Wednesday 27 October 2021

The First of the Hessians

When I started the expansion of the British AWI collection I decided that I need to create a small Hessian force. I always intended to include a unit of Jägers and bought a pack each of the command and rank and file figures. But once I had the figures I changed my mind and decided to create two small company sized units instead of one half sized battalion. I also decided that one company would be in the initial uniform with straw coloured waistcoat and white or straw coloured pants (I particularly like the officer with the eyepatch):

And the other in the later all green uniform:

As I perused the Perry Miniatures AWI lists further I saw the code “Hessian Jägers with Amusettes”. I had no idea what an amusette was, but after a little bit of research discovered that they were just thumping great musket, sometimes with a bore of one and a half inches and sometimes rifled. They had a range reported as greater than 500 yards, but since they could weigh as much as 50 pounds, five times the weight of a regular musket, they were often mounted in brackets on the walls of fortresses, earning the time of wall or rampart guns. In the American theatre they proved valuable as a heavier weapon in terrain where artillery couldn’t go. They could be mounted on small carriages or on tripods as shown in the images below.

What an excellent idea to support the jäger companies. The Perry models come as a pair and are lovely little sets, supplied with wheeled mantlets, with one set firing and one loading.

I have given some thought about how to use these weapons on a game. It would be a simple thing to use them like light artillery pieces, but I fear that may be over rating the weapon. They would not have had the impact of artillery for the simple matter that their projectile would not have had the mass or energy  for bouncing shot and the weapons could not have delivered an effective scattered shot. But they could well have had a morale impact at extended ranges. Do why not just let them fire as muskets, but at double the range? And maybe they could be used to target enemy officers?

Saturday 23 October 2021

Organising for War on Two Continents

As we close out day 67 of our lockdown two more units are completed.

First, on the European side of the Atlantic, is the Fusilier Battalion, 74th (2nd Hanoverian) Regiment from the Franco-Prussian War. 

This completes all three battalions of the regiment, with each battalion formed in double company columns, as seen below.

Second, from South America, is the first of three battalions of what will be the Uruguayan component of my Great Paraguayan War collection. This unit is the Voluntarios de la Libertad battalion in their crimson trousers and Carlist berets are a welcome relief from the dark and somber uniforms of the Prussians.

Next the butterfly will flutter to a third continent - North America (although when I went to school North and South America were just counted as a single continent called America) - for an AWI unit.

Thursday 21 October 2021

More Terrain Items

Yesterday was one of those really annoying days. Still working from home I have been conducting interviews for a new staff member - an unpleasant task at the best of times made worse by having to do them as video interviews - and I had five phone calls from scammers. You know the type of thing “I am calling you from Windows and you have a problem on your computer…” or “…this is VISA, we have detected a problem with your card…”…we have all received them and the number of scams circulating has increased with the Pandemic. 

Now normally I make sport of these calls, stringing them along for fifteen minutes before saying “hang on you say Windows? I have an Apple, is that the same?”, or “you say VISA, I only have a Mastercard”. I have also been known to take a leaf out of a friends book who, when they say they are from Windows, replies “no you’re not. You are just a thief trying to steal my money.” 

More recently I have taken a different track. I let them get started then ask them if I can ask a question, which they always agree to, then knowing that they are on foreign shores I ask them “in your society is is honourable to be a liar and a thief?” This usually draws some sort of indignant reply about not being a thief but I continue with “is your mother proud of you? Does she know you are a criminal?” This is where they hang up.

But with five calls I had no patience for banter and I just put the phone down on them before they got a chance to go beyond the first couple of words. All this was too much and my concentration was gone after the third interview and the fifth call and I gave up working just after 3:00 PM and turned to some more relaxing problem solving...completing work on another couple of bridges I have been working on for another river terrain tile.

Again I want two inter-changeable bridges, one stone and the other wooden. The stone bridge has been under way for a while, a background project, and this time was made with three arches, but a flat road surface. I used the same construction techniques as last time.

The wooden bridge, however, I wanted to be much more rustic than the last one and for inspiration I used the Grapevine Bridge across the Chickahominy River on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, used by Union troops at the Battle of Fair Oaks and the Seven Days Battles in 1862.

To make the base of the bridge I used some offcuts from a recent clean up in the garden that I had squirrelled away and allowed to dry. These pieces are about 5mm in diameter, so they represent a log of around 12 inches in 28mm scale. I used three longer pieces as crossbeams each attached to four piles, two for each side of the bridge, first with a spot of glue and then by some cotton thread to recreate ropes lashing the timbers together. More glue was brushed over the ‘ropes’ to strengthen the joint. The middle set was made slightly higher that the other two sets to give it a bit of a hump like the Grapevine Bridge. To give this an even more rustic look, everything was cut by eye and not by measure which means that nothing is perfectly square or upright and the bridge will sag an rise in an irregular manner.

