Saturday, December 20, 2014

Project Ridgeway / Fenian Invasion and other things


Before I get into my Project Ridgeway, let’s touch on the other things that have been going on.  First, I am working out of town again and I am back in Savannah, Georgia.  I got to see the 150th anniversary reenactment of Sherman’s assault on Fort McAllister just outside of Savannah.  Unfortunately, I misread the events schedule and thought that the reenactment was to start at 5pm, when in fact it started at 4pm.  This was because in their event schedule they stated that the assault would begin at 5pm (as it really occurred 150 years ago.)  That was the time the Federal reenactors would charge up and over the walls and not the beginning of the assault.  I really wish that they were clearer in their description for when it was to begin.  Anyways, I still got to see it, but I was not in an ideal spot for pictures.  Regardless, I forgot to bring my good camera from Missouri, so I only had my camera on my phone.  Needless to say, the pictures are not good…sigh.
 
I have also finally caught up on the movies that I want to see that are still out over the last few weekends: Fury, The Equalizer, Big Hero 6, The Penguins of Madagascar, Nightcrawler, and Birdman.   I am looking forward to see the final part of The Hobbit and probably go see St. Vincent too.  (Yes, I now The Hobbit is now out, but I am going to wait until the weekend to see it.)  After that, I don’t think that there will be anything that I will be interested in until Kingsmen comes out in mid-February, and then Avengers & Mad Max in May, then there will be several movies after then.  Now, I still have to get around to seeing Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, which somehow I missed seeing it when it came out, probably because of all of the rioting and crap going on next door in Ferguson.

On the reading front, I have been trying to read my book on the Battle of Ridgeway by Peter Vronsky.  I am just having a really hard time reading it.  Not that it is a difficult or boring read, or that I really have no time to read, just because I am not use to reading actual physical books, especially hardbacks, ever since I got my Kindle about three years ago!  I don’t think that I actually read a hardback book since then.  I mostly read when I eat dinner and sometimes at lunch.  It is really hard to keep a hardback open and flip the pages while trying to eat.  Plus, since I am trying to take notes while reading Ridgeway, it is that much harder too.  So, I read a few more additional books on my Kindle over the past few weeks inside of keeping up with Ridgeway.  So I have now finished the following books to add to my list:

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
Submarine Operations During the Falklands War by Lt. Cmdr. Steven R Harper
Dyatlov Pass Keeps Its Secret by Irina Lobatcheva (which I am about 2/3rd of the way complete)


Project Ridgeway:


So, I am now re-gearing up to get my Project Ridgeway up and running again after 20 years or so of being dormant. Currently, I am reading up on it and making notes.  I will say this about having more access to information to read, that I am finding that my initial views of the engagement and the Fenian preparedness to be a lot different now.  I am now seeing that the Canadian Militia was actually in a worst condition then what I believed and the Fenians’ failure was more due to internal spies, political infighting, and US government interventions then anything that the Canadian Government could do.  One of the real surprises that I found was that just under 10% of the crew of the USS Michigan, an armed tug that played a critical role on patrolling the US & Canada border, were actually part of the Fenian Brotherhood and that they successfully sabotage the ship from intercepting the Fenian crossing over into Canada leading up to the Battle of Ridgeway!  Another surprise that I found was of the Fenian prisoners captured by both the Canadians and the US government (who captured almost all of them), was that almost a third of them were Protestants.  So this was really a true nationalist, and not a sectarian, movement.

Books that I have read:

The Enrolment List for the Militia in Hamilton, Canada West (1865) (newspaper article from the Hamilton Evening Times)

The Skirmish at Lime-Stone Ridge by Anonymous (newspaper account of the Battle of Ridgeway) 

The Last Invasion of Canada: The Fenian Raids, 1866-1870 by Hereward Senior

What I am currently reading:

Ridgeway: The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle that Made Canada by Peter Vronsky

What I plan to read still:

Troublous Times in Canada: A History of the Fenian Raids of 1866-1870 by John MacDonald (the minister of the militia)

History of the Fenian Raid On Fort Erie; With An Account of the Battle of Ridgeway, June, 1866 by George Denison (the commander of the militia forces at the Battle of Fort Erie)

Plus there are quite few other resources that I have gotten recently, thanks to the Internet Archive website and www.ridgewaybattle.ca that I plan to skim through to see if I can find any other tidbits of information.  It is amazing how much more stuff has become available since 20+ years ago.

