Some time ago I reviewed John Zabawa’s Gettysburg Miniature Soldiers, one of my favorite stores in Gettysburg. Click here to see the photos of John’s previous store, which occupied less than half the space he now has since he expanded into a vacated adjacent business. Here are some photos I took today in Gettysburg as I dropped off some of my Civil War books to John (he now carries my autographed books Flames Beyond Gettysburg and the Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign, as well as the ACW naval rules River Wars which I edited and published).
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.
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 toy soldier set that got me started with my love for the Civil War and miniature wargaming – the granddaddy of them all. This dealer was selling a complete set of the Giant Marx Battle of the Blue & Gray playset for a little more than $1100. I still have many of the pieces from my own set, which I received for Christmas in 1963.
I spent Sunday afternoon tramping around Gettysburg, one of my favorite pastimes. As I was driving into town along York Street (U.S. Route 30 / The Lincoln Highway), I was surprised to see the trailer for Belle & Blade, one of my favorite purveyors of vintage military-related movies, music, posters, hats, and shirts. Curious as to why they were in town when there was no wargaming conventions (where I am most used to see them), I proceeded to the town square, where I parked and noted a sign for the 1st Annual Gettysburg Toy Soldier Show at the Gettysburg Hotel (the McClellan Hotel at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863).
I spent a couple of very pleasant hours tramping around the dealer hall and the separate manufacturers room, as well as the always impressive Belle & Blade racks of old movies. I ran into several old friends, including a couple of extremely talented wargaming pals of mine, two guys I really like despite the fact they always roll extremely well when whipping me at Johnny Reb 3. LOL!