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"Does ACW Cavalry pull its own wargaming weight?" Topic

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MiniPigs17 Jun 2019 1:25 p.m. PST

Its expensive to get ACW cavalry done up both mounted and dismounted. Outside of refighting historical battles, does it merit use on tabletop?

Col Durnford Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2019 1:33 p.m. PST

Yes, just because.

Always fun for screening a flank.

If you do a champaign you will want them.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2019 1:34 p.m. PST

Low priority but I couldn't resist doing various units for both sides anyway. At that time I also already had a few brigades, supporting artillery and command elements too. In other words, make sure you can game a proper game first then add in as desired.

Wackmole9 Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2019 1:58 p.m. PST

Its a great force for scrimish gaming or farwest actions,

Pan Marek17 Jun 2019 2:00 p.m. PST

Historically, they played a role. Gettysburg is the most obvious example. But rulesets make the use of dismounted cavalry clunky, and hard to model.
Our group plays alot of F&F, and dismounted cav simply cannot even slow down infantry like Buford did.

Personal logo Old Contemptible Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2019 2:15 p.m. PST

There are whole books full of ACW cavalry scenarios. Our players enjoy them. They are fun to paint and to use on the battlefield. There are battles in the west where all the Confederates are dismounted cavalry. Funchting as mounted infantry. Bedford Forrest comes to mind.


rustymusket17 Jun 2019 2:34 p.m. PST

Ever since becoming interested in Buford at the first day of Gettysburg, I have thought of gaming cavalry could be interesting in the ACW. Especially using the dismounted role. I have built mounted and dismounted units including horse holders, though I have never gamed it. I am hoping to use it in with the Rebels and Patriots rules set from Osprey. It could be used with Brother Against Brother. I agree, it is onerous to build everything, but it could add a new dimension to ACW especially if you campaign and use it strategically.

PK Guy Brent17 Jun 2019 2:55 p.m. PST

It really has little if any place in the main line of battle. There are tons of cavalry vs cavalry actions (before or after the main battle). I've been collecting ACW cavalry, but it is a commitment. You have to face the fact that to do it right your force on each side is going to mainly consist of mounted/dismounted cavalry with artillery and maybe a very slight sprinkling of infantry.

Griffon8617 Jun 2019 2:59 p.m. PST

ACW cavalry can certainly seem like a secondary or even tertiary force when coupled with masses of infantry and some artillery batteries. But there are plenty of engagements with cavalry (both mounted and dismounted) often with artillery. I can think of several within a 30-minute drive from where I sit: Culpeper Court House, Beverly's Ford, Kelly's Ford, Stevensburg, and, of course, Brandy Station. While I enjoy wargaming the major ACW battles, I love the local "cavalry and cannon" angle (and have some nice, pre-painted 10mm units for such engagements).

Ferd4523117 Jun 2019 3:46 p.m. PST

In 15mm F & F regimental scale I can field most of Sheridan's command in 1864 and most of the cavalry of the ANV. I can't help myself I just love cavalry. That being said there has only been two battle I have put on that featured those forces or major parts of those forces, day one of Trevailian Station and a fictional battle. H

ChrisBrantley17 Jun 2019 4:10 p.m. PST

Great cavalry scenario that you don't hear much about would be Fitz Lee's delaying action at Todd's Tavern prior to Chancellorsville. link

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2019 4:48 p.m. PST

I have mounted and dismounted for both sides and, sometimes, they even see the table. That said, you can game the ACW for the next 20 years and not need a single cavalry figure.

RudyNelson17 Jun 2019 5:13 p.m. PST

Southern cavalry conducted a number of small actions dismounted and often with support from local militia units.

A lot depends on the level and type of action.
You can recreate Forrest and his chase of Streight raiding cavalry section.
Or the action near Tuscaloosa where dismounted cavalry and militia fought Union raiders.

Munford Station is a good skirmish action where a Union cavalry troop was ambushed as it moved on Talladega.

Another action at Talladega was when Union raiders was burning supplies in the town until a combined cavalry and local militia from Fort Williams (Sylacauga) arrived and forced a retreat.

My grand parents told me several stories of kin going out to hunt food and Yanks patroling the area.

Blutarski17 Jun 2019 6:07 p.m. PST

Buford's action on the first day at Gettysburg shoud prove a good test of any rules. Buford had under his command that morning two brigades of cavalry about 3,000 men plus one horse battery of 3in ordnance rifles.

