At the onset of the French and Indian War, the vast majority of “French” troops in North America were in fact, Canadian militia. First raised as early as the mid-1600s, Canadian militias (or “Milices Canadiennes”) compromised some 15,000 troops by the early 1750s. By the time the Seven Years War arrived in the North American French colonies of Canada, the militia was divided into three main government sections of Montréal, Québec and Trois-Rivières. Despite the local makeup of conscripted Canadian men, each militia was commanded by Compagnies Franches de la Marine officers pulled from traditional European training and tradition.
I have a bunch of Canadian militia already in my collection of 28mm FIW figures, but I’m always on the lookout to add diversity. With my latest from Black Hussar Miniatures I’ve found a great assortment of personality and poses which present the irregular nature of Canadian irregular troops of the period.
While some argue that uniform colors conformed to specific regions, most research shows the Canadian militia uniforms were a true mix of equipment and uniforms. Clad in a mix of jackets, frocks and leather leggings borrowed from the style of trappers and local natives, these figures create a great variety in modelling the period in color and texture.
Black Hussar sculpts scale toward the middle of manufacturers in 28mm, but as a unit, they hold together nicely. With a variety of animated poses firing, advancing, at the ready and in command, the molds all a unique quality which differs largely from the more regular casts of other makers.
Mixed with the militia fighting men, I particularly appreciate the contrasting formality of the French officers clad in their pressed European uniforms with one leaning casually on a walking stick. I made swift work of all these figures in the typical mix of blues, whites, red and picked out details, but upon consideration of the photos here I realize one more pass on cleaning up details would be of benefit. Even so, the irregular painting of these irregular militia was a treat and welcome addition to my tabletop forces of the period.
With some 28mm models from the Galloping Major WargamesAllies on the Frontier Kickstarter from 2019, I decided to mix up my ranger forces with a representation of Gorham’s Rangers. With brown coats, red facings and a mix of hats, the models brought the opportunity to create a real mixed force of poses and styles in a different color scheme from all my other models of the period.
Painting galloping major figures is always a joy, with big chunky sculpts brimming with detail and personality. Adding some Gorham’s Rangers to my collection allows for not only some welcome variety, but will also opportunities to game even early periods in North American colonial history on the tabletop.
Moving armies and settlers through the 18th-century North American wilderness during the French and Indian War often involved widening old trails, clearing new routes and building new roads. Hired crews of civilian workers and military pioneers usually led the way, felling trees far in advance of military columns.
Referred to as lumberjacks on this Germany-based manufacturer’s site, the pack of three models could easily find a place on a military road or on a settler’s farm. I love the mix of poses and clothing with hatchets being wielded to split logs and a hack at branches. The largest of the castings is dragging a large tree branch to which I added some additional twigs as stumps on a large metal washer base.
I’m always thrilled to find a new source of models, and I’ve quickly added these and some other minis from Black Hussar to my collection.
Eighteenth-century European armies fighting the French and Indian War in the North American wilderness were usually weeks or months away from points of supply. Lines of supply by wagons and animals were critical to campaigns as well as supporting remote fortifications and settlements.
For my tabletop armies, I already had some pack animals from Wargames Foundry and wagons from Perry Miniatures. Warlord Games offers pack mules in a variety of eras, so I added some of theirs recently to my collection. The warlord sculpts fit right in at scale with all my other manufacturers, and the casts come clean and crisp. It’s the details I really love in these models — a basket of apples, a pig strapped across a large load and a braying, a stubborn mule refusing to move forward. Painted up quickly, they will go well in keeping my miniature armies in supply.
So much of history focuses on armies that it is hard to remember the vast number of civilians swept up into grand conflicts. By many estimates, more than 10 million native people occupied the North American continent through the 18th-century, and only a fraction of them were direct and active participants as warriors.
Visiting sites like Ganondagan State Historic Site is a real opportunity to step back and experience the life among the men, women and children of the Seneca and other members of the Haudenosaunee. Passing through the introductory cultural film and exhibits of the modern museum, a traditional longhouse greets visitors as a passage back in time to the true experience of the people who once populated Western New York in the centuries predating European arrival.
