Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Zouave Fever

The 14th Brooklyn deploys on McPherson's Ridge at Gettysburg. Variety of figure brands, all painted by Dennis Smail of Lexington, KY. While not exactly Zouaves, they convey the look of the those classy, sassy and saucy fellows.

Well my friends, I hate to break it to you, but Der Alte Fritz also does the American Civil War. And just as Ike and Tina Turner "don't do nothin' nice and easy", Der Alte Fritz doesn't do any wargame periods in small figure to man ratios. I've been using th 1 to 10 ratio and 25/28mm figures since the 1980s, when I first started wargaming on a regular basis. My armies are organized circa 1863 and represent Henry Heth's Confederate Division (4 brigades: Archer, Davis, Brockenbrough and Pettigrew) and the Federal First Corps divisions of Wadsworth and Robinson. All that plus some miscellaneous cavalry units (3 regiments per side organized into 20 man mounted/15 dismounted per regiment plus horseholders). Pettigrew's brigade has a couple of big whompin stompin 80 figure regiments from North Carolina, and gosh darn it all if they aint a purty sight to see.

My interest in the Civil War goes back to my youth when my father, a huge Civil War buff, took the family on a Spring Break trip from Chicago to New Orleans. Along the way, we stopped at places such as Cairo, IL where US Grant was headquartered prior to his 1862 campaign into Tennesse, as well as the battlefields of Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Champion Hill and Vicksburg. This was during the Civil War Centenial period of 1961 to 1965 when the whole country went nuts over the Civil War. I was hooked on history for life. My father would tell us stories of what happened at each battle site and really brought the story to life with little anecdotes about the personalities involved in the various battles.

When I became a wargamer, it was strictly SYW to begin with, but then my friends in Lexington, notably Dennis Smail, started collecting and painting ACW armies. For awhile I was happy to participate in their games and not own any figures. However, the bug caught up with me and I painted a brigade (Ector's Brigade of Texas and Arkansas foot cavalry at Stones River). Eventually, I went "all in" and started collecting my own armies at the 1 to 10 ratio and culminated this effort with a portrayal of McPherson's Ridge, the first day of Gettysburg, at Historicon in 1994. I suppose that the effort sort of burned me out, and while I still have that collection of figures, I have probably only gamed with it a couple of times over the past ten years.

Donaldsonville Artillery Battery - ANV featuring Stadden gun crew, Connoisseur cannons and limbers, and buildings by Herb Gundt. All figures painted by Dennis Smail.

Zouave Fever
So let's cut to the chase and talk about the onset of Zouave Fever that seems to have struck me of late. It goes like this: I have a one hour train commute to work, each way. So this gives me time to get a lot of reading in, so I usually bring a history book along with me and read a few chapters each day. Over the past several months, I've been reading the Gordon Rhea series of four books covering Grant's Overland Campaign of 1864. The books follow the various battles with the first one covering The Wilderness, the second one Spotsylvania and the Road to Yellow Tavern, followed by To The North Anna, and finally ending with Cold Harbor. I haven't read the books in their chronological order though. I started with North Anna, then Cold Harbor and then I bounced back to the Wilderness, and now I'm finishing up with Spotsylvania. Mr. Rhea is an excellent writer and the words seem to flow effortlessly, yet succinctly, from his keyboard in a manner that is easy to understand and enjoyable to read. I strongly recommend the four volume series to anyone interested in the 1864 campaign.

At any rate, Dennis had a few extra ACW cavalry (Redoubt figures) that I bought off of him recently, and this, combined with my current reading, seems to have rekindled my interest in gaming the American Civil War. I am daydreaming over the possibility of wargaming the ACW on Bill Protz's 24 foot long table with these big ACW battalions.

This got me thinking about an old project that has been gathering dust since 1994 - the Zouave Brigade. If you are gaming with the Army of the Potomac, you've got to have two things: (1) more cowbell, and (2) lots of Zouaves. Now there weren't too many Zouaves left by the time Gettysburg rolled around, although there were a few. However, interestingly enough, there was a brigade formed in 1864 (Roman Ayres' brigade in the 5th Corps) and they had a rather rough time of it in the Wilderness (at Saunders Field) and again at Spotsylvania (Laurel Hill/Spindle Farm). Whether the Zouaves were at Gettysburg or not, I''ve decided to create a quasi-fictionall Zouave Brigade that will include the 5th New York (Duryee's) and some of the units that were more prominent during the 1862 campaign.

I checked out the box of figures that are still stored in the basement. I have 125 Connoisseur figures primed and partially painted as the 5th New York, the 140th New York and the 76th Pennsylvania. Then I found a box of 60 Foundry Zouaves and another box of 63 Old Glory Zouaves, both unprimed at this point. So I've got enough figures to build up the brigade to four or five regiments and mix in a number of different figure brands to give my Zouaves even more individuality and personality. Zouave Fever: Catch It!


