I managed to finish my American Civil War skirmish today with my rebased vintage Airfix figures – The Battle of Pine Ridge River crossing – fighting for a railway bridge over a rocky ravine cutting of the good old Hicksville River USA, sometime in 1861 whilst zouaves still had confusing uniforms.
Inspired in recent blogposts by the photography website Forgotten Georgia and also the rebasing of my childhood vintage Airfix American Civil War figures, I redeemed a couple of book tokens on a trip into town to fund my summer reading.
The Osprey Combat book is especially relevant with the comments John Patriquin made about my confusion with Zouave uniforms being mirrored in the First Battle of Bull Run / Manassas:
“Your post partially explains the confusion at the first battle of Bull Run. Shortly before the start of the Civil War, after Ellsworth’s tour, many individual militia companies started to stylize themselves as Zouaves. These companies designed their own uniforms. As the better organized states would place these companies into regiments of 10 companies, it is easy to imagine a regiment of militia!”
Of course, at the start of the war the states would provide uniforms to the regiments so they would be more “uniform” in appearance. However, each state would decide on the uniforms. Many northern units were provided grey uniforms. Confused? So were the commanders on the field of battle at Bull Run.”
On the same trip, I also found a recent red box of Airfix WW2 British Commandos reduced in price, another toy department sadly slimming their ranges. A chance to paint some more Zouaves to my vintage Airfix ACW troops.
I am this weekend I confess – Confused by Zouaves.
I have recently rebased and flocked some of my original 1970s and 1980s paintings of Airfix OO/HO American Civil War infantry, along with some other Airfix WW2 figure conversions to other troop types.
We had very few American Civil War Airfix OO/ HO troops, as they were a scarce set by the 1980s. Reinforcements were needed from unusual sources!
I have liked for a long time the Airfix WW2 OO/HO Japanese (and Russian) infantry for their slender build and possibilities for conversion to troops from other periods.
Sometimes I can tell looking back what (roughly) these reinforcement figures were supposed to be or were inspired by, helped by looking again at Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour by Preben Kannik’s and the Blandford book Uniforms of The American Civil War by Philip Haythornwaite. Both books were sporadically available in our local branch library.
They were created or converted by repainting Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry.
Wallace’s Zouaves featured in the few, the very few, ACW uniforms shown in Kannik’s Military Uniforms of the World in Colour, as well as Philip Haythornwaite’s more extensive ACW Uniform book (Plate 25). Text notes reveal the unusual career of Lew(is) Wallace, their commanding officer, who went on to write Ben Hur, amongst other things! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lew_Wallace
But are these 1983 Airfix conversions really Wallace Zouaves?
I painted these grey coated Zouaves with a “first National Flag” of the Confederacy with the grey coated Zouaves, suggesting they may be instead Confederate McClellan’s Zouaves or Chichester Zouaves Cadets, both from Charlestown South Carolina.
Kannik notes that these “Union Grey” uniforms faded out quickly early in the American Civil War, no doubt to avoid confusion with such Confederate Grey or Zouave regiments.
No doubt also that many of these fine colourful uniforms would have quickly been adapted to the rigours of whatever could be found or repaired on campaign.
I am not entirely sure of all the intended regiments of the Zouave figure conversions 35 years on, even looking through the original uniform books I had available.
Why so many Zouave regiments? I wondered.
“In the United States, zouaves were brought to public attention by Elmer E. Ellsworth. Inspired by his French friend Charles De Villers, who had been a surgeon in the North African zouaves, he obtained a zouave drill manual. In 1859, Ellsworth took over a drill company and renamed them the “Zouave Cadets”. The drill company toured nationally, performing the light infantry drill of the north African zouaves with many theatrical additions. “Zouave” units were then raised on both sides of the American Civil War of 1861-5, including a regiment under Ellsworth’s command, the New York “Fire Zouaves” …”
None of the Airfix boxes with their uniform pictures had survived in my family by then, so further uniform notes could only be glimpsed in the pages of the old Airfix Catalogues or Military Modelling magazine and the eye-candy illustrations of Miniature Wargames.
Converting easily available first version WW2 British Commandos to Zouaves worked surprisingly well, on account of the puttees, soft caps, straps and spindly rifles.
The Zouaves with red caps and red trousers with white spats or puttees probably represent the Union’s 14th New York Volunteers (or 84th New York Infantry Regiment) known as the “Brooklyn Chasseurs”, pictured in Haythornwaite’s Uniforms of the American Civil War Plate 24a.