Within the natural light of the longhouse, central cooking fires are surrounded by stacked levels of storage and sleeping platforms. The immersive exhibit teems with traditional wares of everyday life and also reveals the influence of European trade goods. Although tour guides will caution visitors against it, one can reach out and feel the trappings of a indigenous civilian just as it was in the 17th-century and years before and after.
In my pledge I included all the Indian civilians packs, including Iroquois Unarmed Men (FIW8), Iroquois Women (FIW9) and Iroquois Children (FIW10). As with everything in the range, the figures present some nice detail in naturally lean sculpts that hew toward 25mm rather than the larger, more common 28mm heroic scale models of today. The inclusion of children and adolescent figures is of particular note as these are almost completely absent in the hobby.
The full line is now available on the company’s website, retailing for $8 a pack. Taking a dive into the Sash and Saber range is endlessly rewarding whether your armies need more troops or whether you want to get some realism on the table with these native villagers of the period.
One of my favorite aspects of the Star Wars franchise is the environments in which the space opera is set. From the desert planets of Tatooine and Jakku, the snowy Hoth, swampy Dagobah and the volcanic surface of Mustafar, the universe created from the imagination of George Lucas is one of varied settings. Gaming this universe in miniature provides a great opportunity to model and play within terrain of all types. Judging from online photos from the wide community of players of Star Wars Legion from Fantasy Flight Games, fans of the game love terrain.
As a miniatures wargamer for over 30 years, creating and using terrain is one of the many rewards of the hobby. In building out my Star Wars Legion games I’ve relied on my existing collection of trees from Woodland Scenics and other manufacturers, thus creating a forested table like the forested moon of Endor from Return of the Jedi. I glue the trees to round, flocked bases to provide stability on the table and additional visual interest. I also have a big bag of scatter made up of clumps of foliage, lichens and small twigs that I toss around on my flocked green 4′ x 6′ playmat to visually fill in otherwise flat open space.
Fantasy Flight Games includes some simple plastic barricades in the base starter kit for the game and the Priority Supplies expansion with moisture vaporators, communication terminals and crates. I painted up all these pieces in simple layers of grey and metallic dry brushing, picking out some computer panel details in other brighter colors.
My existing terrain collection also includes a number of cast, pre-painted rocky hills from Gale Force Nine which can be used in just about any setting. Their Battlefield In A Box line offers a bunch of historical, fantasy, scenic and sci-fi terrain, and the generically-named Galactic Warzones pieces provide some great models for playing Star Wars Legion.
I picked up the bunker which is modeled on the one on Endor in ROTJ. Right out the box, the painted resin bunker is ready to play and the removable roof is a big plus for scenarios involving raids or rescue missions. Fantasy Flight also offers an official Imperial Bunker expansion that is slightly larger with additional detail like a sliding blast door. That said, at half the price, I am more than satisfied with the Gale Force Nine model.
Finally, Star Wars Legion arrived right at the time when 3D printing has been exploding in the gaming hobby. Countless manufacturers and individual hobbyists have created hundreds of custom, non-licensed models to fill tabletop Star Wars settings with all sorts of alien races, characters, spaceships, buildings and terrain pieces. I’ve grabbed a few spaceship wrecks from Extruded Gaming, each of which also comes with a small rocky outcroppings.
With my existing terrain and few models I’ve recently picked up, I’ve quickly pulled together a nice selection of tabletop scenario options. With Star Wars Legion the terrain possibilities are as vast as the entire Star Wars universe.
When I first saw Star Wars in the summer of 1977, there was only a brief and far off glimpse of a Dewback, the large lizard-like creature ridden by Stormtroopers on the desert planet of Tatooine. When the original movies were re-released for the 20th-anniversary in 1997 as the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition, modern digital effects added more film time for the Dewbacks (one of the few changes I don’t complain about as a fan).
