Every now and then one remembers why we indulge in this hobby of ours. It may seem odd or quirky to the uninitiated but just sometimes we are reminded what it is all about. I first met Mike Lane over twenty years ago. Competition wargames were very much in vogue and that meant felt terrain and furrowed brows. Well the years have been kind to us and what better way to spend a Saturday that pushing around some of the best figures you are likely to see anywhere on a superb table. The battle revoles around General Buford’s First Union Cavalry Division’s stand against Heth’s foot sore Confederates on the first of July. The figures are almost exclusively Redoubt miniatures and the game was terrific. I hope you enjoy the following, extracts from the matchless “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara.
‘ Lee’s eyes were wide and very dark. Heth’s said painfully, “Sir. I moved in this morning as directed. I thought it was only a few militia. But it was dismounted cavalry. John Buford. Well, there weren’t all that many and it was cavalry, so I decided to push on it. The boys wouldn’t hold back. I thought we shouldn’t ought to be stopped by a few dismounted cavalry. But they made a good fight. I didn’t expect…….They really put up a scrap……..’
‘Buford frowned. He said slowly, “I don’t know how long will be necessary. It may be a long time. We can force them to deploy, anyway, and that will take up time. Also, that’s a narrow roadLee’s coming down, and if we stack them up back there they’ll be a while getting untracked. But the point is to hold for the infantry.’
‘The mist was lifting slowly, the rain was slackening, but Buford’s could not see the line. He felt the attack come and turned his face towards the sound of the guns, judging the size of the attack by the width of the sound…..’
‘All that while whenever he came near the line he could see enemy troops moving in the fields across the way, spreading out as they came down the road, like a grey river spreading where it reaches the sea.’
An immaculate man, tidy as a photograph, soft-voiced,almost elegant. Buford’s put out a hand.
“General, I’m damned glad to see you.”
‘Tom Devin was up. He was annoyed to be pulled out. In a moment Reynolds was back, leading blue troops at double time through the fields, tearing down fences as they came….
‘Buford’s heart was stirred: the Black Hats, Simon Cutler’s Iron Brigade, best troops in the Union Army. An omen.
My attacking Confederates in the centre had to fall back to the fence line at the bottom of the ridge. But on my left flank, numbers were beginning to tell….
Mike skillfully used the 5th New York Zouaves and the 42nd to contain the Confederates on the turnpike.
Here, we decided to close an excellent day’s gaming. The game was very much in the balance with the Iron Brigade making gains in the centre, supported by Buford’s resurgent mounted cavalry. There would be some hard fighting to do before the arriving Confederates could alter the balance. But, it had been a memorable day and I thank Mike for being the perfect host.