Wargaming: The Texan Regulator - Moderator War 1839-1844

20 June 2022
By Chris Swan. Photos by The Editor

Fans of Game of Thrones will no doubt be aware that the author George R.R. Martin has said that the inspiration for the betrayal and massacre of the Starks at the Red Wedding was based on two incidents in Scottish history: the Black Dinner of 1440 and the Massacre of Glencoe from 1692. He also said “No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad or worse.”



For example, in the settlement of East Hamilton in Shelby County, Texas in 1847 a man called Old Man Wilkinson who was later described as “of bad character and a notorious hog thief” held a wedding party for his daughter. Wilkinson was a supporter of a Texas group called ‘The Moderators’ and some of the invited guests belonged to their opponents, a group known as ‘The Regulators’. Unbeknown to those guests the refreshments served to them were poisoned, and after the party over 60 of them became unwell and subsequently ten died. As a result of this gruesome act Wilkinson was arrested but escaped from custody and fled pursued by some of the Regulators who subsequently caught and hung him.

This event was only one in an on-going feud between the two groups and the story is rich in murders, ambushes and even a pitched battle, all of which is great for gaming in the Old West.


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The conflict began over fraud, land swindling, and cattle rustling in an area of land between the American border and The Republic of Texas formerly known as The Neutral Ground. Ownership of this area of land bordering Louisiana had been disputed between Spain and the United States but despite this settlers from both Spanish Texas and America had moved in and occupied the land without any authority to do so. The situation was exacerbated when Texas became a Republic in 1836. By then land in and around former The Neutral Ground had been settled, fraudulently sold on or its ownership was disputed.



I am unwilling to risk my person

One of the land disputes involved Joseph Goodbread and Sheriff Alfred George. The latter sought help from Charles W. Jackson a former Mississippi riverboat captain and a fugitive from Louisiana justice. In 1840 Jackson shot and killed Goodbread at Shelbyville. He then went on to organise a group called the Regulators to “enforce the law and prevent cattle rustling.” To counter this Edward Merchant organised a group called the Moderators in order to moderate the Regulators activities.

The first major confrontation between the groups came on 12th July 1841. Jackson was facing trial for Goodbread’s murder. The Judge was John M. Hansford who had been a friend of Goodbread’s and was a well-known supporter of the Moderator faction. Reasoning that Jackson was unlikely to receive a fair trial, several Regulators arrived at the courthouse armed to the teeth. When Hansford saw the armed men, he fled the courthouse, leaving a note for the local sheriff stating: “I am unwilling to risk my person in the courthouse any longer, when I see myself surrounded by bravos and hired assassins.” The trial was halted and Jackson was released. In January 1842 Hansford resigned as a judge and left to live on his farm. This did not save him as in 1844 a group of Regulators demanded he hand over some slaves that he was holding and when he refused they killed him.


Let them fight it out

In the meantime the feud had escalated. The Regulators burnt the homes of the McFadden family and ‘Tiger Jim’ Strickland who were known Moderators, whilst Jackson and an “innocent Dutchman named Lauer” were ambushed and killed by the Moderators in revenge. In late 1841, Watt Moorman, a fugitive from Mississippi became leader of the Regulators and led a party to avenge the Jackson-Lauer killings capturing the alleged killers. They were the McFadden brothers all of whom were ‘arrested’ and, with the exception of the youngest brother, hung.

He then led the Regulators in a reign of terror into Panola and Harrison counties, hanging Moderators and driving others out of the area. The situation was so bad that Texas President Sam Houston reportedly stated, “I think it advisable to declare Shelby County, Tenaha, and Terrapin Neck free and independent governments, and let them fight it out.” However, by 1844 a form of peaceful co-existence had developed and the worst of the violence had ended.

The quarrel reopened when Samuel Hall was accused of hog theft and killed by a man named Stanfield. Hall’s friends called upon the Moderators for revenge. Stanfield was arrested but escaped from jail. Then John M. Bradley, a man known for his violent nature, became leader of the Moderators. Watt Moorman hated him and this led to a further increase in violence. Even the judiciary took sides. Bradley and Moorman were both arrested but a Regulator supporting judge cancelled the charges against Moorman whilst a Moderator supporting judge dismissed murder charges against Bradley.

In the summer of 1844 the Moderators ousted Bradley and elected James J. Cravens as their leader who then agreed a truce to protect with the “good and unoffending citizens.” Bradley however, remained a target and on 28th July 1844 he was ‘regulated permanently’ whilst attending a Baptist meeting.

In August 1844 around 200 Moderators attacked around 60 Regulators near Shelbyville. The Regulators were quickly reinforced by a number of armed citizens and launched a counter attack forcing the Moderators to occupy a log meeting house before driving them off. There were few casualties and the action was indecisive.


The protection of good and unoffending citizens

By now an exasperated Sam Houston wanted the violence ended. On 14th August 1844 Houston ordered 500 militiamen into East Texas to enforce the peace. They arrested ten leaders from both sides and brought them to San Augustine. Houston then arrived in person and was able to get the factions to sign a peace treaty for “the protection of good and unoffending citizens.”

