Tuesday, September 25, 2018

W. Britain Civil War field musicians...with movies!

These two little guys from W. Britain are all you need for a regiment to have music...field music, that is.  Generally field music, as opposed to band music, consists (with some exceptions) of only drums and fifes.

To illustrate the differences here's a video that I shot a few years ago at Antietam National Battlefield which is a battle between Confederate field musicians and Union bandsmen.

As with all Britain's figures of this century, the detail and sculpting are superb.

Both soldiers have the light-blue facings that denote them as musicians, though in real life this was not always the practice.

The attention to detail on the drum is particularly nice.

Here's a little video featuring my friend Bob who's the principal percussionist for the Wildcat Band which appeared in the video above (he describes himself as the oldest drummer boy in the Army of the Potomac).

Our  fifer (left) started manufacture in 2013, and our drummer in 2007.  Unlike with other Britain's which demonstrate a great deal of difference in the quality of the sculpting over a decade, these two are very comparable in detail, sculpting, and animation.

About the only difference between the two is that the drummer seems to have spent more time in the mud of the encampment.

These two field musicians are real gems, and all I really need to represent military music on the toy soldier table.

Until next time, keep your sheet-music dry and...

Soldier on!


Monday, September 24, 2018

Home grown corn

For quite some time I've wanted to make a cornfield.  This past weekend I turned my attention to it.

W. Britains makes very nice corn stalks but they are quite pricey, and they're growning in straight rows, which you'd never see in the days before mechanized farming.

As I continue to collect W. Britain's Iron Brigade toy soldiers I want to incorporate them into my ongoing interest (personal and professional) in the Battle of Antietam.  In the opening hours of the battle, the Iron Brigade was involved in the bloody fight that has become known simply, and universally, as "the Cornfield".  Hence my need for corn.  But this crop I was going to grow myself, more cheaply than the store-bought version and more satisfying as I'd be making it myself.

A few years ago I had the idea of using twist ties to make the corn stalks.  Two weeks ago I decided that the time had come and I went to Amazon and bought several hundred 4" ties for less than five dollars.

The only problem was that they were a very shiny green...that problem would be dealt with later on.

I gathered together nine of the ties and started twisting them from the bottom up, pausing now and then to bend down the long leaves of the stalk.

The square ends of the leaves were trimmed into a point.

The four-inch ties made stalks of the perfect height for the soldiers.

One down, nineteen to go.

 Everything was moved out to the woodshop and I continued the process using my spray booth to apply primer to the stalks.

As the paint dried I moved to the band saw where I cut square bases out of scrap pieces of MDF.

Adhesive was applied to each base with a caulking gun and wide putty knife.

I textured each base by liberally sprinkling sawdust over the adhesive.

When everything was cured I started the painting process; an undercoat of brick red with a light overcoat of tan, and then a brush to apply three values of green.

With a pencil I marked the spots where the cornstalks would sprout from, and began drilling holes.

Finally I started plugging the stalks into the holes in the base in a nice, random, period-correct, pattern.

The finished product is comprised of twenty stalks.

Eventually, I want to make four of these units, that can then be put together for a good sized crop.

Cornfield completed, now it comes to the battle, as General John Gibbon leads his Iron Brigade up the Hagerstown Pike and deploys in the Cornfield in support of Battery B, 4th US Artillery.

This whole project took about a day and a half to complete.

I continue to collect Iron Brigaders...so I'm going to need a lot more corn!

Until next time...

Soldier on!


Sunday, September 16, 2018

W. Britain 17292 - 140th Pennsylvania.

Uncommon valor at Gettysburg.

This 2001 three-piece set from W. Britains depicts Lieutenant James Jackson Purman and Sergeant James Milton Pipes struggling to carry a wounded comrade to safety during the Wheatfield fight on July 2, 1863.

Lieutenant Purman's account:

"When we emerged from the woods and were about to retreat across the wheat field, the only man of my company whom I could see was Sergeant J.M. Pipes.At this moment we came across a comrade whom I did not know, wounded badly in the legs. He cried out 'Comrades carry me off!' I replied that we could not do that as the enemy was too close upon us, but we immediately noticed two rocks nearby suitable for protection from the enemy's fire, and I said to the Sergeant 'come help me and I will him between these rocks.'  With the assistance from the Sergeant , I carried him and placed him between the rocks in  an apparent place of safety. I remained with him long enough to straighten out his limbs and take his hands and say 'good bye. But this delay of a few minutes caused the enemy to gain upon me so much that it proved fatal to my intention of crossing the wheat field and reaching our reserves on the opposite side.  Within a few yards of me the enemy called out 'Halt you damned yankee, halt!'. I did not obey his command and in consequence , a few moments later received a gunshot wound to my left leg below the knee, crushing both bones, and fell instantly to the ground, the enemy charging over me.  Sergeant Pipes was also wounded in the legs.  Unable to crawl off, I lay on the field all night and the next day between the fires of both armies.  About the middle of the afternoon July 3rd I received a second gunshot wound passing through my right leg.  Some time after this I was carried within the Confederate lines by Lieutenant Thomas P. Oliver, of the 24th Georgia and was given a canteen of water and placed in the edge of the woods under the shade of the trees.

As a result of the wounds, my left leg was amputated on the morning of July 4th and the strength and movement of my right leg was impaired.  

Since the war, I have ascertained that the unknown comrade who's life I tried to save was John Buckley, of Company B, and that he died from loss of blood and exposure before help could reach him."

For their gallantry, Purman and Pipes were awarded the Medal of Honor.


Both Pipes and Purman are interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Sergeant James Milton Pipes

Lieutenant James Jackson Purman

John Buckley - the wounded comrade.

See you next time with more toy soldier action.

Soldier on!