Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Just a quick post to show what's happening on the workbench.  The above are eventually going to be two regiments of red-coated Romanian Rossiori (Regular) and one blue-coated regiment of Calarishi (Territorial) cavalry from the Russo-Turkish War era. Of course, in keeping with my tendency to convert and repurpose figures, these are actually Northstar 1866 Austrian Hussars. I'm not a fast painter, as I've said before, but this project has been extremely challenging--and slow, even for me.  I've been at these twelve figures for just over a month, with pretty much daily effort.  For those with the stomach, you may clix pix for Big Pix in this post...
Details mostly done: still needs cleaning up.

Prime white to start.  Block paint the major stuff. Paint light blue (territorial) and brighter red (regular) highlights on attillas and pelisses. Light gray trousers painted over with white drybrush.  Underpainted strapping, strap buckles, scabbards, and saddle holsters/pouches in black, then overpaint light gray (rifle straps) or white (other belts); metallics as appropriate.  Paint white the details on the blue jackets/attillas of territorial cav, then overpainted in red. Black washes (then highlights) on sword blades, flesh, scabbards, rifles, and mess tins. Sword knots underpainted black and then done in white. Dark gray saddle blankets drybrushed and highlighted in mid gray. Fodder rolls done in pale yellow, washed, and then highlighted in bright yellow--fodder straps underpainted black with leather overpaint. Dark gray highlights on black headgear and horse furniture. Underpaint plumes black, then brush with light gray and then white (for regular cav), and with insignia red and then brighter red (for territorials and regular trumpeter)...sheesh there are alot of steps!

The level and configuration of detail on the sculpts, including much "nested" equipment--one thing on top of another--makes for a high percentage of what I would call "high control" brushwork in this project, which is slow going.  That plus my non-style of painting, using an idiosyncratic combination of washes, highlights, drybrushing, black lining, and underpainting is not particularly efficient.  Of course, there are also lots of hungarian knots to be done, too (see comment in an earlier post regarding exploding head and Hungarian Knots). 
Them...and the horses they rode in on!

In the near future, I should finally be able to post on the completion of these units. In the meantime, work proceeds.

Sunday, July 22, 2018


Finding ourselves local and not among those who had made the trip to the Historicon Convention last week, a friend and I decided on short notice to get together and "do something."  Not having the time to pull out and configure a miniatures game, this presented a golden opportunity to revisit some good ole hex-and-counter play.  This provided me the opportunity to pull out some likely suspects from my collection and revisit them.   Life interrupted, unfortunately, and our gaming session did not come to pass. What I did get to do, though, was organize the bits more, download some good supplemental material from board game geek, and revisit these games in general.   You may note that they are all from another time--from the pre-activation roll/activation card mechanic era.  I do have some contemporary wargames, all of them with activation systems of one stripe or another, none of which I want to play (I wish it were otherwise: I tried!).  Such are my preferences.  But I digress.

Of course, this collection may look like a display from a wargame museum (if such a thing existed),  where perhaps I should also be on display, my OSG Napoleon At Leipzig tucked under arm. The plaque might read, "Hex-and-counter grognard--among creatures known to have actually played Drang Nach Osten/Untenschieden. Now believed extinct."   

For the curious or the nostalgic, here's a rundown of the games in the above:  Torgau, Crimea, 1815: The Waterloo Campaign, Hundred Days Battles, Friedland, 1807, The Battle of Saratoga, The Battle of Lobositz, The Battle of Prague, The Battle of Dresden, 1813, Eagles, Waterloo, Napoleon's Last Battles. Back in the day, our group used to engage in many enjoyable sessions of these sorts of games--in addition to miniatures (we were a more inclusive lot back then).  One of my hobby aims is to get in touch with my hex-and-counter self again: there's plenty of play left in these old hounds!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


