Category Archives: American Civil War

A Little Painting & Basing

As regular readers know I have been using the Volley & Bayonet rules for many years for my 18th and 19th Century wargaming. In my view they are an excellent set of rules and a level that aligns to my reading of the great battles of the period. Indeed, the rules have allowed me to refight many of the great battles of the period. Some that spring to mind are Aspern-Essling, Ligny, Waterloo, Antietam, Gettysburg and Chickamauga, along with many others. All possible due to the very clever period specific rules.

Each historical refight has provided a fascinating game, but also they have provide an opportunity to further understand these battles. These refights have also been supplemented by many fictional encounters, ideal when time is lacking. These of course lack the historical background yet provide their own interesting narrative. Not unlike  the narrative of historical battles of the period. For me that’s a sign of a good set of rules.

But of course playing these battles requires miniatures to be painted. Our lockdown, due to the pandemic, provided a little more time to dust of various miniatures in my burgeoning lead pile, pick up a paintbrush, and paint what ended up being rather a lot of miniatures.

Now, some background. Over recent years I have been slowly focussing my limited painting time on the refurbishment of several of my miniature armies. All of which use 1/300th or 6mm miniatures from Heroics & Ros. This typically has meant a combination of rebasing miniatures – including increasing the number of figures per base, increasing the figure variety on bases, changing my labelling system and painting additional miniatures.

Some armies, such as the Anglo-Dutch and Brunswick troops shown above, have newly painted figures to supplement those previously painted allowing rebasing to continue.

Other projects have been relatively small, a sub project if you like. An example being the expansion of my Napoleonic Russians which were woefully short of cavalry. These can be seen above and below.

Now of course the pandemic ensured I couldn’t order more miniatures, or at least expect them to arrive quickly. So as mentioned the focus was on the lead mountain. Over the years I have collected a lot of odds and ends in second purchases. So one day I sat down and lay out all the second hand unpainted French Napoleonic figures purchased at bargain prices. After some thought I realised that I had almost enough for another large expansion project.

Above and below Napoleonic French cavalry for my Waterloo project. All are newly painted. Each cavalry stand represents a brigade of 1000 to 1500 men.

Here I’ve opted to model two regiments per brigade using the Hundred Days Orders of Battle. So any brigade here will have the correct facings for its historical equivalent. Above are four brigades of Dragoons in front, each brigade having two Dragoon regiments. Behind are four brigades of Cuirassiers. In total above there are the equivalent of 8000 French cavalry.

Below, another eight eight French cavalry brigades also for Waterloo, many of which are light cavalry. There include Lancers, Chasseurs and Hussars to name a few.

Currently on the painting table are the infantry, an additional 400 French infantry. This project, when added to previously painted miniatures, will see all the French units present in the Hundred Days campaign completed. This will allow the battles of Waterloo and Wavre to be refought on one long table. A project I’ve often pondered, but that really seemed unachievable.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before starting the French I started on my American Civil War armies.

Above and below a portion of the Confederate reinforcements.

Like the cavalry previously each infantry stand is 1.5″ square. Now however each brigade stand typically represents 1500 to 2500 men. Each stand has between 25 to 28 figures per base with additional figure variation adding, I feel, to the overall visuals.

Returning readers may also note the use of white text on black labels, something that I am increasingly pleased with. Of course changing labels in part of the army means doing all the bases.

Of course the Union army also needs reinforcements and these too have had some focus. In addition to several Union infantry brigades I have added artillery.

Below, a massive Union deployment of rifled artillery. In Volley & Bayonet an artillery stand typically represents 12 guns. With a frontage of 0.75″ per stand at the ground scale we are using each artillery stand frontage is around 150 yards.

Combining all the painting, the photos being just a subset, over recent months many hundreds of new figures have been painted and merged into the existing armies. A very pleasing result.

Of course painting is one thing, getting them on the table is another. Long delayed by the pandemic over the last few weeks we have finally returned to some rewarding multiplayer games using Volley & Bayonet. These games have of course provided an opportunity to deploy portions of my American Civil War armies. You can find a short game report of one of these games here.

