Thursday, 2 December 2010

Pennsylvania Militia

For my American militia unit I chose John Proctor's Independent Battalion, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania - simply for the reason that their flag has been preserved (and can be found at The State Museum of Pennsylvania). Some think that the flag was carried at the battles of Trenton (26 Dec, 1776) and Princeton (3 Jan, 1777), but some doubt that it was ever present in a battle.
Never mind, I though, it is a beautiful flag!
It was converted from an old British standard at Hanna's Town in 1775 by adding the rattlesnake hissing at the Union Jack, with golden decorations and the warning motto "DON'T TREAD UPON ME". It clearly shows that many Pennsylvanian settlers still considered themselves loyal subjects to King George, but were ready to resist tyrannical acts.

For figures I chose a mixture of Dixon, Foundry, and Redoubt miniatures, some of them in uniform coats, others in civilian clothes, and the young lieutenant even in grandfather's British red coat!
My intention was to give the impression of a scratched together unit, and the various brands of figures just helped to create this picture.
Furthermore I based them individually so I could use them in loose order, signifying that their military value was probably low.
At Princeton the militia were sent to support Brigadier General Hugh Mercer's fleeing troops, but started to give way on seeing the flight of  Mercer's men. When Washington rode up with reinforcements he succeeded in rallying the fleeing militia. He then led the attack on the British troops, driving them into retreat.
I imagine my little men doing this job. Just look at the farmer with the rifle and the broad-brimmed straw-hat taking aim at an epaulette, or the advancing man with the old-fashioned blunderbuss! What a devastating effect a shot from this old weapon will have at short range, being charged with hacked lead!


Friday, 26 November 2010

British 17th Light Dragoons

My regiment of 17th Light Dragoons
 There were only two British cavalry regiments present in the American Revolutionary War, the 16th or Queen's Light Dragoons and the 17th Light Dragoons. So there should not have been any big problem in creating one of these regular units - I thought.
But when I started to buy my figures and work on this unit, I didn't know what difficulties I was facing.
Officer by Front Rank
Guidon of 1st squadron
Guidon of 2nd squadron
Trumpeter by Perry (head changed)
French horn by Front Rank

Officer by Perry (housing changed)

Firstly there are big differences in the equipment of the various figures available. The horse furnitures are  different, the cut of the coats and the the helmets differ, some men do not even have pouches on their belts.  I had not expected this, having read the Royal Cloathing Warrant of 1768 and the appropriate chapter in Lawson's History of the Uniforms of the British Army, and having scanned the net for artefacts.
Farrier (Front Rank)
I was used to this negligence among the producers of 54mm showcase figures (who cares about historical authenticity  as long as the figure looks fine and the attitude is smashing). But I had expected a bit more of scrupulousness with wargaming figures. It was a disappointment, I must say.
Finally I comforted myself saying that the troops had been on campaign for several years in the colonies, partly riding in rough country, far from supplies from the motherland. How could they look as prescribed in a Royal warrant! Soldiers of all times have had a sense for "system D" - improvisation.
So I accepted the less than uniform look of my horsemen, even added to it by doing a bit of tinkering, scratching off the baggage of an officer (which gentleman would care to carry it himself, even in the backwoods, if he had his batman at hand), furnishing a trumpeter with a hat, trimming some of the horse's tails, choosing different colours for their breeches etc., and mixing different brands of figures in one unit. So you will recognize figures by Dixon, Front Rank, and Perry, and a farrier of the 7YW range. With 20 figures the unit is almost full strength, but it is always easy to split it up if necessity requires, e.g. strengthen the British Legion with four figures. The rest will stay in New York (i.e. the box).

(The figures are not quite finished yet, especially the bases lack sand and grass.)
Trooper in campaign dress as worn with the British Legion (Dixon)
 (The 16th Light Dragoons will be dealt with in an extra post, because there were more problems to be faced.)

