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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Painting Civil War miniatures part 1

Reb Officer's uniform

I paint just 25/28mm miniatures but what I do for my miniatures can apply for smaller and larger scales as well. What many gamers do is paint their stuff on what makes them feel is correct or just whatever they want to be correct. I strive for 90% correct and the remaining 10% is wiggle room for what we don’t know. Personally it would thrill me to no end if I can have definitive proof about what each soldier wore on every day of the war but sadly… no spirits have contacted me to let me know. In light of this I aim to paint most of my models what the average soldier would look like. If there is good information I try to change with what we know for specific units and at a certain time. I’m using the miniatures for every battle I play so I want to be mostly 90% correct for all these actions. To give the units a specific time frame from game to game you can adjust with the Color Guards and Officers to switch things up. This requires less effort to fit in. Painting hundreds of miniatures is time consuming and expensive so I never like doing this over again once they are already done! Painting just 4 models for a Color Guard is easier than painting or repainting 28 models or more!

40th New York Volunteers
Alright so let’s start with the easiest to paint but most likely for you is also the most boring to paint, the Union infantryman. He is easier because the average (remember, we’re dealing with only average here) soldier makes up 95% or all Union infantrymen. That makes it so simple to be correct and you can just paint away but boy… can that make it boring as hell. Of course you can easily switch things up a bit to somewhat do some times different for giggles and STILL be correct. That’s the good news, right?

Maj. Gen John F. Reynolds
Before we jump right in and start painting just let me stop you here for a minute and explain a thing or two. There were fashions and cultural issues to deal with and your miniatures should reflect this in the same way as you paint them. The period was a long time ago and there was no air-conditioning and fans to keep them cool. They were used to the heat and cold. This means you really shouldn’t have a lot of models without jackets on and some would say none at all. Besides, if it was too hot to wear a Sack coat, Frock coat or Shell jacket as you would assume then what would they do their costs? There were no wagons to carry these. The take home message is do not buy a bag of miniatures of soldiers without coats. To go along with this is the fact that every male of this period would not venture out of the house without a coat on. It was just they way it was culturally in this period. If manual labor was the order of the day it was okay to remove your coat but if visitors dropped by you would put the coat back on. Soldiering in battle wasn’t manual labor so coupled with being acclimatized to the elements adds up do not have a plethora of models without coats, pure and simple. It’s NOT an average soldier by any means. We’re not painting hot and sweaty reenactors of 2011 but men in the 1860’s.

20 lbs. Parrott

The other thing to note is that like the coat issue is a similar situation with head gear. All men and boys would wear something on their heads while out of doors, all men all the time. This includes doing manual labor. This also serves to protect them from the elements to a certain extent so if the model does not have a hat or cap on, what are you painting it for? Perhaps the soldier had it shot off his head? Maybe, but… not a whole regiment of these unfortunate souls.

McPherson's barn and ridge facing Northwest in the swale in front of Seminary Ridge

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