexagonal pieces are 1 foot across. I can use the various pieces to produce quite a few useful shapes but it requires a bit of practice to use. The main advantage of these hills is that, given the quantity I have, I can produce a facsimile of most battlefields without resorting to opening a jug of glue. The downside is that it’s a bit too generic to do really distinct hills and it takes an hour or two to set up.
Below are are pictures of my hills set up for the champion hill scenario. Note my image of the battle field sitting on the table itself as my guide. It’s not a perfect match but I should be able to recreate the important nooks and crannies of the battlefield for my game.