When do you know you are done with a miniature project? It’s very easy to buy a manageable hand full of figures and paint them not knowing you don’t have enough to play any kind of game. Simultaneously, it’s also easy to buy EVERYTHING. You can whip out the plastic and buy a few thousand hours worth of painting without realizing it if you aren’t careful. Before sitting down to paint or purchase you need a plan .
A really good strategy for buying and painting the correct amount of lead is to find a battle you want to recreate. This not only makes a guide for buying and painting troops but will provide a template for creating terrain for a game as well. At a regimental scale, a 6 foot by 5 foot table (2 by 1.6 miles of simulated terrain) can fit 3 or 4 divisions (about a Corp) a side. What I need is either a medium size battle or a section of one of the larger ones (such as the Hornets Nest at Shiloh or Picket’s charge at Gettysburg) to use as a starting point for my project.
As we have already established, I like General McPherson. McPherson saw action during the battles of Fort Henry, Fort Donaldson, and Shiloh but as a commander of engineers, not as a commander of troops. Bummer… Shiloh would rock. McPherson served as a Corp commander during the Vicksburg campaign and as a Army commander during the Atlanta Campaign. An Army is way to big for my table so it looks like I need to find my battle during the Vicksburg Campaign. The Vicksburg campaign consisted mostly of a great big siege and a lot of very small battles. There was one medium size fight however at a crossroads in Mississippi called Champion Hill.
The Battle of Champion hill was fought on May 16th, 1863 between Union elements of James McPherson’s XVII Corp and John McClernand’s XIII Corp and the Confederate Army of Vicksburg commanded by John Pemberton. Below is drawing of the battle field created in 1882.
While the Union could ultimately muster greater forces than the Confederates could apply to the battle, throughout the day confederates controlled many very defensible positions including, <wait for it> a hill. The fighting that actually occurred on that hill was intense. Over 2500 union soldiers where killed or wounded taking that hill while 3800 confederates where killed our wounded in its defense. The disparity in casualties is explained by the fact that the Union forces managed to outflank the Confederate position and crush it in detail. Southern forces eventually were routed and most returned to Vicksburg to prepare for a long siege. (I plan of spending some time digging into this battle and the Campaign around it in later blogs but for now I need to get us back to organizing my project or I will be here all night.)
In order to better study the battle I am reading a book on it by Timothy B. Smith (entitled Champion Hill – Decisive Battle for Vicksburg). This book, besides being a corking read, has many Maps! Huzzah! The Maps in the book focus in far better than the period map above, have much cleaner terrain guidance and are at a constant scale to each other. This is wicked cool. Because all the maps in the book have a similar scale I was able to create a jig of my table printed on a piece of overhead projector sheet that I can superimpose over each of the maps in order to work out how I want the battlefield to appear on my table. (I created a grid of 600 yards by 600 yards squares in the same mileage scales as the map. Each of these squares is a foot on my table.) I eventually I settled on the following view…
Now… its cool I can do this but not convenient. I can’t do what I need while holding the jig to the book. I need a representation, not only of this map that I can not only fold up and put in my pocket but that contains a representation of the components of this map that I intend to recreate using my table. I created the following drawing as a terrain guide:
Based on this, my table will need:
- Hills in the above bizarre shapes
- About 10 square feet of forest
- about 14 feet of road including forks and an intersection
- about 7 or 8 feet of rivers with forks
- 5 Farms including fences and planted crops. (each farm complex is represented by a non descript black square.)
- Not included in the map but certainly included in the battle: Hasty works!
My scenario will begin at 11:00 AM on May 16th 1863. (This is the position illustrated in the map with my funky jig). There are a TON on Union troops on that map (30 regiments Plus 10 batteries of Artillery!) That’s perfect! Sadly there are only 15 Confederate regiments. (Fear not! More southerners are on the way though.) So that I can paint two roughly equal forces, I will be adding the confederates that arrived later (by 2:00 PM historically).
Neither side used Calvary in the fight but I really want to paint Cav. To do this I will add 5 Battalions of cavalry (sadly at random) that plausibly could have been in Mississippi at the time assigned to each of the armies so that I can have those units available for other games. Based on this, here is what I must paint in order to fight the battle of Champion Hill:
- 30 Union Regiments
- 31 Confederate Regiments
- 10 Union Artillery Batteries (5 Smoothbore, 5 rifles)
- 10 Confederate Artillery Batteries (5 Smoothbore, 5 rifles)
- 5 Union Cavalry Battalions (mounted and dismounted)
- 5 Confederate Cavalry Battalions (mounted and dismounted)
- 11 Union Generals (1 Corp Commander, 3 Division commanders, 7 Brigadiers)
- 9 Confederate Generals (3 Division Commanders, 6 Brigadiers)
and here are the Orders of Battle for each of the forces I intend to paint….