The whole regiment

Monday, 26 July 2010

Grenadiers de Bourbonnois

I have now finished my French grenadiers that I bought from Spencer Smith Miniatures, Tradition of London. They are 30mm figures, and as such a bit too tall for my 28mm miniatures. So I can't mix them with other figures - except as a unit. But I like their style. They look darn French, don't they.
I painted them as the grenadier company of the Régiment de Bourbonnois in their 1779 regulation uniforms with black facing colour on the cuffs and the piping of lapels, shoulder straps and collars.
Unfortunately Spencer Smith have not made fusiliers, chasseurs, a porte-drapeau and a colonel. So they will stay a single company of grenadiers, consisting of 1 officer, 1 drummer, and 4 grenadiers.
They are advancing without knapsacks and water bottles, with fixed bayonets. Ready to attack redoubt 9 at Yorktown, as it seems.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

French Dragoons in North-America

Part of the French troops that came with d'Estaing to Savannah, and with Saint-Simon to Yorktown were  small units of dragoons of the regiments de Bezunce-dragons and Condé-dragons. They were just one company each of 40 horsemen and a small staff, 50 soldiers altogether. When I planned to have these units in my French army I decided to size them up a bit - two dragoons, a drummer and an officer per unit just weren't enough, in my view. So I wanted to paint two squadrons with a standard-bearer for each regiment. Which meant 11 figures: 8 dragoons, 1 drummer, 1 standard-bearer, and 1 officer per unit.
The right figures were not available. No producer would care to make moulds for such small units that were present in the American theatre only for a very short period, and not as fighting units after all.
Front Rank have some Schomberg Light Dragoons in their SYW range. They have the right type of helmet for the French dragoons of the 1770ies, but the uniform coat is of the wrong cut of course, and above all the figures have a number of flaws: They wear the wrong form of dragoon gaiters (instead of boots), carry two pistols instead of one pistol and a tool at the saddle, they do not have a picket-pole, and their sabres are rather straight etc.
 In spite of all, I decided to use these figures - which meant a bit of tinkering. For example I cut off the pistol grip and barrel on the right side, drilled a hole into the remaining part, and inserted a bit of wire to indicate a shovel grip. About the missing picket-pole I could do nothing as the position of the right arm with the carbine didn't allow to add the pole. Also I wasn't able to change the position of the drum to the left side of the drummer (which would have been right), or to equip the officer with a fusil.
The staffs of the standards were not just simple sticks but had the form of tournament lances with a ring to fasten the baldric to. A bit of modelling resin did the job to transform the simple wire into a proper standard lance, and a ring of thin wire was easily glued to it. The rest was painting.
The main problem, however, was finding out the details of the uniforms, and the look of the standards my units were to have. Both units were stationed in the West Indies, so their uniforms were probably the same for Savannah and Yorktown, i.e. uniforms according to the regulations of 1776. Different French websites provided me with the necessary information about the uniforms and horse trappings. I only had to activate my little knowledge of French, and from time to time ask my wife for help who speaks French fluently (sometimes it's not too bad to be married to the right kind of person).
This regiment had the usual green coat with white cuffs and lapels, and a red turn-down collar. The green saddle-cloth had a white and black chequered border (silver for officers). Drummers wore the King's livery, i.e. a dark blue coat with Royal lace.
To find out something about the standard I had to borrow a book through the university library: Pierre Charrié, "Drapeaux et Étendards du Roi", Paris 1989. It is a very thorough piece of research work, and will give you any information that is to be had. The standard of 1764 to 1782 is described as follows: averse dark green with golden Royal sun and silver devise, reverse red with a golden allegorical figure of a winged dragon and motto "QUERIT QUEM DEVORIT", golden and silver fringes.
They too had a green coat, but their distinguishing colour was that of the noble Condé family: "ventre de biche". It is a reddish light ochre, which I got by mixing gold ochre and titanium white, with just a little bit of Carmine. This colour appeared on collars, cuffs and lapels of the uniform coats, on the saddle cloth and portemanteau, and on the drummer's livery, which was that of the House of Condé (which was next to the Royal Family).
The standard of 1776 to 1791 was of crimson silk on the averse side, strewn with golden lilies, and with the coats of arms of the Condé family, surrounded by the chains of the royal orders; the reverse side was of ventre-de-biche colour, strewn with golden lilies; the fringes were golden.
The tasks of the dragoons were manifold. Principally they were still mounted infantry with trenching tools. They were to clear the paths and roads for the army, to build obstacles on roads and bridges, they were to serve as vanguard of the infantry. Often they were employed as reserves because of their mobility, or they were positioned on the flanks of the army in order to outflank the enemy. At sieges they were to do duties in the trenches, and in case of an attack they were to fight in front, like grenadiers. In a few words: they were crack troops.
At Yorktown, however, they were not used as fighting units, if we may believe the sources. They probably served as a head-quarter's guard, together with the 50 hussars of the Volontaires étrangers de la Marine, who had come with them from the West Indies.