The three sets of piles and beams were then joined with matchsticks, to which the roadway of the bridge would attach.

The roadway was made from matchsticks and when all the glue was dry the matches on the lower level were replaced by more “substantial beams”. 

The whole underside, unexposed, part of the structure was then liberally coated with PVA to provide strength. When dry the whole model was undercoated black and painted with ever lightening shades of brown and grey.

Of course I am expecting a visit from Health and Safety because there are no side rails installed, but I’ll just have to assign any design flaw findings to the Chief Engineer, Henrico County, Virginia, under whose authority the Grapevine Bridge was probably built.

CORRECTION: Looking more deeply into the construction of the Grapevine Bridge, it was actually built by the men of the First Minnesota Regiment, under the supervision of engineers Maj. Daniel P. Woodbury and Lt. Col. Barton Alexander, so any findings from a health and safety audit should be assigned to them and not the county engineer.

Here the project goes on hold for a couple of weeks until the terrain piece that these bridges are going to fit into is complete.

Monday 18 October 2021

Karl Friedrich von Steinmetz

By purchasing three or more boxes of the Franco-Prussian Prussian infantry from the Perrys I received a free mounted figure of General Karl von Steinmetz - in fact I have two of them, because I ordered two batches of three or more boxes. Steinmetz has become synonymous with the Franco-Prussian War for the wrong reasons. Known throughout his career as arrogant and bull headed he showed a resentment of authority to the extent that he deliberately wore his 1813 fatigue cap directly against regulations. History has rather harshly judged him as a bumbler, but I have always considered that judgement harsh. He was a man misplaced, out of his time - a soldier of the old school better suited to a Napoleonic battlefield than one of von Moltke's.  The “Lion of Nachod” was perfectly at home commanding a corps in 1866 but as an army commander four years later failed to understand or embrace the subtlety of Moltke’s strategy. He probably should have been retired from the army before the campaign of 1870.

Born in 1796 Steinmetz came from an impoverished background, but still managed to find means to attend the cadet school at Stolp between 1807 and 1811, entering the army, along with his elder brother, at the outbreak of the War of Liberation. As a second lieutenant he served in the battles of 1813, including Leipzig where he was wounded and his brother was killed. He entered Paris with the Army of Occupation and at the conclusion of the war did a period of service in the 2nd Foot Guards in Berlin before attending the War Academy between 1820 and 1824, taking a posting to the general staff at the conclusion of the course. 

Promotion was slow in the peacetime army and not until 1839 did he make major in command of a guard battalion that he led nine years later during the disturbances of 1848. A year later he was involved in the Schleswig campaign where he earned the praise of General Wrangel for his part in the action at Schleswig and was awarded Pour le Merite for his role at Duppel. He served briefly as Governor of Cassel in 1850 before being made colonel and commandant of the cadet school in Berlin. After 41 years in the service he was made major general and posted at Magdeburg and then to Berlin in 1857 in command of a brigade of the Guards, before assuming command of a division in I Corps. Made lieutenant general the following year he took command of II Corps and then V Corps. 

Promoted to general of infantry in 1864 he did not participate in the Danish War of that year, but led his V Corps in the Austrian war two years later. His hard fought victories at Nachod, Skalitz and Schweinschadel in that war opened the way for the Prussian invasion of Bohemia and raised him to hero status. After the war he was elected to the North German Confederation Parliament. 

He was 74 years of age when he was given command of First Army in 1870. In the opening weeks of the campaign he proved a liability to the German High Command, bringing on an unexpected and unwanted battle at Spicheren, deliberately holding back at Borny then committing much of First Army to a disastrous frontal assault at Gravelotte. After the latter Moltke had had enough of Steinmetz, removed him from field command and sent him to Posen as the Military Governor. He resigned from the army in 1871 with the rank of Field Marshal and died in 1877. In his honour the 37th Fusiliers bore his name in their title.

The Perry model is based on the Carl Röchling painting of Steinmetz  at the Battle of Skalitz on 28 June 1866 where he led his V Corps to victory over the Austrian 6th and 8th Corps. 

Just what I am going to do with the second Steinmetz model I am not sure, but with plenty of spare heads from the plastic sets, I am sure a conversion is a possibility…perhaps I can use it as General von Zastrow who commanded the VII Corps in the war.

Saturday 16 October 2021

Happiness is…

 …two cardboard boxes from Nottingham.

