ACW (IV)

Ride on you Wolverines!

Not much to add to the previous posts but I thought it was worth to add a Bibliography and Filmography to the period. You see, yesterday night I was able to finish reading the mammoth account by Shelby Foote THE CIVIL WAR in three volumes… if I had to write an amazon review of it I will be compelled -obliged- to give it five stars, the amount of information is so great that makes for a dense lecture. In fact it took me 25 years to end reading the trilogy -why the five stars? I can hear you say- first and foremost it is a deadly serious book which starts slowly and ends even more slowly!… I would be glad to find an Editor to give me such leeway!. Comprehensive, detailed, somehow the Southern perspective but to be fair it is well balanced, and a big plus explaining the political side of the war -that I would have edited out heavily as some biographical aspects of the life of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis did not appeal to me- as it is a tour de force and I wish I could write something like that myself… Those are minor comments -not even criticisms- because reflecting on it you really see the war as a whole. And that’s that.

After reading a lot of books in the 25 years lapse, many about the ACW too!, I would say it is for real hardcore fans of the period. For Wargaming or Collecting minis of the period it is unnecessary and some of you undoubtedly will find tedious reading. But it would be first on any Bibliography.

My first Video game…

ACW Filmography: GONE WITH THE WIND, THE HORSE SOLDIERS, GODS AND GENERALS, GETTYSBURG, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON, GLORY, MAJOR DUNDEE, SHENANDOAH, THE FIELD OF LOST SHOES, CLASS OF 61, RIDE WITH THE DEVIL and THE GOOD, THE BAD and THE UGLY… to name but a dozen… real fans should also see THE BIRTH OF A NATION and THE GENERAL (Buster Keaton) both silent movies.

ACW Bibliography: THE CIVIL WAR (Shelby Foote), THE CIVIL WAR (Bruce CATTON’S trilogy), CLASHES OF CAVALRY (Thom Hatch), BATTLE TACTICS OF THE CIVIL WAR (Paddy Griffith), BATTLE IN THE CIVIL WAR: GENERALSHIP AND TACTICS IN AMERICA 1861-65 (Paddy Griffith), DON TROIANI’S CIVIL WAR, BATTLEFIELD ATLAS OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR (Symonds), All Ospreys on the subject MAA and Campaign, “THE” Blandford book about Uniforms: UNIFORMS OF THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR , 1861-65 -the first one I ever bought myself!- LA GUERRE DE SECESSION (HEIMDAL Jouineau-Mongin), THE QUEST FOR ANNIHILATION (Cristopher Perello), GETTYSBURG (Stephen W, Sears), GEETYSBURG: THE STORY OF THE BATTLE WITH MAPS (David Reisch and David M. Detweiler), THE CIVIL WAR: THE STORY OF THE WAR WITH MAPS (same), and in fact thousands more…

As an afterthought on ACW Historical Fiction: THE KILLER ANGELS, SHILOH, THE HORSE SOLDIERS, CONFEDERATES, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, THE MARCH, STONEWALL’S GOLD, UNTO THIS HOUR, CIVIL WAR STORIES (A.Bierce)… Frank Yerby, John Jakes, even Bernard Cornwell did 4 novels about it!

Yankees
Rebels

Do whatever you want

Some of the TOTEMS of the hobby.

When I decided to write a book about my personal experiences with Toy Soldiers -and as Dan Allen has remarked some Toy Policemen- it was fun. But it has turned a sobering experience. I first did it in Spanish -just to find that nobody was interested in my ramblings- and secondly I translated the book to English myself… that was really stupid!… First edition not up to par I fear… so in the end just because sheer stubbornness I payed for getting the manuscript edited and revised to make it readable and apt for human consumption. Will never compensate finances involved with sales of the Second English edition but I was less mortified -satisfaction finally was achieved- so far so good.

It would have done me a good turn to read a book like mine when starting in the hobby, but to be really fair maybe I would not have bought it!… there where a lot of other priorities around! So, I must admit it was and is a paradox. Same happens with your experience in real life it is very hard to pass on the hard learned lessons.