Monday, 5 July 2010

How I paint my figures

I must admit that my method of painting is not suited for mass production. Being originally a collector of flats I am used to spending hours on end on a single figure. When I paint my miniatures I apply similar techniques, because doing researches and painting are my hobbies, and not so much gaming.
I always start with priming the figure with an off-white acrylic paint ("ivory"). In this case it is a French officer (by Foundry) that is to become the flag-bearer of my French artillery.

The next step is to paint various parts of the figure with acrylic colours - a second priming so to say. In this case I painted the face a flesh colour - mixed of white, ochre, and red - , the uniform of my future artillery colour bearer with a dark blue tone, and boots and hat with black
Then I switch to oil colours. I start with the skin parts. I washed the face with a mixture of English red light and titanium white with lots of turpentine. The pigment gathers in the deeper part of the sculpture, giving the face a smooth shading. Adding a bit more of white, I then added the lights, on nose, brow, chin, and cheek-bones.
Coat, waistcoat, and breeches are treated in the same way, using Indigo blue as the basic colour. The turn-downs of the boots I painted a leather colour without shading, later adding the white straps. The epaulettes, the gorget, and the metal parts of the sword were painted with golden ochre. And the officer was given white eyeballs (later furnished with black pupils). 

Then scarlet red was applied to cuffs, turnbacks, and piping of the lapels. And the sword-belt was coloured white, and the cockade (which the figure lacks) was added with white oil colour. 
Finally metallic gold was put on gorget, epaulettes, sword, and buttons. And the figure was glued to its base.
The flag of the regiment proved quite a bit of work. It is described as "croix blanche fleurdelysée. Quartiers 1 et 4 gorge-de-pigeon changeant. Quartiers 2 et 3 aurore" (Pierre Charrié, Drapeaux et étendards du Roi). Which means: white cross strewn with (golden) lilies, 1st and 4th quarter iridescent gorge of pigeon (green-red iridescent taffeta), 2nd and 3rd quarter red orange (silk). Quite a job painting the metal sheet glued to a bit of steel wire as a staff, topped by a peak with cravat and tassels (Front Rank).

Voila, there he is, holding the flag of the Régiment de Auxonne of the Corps Royal de Artillerie.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Hab Acht!

A British sergeant would have shouted "Atten-shun!" But in the French infantry regiment of Royal Deux-Pont the commanding language was German - because all officers and the rank and file came from the duchy of Zweibrücken (which means "Two-bridges"). This duchy was scattered over what is now the Palatinate and the Saar Region in Germany and Lorraine in France. The ruler, Duke Christian von Zweibrücken, obviously thought it more opportune to provide a regiment for the French crown than for the weak Holy Roman Empire. In a time before the French revolution, before nationalism had been invented, nobody would have objected. Hessians, Brunswickers, Ansbach-Bayreuthers and the like waged war for King George, and our subjects of the Duke von Zweibrücken served King Louis of France. And at Yorktown they met and fought each other.
They were hardy boys, those farm laborers and poor farmer's sons from the Palatinate mountains, who had gone to a recruiting officer's party, taken the bounty and went off to see the New World (and by the way risk their limbs and lives in action and through disease). As hardy as their Auvergne cousins of the Gâtinois Regiment, together with whom they stormed Redoubt 9 at Yorktown with bayonets, without firing a shot, and in spite of heavy losses.

