Thursday, July 28, 2016


My wife and I decided that while we were in Pennsylvania this week it would be an ideal opportunity to take in two Civil War battlefields - Gettysburg and Antietam. Gettysburg came first but the photos are elsewhere. More on that another time. We visited Antietam yesterday, and here are some of the photos.

The iconic Dunker Church
The Dunker Church. This is a reconstruction of the original, which was destroyed in 1921 during a fierce storm. The builders used as much of the original material as possible when it was rebuilt for the centenary in 1962.

The Cornfield. Union troops emerging from the cover of the crop were blasted by Confederate fire.

The Cornfield from the Union side.
The West Woods - so peaceful today.
The West Woods saw brutal fighting between the Union troops of Hooker's Corps. and the famed Stonewall Division.

The Mumma Farm
The Mumma Farm was the only civilian building deliberately destroyed in the battle when it was torched to prevent its use by Union sharpshooters. It was rebuilt in 1867. The officer who carried out the order wrote a letter of apology to the owner, who magnanimously forgave him.

The approaches to the Sunken Lane.
Greene's and French's divisions of the Union army crossed this field to attack Confederate troops holding the sunken farm lane that runs east-west to the right of the picture. It's open today, but in the battle it was covered by corn (maize to British readers).

Sunken Lane - Looking west.

Sunken Lane - Looking East toward the watchtower built in the 1890's.
The lane was in use up to the 1962 Centenary, when a modern road was laid down just to the south to preserve it. It's not quite as deep as during the battle due to natural erosion, but it's still a formidable obstacle. The watchtower marks the point where the Union army managed to extend its line sufficiently to outflank the Confederates, at which point the lane took on its other name - Bloody Lane - when it became a death trap.

A Rebel's eye view of the Union army's advance over the rise.
Burnside Bridge
We moved on to the southern end of the battlefield, and that other iconic feature, Burnside Bridge. The structure suffered major damage during heavy flooding in 2014. It's now undergoing restoration by the parks service.

The slopes above the bridge.
The position was held by Georgian regiments of the Confederate army. Five hundred men held up the advance of many times their number for hours until a combination of a flanking attack from Snaveley's Ford farther downriver and a bold dash across the bridge pushed them back.

The last line of defence.
Pressure from the Union troops crossing the creek threatened to cut General Lee's line of retreat through Sharpsburg and across the Potomac river (to the west and north-west of this photo). The Confederate right began to collapse and was saved by the timely arrival of A.P. Hill’s division. Hill had force-marched his troops the fourteen miles from Harpers Ferry, and his exhausted men managed to help push back the Union advance.

With nightfall came the Confederate retreat, Lee falling back across the Potomac to save his army. He'd suffered nearly 25% casualties and left the Union army in possession of the field. Victory here allowed Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which prevented Britain and France insisting on a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Gunboat - upper deck

A little more progress on the new gunboat... These last few days it's been slow in the making. Too much real life and the high daytime temperatures get in the way sometimes.

This is a dry run, the top deck isn't fixed in place yet. I intend to put all the detail on before doing so. The next step will be to embed the magnet to hold the after deck gun then construct the wheelhouse and smokestack. At the moment I'm thinking of scratch-building a couple of Gatling or Nordenfeldt guns to place on the wings above the paddle-boxes where they'll be able to bear almost directly ahead and astern. I already have a 5-barrel Nordenfeldt for the aft position on the upper deck. The lower deck will feature either the Nordenfeldt or a scratch-built Hotchkiss 57mm revolving cannon, which can be swapped as needed.

This is a beamy little boat, wider than my previous version so it can carry a number of figures. Looking at the photo I think it might benefit from a little more detail on the paddle-boxes, maybe in the form of a fan made up of elongated kite-shape pieces. We'll see.

In any case progress will come to a halt for another week as I'll be joining the press pack around the DNC conference in Philadelphia. It promises to be an historical event. Let's hope it is for all the right reasons.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Gunboat deckhouse

It's been a while since I last posted. Life gets in the way sometimes. I have managed to finish the lower deck-house for the gunboat.

The doors are bench backs from the Hirst Arts molds, with hinges and handles made with black Puffy Paint. I used black marker pen to make the windows with more Puffy Paint for the frames. Photos of gunboats of this era show the windows were small, often little more than slots in the walls. The lined panel represent ventilation louvers for the steam engine. Detail is sketchy on this part of the model, as most of it will be hidden by the paddle-boxes and the upper deck overhang.

The paddle-boxes will be glued in place next. I'm having trouble with the paint flaking off them, so they'll need a bit of a touch-up to get them right. I've painted the support posts for the upper deck. The holes in the deck are for the posts to fit into. More to come, time permitting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Gunboat progress

The weather here has been hot and dry for weeks now. My gaming room isn't in the best insulated part of the house so it's also been uncomfortably hot to the extent I didn't much feel like working in it.

Even so, I have made a bit more progress on the new gunboat.

I painted the deck first, choosing an off-white colour similar to scrubbed wood. The hull is made from two layers of cardboard glued together, given a good coat of Future/Pledge polish then finished with two coats of festive green satin-finish spray paint. I then glued it in place, pinning it where necessary to keep it there until the glue dried. The paddlewheel boxes were given the same paint and are laid in place to check the fit before gluing.

Next up will be to make the posts along the sides to support the upper deck before I glue the paddle-boxes in place. Since the hull of this new boat is wider than the first, I'll make a whole new upper deck to suit instead of using the previous one.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gunboat decking

It's a hot and humid evening. Since an afternoon storm watered the plants for me and it's way too uncomfortable to do any gardening, it was with a clear conscience that I made a bit more progress with the gunboat.

I laid the main deck planking, cutting sections from tongue depressor sticks. The black rectangles are the ceramic magnets I bought to mount the guns and hold them firmly to the deck. They're set tight into the foamcore and glued in place to it and the planking. Hopefully they'll be firm enough to hold in place without lifting when I swap out the guns. The planking will make the deck more durable and resistant to wear and tear from figures being stood upon it.

The superstructure and paddle-wheel wings have been covered with card. I've not glued the superstructure in place yet, as I want to add detail which will be difficult to do if it's fixed down. This'll be done next, and I'll sand the edges of the planking to make them a smoother fit within the hull plating. Progress is being made.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Gunboat under construction

It was our anniversary this past weekend so my wife and I were out and about celebrating. One place we visited was the fascinating Marblehead Lighthouse on the Lake Erie shore.

As you can see from the throng on the gallery the place was heaving, it being a holiday weekend. Since we both have trouble with heights we opted to stroll through the park and visit the reconstructed USLSS station instead.

They were brave men who set out to save lives in what was little more than a rowboat.

Continuing the nautical theme, the gunboat is now back on the construction schedule...

The shell of the superstructure is made of foamcore. It's shown slotted in place to test the fit before I add detail and glue it in place. The wing is the base for the paddle wheels, which I made by cutting a plastic jar lid in half and plating it with card. Walkways will run between the paddles and the superstructure. I'll lay the deck next, with planking made from wooden craft splints.

I'm toying with the idea of adding protective wooden planking around the hull and superstructure so it looks something like the original Nile gunboats that served under Gordon and Wolseley. We'll see.


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