According to Busey & Martin ("Regimental Strengths at Gettysburg") about 2700 men of these two brigades saw action -

1-1 Gamble
3IN ----- 313 men (Gallager and Sharps B/L carbines)
12IL ---- 233 men (Burnside B/L carbines)
8IL ----- 470 men (Sharps B/L carbines)
8NY ----- 580 men (Sharps B/L carbines)

2-1 Devin
3WV ------ 59 men (Gallager and Smith B/L carbines)
6NY ----- 218 men (Sharps B/L carbines)
9NY ----- 367 men (Sharps B/L carbines)
17PA ---- 464 men (Merrill and Smith B/L carbines)

Allowing for horse-holders, he could presumably have put 2000 men on the firing line.

Allowing for the relative qualities of the five different types of B/L carbines issued, about 80+ percent of Buford's command were equipped with reliable B/L carbines (Sharps, Burnside, Merrill). The other 15-20 percent carried somewhat less efficient B/L carbines (Gallager, Smith).

Every cavalryman also carried a Colt or Remington revolver.

B/L could be fired at least 2x more quickly than a M/L weapon. B/L armed soldiers could effectively fight prone and from cover.

It strikes me that, given the above factors in play, ACW cavalry (talking Union from 1863 onward) should not by any means be classed as "push-overs" on the gaming table even against small bodies of opposing infantry.

Strictly my opinion, of course.


Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian17 Jun 2019 6:13 p.m. PST

I've always managed to get good use out of my Cavalry. But it has also been VERY lucky

Personal logo gamertom Supporting Member of TMP17 Jun 2019 8:34 p.m. PST

Buford did not fight a stand up linear fire fight with the Confederate infantry. His units skirmished forcing the Confederates to deploy from a long road column into a brigade linear frontage and then his units withdrew to the next ridge before those lines came within fire fight range. This left the Confederates with limited choices in how to continue their advance. The overall effect was to slow the Confederate's movement until Federal infantry arrived and Buford withdrew to watch the Union's left (southern) flank. The linear fire fights occurred between the infantry of both sides. This type of action is not addressed very well by the ACW rules I've played, including my own OTR modifications.

raylev317 Jun 2019 10:39 p.m. PST

Low priority unless you want to play cavalry scenarios. Cavalry, overall, has not been that useful on the North American continent. The terrain and distance factors limited its use, even during the ACW. Armies were more prone to use dragoons/mounted infantry, but even they had limited use in the ACW. There's more to the story, but, other than having a few units around for fun, I wouldn't make a big deal about it.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 4:36 a.m. PST

+1 Gamertom

The notion that Buford fought a toe-to-toe stand up slugfest with Heth's division is a myth created by The Killer Angels/Gettysburg movie. He did a great delaying action, but by the time Heth launched his first real attack, the Union I Corps was in position and that's who stopped them.

Still cavalry has a role on the game table.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 7:04 a.m. PST

Well, there's enough cavalry combat in the Civil War, though you can certainly fight decent-size battle without any. It might help to think of them as an alternative ACW army, frequently used with a different set of victory conditions. Makes more sense than all those efforts to add French and British armies to the ACW.

Of course, in 2mm and 6mm, the choice is less painful.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 7:18 a.m. PST

Certainly has a role but depends a bit on how you play – most of our ACW gaming is grand tactical so we don't use cavalry a lot on the table, although in the last campaign game the Confederates used cavalry to conduct a fighting retreat

We do though use them a lot in campaign games on the campaign map

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 7:38 a.m. PST

It's the probing to contact or having cavalry pickets out that presents some of the most interesting basis for varied scenarios that makes us want at least one horse unit per side but then the expense when including dismounts and even horse-holders (in 28mm) which keeps many of us from having their cavalry yet.

I'd love to have full-bodied artillery limbers too, but so far we've just been prolonging our guns around (for miles apparently without a horse in sight).

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 7:47 a.m. PST

Other actions in which cavalry, primarily dismounted, played a significant role were:

The "first" day (Sep. 18, 1863) of Chickamauga where Minty's Cavalry Brigade (the Saber Brigade) and Wilder's Mounted Infantry Brigade (the Lightning Brigade) threw Bragg's entire battle plan off by their spirited resistance along Chickamauga Creek. See Holding the Line on the River of Death for an excellent history of that fighting.

