Saturday, 26 May 2012

Osprey's Wabash 1971 St. Clair's Defeat

I recently bought Wabash 1791, part of the Osprey Campaign series. I must confess I'm not really sure why: it's not as if I haven't got enough on my plate with my Napoleonics without getting seduced by another period, or at the very least another theatre of war! Sadly, it may be too late as this book is a real gem.

Following the war of independence the federal government's army was too small to undertake a major campaign against the Indian tribes that raided it's frontiers. However, if the new nation was to have any secure future it needed to take control of present day Ohio.

With this in mind the government summoned Arthur St. Clair to raise and lead a force of about 2000 troops ranging from skilled frontiersmen and regular soldiers to unprepared levies and militia. This badly trained and ill equipped force then marched through the forests of Ohio until they met an Indian force at the Wabash river. The result was one of the worst defeats of an American army by a Native Americans, overshadowing even Custer's defeat at Little Bighorn.

What I really liked about the book was not only the clear description of the battle and the aftermath, but the detailed look at both the strategic and logistical problems that faced both armies. So, for example, the American troops had to carve their way slowly through the trackless wilderness, often stopping to bridge streams and ravines. Promised supplies didn't materialise and bad weather meant that horses and cattle couldn't graze.

However, problems of supply didn't just dictate American strategy. The Indians could not gather a large army at short notice, or maintain it for long, far from their sources of food. Nor could they fight for long without supplies of gunpowder from their British allies. What comes across clearly to me is the way in which the logistical difficulties of both sides dictated the shape of the campaign.

There is also a fascinating description of the different tactical assumptions under which both sides operated and the way this affected the battle. So, for example, the American regulations were based on the 18th century European model which saw armies as machines to generate firepower. Such armies fought in tight knit batallions arranged in a linear formation in order to maximise firepower. In contrast, the Indians fought dispersed seeking to maximise enemy casualties while minimising their own.

This would certainly make an interesting campaign to wargame, and would possibly lend itself to a great solo game. However, I must resist the temptation to buy any more figures!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Thank You to My Wife (and a bit of a plug!)

Two posts in one evening seems a bit too enthusiastic, but I wanted to say a big thank you to my wife who helped me with the photographs of my Spanish Guerrillas. As well as being handy with a camera, she is also a professional artist.

Although she mostly sells her original ACEO pictures on eBay, she is also a dab hand at military figures. One year, while on holiday, we came across a display by the 68th Durham Light Infantry. My wife produced a couple of really nice studies based on photographs she took:

This picture was sold at auction so we could only scan the photocopy. Hence the poor reproduction quality.
 She has also some pictures of the Household cavalry up on her Facebook page at Artistic Originals. Please feel free to check out her work.

Sample of my 15mm Spanish Guerrillas

15mm Essex Guerrilla
As I said in an earlier post, I discovered that I had bought  a number of Spanish guerrillas from a range of manufacturers including Falcon, Minifigs and Essex some time ago but never got them painted up.  So, over the summer, I made a concerted effort to get them painted.

I have kept on thinking about photographing my attempts and putting the results on here: possibly in the hope that it would inspire me to do some more painting. At last, with the help of my wife's photography, I have photographed a sample range of finished figures.

I have tried to present them in the style of Deep Fried Happy Mice, which I have always found to be a useful site when considering what figures to buy. Unfortunately my attempts at providing a scale against which to measure my figures didn't quite work. Nevertheless, I hope that these pictures might still be useful for anyone considering a similar force.

L to R - The first two are from Minifigs, the last three are from Essex

L to R - Falcon, Essex, Minifig, Irregular, Minifig

The Falcon figures are quite chunky and, in bare metal, seem to lack the detail of either Minifigs or Essex. However, they painted up very well and, in the end, I was very pleased with them. One criticism I have is that on one or two figures the moulds obviously got misaligned and the two sides of the figure doesn't match up. However, this is only on a couple of figures.

Essex are as chunky as the Falcon figures and the two manufacturers go well together. The detail on the Essex figures is raised up making it easy to pick out. If I have one complaint about Essex it is that the bases seem very narrow and I worry about whether, once based up, they will survive the rigours of the wargames table.

