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Sunday, December 1, 2019

Franco-Prussian War: French Field Artillery Battery


The first challenge to this build was figuring out what I had in the Old Glory 15s packet. It's a generous offering of six guns and 25 crew. I will need limbers down the track but they will have to be another supplier. What I had to discern was what types of guns I had on my hands - there are two types supplied.

There are four smaller pieces with shorter barrels (20mm) and shorter, stout gun carriages. The other two are longer and larger barrelled pieces (25mm) on longer, slender carriages. Old Glory fails to adequately identify them but both types are muzzle loaders.
A little bit of research is always required of course (it's part of why I'm into historical wargaming). I don't know why but I have relied greatly on open source internet information to inform this build. Perhaps it's because they are 15mm. If I were building this army in 28mm you can be sure I'd have purchased a comprehensive uniform guide and reference library.
Anyway, and these models represent four of the Canon de Campaign de 4 La Hitte (1858) and two of the older Napoleon III 12 pounder re-bored guns.

Normally I'd group my batteries into three gun units but in this instance I'm likely to go for a two gun battery organisation as the 12 pounders formed reserve batteries and the model 4's formed homogeneous field batteries. It's academic anyway because I base my guns separately and I can always arrange them differently on the day if I prefer.
I needed to balance the barrels when fixing them with Selley's Araldite to give time for the bond to set.

For the first time I have deliberately based one of my 4's askew. On reflection, I don't know why I've never done this before but I wanted it to look like it was being man-handled to change facing. When it comes to guns there's so many different modelling possibilities and I must try to remember this for future artillery builds.

The gun carriages as far as I can discern were a grey/green. This would appear to be continuing the Napoleonic tradition. Imagery for extant examples are variable in colour from a pronounced mid-green to grey which I presume to be faded over time. Artists as often as not depict them in a natural wood but I recognise that digital colour reproduction can also vary significantly. So, I've gone for a louder green on the carriage body and greyer green on the wheels which I admit is hedging my bets a little. In the end, I'm not entirely happy the wheels are dark or grey enough and they look the same as the rest of the carriages under the light. Ah well. The barrels are all brass.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Chasseurs a Cheval: French FPW 15mm

Well I pushed on and cranked out the other cavalry bag I had with me in Tonga for my French Second Empire 15mm army. These Old Glory 15mm toy soldiers are a treat to paint up and compared to 28mm figures they really are much faster to produce.
When it came to applying the research I posted in my uniform guide, I realised that at this scale there were practical compromises to make. For instance, the double black and green central stripe on the outside seam of the trousers I reduced to a single simple black line.
The pack came with two standard bearers and one trumpeter so I cut one standard bearer's standard down to a sword by lopping the ends and pinching the soft alloy wire with flat nosed pliers and trimming appropriately.
I have to admit I wasn't able to readily identify which figure was the leader/officer so I just went with the only heroically posed rider waving his sword in the air.
The Chasseurs a Cheval have relatively simple uniforms. I couldn't readily discern if the faces included molded chin straps or not so I left them out entirely. I did include the eagle on their sabretache. When it comes to deciding what details to include in 15mm I admit I don't have and hard and fast rules or a painting plan.
I really couldn't be bothered with the collar piping and didn't want to but ended up forcing myself and I'm glad I did. It wasn't that arduous. Anyway, I've already started on their artillery support (foot) so that will be the next post.



Black Hussar Figure Review and approach

French SYW Fusilier kneeling at ready

My second purchase of French infantry 28mm figures is from the Berlin based Black Hussar Miniatures. They are hands down some of the most elegant fine scale model soldiers available today and they just scream 18th century.
French SYW Fusilier loading

I purchased 37 miniatures for my regiment la Sarre and these are only the second company I have so far sourced for my French army - the other being Crusader Miniatures. They were all purchased from the Seven Years War French Fusilier selections and I thought to model a firing line.
French SYW Fusilier loading (2)

Black Hussar Miniatures make a varies range of standing and kneeling fusiliers firing, loading and at the ready. The equipment is beautifully detailed and their muskets are very fine when compared to Crusader Miniatures whose muskets border on artillery pieces by contrast. Whilst they look superb they do not travel well and he bayonets bent significantly in transit without exception and I lost a couple in the undercoating stage (I brush it on). They are cast is a very malleable alloy.
French SYW Tambour advancing

