Civil War in Thirty Minutes
A Fast Simulation of the Battle in the East in 1862

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by Matt Fritz

The Simulation: This simulation uses a combination of map movement and matrix arguments to give the students a sense of the battle that took place in the Easter Theater in 1862. The students should be divided into seven groups and assigned one of the commanders in the order of battle. It's a good idea to include a good student on each team. The simulation can be played in one period (one hour or less), but this will most likely not lead to a victory for either side. This is just fine, since the real civil war was a long and bloody affair. The simulation could be continued for a longer period of time, or stretched out by playing just one turn per class period. Each team should be given a copy of the map and their commander's information. The teacher should also track the location of the armies on a map that the whole class can see, and should also keep track of the Fighting Spirit and Supply of each side. After the simulation the students should be asked to discuss their strategy. Compare and contrast their decisions to the real historical events. This simulation makes use of matrix arguments. Matrix games were invented by Chris Engle, and you can learn more about them on his website: Hamster Press - Engle Matrix Games. Chris helped with the design of this simulation.

The Battle Report: This simulation was played with one seventh grade class of 24 students. The class was divided into seven teams, and the simulation lasted on period (40 minutes). Listed below are the movements and successful arguments made by the students. The battles were resolved with a die roll rather than matrix arguments. We were able to complete three turns.

Turn 1: Burnside and Hooker moved south across the Potomac into areas P and Q. Porter moved to area V. Jackson move to area O and occupied Winchester, while Longstreet stayed at Richmond. The Fighting Spirit of the Confederates rose one point because of their victories earlier in the war (most notably First Bull Run). The Union naval blockade began to take effect, and the Confederate Supply level dropped one point.

Turn 2: Jackson moved to area T and his men dug in to wait for the Yankees. Longstreet also dug trenches around Richmond. The Union armies all moved south into areas T, U and Y. McClelland came up with a secret plan for his armies to surround Richmond. A Confederate spy found out about the plan and passed the information to Lee. Hooker attacked Jackson in area T. Jackson was in a strong position, but Hooker's men won the battle. Jackson's army lost a strenght point and were forced out of their trenches. They retreated to area X.

Turn 3: Lee made up a fake plan that said Jackson was going to move north and attack Washington DC. This fake plan was successfully delivered to McClelland, who fell for the trick. McClelland developed a new plan for his armies to move south along a broad front so the Confederates could slip past them and threaten Washington DC. Union scouts lost contact with Jackson's army, raising concerns that he was indeed headed for Washington. Secretly he was actually headed towards Richmond, and moved to area DD. Hooker moved back to area Q and posted scouts to guard the Potomac river crossings so Jackson couldn't sneak past him. Burnside moved to area EE, the outskirts of Richmond, where Longstreet was waiting in his entrenchments. Burnside was careful to avoid a battle until Porter could join him for the siege of Richmond. Threatened by two armies, Longstreet put out a call for volunteers to join the army. With Richmond in danger the population responded, and Longstreet's army strength increased by one.

Battle of Richmond: Burnside and Porter attacked Richmond, which was defended by its garrison and Longstreet's corps. The two sides were evenly matched, but Longstreet managed to win the battle, and saved Richmond, at least for the moment.

Historical Outcome: The Union moved by water to area GG, the peninsula east of Richmond. The Peninsular Campaign was nearly successful, but bad weather, indecisiveness, and Confederate resistance stopped the march on Richmond. Robert E. Lee too command of the army after Gen. Johnston was wounded at the battle of Seven Pines. He succeeds in turning the tables on the Union, and after a victory at Second Bull Run the Confederates are in a position to threaten Washington DC. Lee's invasion of the north ends in a bloodbath at the battle of Antietam where Lee is defeated by the Union, now under the command of Gen. Pope. The Union, now commanded by Gen. Burnside, goes on the offensive and suffers a bloody defeat at Fredericksburg. In 1863 Gen. Hooker is in charge of the Army of the Potomac and he leads the Union to another defeat at the battle of Chancellorsville. The battle is also a setback for the Confederacy because Jackson is mortally wounded. Lee then goes on the offensive and invades Pennsylvania. He gets as far north as Gettysburg, where he is defeated by Gen. Meade. Lee retreats back into Virginia. In 1864 General Grant takes command of the Union army. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia are forced on the defensive. The war in the East eventually becomes a stalemate at Peterburg. An attempt by Gen. Early to go on the offensive is initially successful. He is able to attack up the Shenandoah Valley and threaten Washington DC before being soundly defeated by Gen. Sheridan. By 1865 Lee's position has become hopeless. He is threatened by both Gen. Grant and Gen. Sherman. The Confederates abandon Richmond and Petersburg on April 2, and surrender a week later at Appomatox Courthouse.

The Map:


Objective: The winner is the side that captures the enemy capitol: Washington DC or Richmond.

Fighting Spirit and Supply: These two essential factors are each rated on a scale of 1 to 12. The confederates start with a Fighting Spirit of 7 and a Supply of 6. The Union starts with a Fighting Spirit of 5 and a Supply of 7. These scores may rise or fall during the war (see below).

Starting Forces: The starting strengths of the armies are a secret from the enemy. The enemy might be able to find out the strength of their opponents during the course of the war (see below). The students should be divided into seven teams and each is given one of the commands listed below. The Commanders (Lee and McClelland) do not have armies of their own, but they can direct their subordinates. They also get to make TWO matrix arguments each turn. The other commanders each have an army and can make one matrix argument each turn. Each capitol has a garrison (which cannot move) with strength of 4.

Turns: During each turn the commander make their moves and arguments one at a time. First McClelland, then Lee, then alternating opposing generals until each has had a turn.

