The American Civil War Project..

..a long (long) time ago I read "Wargames" by Donald Featherstone and was captivated by the pictures of plucky Rebels charging up plasticine hills, to attack doughty Yankee's sheltered behind the cemetery walls of the plastic (Bellona?) church...

...later I read his "Battles for Model Soldiers", and the one chapter I most remember was his description of a wargame where to demonstrate the rules he played the same game three times, adding different units to the mix in each game and thereby adding to the complexity - I remember to this day that 'dog leg' stone wall in the map....

...from such small beginnings are projects born - and this particular one has been festering in the back of my mind for almost 30 years now!


Go To “Rules” – what rules I have tried, and what I’m using…
Go To ”Armies and Regiments”…
Go To “Game Reports” – what it says on the tin…
Go To “Figures” – figures and model ranges I use…
Go To “Books” – fiction and non-fiction


The project started with the purchase of a set of rules called "Mr Lincoln's War" written by Steve Phenow and Terry Gore..

I bought them on the basis of two different decisions - but the basic requirement has remained the same throughout the search:

1/. I wanted a set that played tactically at the regimental level - at the time I was only aware of two sets that would do this - these, and Johnny Reb (either v2 or v3)

2/. Recommendations by the guys on the 'Old School Wargaming' Yahoo group - which was good enough for me..

In the meanwhile I've read and tested a number of other sets -

  • the first ones "Rebel Yell" are reviewed here [click]

  • The next set I reviewed were a set published by Too Fat Lardies called "They Couldn't Hit an Elephant" which I reviewed here [click]

  • There's a review of "Mr. Lincoln's War" here [click]

  • At some point I was going check out "Guns at Gettysburg" which is part of the General de Brigade family of rules..but too be honest I've been diverted from this as DG and I are quite happily into the 14th move of a play test of the beta version of the next bullet...

  • "Regimental Fire and Fury".. an early review can be read here [click]. I would also recommend a read through of the solo game I played using them - details in the "Games" section..up until recently these have been my rules of choice for this period, but yet again I'm now thinking that it might be time for a change as I find them increasingly unintuitive, and having played them for getting on for two years now I still can't remember the core basics ...

Which leaves me with a couple of options - I never did try Johnny Reb (I must find a copy!), but I was reading Ross McFarlane's [clicky] blog recently and my interest was piqued by his mention of the rules he has written called "Hearts of Tin" [clicky]... So I set the table up for a small set-to in order to try the rules and I have to say I quite enjoyed it - more games will follow and on a purely selfish basis they seem to be a good choice for solo games....

DG and I have also tried "Rank and File" recently - only one game so far (Signal Tower Hill [clicky] - see Games page for link to the Setup) but impressions are favourable..

DG and I have also tinkered with the rules in the One Hour Wargames book.. latest version here [clicky]..

I think it fair to say I don't really have a set of "go to" rules for this period, but the One Hour Wargames one's come closest ..

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Armies and Regiments

I've decided, as with all my projects, that I need a clear idea of what I'm painting - just so that I have an idea of when I've reached a target. In this case, for my start point I'm going to use the orders of battle for the Battle of Kernstown (see here [clicky] for my review of the battle) which was fought on March 23, 1862.

This battle was the opening battle of "Stonewall" Jackson's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley. For me it has the advantage of being set early in the war (uniforms and regiments were more varied and colourful), and being a relatively small engagement painting both sides is not insurmountable... there will be other regiments dragged into the project as well, purely because I want some Zouaves, but the battle also has the advantage of being all arms, and nicely balanced..

I have settled on 30mm square bases (same size base as I use for my War of the Spanish Succession troops) but because the figures are bigger, only four infantry per base. Cavalry will be two figures to a base. Artillery I'll decide when I get there! For the first time the bases are also made of MDF to give additional thickness and strength..

Click on the link to go to the painted unit, with potted history etc.

Brigadier-General James Shields (wounded), Colonel Nathan Kimball [clicky]
First Brigade: Colonel Nathan Kimball (also commanded the division on the field)
Second Brigade: Colonel Jeremiah C. Sullivan
Third Brigade: Colonel Erastus B. Tyler
  • 7th Indiana: Lieutenant-Colonel John F. Creek
  • 7th Ohio: Lieutenant-Colonel Lieutenant-Colonel William R. Creighton
  • 29th Ohio: Colonel Lewis P. Buckley
  • 110th Pennsylvania: Colonel William D. Lewis, Jr.
  • 1st West Virginia: Colonel Thomas Thoburn
Cavalry: Colonel Thornton F. Brodhead
Artillery: Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Daum

Major-General Thomas J. Jackson [clicky]
Garnett's Brigade: Brigadier-General R. B. Garnet
Burks's Brigade: Colonel Jesse S. Burks's
Fulkerson's Brigade: Colonel Samuel V. Fulkerson
  • 23rd Virginia: Lieutenant-Colonel Alex. G. Taliaferro
  • 37th Virginia: Lieutenant-Colonel R. P. Carson
  • Virginia Battery (Danville Artilley): Lieutenant A. C. Lanier



One of the main drivers for my interest in the American Civil War was to be able to have a couple of zouave regiments but there were none at Kernstown so these are extra to the Orbat above..

I like "clutter" to add colour so I've added some transport wagons [clicky] to the project..

