A great choice!

By Mike Crane

The piece by Steve Turner about building match-stick armies (LW 166) was a wonderful choice for the January Sample Article! Steve wrote a series of articles about his Seven Years War campaign on land and sea, which also contained directions for creating 6mm units and houses (LW 161-170). His series was full of creative and imaginative campaign ideas.

Unfortunately, the Seven Year War period has always been intimidating to me because the figures from that era are difficult for me to paint. However, the article on match-stick armies was especially interesting because it could be used to prepare large armies inexpensively for an American Civil War campaign and that was exactly what I wanted to do.

The match-stick units (in my case balsa units) represented individual regiments, which were loosely organized according to the excellent book, Battle in the Civil War, written by Paddy Griffith and copiously illustrated with the marvelous pen-and-ink drawings of Peter Dennis. (If you are seriously interested in the American Civil War, you need to read this book.) Carried away with the idea of staging a grand campaign, I also built navies for both sides out of balsa, toothpicks, dowel sticks, popsicle sticks, and paper, and devised rules to allow riverine and seagoing ships to carry troops and supplies. Ireland  was chosen as the setting for the campaign because I once had read an account of a Napoleonic war campaign being played there. A 1917 map of Ireland with railroads was found on Google and the Irish counties on the map were divided into two sides representing Northern and Southern states. The presence of navies required several rivers to become navigable up to strategic points on the map. All of this was done—and then I lost interest in the project and began working on something else. It seems I just don’t have what it takes to run a long-term campaign!

Last summer I found several long balsa sticks that had been painted blue or gray previously. Unable to recall their purpose, I made them into more Federal and Confederate infantry regiments and doubled the size of both armies. Later I remembered that I had planned to cover the front of those balsa sticks with paper pictures of French and British Napoleonic soldiers—which I never found.  Again, I had lost interest before completing the project. But, due to forgetfulness, I now had a huge collection of American Civil War match-stick (balsa) units.

Although I did use some of these units to play a made-up battle, I doubt that all these match-stick units will ever be used in a full-fledged wargaming campaign. Nevertheless, thanks to the directions of Steve Turner in LW 166, I had lots of fun making the units and dreaming of the terrific battles that would be engendered by the imaginary campaign. That was really a unique pleasure in itself. Thanks, Steve.

(Photos of the armies and navies are below.)

US and Confederate armies from a photo taken in 2010.

US and Confederate armies from a photo taken in 2010.

 

Units showing the front and back of the infantry and cavalry units.

Units showing the front and back of the infantry and cavalry units.

 

Balsa units with a sheet of paper showing the artillery carriages, the flags, and the wagons. The cannon tubes were fashioned from the ends of toothpicks and the cannon carriages were folded around a block of balsa.

Balsa units with a sheet of paper showing the artillery carriages, the flags, and the wagons. The cannon tubes were fashioned from the ends of toothpicks and the cannon carriages were folded around a block of balsa.

 

This is a photo from an old wargame using the balsa units.

This is a photo from an old wargame using the balsa units.

 

This shows the Rebel and Federal navies.

This shows the Rebel and Federal navies.

 

This picture of the Union navy shows the paper sails of the seagoing ships.

This picture of the Union navy shows the paper sails of the seagoing ships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About mike crane

I am a retired high school teacher living in Texarkana, Arkansas, USA. Although I enjoy wargaming in all periods, my favorite eras are WWII, Colonial, ACW, and Napoleonic. I enjoy making rules that are simple, fast, and fun.
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