Movement: On their turn a commander may move his army one area. An army may move into any adjacent area, and they move diagonally. More than one army may occupy an area, even if they are enemies. If an army is in the same area as an enemy army they may not pass through the enemy army during movement, they may only move back or to the side (no leapfrogging).

Battles: A battle can occur if two or more opposing armies are in the same area and a player makes a successful matrix argument for there to be a battle. The winner is determined using one of these methods (the teacher should decide which method to use for all battles before beginning the simulation). The Die Roll method is faster, but the Argument method is more interesting:

Die Roll: Each side rolls one 6-sided die and adds their roll to their current Fighting Spirit plus current Supply level plus their total army strength in the area plus or minus any arguments currently in effect: (Die Roll + Fighting Spirit + Supply + Strength +/- Arguments). Each positive or negative argument currently affecting an army is worth plus or minus one point. An example of a positive argument: "We train our men so they can fight better." An example of a negative argument: "Their army is tired because they marched all the way here from Richmond without a rest." These arguments must have been made in a previous turn; the players don't get to make extra arguments because there is a battle. The highest total is the winner. The winner loses one strength point, the loser of the battle loses two strength points and must immediately retreat one area. If the two sides end up in a tie then the battle was a draw – each side loses one strength point and neither side has to retreat.

Argument: The teacher determines which side is stronger. For each side add their Fighting Spirit plus current Supply level plus their total army strength in the area plus or minus any arguments currently in effect: (Fighting Spirit + Supply + Strength +/- Arguments). Each positive or negative argument currently affecting an army is worth plus or minus one point. An example of a positive argument: "We train our men so they can fight better." An example of a negative argument: "Their army is tired because they marched all the way here from Richmond without a rest." The side with the higher total is considered stronger. The stronger side gets to make a matrix argument describing the outcome of the battle and why their side wins. Normally the outcome of the battle will include the loss of up to 2 strength points by both sides, and may include the losing side having to retreat one area. The teacher should judge the strength of the argument and the commander will roll to see if their argument succeeds. If the argument succeeds the effects are applied immediately. If the argument fails the weaker side gets a chance to make an argument about the outcome of the battle. If their roll also fails then the battle was indecisive and each side loses one strength point.

Matrix Arguments: During their turn each team gets to make one matrix argument (Lee gets to make two). The team says something that happens, usually giving a reason why it happens. The referee immediately judges the strength of the argument (how likely it is to happen) and the team rolls one 6-sided die to see if the argument succeeds. If the argument succeeds it becomes a part of the story of the war, and can have an effect on the outcome.

Strength of Argument Die Roll Needed to Succeed
Very Strong 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Strong 3, 4, 5, 6
Average 4, 5, 6
Weak 5, 6
Very Weak 6
Impossible Make up another argument

Some examples of arguments:
Supply – Increase your team's score or lower your opponent's ("The Confederate Supply goes down because our navy is blockading their ports")
Fighting Spirit – increase your team's score or lower your opponent's ("Our Fighting Spirit goes up because we just won a battle")
Spying and Scouting ("We send out scouts to find out the strength of the enemy army")
Fortifying and entrenching ("We build trenches around the city")
Movement – secret moves, or forced marches to move farther ("Our army secretly moves out at night so the enemy doesn't know where we are")
Recruiting ("Our army strength increases because the Yankees have invaded our home so lots of men volunteer to fight")
Anything else the students can think up

Post Game Wrap Up: After the game discuss what happened. Ask the students to explain their strategy.

Order of Battle

Union: Army of the Potomac

Commander: Maj. Gen. George McClelland
Description: Lincoln has put you in charge of the Army of the Potomac with one order – capture Richmond. You've trained the army so that they are ready and able to fight. You fear that the Confederates may outnumber you, but the army is well supplied, so now it's on to Richmond.

I and VI Corps: Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker
Description: The men call you "Fighting Joe." The nickname fits, since you are a confident and aggressive commander.
Strength: 6
Start in Area: R

IX and XII Corps: Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside
Description: You proved your skill at the battle of First Bull Run, earning a promotion to Brigadier General. You think General McClelland is too cautious, and some have suggested you should be in charge of the Army of the Potomac. However you don't think
you're qualified for the job (yet).
Strength: 6
Start in Area: R

Second and Fifth Corps: Maj. Gen. Fitz Porter
Description: You were twice promoted for bravery in the Mexican American War, and were promoted to Brigadier General at the start of the Civil War. General McClelland is counting on you to help him capture Richmond.
Strength: 6
Start in Area: R

Confederates: Army of Northern Virginia

Commander: Gen. Robert E. Lee
Description: You have recently taken command of the Army of Northern Virginia and must defend Richmond. Although the Confederacy doesn't have the manufacturing strength of the Union your men have a great fighting spirit because they are defending their homes. Use this to your advantage. You also have a very good cavalry force of 5,000 men under the brilliant leadership of JEB Stuart. They are not on the map as a separate force but could be used in your matrix arguments. You get to make two matrix arguments each turn.

I Corps: Maj. Gen. James Longstreet
Description: You rose quickly in rank because you displayed unmistakable qualities of leadership, courage, and intelligence. General Lee has given you a position of great responsibility – commander of the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. He's
depending on you to protect Richmond, and the Confederacy.
Strength: 6
Start in Area: EE

II Corps: Maj. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
Description: You gained fame, and your nickname, at the battle of First Bull Run. You are a deeply religious man. You've earned the respect and admiration of your men. General Lee trusts and relies on you. Don't let him down. Your army starts in the Shenandoah Valley.
Strength: 6
Start in Area: S

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