Wargames set in the Americas from the 11th to 19th centuries

Monday, 22 May 2017

Battle of Centerville 4: First company of Confederate Infantry complete

It was nice and bright today, so having got up very early to finish my Mexican briefing for a minister, I took an hour at lunchtime to finish my first company of Confederate infantry for the battle of Centerville.  The Order of Battle requires three regiments of three companies of nine, so this is a ninth of the Confederate infantry force.  These are going to represent a Georgia regiment.

Now, it is much more complex to identufy a suitable uniform for an ACW confederate force than for, say, a Napolenic unit because not only were regiments formed from different companies often dressed in very different uniforms but those uniforms changed over the course of the war as clothing became more oe less available.  It seems, however, that Georgia was pretty good at ensuring its troops had uniforms so I have painted mine in a reasonably regular way. I have included a number of typically Georgian elements on some of the figures, like the square gate belt buckle and black collars.

Centerville is a fictitious battle but I am imagining it to be in the mid-war period when Georgia issued its troops with shell jackets (they had worn frock coats earlier).

It is quite depressing to see how poor my painting has become but I hope that they will look OK as a bigger group!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Battle of Centerville 3: Union cavalry completed and Confederate infantry under way

I finished the Union cavalry some weeks ago and was quite pleased with the way they turned out, despite finding them something of a struggle.  Fortunately, I only have one more unit of cavalry to do, for the Confederates, and I am contemplating doing them in regulation dress with yellow kepis, as that is how I painted my Airfix ones.  They won't be done until I have finished the first regiments of Confederate and Union infantry, however. Then it will be two more units of infantry,  Then an artillery battery, followed by more infantry and then the other artillery battery.   I have now completed one out of ten units.  I also realised that the cavalry is the first box of plastic historicals I have completed.  I have done Lord of the Rings figures but never finished a box of historical figures before, despite starting many.

Having finished the Union cavalry I took a break from the ACW to do some Zulus and some figures for the 2nd Afghan War.  I was sort of putting off getting on with the Confederate infantry as I found the cavalry figures rather hard work, mainly because the Perry ACW figures are smaller than the other figures I have been painting.  Having finished some Sikhs I was contemplating doing some Afghans next but I picked up the first nine confederate infantry (which I had the base colours down on) and decided to see how much I could do today,  I moved them along quite well from that rather depressing 'just started' state to a 'well under way' state. Partly this is because we had good light today which, I realise, was the main problem in trying to paint the cavalry.  Much to my surprise, I actually enjoyed painting them, so will focus on these for the next week or so.

Left: Old Perry plastics Right: new Confederate infantry

I already had a box of the Perry plastic confederates and also a box of their generic ACW troops ,which started the whole plastic 28mm craze back in 2008.  There is no doubt that the new ACW infantry are superior to the old ones (especially in things like detail on the muskets) but I was pleased to see that the old one piece (at least no separate arms to fiddle about with) figures go quite well with the newer figures, size-wise, and I have happily put them together in the same unit.  The newer figures do have more fragile bayonets, though, although they are not as bad as the Perry plastic Prussians, where I have managed to bend almost every bayonet so that they look like soft plastic figures.

Speaking of which, I went for the marching poses on this first unit as it reminds me of these old Airfix ones, which are, therefore, appropriately Terence Wise.  I have to make three regiments of 27 figures but am not sure if I will have them all in a marching position (which is very old school) or not.

I had originally thought that this unit would be Texans (the scenario requires a unit each of Texans, Virginians and Georgians) but then I came across this picture of Texans.  I really like their frock coats and black trim so I am going to do them in metal as Perry have Confederates in frock coats.  It does, admittedly, detract from the plasticness of it but there you are.  I will see if I can find them at Salute. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Battle of Centreville 2: Union cavalry - first horses completed.

We actually had a bit of light this morning so I managed to finish the first half dozen horses for the Union cavalry.  Fortunately I only need 12 for Centreville and I have already tarted the others. I even painted the faces and hands of the cavalrymen but next will be the saddles and saddlecloths.  I am consciously trying not to paint to my best ability here but just make them "good wargames standard".
I hope to get a bit more done tomorrow morning.