Full Brigade of Prussian cavalry -Dragoons at the back-

After careful consideration I summed up my experience with Toy Soldiers in some principles -read advice-

1) Be respectful with other wargamers/collectors choices.

2) Be sure you will have to make compromises with real History.

3) Be free and prime composition over compatibility.

4) Try to be proportional. No 100% Elite Units in an Army.

5) There is no such thing as perfect rulebook so learn to adapt them.

6) Choose your games companions with care.

7) Before buying minis inform yourself.

There you have it in a nutshell.

Old 25/28mm collection. All sold.

Not much original I agree. But those counsels would have saved me a lot of time and cash. I am not a socialite by nature, but leaving far away from places with more common interests did not help at all. Luckily enough my brother shared the interest (because of my bad influence!) and that was enough for me, in fact he has gone over the top and actually WORKS in the games sector for real!… what was a hobby has turned business… well, I always sustained that it is much better to work in something you really love.

As far as it goes nowadays all I can say is ANYTHING GOES! (just emphasis not shouting) -as long it is fun for you- not for me to say what will do for you. I will stand as usual in the fringes trying to be the less obnoxious I can manage… Interacting with real people through my computer is quite satisfactory. No need to buy them drinks, be told his phylias and phobias -and even worse why is that so- a hobby can be boring too if not shared with people within the same range of affinities.

So, there you go, I will end this post with a thought on equipment. Imagine you think getting a Pontoon Train is a good idea… why not?… there are rivers aplenty to ford… Berezina comes to mind!. So what can be said about it?… first of all if wargaming in 6mm your Pontoon Train, deployed or in Transports is quite affordable… I will surely get both versions… on the march and mounted over a river. IF you do not use minis on the stands the same set will be used in no matter what period, glue those Engineers and Pontonniers in separate stands. I have found firms -a google search will suffice- that will cut your stands to measure to suit your needs (Baccus compatible). The Idea of NOT getting minis glued in the stands of your Equipment is extensible to Mule trains, Camel trains, Wagons, and Transports akin, and I never use mounted soldiers on my limbers!… they are useful for a lot of periods that way! You lose some of the appeal of the Military Modeling part of the hobby but gain in space of storage and cash. If you do wargame in different scales at the same time yo will need the double or triple of scenery&equipment… I am not specially fond of investing too much money on scenery, I try to have a few things of quality but not overcomplicate the tabletop landscaping to the full. Be free to do whatever you want yourself!

This pic is not mine. Found on Internet. And I went Playmobil for a decade more or less as a consequence! If a copyright infringed will delete without problems!
Grand Duchy of Blaufosk Infantry. Now owned by one of my grandsons (the Video-games addict!)

Fun

The Three Musketeers + D’Artagnan

I just wanna get fun. This has been and still is the motto, whatever I do it is for FUN. At my age one certainly looks back sometimes to see the long and winding road travelled. Of course, at least in my case, there have been smooth parts and rough one’s, but overall a sense of satisfaction prevails.

As a hobby Toy Soldiers seems pretty simple -and it is not- I guess I am fond of History and this is what lays as the foundations of it. If it was not for a love of History I would not have known about wars… and toy soldiers are a mean to recreate war in a most idealized way, your Toy Soldiers never die after all, they always live to fight another day, just like chess pieces.

Books…

Compared to the actual time spent playing wargames the time I have spent reading books -even about wargaming!- is so disproportionate that in the end it is as if I had not indulged in wargaming at all. Probably an exaggeration?… no, not at all. I have read and collected books about History, and of course good historical fiction related to my favorite periods. So I am first and foremost a reader, somewhat compulsive and obsessed by certain subjects as the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, the Crimean War, Colonial periods… in fact the XIXth Century is where I live when I grab a book. Mind, I have read my classics too. But apart from the second punic war have not been much tempted by Ancients… conflicting sources… biased works… a lot of holes filled by great authors… Republican Rome and Imperial Rome are in a way fascinating, and of course the Greeks before them, but you need very good writers to get hooked aka The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan as an example will suffice.

