Monday, November 30, 2009

AWI Wrap up

I'm one of those who often doesn't paint in a straight line. It's hard for me to sit down and paint 200 figures for a project and declare it finished. I lose interest after six weeks, two months and need to do something else, and then come back to the project and finish up.

Yesterday I wrapped up some of my AWI units. By wrapping up, I mean basing and flagging. I'd finished my 1st North Carolina Continentals, the 63rd Regiment and was just waiting to polish off the eight figures of the teeny, tiny, 1st Battalion of the De Lancey Brigade. I did all that as well as painting the five flags for each of those units over the holiday weekend.

I'm going to pick at AWI while I focus on my Hundred Years War project for the next wee bit. I'm working on twenty Welsh spearmen, and if I get through them quickly I'll probably paint the 64th Regiment before taking on the remaining Welsh and passle of Genoese crossbowmen I need to paint.

Pictures are of the three units. At the top of the page is the two stand DeLancey battalion, the first battalion that appeared at Eutaw Springs. There were only 80 men, but I'm determined to show some of these small units whenever possible. The standards are strictly supposition. These are Old Glory figures. There are two pictures of the four stand 63rd regiment. This was a veteran unit that fought at Hobkirk's Hill and Eutaw Springs. The blue-coated unit is the 120 man 1st North Carolina Continentals that fought alongside two other North Carolina units at Eutaw. They probably weren't quite as well dressed as these guys.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Back when I had a bit more money, er, back when I used credit more freely, I used to to have $40 a month to spend on gaming. I also had an Old Glory Army membership and frequently I'd just deposit my cash there. It meant I could be a bit more adventurous with my miniatures purchase, and by god I was. I picked up a couple of the Merrimac Shipyard cogs.

No self-respecting Hundred Years War miniaturist could possibly have a complete collection o' stuff without cogs. After all, there are all those famous sea battles to fight-ummm, and errrr!!???. Actually there are a few, the most famous being Sluys and 1340, and the battle off Winchelsea in one of those years between 1337-1453. There were also smaller actions of French galleys raiding the English coastline or attacking ships in the wine trade.

In any case my economic realities collided with miniature purchases and I was never able to acquire the hundreds of cogs needed for Sluys, or even the fifty or so for Winchelsea, but I do have two. They are going to serve me well for a game I want to run at Enfilade based on the Black Prince's attack on the suburb of St. Jean outside of Caen in 1346.

So what the heck is a cog? In the 14th and early 15th century sea travel was pretty chancy. Naval engineering had not progressed to the point that vessels could maneuver through a contrary wind. Cogs were bargelike vessels with a single mast and sail and a rudder. They could be 30-300 tons and built as merchantmen to haul cargo between England and the Europe. The were deep enough draft to provide a fairly stable platform in the channel and North Sea, providing the wind was favorable and there was no storm. During wartime, the king basically pressed these cogs into service and nailed large fighting platforms on to the bow and stern to hold archers, men at arms and light artillery.

These two will see service soon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Change in the Air

I've been working on my American Revolution figures for the last three months or so, and I think I'm ready for a change. I have my North Carolina continentals and 63rd regiment finished, despite some basing and flagging issues, and I'm in the middle of painting my teeny DeLancy battalion, but after they are finished I see myself tucking my 64th regiment that is primed and partially painted away into a corner of my painting table so I can pick them out when I'm more interested.

I've looked longingly at some of my Hundred Years War stuff (again!) and am going to work on some troops and models I need for one of my Enfilade projects. I have thirty-two Welsh spearmen to paint--20 single figures and twelve on three man mountings for the Crusader Rules. In addition, I dragged out my two Merrimac cogs--medieval warships--that I'm going to use in my defense of St. Jean scenario. I also have a passel of Genoese crossbowmen to fill out those I already have for the scenario and again for the Crusader rules. The Welsh and cogs should paint up fairly quickly, and I'm looking forward to getting started this weekend.

Once I wrap up the AWI units I'll post some pics.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

My Favorite Military Histories.