In the evenings I am starting to assemble and base my first units of Confederate infantry and have done 15 so far.  Once I have finished the Union cavalry I will start painting the Confederate infantry and then base and assemble the first Union infantry. 

The biggest discovery today was that I can still see to paint if the light is good enough.  Probably November was not the right month to re-start painting again after six months off, though!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Battle of Centerville 1: Union cavalry under way

The Battle of Centerville from An Introduction to Battle Gaming

Not that I need any more projects but I have always wanted to do something around the American Civil War and have even painted a few figures for the Battle of First Bull Run.  I started my proper wargaming with Airfix ACW (supplemented, of course with the US Cavalry) back in the early seventies. A recent article in one of the wargames magazines re-fought a fictional battle from Terence Wise's An Introduction to Battlegaming using Perry plastics. Rather than worrying about orders of battle and huge forces for a historical battle I reaslised I could do the same, recreating a 'historic' battle from my early wargaming past.

Now, I already had a box of Perry plastic cavalry so last weekend while watching TV I assembled these and cur bases for them. It took me two nights but by the end of the X-Factor (which the Old Bat watched and I only glimpse at if the X-Factor dancers appear) I had them all done.  Things took longer than they should have as I had lost my plastic sprue clippers somewhere.  I think the bat has pinched them for her flower arranging!  She denies it, of course!  The horses come in two parts and the riders consist of main figure with separate right arm, hat and carbine

Anyway, this morning I lined them up to start working on their bases.  I use Humbrol plastic model filler for this and also filled some of the gaps around the necks where the two halves of the horse fit together as some of them weren't as tight as they might be.  

By lunchtime I had got the filler on the horses and bases and added a few bits of ting grave, and sand with PVA so they were ready for undercoating after I had lunch and went to Waitrose.

I didn't get back until about three but I just managed to get them undercoated outside before it got too cold and damp.  I used up the very last of my Games Workshop spray undercoat.  I was so pleased with my progress that I put down the base colours of the horses a bit later too.

After a bit of research I found that Union cavalry horses were procured centrally, unlike the Confederate cavalry where individuals had to  provide their own mounts.  The government favoured chestnuts, bays and black horses.  I will save the more exotic horses for the Confederates.  There was no tradition of greys for buglers in North America, either.

The next stage will be to shade the horses, then do hooves and eyes and the socks and nose blazes etc.  I really like painting horses and these have limited harnesses, thank goodness. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Toluca battalion under way

I first undercoated these figures about two years ago but have dug them out to give them a bit more attention.  They will represent the Toluca activo battalion at the Alamo who were one of Santa Anna's top units. losing 30% of their number at the Alamo and the rest at San Jacinto.  I have used the Boot Hill Miniatures running figures to make them a bit less regimented when compared with the permanentes.

The battalion's flag was captures at San Jacinto and survives to this day although 'activo' was misspelled during restoration

This unit had around 320 men during the Alamo campaign; which means 32 figures at my initial 1:10 ratio.  I need another ten figures and as part of these I will order some skirmishing figures to represent the cazadores.  It is unlikely that the cazadores in an activo battalion would have all had Baker Rifles (I have two in the unit so far), so these will be fine.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Matamoros Battalion Completed

Here is the first of my completed Mexican units for the Alamo: The Matamoros Battalion.  They were a permanante regiment of regulars and were part of the third column which assaulted the eastern wall.  Their cazadores and granaderos went into composite units of the same type; the cazadores as part of the much smaller fourth column and the granaderos as part of the reserve.  

Cazadores with their Baker rifles

I have represented them here at a rough ratio of 1:10 but may well, in the future increase their number.  Some illustrations have them wearing the earlier 1832 double breasted coat but no one makes those figures so I am happy with the way they are in their 1833 regulation uniforms.  I'm sure there were a mixture in use at the time.

The commander of the unit at the Alamo was the 38 year old Colonel José Maria Romero, who also led the whole third column attack.  He was captured at San Jacinto but later released.  I have since bought a pack of senior officers from Boot Hill so might paint one of these up to represent Col Romero and demote the existing officer to an activo battalion.