Not politically correct nowadays!

And NO I do not forget Alexander the Great!… but I am not going to do a full relation of the great captains of all periods… The title of this post says it all, very young I found that reading never let place to boredom, I guess I have not been bored at all -I can be very boring mind!- and had FUN reading, not that I do not like movies and music too… but when a film or record ends I grab a book.

Movies…

That the accumulation of “knowledge” about certain periods as the XIXth Century finally ends in a hobby like wargaming and collecting soldiers is just a consequence -not even logical- but a consequence nevertheless. In it lays the deep question “what if”… no one who reads about Waterloo or The Little Big Horn or The Charge of the Light Brigade can’t avoid thinking that it could have been different after all… some disasters let you puzzled by its idiocy -hindsight is that cruel- and of course if you have travelled the path of wargaming WHAT IF is what is all about.

Napoleonic sets of Rules…

FUN I achieved reading, but I achieved fun seeing films about my pet periods, enjoyed the music -the real and some soundtracks- and had lots of FUN searching for toy soldiers to play at it, organizing and bathtubing the opposing Armies, obtaining them, painting them, basing them, converting minis when not commercially available, choosing scales, choosing rules or doing my own… and finally playing with them with my brother. Later my sons. And now pestering my grandchildren about it explaining patiently to them there is FUN in it, while they play video games with all sorts of electronic devices… for what I have seen they consist mainly in characters parachuted into an island, collect things and weapons and try to kill anyone around… not so different from wargaming!… except the uniforms, my toy soldiers do not dress like a giant banana.

If you do not have FUN it is not worthwhile at all, as all other pastimes around.

Holmes & Watson
Hunter or Mountain Man…

Disorders

Military Modeling as a distraction…

Megalomania is a common affliction in the hobby, I have been infected by it several times in my long span messing with toy soldiers. Not a severe case mind, there are others much more sick that yours truly -I felt relieved when I knew about them- summing up it consists in a vague tendency to cope with too much by far, exceeding the limits of space, time, and also the patience of your relatives.

The tendency of taking a break from your main interest -be that what it may- because a certain tiresome feeling and repetition… or monotony on a certain period sometimes causes in the hobby what I call the sidetrack addiction. Wargamers when bored to death just start a new adventure -read period- instead of taking a holiday or try golf. they simply change scale (usually a mistake) or maybe try a new era.

Sometimes a Book opens new horizons… P.C.Wren mentioned them as I recall so I will have a go at them after all.

I have felt like a hamster on a wheel several times. But if your cage is spacious enough why not jump to that other wheel?. It is a well known fact that we are never satisfied by a single period, probably the mono thematic wargamer exists in some dark corner of the world and will be found before the extinction of the species… or dug out in the future who knows? but he or she is an exception to the rule.

Mr Sharpe and Sergeant Harper with the Light Co of the South Essex.

When confronted with boxes and boxes full of plastic bags with minis aplenty on your cupboard… say Napoleonic’s for a laugh!… you sigh and close the door. Then after “original” and sound reflexion you decide -eureka- that what you need is a breath of fresh air. You are not going to be unfaithful to your main interest! -perish the thought!- but what about trying that so different range of minis which of course been a minor period you will do just for fun. You have always wanted to raid in a Viking Ship!, or hunt buffalos!, or lead a small patrol in a skirmish, impersonate Sharpe, do a bit of swashbuckling… whatever…

Tatanka!

Now, If you have a main interest that surely has happened already… but what if you have several “main interests”… and keep sidetracking all the time?… You then pass from Megalomania to a Lead Tons Hoarder.

I guess not many of you have indulged in that!

Usually Megalomania starts with the well know syndrome of “if I had another battalion…” At the end of a game and seeing your troops leave the battlefield humbled and in more or less disarray the thought appeared to you as the magic solution! Increase the size of your Army!… that way if your left flank gives way you will plug the hole with your reserves… one can never have enough reserves (or Prussians as Wellington said an 18th June).

Seriously, and I am deadly serious, sidetracks are a lot of fun!… you know you will get to paint after difficult research that obscure Opolchenie Russian unit… but what about an Apache Raid?