I have been waiting on this order for 41 days and it contains some more Prussian plastic infantry plus some Uruguayan infantry for the Great Paraguayan War and some Hessians for the AWI. When combined with the parcel received on Monday this creates a broad range of units for the butterfly to flutter between…a total of 578 figures, 5 guns, 2 carts, 1 limber, 28 horses, possibly the biggest my lead pile has been for a very long time. This stock should see me through to Christmas or beyond.

And the first item finished from this batch is a combined grenadier unit to complete the infantry complement of my British AWI collection.

Having spent much of thus year working on a a single project I am quite excited about the amount of fluttering that this mix of projects will be create for the butterfly.

Tuesday 12 October 2021

The Franco-Prussians Continue to Expand.

This batch of Franco-Prussian infantry were the very last items in my lead/plastic pile. The COVID disruption to the international mail systems has seriously delayed deliveries and interrupted my ‘Just in Time’ production schedule. One order placed back in August has not arrived yet while the arrival of another one coming by DHL is immanent.

I have done this battalion as a firing line and represents the Fusilier Battalion, 15th (6th Westphalian)   Infantry Regiment from 13th Division (the only significant difference in the uniform on these models is that the belts are black instead of white for the musketeer battalions). Being an older regiment than the two battalions I had done earlier, I have given them the earlier 1860 Picklehaube (it has a brass cross under the spike instead of a  disc and a brass band running down the back of the helmet) and they carry the earlier standard. 

While it is not evident in these pictures the standard is also partly destroyed. This is because at the insistence of the King the Prussian went into battle in1866 and 1870 with the original painted silk standards, many of which had disintegrated over time. In the 15th Regiment the 1st Battalion’s colours had been destroyed and the 2nd and Fusilier battalions were partly destroyed. So as this regiment develops it will have a bare standard pole for the 1st (except for the streamers) and tattered flags for the 2nd and Fusilier battalions.

I have also completed another four skirmisher stands.

While preparing this post the DHL parcel has arrived and the lead/plastic pile has been restored.

Hopefully the other consignment will arrive soon.

Friday 8 October 2021

Three More Terrain Tiles

Work continues on the terrain tiles.

First up is a simple road with a short bend on the edge of a plain tile. It’s a bit boring, but a necessary piece to link the various road sections.

The second piece is a river section. One of the limitations of using a 300mm square tile with a central entry/exit point is that it is difficult to avoid a dead straight river. So in an effort to soften that look, this tile is one of two that will have a deep bend along the length. While it involved a bit more effort than the first piece, it too was a relative simple build.

The third piece is also a river piece with a bridge crossing it. While that in itself would have been a relatively simple, but I complicated the build by wanting to have an inter-changeable wooden or stone bridge available to span the river.  This meant building two bespoke bridges and fitting them as seamlessly as possible into the tile.

The wooden bridge was a pretty simple structure built from match sticks. Making this fit into the tile was a relatively easy task. 

The stone bridge was a different story. Making the sides from thin card that matched the profile of the riverbed and banks was simple enough. 

It was then backed by a piece of 6mm foamboard to give support for the roadway.

Normally I would use an epoxy putty to create the stonework, but I had none on hand and with the current lockdown restrictions was unlikely to obtain any for some time. What I did have on hand was some air dry clay which was quickly put to good use. First making the inside faces.

Then the outside faces.

Then the roadway was fitted, but not yet textured.

Here I paused work on the bridge because to fit it seamlessly into the terrain profile I needed to wait until the main work on the tile was completed. The basic form of the tile is as below.

To create the near seamless fit for the bridge I put some cling film over the roadway of the finished tile (well almost finished - the water effect will be completed after the bridges are settled) and then used air dried clay (reinforced by some steel mesh that has being laying around waiting for a use) to create the bridge approaches. 

When that was dry the road surface was added and the whole bridge painted and some foliage added around the ends to help conceal joint with the banks.

I wanted an additional feature around the bridge and decided on some rocks and fast flowing water, not rapids, just some foaming water. For the rocks I used the air dry clay again, pressed into a Woodlands Scenics rock mould that had been kicking around for years and painted appropriately. The rapidly flowing water was created from toilet tissue mixed with thinned PVA then highlighted with a bit of white paint and  the clear water effect brushed over top. I also put some grass and foliage along the banks.

Here then is the finished item showing the two bridges in place.

Lastly, I had been planning on buying some more of the plastic trays I use to store figures,  but the plan was to buy them at the end of August. Then along came our current lockdown, that is now at day fifty-something, and the number of figures painted waiting for storage is mounting up alarmingly, as you can see below, and now a  total 344 figures and two guns as below are without a permanent home. Note that the back section of the image is deliberately blurred to conceal elements of my undisclosed project.