“The Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things… It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.” ― Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative
If you are a regular reader of A Certain Point of View, Too, no doubt you have noticed that one of my leisure time activities is playing strategy or war games on my computer. I don’t “game” often; I am a storyteller first, and I tend to spend more time on Microsoft Word than I do with any of the games I’ve bought on Steam.
Most of the time I play games that are set either during World War II or after. Since I was born less than a generation after the Second World War, I am drawn to books, movies, novels, and – yes – games that deal with that conflict or its “sequel,” the Cold War. I suppose it’s a natural thing – World War II still had a grasp on the 20th Century psyche due to the enormity of the conflict. It was the biggest cataclysm in human history, fought on land and in the air in Asia, Europe, Africa, and all of the world’s oceans and seas. Over 80 million men and women served in all the belligerent nations’ armed forces, and it took a dreadful toll in human lives. And, of course, like the First World War of 1914-18, its consequences still reverberate in 2022, nearly 80 years after the surrender of both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.
However, I also have more than a passing interest in the American Civil War (1861-1865), which to this day is America’s bloodiest war, with approximately 620,000 military deaths – from both the Confederacy and the Union -from April 1861 to April 1865.
Currently, I have several Civil War games, including Ultimate General: Gettysburg and Ultimate General: Civil War, both developed by a European based software company called Game-Labs
Today I played a scenario – Pickett’s Charge – from the second game in the Ultimate General: Civil War (2018). This is a recreation of the Confederate infantry assault on the Union lines at the Battle of Gettysburg that took place on July 3, 1863, the third day of the famous engagement that ended with a Northern victory and ended Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s attempt to invade the North and force President Abraham Lincoln to sue for peace with the secessionist South.
In Pickett’s Charge, you can choose to play as the South, which is the attacking side, or you can play as the North, which in this scenario is the defending side.
As the commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, my mission was simple; hold the key positions at both Seminary Ridge and Cemetery Ridge, and not lose more than half of my total strength.
I was given four Union Army corps – three of which were infantry, one artillery. I placed my two strongest infantry corps on Seminary and Cemetery ridges – on the right side of my army, the artillery corps on the left flank, and the smallest infantry corps to the rear.
I’m not going to bore you with a detailed account of my version of Pickett’s Charge. Suffice it to say that the game consists of several phases in which the AI – which controls the Confederate army – attempts to “soften up” the Union defenses – my blue coated soldiers and artillery men – with their cannon, then send regiment after regiment of gray-clad infantry to overwhelm my positions.
Even though Pickett’s Charge is a defensive battle, as the Union commander I had to maneuver some of my troops from the reserve positions to the left flank to make sure that the Confederates don’t overrun my artillery batteries or, alternatively, turn the flank of my infantry corps in the Union center. Also, I have to make sure that I can withdraw weakened units from the front line and replace them with fresh units or launch counterattacks if that becomes necessary.
(If you want to see how Pickett’s Charge unfolds in Ultimate General: Civil War, check out the video below by The Historical Gamer, my favorite historical war game video creator.)
As for my performance?
I thought I did well, even though the Confederates did maul some of my infantry regiments and took control of Cemetery Ridge. In fact, I thought I had won, but when the clock ran out on the game and the battle ended, Ultimate General: Civil War said, nope, I was defeated.
Yep, that’s right. Defeated. Even though I inflicted nearly 15,000 deaths on the Confederates (I lost a bit over 4,000 KIA), the Confederates did grab the objectives they sought.
Thank goodness it’s only a game, right?