Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Benjamin Ring House

This is the model of the Benjaming Ring house from the Brandywine battlefield that Tablescape have made for me. I am incredibly pleased with it and the chaps put a huge amount of time and effort into the model. Whilst many resin models are smaller than they should be, this model gives you an idea of what these larger period houses look like "to scale". It measures about 25cm across and the same in height at the highest point on the left side. It gives you some idea of what a "to scale" Chew House would look like!

Benjamin Ring was a prominent Quaker farmer and miller in Birmingham Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The township is thought to have been named in the 1680s by William Brinton, the first white settler known to have settled in the area, after his former home in England. Ring owned two mills in the township and the wealth generated by these concerns allowed him to build a large house near Chadds Ford on the Brandywine. The house was built in 1731. It was all but destroyed by fire in the 1930s, resulting in a post-war reconstruction that was finished in 1952. I have not visited the battlefield and so do not know how close this house is to the river itself. Washington used the house as his headquarters on the night of 9 September 1777, two days before the battle. Some pictures of the inside of the house and some more information about Benjamin Ring are here. You can see that house (at least where it is situated now) is on a slope. We decided early on to ditch any attempts at replicating this and simply to have the house on an even level. The small piece at the back of the house on the left hand side is probably an outdoors oven, or something connected to the kitchen.

Benjamin Ring is said to have hung the Stars and Stripes from one of the house's window during the battle; rather apocryphal I'd have thought... A more believable story is that on 11 September 1777 Ring stood on the porch of his house watching the battle and when advised to head indoors replied “I always put my trust in the Lord.” At that moment a round shot landed at his feet and Ring fled to his wine cellar. Apparently he ran a tavern in his cellar (one wonders the extent to which Washington's staff made use of it) and the house became a hotel in the years after the AWI.

This model makes a change from the more common clapboard style of house. Stonework marked out the status and wealth of the owner, as I suspect did the large chimneys. The figures in the photos are Perry sculpts and the trees are Realistic Modelling "medium" sized 25mm trees. I appreciate the reasons why many wargaming buildings are often smaller than they would be in real life, but there is something to be said for an "in scale" building as a terrain centre-piece. The model cost £80 and 7 months to have made, although I think the amount of work that went into it would have justified a higher price. Please excuse the bright, artificially-lit photos - this morning was very grey and miserable here in London.

The lads are currently working on a generic barn and farm outhouse for me, and I have sent them photos of the old church at Harvard for the next "real life" project. In other news, I have had a total painting collapse since the end of last week, hence the lack of any Long Island updates this week. The Hessian artillery is still unfinished, so I am now officially 6 figures behind schedule. There are no photos of the von Lossberg fusiliers becuase I realised at the end of last week that I don't have their flags...So I'm relying on GMB to send them to me before the month is out!


Sire Godefroy said...

Very impressive. You never could have enough terrain pieces, and this one is a real eye-catcher. Hopefully it gives you motivation to keep up with your painting schedule (such things wouldn't work for me). ;)
Anyway, fingers crossed!

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Very nice! Does it have a lift off roof to allow placing figures inside??

Allan (AJ) Wright said...

That's an outstanding piece! Reminds me I need to post some photos of my covered bridge and redoubts. The bridge is for a Kingsbridge scenario I did, and the redoubts work for Bennington or Bunker hill.

The painting on your stone work is very realistic. It looks a lot like the stone barns you see in Pennsylvania and also a lot like the stone portions of the Piper Barn on the Antietam battlefield:

Grimsby Mariner said...

It's an odd thing about scenery like houses - you want it to be the very best and when you put it on the table it looks terrific. But it takes up space that you can't always afford to give away. A difficult condunrum made even worse when the building is as fine as this one.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful model. I live in the Philadelphia area and can attest that your painting of the stone work is dead on. I've seen quite a few colonial homes in this style in the Whitemarsh area.

tradgardmastare said...

I am new to the awi and just starting to collect /game- thanks for the inspiration

Bluewillow said...

what a excellent model, a really nice centre piece IMO.


