“Feel it and drive it, if possible”

Fairfield Gap, 30 June 1863

What happened?

John Buford and staff.

On the evening of 29 June 1863, the men from Brig. Gen. John Buford’s first and second brigades encamped on the eastern slopes of Jacks Mountain. They had travelled more than 35 miles from Middletown, Maryland, through Boonsboro and Monterey pass to within three of miles of Fairfield, Pennsylvania. Although the inhabitants of Maryland and Pennsylvania had so far been enthusiastic to see Union troops and had greeted and fed them when they passed towns and villages, the locals around Fairfield kept away from the troopers and seemed cowed.

The area of operations.

The next morning, Buford’s regiments started out in the direction of Fairfield at about 3 a.m. The unusually foggy morning may have contributed to the mutual surprise as the Union advance guard, Company C of the 8th Illinois Volunteers, stumbled upon Confederate pickets from Maj. Gen. Heth’s division which were posted at the Peter Musselman farm along Tom’s Creek, two miles southwest of Fairfield. The pickets – men from Company B of the 52nd North Carolina under the command of Lt. William Kyle – fell back before the Union skirmishers. However, when men from the 42nd Mississippi reinforced them, the skirmish began to intensify [1].

The location of the skirmish.

Buford was at first tempted to escalate the fight. “I determined to feel [the enemy force] and drive it, if possible”, he wrote in his report [2]. Angry with the locals, who had not told him of an enemy force nearby and therefore denied him the surprise, he pondered deploying his artillery to dislodge the Confederates. However, he feared that bringing on an engagement at this point “might disarrange the plans of the general commanding”. He therefore disengaged and drew back in the direction of Emmitsburg. The enemy did not pursue and soon both of his brigades followed the Emmitsburg road to Gettysburg. They left behind one stubborn trooper, Thomas Withrow, who had been knocked off his horse by a minie ball. Unharmed but furious, he took cover in a barn and fired at the rebels while his comrades retreated. When the Confederates searched the barn, he managed to hide and witnessed wounded being brought into the building. From this, he surmised that the Confederates had lost one man killed and three wounded during the fight. Withrow hid until the Confederates left and rejoined his regiment at Gettysburg [3].

Who fought?

Maj. John L. Beveridge: Born in 1824, he practiced law before the war. In September 1861, he joined the 8th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry and was immediately promoted to Major. He left the 8th Illinois in November 1863 to raise a new regiment, the 17th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, where he served as a colonel. He mustered out of the army in 1866 as a Brevet Brigadier General. After the war, he went into politics, serving as republican Governor of Illinois from 1873 to 1877. In 1895, he moved to Hollywood, where he died 15 years later.

Sgt. Portus J. Kennedy: Born in 1836, he was a farmer before the war. In September 1861, he was mustered in the 8th Illinois cavalry as a Sergeant. He was later promoted several times and had reached the rank of Captain when he left the army in 1865. At first, he returned to farming, but then moved to Texas and for a time to Las Vegas, where he dealt in building materials. He died in 1893 in Texas, leaving behind a widow [4].

Col. Hugh R. Miller: Born in 1812, he practiced law before the war, was active in politics and owned a large estate. In 1860, he was involved in writing the Ordinance of Secession for Mississippi. He helped form the 2nd Mississippi Infantry in 1861 and served as captain of Co. G until the unit was reorganised one year later. In May 1862, he raised the 42nd Mississippi and was elected its colonel. Leading his regiment during Pickett’s charge on 3 July, he was mortally wounded and died two weeks later in a hospital in Gettysburg [5].

1st Lt. William E. Kyle: Born in Virginia in 1842, he enlisted as a private for six months in the 1st North Carolina Infantry in April 1861. After he was discharged, he mustered into the 52nd North Carolina as a 2nd Lt. in April 1862. He was promoted to 1st Lt. and stayed with the army until the end of the war, being present at the surrender at Appomatox [6].

Why did it matter?

