Dan Becker's 28 mm American Civil War Union Army

Union leaders, leftUnion leaders, right
Union Leaders

It has been a while since I've posted an article to this site.The reason being is that for the past few months, I have beenworking on matchingUnion andUnionarmies for the American Civil War.If you like this article, you might also like thesibling article on theCivil War Confederate Army as well.These articles are somewhat similar as they are writtenat the same time, and I followed similar techniqueswith both armies.

The figures primarily are 28 mm plastic figures byPerry Miniatureswith some 28 mm white metal artillery figures bySash and Saber Castings.As I typically do smaller armies in smaller scales,this certainly has been my largest miniatures project,in terms of the number of figures and time spent.Click on any image to get a larger view.

To the right are the Union generals.These are some of the few white metal figures in my armies,these being set ACW3 from Perry Miniatures.The generals and their horses are all unique sculpts andnicely proportioned and detailed.They fit in quite well with the Perry plastics.

Union cavalry 1, leftUnion cavalry 1, right
Union cavalry 1
To the right is one box (12 horses) of Perry Miniatures plastic cavalry set ACW 2.The Perry plastic cavalry have interchangeable horse halves, arms, and head gear,and while the pieces are repeated, the unit has a varied look to it.

I've painted these a prussian blue as suggested on the box packaging.I am no Civil War historian so all my color schemes might be ahistorical.The flag on this unit and all units are from theBrady Severns flag graphicsthat he contributed to theJohn Foley Battle Cry fan site.

Union cavalry 2, leftUnion cavalry 2, right
Union cavalry 2
Here's another box of 12 Perry plastic cavalry.These are painted with blue and gray uniform as suggested on the box.

Like all the other miniatures, the process is to:

I will go through each of these steps in subsequent sections.

Union artillery, leftUnion artillery, right
Union artillery
Here are six units of artillery from Sash and Saber Castings.The guns and the troops come separately.I've mocked up three types of guns here,a 12 pound flared Napoleon in bronze,a 12 pound straight Napoleon in steel,and a 10 pound Parrott in steel.They are done in sets of 2, in order tobe useful with Hasbro's Battle Cry game.

The Sash and Saber figures are a little more animated and alittle less formal than the Perry figures.The beards tend to be bigger, the clothes baggier, and morewrinkled.From a height and scale perspective, they match well with the Perry miniatures.

Union infantry 1, leftUnion infantry 1, right
Union infantry 1
Here is a partial box of Perry plastic infantry miniaturespainted up in Union blues.A full box (ACW1) contains 36 foot soldiers,3 identical sprues of 12 figures each.I've made my units 24 figures on 2 bases 120 mm wide by 40 mm deep.I think a base of 12 figures is easy to divide for many games.For example, for Battle Cry with its 4 steps of casualties, youwould remove 3 figures for each wound.

As with the cavalry, there is variation for the sprue of 12 figures,primarily in head gear,but also in the officer's arm,flag bearer/drummer arms,and a few of the rifle men.For Unions, I used mostly brimmed hats ratherthan the kepis and forage caps.Some detail-oriented historians might decry the mix of headgear,the various coats, backpacks, and equipment, but it looks fine tome.With an army this size it is possible to sort units via equipment, butrather I went for the disunified variated look.

Union infantry 2, leftUnion infantry 2, right
Union infantry 2
Here is a second unit of Union infantry painted with Unionblues and some green trim on the collars and sleeves.I call these the Massachussets Irish Brigade.Coincidentally, there are 6 Union painting suggestions on the box,and for the most part, I've followed all 6.

Once I have glued the figures together with styrene glue,I mount the figures to a metal base.For my cavalry I use a 20 mm by 40 mm rectangular base.This is quite tight for this scale and sometimes the horsesneed to make a good fit.Some might prefer 25 mm by 50 mm bases for 28 mm cavalry.

For infantry I use 20 mm fender washes which isquite unusual, as many people tend to use 20 or 25 mm squares.I'm ambivalent about my choice.I like the round base because it lets you pose the figures a bitto the left or right, and it useful for skirmish games as well, but it does let a bit of the undecoratedunit base to show through.Squared offer fixed rotational positioning, but cover up the unitbase better.

With both cavalry and infantry, the figure base is ferrous steel,and the unit base is a bit of basswood plywood(from Litko Aerosystems)with a layer of magnetic sheeting attached.I got the rectangular metal bases fromWargames Accessoriesand the round metal bases from an auto parts store.

Union infantry 3, leftUnion infantry 3, right
Union infantry 3
Here's another Union infantry unit painted in light blue.I believe this color scheme models an Indiana unit.

