Monday, October 17, 2016

Army wall tent

First of all, a big shout-out and acknowledgement to friend and fellow blogger Scott Lesch who inspired this newest project.  Recently Scott posted to his blog I Like the Things I Like his fantastic conversion work on Safari Plastics army wall tents (here).  His work quickly had me rummaging around the wood pile.

I had been thinking about making or buying wall tents as well as dog tents for the toy soldier table.  Always looking to do things on the cheap, rather than buy tents from Safari, I decided to try and make my own.

The primary material I used was Sculpey which I've worked with a lot over the past thirty or so years.  It's a poly-form plastic modeling clay that's very easy to work with and oven bakes to a permanent hardness.

Step one was to make a wooden armature to drape the Sculpey over.

Off to the scrap pile I went to select some nice pine leftovers.  On the bandsaw I cut the pieces to dimension.

Five pieces were stacked, glued...

and clamped.

The next step found me at the disc and belt sander making each plane perfectly smooth.

The table saw was the next operation where I cut the sloping angles of the tent's roof.

 Then I started the laborious process of rolling out Sculpey.  This took a lot of time and elbow-grease.

The foil-wrapped armature is at the upper right and the rolled-out Sculpey is ready to drape and shape over the wooden support.

Guy ropes were added at this stage.  At about this time I knew that the finished product wasn't going to look a good as the Safari Plastics product and that the time and materials already invested dwarfed what one of the store-bought tents would cost. 
Still, I soldiered on.

Into the oven; 275 degrees for 25 minutes.

Next I made a base on which to mount the tent.  I pressed the now firm tent into a base of Sculpey and used an old toothbrush to make a grassy texture.

I put the two components together and added a pole and tent pegs and popped the whole thing into the oven for another 22 minutes.

Now, all baked and hard, it was time to paint.  Pegs, ropes, tent pole, canvas, and grass were all painted with craft acrylics.

And this is the result.  When compared to the job that Scott did, this is a pretty poor cousin.  Nonetheless it was a fun and instructive exercise, it got me out to the shop (which is always a good thing) and I now have a pretty serviceable wall tent for the troops.

I concluded that time and expense would keep me from doing this again, so I decided to make use of the wooden armature as well.

Here's the finished product.  Most of my scenics are made of wood so this fits right in.  The base is a salvaged piece of plywood which I cut on the band saw with a nice organic shape. I applied a very thick base coat of green paint and liberally sprinkled sawdust over it.  When the base coat was dry and the sawdust locked in I gave it all a two-tone green overcoat.  I drilled holes for the guy ropes and the tent pegs and glued the whole thing together.

The side-by-side shows two very different approaches and, though nowhere as cool as Scott's, it was still a satisfying day and a half project that left me with two serviceable wall tents.

Soldier on!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A gem from Wm. Britains - the three-inch ordnance rifle in 54mm

New to the toy soldier table is a pair of Wm. Britains American Civil War
m.1861 three-inch ordnance rifles.

The ordnance rifle was a favored gun for both Union and Confederate armies.  Although all of the nearly 1400 guns produces were for Federal forces the Confederates did prize those that they were fortunate enough to capture.

Union General George D. Ramsey, Chief of Ordnance US Army said of the three-inch ordnance rifle: "The experience of wrought iron field guns is most favorable to their endurance and efficiency.  They cost less than steel and stand all the charge we want to impose upon them..."

The m.1861 fired bolt, shell, and case shot.  Canister was also carried in the limber although canister was not as effective in rifles as it was in smoothbores.

The detail is incredible on this little gem.

The ordnance rifle had a maximum range of 3972 yards at 20 degrees of elevation
and fired projectiles with great accuracy.

 The splendid detail includes the hanging bracket for the pendulum-hausse rear sight.

The trailspike is at the perfect height for the Britains Swoppet artilleryman.

Collectors avert your eyes.  On one of my parrots I removed the trailspide and drilled out the large and small pointing rings to allow the gun to be towed behind a Swoppet limber. I'll probably do this with one of the two ordnance rifles

as well as one of my Napoleons.

In 2002 Britains produced its first-generation ordnance rifle and the difference between the two editions are obvious even upon the most casual inspection.

