The work of Christopher Walker, profiled earlier here, coupled with a wonderful Dover publication received for Christmas, got me all revved up on paper toy soldiers. I'd had the book below for several years but kept it intact as it is so nice to have as a bound piece, but with the arrival under my Christmas tree of a duplicate copy I found myself free, and eager, to put it to its intended use.
As an illustrator myself, I have an affinity for the work of artists like A.G. Smith, Alan Archambault, Christopher Walker and others. The gender of the very prolific and talented A.G. Smith is a mystery to me as I can find no biographical information about the artist. If Smith is out there listening however, I'd just like to say that I admire his or her work immensely, both in scope and execution.
Civil War Paper Soldiers in Full Color by A.G. Smith is a delight to the eyes and, when assembled, a very satisfying resource for the game table. Dover Publications are always a visual treat, and the work of A.G. Smith (one of Dover's regulars) is superb.
Now to recruit, assemble, and deploy these small but impressive 54mm paper armies of yankees and rebels.
It becomes immediately apparent once one begins the process, that is is not a children's book, at least not the cutting and assembly.
Any parent or grandparent who presents this book to a child as a gift needs to be prepared to contribute hours and hours of careful cutting with an exacto knife of the 100 soldiers in the book.
The more meticulous the cutting, the more satisfying the results, and the cutting needs to be meticulous to get around noses, hammers, cap bills ramrods, and other very fine details. I found myself changing blades about every six or eight soldiers. Sharper is definitely better. I also recommend using a "self-healing" cutting mat, available at any hobby, art, or fabric store.
I used a glue stick to join the two-sided figures together.
Each figure has a base to keep it upright. Only one black cutting line is printed but it is more effective to make two parallel cuts as a slightly longer and wider slot will keep the base from warping.
Although a gluestick works best to join the soldier halves together, white craft glue is best for affixing the soldier to the base. Don't overdo the glue, and results should look...
and this. That's a really nice looking little toy soldier. One down 99 to go!
I seemed to average about eight or ten in an hour, working a very leisurely pace. Again, this is a cautionary tale for adults who think they can present this book to a child and glibly walk away, not if you want it to be a satisfying experience for the kid in question. Somebody will have to do the work. Think of it as an excellent opportunity for some cross-generational family time, especially if popcorn is involved.
In addition to soldiers there are a few ancillary items included.
Two cannons round out the playroom floor mayhem as do a tent, two flags, stacked arms and a couple other goodies.
Each side has only one mounted figure apiece, prompting me to think that a book of 54mm paper cavalrymen would be a natural for a future publication.
My Union army completed, it's time to get started on the sons of the southland.
It's worth noting than both armies are in their Sunday best, no butternut appears in the rebel ranks, only gray.
This recruit is ready to be thrown into the fray...
alongside his 49 comrades-in-arms.
This fighting phalanx of determined Dixiecrats forms a fierce firing line,
though the Army of the Potomac is the team to beat on my game table.
Smith doesn't skimp on variety, including musicians as well as a commander.
Artillery is represented on both sides with guns and some very nicely animated artillerymen...
and gray. I really like the artilleryman taking a ball from the stack.
Finally cut out and assembled, the two armies met in awesome combat in my studio...
(click on the image for full dramatic effect)
as I hope they shall in yours.
Many thanks to Dover Publications and that exceptional talent of A.G. Smith for this truly delightful toy soldiering experience.
I've since ordered two more A.G. Smith projects from Dover; larger format soldiers and a really cool fort to cut out and assemble. Look for both in the upcoming.