USS Cairo

Today I have started to explore the Vicksburg National Military Park, but unfortunately progress has been slow due to significant periods of rain. Hopefully, weather permitting, I will complete the key elements tomorrow and in due course post an overview of my visit. However, I felt a few photos of USS Cairo deserves its own post.

Cairo was an ironclad of the City class and was part of the Western Gunboat flotilla. She operated on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and tributaries. In December 1862 she was sunk by a mine and sank in twelve minutes. Her resting place on the Yahzoo River was over the years was lost. However, eventually relocated she was raised from the mud in 1964.

A view of the port side of Cairo. Cleary visible are the forward facing guns as well as several port facing cannon. Supporting beams are visible, which also indicate the general shape, along with her original timbers.

Above, a wonderful view from the inside showing her paddle wheel and associated drive.

Here, her five boilers seen from the inside centre. The firebox on the left is apparently a reconstruction.

Above and below, views of the starboard side of Cairo. Above additional railway iron fitted to protect her while below showing iron plate.

The cannon were a mix of rifled and smoothbore pieces and of various sizes. The cannons themselves are her originals, though the carriages are reproductions.

Below, a view of her stern. The timber in her rudders are mostly new.

Another view of her stern, now from a port perspective.

I had been looking forward to seeing Cairo and I was well rewarded by my visit. I hope this selection of these photos proves of interest to some.

Lee & Meade at Hazel Run

Continuing what seems to be an American Civil War theme, I’ve recently posted a report of one of our recent Friday evening Volley & Bayonet encounters. Using armies based on the Bristoe Campaign of October 1863, we deployed the figures for what was a most enjoyable game. Enjoyable from a game perspective, but equally interesting from an historical perspective.

To place it in some context just outside of Fredericksburg are the battlefields of Chancellorsville, the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. The last two cover Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign – where Meade commanded much of the Union army. Unlike the Campaigns of 1862 here Grant, despite being fought to a standstill, just wouldn’t break off. Instead the Union army slipped east, eventually ending around Petersburg.

For me this most recent fictional battle reminded me of the impacts of the terrain and the resolve the commanders had to damage the enemy army. In our game our “Wilderness”, despite being much smaller and of course meaning the field was considerably more open, had a similar impact. Further, like the actual battles at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, casualties were horrific.

You will find a summary of Hamstrung at Hazel Run, our fictional game, in my Volley & Bayonet section. For those interested in a summary of my visit to the Wilderness Battlefield posted a couple of years back, it can be found here.

Fredericksburg

This week I’ve been reminiscing a little on my trip in September 2015 to several American Civil War battlefields on east coast. Some readers may even recall a series of articles I compiled back then as I travelled from one battlefield to another. My aim was not to post an in-depth record, but rather my thoughts each evening, as I contemplated the day. Given I was visiting battlefields each day even a small delay would mean I would get behind. As a result several battlefields failed to gain a mention at the time. One of those battlefields that failed to be recorded at the time was Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg holds a fascination for me. In part due to Burnside’s promotion after Antietam and part due to the complexity of the problems associated with such a crossing. Yet despite this I haven’t recreated the battle on the table top, though it continually beckons.

Prior to my visit it had been suggested by a couple of people that there was little to see at Fredericksburg as the field had been built over. To a point they were correct, but from another perspective I feel they were wrong. Indeed, I wish I had allowed more time at Fredericksburg.

My first stop when visiting National Battlefield Park sites is the visitor centres, in part due to a small fee at a number but in edition to collect a copy of the excellent park maps. These maps provide a few key points in what is typically a driving tour and tend from these points it is often worth striking out on foot. In the case of Fredericksburg I had earlier visited the other park office at Chancellorsville – four battlefields are administered by the same area and map. However, with another park office next to the Sunken Road another visit was called for. I’m so pleased I did.

