“The character of the country was very rough, uneven, and heavily wooded.”

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Hundreds of model trees are needed to recreate the Battle of the Wilderness, parts of the Siege of Atlanta, parts of Chickamauga, Shiloh, and other prominent Civil War battles.

Background post: Creating cheap model trees for your gaming table.

The various battles and engagements of the American Civil War offer a rich diversity of options for the miniature wargamer, from the broad prairies in the Trans-Mississippi Theater to the open, rolling farmland of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Several battlefields were thickly wooded, and for the budget challenged wargamer, present a unique challenge — how to cover a 4’x6′ (or larger) table space with sufficient trees to convey the visual impression of a dense forest.

During the Atlanta Campaign in July 1864, the commander of the 33rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Captain T. A. Minshall, bemoaned his regiment’s route to battle. “The character of the country was very rough, uneven, and heavily wooded.” A couple weeks later, on August 5, he described an attack near Utoy Creek, “The enemy was driven about three-quarters of a mile through a thick wood of timber and underbrush, where we came upon him in his works, quietly waiting our attack.” (Quotes taken from the Official Records, Volume XXXVIII, Part 1, Pages 548 and 552.)


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Captain T. A. Minshall leads his Buckeyes forward toward a shallow ford in central Georgia in the hot summer of 1864. Nerves are on edge, as the regiment is approaching a Secessionist position, and those people are very good fighters who have not shown any signs of giving up.

Note several 15mm model tree stands in the photo, conveying a small sense of what Minshall’s men encountered along the route through the old logging trail. Also note to the lower left some strips of a cheap cardstock (the backing board from a notepad) which have been cut to size, flocked, and foliage clumps attached to simulate heavy underbrush. This is a good way to use scraps of foliage, lichen, little rocks, twigs, and other easily obtainable castoffs.

In a previous post, I described the technique I used to make dozens of low cost stands of “thick woods of timber and underbrush,” as Captain Minshall termed his surroundings. In the following photos, you can see images from my 15mm Battle of Utoy Creek, a scenario I may publish in an upcoming issue of the hard copy Charge! newsletter sometime in 2009 or 10.

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The stands of timber in the lower right and lower left corners were created using my modeling process. Here, Capt. Minshaw moves the 33rd OVI, a veteran regiment from Portsmouth along the Ohio River,  into position to assault the nearby Confederate earthworks near Utoy Creek.

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I have used a wide variety of shapes for my bases for these tree stands. Along the road are some linear stands I made from flexible thin rulers, which were my favorite price, FREE (these advertising pieces came from supplier giveaways at various trade shows I attend for work). Any thin strip of semi-rigid plastic will work as a base. I create small rectangular stands (including orchard segments) from those fake credit cards that used to come so regularly in the mail before the current U.S. financial crisis. I cut the thin rulers into 6″ (sometimes 4″) strips, drive cheap bulk roofing nails through them, paint and finish them, and, voila, a nice tree-lined Georgia dirt road emerges (well, the road should be red clay, I know…).

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The miniature Utoy Creek and its branch run was modeled using not so cheap, but very high quality creations from my good friend Doug Kline at Battlefield Terrain Concepts, my favorite terrain supplier. I may have scrimped on trees, but I more than made up for it over the years by lining Doug’s pocket on occasion. (I used to ask my wife for gift certificates from Doug for Christmas).

More than a dozen of my cheap tree stands appear in this shot from the Confederate News Network’s helicopter, hastily dispatched by Ted Turner from CNN’s world HQ in downtown Atlanta to cover the unfolding action during the siege. Turner, a colonel in the Georgia militia, had left the Army of Northern Virginia after being shot at Gettysburg while crossing a fence along the Emmitsburg Road. He has since resumed his media career as the South’s most influential voice, along with his rebellious wife. Musket balls from the 33rd’s futile volley bounced harmlessly off of  CNN’s helicopter, which continued to cover the Union movement in detail, providing information to Confederate HQ.

Sometimes free speech gets in the way of the need for military secrecy…

More photos coming in the next blog entry… have a safe and pleasant day, and may your dice always be hot and your Coca-Cola cold!

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Categories: Civil War dioramas, Terrain | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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