Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Another New ACW History Buff Joins the Ranks

Lelia at Fort Donelson National Battlefield Park

My daughter, Lelia, could have knocked me over with a feather recently when she informed me that she was interested in history. More precisely, she is interested in the American Civil War. Hoorah!

Dad & Daughter at Fort Donelson

She is going to school in Carbondale, IL and I said to her: "You know, Lelia, that your are living within a 2-hour drive of one of the most important battles of the Civil War. It's called Fort Donelson."

Lelia was excited to hear that and she asked if we could visit the site, just Dad and Daughter, the next time that I was visiting her in Carbondale. So we were visiting her on Parents' Weekend on the weekend of October 20, 2018 and I made arrangements to rent a car and drive to the battlefield on Sunday the 21st.

With a drive of about 2.5 hours one-way, we had a lot of time to catch up on things and have some lively discussions and debates about the state of the world today. That is priceless, as they say.

Lelia and a 12-pound Napoleon
When we arrived at the battlefield the first thing that we did was to stop in at the visitors' center so that Lelia could get a good background and overview of the battle and of General Grant's 1862 Campaign. We talked to one of the park rangers and he was envious that I had a daughter who was interested in Civil War history. "I hope that my kids will like the Civil War too," he said.

So we did the driving tour of the battlefield, stopping and getting out of the car at various places along the route. We got to see some very well preserved entrenchments and quite a good collection of artillery pieces. 

Lelia's favorite spot in the park was the view of the Cumberland River at the Lower Battery. I explained how Captain Foote tried to pass his flotilla of ironclad gunboats by the fort and reduce it with artillery fire at close range. This tactic had worked at nearby Fort Henry (which guarded the Tennessee River), but not so much at Fort Donelson. The battery of ten giant 30-pound Columbiad fortress guns pounded Foote's flotilla so hard that they had to turn around and retreat.

The lower river battery overlooking the Cumberland River.

Park display sign that provides information about Foote's attempt to capture the  fort from the river,
in the same manner as used to capture nearby Fort Henry.

I think that this is a 20-pound Parrot.

A view of the 30-pound Columbiad fortress cannon in the battery overlooking the Cumberland River.

I have visited the battlefield three times now and I had yet to see the Dover Hotel, where Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner surrender his army of 13,000 to Union general Ulysses Simpson Grant. When Buckner asked Grant what the terms of surrender would be Grant replied,"I have nothing to offer but complete and unconditional surrender of your forces."  Grant made it clear that if Buckner did not surrender, that he (Grant) was prepared to assault the fort with his army within the hour. Buckner accepted the terms.

Since Grant's initials were U.S. Grant, the Northern press took to calling him "Unconditional Surrender Grant."

It was late in the afternoon by the time we reached the Dover Hotel and discovered that it closed at 4PM. We arrived there at 4:15PM. So I have still not seen the hotel, at least from the inside, but I was able to view it from the outside.

Lelia at the Dover Hotel, where General Simon Bolivar Buckner surrendered to  Unconditional Surrender Grant.

The following Monday, we took the Amtrack train from Carbondale to Chicago and returned home. Lelia had developed a case of bronchitis and so her school recommended that she go home with us and get well for a week.

On the way home on the Amtrack train.

I have now taken the train on this route three times and I still am in awe of the sight of the Chicago skyline as the train rolls towards the final stop at Union Station.

Home is in sight - the impressive Chicago skyline from the south of the city.

We both had a great time on our first battlefield visit. I told Lelia that Fort Donelson was the very first Civil War battlefield that I visited with my father. So history seems to be going in full circle. She wants to see more battlefields with me, and soon. Given Carbondale's proximity to Franklin and Shiloh, I would imagine that one or both of those sites will be the location of our next battlefield tour. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Painting Tutorial: SYW Austrians

I was starting a new battalion of SYW Austrians so I thought that I would take a dozen figures aside and illustrate a step by step tutorial for how I paint Austrians. The Russian painting tutorial was well received so I hope that you will find this one useful too.

Twelve steps from primed figure (left) to finished musketeer (right)

Steps 1, 2 and 3
Steps 1 to 3: I start all of my painted figures with a coat of grey primer. I don't like how colors work with black primer and white primer oftentimes shows through for lighter colors such as red. Grey primer is a happy medium and works well for me.

I start the Austrian uniform with a coating of Ral Partha (or Iron Wind Miniatures - IWM paints, 77-707) "Light Grey" for my base coat (step 2). Next I apply a red brown color (IWM 77-713) for the flesh areas as the undercoats (step 3).

Steps 4, 5, and 6
Steps 4 through 6: The next step in the process (step 4) can be tediously time consuming and cause you to lose your will to live. However, it is probably the most important step in my painting procedure. I use a common craft paint black to black in the equipment on the figure. I apply black paint to the tricorn hat and the gaitors. I also apply black as an undercoat for all equipment items such as the musket and the fur pack. Remember how I don't like black primer? Well in this case, equipment items look much better underneath brown, which I use in step 6 for the musket stock, hair and fur pack.