  1. Perry Miniatures are releasing 28mm ACW figs in hard plastic next year. They will make large batt ACW gamiing even more afordable. I believe it will be £12 for 36 figs !!!
    My eldest daughter , 1st year High School , is watching Glory as part of her studies - lucky girl1 I must confess I love the film. I am also partial to Ride with the Devil ( I think I have the name correct ) it is beautifully fimed and very moving.


    If the man wants more cowbell, then I think he deserves to have more cowbell. Is it hot in here? I think I'm getting flush. If your zouaves are going to look as great as your SYW troops, then I can't wait to see them.

    SYW isn't really my period, but I've really enjoyed your site lately.


  3. Oh also check out Sash & Sabre 25mm ACW range - its excellent, I think, and very cheap as they are made in the USA.

    I'm a SYW gamer who is also currently doing 25mm ACW........

  4. I agree wholeheartedly, I keep adding Zouaves to my ACW collection, even though I don't strictly need any more figures, but they do look nice and they inspire me to get the army out more often.


  5. Hi Jim,

    ACW isn't really my thing, but I just wanted to voice my disgust at the freak on TMP who commented on your painting and size of photos, as I am banned and can't comment on that site :-)

    For me, your painting is very easy on the eye and I love all your photos of your miniatures including the size.

    I don't know where morons like that spring from, but all I will say is keep doing what you are doing mate, because all your regular visitors to this blog love it, me included.

    We all paint differently and who is to say which style is better? Different is just that, not better or worse and variety is the spice of life, so carry on regarless because you do a grand job of both your painting and photography.



  6. Frank,

    Please point out this dastardly cur to me and M'Uedail will immediately challenge him to a test of manhood with saber or pistol! At the very least I will chastise him severely in public for his crude and, obviously, uninformed opinion. At the moment I'm still "TMP-Friendly".

    The mantra for a large part of the internet generation seems to be "Them that can, Do; and them that can't (or won't) find any way possible to belittle or ridicule them that do!"

    Sir William

  7. Sir William/Frank & Others: I don't worry about too much about one idiot in the wilderness. The fact that the blog has over 15,000 hits in a little more than 3 months speaks louder than the voice of one kook.

    I run this journal because I like to write, paint, take pictures of my collection and talk about the SYW or any other wargaming topic that crosses my mind. If someone doesn't like it, I'm not going to stop blogging. If nobody looked in on this blog, I would still keep blogging because I simply have fun doing it.

    I do appreciate the support that everyone has given me, both here and on TMP.

    Game on everyone, and may your dice always roll in your favor.

    I have got to go walk my dogs now.

  8. Well, it isn't Zouave fever, but I am expecting arriving of a set of 10mm ACW troops in the next day or so. I've long owned a small 1/72 plastic army, consisting of 1 box each of Confederate and Union troops and a box of 7th Cavalry split between the two armies. I used to play them using a variant of George Gush's 19th century rules.

  9. Jim
    Excellent - you are exerting moral pressure on me to finish the half painted bunch of reprobates that I bought from Redoubt 2 years back. Actually it will make a nice change fom camouflage and the sombre colours of 30s spain.

  10. Graham: I find that it is a good thing to mix up your painting projects a little bit. Even I get tired of painting Prussians all the time. The next items on my list are some of those Eureka SYW teddy bears that I bought for my daughter for Christmas, then some Zouaves (5th NY) and possibly some more 1805 French.

  11. Now you've done it, Jim. You reminded me that I eventually have to go back and paint my Eureka warrior frogs.


  12. "My name is A J and I'm an ACW gamer..." LOL, it's nice to find I'm not alone in liking the ACW among the SYW fraternity. I've dabbled on-and-off for years but never seriously as other interests intervened. A few months ago my club began playing ACW ironclad actions using Old Glory's new 10mm range of resin models to "Beer and Pretzels" rules. I've had a few hundred 25mm ACW figures in storage for 15 years, all Dixon's miniatures from bankrupt stock. Now the club is taking an interest in the period and the scale, I've begun painting these.

  13. Thanks for dropping in AJ. It is good to hear from fellow SYW/ACW enthusiasts. I have a feeling that the ACW is going to move back to the forefront of wargaming over the next couple of years, due in large part to what the Perrys are doing with plastic figures.

    Wait until you see my Foundry collection of Late Romans and Barbarians - coming soon to the Alte Fritz Journal.

  14. Jim, these are once again some nice pictures. We do need to get them out an play sometime. I also started wiht a heavy ACW influence in miniatures, plus WW2 games.


  15. Jim - what rules do you use - a variant of your big battalion Seven Years War rules???

  16. Well, after taking time to sort through figures and poses this evening, I have to ammend my statement. I actually *do* have some Zouaves in there, upon close inspection. Roughly 60 of them with about 20 command figures.

    Also figured out I had 30-odd dismounted cavalry as well.

    I have to make a decision on whether certain mounted figures are generals or cavalry, but once I manage to decipher that, I should be ready to start sorting out units.

  17. I use modified "Rusty's Rules" for my ACW games. These are completely different from the BAR system.

  18. Dear Alte,

    Are there any ACw sites similar to your own?