Equally they could be the red trousered, red capped 1st Battalion Louisiana Zouaves fighting for the Confederacy, shown on Plate 55. Confusing in battle!
You will also notice that the Louisiana Zouaves in the Kannik book look different to the Haythornwaite book – confusing for a young boy with his paints. I needed Confederates more than Union troops as I had few of the original Airfix Confederate Infantry.
Converting WW2 infantry into 19th Century troops?
Such strange figure conversions did not seem odd at the time in the early to late 1980s as these original ACW Or other Airfix historical figures were much sought after second hand. I remember a dealer called “Andy Peddle, Sunnymead …” regularly advertising in the small ads of Miniature Wargames each month for further stock of such loose figures. The price quoted by dealers alway seemed too high on my pocket money or paper round budget at the time – ” I will pay 3p per foot figure, 6p per cavalry figure, 12p per cannon, waggon or limber” advertised one Mr. S. Russel of Wingham. No doubt they were resold for more.
To give a comparison, in the same 1983 magazine (cover price 80p) the new Esci 1/72 figures were being advertised for a £1 per box of 50 Esci figures. Soon Esci would have their own range of ACW and Colonial or historic figures but too late for me. I was moving on to Peter Laing metal 15mm at 7p a foot figure.
In the absence of Airfix ACW, I generally made do with whatever bizarre tiny Atlantic Wild West packs turned up, sometimes cheaply in model shops like Beatties, although these seemed more like diorama sets than gaming figures. The Atlantic Wild West range provided a few scruffy Confederates and 7th cavalry on horses with bases unlike the irritating Airfix horses. I also painted up whatever American Civil War looking figures I could make from leftover WW2 infantry or Cowboys.
I was always puzzled that no flag or standard bearer figure was produced by Airfix with their ACW infantry sets but I checked here on Plastic Soldier Review and there is no sign of one:
Again in 2017, these Airfix ACW figures have disappeared and I don’t think that HAT did a reissue a few years ago. They don’t seem to have been in production since early 1980. No fort or playset reissue ever featured them. Some boxes and loose figures lurk on E-Bay and online shops, becoming increasingly pricy and, for the old 70s stock, increasingly brittle.
Will they ever be reissued again? The 150th anniversary of the American Civil War has now gone by.
Good to see on many people’s blogs that these charming ACW figures have retained their nostalgic appeal.
2017 – More reinforcements!
Recently a retired work colleague kindly gave me an old biscuit tin of 1970s Airfix figures, a jumble of loose figures and some on sprues, predominantly ACW and AWI figures with a few British Paras mixed in. A relic of his 1960s and 70s flirtation with wargames before American railroad modelling took over, I shall unpack this Airfix owl pellet in a future blogpost. There look to be some Confederates and ACW artillery lurking!
I also chanced upon two half price “Red boxes” of recently produced Airfix WW2 Japanese Infantry from a shop closing down its models section (mostly it was all Airfix USAAF aircrew boxes) so I should be able to produce some more reinforcements in the future. USCT US Coloured Troops are one thought, and finally some more unconfused Zouave regiments?
Zouaves troops also turn up in my Bronte gaming scenarios, based on troop descriptions in the Bronte family Angria and Glass Town scenarios – I’m sure all these vintage Airfix figures will find a role in these Imagi-Nations, just with a new standard bearer or two.
Thankfully this was online rather than on foot. (Maybe I should have sought sponsorship for charity for this pointless minor achievement?)
I’m not sure how many thousands of photographs that I have looked at of buildings, bridges, ruins and towns, barns, lots and lots of barns, but I worked through the Forgotten Georgia website County by County on the A to Z listings. Strangely there was no Hazzard County.
After looking at all these decaying or restored buildings in Georgia, I am quite tempted to order this winter some of the old Airfix OO railway building range of plastic kits, now manufactured by Dapol.
There were some innovative conversions to typical American Civil War / Wild West buildings using the basic Service Station, Signal Box and Booking Hall kits suggested by Terry Wise in the Airfix Magazines in the early 1970s (see the links to the Vintage Wargaming website)
These buildings would be a fine setting for my surviving OO/HO Airfix American Civil War troops. Flip open the pages of Donald Featherstone’s 1962 Wargames to the section of rules for Horse and Musket battles and then you’re away …
I have spent several happy evenings over the last week when I could have been gaming or painting, instead looking through the thousands of photographs on the Forgotten Georgia blog / website that I mentioned last week. http://forgottengeorgia2.blogspot.co.uk
This website is such a rich visual and historic treat for modellers and military historians.
