French and Indian War: Conestoga and Supply Wagons from Perry Miniatures

Gun Towing

When British General Edward Braddock launched his campaign through the Ohio Country to Fort Duquesne in the spring of 1755, the call went out for wagons. With some 2,000 soldiers at his command, Braddock was a typical commander of the French and Indian War era whose plans rested heavily on the support of local civilians willing to port the tons of supplied needed for a planned siege some 110 miles away.

After initial appeals were largely ignored by a population not particularly pleased with existing British colonial governance, appeals by Benjamin Franklin to his Pennsylvania countrymen finally yielded the needed transports for the campaign. An excellent 1959 publication from the Smithsonian Institution by Don H. Berkebile, Conestoga Wagons In Braddock’s Campaign, 1755, provides great detail on the supply train in Braddock’s campaign. Some 150 locally-provided wagons combined with Braddock’s own to form nearly 200 transports carrying powder, ammunition, food and other goods necessary for such an undertaking into the relatively untamed wilderness. Additionally, Braddock also had five six-pound guns, four twelve-pound guns, three coehorns and four howitzers in tow with the design on breaking French control in the region.

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Map of Braddock’s Road (John Kennedy Lacock, 1912)

Cutting trees, clearing brush, fording streams, blasting rock and transversing the steep hills and mountains of Western Pennsylvania, Braddock’s miles-long force moved along a 12 foot wide path at just two miles a day. George Washington, then a young British Colonel, had cautioned his mentor Braddock against reliance on wagons in the rough wilderness and advocated the use of pack animals instead. Braddock’s column certainly contained dozens of horses and scores of cattle, but the majority of supplies rode on wagons in a European style uniformed by the roughness of North America’s backcountry. When the advance force of Braddock’s line was ambushed at the Battle of the Monongahela by the French and French-allied Indians on July 9, 1755, the soldiers and civilian supply train was thrown into chaos. By the end of the day, the disordered column was in hasty retreat, Braddock was dead and Washington was forever changed after having witnessed the death of his role model.

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Farmer John Shreiner and his Conestoga Wagon, Lancaster County, PA, circa 1910

As Berkebile’s article points out, the exact number and make-up of the types wagons mustered for Braddock’s campaign is unknown. There is no doubt conestoga wagons, invented in Pennsylvania in the 1730s, made up some part of the supply column. State of the art for the era, conestoga wagons became icons of the American frontier for their multiple ton capacity, wide wheels and ruggedness. Other transports such as tumbrels and powder wagons supplemented the carrying load for Braddock.

For my FIW transports I’ve gone with a number of models from Perry Miniatures. Cast in metal and resin, these hefty models are cast with great detail and each are accompanied by civilians who provided the skill needed for the campaign. With five wagons completed, I have plenty of transports ready to represent Braddock’s or other FIW era armies heading into the wilds of the North American wilderness.

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Conestoga wagon by Perry Miniatures

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Two horse lumber with six pound gun by Perry Miniatures

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Four wheeled ammunition wagon by Perry Miniatures

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Two wheeled tumbrel by Perry Miniatures

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Two wheeled powder wagon by Perry Miniatures

American Civil War: Converting O Scale Buildings

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I recently scored a few free pre-assembled O scale plastic buildings made by Model Power. The houses are meant to be used in model railroad layouts and look very modern, plastic and toy like. I looked at them and thought that with a little work they might be made suitable for use for in American Civil War wargaming. I started my project with the “Kennedy’s House” model.

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Primed flat black

O scale structures are a little on the big side for 28mm, so the first thing I did was to remove the foundation and steps from the building. To make the house a little less grand, I also also removed the decorative front porch. After I re-glued a few loose windows and shutters, the whole model got a coat of flat black primer to knock the sheen off the plastic.

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First dry brush of off white on the siding

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Second dry brush coat in white on the siding

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Two coats of dry brush complete on the siding

Once the primer had set, I dry brushed all the siding, doors and windows with some off white paint. Over the first coat, I built up an additional layer of dry brushed white paint. The final effect I was building up to was a weathered look on the entire exterior.

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Shutters are dry brushed in green and roof gets dark brown base coat

With the siding complete, the shutters on the building’s facade were dry brushed in a dark green. Again, allowing the layers of paint beneath to show throw added to the lived-in and weathered look to the building.

