Monday, 25 February 2008

Of vines and wines

One of the joys of the internet is coming across fellow gamers and enthusiasts from other parts of the world. Even better is when one meets such people who also happen to make excellent terrain. A few weeks ago Ochoin, Scottish ex-pat and Napoleonic guru, drew my attention to a couple of lads in South Australia (which happens to be one of my favourite parts of the world) who make trees and hedges. Mark and Barry run a company called Murray Bridge Trees & Terrain and can be found at their website here , which I have also added to the links section. Mark works on trees whilst Barry makes hedges, fencing and other items. The hedges are very nice but it was Barry's vines that caught my attention, not least because I'd never before seen anyone make grape vines in 25mm (or any scale for that matter). Given that my passion for AWI wargaming is matched only by my love of wine, and that one day the Kiwi and I hope to leave the rat-race and set up a winery somewhere near Martinborough or the Hawke's Bay, I knew I had to buy some of these model vines - after all, it might be the closest I ever get to owning my own vineyard....

My initial enthusiasm was curbed only by doubt as to whether anyone in 18th century New England actually made wine. I wasn't thinking of moonshine distilleries in the back of someone's barn but the cultivation of the vine for serious winemaking. In short, to justify the purchase I needed to convince myself that somewhere in 1770s Massachusetts existed the equivalent of Robert Mondavi or Screaming Eagle. Again, the internet is a wonderful thing and within no time I had found enough references to suggest that colonial America had more in common with the centre of Doncaster on a Saturday night than one might think. They made wine all over the place. American's first "native" grape was discovered just outside Philadelphia, where William Penn's gardener had apparently planted some cuttings. Called "the Alexander grape" after its discoverer (who was the gardener of William's Penn's son), this variety probably had its origins in the vines that Penn brought over from England. Unfortunately the wine made from the Alexander grape quickly "lost its colour and flavour", according to Maryland's governor, Horatio Sharpe. No doubt Robert Parker would have loved it.
Apparently an English colonel made wine near the banks of the Mississippi and actually sent some "Louisiana Claret" to King George in 1775; unfortunately the enterprising colonel and his family were shortly afterwards massacred by indians. Vineyards prospered in Maryland - a Charles Carroll planted a vineyard in Howard County in 1770 with four sorts of vines that he called "Rhenish, Virginia grape, Claret and Burgundy". It also seems that German immigrants, missing their native white wines, quickly began cultivating various varieties of grape. In 1773 lottery tickets were even sold in support of a "public vineyard" in Philadephia. By the end of the decade making wine was almost as popular as shooting redcoats.

So it seems that winemaking took place across several of the colonies, and in the places where armies would have marched in the AWI. Barry made me a whole load of vines and very impressive they are. He also made me some hedges and fencing and I was very pleased with those as well. As you can see from the photo below, the fencing is just the right height for 25mm figures to fire over. The relatively cheap cost means that even with the shipping costs from Australia to England the stuff is a good buy. Needless to say, I'm very impressed with Barry's and Mark's work; Barry is also a pleasure to deal with and sent me several update photos to show me how the order was progressing. So if you've ever wanted your own vineyard, now's your chance!

I'll sign off with the words of Benjamin Franklin: "God loves to see us happy, and therefore He gave us wine."

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

American ammunition cart (1)

This is the Continental counterpart to the British cart I painted last summer. I seem to have bought two packs of these figures and intend to turn the second into a more interesting vignette. It occured to me the other day that sets like this are likely to see far more "action" that many regular units in one's collection. For example, my Black Watch, lovingly painted over the course of about 15 months, features in the Brandywine and Monmouth scenarios and not much else; it's not often that I'm to be putting those battles on, so the regiment lives only in cyberspace and my "Scots box". An ammunition cart on the other hand will appear whenever I have artillery on the table, which is likely to be every game. Already the British dragrope men I painted last year have appeared at more games than my British grenadier battalion and the two limbers I have (for a 3-pounder on each side) are crying out for relief. So I'm more than happy to put the time into making these Perry packs look the business, as they will appear on the tabletop far more often than anything else in my collection. AWI games usually have a fair amount of space too, so there is always room for things like this.

Everything other than the horse was painted last month. The base is the standard 50mm x 100mm size that I use for limbers, wagons etc. The continued collapse of the British economy has resulted in me spending far more time in the office than at my painting table, which is a shame because Perry Miniatures are releasing 11 more AWI packs next month and I really need to push my painting schedule forward. I foresee a large Salute order with Dave Thomas in April of Southern militia and British Legion cavalry. The 3rd Continental Light Dragoons are almost finished, but I'm going to have to bump off the 9th Foot to next month. For the rest of February I'm going to concentrate on the other artillery train packs I have - another ammunition cart as mentioned above, a second 2-horse wagon and a 2-horse 6-pounder limber. The past two weeks were taken up with painting some stuff that's so new I don't think it's been released yet - I need to check with the manufacturer to see whether I can show pics! Later this week I hope to show how I turned Eureka's SYW Saxons into AWI Brunswickers and showcase some rather nice terrain bits I obtained from some chaps in Australia (who have just finished making for me some 45cm high trees.....!).

Painted January/February 2008.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Spencer's Ordinary, 26 June 1781

Last night "Eclaireur", Ronan the Librarian/Supercilius Maximus and myself had a bash at the Spencer's Ordinary scenario from the new "British Grenadier" scenario book. EC was the host and the game was played out on his large table. This second scenario book book has a good mix of better and lesser known engagements, together with a hypothetical Gloucester Point battle and a massive Germantown scenario. My favourite in the book is Savannah - with French troops, negro militia, sailors, Pulaski's Legion, militia on both sides and 9 British 12-pounders it's a mega-game with plenty of exotic troops to field. It goes straight to the top of the Allison list of Demo Games I'd Like to Do.