The Irregular figure was one I bought over the summer as part of one of their Riot packs and was glad that it included a priest as I had been keeping my eye out for a suitable figure. I was quite surprised that it stood a lot taller than any of the other figures as I had got it into my head that Irregular figures were quite a small '15mm'. Nevertheless, it isn't overly tall and doesn't stand out too much when placed side by side with the other figures.

Minifigs are the slimmest of the manufacturers and the detail on the figures is incised which can mean that detail can be easily painted over and lost. Nevertheless, Minifigs remain my favourite manufacturer and the one I will carry on using for the bulk of my Napoleonics.  Minifigs tend to have a limited number of poses (although a huge range of figures), which is great for regular troops. However, for irregular bands, such as Guerrillas, I would suggest that they need to be mixed with other manufacturers.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Osprey's Spanish Guerrillas in the Peninsular War

If you've read my previous post you'll know that I am currently painting up a collection of Napoleonic Spanish Guerrillas in 15mm. Well I say 'currently', at the moment the last of them are sat on a tray in the dinning room waiting to be painted.

However, the book I have been using for reference is Spanish Guerrilla in the Peninsular War 1808-14 by Rene Chartrand.

The book is part of the Osprey Elite Seriesand is in the usual Osprey format. It covers the history of the 'little war' in Spain from 1808; explaining the rise and spread of the Guerrillas and looking at why the Spanish turned so enthusiatically to this form of warfare.

There are also sections looking at the organisation of the Guerrillas; detailing the various regional bands; and providing brief biographies of the leaders such as Don Julian Sanchez.

As might be expected from such a work there are chapters on the cruelty that was the hallmark of the conflict; the relationship between the guerrillas and the British; and an assessment of the overall impact of the Guerrillas on the course of the war. Finally, there is a brief chapter looking at the end of the Guerrillas and the effect they had on the turbulent post war years.

While all of this is of interest to me as background reading the most useful parts of the book, from my point of view, were the sections on weapons, clothing and tactics; and the pictures: the book is replete with numerous black and white illustrations as well as the colour plates by veteran Osprey artist, Richard Hook.

The illustrations were useful as source material for the actual painting. The section on weapons and tactics were of more use as I started thinking about how I was going to base my figures (when I eventually get them finished) as well as gaving me some ideas about possible solo scenarios.

I must confess to being a sucker for Osprey books and they are usually my first port of call whenever I start a new area of interest. If I have one minor criticism of the book, and this has been noted by other reviewers,  it is that it doesn't deal in much detail with the French attempts to counter the guerrillas. There are tantalizing references to interesting French contraguerrilla units, but little detail. Nevertheless, overall an excellent reference book.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Best Laid Plans

Over the summer I had a dig through the mound of 15mm metal figures that are hidden away in the wardrobe and discovered a number of packets of  Spanish guerrillas from various manufacturers including Falcon, Minifigs and Essex. I only vaguely remember buying them but there was enough for a couple of 'regiments' of about twenty figures each using the ratio of one figure equals twenty men.

I have to confess, I love doing the research for my chosen periods, but I am not a huge fan of painting. Part of the problem is, I think, that I take on too many at a time. So, for example, I tried to paint three batallions of Brunswick light infantry in one go. After all how difficult can it be? They all wear black!

I would start and then other things would come up, such as making a living, so they would go back in the cupboard for a while. Eventually I have completed the Brunswick forces present during the Waterloo campaign but it has taken me years! I needed to think of another way of doing it.

So, having dug out all these packets, I decided that rather than trying to paint them all at once I would only paint eight at a time. Only when I had finished those eight would I paint any more. I made great progress and quickly finished the first eight. Another eight were soon to follow. By the end of the summer I had painted twenty four figures and only had a few more to do.

In my enthusiasm at the speed of my painting I thought I would embark on a new project. I have long enjoyed reading Bernard Cornwell's "Sharpe" Seriesand in particular the prequels set in India, and I have always had a secret yearning for an Indian and HEIC army. Inspired by the wonderful pictures on the Golconda Rising blog, I decided I would purchase a 'few' sample figures.

The end of summer came and I now have a number of part painted Spanish guerrillas sitting forlornly in the the cupboard along with a mixture of unpainted Arabs, Indians Irregulars and Sepoys.

Oh well, the best laid plans and all that!