Scenes of Battle

17 07 2011

I have always been intrigued by how technology and history interact.  The civil war  brought about many changes to our culture and economy that might have occurred differently or not at all had it not been for that conflict. 

For instance, the DEMONSTRATED tactical superiority of the Iron Clad over every wooden vessel in the world hastened the demise of the wooden ship and all the industries and professions associated with it.  The sail powered fleets slide into obsolescence could have delayed for many decades without practical proof of its vulnerability to armored steam only powered ships.  With the emphasis now on coal powered fleets, those nations with foreign holdings had to choose to loose the colonies OR step up colonization to ensure a coaling infrastructure for their new fleets.  It was not enough to have India or Australia as colonial possessions.  One had to have a network of ports for fueling the ships required to defend trades routes.  Suddenly Africa and Southeast Asia were critical strategic assets.

Another example is the settlement of the American west. The removal of an opposition party in government created unprecedented decisiveness in body known for conflict and toothless compromises.  At a blow , the Louisiana purchase could at last be settled with the debate over slaves in the territories solved.  This space had been left surprisingly empty for 60 years simply because neither American political party wanted to hand its opposition votes in congress.  The course of the great intercontinental railroad was no longer contested and the seeds of American progress were at long last planted.

Finally, the naivety of what battle must have been like was thoroughly removed by one notable technical innovation.  Photography during the war changed how we saw conflict.  By the time of the Civil war photography was quite common but was used almost exclusively used to document how middle class citizens of the western world looked in their finest dress surrounded by their most valuable possessions.  The war created a tempting target for the 19th century photographer. 

Prior to the existence of photographic images of the war, battlefield imagery tended to be created to in order to convey a particular point of view or commemorate a particular event. 

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John Trumbull’s painting of the Battle of Bunker hill tells much of the story of the battle in a single view including the fatal wounding of virtually every famous person engaged in the fight.  While there are many casualties on the ground but it is difficult to make out any wounds and almost no blood can be seen.

During the war, American photographers followed around the armies of both sides for the opportunity to photograph soldiers of the war and the battlefield itself.  When the first true images of battle made it back to the cities a twelve thousand year old taboo had been broken.  Civilians understood that battle was death. 

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Newly drafted soldiers of both armies now had an inkling of what they were in for and families of soldiers saw the conflict and sacrifice in a very different and unromantic light.

Casualty markers

Battlefields of the civil war era would be marked by casualties.  The scenes of the bloodiest fighting would have the highest concentration of the fallen.  You could literally make out where men stood in their firing lines.  No battlefield was an exception to this rule.  The wounded might be taken from the field during or shortly after the fight but the dead would certainly have remained until well after the battle were over, perhaps days.

In McPherson and Revenge casualty markers will be used whenever a “hit” is scored against a unit.  Indeed for every stand, three casualty markers can be placed.  These markers will be placed near to the unit receiving damage and thus the history of battle will be left on the table.

I have quite a few Baccus 6mm casualty figures.  These, for infantry, are a single soldier lying on a 1/2’ square.  This format is very convenient for basing but presents a unique challenge to paint.  It is the only figure I use that comes pre-based.

Here are the Baccus figs:

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They come in strips of 4 and require separation.  At this scale they really don’t look like much. 

After breaking them apart, I glue them to popsicle sticks and prime them.  (no picture Sad smile)

First, with the union, I paint coats blue and pants light blue.

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Next… I paint rifles, boots, and hair brown.

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Next is the tricky bit.  Rather than use my static flocking, I use blended turf.  Static flocking would be impossible to keep off the figures themselves.  Also… rather than use glue (and my fav glue applicator) I use green acrylic paint and a brush.

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These things are tiny and grass is just not going to give me the coverage I need.  Green paint has pretty adhesive like qualities and has the advantage of NOT looking like crap when exposed. 

As an aside, I have known many a war gamer that applies sand/grass/whatever using acrylic paint as it never looks bad and can be applied with a paintbrush (by definition.)

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Confederates are similar….

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… guns, hats, hair, face, bags…

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and grass…

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