Miniatures:

I am doing my project in 15mm as that was the scale that I started all of this in 20+ years ago.  Luckily, the Fenians will be the easiest to do with miniatures that are available in this scale.  My Fenians are Old Glory, but now that I have some new information about the uniforms, or lack of in many cases, for the Fenians at Ridgeway there will be some changes.  Some of them are going to be repainted, and others are going to be replaced to get a more accurate representation of what was at the battle.  I am going to have to look for armed civilians for the replacement figures.  I will probably be looking at Old Glory’s Boers or their Boxer Rebellion’s armed Europeans to try and keep all of the sculpts similar.  But I am afraid that too many of the Boers will have the leather cartridge pouch belts and the Boxer Europeans will look too upper class to work since I can’t find pictures of them.  So, I will also be looking into Blue Moon’s ACW infantry in shirts if they are not too out of scale with the Old Glory figures, but wish that they had a mix of civilian hats with the floppy hats.  The final thing that I will need to do is the mounted Fenian scouts.  I’ve got Old Glory ACW cavalry for them.

The Canadian militia, however, is a different story.  Sadly, there currently is no miniature lines specially designed for the Canadian militia in 15mm.  But now there is a 10mm line from Pendraken and a 28mm line from Perry that covers the Canadian militia for the 1860’s, but that would mean re-starting from scratch again.  So for now, I will refrain from buying yet another scale for a very limited project (but, those Perry’s are pretty…plus doing 25mm would make Blake and Don happy…must resist!)

So the bulk of my Canadian militia is from the now defunct Falcon Miniatures.  Luckily for me, I bought all of the figures that I would have needed to do the Canadian militia at a 1:10 ratio way back when I started this project.  But unfortunately, I will never be able to expand on them to get smaller ratio for bigger units.  I found that their ‘ACW Militia with Shakos’ actually looked very close to the Canadian militia uniform for the bulk of the forces.  Also, their ‘ACW 79th NY Highlanders’ will work great for 10 Company, of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto.  There are some things wrongs, but they are workable.  The thing about the ACW Militia that I don’t like is that they are marching with their rifled muskets at attack march.  I rather had them skirmishing or advancing instead, especially when the Highlanders are attacking.  Oh well, you can’t win them all. 

The other problem is the lack of officers, flag bearers, musicians, and NCOs.  I will have to live without the flags, musicians, and NCOs, but I am using officer figures from the old Military Miniatures of New Zealand’s (how many here can remember this old company before it became the 800 lbs. gorilla that it is today?) line for their New Zealand Wars, which has been since sold off and now belongs to Battleline Miniatures.  I could also go to Battleline’s 1860’s British from their NZ War line for the line militia troops, but they are wearing the pillbox style hat.  So far everything that I have read states that the militia was wearing shakos and not caps or hats, so they will not be right either.  I tried looking for pictures of the units shortly around the period of the battle, but have not found any.  I have only found pictures much later or for other units.  So, I am sticking with the shakos.   

So next dilemma is what figures to use for 5 Company, QOR.  They were armed with Spencer carbines.  I am sort of leaning towards using my NZ War’s Armed Constabulary figures for them, but they are wearing billed cap.  I might be able to putty them up to look like shakos, but I am not that good.   I might just roll with them as they are now.   Now this leaves Lt Col Booker, the overall commander of the militia at the battle.  He was the only militia officer mounted on a horse.  What I am using is a Minifig’s British mounted officer for the Crimea War.  He is clearing a smaller figure compared to the rest, but that is all that I find. 

Finally, will be looking at figures to do the various militia and British regulars to do the Battle at Fort Erie that occurred after Ridgeway and the do the possible battle with the Lt Col Peacocke’s column at Fort Erie had the Fenians decided to stand because the US Navy did not stop their reinforcements (plus add some more Fenian troops to represent reinforcements filtering in from Buffalo, New York, as well.)   Plus I need to read up on the Battles of Pigeon Hill (1866) and Eccles Hill (1870) to see what militia units where involved there too.   I think for the most part, the Battleline’s 1860’s British infantry will work for those.