I showed this website to a work colleague who models American railroads and he was excited and very intrigued at all the construction details revealed as many of these buildings slowly collapse.
There are many American Civil War sites from railroad stations to the last Confederate wooden flagpole in Georgia, Confederate CSA memorials and grave markers.
There are also historic sites and cemetery markers for the War Of 1812, American War of Independence, pioneer times and the numerous Indian Wars, separation from Spanish Florida etc.
There are turpentine tree stumps, preserved or faltering buildings from Black or African American schools to small chapels, covered bridges to rusting tin roofed wooden shacks and barns, Edward Hopper style town houses, mercantile stores, post offices, cotton gins, mills and businesses right up to the Fifties and Sixties. Sometimes all that remains is a chimney stack in a field or a small family cemetery of a few graves.
Lots of interesting stories, some known and well documented, others as forgotten as the ruined buildings themselves. Some photos have captions from the family, some proudly talking about their restored or surviving buildings, others about their family ruin. Some other sites or buildings have informative Georgia Historiacal Society metal plaques. http://georgiahistory.com
One story I noted was Dutchy, an unfortunate and unloved Confederate memorial, demolished by its own townsfolk.
” Dutchy” was the first monument made in Elberton in 1898 as the town’s Confederate Memorial. The town’s people were not happy. They thought he looked too squat and said he looked like a Yankee, “a cross between a Pennsylvania Dutchman and a hippopotamus,” thus the name.
In 1900 a group of young men, tired of others making fun, pulled him down and buried him in a deep grave. He was exhumed in 1982 and is on display at the Granite Museum in Elberton.
Demolished by his own side! The photograph of Dutchy and text are courtesy of Jim Williamson and the Forgotten Georgia website.
The Georgia map on the Elberton sign thankfully includes the missing or lost County of Dade GA, isolated up in the far Northwest of Georgia:
In 1860, residents of Dade County voted to secede from the state of Georgia and from the United States, but no government outside the county ever recognized this gesture as legal. [On July 4th] 1945, the county symbolically “rejoined” Georgia and the United States …
Shortly after the Georgia State Quarter was released by the US Mint , Dade County gained attention because of an apparent mistake in the design. As shown on the quarter, the state appears to lack Dade County, in the extreme northwestern part of the state. Some accounts in 2012 suggest the exclusion was intended to refer to the local legend of Dade County’s secession from Georgia [Wikipedia entry for Dade County, Georgia USA]
Arguably the finest Confederate statues are the tiny Airfix OO/HO Confederate Infantry. These 1960s and 1970s plastic figures are slowly getting brittle, sadly not all of my original boyhood figures were fit for parade.
And apologies to Canadian readers – happy 150th Canada Day on the 1st of July.
Blog by Mark, Man of TIN blog, Blogposted (but not born) on the 4th of July 2017.
Sometimes out of curiousity when visiting another games blog, I press the ‘next blog’ link at the top to see what may turn up.
“Forgotten Georgia” is a lovely blog site of ghost signs and Old West buildings with a forlorn Urb Ex ruin about them. Perfect as I’m rereading Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegone Days, a book of almost autobiography and Imagi-Nation or Imagi-County. Enjoy!
A special offer or ‘promotion of the month’ for March 2017 on the Prince August website led me to try these Alamo Chess set pawns at a reduced price, which I bought alongside their American Civil War and Napoleonic chess set pawn moulds.
These 54mm toy soldier chess pawn moulds in silicone rubber are available separately from buying the whole chess set moulds.
These figures cast well and cleanly, using Prince August Model Metal, aside from the occasional glitch on the Alamo American figure rifle butt which is easily repaired.
By mixing the sets together, a varied Confederate or Union type Army or Militia can easily be created. I like the powder horns on the Alamo figures, and think that these could serve for figures from earlier periods than the Alamo.
These figures with different paint schemes will bulk out the ranks of any 54mm toy soldier army.
Officer figures are included only in the whole Chess Set of moulds, admittedly on a slightly raised base. These bases could of course be adapted or removed. Alternatively other suitable figures could be used.
Standard bearers should be easily created from the rifleman figure by adapting the musket into a flag standard.
These figures are of course great for “Imagi-nation” games with some alternative paint work.
Slender of build as these chess pawns are, I was concerned how they matched up to other 54mm castings. Some castings from home cast and vintage moulds seem closer to 50mm.
However in a quick line up with other manufacturers , they match these slighter figures and my previous castings from metal home cast moulds well enough.
Perefect for parades, perfect for gaming – lots of possibilities.