The Tambours (drummers) are very detailed and require assembly as the drums are depicted swinging freely away from the body once affixed. I drilled and pinned the connection points (the left hand) to further support the join prior to using Selley's Araldite.
French SYW Tambour standing

In fact, some attention is paid in the design and casting process to project the third dimension to these figures. The fusiliers (particularly those standing and shooting) have a superbly rendered and prominently projecting sword and bayonet scabbard with none of the relief in depth issues normally found. They required no cutting in like most manufacturers - just a little straightening.
French SYW Standard Beaerer

The standard bearers come with the flag pole, fanions, cravats and streamers as one piece separate to the figure with both hands forming the flag pole sculpt. I also drilled and pinned the join. As I make my own cloth flags, this altered my usual order of build in that I constructed and painted the flags prior to fixing them to the bearers and proceeding to undercoat stage.
French SYW standard with fanions and hands sculpted on

I also purchased a pair of English officers from the French and Indian Wars selection, one of whom comes with no sash and a gorget , serving just as well as a French colonel on foot. The French company officers with spontoons and the Sergeants with halberds are particularly beautiful.
British FIW officer who will pass for French
All shots are taken after white undercoating. I over did it with the lighting and most likely should have filtered it a little to pick up detail - they look over exposed.
French SYW Line Officer
There's a lot to be said for mixing up manufactures within a unit and across an army just for variety's sake. I will be completing an entirely Black Hussar unit in this instance. I'm looking forward to how they come out.
French SYW Sergeant

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Battle for Quebec: French 2nd Battalion regiment Bearn


This is my second battalion for Montcalm's French forces for the battle of Quebec on the Plains of Abraham - my regiment Bearn in the 1758 continental uniform issue.

All figures are Crusader Miniatures 28mm sculpts and likely the last I will use for this army as their range is limited and I want more than just standing or marching poses across the range of battalions which took the field. They really are superb figures and frankly a joy to paint.

The eyes are slightly on the narrow size if you are into painting eyes like I am - testing my eyes and magnifiers to their limit. I have given a few of them a slightly unshaven look; generally limiting them to black or dark haired soldiers. I've been doing this for years but this time I think I've got the technique to where I have been aiming for. It's a thin dark grey wash which I gently stippled onto the faces and built it up just a little.

I made my own steel wire flag poles and of course my own flags. Pretty sure the fanions, ribbons and cravats are Front Rank. The Crusader Miniature ensigns come with a unique and rather odd looking hand arrangement. I had intended to sculpt better hands around the poles once fixed but then completely forgot until I was too far down the painting road.

The only variation to the figures this time was twisting one of the officer's arms. As usual, I applied my metals after the mat coat spray varnish (Micador Picture Varnish) and only ran silver along the bayonet edges.

The previous French line battalion (also Crusader Miniatures - la Guyenne) was painted using a grey base layering approach for the white coats. This time I opted for a brown/ochre base which I think is softer and I prefer it. I'm not sure if the end result demonstrates much of a difference. I didn't muddy or dirty these troops up but will do so next time I think.

I've already prepped the next battalion for undercoating - some Black Hussar fusiliers so I find myself on a bit of an FIW role toward year's end.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Uniform Guide: Second Empire French Line Chasseurs a Cheval

To off-set the woefully inadequate Osprey offering on the Franco-Prussian War French Imperial Army, I present my findings of the uniform regulations in effect for the French Chasseurs a Cheval for 1870. In general terms, 12 regiments of Chasseurs a Cheval ('Horse Hunters') of the Line were light cavalry dressed largely in accordance with the 1854 regulation. Each regiment had six squadrons, fielding five.
Captain's dolman 1854 pattern.

DOLMAN (jacket)
Was green with 18 braids of black wool to the front and three rows of pewter buttons (left/centre and right) There were no collar or cuff facings or regimental distinctions but were piped black - some have the pointed cuff piped 'garance' (red). Officer distinction is a Hungarian knot in white lace bordering the cuffs and extending up both sleeves to above the elbow. The elaboration of the knot is dependent upon rank - simpler for junior officers and increasingly elaborate for senior ranks. Officers, NCOs and trumpeters also wore a lanyard style 'draw-strings' of a significant and intricate plait in black: fixed to the shoulder and sternum across the left breast with a pair of elaborate tassels hanging from the left.
Second Empire 12è Chasseurs à cheval
GIBERNE (cartridge box and belt)
White broad leather belt worn diagonally across the chest with a brass gun-spike (ornate and elaborate for officers) on the front and the black leather cartridge box on the back.