Officially the feud ended in 1844 and it is estimated that during its five years over 40 men had been killed and many more injured. However, as the poisonings at the wedding in 1847 showed, the feud simmered on and it is believed that up to 1848 a further twelve men were killed as a result of it. The feud only ended when both sides had another enemy to fight. When the Mexican American War broke out members of both the Regulators and Moderators joined Capt. L. H. Mabbitt’s Ranger Company to fight against the Mexicans. When the war ended there were no further outbreaks of violence linked to the feud.


In this conflict clothes would be a matter of personal choice. They could range from whatever was hard wearing and suited to hard work or long periods in the saddle to more ‘gentrified’ city clothes. Given the proximity of the feud to Louisiana, southern styles may have been more common than the Mexican influenced styles of the southern parts of Texas. Hats were typically wide brimmed hats, especially those in the ‘planter’ style although straw hats, Top Hats, military style flat caps and animal skin hats were also worn. Clothes could range from expensive linen and cotton or more frequently woollen shirts and trousers, with coats or jackets to fringed buckskins. Boots and shoes were normal but moccasins were also worn and some poorer members of society went barefoot.

The participants were armed with one or more single shot pistols although early cap and ball five and six shot revolvers were also carried and were becoming more popular due to their increased reliability. However, breech loading or repeating shoulder arms were not common as such weapons were neither robust nor suited to the rigours of the west and were prone to jamming or misfiring. As a result most shoulder arms remained single shot muzzle loaders or muzzle loading shotguns throughout this period although colt revolving shoulder arms were used, especially as the Republic of Texas had purchased some for its army and marines. Knives of all sorts from the Arkansas Tooth Pick to the Bowie or similar style ‘butchers knives’ were frequently carried.



This conflict provides several opportunities for small scale skirmishes, either as one-off games or linked into a campaign. I have created a series of three games set in the fictional east Texas County of Gillham. It is 1842 and disputes over land ownership and alleged live stock rustling have meant that two sides have formed.

The rules we used for these were our own Quick on the Draw rules .These can be found on the magazine’s web site. However, the games can equally be played with any set of western gunfight rules which concentrate on individual characters and their abilities, such as Fist Full of Lead, Dead Man’s Hand, Legends of the Old West, Gutshot, the Rules with No Names and Dracula’s America (if you ignore the fantasy stuff). However, in using such rules allowance needs to be made for the use of early cap and ball revolvers and repeating shoulder arms as well as muzzle loading firearms.

Each of the following three games has a cast list designed to work with our rules but can be used as guidelines for any other set of western shootout rules.


County Sherriff A. P. Morton leads those who support the Regulators. His key members are J.P. Cole a ruthless killer wanted for murder in Louisiana, The Hogan Clan, Deuces Donavan – a Sporting Man (gambler) and Morton’s Deputy, John Manners.

Opposing him and leading the Moderators is local Justice of the Peace Judge Ringgold and his friend Doc Kilgore. They are backed by the Lee brothers, local merchant Tom Brayburn and hunter and trapper Curly Thomas.



As this is a mini campaign using the same characters it is important to determine what happens to each character at the end of each scenario.

At the end of a scenario roll for each character that was Wounded (i.e. had cards remaining at the end of the game) and for each character who was Out of It (had lost all of their cards).

Roll their action dice and check the outcome.
Tough characters or those with access to a trained medical practitioner may reroll their dice but keep the second outcome.

If a character dies or is unable to play in the next adventure, the side which lost the character may recruit a one temporary minor character to join their faction as a replacement for each card the missing character would have had –e.g. if it was a main character with 3 cards add in 3 temporary characters. If the wounded character then returns for the next scenario these characters are removed from the group having returned to their homes.






A legal dispute settled with gunfire.

The Lee brothers have bought a prize Hog from the widow of a local farmer who died suddenly from lead poisoning (someone shot him in the back). The hog is in their pig pen but Pa Hogan and his sons claim it belongs to them and the dead farmer was simply “minding it for them...”.

Enlisting the aid of Sherriff Morton, the three Hogans have gone to the Lee’s farm to take the Hog. Expecting that they may be met by violence Morton has instructed Deputy Manners to gather up Cole and Donovan and wait in a stand of trees ready to come to their aid if and when necessary.

Equally the Lee brothers are supported by Judge Ringgold who waits with them in the farm yard with a writ denying the Hogan’s ownership of the Hog. Doc Kilgore, Tom Brayburn and Curly Thomas are hiding in the Lee’s barn just waiting to intervene.

The objective for both sides is the end up in control of the Hog whilst inflicting as many casualties on their enemies as possible.