Despite its only brief cameo in the original movie, Kenner’s Patrol Dewback toy in 1979 became a favorite of mine and other first generation fans. I wound up with two in my toy box — one for me and one for my brother — and our Stormtroopers spent many hours marching around mounted on their Dewbacks on our bedroom floor.
One of the joys I find with Star Wars Legion miniatures game from Fantasy Flight Games is the chance to revisit some of my favorite characters and creatures from the Star Wars universe. And, all these years later, I still like playing with Star Wars toys.
The Dewback Rider unit expansion is a chunky model and includes two swappable torsos of Stormtrooper riders. With these bodies, four weapons are offered — a shock prod, a T-21 blaster rifle, a RT-97C blaster rifle and a CR-24 flame rifle. I chose to model my two riders with the standard shock prod and RT-97C blaster rifle. My long term thinking is to get a second Dewback and model the other two weapons on those riders.
If I’m totally honest with myself, I am not a fan of painting primarily white figures. This is also why I’ve avoided Imperial troops to this point. In my four decades of miniatures painting I can never quite get white figures right and my first shot at Stormtroopers is no different. Fortunately, the sculpt and detail in the model offsets my so-so painting. All said, I’ve enjoyed getting my first Dewback on the table after so many years.
The Braddock Expedition in the summer of 1755 was one of the greatest military campaigns (and follies) in 18th-century North America up to that point in history. After diplomatic attempts to oust the French from Fort Duquesne by a young British officer named George Washington were rebuffed a year prior, British General Edward Braddock sought to move an army of some 2,000 through the wilderness and lay siege to the fort. The Battle of the Monongahela on July 9th ended the expedition and Braddock’s life.
Three years later, Washington and 6,000 soldiers returned to the region as part of an army led by General John Forbes. Once again, Fort Duquesne was the target as the Forbes Campaign which set out from Carlisle, PA in September 1758 and cut a new road to the west, just north of Braddock’s doomed route. Along the way, the expedition constructed a string of forts across the wilderness as safe havens for the British. As 1758 drew near to a close, Forbes would succeed where Braddock had failed in removing the French from the Forks of the Ohio forever.
The failures and successes of these men and their soldiers defined the story of the French and Indian War and the decades after in this corner of the 18th-century British Empire. In the aftermath, Pontiac’s Rebellion would rage through the same region, eventually leading to the decimation and removal of the native people who occupied the land well before the French or British came. In these two wars, the British emerged as the dominant power in the region. Unbeknownst to the Crown and Parliament safely at a distance in London, the seeds had also been sown for the eventual colonial rebellion against British rule less than two decades later.
In late September 2018 I set out to retrace these campaigns and stories by train, car and on foot. Over the course of a week, I made my way from my home in Brooklyn, NY to Alexandria, VA and then zig-zagged my way to Pittsburgh, PA and back again. Along the way I sought to get a sense of these historic, out-of-the-way places where armies once moved and pivotal battles were fought over 250 years ago. I also captured a number of videos and photos of the sites, allowing others to visit these places from a digital distance. For me, breathing the air, hiking the trails and camping amid the trees and mountains of what was then known as the Ohio Country was my opportunity to engage with history first-hand.
George Washington in the Ohio Country
Much of the story of the Ohio Country in the mid-18th-century is also the story of one person: George Washington. As an ambitious, twenty-something Virginia Provincial officer, he was eager to prove his worth and earn a place as a full British officer in service of the Crown and Empire.
To that end, in 1753 Washington was appointed as an envoy tasked with delivering a message to the French at Fort Duquesne. The order unceremoniously commanded the French to vacate the region, one the British felt they rightly claimed. The arduous winter journey through mountains, rivers and thick forests had challenged Washington’s physical fortitude. The French commander’s refusal of Washington’s carried message challenged his spirits and ambitions of taking a place among elite society. On his first assignment as a designated representative of the British colonial government, Washington had failed.