TROUSERS (Pantalon Basane)
Were madder red for all ranks with a double black stripe down the outside seam of each leg with a central green seam/stripe. The trouser has 'false boots' of black leather extending from just below the knee to the hem. I can't find any images of officers wearing the false boot trousers so they either didn't wear them or all officer images are of dress pants of the same colour and stripe.
Officer talpac 1858 regulation
TALPAC (headgear)
The black lambswool 'talpac' is a Turkish bonnet being often described as a 'frustoconical astrakhan hairstyle' of Middle-Eastern (Janissary) origin and adopted by the French during the Second Empire in the 1854 regulation. The brass-ringed chin-strap when not under the chin was hung from either side across the front of the talpac. Pompoms were affixed at the top centre with the regimental number attached. Pompoms were gold for officers and red for other ranks (including trumpeters). In full dress, a plume was fixed above the pompom - red over green for all ranks but tricolor for trumpeters (red topped, white centre and blue base).
KEPI
I can neither find images or written references to the colours of the Chasseurs a Cheval kepi. Given that the infantry and the Chasseurs de Afrique of the period follow the same doctrine of red crest over coat colour for the headband, I can only assume it must have been red over green - so unless someone advises me to the contrary, I'm going with that.

SHOES
Are in black leather with steel hooks (spurs).

SWORD, KNOT and HANGERS
The light brass-hilted cavalry sabre is more often shown hung by white slings (hangers) but sometimes black. Other ranks including trumpeters have white sword knots; officers have gold. All ranks waist belt is black.

SABRETASHE (from 1860)
Black leather for all ranks, white hangers and sporting a brass imperial eagle in the centre.

HORSE FURNITURE
The saddle, girth strap and stirrup leathers are in brown leather whilst the tail strap, bridle and reins are in black leather. The cylindrical portmanteau is in the same green as the dolman; the circular ends edged in red with a red hunting horn patch in the centre. The pale brown/beige woolen blanket is rolled and slung across the pommel and fixed with black leather straps.
SHABRAQUE
When depicted is green edged red with a red hunting horn in the rear corner.


TRUMPETERS 
Similarly uniformed to the rest of the regiment in all respects with tricolor piping at collar and cuff as well as tricolor chords for their brass trumpets and bugles.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Franco-Prussian War: 15mm French Cuirassiers and Garde Mobile

It may have taken a month but that was including a two-week leave break away from my work table. I finally got around to giving my six Second Empire infantry battalions some cavalry support. These are my first ever cuirassiers and what ripping little sculpts they are too. These are the Old Glory 15mm range and come in a pack of 16 - at least that's how I bought them second hand.
I mounted them in four by four figure squadrons 45mm wide and 35mm deep on good old balsa as my original MDF proved too small. They came with two trumpeters and two standard bearers but as a big-battalion man my regiment is 16 figures ready to go with Black Powder rules.
I touched up the steel cuirasses after their matt spray coat with a highlight of silver and added the brass over brown base coat as the final touch. I really enjoyed cracking these out and they are so much easier than my 28mm cavalry efforts. Even though this is my only 15mm army, they do feel to me like a real wargaming scale - I can't explain it.
I also finished an under-strength battalion of Garde Mobile. I'd not normally invest in them but they came with the job-lot purchase so what the hell. They featured seldom on the battle field until after the disaster at Sedan but they did feature.

These little blighters were a doddle and they remind me why the American Civil War period leaves me flat ... so drab. Feel free to disagree.
All I need now is another cavalry regiment and a battery of guns and I'm ready for a fight. In the meantime, I'm ready to start painting my next French infantry battalion in 28mm for the battle for Quebec on the Plains of Abraham.  

Friday, November 1, 2019

WOR Black Arrow Characters and Guns: Digital Back-Cataloguing

Sir Daniel Brackley
This is a Lord of the Rings Wraith Lord figure (I think) which I converted to Sir Daniel Brackley, disguised as a leper. Sir Daniel was very much the primary villain of The Black Arrow.
The vengeful hero of the novel but not the primary character is Jon Amend-All who is the head of the Black Arrow fellowship and another Lord of the Rigs conversion. I think I made the bow using wire and Greenstuff.
I have a feeling this small two crew piece might be a Mirliton model but I can't really recall.
A novelty addition to any WOR army is a handful of early hand-gunners. I cannot remember or find images which match these figures on an internet search. Perhaps someone else can enlighten me? I picked them up at a wargames convention years ago.