Play the game on a 4’x4’ table. Place a ranch or farm house 12” in from one side roughly in the middle of that side. Place a Hog pen within 12” of the building and a larger barn type building opposite the pig pen but 24” away from it. Add in suitable farm/ranch scenery such as water troughs, wagons, barrels, etc to provide extra cover. On the opposite table edge to the ranch house add some trees and bushes up to 12” in from that edge. Place the characters as outlined and let rip.



Get them to the court on time!

As a result of the fight for the Hog justice must now be seen to be done.

If the Lees won then Judge Ringgold is bringing charges against the Hogans

If the Hogans won then Sherriff Morton has arranged a friendly judge to hear the case against the Lees.

The objective for the party who won the last scenario is to present their paperwork at the court house before noon to ensure the case is heard. The party who lost must stop this as failure to present the papers on time will automatically mean that the case will be thrown out.



Play the game on a 4’ x4’ table representing the town of Placerville. Line two opposite sides with buildings, leaving a 12” wide road running between them running from one table edge to the other, with the buildings lining the road. Ensure there is space behind and between the buildings to form alleyways and back lots, together with lots of suitable cover such as horse troughs, parked wagons, crates, barrels and other suitable debris to provide lots of cover.

Nominate one building at one end of the street as the Court House in which the papers must be lodged. The party which won the previous scenario starts on the table edge furthest away from the Court House and must take their papers to there. In addition the party must be seen to be “in charge” by the community and not afraid of the other side. This means that at least three characters must move down the road to the Court House, although the rest of the party may use more devious means such as sneaking through back alleyways. The player must write down which character is carrying the papers. If that character becomes Out of It during the scenario (loses all of their cards) another character can take the papers from them taking one action to do so.

The party which lost the first scenario must place at least 3 characters immediately outside of the Court House but can scatter the others around the town in any locations they choose but within 24” of the Court House.


Time Limit

This scenario should have limited playing time to reflect the need for the papers to be delivered on time. After 6 moves roll 1D6, if a 1 is rolled the game stops at that point; if this does not happen, then on the next turn roll again with the game stopping on a 1 or 2. On subsequent turns increase the score needed to end the game by 1 and so on until the game automatically stops after turn 11.


There’s a showdown at the church!

Whoever won the last scenario is now seen as the dominant force in the community. The losers must regain control. They intend to do so by attacking the winners as they attend a social gathering. This is the showdown: winner takes all!

The objective for both sides is to cause as many casualties on their enemies as possible and for the Regulators to kill Judge Ringgold and the Moderators to kill Sheriff Morton. Both sides must avoid causing casualties to the other church goers.



Play the game on a 4’ x 4’ table with a suitable church style building to represent a meeting house placed roughly in the middle of the table with suitable picket or rail fencing enclosing a space roughly 12” in diameter in front of the building. The remainder of the table should be open ground with a few shrubs, bushes and a scattering of trees. A local grave yard would also be a suitable piece of scenery. Wagons, horses and buggies which have been used to bring the people to the church can be placed around the fences at suitable locations.

The side which won the last game is placed in the enclosed area outside of the church along with six civilian figures. They are all leaving the church/meeting house as the service is over.

The side which lost the last game are deemed the attackers and can be placed anywhere around the church and within 12” of it and the enclosed front area.



Once the shooting starts roll 1D6 and test for their reaction – they are most likely to flee but might decide to join in the fight.


If the church goers do attack a character use the following statistics for each of them:

Time Limit

The game should have limited playing time to reflect the possibility of other enraged armed citizens from Placerville coming to the rescue of the church goers. After 6 moves roll 1D6, if a 1 is rolled the game stops at that point; if this does not happen, then on the next turn roll again with the game stopping on a 1 or 2. On subsequent turns increase the score needed to end the game by 1 and so on until the game automatically stops after turn 11.


These scenarios require less than 20 figures including the 6 civilian figures so, even if you don’t yet have any Old West figures, the outlay to get some is not huge. We play our Old West games in both 54mm and 28mm so I will cover options for both.

54mm figures can be found in the UK from suppliers such as Steve Weston Toy Soldiers, but toy shops and E-bay are also a good source. There is a plentiful supply of 54mm Old West figures available in the US which can be imported but check out the postage and any import costs.

Assuming that most players will choose 28mm they have a wide selection of manufacturers to choose from. As these stories are all set in the 1840’s any figures dressed as civilians or as ACW irregulars or guerrillas should be used. There are nice figures to be found in the Perry Miniatures ACW range, whilst Redoubt Enterprises and Company D and Wargames Foundry also all have excellent figures. Other suitable figures can be found from Dixon and Knuckleduster. If you are less fussy with your weapon detail then look at Black Scorpion, Great Escape Games and Old Glory to name a few.

Those who use 15/18mm are also catered for by both Blue Moon Manufacturing and Peter Pig.

Great Escape Games, Sarissa and other manufacturers produce a wide selection of suitable buildings or you can try and scratch build them as we do: clap board building are not that difficult to construct.

So are you ready for some feuding and fighting, will you “regulate” the opposition or will you be “moderated” by them: only you, the players and the Gods of dice will decide. Happy Gaming! 


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