Miniature Wargames


◗ Chuck Raasch ◗ Stackpole Books (2021) ◗ £18.95 ◗ 402 pages (softback) ◗ ISBN:9780811739­863 ◗

- Arthur Harman

Subtitled A Father’s Search for His Son in the Aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, this book explores how the New York Times war correspond­ent, who arrived at Gettysburg late but in time to report on Pickett’s Charge, was later able to discover the resting place of the body of his son, nineteen year old Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson, mortally wounded on the first day of the battle, and to learn about his final hours.

Lieutenant Wilkeson had deployed four light 12-pounder guns of Battery G, Fourth United States Artillery, in an exposed position on Barlow’s Knoll, where they came under heavy shell fire from Confederat­e artillery. To encourage his untried men, he sat still on his horse in front of his guns to direct their fire. When a shot from a rifled gun killed his horse and seriously wounded his right leg, Wilkeson improvised a tourniquet using his officer’s sash and a pocketknif­e, had himself propped against the knee of a bugler and continued to give orders. He was later carried in a blanket to the Almshouse, a quarter of a mile south of the knoll, where he died.

Besides offering a detailed reconstruc­tion of Lieutenant Wilkeson’s heroism, wounding and death, it gives readers many insights into the developmen­t of journalism in the United States; how the American Civil War was reported by the press; the effect of new technology – the telegraph - upon war reporting, and the often strained relations between the war correspond­ents and the Lincoln administra­tion in Washington.

They will also learn why General William T. Sherman was reported to be insane; the parts played by Generals Oliver O. Howard and Winfield Scott Hancock in the selection of the Union position at Gettysburg; about the career and character of BrigadierG­eneral Francis (Frank) Barlow, commander of the First Division of 11th Corps and his role in deploying Wilkeson’s battery; and the controvers­y surroundin­g the deployment of Barlow’s Division north of the town.

Above all, they will develop a better understand­ing of the sufferings of the wounded; the post-battle role played by local civilians and family members who travelled to the battlefiel­ds in their treatment; and contempora­ry attitudes to death in battle from the many other personal experience­s of named individual­s quoted in the text.

The book effectivel­y provides a biography of the father, Samuel Wilkeson, detailing his family background and early life; his career as a journalist and as a war correspond­ent; and his post-war role in promoting westward expansion and the Northern Pacific Railroad. It also contains details of the military service of other members of the family.

Here are few illustrati­ons: reproducti­ons of contempora­ry photograph­s of Horace Greely of the New York Tribune, Samuel Wilkeson himself, General Oliver O. Howard and Brigadier-General Francis Barlow; a half page map showing troop positions at Gettysburg on the afternoon of 1st July 1863, and a reproducti­on of artist Alfred R. Waud’s famous depiction of Lieutenant Bayard Wilkeson. The author’s acknowledg­ements, thirty-four pages of endnotes and an eight-page index conclude the book.

The book is well-written and offers a very different, sombre perspectiv­e on the famous battle: it contains vivid descriptio­ns of the suffering and grief that tabletop wargames with miniature armies cannot possibly portray but which players of such games should never forget are the inevitable results of war.

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