I had a wonderful childhood, growing up in a small lakeside village nestled in the scenic wooded hills of southeastern Ohio. It was an area steeped in history; an area where famed Civil War generals Phil Sheridan and William T. Sherman grew up. My own family was rich in Civil War heritage, with direct ancestors on both sides of the family serving in the Union Army, including three of my great-great-grandfathers.
My Dad, whose 97th birthday would have been yesterday, and Mom gave me a giant set of Civil War toy soldiers for Christmas back in 1962. It was the 54mm Marx Giant Blue & Gray playset which I believe they bought at the local Montgomery Wards store, which my Mom frequented in those long ago days. As a kid I played with them extensively and lost parts of the set in my outdoor “wargaming” activities. The rest survived the years, and are now enjoyed by my two grandsons.
Here are a few shots of the remnants of that old playset (I also still have the tin mansion).
This photo shows a hodge-podge of different 1960s toy soldiers. The redoubt is from my Marx Civil War playset (the 1963 Centenniel Blue & Gray playset). The figures manning the guns I bought at S.S. Kresge in Zanesville, OH about 1966-68, and I am told they are Crescent figures from England. The soldier blue figures to the right center are Marx 54mm cavalry figures from the Fort Apache playset. The figures at the bottom right are Britains, some of which came from Gettysburg’s Fort Defiance gift shop in 1968. The brownish figures are Marx 54mm figures from their Boonesborough playset, including Daniel Boone. Some of the gray figures at the lower left are more recent figures and were from my kids’ childhood in the 1990s.
Another view of the Marx redoubt and the unknown figures… the ones to the upper left of course are vintage Marx Centennial figures.
In the spring of 1862, Confederate Maj. Gen. Zachary Thomas led his veteran division on a mission to raid Federal supply depots and to disrupt enemy communications and logistics. He also hoped to draw the Federals’ attention away from the main lines, and, in doing so, open the way for the Confederates to retake most of Kentucky. One of his objectives was the sprawling Union supply depot near Scottsburg, where he hoped the local civilians would rise up and join the Confederate cause.
Defending the depot was the relatively untested Union garrison under Brig. Gen. Michael Lynn. It was a hodgepodge force, made up of various companies recruited throughout eastern Kentucky, including the Marx Guard, the MPC Rifles, the Britains Scouts, The Tim-Mee Warriors, and the Ideal Company. Lynn had a field gun, and a pair of old mortars at his disposal, but ammunition was scarce, and the nearest trained crews were at Fort Rebecca forty miles away in Ashland.
Colonel Leroy Marks led the Confederate troops on the left, where they slammed into the Federal Marx Guard. A wild melee soon ensued, and the Rebels entered the outskirts of the depot.
A few of you have asked to see photos of my wargaming room in our basement, adjacent to the mecca of the Johnny Reb Gaming Society (a.k.a. Debi’s office and library, and our grandson’s playroom). I particularly like the Lincoln print, which is actually a montage of 1,000 individual black-and-white photographs from the Civil War that have been arranged so that the patterns form an image of Honest Abe when seen from a distance. The two old steel chairs are from the 1920s; they graced my grandparents’ front porch in East Fultonham, Ohio, when I was a kid. I have lots of memories of playing 54mm toy army men on that old porch and munching ice cream bars while talking with my grandpa and grandma. Very nostalgic! Ah, the pleasant memories…
Antietam park ranger Mannie Gentile has created a new bog, Toy Soldiers Forever, devoted to one of our mutual passions – 54mm toy soldiers. While my rather modest collection is exclusively my vintage figures from when I was a kid growing up in southern Ohio in the 1960s, Mannie has continued to purchase newer figures, and his new blog will include reviews and extensive photographs and commentary on figures from all makers and years. Published twice a month, this promises to be a must-view blog for anyone even remotely interested in plastic toy soldiers and the Civil War in general.
The Helen of Toy company widely advertised their Civil War figures (knock-offs of the Giant brand) in boys’ comic books in the 1960s. I answered the above ad and still have these little ACW figures forty years later!
Does anyone remember the Giant brand of miniature plastic Civil War toy soldiers? They were approximately HO 1/72 scale, and were molded in Hong Kong using fairly sturdy plastic that has held up 40 years later, with very little cracking, stiffening, or breakage. I had hundreds of these little guys, which made up my first miniatures army before I switched to lead-pewter alloy figures. Many of the figures used the same poses as the 54mm Marx Civil War playset figures, only in a much smaller scale.
I remember buying these figures at various times over a 3-4 year period with money I earned from chores (money that I had left over, that is, after buying baseball cards and DC Comics!). Some of the Giant figures came in plastic bags (an unsually heavy vinvyl bag IIRC), and others were on blister packs with colorful backgrounds.