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Roof is built up with alternating dry brush coats of grays and browns

The roof’s look very modern, so I likewise built up coats of paint to make them look more like wood shake shingles. A base coat of dark brown then received two layers of dark and lighter grays, followed by some lighter brown highlights. The chimneys also got a couple coats of dry brush grays and off white to replicate a irregular stone construction. When done, the completed roof looked very much more like something found in the 19th-century.

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Completed conversion of the Model Power farmhouse

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American Civil War Union soldiers standing guard at the newly completed house

Along with the Model Power buildings, I also picked up some free Woodland Scenics trees which I’ve based individually for my gaming. The trees and rehabbed farmhouse are perhaps a little on the large size for my Perry Miniatures soldiers but considering I’ve received all this terrain at no cost it will all work just fine on the table battlefield.

American Civil War: Perry Miniatures ACW in 28mm

About a year ago I got back into gaming the American Civil War.

My first miniatures wargaming experience back in the 1980s was with 15mm ACW played with the Fire & Fury rules. I wound up stepping away from gaming for the 1990s, but with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Civil War and some ACW gaming with the Brother Against Brother rules at a convention I decided last year that now was the time to get back to the ACW.

Having spent a couple years playing WWII in 15mm, I very much ready to try another era but I also chose to go bigger with another scale at 28mm. Fortunately, Perry Miniatures offer a line of well-sculpted and very reasonably-priced plastic and metal line of ACW figures which I’ve used exclusively to this point.

Without going into the details of assembly (relatively easy) and painting technique (also quite easy), I’ve got about 125 figures painted up now on each side. I’ve also completed some mounted and infantry command, artillery batteries and casualty figures. All figures are based on metal washers, and I also made some movement stands for each unit with magnetic sheets adhered to balsa bases.

First, some of the boys from the South…

    

    

And, some of the boys from up North…

    

    

Now that I’ve got a decent set of figures with which to play, I’m looking forward to setting up a real nice game with the Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn this summer. Just in time for some key ACW anniversaries, I’m really happy to see my Blue and Grey hit the tabletop again.

American Civil War: ACW Artillery in 28mm

I spent this past Sunday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and caught the absolutely spectacular “Photography and the American Civil War” exhibit which runs through September 2, 2013. The hundreds of photos cover a bit of the same ground as past exhibits, documentaries and books, but there’s a lot I had never seen before, too. What spoke to me most were the dozens of simple individual soldier photos. The contrast between the dressed-up idealistic pre-war studio portraits and the devastatingly gruesome prisoner of war and hospital images is wrenching.

Aside from the portraits occupying the bulk of the show, one of my favorite photos from the show was the one shown below by Timothy O’Sullivan from 1864.

Titled “Pennsylvania Light Artillery, Battery B, Petersburg, Virginia,” O’Sullivan’s small photo (maybe 3″ x 9″) purports to give a rare glimpse of a full artillery battery either drilling or possibly in actual combat. The mass of guns, crew and equipment shows the full size and complexity an artillery section brought to the fields of the American Civil War 150 years ago.

My go-to favorite miniatures company for my American Civil War 28mm gaming is Perry Brothers for both their sculpting and reasonable cost in both their plastic and metal ranges. I have three artillery teams painted up  from their metals line, but more guns would always be better. However, each gun team currently runs me about $12. At this price, modelling realistic large-scale batteries like those in the O’Sullivan photo from the Met has seemed pretty cost-prohibitive.

Well, over at the Perry Brothers Plastics Workbench section of their site, they’ve just recently teased a few plastic sprues of artillery which will include carriages, limbers, multiple barrels and crew. The flexibility of the soon-to-come set will allow for modelling of different crews — North and South — as well as rifled and smoothbore gun types.

 

There’s no release date for this set as of yet, but in the meantime there are some nice work-in progress shots I’ve shared here. With a few of these assembled and painted up on each side of my tabletop battlefield, my games will get an added boost of realism captured timelessly in the hundreds of photos currently on view here in New York.

American Civil War: Duryee’s Zouaves in 28mm

Any American school kid with a passing knowledge of the American Civil War will be able to immediately recognize the classic blue uniform of Northern forces and the less regular gray and earth-toned make-up of Southern troops. What’s lesser-known is the fanciful variety that was found in uniforms of some units during the war.

