Saturday, February 21, 2009

Remember when....

...ACW gaming was simpler? Everyone was happy using essentially the same figures for both sides, with the Union in kepis and the Rebs having a large number of slouch hats thrown in. Slop blue on on half your collection, grey on the other, and voila, you were gaming. At least I was, with our homebrew rules and a bunch of Dixon and Rafm miniatures.

Of course when I started out, I was ignorant of the more subtle differences of the uniforms- forage caps rather than kepis, four-button sack coats vs. short jackets and/or frockcoats, and Richmond-issue clothing vs. locally-made patterns. I was unaware of the Great Debates on knapsacks, blanket rolls, and of course the greatest issue that separated the enlightened from those still in the black darkness of ignorance, that of what pattern water canteen a figure should have.

Add to my list of sins the charge of actually having had enjoyed the games I played despite the presence of "wrong" figures in the ranks. These days, I'm somewhere in the middle of the spectrum- in the half-light as it were. I have seen some amazing bloodletting on the pages of TMP as well as elsewhere on any number of the aforementioned issues, and while I like to get things right where I can, I refuse to get steamed up too much about things and will accept some anachronisms if it looks good, and as a lot of the details cannot really be distinguished from two feet away on the tabletop it makes sense not to become too obsessed with such
minutiae anyway.

So I will try to have a -reasonably- authentic looking force, but I am never one to forego my right to indulge in a little artistic license. I intend on making some use of uniform and equipment variations to help distinguish one unit from another on the tabletop. For example, one Confederate regiment will be clad largely in dark bluish-grey short jackets made from English cloth that got throught the blockade, while Union regiments will be distinguished not just by pose but by some having had removed their backpacks before combat, with others still wearing theirs.

But if there are some amongst you that see something that really sticks out and feel the urge to scream out "too many Union slouch hats!" or to call me out on some other "unhistorical heresy" that I may be guilty of, all I can say is that the approach I'm taking works for me. My money and time after all! I'm looking for a "look" in my collection that appeals to my mind's eye of what an ACW army looked like.

For an example of the kind of variety one could find, I came across a rather interesting photo from a collection in the Library of Congress, taken by Timothy O'Sullivan, and purporting to show Union troops from the Second Bull Run campaign in 1862. They look more like ragged Rebs here!
Click on picture to enlarge

The fatigued feller sitting on the rail has a blanket roll over his shoulder, and next to him stands a barefoot gent leaning on his Enfield rifled musket, sporting a light-coloured slouch hat, wearing what looks like a faded frockcoat(?) with a blanket roll worn across his back. He looks much more like a Confederate than the Yankee he is! On the right is a soldier wearing dark-blue pants instead of the regulation sky blue.

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