The following spring, Washington returned to the region for a second try at forcing the French from their further-developed positions. This time, Washington was at the head of his first command of some 300 Virginians. Camping in a meadow some distance from Fort Duquesne, Washington was tipped off by an Mingo ally, Tanacharison (“Half King”), to the presence of a French advance guard camped in a nearby wood.
Early in the morning on May 28, 1754, Washington approached the French camp with some 40 colonials and a dozen allied Mingo warriors. Surprising the French (actually French Canadians led by Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville) in their morning camp, a quick firefight erupted. In the subsequent surrender negotiation between Jumonville and Washington, Tanacharison killed the French officer. By all accounts, Washington had blundered into a brief firefight and further lost control of the situation after the smoke had cleared. The encounter at what became known as Jumonville Glen had the potential to be yet another bad mark on the young officer’s record.
When I visited Jumonville Glen in September 2018, I had not been to the site in over two decades. On the morning I was there, I had the site to myself and its still, secluded quiet in a cool morning rain is eerie. Standing at the rocky prospect above at the British position and then at the base of the glen where the French camped, you get a true sense of the intimacy of the place where a major event occurred.
The event at Jumonville Glen didn’t immediately reveal its long term significance, but Washington sensed a French reprisal would be imminent. With that, he returned to the meadows and had a small “fort of necessity” constructed. Some 50′ in diameter, the split-log stockade was surrounded by earth ditches dug into the damp ground near an adjacent trace of a stream.
On July 3, 1754, around 600 French Regulars and Canadians accompanied by perhaps 100 or more Indian allies appeared at the treeline surrounding Washington’s hasty defense. With may only 400 men, many of whom were sick, drunk or otherwise unfit to fight, Washington was vastly outnumbered as Indian and French musket volleys rang out from the trees throughout the day. When rain fell in the afternoon, Washington’s shattered force eventually surrendered. In the negotiation of terms relying on questionable translations, Washington signed his name to a document in which he inadvertently admitted responsibility for the assassination of Jumonville.
As Washington retreated his force from the field, he had delivered a third failure on his third assignment as a want-to-be British officer. With these personal failures, the 22-year-old Virginian had also set in motion events which would erupt in the French and Indian War.
The Braddock Campaign
Following on the failures of Washington in 1753 and 1754, an escalated show of British force was determined to be the solution to finally oust the French from the region. The person tapped for the job was British General Edward Braddock, a veteran in the ways of European warfare and campaigns. The disconnect between Braddock’s military experience and the fighting in the forests of the Ohio Country would prove to be disastrous.
The Carlyle House
In the spring of 1755, Braddock had arrived in Alexandria, VA with 1,200 troops and set up his headquarters at the Carlyle House. There on April 15th, he convened a “congress” of colonial governors from Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts to seek shared funding of the campaign against the French ensconced in the Ohio Country. The governors pushed back on funding Braddock’s expedition but did agree a multi-front campaign against France was the key to their removal from the contintent.
A visit to the Carlyle House today in downtown Alexandria is largely a tour of a grand 18th-century home, not unlike many historic house museums. For someone like me, imagining the heated conversation and planning for what was to become the Braddock campaign and the French and Indian War at large makes it an important part of the era’s story.
By late May 1755, Braddock and his force now numbering over 2,000 set off from Fort Cumberland, MD with the destination of Fort Duquesne over 100 miles to the west and north. Among the troops and working wagon teams recruited by Benjamin Franklin, Braddock’s army contained a who’s who of people who would play a large part in the events over the coming decades. These included the back woodsmen Daniel Boone and Daniel Morgan as well as Thomas Gage; Charles Lee, Horatio Gates and Washington as Braddock’s personal aide.
Braddock’s route was challenging from the beginning. The landscape ahead presented dense forests, rushing streams and steep, rocky hills and mountains. His long column consisted of advance work parties cutting and building a road at the head of the slow-moving army. In some areas rock needed to be blasted and cleared and at other points wagons and cannon were broken down to be hauled over inclines or cross waterways.