One of them, Daniel Flohr, (who wrote an interesting diary) later returned to the Land of the Free, became a preacher there, and ended his life peacefully in the United States.
Like all French foreign regiments of German tongue they had a dark sky-blue uniform coat. Their distinctive colour at this time was lemon-yellow, worn on lapels and cuffs. Their colonel was Graf (count) Christan von Forbach, a morganate son of the ruler. The regiment came directly from France with the forces of the Comte de Rochambeau. So their uniform probably was up-to-date to the latest ordinance of 1779.

The figures of my Régiment Royal Deux-Ponts are Front Rank. The hat waving colonel Comte de Forbach originally was a Prussian SYW general. And the regimental colours are a work of my printer as I was deterred by the intricate pattern of the Deux-Ponts flags.
I am happy with my countrymen (my wife coming from the Saar region), and I like their colourful uniforms. Vive le Roi!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Régiment de Gâtinois (second edition)

Merde! Sometimes it is rather annoying to learn something new. My French being rather rudimentary - more or less restricted to what I picked up playing "boules" at French camping sites (cf. the first word of my post) - I had abstained from reading the French collector's magazine Figurines. But I should have done so, especially No 30, October 1999. For it contains an article by Rigo, titled "J'etait à Yorktown". The author has made use of almost all available French sources. To neglect it before turning to the topic "The French in the American Revolutionary War", deserves punishment.  And punished I was!
I scraped together my few French words and phrases, profited of my knowledge of English (as one third of the English vocabulary is of French origin, thanks to the Normans), and consulted my wife who speaks French fluently, and learned from this article that the regiment de Gâtinois were wearing the old 1776 regulation uniforms, with yellow turn-down collars, and violet cuffs, lapels and turn-backs. So I had to re-do my regiment, which was a rather tricky affair as I had based it in groups of four, and had to get at the interior cuffs and lapels which I had painted white with violet piping before. With the collars I couldn't do much, as the Front Rank figures have got stand-up collars. I was lucky enough that I had incorrectly painted them yellow before.
Furthermore, the Gâtinois regiment were still wearing their old-fashioned laced hats at Yorktown as they hadn't had the chance to change their uniforms, serving in the Caribbean. So I had to add the silver and "false-silver" laces to their headgear. The "false-silver" of the rank-and-file hats I tried to imitate by painting them white, adding a brush of silver at the upper corner ("false-silver" was a lace, woven of white and silver tread).
I also learned that the cords on the flags were not golden, but were twined of black and violet silk strings, the colours of the regimental flag. And I was told that French flags of this period didn't have fringes - whatever TV and films try to tell you. So I had to cut off the fringes I had so meticulously produced before!
So in the end I was confronted with a completely new regiment - with the exception of the traditional white of French line regiment uniforms. Well, having tried to get my Gâtinoises as close as possible to historical truth, I thought I ought to publish my attempts. Here they are.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

L'État Major

Thanks to the figures of Perry's "French High Command" I was now able to establish part of my Allied Headquarters. Maréchal de Rochambeau is there, discussing plans with Maréchal de Camp Saint Simon. The Duc de Lauzun has joined them now. Also there is the Marquis de Chastellux, liaison officer to General Washington. The latter however is missing, together with his American staff officers. I know that there are some figures at Old Glory - but they wouldn't match the excellent Perry figures! So I abstained from buying them. A good idea was, I think, to have a Commissaire ordonnateur handing out a message to an Aide de Camp. What would be an army without logistics! An ingenieur with his big telescope, planning the siege of Yorktown, and an ingenieur géographe rummaging in his pouch for the right map, show that the French expeditionary corps in America was part of a very professional army, indeed, where nothing was left to Marshall Chance.
Comte de Rochambeau (with map of Yorktown siege)

Marquis de Saint Simon

Marquis de Chastellux

Commissaire Ordonnateur with Aide de Camp

ingénieurs (the second one originally a porte-drapeau who got a cane instead of his flag staff)
ingénieurs géographs
The figures will populate my Allied Headquarters, though their military value is not to be weighed in wargaming.