    ...and some more here [clicky] all of these are from Britannia Miniatures (click here for the range) and in their German WW2 range..  recommended

    Signalling tower

    Originally I'd planned to scratch build it, but the primary issue was finding figures suitable to man the tower as I needed signal men - then I discovered that SHQ had a signal tower listed in their 20mm American Civil War range...  no pictures (why oh why oh why do on-line sellers not realise how important a photo is????!), but at only £5.50 I felt I could take a bit of a gamble and how pleased I was that I did...eventually..!

    Apparently SHQ had had to recast the tower especially for me... service above and beyond I think...

    Anyway - the normal thing to have done would probably be to use either of the towers on their own - but in a rush of blood to the head (there's that cycle ride to work to blame again) I decided to combine them - with the second on top of the first....  figures are as delivered by SHQ, the horses are Newline Designs from my spares pile, all figures 20mm.....

    Both sides used much the same equipment for these towers, albeit with different signalling books/codes. The towers were used for passing battlefield commands, directing artillery etc..

    The flags most often used were 4-foot (in order to be seen) mounted on 12 foot poles, but 2-foot flags were also used when the flagman wanted to avoid enemy attention (as is the case here!).

    ...apart from being an interesting scenic feature, I have an idea that this would make an excellent objective for a scenario..

    ...and this is a real one.. I think SHQ did a good job modelling it..
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    • "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 11 - "Surprise Attack"- scenario loosely based on Quatre Bras, with one player acting as defender, and deploying with just two elements on the table, and the other attacking and hopefully taking a cross roads before the full defending force arrives on the table.. we used the rules from the book for this game with our modifications...
    • Skirmish at Signal Tower Hill - DG and I's first game using the Rank and File rules following a certain disenchantment with Regimental Fire and Fury
    • "One Hour Wargames" - Scenario 7 - "Flank Attack (2) - the scenario posits the situation that a Union force (me for this game) has deployed on a large hill waiting for an attack from their front, but are attacked by a Confederate force (DG) from their left flank (four units), while also being pinned frontally (remaining two units). Good game - and the game write up has the mod's we use for the One Hour Wargame rules

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      After much rumination, thinking, perusing, and examining I decided on 20mm figures for this project..

      I knew I wanted metals rather than plastics - in spite of the Perry's doing 25mm plastic ACW figures, metal figures have always been aspirational for me - I started with plastics, I don't want to go back to them...

      I originally (!) wanted it to be 15mm as I also wanted a goodly proportion of both armies to be Peter Pig - they make some of the finest 15mm figures on the market in my opinion so that was a no-brainer, but then I thought of all the terrain I had in 25mm for my AWI project - the terrain could in most cases be re-used in the later American Civil War period...
        The list goes on (and on), but the clincher was when I spotted these guys from Newline Designs:

        Pic copyright Newline Designs

        ..and the decision was made after I finished painting up a sample I bought at Colours in 2009.

        Fantastic figures, fantastic price..  20mm - and if that isn't an Old School scale I don't know what is!!

        I cemented that initial decision with a large purchase of Newline Design figures at Warfare in November ('09) - four regimental bags (about 24 figures to the bag for £9.50 - all prices correct as of January '13 - check the website for latest) plus additional artillery and limbers... so about 40p a figure, and I've made many further purchases since!

        There are a surprising number of other 20mm ranges to also check out at some time...
        • I had a comment from Fraxinus [click here] who said... "Tumbling Dice [clicky] do 1/72nd SCALE C1861AMERICAN CIVIL WAR RANGE. UNION, CONFEDERATE.Infantry packs contain 8 assorted poses". No pictures on the website unfortunately... but £4.80 a pack so 60p a figure...

        • I spotted these at Warfare (2009) they are by the Sergeants Mess [clicky]
          These are 4 for £2 - 75p each - expensive, but much cheaper in a unit pack of 40 for £18 (45p each)..

        • There is the Jaclex range [clicky]who are available from Spencer Smith Miniatures - 45p each for infantry...

        • Kennington Miniatures: One of my purchases at Warfare '10 was a pair of American Civil War staff officers from Kennington Miniatures (marketed by SHQ in the UK) which I bought in order to be able to compare them with my more usual Newline Design figure as a possible alternative sources of figures.. not that I'm unhappy with the Newline Designs figures (far from it!!), but variety is the spice of life as they say!

          In the following then we have the two officers either side of a Newline Designs marching trooper..

          The Newline figure is smaller (as I'd heard elsewhere), but not to my mind significantly so.....

          Kennington figures are £3 for four (I believe... it's not specifically stated on the website! ), Newline are £1.90 for four... so Kennington are 30% more per figure - an astonishing difference!

          Nice figures, but am I seeing a 30%+ nicer figure??

          Unlike Newline, Kennington don't seem to do battalion packs for their ACW range which might bring those prices down; they do have an army pack but at £90 it's too rich and too big for my blood... shame - looks like I'll not be investigating further, but they are nice figures, and as I subsequently found out, were sculpted by the Sean from Newline Designs in an earlier job!



        "Mississippi River Gunboats of the American Civil War" - a review [clicky]...
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        1. Bellona Bridge set.. i read somewhere that you have this and made a plaster cast from it. can you do this again?

          1. Hi unknown... I still have it, but is of great age, and more to the pointed and based, so "no"... you should try these guys though, they have taken up where Bellona left off...