Anyway, Spencer's Ordinary. This scenario is at a ratio of 1:5, as it represents what was really a large skirmish between Loyalists and Greene's advance guard under the command of La Fayette. Simcoe's Queens Rangers had been on a foraging expedition and halted for the night at a tavern near Williamsburg in Virginia called Spencer's Ordinary. La Fayette attacked and this scenario represents the ensuing melee. It gives players the chance to put on the table a mass of Queen's Rangers (64 infantry figures and 22 cavalry) and Hessian jaegers on the "British" side and then militia, Continentals and 20-odd light dragoons on the American side. The scenario therefore doesn't have any regular British troops but does have plenty of cavalry, which one doesn't see that often in AWI battles. Most of the figures are from Eclaireur's collection. I contributed half of the Queen's Rangers, an American militia brigade and a few odds and sods.
The general layout - Loyalists on the right with their baggage train and Americans entering from the right. The tavern itself was represented by a Grand Manner model, defended by its owner and its Head Waiter, a Mr M Gibson.

The first engagement of the day was a cavalry scrap in the centre of the field. Charge and counter-charge carried on throughout the game with the Americans generally coming off the worst, although there was much toing and froing on both sides. Loyalist fire on the American positions was aided by the only artillery piece in the game, a Queen's Rangers 3-pounder.

The American right wing gave way under pressure from the Loyalist cavalry, whilst reinforcements in the form of my militia riflemen began moving up through the woods to assault the tavern itself, which was defended by Hessian jaegers and loyalists. By this stage the Queen's Rangers had taken up a strong defensive position at the tavern and astride the main road.

The 1st Continental Light Dragoons gamely charged the Queen's Rangers next to the tavern but were eventually beaten back with musketry. By this stage it was clear that the Americans were not going to be able to meet their objective of pillaging the baggage - it was not possible to break through the Queen's Rangers given the collapse of the right flank.

We played about 11 turns I think. It was clear by that stage that the Americans had had the worst of it. The game turned on the few dice rolls of the cavalry skirmishes on the American right and could have produced quite a different result had those rolls been to the Americans' avantage. This was a fun scenario; it's always good to have an excuse to get the Queen's Rangers out in force!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Sargent's Massachusetts Regiment

Sargent's Regiment was raised in Massachusetts in May 1775 as one of 12 battalions of 500 men each. I found a couple of references to men belonging to "Sargent's Regiment, Massachusetts militia", so the regiment may have had its foundations in a minutemen unit. Colonel Sargent's father had been a colonel of militia. The regiment became the 16th Continental Regiment in 1776 and then the 8th Massachusetts in 1777. The regiment apparently fought at Bunker Hill, New York, Trenton and in the Saratoga campaign. The regiment was disbanded in 1783. Colonel Paul Dudley Sargent himself survived a wound at Bunker Hill to become a brigadier and then after the war a judge in Maine.

I wanted to paint up a militia unit that could also pass muster as an ill-clothed state regiment and so be fielded in a regular Continental brigade. As with a couple of other such regiments I have painted, I combined figures from the Foundry "uniformed militia" and "minutemen" packs so that half the unit wears civvies and the rest are in some kind of uniform. The advantage of the "uniformed militia" packs is that the only bit of uniform is the coat and the waistcoats and breeches can easily be painted as civilian clothes. So when painting such a unit the only decision to be made is what colours to paint the coats. I had a look through Mollo and a couple of Ospreys to see if I could find something colourful, a bit different from blue and brown coats faced red or buff. Mollo has a picture of a field officer of Sargents' Regiment and green faced black coats fitted the bill. With this dark green uniform I thought that the figures could even double-up as Tory militia in the south. Therefore, for the flag I needed something fairly neutral that wouldn't scream out "rebels", certainly nothing with stars 'n bars. At Salute last year I picked up several flags from Flag Dude (sold by TM Terrain in the UK) which featured designs I hadn't seen before. This is one of them, featuring a legend "An Appeal to Heaven". Loyalists can appeal to God just as well as Patriots, so this one seemed suitable.

20 figures. Painted January 2008. Flag by Flag Dude. Cornfield by Touching History.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Ammunition wagon

This was fun to paint, and I was assisted by a good examination of Alan Perry's own "version" last December. I decided to paint this wagon in natural wood rather than "British blue-grey" mainly because I need 4 wagons for the Oriscany scenario. Painting things like this in blue-grey limits their use to British forces, whilst natural wood means they can belong to either side really. The traces are made out of white cotton which I stained with dark brown ink (thanks to WDP on the WD3 forum for this idea). The traces were a bit of a pain to glue onto the model, but I think they look ok. The first horse immediately after the wagon is supposed to be a "dun", hence the rather muddy brown coat. Duns have a "dorsal stripe" but this will be covered up by the harness. So you'll just have to take my word for it....The base is large, 50mm x 200mm, made on request by ERM.

On the painting table at the moment is an American militia regiment and some Brunswickers (Eureka SYW figures). I've been planning out the next few months' painting schedule and I want to try to finish off the remaining American Continental units I want to paint. The target for January is another British Saratoga regiment, the Continental 3rd Light Dragoons and more American artillery and limbers.

Painted January 2008.