Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gettysburg

Last week I spent some time with the better half at Gettysburg. It was my first trip to the famous battlefield since 1996, when I went with my gaming buddy Matt. Overall, this was my fourth visit to Gettysburg, and there were definitely some highlights as well as some low tides to my visit.

We tried to book three nights at the Doubleday Inn, which is situated on the first day battlefield along Doubleday Avenue. Alas, they did not have all three nights available that we would be in town, so we stayed along Baltimore Pike at the historic Brickhouse Inn. The Inn is really two buildings, one that was present during the battle, and one built during the Victorian period. The Brickhouse offers comfortable, clean rooms, excellent breakfasts, and wonderful hospitality. Conveniently located near the National Cemetery, Cemetery Hill, and Culp's Hill, there is also an excellent bookstore immediately across the street. The bookstore had a slew of regimental histories along with very good Gettysburg and Civil War sections, better than the gift shop at the national park visitor center. While staying at the Brickhouse one is also just four blocks from the downtown square, making restaurants and pubs within short walking distance.

The downside of the location of the Brickhouse was the noise from Baltimore Pike. Far too many loud motorcycles and semi-trucks use Baltimore. The noise can be offset by spending time in the nice garden area in the rear of the inn. But, if you can handle the occasional noise and want to go with a bed and breakfast, the Brickhouse Inn is a great choice.

Alas, the three days we were at Gettysburg the weather was extremely hot, with temps in the mid to high 90s and the heat index well over 100. Therefore we did a lot of driving around the battlefield as opposed to the walking I had hoped for. But, as this was the better half's first trip to Gettysburg, it worked out rather well. We could go for runs through the battlefield (an early morning run along Cemetery Ridge is worth the effort), and duck into shops during the heat of the day. By doing this we could tolerate the heat much better.

We have already discussed going back to Gettysburg next year for another three day visit as part of an extended vacation. I get to do a bit of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail and then spend three days walking about the battlefield. That's a pretty good vacation for me (history and hiking), and we will be certain to choose a cooler time of the year to go. We want to give the Doubleday Inn a try, simply because the location should be much quieter, but we were rather spoiled and impressed with the Brickhouse Inn. Should be a tough decision!

Food for thought for Perryville...first, there is no doubt that one of the draws of Gettysburg is the vast amount of monuments, memorials, and artillery pieces that visitors can view. I highly doubt in this day and age that Perryville would allow such creations on the battlefield, especially in light of the fact that Perryville is looking more like a Civil War battlefield than nearly any other location. So, forget monuments, but perhaps more markers, interpretive signage, and artillery would help not only interpret the battle, but give visitors something more to look at. I think this could be something the Friends of Perryville Battlefield could make as a long term project.

Second, the town of Gettysburg offers a wide variety of sites to see and shops to visit. I certainly would not wish for a wax museum anywhere near the Perryville battlefield, and one does not need to see a half dozen paranormal tour shops, but Merchant's Row needs to have more vibrant and interesting shops. Seemingly on every trip to Perryville there are only a few shops that are open (mostly antique), and a few buildings that have no shops in them at all. In order to bring more folks to the battlefield, other places of interest must be locally accessible. While Danville and Harrodsburg are short drives from Perryville, having more offerings in Perryville proper would bring more families to town. A couple of good cafes/restaurants, perhaps a brew pub, a bookstore that caters to Civil War and local history, and a few shops selling their wares could make Merchant's Row a destination as opposed to an afterthought. Dress up the street with brick or cobblestone walks, gaslights, shade trees, and more interpretive signage and make it an area that visitors just have to see would ensure the success of the businesses located there.

Next, the town needs a bed and breakfast. I realize that Elmwood Inn used to serve as a B&B, but I believe the Elmwood did not use the battle as a reason to draw inn goers. A bed and breakfast that welcomed battlefield visitors, perhaps offering tours of Perryville and the battlefield as part of the experience, should be able to survive. Of course, unless there are the other places to visit in town (see above) the bed and breakfast might struggle to fill its rooms.

Another idea, regularly scheduled programs at the battlefield itself would increase the amount of visitors. Gettysburg has evening programs at their battlefield amphitheater, ranger talks and walks on the battlefield and in town, and a plethora of licensed battlefield guides to lead visitors on tours. While Perryville does not have the resources to pull off a massive schedule of programs, the Friends group could assist by having a monthly talk/tour (or a Perryville specific Civil War Roundtable), and perhaps the park and the Friends group could work together to "license" official guides. If visitors see a regular posting of programs, they will be more inclined to come to Perryville knowing that there is "something going on" during their visit.

Of course, I realize that all of the above have associated costs, whether financial or volunteer. And I certainly do not want to see commercialism become rampant at Perryville. But starting some of these programs could make Perryville a destination, and bringing more tourism dollars into the area would be a benefit to all parties.

How can you help? First, become a member of the Friends group (HERE is the link, please go join now). The more revenue they have to work with the more they can do to assist the battlefield. Second, take a trip to the battlefield, spend a few bucks in the gift shop, and enjoy the battlefield. Third, support the local businesses with a few purchases. And lastly, let the folks in Perryville know how much you appreciate their efforts and share with them ideas for continued growth.

