The Union I Corps at Gettysburg
As discussed in my last article, I’ve decided to do ‘one last great wargames project’ in the form of 10mm American Civil War. I opted for 10mm figures primarily because I want to do BIG battles (using Fire & Fury rules) and I want to get it done in a short space of time for minimum cost.
I’ve decided to work my way through the orders of battle for Gettysburg rather than build ‘generic’ armies for both sides. To most people, Gettysburg is the iconic battle of that war and is the one that wargamers want to play (like Napoleonic wargamers generally HAVE to play Waterloo). It’s far from a typical battle, but once you have the armies built for Gettysburg, you have the forces to fight pretty much any other battle of the war. Building specific units also gives me a clear objective and impetus for painting.
I’m pleased to say that Pendraken’s 10mm figures exceeded all my expectations for quality and ease of painting and I painted the entire Union I Corps in just three weeks! Back when I did 15mm ACW, the same force took me four months to paint…
Why I Corps? Well after the initial clash between Buford’s Union cavalry and A.P. Hill’s Confederate III Corps to the NW of Gettysburg, Reynolds’ I Corps was the first formation to relieve Buford (followed by XI Corps and XII Corps) and rapidly became embroiled in a bitter encounter battle as each side attempted to gain control of the critical terrain around the town. For a bit of extra interest, I Corps also contains a smattering of interesting and colourful units. Here’s see my completed I Corps on parade:
Major General John F. Reynolds commanded I Corps at Gettysburg, but was tragically killed on the first day, while encouraging the men of Meredith’s ‘Iron Brigade’ (1st Division). Reynolds’ headquarters pennant was of the approved standard type for a Corps HQ, being a large swallow-tailed pennant in dark blue, emblazoned with a white ornate cross, superimposed with the corps number in red (see below). Each corps was given a simple symbol as a field recognition sign which would be worn as a badge by members of the corps, as well as being repeated on Divisional and Brigade HQ pennants. In the case of I Corps, this corps field-sign was a simple disc and this eventually replaced the cross on the corps HQ pennant, but at the time of Reynolds’ death at Gettysburg, his HQ was still using the flag shown here.
Brigadier General James S. Wadsworth’s 1st Division was the first formation of I Corps to arrive at Gettysburg, relieving Buford’s cavalry and rapidly becoming embroiled in a desperate fight around the Lutheran Seminary. The division comprised two brigades, Meredith’s and Cutlers, totalling 3,860 men.
As mentioned above, Union HQs were identified by a fairly standardised system of marker flags. Each corps was identified by a specific symbol (a disc for I Corps) and each division was then identified by a colour, in the order 1st – Red, 2nd – White & 3rd – Blue. On the rare occasion where there was a 4th division, the symbol would be green. Divisional HQs would typically have rectangular flags in white, except for 2nd Divisions, where the flag was dark blue in order to contrast with the white symbol. The red disc on a white flag shown below is therefore Wadsworth’s HQ for the 1st Division of I Corps:
Brigadier General Solomon Meredith’s crack ‘Iron Brigade’ was numbered as the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division and comprised the 2nd, 6th & 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana and 24th Michigan Regiments. Widely regarded as the elite brigade of the Army of the Potomac and possibly the entire Union Army, the Iron Brigade was quite distinctive in terms of dress, as they wore the full-dress frock coat with the tall and wide-brimmed full-dress black ‘Hardee Hat’ (or simpler black slouch-hats), with distinctive sky-blue piping and hat-cords, as well as a smattering of white canvas gaiters. The Pendraken Iron Brigade figures are absolutely lovely, so I went to town somewhat on these. Note that there should actually be only nine bases (1,800 men), but the pack contained 30 figures, so I painted them all up:
Brigadier General Lysander Cutler’s brigade was the 2nd Brigade of Wadsworth’s 1st Division and comprised the 76th, 84th, 95th & 147th New York, 56th Pennsylvania and 7th Indiana Regiments, numbering a little over 2,000 men (10 bases). Arriving piecemeal into a chaotic situation, the individual regiments of the brigade found themselves fighting alongside the Iron Brigade, Buford’s cavalry and isolated Union artillerymen, suffering very heavy casualties as a consequence.
Five of these regiments wore the standard US blue uniform, but the 84th New York (also known as the 14th Brooklyn Militia) wore a very distinctive uniform of the fashionable ‘Chasseur’ style, featuring red trousers, a blue coat with red trim and a red kepi with blue trim. This leads to a dilemma: In Fire & Fury, each unit represents a brigade of several regiments. So should I paint the typical blue uniform worn by the majority of the brigade? Or should I opt for the spectacular red trousers and caps of the 14th Brooklyn, or should I do the majority in blue and drop a couple of bases into the unit to represent the 14th Brooklyn…?
As if there’s a choice… 🙂
In my defence, the rest of the Union force for 1st July is wall-to-wall blue, so they will add a rare splash of colour. Further down the line, when I come to doing the II, III, V & VI Corps, there is a fair smattering of ‘Zouave’ units, so I will have to restrain myself and perhaps only do one Zouave unit per corps at the very most, or it’ll start to look like a French army!
I recently came across this rather splendid painting of a moment during the 1st day of Gettysburg, when the 14th Brooklyn of Cutler’s Brigade and the 6th Wisconsin of Meredith’s Iron Brigade found themselves intermingled in the line:
Brigadier General John C. Robinson’s 2nd Division was the last division of I Corps to arrive at Gettysburg, taking up position on Wadsworth’s right, north of the railway cutting. However, in this position they soon found themselves outflanked by the newly-arrived Confederate II Corps, commanded by Generaal Ewell.