The battle at Jonesboro (Aug 31 – Sep 1, 1864) at the end of the Atlanta campaign where dismounted Union cavalry armed with Spencer repeating rifles sucked part of the attacking Confederates away from their primary axis of attack. link


79thPA Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 7:50 a.m. PST

Another +1 to gamertown. Buford orchestrated a great delaying action, but he was well aware that he could not hold without infantry and artillery support.

Pan Marek18 Jun 2019 8:17 a.m. PST

Blutarski- Well, historically you're right. But try gaming that action with F&F. The Rev infantry will hardly be fazed.
Not that I've gamed that action, but I've had a Brigade of Cav on the table, faced by a brigade of Inf, and it just doesn't work.

Now that I've read a few more entries, particularly Gamertom's, I can see why.

Blutarski18 Jun 2019 8:50 a.m. PST

Let's look at some excerpts from Buford's official report -

- – -

"On July 1, between 8 and 9 a.m., reports came in from the First Brigade (Colonel Gamble's) that the enemy was coming down from toward Cashtown in force. Colonel Gamble made an admirable line of battle, and moved off proudly to meet him. The two lines soon became hotly engaged, we having the advantage of position, he of numbers. The First Brigade held its own for more than two hours, and had to be literally dragged back a few hundred yards to a position more secure and better sheltered. On July 1, between 8 and 9 a.m., reports came in from the First Brigade (Colonel Gamble's) that the enemy was coming down from toward Cashtown in force. Colonel Gamble made an admirable line of battle, and moved off proudly to meet him. The two lines soon became hotly engaged, we having the advantage of position, he of numbers. The First Brigade held its own for more than two hours, and had to be literally dragged back a few hundred yards to a position more secure and better sheltered."

- – -

"Devin's brigade, on the right, had its hands full The enemy advanced upon Devin by four roads, and on each was checked and held until the leading division of the Eleventh Corps came to his relief."

- – -

"Seeing our troops retiring, and their need of assistance, I immediately rushed Gamble's brigade to Doubleday's left, and dismounted it in time to render great assistance to our infantry, and to check and break the enemy's line. My troops at this place had partial shelter behind a low stone fence, and were in short carbine range. Their fire was perfectly terrific, causing the enemy to break and rally on their second line, which made no farther advance toward my position."

- – -

"July 5, reached Frederick, drew supplies, and remained all night. July 6, the whole division (the Reserve Brigade having joined the night before) marched at 4 a.m. toward Williamsport, to destroy the enemy's trains, which were reported to be crossing the Potomac into Virginia.

At about 5 p.m., when near Saint James' College, the enemy's pickets were discovered, driven in, and preparations made to capture the town. The enemy was driven handsomely to within half a mile of his trains, at the town, when he came out strong enough to prevent our farther progress. General Merritt's brigade, with Graham's battery, was on the right, Colonel Gamble's (First) brigade on the left, and Colonel Devin's (Second) brigade on the left rear as reserves. The enemy made an attack upon Gamble, who had posted his men under shelter, and who held his fire until the rebel line came within short carbine range, when he opened upon it, doing terrible execution, and driving it back into its stronghold. This was repeated with similar success."

- – -

Buford's cavalry brigades were not dancing around with mounted feints and sham maneuvering. They fought dismounted in heavy skirmish lines and the above accounts from Burford's report suggest (to me at least) that they went head-to-head against superior numbers of Confederate infantry and gave a very good combat account of themselves – defeating several attack by formed Confederate infantry. Could dismounted B/L armed cavalry defeat an opposing infantry division attacking with 2-3x their numbers and a battalion of field artillery? I don't think so. But Buford's action at Gettysburg clearly demonstrated that it was no longer possible to send in a brigade or two of infantry to sweep away a strong cavalry screen when said cavalry were now armed with B/L weapons.

The actions of Sheridan's cavalry corps in 1864/1865 in defeating strong Confederate infantry attacks IMO supports the argument that B/L and repeater long arms were a dramatic force multiplier for the Union cavalry.


Blutarski18 Jun 2019 8:53 a.m. PST

Hi Pan Marek -
I agree re F&F. It's a game mechanics problem (IMO).


Garryowen Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 11:10 a.m. PST

I have over 100 stands of US and of CS cavalry for RF&F painted so far with more on the paint table right now.. I have done several cavalry vs cavalry fights and plan on many more. I do have the dismounted figures and horse holders I need as well.