The route of the campaign today (much along what would be come the National Road and later US Route 40) is traced with dozens of roadside historical markers. Getting off the road, there are opportunities to hike short remnant portions of the road. The experience of walking some of Braddock’s route shows the closeness and seclusion experienced by a massive European army moving through wilderness for which they were completely unprepared.
The Battle of the Monongehela
After some five weeks of slow advance at a pace of what could be less than five miles a day, Braddock’s column arrived near the banks of the Monongahela River. On July 9, 1755, the head of the British force was attacked by over 200 French and Canadian militia along perhaps 600 or more Indian allies. In the bloody confusion and surrounding crossfire, the British were thrown into disarray as multiple officers fell and troops were engaged at close range attacks. Braddock himself fell to a musket wound, and Washington managed to organize a hasty retreat, saving what he could of British line that had been wrecked with nearly 900 dead and wounded.
Thus, just ten miles from Fort Duquense, yet another British force was thrown back by the French. Again, Washington had been a participant and this time he buried his commanding officer and mentor near the ruins of Fort Necessity.
Leaving the Braddock story at its natural and tragic end, I had the opportunity to also visit a number of other mid-18th-century sites of historical significance in the region. With these I followed other travelers, settlers and campaigns of the era from the French and Indian War to the follow-up conflict of Pontiac’s Rebellion.
The entire region is dotted with sites of former stops along major routes of 18th-century travel and trade. In Washington County, MD, I spent the evening at Fort Frederick State Park. After an evening camping in a downpour in an otherwise empty campground along a rising Potomac River, I awoke to an overcast day and a visit to the recreated Fort Frederick. Originally built in 1756-1758, the large stone Vauban-style fortress is today represented as rebuilt by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. Initially used for defense and a trading hub for local settlers during the period of the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s Rebellion, the fortress was later used as a prison during the American Revolution and then garrisoned again by Union troops during the US Civil War.
Travelling about 100 miles northwest from Fort Fredrick, is the site of Fort Bedford. Built in 1758 by British troops under Colonel Henry Bouquet, the log star-shaped fort served as one of the string of supply points during the campaign led by General Forbes to take Fort Duquesne. The original fort is long gone but the site today is marked by the Fort Bedford Museum which is home to the fort’s original 1758 flag and a nice scale model of the fort as it once looked.
Following the route of Forbes and his army fifty more miles to the northwest, I arrived at Fort Ligonier. Some fifty miles southeast of present-day Pittsburgh, the fort was the final jumping-off point for eventual siege and taking of Fort Duquesne in late November 1758. During Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763, the fort continued as an important British outpost and was attacked twice by united Indian forces during that conflict. Today’s fort is a fine reproduction of the 18th-century log fort and the museum houses the absolute best collection of exhibits on the period I’ve visited.
All roads lead to the the Forks of the Ohio at present day Pittsburgh, PA where the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers come together. After years of attempts by the British through diplomacy and a failed militia campaign with a young Washington followed by Braddock’s fateful end, the Forbes expedition succeeded in taking the site. Ultimately, British seizure of the point was anticlimactic with the French burning the fort before retreating to the north in late November 1758.
The British set to work redeveloping the site with Fort Pitt between 1759 and 1761 where it served as the anchor of the British Empire’s western edge for the remainder of the war. The fort was besieged by Indians during Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763 and then used by Virginian’s during the brief Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774 which many know view as a precursor to the Revolutionary war.
Jutting out from the the modern city of Pittsburgh, a visit to the site easily reveals the important strategic location of the point at the intersection of three mighty rivers. While the Indian villages, trading posts and forts which once crowded to the river banks are long gone, the park and Fort Pitt Museum there offer a marvelous experience and transport back in time.
Battle of Bushy Run
Squeezed between the little known French and Indian War and the mythic American War of Independence is the almost completely forgotten Pontiac’s Rebellion. From 1763 to 1766 a confederation of Indian nations from the Great Lakes and Ohio Country united to push back the tide of European settlers encroaching westward following the French and Indian War. By the spring and early summer of 1763 dozens of settlements, forts and outposts fell to Indian forces across the entire region, and once-inconceivable Indian sieges of Fort Detroit and Fort Pitt were underway.