Side note...if I ever win the lottery I WILL start a bookstore or a bed and breakfast (or both) at Perryville, as long as the rest of you can convince the better half it is a good idea!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

New Releases at Kallistra

By Darren Smith
The fine folks at Kallistra have released some new packs for their American Civil War range, Union in Greatcoats (advancing, marching, and firing packs, and the release that has me most excited, the Iron Brigade!

The Iron Brigade release does, however, has me a bit torn.  On one hand, these figures will work perfectly for the majority of the Federal infantry I need for the Battle of Perryville.  However, that also means that they are not ideal for the Battle of Brawner's Farm.  Why not?  A couple of reasons - one, they are not wearing gaiters, which would have been in full use at Brawner's.  Second, the very round hat that I desire for my western boys is not turned up on one side as most of the Iron Brigade would have worn at Brawner's as well.  These figures would work much better for later Iron Brigade troops, such as those at Gettyburg, but even then the gaiters and turned up hat would still be found (see illustration).  So, while I very pleased that my Perryville project will now have troops in the correct headgear, I am a bit saddened that I will not be able to get double duty from these figures.  Yes, I know I don't have to be so anal retentive, and I will probably use these figures for the Iron Brigade regardless, but it would be nice to see another pack from Kallistra that has the Iron Brigade in their more traditional uniform.

But, nonetheless, as soon as the gun teams and limbers are released, I will be placing an order for several packs of Iron Brigade!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

12mm vs. 14mm

In a previous post I had mentioned that the Kallistra figures were closer to 14mm, even posting a picture to show the size compared to a ruler.  Paul at Kallistra has been kind enough to further elaborate on this confusion/discrepancy, and sent along a picture for the blog to settle this issue once and for all. 

Paul's picture:

Click on picture for a larger version
Now, there are two things to take note of.  One, the ruler is of a much higher quality than that old MagWeb ruler I received for free some years ago, which may mean that my MagWeb ruler is actually scaled improperly.  And two, in looking at the MagWeb ruler in the picture from the previous post, one can see that the first millimetre is quite missing!  Could this be the reason why MagWeb disappeared, they were short-changing us a millimetre per ruler?

So, I make an official retraction on my previous stance that the Kallistra figures are closer to 14mm than 12mm.  Like my stance really means that much, but hey, I can correct myself when proven wrong...and in this case quite wrong.

Regardless of the Great Kallistra Size Controversy, I simply love the Kallistra figures, and with the promise of more packs being released and the crackin' good service I have received thus far (in both ordering and in communication), Kallistra has me as a loyal customer, and I promise I am not a sock puppet!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kallistra Pictures

Just a couple of quick shots of two Kallistra figures, to dispel once and for all the size of these nicely sculpted figures.  As you can see, with my trusty ruler and gridded cutting mat in place, the figures (a Union infantryman advancing and one firing) are 13-14mm tall, sole to eye.  This is why they cannot be used with other 10-12mm figures.  That won't be an issue as long as Kallistra continues to come out with new packs (soon to be released are the Iron Brigade and gun and limber teams).


Click on pictures to see larger versions
So, while I am a tad disappointed that I cannot use the 12mm Miniature Figurines Civil War figures with the Kallistra, the quality of the sculpting (really good proportions and animation) make being "stuck" with one manufacturer quite worth it!

Updates

I have been working slowly towards adding more content here on the blog.  First, I have completed the basic order of battle for Perryville.  This order of battle lists the units that were engaged on the main part of the battlefield and does not cover the fighting along the Springfield Pike.  Eventually I will add those units in as well.

Next up I have added the order of battle for Buffington Island, the only "major" action to took place within my state, Ohio.  Part of Morgan's 1863 raid, Morgan was caught napping a bit and lost a major portion of his force that day in July.  I will eventually be adding Buffington Island as another battle I want to do with the fine Kallistra figures, and the battle is certainly manageable in terms of number figures I would need.  I am not a huge fan of painting cavalry, but since this is my home state's only notable action, I just have to represent!  The information for the order of battle was pulled from Charge! Issue 4, by Scott Mingus.  I will be double checking the data against some of my other sources, most notably The Longest Raid of the Civil War by Lester Horwitz, but as Scott mentions he used that as well, I am sure what he has is the latest and greatest!  By the way, make certain to check Scott's blog.  While geared towards Johnny Reb, it is filled with a plethora of related American Civil War information.  You will find the link on the right side of this page.

Also, I received an email from Paul at Kallistra regarding my comments about the scale of the figures they are producing.  He writes:

I found your info about figure sizes interesting - I must explain the origins of our 12mm figures on the new website. All our miniatures are sculpted onto a precision set of 'master dollies' that look rather like stickmen who have been on a body-building course. Each of these master dollies measures 12mm foot to eye. These were created in the year 2000 and are the reason why all our miniatures are exactly the same size. The Ottoman Azab or Saxon Theign are the same as a Union soldier firing. As a result there is never any scale creep and only hats and hair add a little extra height. We are sure this uniformity of scale within and across our figure ranges is just one of the reasons why our miniatures have become so popular.

Quite nice of him to address my comments about scale, and how Kallistra goes about creating figures, but I swear those minis are 14mm!  Being at work right now keeps me from measuring them again, but when I get home I will pull out some infantry castings and snap a couple of pictures for the blog within the next few days.  Regardless, it was a rather pleasant email from Paul, and I look forward to corresponding with him more often in the future.