Everyone comes into this hobby because something inspires them to do so. As a teenager, I began painting 54mm soldiers, and this combined with my interest in history and board games created a very short bridge to playing games with toy soldiers. All it took was a couple of high school friends named Wes Kuwano and Bill Cranor to light the fuse.
I mentioned my love of books in an earlier post, and thought I'd share ten that were particularly inspiring to dive into one period or another. Here they are in no particular order.

I chose books that might not be at the top of everyone else's list, but are good reads, and might inspire readers to investigate a new game period--like we need another one.

1. The Face of Battle by John Keegan

I bought this book when it came out in 1976. It was a new military historiography focusing on the battle as the most important factor in military history. Keegan analyzed Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme as examples. Keegan's style was to examine the underlying social factors that created each army, and then broke the battle down to its component parts. To this day, I still re-read Keegan's chapter on Agincourt. It is chiefly responsible for my interest in the Hundred Years War.

2. Devil of a Whipping by Lawrence F. Babits
Babits examines the AWI Battle of Cowpens in very much a Keeganesque style, breaking down the social characteristics of each army and analyzing the effectiveness of the participants. However it is the breaking down of the battle in its phases and in space and time that make it so interesting. Finally, Babits work is ground-breaking introducing new information about troop strengths to help explain the rebel victory. A great book.

3. First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook
Though I don't game the First World War at the present time, I have a pile of virgin 15mm Peter Pig figures waiting to be painted in my garage. Some day I'll get to them. Middlebrook's story is an oral history culled from veterans of that first disastrous day and it makes compelling reading. I literally could not put this down. I was on vacation in Victoria, deathly ill, nearly a decade ago and picked this up at Munro's on Government Street. I read it in 24 hours.

4. Gettysburg: The Second Day by Harry Pfanz
There are zillions of books on Gettysburg, and I have a lot of them. However, Pfanz's three volumes are certainly among the best. Each is a mini-history focusing on a time or location. Pfanz was the superintendant of the Gettysburg National Historical site, and clearly knew the battlefield inside out. Not only is his narrative unique and insightful, but the maps, my god the maps cannot be matched.

5. Niagara 1814: America Invades Canada by Jay Barbuto
The War of 1812 has gained some popularity in recent years, but the histories tend to be ho-hum and general. However there are some great titles, great writers, and great reads that have cropped up in the last decade or so. This is one of them. Barbuto is an American who provides a highly detailed analysis of the entire 1814 Niagara campaign. He has a balanced view of the campaign and focuses on some of the demanding aspects of prosecuting the war in this difficult theater.

6. The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan
I feel just a smidge guilty posting this book because I just finished reading it. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful single volume treatment of the American Revolution in the South up through Guilford Courthouse. Buchanan makes good use of primary and secondary resources to paint an intriguing picture of the war in the Carolinas from the first encounter at Sullivan's Island in 1776 to Cornwallis's fatal victory at Guilford Courthouse. All the major actions are here, as well as many of the smaller partisan affairs. Buchanan takes pains to introduce us to many of the leaders, including the less well known, and doesn't pull punches in his judgement of them. However, the best part of this book is Buchanan's writing. He has a fine narrative style that makes reading the 400 pages easy and effortless.
7. Infernal Machines: The Story of Confederate Submarine and Mine Warfare by Milton Perry
I have more books on the Civil War at sea than most folks, and most of them are really good. Though a little off the central topic, one of these is Milton Perry's book on Confederate efforts to even the score with the Yankees using unconventional means. It's a well-written, fascinating read about two arms of the Confederate Navy that proved considerably more effective (though less sexy) than ironclad or cruiser building programs.

8. Capital Navy by John Coski
Another great book on the naval aspects of the Civil War. John Coski's look at the life and death of the James River Squadron focuses on a couple areas. The first is the development and effect of the CSS Virginia on Union naval plans. Lots of little known information here. Most of the book, however, deals with what came after the Virginia--the design, building and staffing of the ironclad squadron that was to keep the Union at bay. Coski includes a great account of the Battle of Trent's Reach. Coski is a wonderful writer and tells this story well.

