Everything in the balance
Archer’s brigade finally breaks. From its scenario starting-strength of nearly 1000 men, it’s down to 660, most of those casualties inflicted in the last few minutes.
Archer’s men sold their lives dearly, though. Fraser can’t make up any ground before Pettigrew’s mammoth brigade arrives and sends Cutler and the Iron Brigade feeling. It looks like the way to Seminary ridge is open for Pettigrew to storm forward and seize the heights.
Things that don’t occur to me at this moment: Pettigrew has had to march across the map and fight off two Yankee brigades. Seminary ridge is hundreds of yards away over exposed ground. I also can’t see what’s on or behind Seminary Ridge.
But there’s no time for that. This is a key window of opportunity.
Disaster ensues. Pettigrew crests the ridge into point-blank cannister fire from numerous Yankee gun batteries and rifle fire from the now-rallied Iron Brigade. Pettigrew loses 20% of his force within minutes and routs. I’ve just squandered the biggest unit I have, and Fraser just received a fresh division from the south.
Fraser tries to follow-up his success against Pettigrew by making another push from the south. I’m forced to send Archer’s battered brigade back into action to hold him back. They resume their old positions and once again start shooting it out with two Union brigades. Archer’s unit is outnumbered by almost 4:1.
However, they’re buying precious time. More Confederate forces are pouring on the battlefield. Some are heading to the center to help break open the Union line. The rest are swinging to the south so they can hammer Fraser’s reinforcements in the flank.
The trap closes
Fraser’s newly-arrived division is blindsided by the arrival of new Confederate regiments on their flank. Within a couple minutes, his western flank has been turned and his center is starting to buckle as the used-up Iron Brigade gets hit by more fresh troops.
Fraser’s units fall back to the ridge in good order, but now there are just too many rebel troops. It’s taking everything Fraser has to keep the Seminary under his control, while I now have a secure-enough front line to bring up fresh artillery batteries and rest exhausted units.
Still, it’s a bloodbath. Pettigrew, Lane, and Scales are all forced to charge the Union positions and it all but shatters them. Scales and Pettigrew are cut to ribbons, and only the steadying presence of their corps commander keeps them from routing. Pettigrew advances a few bloody yards and gains control of the Seminary, even though his brigade is holding it while being raked by close-range fire from several Union batteries and infantry units. They’re down to about 1500 men, out of the 2600 who arrived this morning.
This is something that Ultimate General: Gettysburg gets very right. Civil War combat was lethal for the victor and the vanquished. Even lopsided battles exacted dreadful tolls on the winner. The brutal culling of Archer’s and Pettigrew’ brigades is not anything unusual by that war’s standards. At the Second Battle of Bull Run, where the Confederates practically crushed the Union army, the rebels suffered four-fifths the number of losses that afflicted the Union. These were armies that would absolutely savage each other before either side would yield. You could argue this was one reason why Lee felt he had to take a crazy gamble at Gettysburg: he’d beaten the Union Army soundly on several occasions, but he’d never annihilated it, and his own army was badly depleted in the wake of each victorious campaign.
Fraser and I are at a stalemate. I can’t advance beyond the Seminary, but I still hold it. Maybe by only a few yards, but the ground is mine. My forces are taking a dreadful beating hanging onto it, but Fraser’s been savaged as well. He does not have anyone left who can mount a counterattack.
Had the initial Union defense collapsed this badly in the actual battle, it’s very likely the Confederacy could have taken the key heights south of the town and forced the Union army to either withdraw or launch suicidal assaults against the hills. But thanks to my masterful, dare I say Napoleonic, triumph, the road to Gettysburg is wide open. But it was a near-run thing.