In the absence of significant news of toy soldiers, dear readers, I will share an overdue installment in my e-books for Antiquarians series. These, if you missed the explanation, are open access e-books that have been scanned in their original form, rendering as close to an authentic reading experience as possible (when downloaded as pdfs--or read in the reader on the Internet Archive ).  The current reading (below) may seem an unlikely tome for our purposes, but it does contain a fascinating window on the French Revolution and the Wars of the First Coalition...
The miscellaneous works of Edward Gibbon, Esq., with memoirs of his life and writings, composed by himself; illustrated from his letters, withoccasional notes and narrative by Gibbon, Edward, 1737-94: Sheffield, John Holroyd, Earl of, 1735-1821. Several versions of this excellent text are available on the Internet Archive. For this piece, I used the "Complete in One Volume" version (as per the above url). Although this series of posts is entitled "e-books" I'd like to point out that I do have my own copy of this excellent book (as with others):
The scheme of this posting has it that pertinent snapshots of the source text are integrated throughout. The intent is that clicking on the source passages will enlarge them for better reading. As for the other images, as usual, you may clix pix for big pix. But enough of background and falderol: on to the substance.

Edward Gibbon, yes Edward Gibbon of the History of the Decline and Fall of Rome fame, was an expatriate Englishman living in Lucerne, Switzerland, for much of his life. The French Revolution and the Wars of the First Coalition erupted in the closing years of his life. Gibbon has a keen insight and a gift for capturing events. Thus, his memoirs and his correspondence provide a window from the perspective of those who were witnessing these events in real-time as they were unfolding--and who were very concerned about the consequences stemming from them. One must add that Gibbon's is an English perspective, not in sympathy with the turn of events in France (as the below quote indicates):


Consequences of a successful French invasion. - No. VI - plate 2d.
James Gillray, March 1798 British Museum Collection Online. Object Number 1868,0808.10382
We normally imagine Switzerland as a neutral bastion around which the turmoils of Europe swirl. Not so in those days: Gibbon relates the very real fears of the destabilizing threat posed by the social and political shockwaves emanating from France:
When looking for some gleam of light in the turmoil, the ascension of Francis II to Holy Roman Emperor in 1792 was grasped as a change for the better, and a portent for hope:
In the above passage from Gibbon's correspondence of April of 1792, you will note the contempt for the Revolutionary French, a sentiment that was common in the early days, as is evident in the below satirical sketch of the time by Gillray:

The "Austrian Bugaboo Funking the French Army"
James Gillray, May 1792 British Museum Collection Online. Object Number 1868,0808.6188 (Prints and Drawings)

'"While loyal honour warm'd a Fr'enchmans breast,
" The field of Battle was a glorious test;
"Nobly ambitious for his King to fight,
"To die or conquer was a Soldiers Right.
"A strange reverse the Democrats display,
"And prove the "Right of Man" - to run away -'"

In 1792, Gibbon was desirous of making a return trip to England, but in the below May 30 correspondence to Sheffield, we see him surveying the political and social landscape of the continent...
Later that year, in August, Gibbon would write to his mother on the topic, noting that both the "German" and the "French" roads were now both untenable...
......One thing that makes the above passage really interesting is the expressed fear of falling victim to hussars, even those of the coalition--this sheds light on the idea of how far (or not) the evolution of hussars had come from them being the irregular raiders of the mid-century.
von Reilly, F.J.J.; Geschichte und bildliche Vorstellung der Regimenter des Erzhauses Oesterreich. 1796.

Duke of Brunswick
After Johann Georg Ziesenis -, Public Domain,

All eyes and hopes were then placed on the the Duke of Brunswick, and the much anticipated march on France to rescue Louis XVI and restore order (Gillray's Austrian Bugaboo embodied that would to scatter the rabble).  In an August 1792 letter to Sheffield, Gibbon conveys this popular confidence in the outcome, suggesting that the "French Road" will soon be open:
However, as the historian who had crafted the majesterial narrative of the history of the Roman Empire, Gibbon was well versed in seeing the trajectory of history in events, and the unpredictability of outcomes. His September 12 letter to Sheffield captures the anticipation that was in the air at the time, even betraying a sense of foreboding that was not previously present:
...and shortly thereafter, on Septmber 20, the Battle of Valmy, delivered those worst fears.
Horace Vernet Copy of Jean Baptiste Mauzaisse. Battle of Valmy. Gallery of Battles, Versailles.