The unit was originally formed in 1823 and by the time of the Alamo was one of the Mexican army's top battalions.  Despite taking heavy casualties at the Alamo ,Santa Anna had them as part of the army which pursued Sam Houston's force.  At the Battle of San Jacinto they were virtually annihilated, their standard was captured and is now in the Texas State Archives.  

To make my standard I took the flag you can buy from Boot Hill Miniatures but added my own scan of the Mexican Eagle from a picture of the original flag, for added authenticity.

Mariano Matamoros

The battalion was, like all of the 10 permanente battalions, named after a Mexican hero; in this case Fray Mariano Matamoros, a priest who became a military commander during the fight for Mexican independence but who was captured and executed by the Spanish.  The name does not, as might be thought, indicate that the troops came from the region around the town of Matamoros; the town part of the Texian forces launched a military expedition against before the Alamo siege, thereby dividing their forces.  The town of Matamoros was named for Fray Mariano as well, the name being changed from its original San Juan de los Esteros Hermosos in 1826.  Only the activo militia battalions came from particular regions reflected in their names.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Books on the Alamo: Part 1

One of the biggest expenses in working on a new wargaming period for me is the reference books to go with it.  I usually spend more money on the accompanying books than I do on the figures.

While there have been a huge number of books written on the Texan Revoloution (compared with, say, the Latin American Wars of Independence - at least in English) there is still a huge amount of controversy about what did or didn't happen.  Such uncertainty and the existence of alternative views is actually good news for a wargamer and adds to the "what if?" scenarios considerably.  While always approaching my wargaming, on the whole, from a historical perspective, the Mexican's campaign in Texas lends itself to very many alternative scenarios (what if the Texans hadn't defended the Alamo? What if the weather had been better after San Jacinto and enabled  a Mexican counter-attack etc.).

I have had a few books on the Alamo for some time but recently have been adding to my collection as I find reading about a particular campaign or battle keeps me focussed (as much as anything can keep me focussed, of course).  So it's time for a quick tour of the Alamo library starting, in this post, with those books which I bought mainly for the illustrations.

First up (top) is the Osprey The Alamo 1836 (2001) by Stephen L Hardin, who was the historical advisor on the 2004 The Alamo film.  With some atmospheric paintings by Angus McBride and excellent typical "Campaign" maps (which work particularly well on the small scale battlefields of the Alamo and San Jacinto) it's one of the best of the series.

The Alamo and the War of Texan Independence (1835-36) (1986) is the oldest of the three Ospreys on the subject.  There are four pages of Texian and four pages of Mexican uniforms.  The Mexican section is quite good although one picture is incorrect in showing white, not red, piping on the jacket.  These pictures were almost certainly used by the sculptor producing the Boot Hill Miniatures, from the look of them.

The final Osprey on the period is Santa Anna's Mexican Army 1821-48 (2004)and is the most recent.  Rene Chartrand is an expert on Mexican uniforms and has published several papers on the subject in the Company of Military Historians Journal.   However, this book covers the period before the Texan Campaign as well as the Mexican-American War a decade later.  The Mexicans changed their uniforms a few years before the Texan Campaign so many sources for uniform details are looking at earlier period uniforms.  Chartrand's book is pretty good in describing these changes but only a couple of pages of Bill Younghusband's crisp illustrations refer to the period in question.

One of the advantages in travelling via Texas half a dozen times a year is the fact I can pick up books on The Alamo which are harder to track down (at a reasonable price, anyway) in the UK.   Uniforms of the Alamo (2003) has the most detail of all the uniform books and while the illustrations aren't up to Osprey standards the text is very useful.  It suffers, like many uniform books, in having an over-concentration on senior officers' uniforms.

The Alamo (2002) by Frank Thompson, who also wrote a behind the scenes of the 2004 film book, has over seventy illustrations, some of which had never been published before.  It draws on a wide source of illustrations from period pictures, film stills and even comic books to illustrate its excellent summary of the siege.