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“The Vortex of Death”

Photograph of Winslow’s Battery marker in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg National Military Park. Taken by Kim Shayda of the York Civil War Round Table during a recent battle walk.
I am attending the annual Fall-In miniature wargaming convention this weekend at the Eisenhower Conference Center and All-Star Sports Complex just south of Gettysburg. Among the hundreds of wargames was one that replayed the fighting at the wheatfield, and, in particular, the attack by the II Corps division of John C. Caldwell that temporarily cleared the wheatfield of Rebels.

At Fall-In last night, Eric Schlegel of the Harford County, Maryland, wargaming group presented a 15mm wargame of Caldwell’s attack. The model artillery battery in the center of the miniature wheatfield in the photo above represents Winslow’s Napoleons that Kim Shayda photographed during the November 1 York CWRT battlewalk while ranger Scott Hartwig described the action.
We in the wargaming community take battles (or portion of battles in this case) and try to recreate the tactical situation faced by the commanders on the opposing sides. Played in teams of 2-4 wargamers who command various parts of the armies, the wargame simulation is meant to provide some education in 3D fashion as to the military situation, as well as to provide fellowship and entertainment for the players, and to challenge their competitive nature and creativity to resolve the situation. Sometimes, we can reverse history; other times, our blunders in the heat of decision making shed light in a very small way on why the generals and colonels reacted the why they did under the circumstances.

Members of the York CWRT and the Mahoning Valley (Ohio) CWRT listen to Scott Hartwig talk about what happened in Rose’s wheatfield.

Another kind of Civil War enthusiast, wargamers, enjoy comraderie and similar discussion of the tactics and actions at the Wheatfield and other historical battles at Fall-In (albeit we undoubtedly got far less exercise and fresh air than the battlefield trampers the previous weekend!).