Step 5 is the application of the red facing color on the cuffs and lapels. I use Reaper Pro Paints "Blood Red" (19002) for my basic red color on all of my figures. Through step 6, the figure still looks rather rough, but now that all of the base colors have been blocked in on the figure, the pace will pick up considerably from here on and make the painting of the figure fun and relaxing for me.

Step 6 is the application of all of the brown color (Reaper Master Series #09109) onto the musket stock, the hair and the fur pack.

Now the figures are starting to look like Austrian musketeers -
the transition from Step 7 through completion in Step 12
Steps 7 though 9: Now on step 7, I use some regular grey, mid-tone color for the hat lace and all of the cross belts. The grey is a common craft paint color. I also block in the dark yellow (P3 Rucksack Tan 93062) on the hat pom.

Step 8 is when we start to work on the final white uniform color of the Austrian coat. The white (P3 Morrow White 93073) is thinned down a little bit with a small drop of water to make the color flow that gives the coat color a consistent look. When I use the white paint straight out of the bottle I find that I sometimes get globs of pigment sticking to the figure in an uneven coat. Thinning down the white fixes this problem. I use white straight from the bottle for all of the cross belts because the thinning method doesn't work very well for smaller areas on the figure. I finish off the hat lace by using IWM Light Grey again - this time making small hash marks along the rim of the hat lace so that the darker grey underneath gives the lace some definition.

Step 9 is the application of red highlight color to the base red. I use Reaper Master Series Paint "Fire Red" #09004 for the highlight which helps to make the red "pop"!

Steps 7, 8 and 9.
 Steps 10 through 12 - finishing the figure

Step 10 is another one of my least favorite steps, the application of the metallic musket barrel and bayonet. I have yet to find a color that I really like, but for these models I used Reaper Master Series "Aged Pewter" #09196.

Step 11 is the application of brass (Valejo "Old Gold" #70.878) to butt of the musket, the buttons on the coat and the gaitor buttons, the hanger sword, the scabbard tip and any buckles that might appear on the figure. The gaitor buttons can be a bit of a pain to paint, but the Minden figures have raised buttons that are easy to paint by simply running the edge of your brush along the row of buttons.

Step 12 is when we add flesh highlights (Reaper Master Series "Dark Rose Skin" #09067), just dabbing a single dot on the tip of the nose, on the chin and on each cheek. I apply a couple of lines across the wrist of the figure. I don't paint knuckles, but some people like to do so. I also paint in the eyes by making a pin prick of white paint on each end of the eye socket, which I have previously painted black on Step 9. The final step is to paint the base of the figure dark green. Sometimes I will add some wood grain to the musket stock using Reaper Master Series "Oiled Leather" #09110 and use the same color as a highlight for the hair and fur pack.

Getting to the finish line: Steps 10, 11 and finally, 12.
In recent times I have stopped adding highlights to the muskets and fur packs on the theory that you can't discern the difference from afar. Also, I only use 2 colors rather than the triad paint system. One less color saves me a lot a time.

Steps 4 through 12 shows the progression of the painting after the initial base coats are painted.

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and that it will help you with some of your own painting projects. At a future date I will do a Prussian tutorial.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Testing the Dervish Again

The Camel Corps in close quarters melee with the Dervish army.


Wednesday evening we played the first of three games in our Mafrica Campaign. Each game leads to a follow on game until we reach our objective, which is Omdurman in the Mafrica version of the Sudan. Our games are designed to be short 2 hour games that we can play on weekday evenings. 

We are using 54mm toy soldiers as our figures. The majority of the figures are from the Britains "War Along the Nile" range of figures, as well as some John Jenkins Designs figures and some Armies In Plastic figures. I also use a few of my Trophy Miniatures Navy Gatling Gun crews.

Royal Navy sailors disembark from the transport ship.

The Camel Corps deploys on the left...
...while the Royal Marines deploy on the right...

...and two companies of e Gordon Highlanders have moved inland and established a fortified camp.

The commander of the isolated outpost sends a message back to the landing area:
"Dervish warbands are massing to our front. Expect attack momentarily. Require help. Urgent!"

The Camel Corps move forward under the watchful eye of Major Edwards.

Royal Navy sailors prolong their Gatling Gun forward to help the Gordons.

The Dervish and their Hadandowah allies mass in front of the outpost.

Here they come!
The Gordons are in a bit of a pickle as the Dervish manage to breach the walls of the kraal. Off in the distance the Marines are marching to the sound of the guns, but have to stop and deal with some rifle-armed Hadendawah

The Gordons defend the stone kraal against the Dervish charge.

The first wave of the Hadendowah close quickly and reach the stone wall.

It becomes a desperate hand to hand fight as the Dervish get inside the kraal.

More of the foes reach the other side of the kraal and get ready to leap over the wall!

As so often happens in a game, one player is so absorbed in his own problems that he can't pay much attention to what is going on at the other end of the table. I commanded the Camel Corps regiment - four companies in all. Another warband of natives were headed my way.

