Making good neighbors

30 05 2011

Fences make a huge difference on the battlefield.  Not the paper thin fences we have today but great big fences they used to make when lumber still grew on trees.  Many famous fights pivoted on the fact that one or another side held a position along a fence such as “the angle” at Gettysburg.

No fence says “I belong on a civil war battlefield” more than the snake rail fence. 


This guy is a monster.  It’s 100% wood.  As best I can tell it doesn’t even bother with nails.  If you were being shot at and you wanted to take cover behind something made of wood then you could do much worse than your standard issue snake rail fence.

In addition to stopping the odd bullet, a fence provides another stone cold value to the civil war soldier; It rarely runs away in panic.  Soldiers fought in lines.  They stayed in the fight so long as the soldier on either side of them stayed in the fight.  If a soldier lost the men around him then he is just standing there in a field being shot at.  In this way panic in battle is contagious.

A fence provides much better protection and survivability than running for your life over open ground.  Therefore soldier clung to fences in battle and stayed in the fight.

There are four principle effects of a fence on McPherson and Revenge.

  • Defense – Units in contact with a fence receive a +1 to be hit. (bad for the shooter)
  • Morale – Units in contact with a fence receive a –1 on morale checks (good for the fence sitter)
  • Movement – there is a 1” penalty for units crossing a fence (see movement)
  • Improvised Terrain – Split rail fences can be used to produce improvised terrain

Making fences

To make my snake rail fences, I start with 2.5” popsicle sticks and O scale lumber.  O scale lumber is just really small cut wood.  In this case I use 2” by 2” lumber in the O-scale.  This translates to 0.042” in reality…. small.


I spend some quality time cutting the lumber into about 3/4” pieces


It takes 15 pieces of lumber for each stand on fence and I make the fences five stands at a time.


I then glue the wood to the popsicle sticks in a hash pattern.  The bottom layer gets 3 pieces of lumber and the second layer gets two whole and two half pieces.


BTW… this is shockingly relaxing.

Next I spray paint the split rail fences a dark brown.


Then I paint the fences brown.


This seems like an extra step.  I do it because I don’t have brown spray paint that matches the color scheme I want to use and because pray paint just doesn’t go everywhere.

Next I dry brush the fences with lighter shades of brown (brown lightened with increasing amounts of white)


BTW… It has take YEARS of abuse to get this paint brush ready for this task.  This is where having painting daughters come in handy. 

Next I paint the edges of the stand black.  Again.. maybe a wasted step.  Not sure why I do this but I do.


Next I apply glue using the greatest glue applicator in the history of the world.


I then blow static grass onto the glue.


At this point the fence likes pretty done…


… but something is missing.  What we need now is standard issue weeds, bushes and rocks.

I glue pieces of flocking and rocks to the stand.


Here are a couple of action photos!



Anachronism Alert

Snake rail fences where old tech by the time of the Civil War.  They existed on the East coast from Savannah to DC because they where there since before the Revolution.  They liked the look of the fence and as this was an established and relatively wealthy stretch of land, they continued to build and maintain them.  Mississippi would not have had these types of fences however.  I like them and I couldn’t figure out how to make more conventional fences so this is what I am using.