In the hopes of relieving the siege at Fort Pitt, British veteran of the region Henry Bouquet led about 600 men over the route once used by Forbes and his army just a few years prior. On August 5, 1763 Bouquet’s force was about 25 miles from the fort when attacked by hundreds of Indians from the thick woods. After a first bloody and disastrous day of defeat, Bouquet’s men rallied the second day in a surprise flanking attack through the woods. The narrow defeat by the British threw back the native rebellion, effectively ending the brief war and assuring British supremacy in the region.
A visit to Bushy Run Battlefield today is a long, winding, out of the way trip to beautifully preserved grounds over rolling hills and wooded trails. The small museum does an out sized job in defining the battle and overall period in context, and its annual reenactments are some of the most picturesque recreations of the period.
While the empires of the British, French and Indian people of the region clashed over the grounds I visited for decades of the 18th-century and involved tens off thousands of participants, my trip allowed me to quietly consider the region from a singular observer’s point of view. Over a week of travel and contemplation, I sought and found a journey back in time to the 18th-century found no so far off my usual 21st-century trail.
As a first generation Star Wars fan, I’ve always loved the Rebel Commandos from the Battle of Endor in 1985’s Return of the Jedi. The gritty, rugged camouflage-clad fighters have always reminded me of World War II or Vietnam War soldiers, just the sort of realism found in so much of the Star Wars saga.
I love the seven figures in this box with their flowing, hooded ponchos and five toting A-280 blaster rifles. The other two figures include a saboteur armed with proton charges and a crouching Mon Calamari sniper carefully aiming a DH-447 rifle with his fish-like eye. The inclusion of this alien race, along with a Dressellian, expands the story of the Rebellion stretching across systems.
Leading them all, I added the Commander Leia Organa figure to the squad. her figure strikes a heroic pose on the run, and blaster at outstretched. With the Rebel Commandos at her back, Leia is no doubt leading the charge of this small squad fighting for a free galaxy.
North America in the 17th-and-18th-centuries was a clash European and Native cultures in many ways – ways of life, ways of trade, ways of war and ways of faith. Faith for all people in this era was not an abstract but a truth that informed every part of their existence. Finding ways to incorporate the dynamic push-pull between these faiths into games provides an interesting challenge and opportunity.
The False Face Society figure depicts a member of the Haudenosaunee healer tradition. Wearing a fearsome carved and painted wooden mask and carrying a turtle shell rattle, a member of the society would make rounds twice a year to chase away evil spirits and disease from a village. Masks came in a lot of varieties, including some woven from corn husks, and the healing rituals would also include singing and burning tobacco.
The Jesuit Order was founded in Spain in the mid-1500s and its member missionaries spread through North, Central and South America in the 17th-and-18th-centuries. Rooted in Catholic faith, Jesuits lived a life of meditation and contemplation of Jesus Christ. Intellectually, they sought to bring formal education of languages, history and science in a reform of church leadership.
Missionaries to what Europeans called the New World viewed natives of these regions to be in need of saving through baptism and rejection of their perceived savage rituals and traditions. At the same time, Jesuits were at odds with European secular colonial governments for their documentation of native cultures and languages during their years of living among these people. Effectively living between the two societies, Jesuits were famously the victims of torture and martyred execution by natives who recognized the threat they symbolized.
With no experience in the wilderness of the Americas and only their faith to guide them, Jesuits ventured deep into heart of the country largely unexplored by other Europeans. The Jesuit figure depicts the plain dress and spare possessions of a missionary of the era, clutching a Bible close to his heart and a cross hanging from his waist.
Together, the False Face Society Shaman and Jesuit models depict two competing traditions of faith in the Americas during the era of European colonization. In each tradition, rituals and physical items — whether a turtle rattle, mask, Bible or cross — provide opportunities for contrast but also a shared belief that something exists beyond the physical land where people clashed for domination.