Steve Harvey said...

Just came across your site and thought I'd add my comments since my family's history is entwined with the Battle of the Brandywine. In 1807 my GGGGG Grandfather, Eli Harvey, bought the Ring House. For some reason it is referred to as a tavern in some of the research I've read. However, others have disputed this fact. My ancestors were maltsters, beermakers, so it's possible that the tavern era started with Eli looking for a place to sell his family's product. Who knows at this point which story is correct.

The Gilpin House use to be considered Lafayette's Headquarters, it's east of Washington's Headquarters. However, it's now said that Lafayette never had a headquarters since at the time of the battle he was only 19. Washington took him under his wing which meant he would have lodge in the Ring House with the other officers.

To find out about the Battle of the Brandywine (which was originally set to be fought down near Wilmington, DE in what is now Brandywine Springs Park) you can search of Ashmead's History of Delaware County. A very in-depth account of the battle. It was a book that came out in 1880s, but is now entirely online.

The story you cite as happening to Ring actually happened to my ancestor, William Jr. It was at the Harvey House (built by his father in 1714 shortly after leaving Worcester, England). The story about the flag is nonsense as this area was a Quaker stronghold and they pledged no loyalty to either side of the Revolution (Francis Harvey, William's father, was thrown in jail for not taking the oath to the King of England, in 1660). William was on his porch, to discourage looters, when his future brother-in-law came riding by and urged him to take cover. At that moment a cannonball (from Proctor's artillery across the river, on the east side) came through the house and nearly took off William's leg. William decided to use both legs while he still had them and left in a hurry. The Redcoats and Hessians, under Knyphausen, ransacked the house and used it as cover to fire at the Americans across the river. There are some accounts that say they were at the house when the American artillery started shooting the place up. As they pushed the Continental Army across the Brandywine they took William Harvey, another Harvey from the third generation, prisoner. He nearly was killed when American troops fired at the advancing Redcoats. Eventually he was held prison in the Dilworth Tavern, still standing, in the basement, but escaped. Ironically my father, Phil Harvey, lives today within a mile of where the William Harvey House (online too) still stands. It's owned by Jeff Beck, not the guitarist, however.

There was a mill race (a man-made waterway for milling) on the Brandywine Battlefield. One of the Harvey wives ended up throwing herself into it in Jan. of 1863 after suffering mental illness. Washington's Headquarters is about a mile east of the Brandywine and the Gilpin house is further east of it. Howe's headquarters is a couple of miles from there, off Harvey Road, right on US 1.

If you ever come to visit the Battlefield shoot for the weekend. There is a great museum called the Chris Sanderson Museum which is filled with all sorts of historical memorabilia that Chris collected.

Steve Harvey said...

I recently was given a reprint of a letter by Samuel Ring, Jr. to his cousin in the 1830. In it he mentions Washington asking his grandfather, Ben, to lead the Cotinental Army out of the Brandywine Valley. Instead, Benjamin, who was old and overweight, told him to ask William Harvey, III, to lead them out. I've heard this story in my family records, but always thought it was nonsense because of errors in it. William's horse refused to jump a fence on the way and Washington had one of his officers give up there horse for William to ride. Once the army was on it's way William returned on this horse, but ran into Washington's troops who recognized one of their horses. They accused him of stealing it and made him dismount. He had to walk the rest of the way back to Chadds Ford. I think this is when the British Army took him prisoner and put him in basement of the Dilworth Tavern (still there, the building, not William) from which he soon escaped. Contact me and I will send you some photographs of the William Harvey House and the Ring House if you'd like them.

William Prezioso said...

Just came across this site and joined,I'm a direct descendant of Benjamin Ring and quite by accident moved to east Fallowfield P.A. Not far from the house and am in possession of book that traces the Ring family tree from the French and Indian war up to 1928 ending with my Grandfather and the book contains the letter referred to by Steve Harvey.
I'm not sure if my name will show up on the site but my name is William Ring Prezioso