Apaches!…Where is the cavalry?

This and superglued fingers are the two most common maladies of the wargamer, collectors do sidetrack too, and anyone involved in this pastime… even military modeler artists do stray from the “right” path sometimes.

As it is a non infectious thing and do not cause premature death -in fact it can save you from a dead of boredom- I will leave it like that for your consideration… only old wargamers can resist the temptation taking a look behind them and thinking UF! I already did that some time ago!

This band simply does not exist in the market, Gilles Brown from Dorset Soldiers did it for me using arms from Britain’s and Tradition of London kits (they did only fifes and drums you know!). I sold them and it was a heavy mistake!…I really miss them!… but I needed space in the cabinet and was a theme not related to anything else.
Pilots in distress…in North Africa.

ACW (III)

I wish I was at Joy of Six today… (not near me at all).

Stonewall Jackson

I wanted to explain -no need at all in fact- why I find so interesting the ACW. A quite modern Republic, with a great Constitution and not even a Century of existence torn apart by a political argument (and two very different ways of life). Was a State paramount in legislation inside his border limits? or do the Central U.S.A administration superseded those and could prevail over the State decisions?… in fact that was the original dispute brewing for years until it exploded. Of course the matter of slavery was an issue but it was used politically later on because the Constitution allowed it! Of course it was also the time of abolition everywhere around the world and the Confederacy “way of living” or economy if you prefer was doomed as it was.

That clever Prussian-Helmuth Von Moltke- said he was not interested in “armed mobs chasing each other through the woods“, which as a definition of the war was short sighted.

Phil Sheridan

You have a war to wargame that starts at Bull Run / First Manassas with similarly clad (some Union Regiments wore grey and some Confederacy wore Blue) amateur Armies. And from then on until Appomattox you have practically all, Attacks, Defenses, Sieges, Cavalry Raids, Cavalry Battles, Mini-Campaigns as Jackson’s Valley one!, Outflanking moves by whole Armies… the change from Napoleonic Warfare to nearly WWI tactics and above all a list of colorful characters, General Lee, who was offered command -and refused loyal to Virginia- of the Union Armies at the beginning of the crisis -tell me which other war has that characteristic- General Grant who understood modern war and was all business, Sherman (total war), Sheridan, Longstreet, Beauregard, JEB Stuart, Custer, Kilpatrick, Gregg, Buford, Meade, Picket, Hood, Johnston… I could go on and on. Even fanatics of naval warfare can have their day. Railways, Telegraph, Balloons, Ironclads, it is really a fascinating period… and it is “compact” meaning 1861-1865.

R.E.Lee

I enjoyed the Napoleonic period to the full but would not touch it again with a six foot Pole… -pun intended-). A veteran wargamer of the Napoleonic period can always claim his disgust of the long span of time covered and the CHANGES in uniforms and organization… etc. maybe one day I will write a Post about it, but it completely surpasses the lonely solo wargamer, I am convinced that you need a large Club to fully appreciate it, just the changes of uniforms and headgear on such a long period are a nightmare for me… the French Infantry used bicornes at Austerlitz… The British Heavy Cavalry in the Peninsula used also a different headgear as it was with the Infantry that had stovepipe shakos not usable in Waterloo… oh Dear! The more you read and learned the less exact were your wargames units in dress and composition…

Getting back to the point, and from a wargamer perspective even the sizes of the Armies are manageable, no LEIPZIG thank you!. And what is more you can use them indistinctly for the Eastern and Western theaters!

Rules aplenty exist -I work my own- and some are very good, I used Fire&Fury with great satisfaction. You will pay your money and get your choice. I am quite liberally minded and do not preach or ask for proselytes -perish the thought- One of the FUN of the period is the sheer incompetence of generalship -not exclusively in the Union side- political appointed Generals who could not command a corporal’s guard. I love chance cards in my games, you know what I mean, you throw a six and have to turn a card… lol… The First division has lost its way and would not come at all; The ADC with the orders has been shot and you know nothing of the change of plans; A fall from a horse has injured and incapacitated the leader of your Cavalry; and so on…

U.S.Grant

Been solo has its rewards too. But I fondly remember a Napoleonic game I staged for several people a long time ago where commander and sub-commanders could only speak to each other (on the same side of course!) when in base contact… all other communications where via couriers galloping with written messages!… I nearly died laughing seen the expressions on the faces of the Generals when reading messages!… puzzled does not even begin to describe it!.

