Sunday, 13 February 2011

Here Comes The Cavalry!

At long last, I have finished the first (and possibly only) cavalry brigade of the Confederate Army of Oxford. I've got to admit it; I hate painting cavarly. There is something about the horses, with their combination of wide open areas and complex harnesses, that drives me crazy. Still, the outcome is darn satisfactory. Cavarly figures have a nice size and heft that you dont get with infantrymen. My brigade has nine riders at the moment, though I might cut that down to eight in battle to give a more even two-rank appearnce.

Once again, all of the figures are from Sash and Sabre, and they don't disappoint. 

I am especially proud of my 'dappled grey' in the back rank.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

John Stewart Walker's Tenth Letter

Wmsburg, 15th June, 1861

My very dear Wife:

                I have another opportunity to drop you a line by Col. Stuart, who goes on furlough for a few days. He boards at the Edgemont House and is a nice gentleman and has been with us all the time, and if you could get him and his wife to take tea or dinner with you he will tell you all about me and what is going on.
                Please see that my shoes ordered of Page are sent to me by him. The weather is hot and must close.

                                                Yours truly,

                                                                Jno. S. Walker

                                                In great haste.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

John Stewart Walker's Ninth Letter

14th June 1861

My very dear Wife:

I wrote you a short letter by Bro. Bennett since the memorable fight of the 10th. There were 200 of the enemy at least killed and wounded, and a deserter from their camp reports today that there were 400 missing at roll call next morning. They, the enemy, were 5000 strong, we but 1200. We marched today from Yorktown between 10½ o’clock and 5 through a hot sun and deep sand road, but are now so accustomed to long marches, this last being 15 miles, that we don’t mind it and feel fresh this evening and may have to march again.
                I am now writing in my tent, which is a great comfort. I saw a sweet little girl, the first child I have seen for a fortnight, on the road as we marched, and she said “There goes Pappy”, and I could not help clasping the child, she reminded me of our dear little angel, Amanda*.
                My health is excellent, never better in my life, and I think better than it has been for years. I think it probable we will be sent from here to Grove Warf on James River to fortify and defend it against any approach of the enemy. I am satisfied to leave all my movements in the hands of the Lord, knowing that he can direct not only the wills of my superiors, but hold in his hands the storms as well as the issues of life and death, and believe that our cause is His. I only write to report my very good health, as I have the opportunity to send it up.  Kiss the dear children, who with Mother I would like to see, but in these times my post is at the head of my command, and I must forego the pleasure until a more favourable opportunity offers. And now, my dear wife, commending you to the cares of that good Heavenly Father who has so long been our best friend, and you to keep close to the cross of our Saviour and find the vacuum made by my absence filled with His Grace and that alone. I must bid you good-night again, reminding you not to give credence to rumors, but trusting the Lord rest assured that sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

                                                                Your very affectionate Husband,

                                                                                John Stewart Walker.

* I believe this to be JSW's daughter who died before the war.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Great Basing Debate

One night, not too long ago, I lay awake, staring at the dark ceiling, worrying about how to base my miniatures. It is undoubtedly the stupidest question I’ve ever lost sleep over, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. It got so bad, that I established two important rules for my miniatures collection:

I will never put more than one 28mm miniature on one base.

Miniatures are toy soldiers and to fully enjoy them, I must be able to pick them up and play with them individually. This even applies to artillery and artillery crewmen.

I will base all of my 28mm miniatures on 20mm round bases.

This does limit the number of companies from which I can buy figures, as some are just too big. While in some ways this is shame, it helps limit the size variation in my collection, and helps me sleep at night. The only exception to this rule is for creatures that are larger than human-size. These can be based on whatever size round base seems appropriate.

These rules have served me well, and made my hobby more enjoyable and my nights more restful. However, recently I’ve decided that it would be nice to give my Confederate firing line a more unified look and give myself the capacity to try out rules sets that use a ‘stand’ of figures as the smallest unit (usually four or six figures based together). As it turns out, this is perfectly easy to accomplish within the context of my rules, at least with a little help from

A couple months ago, I contacted warbases to see if they could make some movement trays that would hold 5 figures in two offset ranks. Which I thought would give a nice ragged looking appearance to the line. Not only could he do it, but he did it quickly and inexpensively. I was so pleased, I have now ordered enough trays to base 80 Confederates, the entire infantry contingent of the proposed Army of Oxford.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Striking Gold!

I am a bibliophile, which is to say I love books. I love books both for the knowledge and stories they contain, but also as physical objects to be appreciated for their quality and rarity. Were I a man of much greater means, I would have one of those libraries you see in movies with leather-bound books lining every wall, small step-ladders to reach the top most shelves, and a big globe sat beside my comfy armchair (well, probably a rocking chair in my case). However, as a man of much more modest means, I am quite limited in what I can purchase, and my book buying has to be approached with a great deal of thought and consideration. These days, there is only one area where I will buy ‘collectable’ books, and that is books that concern my ancestry.
With that lengthy preamble, let me present my latest acquisition, 15th Virginia Infantry by Louis H. Manarin. This book is part of The Virginia Regimental Histories Series published by H. E. Howard in the nineties. My copy is number 946 of 1,000, and I picked it up for a song at $25. Gold embossed lettering, heavy board covers, tight sown-binding, it’s a good example of the book-binder’s craft.
Of course, it is what’s inside that really matters. The 15th Virginia Infantry is the unit to which my ancestor John Stewart Walker belonged, and I had high hopes that I might learn a new fact or two. I struck gold!  I now know what type of uniform my ancestor wore into battle. I’ve got a picture of the regiment’s battle flag. I’ve got a regimental roster, that indicates that a couple more of my indirect ancestors probably also fought in the unit. But it gets of the author’s sources is a set of letters from one of the men in J.S. Walker’s company, and while rarely referring to Walker, he tells some stories that concerned the whole company.
And then it gets better yet! The book contains a complete account of John Stewart Walker’s death. While I had previously seen a mention in the official dispatches, this is an eye-witness account! $25 for pure gold!
I will share this account once I reach the end of J.S. Walker’s letters as that seems appropriate to me.
For now, the book is going on the shelf between Georgina’s diary and the Colonel’s Confederate Army manual.