Civil War dioramas

Fantastic custom diorama of the Pea Ridge battlefield!


Cannonball reader Stephen Schultheis sent me some photos of his fantastic diorama of the Civil War battle of Pea Ridge, fought March 6-8 in northwestern Arkansas. The Union victory essentially allowed the Federal armies to recapture and hold the region for the rest of the War Between the States.

Here are some more photos, plus commentary from Stephen!

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Categories: Civil War dioramas, Terrain | 15 Comments

The Battle for Fort Phil Kearny: Part 6

Troops Close the Ring

Scene 13

This poses an interesting dilemma for Colonel Carrington; does he accept the surrender of one band of 50 while still being attacked from the outside by over 1500 warriors.


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The Battle for Fort Phil Kearny: Part 5

Scene 11 InfantryFiring

With the QM gates now closed behind them, the Sioux warriors inside the QMY quickly realize that they are cut off from reinforcements. Likewise, the much larger contingent of Sioux still outside the stockade see their pathway into the fort extinguished. Both groups continue the fight with renewed fury. With the cavalry troopers now intermingled with the Sioux, the usefulness of the mountain howitzer is ended; however, it has played a critical role in preventing the incursion from overwhelming the troops and civilians in the QM Yard.

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The Battle for Fort Phil Kearny: Part 4


Fort Phil Kearny (shown above in this 1867 drawing) was established in 1866 by Col. Henry B. Carrington. Named for the Civil War general killed at Chantilly, it was only in use for two years before being abandoned in 1868. Wargamer and dioramist Steve Miller has been providing an illustrated narrative of the miniature Battle for Fort Phil Kearny. Click the following links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Here is Part 4 of the series…

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The Battle for Fort Phil Kearny: Part 3


We continue with Steve Miller’s interesting illustrated narrative of the Battle for Fort Phil Kearny. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Scene 4

In the melee that follows, Grummond’s platoon suffers over 50 per cents casualties, with Grummond and 6 others wounded and 5 killed outright.

Scene 6 Grummond's Wounded

However, before he falls back with the wounded, he and his men have bought the command 10 precious minutes by their sacrifice.


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The Battle for Fort Phil Kearny: Part 2


Steve Miller has been kind enough to send us a running narrative and images of a miniature battle for Fort Phil Kearny. In Part 1 of this series he set the stage for the action, giving a description of the fort and the unrest with the local Native Americans. Several wagon trains of wood cutters have been attacked and now the natives are eying the big fort. All has been quiet, so far.

Here is the second installment of Steve’s work:

Scene 2

Then just before noon, a large band of Sioux surge toward the QM gate.

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Steve Miller’s diorama of Fort Phil Kearny

FPK closeups with backdrop 001

Steve Miller was an Indian Wars reenactor off and on for some 20+ years during his Air Force career. He has also been a board wargamer, primarily WWII but with 8 or 9 Civil War titles in his collection.

Another of his interests is the Old West.  Back in the early 1960s he borrowed Dee Brown’s “Fort Phil Kearny, an American Saga” as a book from his high school library.  He also built a small perhaps 24 inch by 18 “cavalry fort” and “manned” it with HO scale Thomas figures purchased from K+L of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and with AirFix plastic Indians.  When he was commissioned as a 2Lt in the Air Force in 1968 and left for active duty, both the fort and the miniatures were left at his parents’ home. Over time they disposed of all of them.

Years later, Steve began Indian Wars reenacting in Tucson, San Antonio, and finally southern California, but never thought much about his boyhood diorama until this past January. He re-read Dee Brown’s book about Fort Phil Kearny again,inspiring him to try to build another diorama.  He had taken Terry Johnson’s “Northern Plains Indian Wars Tour” in about 1999 which included a visit to the Fort Phil Kearny HIstorical Site outside of Sheridan, WY. That museum contained a diorama.
Steve googled Ft Phil Kearny, found its web page, and saw a picture of that diorama and a note showing that it had been created by Bob Wilson, once the site superintendent but since retired. Steve was able to contact Mr. Wilson, compare notes, learn of some of the factual errors in Dee Brown’s old book, and begin planning his own diorama.
As for the layout of the post, “MIlitary Posts of the Powder River” was the most useful.  In it and in “Red Cloud’s War” Steve Miller learned that the fort was much larger that what was mentioned in Brown’s book (400 ft by 400 ft). It turns out that was the size of just the parade ground.  The actual size of the “main” fort was 800 feet by 600 feet, and attached to that was the Quartermaster Yard of 600 feet by 250 feet.  At a 1/72 scale, he was going to need a table 20 feet long and 8 feet wide.
Oops, he didn’t happen to have a room that would accommodate that.   What to do?
Categories: Civil War dioramas | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Old photos of a private Civil War diorama in Connecticut

Cannonball reader Mark Anderson supplied these photographs which first appeared in the Birmingham News supplement on June 24, 1956. Identifiable figure manufacturers include Bussler, Wm. Britains, and Tru-Craft.

The 1950s marked the beginning of the golden era of toy soldiers. So many manufacturers came and went in the 50s and 60s, with so many wonderful memories for a generation of boys. I had a huge collection of 54mm figures, which included Marx, Timpo, MPC Ring-hand, and so many others. My kids, and now my grandsons, played with them as well, so we have received three generations of fun and entertainment from the toy soldiers.

One wonders what ever happened to the Connecticut diorama shown above and below?

Scan of another page of the old newspaper article from 1956. Ike was in the White House, and interest in action-oriented themes was high. It was the era of Davy Crockett, science fiction, toy soldiers, cowboys and Indians, and the like.

Categories: Civil War dioramas, Civil War toys | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Pennsylvania Dutch farm in miniature!

I have recently completed a small vignette for my wargaming table, as well as to use to attract attention to my table when I am selling and signing my Civil War books I have written. This scene shows a Pennsylvania German farmer, let’s call him Jacob, nervously guarding his barn as he spots a distant dust cloud which indicates the arrival of Confederate foraging parties in his neighborhood. “Here come the Rebels!” has been the cry for weeks, and they have not come.

Until now, that is.

Jacob has failed to take his horses to safety (they are in the stable in back of the barn). He will attempt to negotiate with the raiders. He has a yellow membership card to the Knights of the Golden Circle, knows their secret password and identifying hand signals. For this information he has paid $1 to a couple of men from New York City who have visited his farm. They sold him the ticket and secret signs and told him the Rebels would leave his personal property, livestock, and horses alone if he showed them he was a member of the Southern-sympathizing K.G.C.

Click on the photos for better views of old Jacob and his farmstead.

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Categories: Buildings and structures, Civil War dioramas, Civil War wargaming, Terrain | Tags: | 1 Comment

Wm. Britains dioramas

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