Friday, February 11, 2022

Richmond is a hard road to travel - Seven Pines

This past week, myself, Chris, Ed and Mark got together to re-fight Seven Pines/Fair Oaks from the Peninsular Campaign. We used Altar of Freedom, a brigade-level ruleset intended to be used for big battles, we've been using this recently and it is definitely rewarding to play an entire battle in a 3-4 hour span. In the case of Seven Pines we got through both days, May 31st and June 1st of fighting. 

Mark took the reins as the Union commander, Brig. Gen. Heintzelman with myself acting as Brig. Gen. Sumner, arriving to support his Corps. 

The Confederates were run by Ed as Gen. Joe Johnston and Chris handling Maj. Gen. Longstreets corps that started on table leading the attack.

Although Altar of Freedom always for ahisotrical deployments, we kept to a general historical deployment of forces to see how it would play out.

Beginning of May 31st, 1862

Heintzleman and Keyes' Corps deployed on table to begin with Casey and Couch's Division forming the front rank of defenses and Kearney's division beginning in reserve, quickly deploying to the Union left in anticipation of a Confederate attack. 

In Altar of Freedom Generals have traits tied to their historical performance, in Longstreet's case he risked not activating on any given turn with a Roll of '1', when the battle stepped off at 1 PM, Longstreet blinked and failed to advance. This allowed the Union forces to begin to dig in and adjust their line. 

Anderson's division advances on the Union right 

Throughout the first day of fighting the Confederates focused their attack on the Union left, guarded by a Couch's division of Keye's command, stationed near Fair Oaks station. Numbering three brigades and a battery of guns, the Confederate division under Anderson had six brigades and a battery operating against them.

Anderson smashes through Couch's line

While the Union left remained relatively quiet in the opening hours, Anderson decisively smashed through Couch's division, routing one brigade and throwing back two more.

Sedgwick's Division arrives

By 4 PM on the 31st, Sedgwick's divsion had arrived on the Union right and began to deploy in support, this forced the Confederates to pause their assault. Meanwhile, Johnston arrived on table alongside Gustavus Smith's Corps.

D.H. Hills' Division comes to life

Knowing their time is running out on the first day, Longstreet decides to finally send D.H. Hill's division forward against Casey's division around Seven Pines. A brutal fight for the Union breastworks follows with the Rebs being able to push the Union back before nightfall.

Evening falls on May 31st

During the night phase, the Union shore up their line, and Hooker's division arrives in support of Heintzelman while Richardson's division along with Bullhead Sumner arrive on the Union right. Confederate reinforcements during the night is Huger's division under Longstreet, who followed his historical failure to arrive on the first day. They deploy on the Union left, ready to attack at dawn.

Confederates renew the assault on June 1st
Sumner gallantly leads a charge...and is grievously wounded!

As dawn breaks on June 1st, the Confederate forces launch an all-out assault against the Union left, pushing back Heintzelman's division and almost killing Heintzleman multiple times! Mark rolls well and manages to keep his General alive in two back to back combats. 

Meanwhile, Sumner attempts to pressure the Confederate left near Fair Oak's station while they are preoccupied with Seven Pines. His progress is limited and manages to break one Confederate brigade, but a swift counterattack by Chris' forces stops the advance and wounds Sumner causing him to be removed from play.

Dispositions at the end June 1st

Into the afternoon of June 1st, both forces remain locked around Seven Pines and Fair Oaks station. The result of the battle is a Confederate tactical victory, three Union brigades and one artillery battery were broken at a loss of only one Confederate brigade from D.H. Hill's division. Johnston avoided being wounded in our refight, meaning Lee will not be taking command of the Army of Northern Virginia for the time being...

Seeing Little Wars TV tease their Peninsular Campaign series inspired me to put on Seven Pines, and I am hopeful I can get the forces together by this Summer to refight the Seven Days Battles for their 160th Anniversary as well.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Paul! We have been enjoying the larger scale Altar of Freedom allows. Recently did the first day at Shiloh as well.

  2. Our local group has been playing Altar of Freedom too. Overall w like it. Interesting that I am trying to get the guy with the rules and armies to do Seven Pines too! :)

  3. I'm curious, is there a larger wargaming forum/bulletin board for finding players in the Chicago area. I am impressed by the miniatures posted, but my collection leans more towards the chit wargames (e.g., GMT, Decision, etc.).

    1. Galieo, I would suggest check on HMGS Midwest's website or Facebook page for events. I believe Games Plus up in Mt. Prospect does do the occasional chit wargame nights as well.