So, let the ACW be with this last Post about it… will probably actualize the pics later on. As Groucho said: Your Honor I rest my case!

It has not rested a lot!… just today I ordered more Infantry from Mersey Wargames for 1st Bull Run/1st Manassas. Brigades with colours inverted … blue one’s with Reb Colours and grey one’s with Union Colours… to add to the confusion of the first battle!… Have to write a Post about Disorders or Megalomania too!… thought I was cured!…

ACW (II)

Just for the sake of it. Rebels deployed.

So, to sum up: I started wargaming in a rudimentary form on the floor with 54mm “rubber” soldiers (1). I then discovered the plastic AIRFIX whole range in 20mm -in fact 4 different boxes; Union Infantry (blue), Confederate Infantry (grey); Artillery (medium brown) for both sides; and finally US Cavalry (Blue) that you had to paint for the Rebs- and went for them boxes like the quest of the Grail! (2). One day at the Tradition of London shop I asked for them and was politely informed that they did not stocked “plastic rubbish” -my first visit to a shop that later on was a fix appointment when in London- Then, after hard reflexion on the meaning of “rubbish” I discovered metal MINIFIGS -then based at SOUTHAMPTON near the Eye Hospital if I remember well- (3); the Armies grew and Old Glory were added to them, even some Hinchcliffe I think found their way into the ranks, and of course some old 25mm Tradition of London (made in Sweden). That was it for decades. I was proud and happy.

Then the 25mm too big to play area crisis caught me and I sold them nearly all. Some of them -those Union painted by me- became property of my brother who had the Rebs and no crisis of confidence. We even exchanged some Napoleonic’s for them… I kept the Napoleonic’s longer than the rest… but they were sold too in the end!

Then FOUNDRY started an ACW range and I could not resist buying ACW UNION Cavalry under THE HORSE SOLDIERS influence, by then I was mixing riders and horses (Dixon) and making conversions -nearly military modeling- one thing lead to another and I got some Artillery… and then why not? some Infantry -you need some at Brandy Station I reasoned- of course I bought the Confederates too… That was my fourth effort! (4). Finally, crisis struck again and my faith in 25/28mm was shattered… sold them all.

With the funds obtained I started building Playmobil Armies for my first two grandsons… once organized I thought it was a way to confront brother against brother in a too realistic way and scratched out the project… Sold them all again. (5) And went “tricorne era” fictional Playmobil Armies much more clean in spirit!.

And where was I?… Reading Practical Wargamer… and there I found Baccus ACW Cavalry on the cover of one number!… nothing less than East Cavalry Field (again)… months of musing about it… I bought POLEMOS ACW rules and fell in l love with the color pics -Rules as it is I prefer my own as always- And then to make a long story short I went Baccus ACW 6mm for both sides (6).

Do not pity me!… I had tons of FUN in the whole process that lasted years and years…

So there you have it, I have build six times the period and have read a long list of books about it, by the way Paddy Griffith is very good at it!. There are two very good books to own by him: BATTLE IN THE CIVIL WAR Generalship and Tactics in America 1861-1865 with stunning artwork. And then BATTLE TACTICS OF THE CIVIL WAR. As per uniforms information the best to my knowledge apart from the Osprey’s, old Blanford, and Troiani’s and Kuntsler’s and Rocco’s paintings the best single volume is: La GUERRE de SECESSION Les armées de l’Union et de la Confederation- by HEIMDAL in France, and there is an edition with English text I guess.

Very good textbook.
Excellent Illustrations. A must have book.