Robinson’s division comprised two brigades, Baxter’s and Paul’s, for a total of 3,027 men.
As the 2nd Division of I Corps, the divisional badge was a white disc, which is displayed here on Robinson’s HQ flag. Note that for 2nd Divisions, the Divisional HQ flag colour changes to blue, in order to contrast with the white formation symbol.
Brigadier General Gabriel R. Paul’s brigade was the senior brigade of Robinson’s division and consisted of the 94th & 107th New York, 11th & 10th Pennsylvania, 16th Maine and 13th Massachusetts Regiments. I’ve gone with the Fire & Fury strength of 8 bases, though a few orbats show an actual strength of 1,829 men, which would suggest 9 bases.
As mentioned above, the corps badge would be worn as a field-sign by the men of that corps, in the divisional colour, usually attached to the headgear, or sometimes to the breast of the coat. These were often privately-purchased and took various forms – usually a cloth patch or enamelled pin-badge. At this scale, they simply appear as a white dot on the cap.
Major General Henry Baxter’s brigade was the 2nd brigade of Robinson’s division and comprised the 83rd & 97th New York, 88th & 90th Pennsylvania and 12th Massachusetts Regiments. Curiously, the Fire & Fury orbat pegs this unit as 7 bases, as shown here, though the historical orbats tend to show 1,198 men, which would suggest 6 bases.
Again, their parent formation is shown by the white badge on the cap. Painting a white disc at 10mm scale is simple… Painting the XI Corps crescent or the XII Corps star is going to be a bit more tricky…
Major General Abner Doubleday was a distinguished officer, who famously fired the first shot of the war at Fort Sumter and who had commanded brigades and divisions with distinction. In 1863 he commanded the I Corps’ 3rd Division, which was the second infantry division to arrive at Gettysburg, shoring up the desperate situation that Wadsworth and Buford had found themselves in on Seminary Ridge. Doubleday’s 3rd Division was the strongest in the corps, consisting of three brigades and totalling 4,711 men.
In addition to commanding a division, Doubleday was also Reynold’s second-in-command, so took command of I Corps following Reynolds’ untimely death. With the situation rapidly deteriorating north of Gettysburg in the face of superior forces, Doubleday ordered I Corps to fall back to more defensive positions south of the town, on Cemetery Hill.
However, Reynolds had also been commander of the ‘Army Wing’ consisting of I, XI and XII Corps. With his death, command of the Wing fell to General Howard, commander of XI Corps. Howard appears to have made very little effort to personally investigate the tactical disposition of I Corps and misinterpreted Doubleday’s sensible withdrawal to a better position as a panicked retreat. Howard therefore unjustly accused Doubleday of cowardice and General Meade (the Army Commander and long-time enemy of Doubleday)wasted no time in having Doubleday unjustly removed from command.
Doubleday’s headquarters was marked by a white rectangular flag, bearing the I Corps disc in dark blue.
Brigadier General T Rowley’s brigade was the senior brigade of Doubleday’s division and consisted of the 121st, 142nd & 151st Pennsylvania and 80th New York Regiments. The brigade was 1,387 strong at Gettysburg, equating to 7 bases.
Note that where the divisional sign was blue, the badges worn by the men became sky-blue in order to make them contrast from the dark blue of their uniforms (note the sky-blue dots on the caps).
Colonel Roy Stone’s ‘Bucktail’ Brigade was the 2nd brigade of Doubleday’s division and consisted of three Pennsylvania regiments, the 143rd, 149th and 150th. The brigade was raised by ‘absorbing’ the fame of the original 13th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment (‘The Bucktails’), who had made a name for themselves as sharpshooters and being easily recognised by their habit of wearing a buck’s tail on their caps.
In 1863 the original 13th Pennsylvania ‘Bucktails’ were serving in V Corps, but one of their senior officers, Colonel Roy Stone had been tasked with raising an entire brigade of new ‘Bucktails’, which was then assigned to I Corps. Numbering 1,314 effectives, they weigh in as 7 bases for Fire & Fury.
In my old 15mm army I had some ‘proper’ Bucktail figures (by Old Glory, I think?), which had distinct bucktail plumes on the left side of their caps. However, I’ve not found anything similar in 10mm. Although it’s not very obvious, I’ve attempted to depict the bucktails by painting a white & brown striped flash on the left side of each man’s cap. The unit also carries appropriate Pennsylvania state colours.
Missing from the 3rd Division is Brigadier-General George T. Stannard’s Brigade. This strong brigade (10 bases in Fire & Fury) was not engaged on the 1st day of Gettysburg, so I’ve cheated slightly, taking the view that by the time Stannard turns up, there will be ample troops in the ‘dead box’ from which to form the brigade!
Lastly we have Colonel Charles S Wainwright’s I Corps Artillery Brigade. In game terms this is represented by four gun models, each representing a ‘battery’ (two of brass 12pdr Napoleons and two of iron Ordnance 3-inch Rifles). However, in reality this brigade consisted two 12pdr Napoleon batteries and two 3-inch Rifle batteries, each of six guns, plus a fifth (understrength) 3-inch Rifle battery with four guns. In game terms each ‘battery’ model represents eight guns, so the fifth battery has been ‘absorbed’ into the others.
More soon! My first batch of Rebs have just arrived in the post from Pendraken, so with a Rebel Yell, I’m off to the painting table…