On June 28, General Lee had set in motion his plan to concentrate his army near Cashtown. Heth’s division reached the place one day later. To protect his right flank and safeguard against an attack from Maryland, he posted two regiments and a section of artillery at Fairfield [7]. General Buford’s division, meanwhile, was approaching from the south, screening the left flank of the Army of the Potomac and at the same time gathering information on the strength and movements of the Confederate army. The chance encounter at Fairfield, combined with the prudent and deft disengagement of his troops, gave Buford exactly this: he knew that two regiments of infantry without a cavalry screen could only mean that a much larger infantry force was nearby. Buford had found the Army of Northern Virginia and could accurately report its massing in the Cashtown and Fairfield area. One day later, he would have another opportunity to tangle with Heth’s division to the west of Gettysburg.

The scenario


Tom’s Creek counts as a wide obstacle. The woods on the eastern banks of the creek north of the road block line of sight.

The Union Deployment Point is placed on the road 6″ from the western table edge, the Confederate Deployment Point is placed on the road 6″ from the eastern table edge.

Victory conditions

The Union will achieved a victory by meeting both of the following requirements and then retreating off the western or southern table edge west of the creek with its Force Morale not below 3 and at least two groups intact. 1. having shot at at least four enemy units (if a formation is shot at, each group counts separately) and 2. having an officer successfully reconnoitre the enemy force. The Confederates will achieve a victory by denying the Union their objectives.

Special rules

Reconnoitring the enemy force: A Union officer (not NCO) must be in LOS and within 35″ of the enemy deployment point to be able to reconnoitre it. An officer can spend one command initiative to roll 1D6. As soon as the sum amounts to 18, the enemy force is considered to be reconnoitred.

Fog & surprise: For the first two turns of the game, the Union may deploy only one group of cavalry under the command of Sgt. Kennedy, while the Confederates may only deploy their skirmishers under the command of 1st Lt. Kyle (leave the other Leader cards out of the deck). At the end of turn two, each player rolls a dice: if the result is 4+, he or she may deploy the rest of their units normally (add the rest of the Leader cards to the deck). If the result is lower, roll again at the end of the next turn, adding a +1. Repeat each time until you succeed. At the latest, all units may be deployed normally in turn six.


As always, stats are given for TooFatLardies’ Sharp Practice.

Union: 4x 8th Illinois Cavalry (Leader 1, Leader 2, Leader 3, Leader 4)

Confederates: 6x 42nd Mississippi, 1x Skirmishers (Leader 1, Leader 2, Leader 3)

Unit rosters

Design notes

This scenario pits a small cavalry force against a numerically superior infantry force. The Union doesn’t have to win this fight, but it will have to disengage and fall back without taking too many losses.

[1] OR I:27, part I, p. 922 and p. 926; Hard, Abner: History of the Eighth cavalry regiment, Illinois volunteers, during the great rebellion. Aurora 1868, p. 255f.; Cheney, Newel: History of the Ninth Regiment, New York Volunteer Cavalry. War of 1861 to 1865. Poland Center, N.Y. 1901, p. 101f.; Clark, Waler (ed.): Histories of the Several Regiments and Batteries from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-1865. Goldsboro: Nash Brothers 1901, vol. III, p. 236; Martin, David G.: Gettyburg July 1. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press 2003, p. 40f.; Wittenberg, Eric J.: The Devil’s to pay: John Buford at Gettysburg: a history and tour guide. El Dorado Hills, CA: Savas Beatie, 2014, p. 42.

[2] OR I:27, part I, p. 926.

[3] Hard: History of the Eighth cavalry regiment, p. 255f.

[4] https://de.findagrave.com/memorial/24582978/portus-j_-kennedy

[5] http://opac2.mdah.state.ms.us/phpmanuscripts/z2215.php

[6] Compiled Service Records, accessed via fold3.com.

[7] Coddington, Edwin B.: The Gettysburg campaign: a study in command. New York: Scribner, 1968, p. 195.