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).
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.
New York hobbyist Dennis Morris has just completed another section of his massive diorama of the Battle of Gettysburg. Here is a view of the Union defenses on Little Round Top, looking toward embattled Devil’s Den.
A vintage photograph of the Gettysburg Battlefield Diorama in the old Dobbin House on Steinwehr Avenue in Gettysburg.
Background post: The long gone Dobbin House diorama at Gettysburg
A Charge! reader sent me some interesting information on the Gettysburg Diorama that used to be located in the historic Dobbin House in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The diorama was constructed by a York, PA, man, Curvin Heiss and his son. Heiss hard carved the molds and then cast the figures. He and his son Curvin Jr. then hand painted the 54mm Civil War figures.
Courtesy of Don Wiles, Carlisle’s Michael J, and the good folks at militaryhistoryonline.com, I present a few photographs of the old Civil War diorama that once graced the Dobbin House on the south side of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Pictured is a scene of Pickett’s Charge as Rebels slam into the Union II Corps line. Figures are 54mm from various makers.
The diorama was in its heyday during the 1960s when it was a relatively popular attraction. Curvin Heiss was the building’s owner during that time frame, and it housed a museum and gift shop. I remember riding by the Dobbin House during my first visit to Gettysburg in 1968, seeing the large banner hanging from the second story advertising the diorama, and wishing we had the time to stop and see it (we were on a tight schedule, but my Dad bought me a nice box of 54mm Britains “Eyes Right” ACW figures so I could play toy soldiers on the ride to Hershey).
My friend Larry Reber of GettysburgSoldiers.com was kind enough to send me a series of recent photographs he took of the old diorama of downtown Gettysburg as depicted on June 30, 1863, as Brig. Gen. John Buford leads his cavalry into the town square. They are headed west of town to the ridges near Marsh Creek, where videttes and patrols will keep an eye out for Confederates advancing from the west. Additional troopers will fan out north of town, watching for Ewell’s Corps coming down from Carlisle.
The diorama originally was part of the old Charley Weaver Museum on Cemetery Hill, which went under new ownership after “Weaver” died (his real name was Cliff Arquette). The diorama is now in the Union Drummer Boy relics shop on Baltimore Street. Over the next few days, I will post nearly two dozen shots of this interesting diorama. While not exactly historically accurate, it does give a good useful representation of the Gettysburg that John Buford would have seen.
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 above photo was sent in by John Wagner, a 13-year-old toy soldier collector. The figures are a part of his collection of 54mm Civil War figures. Thanks for sharing these with the Charge readership, and keep up the terrific work, John!
The 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry on the dusty road en route to an unknown fate at the next battle. The men and boys are confident, knowing that they are in the capable hands of their beloved Colonel Gentile, who has been carefully preparing them for action.
Antietam Park Ranger Mannie Gentile is a long-time fan of toy soldiers, a passion we share. He lived for many years in Michigan, where I am sure he had plenty of cold winter nights to produce and paint his own customized 54mm ACW toy soldiers.