The current issue is on the left and the 2002 on the right.  Compare the width of the trail as well as the thickness of the wheels. 

The current issue is painstakingly accurate, still, the 2002 was a workhorse in my
tabletop battles for many years until the better one came along.

Left to right are the Britains12 pounder light-gun howitzer (Napoleon), the 2.9-inch Parrott rifle, and the three-inch ordnance rifle; a delightful addition to the Britain's family of
American Civil War light artillery.

Until next time...

Soldier on!


The Second Battle of Greenbrier - postscript

Sixty-three years later there's only a handful of them left, but the boys of the "Old Third" still talk about that dreadful October day at Greenbrier.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Second Battle of Greenbrier: final installment


When the people of Greenbrier Maryland return home they find the village transformed into a hospital filled with misery and suffering.The battle is over but for the people of Greenbrier Maryland the struggle is just beginning.  The South Mountain road is choked with a long ambulance train stretching nearly three miles from the scene of the battle.

The return of the residents nearly coincides with the arrival of the ambulances and the scene is of nearly unimaginable suffering to the people of Greenbrier.

Homes barns smokehouses and all manner of outbuildings have been commandeered by the army to house, however crudely, nearly 1500 wounded soldiers both Union and Confederate.

"They filled every building and overflowed into the country round, into farm-houses, barns, corn-cribs, cabins, wherever four walls and a roof were found together."
Unidentified Hagerstown Woman

"[The Newcomer house] was used by the surgeons for amputation purposes, and dressing wounds, and there were one or two tables in the yard being used for the same purpose, and a pile of severed hands, arms and legs lying on the ground...A horrible and sickening scene to behold such as I never wish to see again.  I staggered from the carriage, but exercising all of my will power, kept from fainting."  Angela Davis

"The doctors would huddle the family all into one little room or turn 'em out.  The house across the way from mine was a hospital, and the family there got what the doctors called camp fever and some of 'em died."  Jacob McGraw

"I have lived through my first battle, and I am well, but when I think of the brave boys who lost their lives yesterday in defense of their country, I feel sad to think that Jeff Davis did not die in their stead"
                                                                                                                     Unidentified soldier, 107th New York

"There is a smell of death in the air, and the laboring surgeons are literally covered from head to foot with the blood of the sufferers."   Peter Alexander

Confederate prisoners are pressed into service as litter bearers taking the
dead to be buried.

The known are interred separately in shallow, temporary graves, a board from a cartridge box serving as a temporary headstone. 
The unknown are laid in a trench with only the number of bodies recorded.

"Oh how dreadful was that place to me where my dear boy had been buried like a beast of the field"

Mr. Newcomer knows it will be quite some time before his sheep can be returned to this pasture and countless others as well, from Tennessee to Virginia, from South Carolina to Pennsylvania.  The final harvest would be close to
seven million souls committed to such fields.

It was all so long ago.

And what of Mr. Newcomer?

His farm became prosperous and he lived to be a very old,
and very respected elder of Greenbrier Maryland.

And there you have it, the story of the Second Battle of Greenbrier. 

Of course, there was neither a first nor a second Battle of Greenbrier.  The quotes in installments six and seven were actual quotes made by participants in, or observers of, the battle of Antietam.  The only fabricated quote was the one at the beginning of installment six ascribed to A.P. Hill. The sepia photos in installment six were taken last week at Gettysburg.

I've done three different stories centering around "Greenbrier Maryland".  Greenbrier is based on a tiny crossroads about a mile from where I live - Mt Lena; at least I think it was Mt. Lena, it has no name now, no post office, only a handful of houses, two small businesses (one with a Pepsi machine out front) a church with a cemetery and a school - Greenbrier elementary school.  I live in a lovely place on the shoulder of South Mountain in Civil War Country.  Antietam, where I worked as a park ranger for eight years is just eleven miles away.

I must acknowledge fellow blogger and toy soldier enthusiast Scott Lesch.  His multi-installment narratives were an inspiration for this series.

 The Second Battle of Greenbrier was all pretend... 

and isn't that the very essence of playing with toy soldiers?

Soldier on!