Now, as I have in my modest collection enough troops to have fun -megalomania is a pest to avoid- and all the references of Baccus catalogue! I am satisfied. I must confess the range is splendid and one of the best in Peter’s production, have put a limit to it and only 24 Union Brigades and 18 Confederate Brigades of Infantry make the nucleus, + Artillery -with limbers- (those limbers are used also in colonial affairs mind) and mounted and dismounted Cavalry. I even have some Rapier Union Infantry to add a bit of variety and also Rapier Cavalry on both sides. I even mixed minis from other periods getting French with kepi from the Franco-Prussian Baccus range too… anything to add variety. Im my opinion one of the best packs is ACW7 because it has hat and kepi figures and some with rolled blankets across the chest -always a favorite of mine- so, if I started anew building Baccus ACW Armies I would surely get all the packs but ACW7 would have the lion’s share of the purchase.

Enough for today. I provide old 6mm pics but will edit sometime this summer!

Union 6 Corps. -on the lid of a box!-
Confederacy 3 Corps.

ACW (I)

Our first “serious” ACW battle with Airfix plastic Armies (scenario by Charles Grant).

ACW was my first love, and thats that. Of course I did Napoleonic’s in 25mm MINIFIGS, but that was easy to understand too, everybody else did!… Imperial Guard!… Austerlitz!… Waterloo!… you named it… The IQ of Napoleon would have astounded a lot of people they say… but someone who invades Russia in 1812 with an “European conquered” Army must be a bit mad too. Ok, enough.

The main reason of wargaming again the ACW (must be my sixth time) this time in 6mm is because it is well balanced (not their arms mind, Infantry was already paramount and Artillery badly used still was important, Cavalry I just love but been realistic it was quite secondary.

Shiloh 25mm MINIFIGS.
MINIFIGS 25mm.

It all started with John Ford and THE HORSE SOLDIERS which I saw so many times when a child that left an everlasting impression, and I did not dig all the nuances until I was older, for me it is a masterpiece of condensation, nearly everything is there. If you add to that my old 54mm soldiers, AIRFIX 20mm period, MINIFIGS, FOUNDRY. DIXON, TO THE REDOUBT, PLAYMOBILS and finally BACCUS… Recurrent is the word you are looking for…

Grierson’s Raid.
Close up.

If I say that I am still reading SHELBY FOOTE IIIrd Volume you may be surprised, but no, it has a reason, in the meantime I have read lots of other books about that war and others, but there is such amount of info per page that I have to take it slowly and gusto.

Probably up to Gettysburg it has a feel of the Napoleonic Wars, fought by amateurs (as if they were not amateurs also in the Napoleonic wars… plenty of them!) learning hard lessons on the way. And after that it smacks a bit of WWI with all those trenches, fieldworks etc. DIG IN!… the King of Spades was Lee’s surname well before 1864!.

The Michigan Brigade at East Cavalry Field 1863.
Come on You Wolverines!

Of course refighting historical battles as they do in LITTLE WARS TV is Ok, but I always enjoyed “doing my own”… it is very hard to simulate in the Tabletop the disinformation of Generals (The overestimation of The Southern Armies numbers by the Union Generals is a well know fact!). Still Bull Run (1st Manassas) is still a favorite… but mainly I build an scenario with a bit of fog of war, try to enlist some generals from my brother downwards and that’s it.

There are a lot of other periods interesting of course!, Napoleonic’s dominated my wargaming life for thirty years… always have been tempted by the Franco-Prussian War (but it is so one-sided… hard to simulate the sheer incompetence of the French Army at Command level… and the Political intrigues!); there are very good books about this one. And the Uniforms are nice.

But, apart from other lines of entertainment with Baccus figures, at the moment it is the ACW who wins all bets. I have the Armies, the scenery and the will, but must write some easy to understand home rules for my grandchildren, always have loved simple rules but with a twist some place.

Union Battery, mix of Foundry and Dixon 28mm.
Foundry Rebels, some are customized exchanging heads.
I build the Armies with Playmobils too!
Playmobil customized Zouaves 75mm.
Playmobil ACW Armies ready for shipping elsewhere…