9. Red Coats and Grey Jackets: The Battle of Chippawa by Donald E. Graves
I love this book. It's a brief but complete account of a brief little battle. Graves is a Canadian who has written on a number of Canadian military history topics, and his work is quite good. This little battle on the Niagara frontier in 1814 is the best account of Chippawa. It's well written includes a complete OOB. If you're interested in this battle, you need this book.

10. War Cruel and Sharp: English Strategy Under Edward III, 1327-1360 by Clifford Rogers
Dang this is a great book. Rogers examines Edward III's tactical developments from his first less successful actions in Scotland, to his highly successful battles at Halidon Hill and Neville's Cross, and how he applied these in France during the Hundred Years War. Rogers also has interesting things to say about the chevauchee, or highly destructive raids, the English carried out in France and how they served an important strategic purpose of separating the populace from the French king and forced the French to fight battles against the English system that they had no tactical solution to defeat.

Bonus selection: Agincourt: A New History by Anne Curry
For me, Anne Curry is the face of the coterie of medieval historians that keep the Hundred Years War a living, interesting period. With this book, Anne Curry began a process of recounting the number of English present at this battle, reducing the French, and increasing the number of English present at this historic battle. As I wrote in an earlier post, this has provoked considerable debate among historians.

Super Double bonus: The Western Way of War and Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience by Victor Davis Hanson
Before he became a conservative spear carrier, Victor Davis Hanson, an agricultural historian wrote and edited these two superb histories of hoplite warfare. They were inspiring. Enough so that I painted up two hoplite armies using the old Ral Partha hoplite figures. I wonder where those are?

And One Stinking Turkey: The Myth of the Great War by Robert Mosier
I am a great believer in historical revision, especially when the facts warrant it. I am not a fan of revision because it's fashionable to do so or for multi-cultural purposes. I don't know what led Harper to plow zillions of dollars into promoting this book, but its just bad. Mosier's contention is that because the Germans had more modern artillery, they were defeating the Allies on the western front until the Americans arrived with their more aggressive tactics to save the world from Imperial Germany. Despite the fact that this is simple-minded and wrong, Mosier ignores the fact that the British and French were force on to the offensive to drive the Germans from highly productive regions of France. He also largely ignores that the real breakthrough against the Germans was completed by those same forces before the Americans could arrive in strength. Bad stuff.

I hope there is something here that gets your attention, and let me know if you have further suggestions

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Show time: AWI All the Time

I have new pictures to post. Two are newish units, at least to my collection, and the last is an old favorite.

In my trade with Doug I received eight light American light infantrymen painted in Doug's beautiful black primered style. They are indeed gorgeous, and they are a bit of a contrast with my figures on the right. In fact these two stands will form part of the regiment of Maryland and Delaware light infantry that fought together at Cowpens and Weitzels Mill under John Eager Howard and Otho Holland Williams. These were veteran troops, survivors of Camden, and the very best in Continental service. The troops on the right are my own, Kirkwood's Delaware company. Kirkwood was a true survivor of the Revolution, fighting in thirty-three actions, at the head of an elite company of infantry. Sadly he was cut down at age 63 in Arthur St. Clair's army at the Battle of the Wabash, fighting Indians on the frontier in defense of his Congressional land grant in recognition of his service during the Revolution.

The next unit are Queen's Rangers. They are my favorite of the trade bounty. Simply beautiful. Doug has graciously offered to paint a matching bunch from my shrinking pile of Front Rank figures. The Queens Rangers were truly an elite provincial unit that did see some service in the South--the defense of Savannah, and marching about Virginia with Benedict Arnold.

The last unit is one of my old favorites--the 1st Maryland I painted up for Guilford Courthouse at Enfilade II. They are old, but perhaps the best figures I ever painted using my white primer "slop" technique. The flags are wrong, and they've been remounted more times than I can say, but they're still one of my favorites.