Here is the other bugger, there really are no good rules for the scale (in terms of the number of miniatures on the board) that I want to do this in.  I always planned it to be a 1:10 ratio for miniatures to men, so there would only be about 80-90 figures on the board, per side, and use a slightly modified version of Space 1889: Soldiers’ Companion.  However, I have since lost those notes since the one game that I did run 20+ years ago.  But since then, I have got to read more about the battle and realized that that this system is not good either. 

The battle was pretty much fought by companies in skirmish orders and there was a real low casualty loss.  Matter of fact, the Canadians only suffered about 6% of the total force, killed, wound, or capture.   The killed was just barely over 1% of the total force!  At a 1:10 ratio, that means any losses with more than 5 figures would be higher than the real battle.  So this is conflict that was lost more due to friction of the morale than casualties.  Most game systems don’t start enforcing morale rolls until there is a 25% or greater losses on a side.  So I think you can start seeing my need to look for a low casualty / high friction morale system for a game mechanic.

The next issue is Command & Control, which ties back to the items that was addressed above.  With the average Canadian company only about 40-50 men strong, that means at a 1:10 ratio there is just 4-5 figures per company.  That is too small of number of figures for most skirmish systems too, especially when you start realizing that most the Canadian companies that were skirmishing occupied a frontage of almost 300 yards!  For an example, if I was to use RF&F ground scale, 1” = 25 yds, a unit of 40 men standing in close order takes up 1”, but 300 yds is 12”!  So any rules set out there now will fail in their system to reflect command & control.

The best answer to all of my problems to reduce my figure ratio to a lower number, like 1:5 so I can have bigger companies of 8-10 figures each, making them in with some current rules out there.  But I have to stick to my original ratio of 1:10 because I can’t buy any more Falcon Miniatures to beef up the Canadians as they no longer exist. 

So, in the end, it looks like I am going to have to create my own rules.  I have some ideas already, but I still need to put them down to paper and test them out.  But, I plan to steal / copy / find inspiration from several existing rules and mixed some various elements together, mainly from Space 1889: Soldier’s Compendium, Regimental Fire & Fury, The Sword and the Flame, and the Too Fat Lardies’ friction rules.

Basing:

Since it looks like that I am going to make my own rules, I am free to do my own basing.  I was originally thinking about mounting 4 figures to a Flames of War size base so it would represent a company and use a Minibit’s dice frame on the base to keep track of the strength of the company (1 pt per 10 men).  But I then ran it to the issue of what I am going to do to show the frontage of a skirmish order. 

So next I thought that I might mount each figure on a penny and use them individually.  I sort of like that, but that means 80-90 figures to move, plus trying to keep track of what company each figure goes too.  Then that lead to me thinking of ground scale issues.

Now, I am thinking that I will still mount my figures individually on a rectangle base.  On the base I will put a label on it to identify which unit that figures goes to, plus, I am thinking of mounting Minibit’s dice frame to keep track of the stands strength.  I can go two ways on this.  One is that each stand represents 10 men (one figure) and with the die I can use it to keep strength for each two men (i.e. if 10 men, the die will be set at “5’.)  Or, I can use the stands to track every ten men and only use the number of stands per company as necessary (i.e., one stand for 6 Company is in close order formation so all 40 men occupy the same footprint of one stand, so the die shows “4”, where 9 Company is in skirmish order over 300 yards, I would use all four bases for the company spread out across the 300 yard scaled front with each base with the die set at “1”.)  This will allow a player some tactical options on deploying skirmishers.  I am playing around in my head with this idea, but I think this might be the answer.

In the final note for my Ridgeway project…I actually painted a figure!  This is the first figure that I finished painting this year!  It is not completely done, but basically he is finished.  All that is left is to mount the figure to a base (with is part of my issues listed above), paint and flock the base, and spray a sealer on it.  The figure is the first of 25 figures for the Canadian 13th Battalion Volunteer Militia (Infantry) (Hamilton).  The remaining 24 figures are about 30% or so done as well.  Maybe by the end of the year, I can claim them to be finished too (save the basing and sealer).  I plan to be painting them tomorrow. 





Cheers,
Sapper


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