Some skirmishers are sent ahead of the brigade to see what is happening in the brush. Dangerous work!

The presence of the Royal Navy Gatling Gun helps to calm the nerves of the men.

Camel Corps firing line calmly awaits the charge.

Major Edwards shouts the order: "fire!"

The natives rush towards the Camel Corps' zariba.

They close in front of the zariba where the thin blue line awaits.

The Hadendowah win the first round of melee and push the Camel Corps back aways, but then two more companies  charge in and hit the natives in the flank

The Hadandowah lose the melee as they are vastly outnumbered by the Camel Corps now. However, they refuse to rout and melt back into the brush.

 How did the battle turn out?

Well, we won't know for awhile as time ran out on our two hour wargame. The Gordons somehow managed to hold their ground at the kraal, albeit with fewer men than they had at the start of the game. It looked like the Royal Marines were within a turn's move of relieving the Gordons. On the other side of the field, the Camel Corps fended off the natives with only 6 casualties (and some very good saving throws by Major Edwards).

More Dervish warriors were reassembling near the kraal and looking for any excuse to charge again, but we all deemed that they would likely retire in some semblence of good order and live to fight another day.

So I guess that it was a slight British victory in that they would have been able to rescue the beleagured Gordon Highlanders. Accordingly, this will generate Game #2 of the Mafrica Campaign at some date in the near future.

We used the 19th Century variation of the Batailles dans 'Ancien Regime (or BAR) which worked very well for the British Colonial era. Some of the variations include a rapid fire factor of +6 for the Imperials (but they could only have a maximum of 4 volley fires like this - determined by the roll of a D4), and a "Fanatical Native" bonus of +2 in melee and +1 for Saving throws. As a consequence, the Hadandowah  saved on a die roll of anything but a 1 or a 2. This made them extremely had to put down. This was kind of offset by "The 10% Rule" which requires the natives to roll a D6 to see if they will fall back or stay in the fight. This saved the British' bacon a number of times over the course of the game.

Finally, it was a lot of fun to use the large 54mm toy soldiers for our game. The figures are exquisitely detailed and they photograph quite nicely, as you can see from the pictures in this blog posting.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Battle of Hochkirch - 260th Anniversary Today

Hochkirch church and the Alter Fritz pub.
Photo taken by me in 1994.

Well, October 14, 1758 was a very bad day for the Prussian king Frederick II. The Austrian general Daun launched a six-prong attack on the Prussian position from multiple directions, or "converging columns" as Christopher Duffy likes to call it. The battle of Hochkirch was a devastating loss for the Prussians as they lost over 9,000 of their 30,000 man army. The Austrians outnumbered the Prussians by nearly three to one.

Looking at the map of the battle below, observe how columns of infantry and cavalry (O'Donnel, Loudon, Main Army - Daun, Wiese and Colloredo) are converging on the Prussian right flank that rests on the town of Hochkirch. There was another large column, commanded by Arenberg, that is off map, just to the right up the "L-shaped" Prussian lines in the upper righthand corner of the map.

Battle of Hochkirch map by Christopher Duffy
"The Army of Frederick the Great" 2nd Edition.

I have posted a number of pictures that I took during the 2016 Christopher Duffy tour of Frederician battlefield sites. I have tried to identify where each picture is relative to the map above. I had previously visited Hochkirch in 1994 on another tour with Christopher Duffy. Enjoy the photo tour of the battlefield and be sure to click or double click onto each picture to enlarge the image.

Daun and the main portion of the Austrian army approached from south of the village.

Entry into Hochkirch from Loudon's position in the South East corner of the map.

The high ground in this picture is approximately at the position of the artillery fleches
that are shown on the map just south of Hochkirch

Charles Grant (pointing) directs the attention of Tod Kershner, Jude Becker and Christian Rogge
(from right to left of Charles). They are standing near the site of the
 artillery fleche that is closest to the town on our map.

Christopher Duffy and friends stand inside the churchyard.

Sign outside of the Alter Fritz gasthaus.

A view of the wall that surrounds the Hochkirch church. The two gentlemen in front of the wall
provide a sense of the size and height of the wall.

Christopher Duffy and Jim Mitchel pose in front of the church. To the right of them is the start of the Blutgasse where much of the in-town fighting occurred. This picture was taken by me in 1994.

Major Langern of the IR19 Margraf Karl regiment defended the church yard until they ran out of ammunition. The survivors attempted to break out through the gate shown in the picture (now known as Langern's Gate), but they were slaughtered by the waiting Austrians. The flow of their blood gave rise to the street being call the "Blutgasse."

The Alter Fritz pub was closed-out of business in 2016. We ate lunch here and drank Rex Pils beer in the 1994 trip.

Looking north from Hochkirch towards the Prussian left flank at Rodewitz.

The town of Hochkirch and the battlefield site are still in near-pristine condition. However, it is evident that developers are building many new houses on the outskirts of the town and will soon encroach on the battlefield. The difference in the site from my first visit in 1994 to my recent visit in 2016 is like night and day - not good.