Sheridan's 1864 Shenandoah campaign saw his cavalry used against CS infantry on a number of occasions. Most notable were probably Winchester and Cedar Creek. But there was also Waynesboro.

There was also Falling Waters at the end of the Gettysburg campaign which I have put on.

But I love cavalry.


Trajanus18 Jun 2019 11:14 a.m. PST

I think most rules struggle with trying to portray both the Mounted and Dismounted roles effectively and if you chuck in breech loaders and repeaters there's a caution stemming from an aversion to creating Panzer units.

Not that they were, it's trying to find a place in the rest of a rule set with out upsetting the balance that seems to cause trouble.

T Corret Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 1:32 p.m. PST

Our gaming group played a Shenandoah campaign with Johnny Reb. One of the rules was you could only field fully painted and based units. I finished alot of Rebel cavalry, and clogged up the Union forces quite successfully as flank guards and scouts. I would say they are critical in campaigns, and a good source of protein in a stand up battle.

dantheman Supporting Member of TMP19 Jun 2019 4:37 p.m. PST

Building wargame units for Rebels and Patriots. Found a lot of skirmish actions with cavalry and need to build that up. Have smaller scale figures for larger battles. Cavalry is usually a side note.

For ACW battle cavalry like in Napoleonic armies is non-existent. However, lots of scouting and skirmish with cavalry.

Depends on the scale battle you fight.

Glenn Pearce20 Jun 2019 6:13 a.m. PST

"Its expensive to get ACW cavalry done up both mounted and dismounted. Outside of refighting historical battles, does it merit use on tabletop?"

If the expense is the only thing holding up your ability to use cavalry in the ACW then you should be looking at a smaller scale, say 6mm. Baccus 6mm ACW range is outstanding.

If your not using ACW cavalry in your games your missing probably one of the biggest changes from Napoleonic warfare.

As previously mentioned the cavalry was used in advance of the army to scout and hold advance positions as long as possible. At least until the infantry came up to support or replace them. This tactic alone has often been one of the most exciting actions in our games.

You also have cavalry being used in a traditional role on the flanks except they are often dismounted.

It's also a rapid outflanking force that can dismount and fight or clash with enemy cavalry.

Anybody not using cavalry in their ACW games is missing some of the most exciting moments in ACW gaming.

Oh and 6mm limbers and teams are also affordable compared to larger scale figures.

Should your rules not allow you to have exciting cavalry mounted or dismounted actions, get a new rule set.

williamb27 Jun 2019 2:09 p.m. PST

One of the best uses for cavalry is to threaten the flanks and/or rear of the opposing side. There was one game years ago where I had a union cavalry force armed with repeaters. The rebels avoided my force and left a gap between two of their divisions. I immediately mounted up and rode through their lines threatening their rear and tying down a lot of opposing infantry.

MiniPigs15 Sep 2019 12:08 p.m. PST

It seems like several of you use cavalry primarily in a dismounted role which makes me ask in 28mm figures and above, do you tend to just have the dismounted cavalry painted up with a single stand of mounted to use next to the dismounted unit to represent when they're mounted?

RudyNelson19 Sep 2019 5:33 p.m. PST

Cavalry action dominated the war in Alabama. Several significant raids plus a large number of scouting and patrol action as well. Union camp/ outposts in the Blue Mountain area (Calhoun county) often patrolled down to Talladega where a number of CSA training camps had been located. One such event resulted in the skirmish at Munford Station.

Trajanus23 Sep 2019 3:21 p.m. PST

Can't speak for everyone but my 28mm Cavalry has a full compliment of both Mounted and Dismounted figures.

They don't match entirely as I reduce by 1:4 to account for those acting as horse holders and therefore not in the Dismounted group.

I do cheat a bit by only have one token stand of a rider with the unmounted horses per unit, however.

Normal Guy Supporting Member of TMP24 Sep 2019 3:09 a.m. PST

I am guessing some of us use the FNF family of rules which allow a mounted stand to represent X number of dismounted stands. It is also handy as a way to distinguish dismounted cavalry from regular infantry both fight differently.

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP29 Sep 2019 3:16 p.m. PST

We did a nice little Battle of Piedmont scenario which began with a sharp clash of cavalry. It only required about a dozen stands per side, thus leaving the other 60 or so stands I have painted cooling their fetlocks in the box.

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