Immediately preceding the American Civil War, Europe’s Crimean War of the 1850s saw the Russian Empire facing off against an alliance of the French, British and Ottomans. The French Zoauve uniform of the Crimean War went on to inspire military uniforms in the United States, and one of the more notable Zouave regiments of the Civil War period was the 5th New York Volunteers or Duryee’s Zouaves.

Formed in New York City in 1861 by Colonel Abram Duryée, the 5th NY Volunteers would find action throughout the war at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg. But it’s the uniforms that make the 5th NY a memorable unit for me. Dressed in baggy red chasseur trousers, dark blue jackets with red braiding and topped in fezzes with yellow tassels, Duryee’s Zouaves offer up one of the more colorful units to deploy on a Civil War gaming table. While some period drawings and photos exist in black and white, the true whimsy of these uniforms can really only be found in the work of modern artists like Don Troiani  (see above) or with active 5th NY Volunteer re-enactor groups.

For miniatures, I love the affordable and well-sculpted variety to be found in the line of 28mm American Civil War models from Perry Brothers. My 5th NY Volunteers are a mix of a Perry Brothers plastic Zouave box set and two sets of their metal Zouave firing/skirmishing line. Perry Brothers offer a nice variety in optional poses and heads in their plastics, and the metal figures offer just a bit more crisp detail. I chose to model most of my Zouaves in their fezzes, as this is how they usually appeared in battle. For variety’s sake, I modeled one unit with turbans which were more common in ceremonial and parade settings. The box set also offers arm options to represent units advancing at “right shoulder shift” and “at the charge” with bayonets leveled at the enemy lines.

Below is an overview of my completed five squads from the 5th NY Volunteers along with their company command stand.

And here’s a close-up of the company command below.

I painted most of the company in their more common battlefield fez headgear, shown below in detail. These figures are the metal Perry Miniatures firing line, while the rest of the company are plastics.

And finally, here’s the one squad in their turbans.

Painting Duryée’s Zoauves was a great break from my usual painting, and now I’m already thinking of some other specific units from the Civil War to mix up the walls of blue and gray lining my tabletop battlefield.

American Civil War: 28mm American Farmhouse

My workbench focus over the past couple of weeks has been almost exclusively on my 28mm American Civil War project which I hope to have wrapped-up and ready to present in a large scale battle this spring. As posted previously, I love setting out a realistic wargaming table full of structures and terrain. Luckily, Perry Miniatures – the maker of my favored 28mm American Civil War soldiers – also produces a couple 1/56th scale plastic kits of terrain suitable to the period.

The Perry Miniatures farmhouse is loosely modelled on General Meade’s Union headquarters from the Battle of Gettsyburg, pictured at right in a photo from the aftermath of the battle and as it looks today. I’ve seen the house in person a couple of times, and I’ve also seen similar buildings in Western New York, Ohio, Michigan and Virginia. The Perry Miniatures model is typical of the small wood-framed clapboard rural farmhouses found in the North, South and into the Great Lakes region from the late 18th through 19th-centuries.

The pieces of the farmhouse kit come in two easily-assembled sprues along with an extra sprue of three types of fencing. The fencing is disappointing and unfortunately doesn’t really offer much to work with in terms of building out a farm scene. Some extra sets of plastic fencing from Renedra are probably needed to really complete the set. However, the box does contain a chair and a couple barrels to add some nice detail to the model’s front porch.

I glued up the kit and sprayed it with a flat black undercoat. My plan was to give the farmhouse a weather-beaten finish looking like it had years of peeling paint. I started by dry-brushing the model with a large flat brush with a yellowish off-white paint, making sure to leave a fair amount of the black in the gaps and areas between the clapboards (photo at top left).

Next, I dry-brushed the house again with a bright white paint, giving the clapboards additional depth as if the most recent layer of paint had deteriorated over time. For the roof shingles, I built-up dry-brushed paint in dark brown, light brown and then a bit of dark green mixed with a brown wash. I began the chimney with a dark gray paint and then finished it with dry-brushed lighter gray and dabs of brown and off-white paint to represent variations in the stonework (photo at middle left).

For details, I dabbed the barrels, chair and porch planking with dark brown and completed them with some lighter brown dry-brushing and some aging metal for the barrel hoops. The door knobs at the front and rear each got a dab of brass paint (photo at bottom left), and I gave the picket fence another coat of the bright white like the house clapboards.

The final results are below and ready for the battlefield this coming spring.