While waiting to ask a question I was rewarded with a very informative explanation of the gentle slope from the Marye’s Heights and the Sunken Road to historic Fredericksburg being delivered to two visiting Americans. The park officer in question was explained how to view the streets leading up towards the Sunken Road and how, using parked cars, you could see even today the swale (or depression) which provided valuable but critical cover for the Union troops. I was impressed! Yet again the park staff are a wonderful source of information.

If you are visiting Fredericksburg there are a couple of things you really must see. Of course you must spend time at the Sunken Road, and consider both the original wall and reconstructed areas. An original section of the wall is shown above and a close up view of Innis House below. From this area you can also view the swale, or depression, that provided critical cover. While in the area take the short stroll to the nearby Confederate artillery positions. A simple map from the park office provides guidance.

After, a visit to Chatham Manor is required. Located across the Rappahannok River, on the Stafford Heights, the building provides good views of Fredericksburg and equally impressive Union siege guns deployed to provide supporting fire for the Union troops crossing the river.

In December 1862 Union artillery was deployed all along the Stafford Heights, but even this section will provide a sample. While at Chatham you will also be rewarded with a visit the the manor and with a reproduction of a pontoon bridge, though reduced in scale somewhat. I understand this was built for the movie “Gods and Generals”.

Below, a period view of a pontoon bridge at Fredericksburg, where General Franklin crossed. All the period photos show a very open battlefield and are ideal for gauging an understanding of how the battlefield today differs from that in 1862.

Having considered the battlefield from the Union perspective I returned to the Confederate lines and traced the Rebel positions from south of Marye’s Heights, via Lee’s Drive to view Lee’s Hill, Howison Hill and south towards Prospect Hill. Unfortunately the trees provide considerable visual obstacles today for viewing the battlefield, however the artillery and slopes ensures the visitor has clarity on the difficulty faced by the Union army in December 1862.

I was particularly surprised by the climb up Telegraph Hill (now called Lee’s Hill) to what was a commanding position and for much of the battle Lee’s Headquarters. Below, a 30-pdr Parrott on Lee’s Hill similar to the one that exploded here.

As we continue towards the Confederate right the ground has generally less height. Eventually we arrive at Prospect Hill which effectively marks the end of the battlefield and was held by Jackson. Prospect Hill is just to the south of Meade’s attack and breakthrough. Hopefully more ground in the area of Meade’s attack, between the Confederate positions and the river, will be added to the battlefield park in the coming years. Certainly I would have valued the opportunity to explore this area in more depth.

Unfortunately for me daylight was almost gone and I had to end my visit here.

If you are interested in reading more on the Fredericksburg Battlefield I encourage you to visit Peter Glyer’s excellent website Mercer Square. Peter’s site provides a range of interesting and very detailed articles on the battlefield. In addition, and in something of a twist Peter was the park volunteer I encountered on my visit to Fredericksburg and who provided such valuable input for my visit. In addition I suggest you visit the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania site Mysteries & Conundrums.

Move Swiftly, Strike Vigorously!

A couple of weeks ago four of us gathered for another Volley & Bayonet encounter. Given we have played a few Napoleonic games of late we decided on an American Civil War encounter set in 1862. The Union forces were commanded by Jon and Alastair, with Jon proving the Union forces. Opposing them were Robin and I with the Rebels from my collection.

Each army comprised 3000 points with the Rebels fielding two corps and the Union three smaller corps. While I follow the draft lists I tend to construct the divisions on actual orders of battle. For this battle the Rebel order of battle followed closely that of Lee’s army at Second Manassas in August 1862, which therefore defined the strategic situation of a Confederate advance north against Pope while McClellan removed his army from the Peninsula.

Using the Scenario System in the Volley & Bayonet rules the Rebels were found to be concentrated and therefore had the burden of attack. In contrast the Union forces were strung out in line of march yet they would be able to shake their troops out and reinforce the advanced and isolated Union Corps, if they could just hold the line. A photo report of the game can be found on my Volley & Bayonet blog here

Another great game and an excellent Friday evening.