In a letter penned on October 13, roughly one month after his foreboding letter of September 12,  Gibbon articulates frustrations over the lack of leadership among the sovereigns opposing the French.  This letter also includes an initial response what must have been the preliminary news of Valmy:  Amazement...
...note also the revised assessment of the French compared to the dismissive version of April 1792.  

"The Imperial Quixote and the Generalissimo Sancho's grand, joyfull and triumphant return to Germany after the conquest of France": Satire on the revolutionary wars: the duke of Brunswick and the king of Prussia riding donkeys facing backwards, led by imperial eagle.
W. Dent Oct. 10 1792: British Museum Collection Online. Object Number 1988,1001.7 (Prints and Drawings)

Gibbon's one-word response, "Amazement!" to the news of Valmy captures the general sentiment of the time, and even of today. In a letter of October 17, 1792 to Sheffield, he extrapolates further, seeking some rational explanation for what had happened--something beyond Brunswick needing to "roll anything but a 1" (to put it in our terms):

On November 10, Gibbon penned a letter on the post-Valmy consequences, the situation of Switzerland, and of coming ramifications:
...In short, all Hell had broken loose. Closer to home, he goes on to deliver a trenchant anecdote of the no-longer comic French forces that were threatening Switzerland:

The death of Lady Sheffield in 1793 prompted Gibbon to risk the trip to England in order to console his friend, Lord Sheffield. From Frankfort in May 1793, he sent a new assessment of the French fighting spirit--this one in terms as generous as might be expected given his opposition to their cause...
Georges Moreau de Tours - Lazare Carnot at Wattignies [1], Public Domain,

At the same time, he offered a troubling assessment of the Prussian fighting spirit. Which had, according to him gone
from the likes of Frederick the Great...
1904 Painting by Karl Roechling, Battle of Zorndorf, Seven Years War. Public Domain something more akin to Gillray's "German Luxury"...
James Gillray, 1800. British Museum Collection Online. Object Number 1868,0808.6844 (Prints and Drawings)

In a letter written in April 1793 to an acquaintance in Florence, Gibbon assesses the unfortunate situation to date...


After Ferdinand Jagemann -

In this same letter of April 1793, Gibbon goes on to focus on a new hope: the ongoing expedition of the Prince of Coburg against the French... the above passage, Gibbon is referring to the then-recent victory of the Coalition over the French at the Battle of Neerwinden in March of 1793
Bildarchiv Austria. Die Bildplattform der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek
Based on these events, Gibbon speculates hopefully on the future...
 ...yet he concludes with an ominous qualification:

Coburg would go on to a string of successes, only to be decisively defeated at the Battle of Fleurus in June 1794.  Napoleon's "Whiff of Grapeshot" would follow in 1795, ushering in a new era.

by John Hall, after Sir Joshua Reynolds line engraving, published 1780 (1779)
NPG D2757
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Having returned to England in the Spring of 1793, Edward Gibbon's health declined. He passed away in January of 1794, being spared the final disappointment of Coburg's defeat at Fleurus. Nevertheless, his sense that the "slow" armaments of England would deliver the deadly blow to the "Gallic Hydra" turned out to be prophetic--21 years later on the battlefield of Waterloo. Only by then, the enemy was no longer Revolutionary France and the pre-revolutionary social order was beyond restoring. 

This book may be out of the norm for "hobby reading" but it has much to recommend it. 

I would offer that reading Gibbon is time well spent:

"Though I can part with land, you find that I cannot part with books"
--Gibbon to Sheffield, January 20, 1787 

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