I prime all figures with black.I try to not fully block in the basic colors, and I try to let the black primershow at the edges and crevasses.However, I am not so aggressive as many of the Kevin Dallimore students tendto be with color variation.

Union infantry 4, leftUnion infantry 4, right
Union infantry 4
Here's a unit with white pants and prussian blue coats.I believe this is a marine unit, so I call these the marines.As with all these figures, I use Vallejo acrylics.What was fun about these armies is the paint pallette was solimited compared to the Dark Ages armies I usually paint.Dark Ages figures have a pallette limited to earth and natural colorsof the times, but each figure is varied.These figures have a pallette limited to the blues and grays ofthe Civil war, but each unit is painted similarly.

Union infantry 5, leftUnion infantry 5, right
Union infantry 5
Here is another Union unit consisting of black soldiers.These could represent the 54th Massachuests Regiment, as depicted in the movieGlory with Denzel Washington and Matthew Brodderick,or the 1st United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.) from Kansas, 7th U.S.C.T. from Maryland,the 8th U.S.C.T. from Pennsylvainia, or any one of the 200,000 black soldiers and 163 units that fought for the Union army.

Like the other figures, I have washed these withMinWax Polyshades Tudor varnish.Polyshades is the Minwax product name for pigment and polyurethane in one product.The Tudor shade is a very dark almost black shade of brown,but it is hard to find and not usually stocked at Lowe's or Home Depot.They also have black and walnut shades that are close,but the black is too contrasty for me, and the walnut has the slightesttint of red in there.You can also use the classic oak or mission oak on lighter color figures for a lighter effect.

The reason I like poly varnish, with its smell and noxious cleanup,rather than water-based acrylic wash, is that the varnishis very consistent and does not tend to react with the underlying paint coat.Acrylic inks and washes can pool or run off, resulting in inconsistency,but the varnish coats everything with similar effect.I used to dunk figures in the paint can, and let them drip, and dab them until they were good,but I found that very messy.That is why some people call this the dip, dunk, or the magic dip method.I found a new technique with these figures.I use a big brush and slobber on as much varnish as I need.Then, at the end of the session I clean the brush.Wood spirits, turpentine, and paint thinner (i.e. mineral spirits) all can cleanthis up, but be careful to use in a well ventilated area and keep it off your skin.

Union infantry 6, leftUnion infantry 6, right
Union infantry 6
Here is the last of the infantry units, done in all greem,most commonly modelling the Berdan Sharpshooter regiment.The bases are done with Woodland Scenics scenery bits.Notice the two rows in front have a one-step, quick-and-dirty techniquewhich is to paint the base with white glue with brown paint mixed in,then throw on a mix of ballast sand and static grass. Done.The two rear rows have the two-step technique which has the ballast sand thrown on,let dry, and a second step with occasional grass here and there.You will see my bases all have this disparity, as I initiallystarted with the one-step, and then found I like the two-step technique better.

Also notice that the Unions have green unit bases, and green-colored grassand that the Confederates have brown bases, and straw-colored grass.This helps distinguish units on the game table, and tries to evoke the nationalenvironment a little more.

Once the painting, varnishing, and bases are done, I seal everything withTestors Dullcote lacquer.I like the drop dead matte finish. It evens out the colors and makes everythingblend together nicely.

Union storageUnion storage
Union storage
One last pair of photos shows how I store these figures.I place all the units in some Sterilite clip boxes.They also have latch boxes that are similar but larger.My usual Plano fishing tackle boxes were too shallow to handle cavalry,the tall flags, or the cannon tools.These Sterilite boxes are nice as you can easily see the unitsthrough the plastic sides.

A quick photography note.As with most of my minis I shot these photos with a 3 unit flash set up, smallapertures (1/16 and 1/32) to get big depth of field, and long exposuretimes (3 to 30 seconds).However, I did notice trouble with white balance on my photos, and thussome of these photos might appear slightly yellow.You can also see some yellow in the shadows.The reason for the issue is that the custom white balance that workedfor a near white flash lighting and short exposure times did not alsowork with very yellow incandescent lighting and long exposure times.And the camera automation did not allow me to rapidly do two photos withdifferent apertures and white balances.And I am too lazy to manually balance each photo.Maybe I need to get different white ambient lighting or shut the room lighting off.Please let me know if you know another solution.

Thanks for reading about my 28 mm Union armyThis was a rather long-winded article, but it was one of my larger armies,and one of my bigger projects, so I hope you will enjoyseeing it and reading about it.There is a similar Confederate army article andmore miniatures and scenery photos in Miniatures section.I hope to have more photos as I pit these two armies against each other onthe gaming table of battle.Feel free to write to me at this site and ask questions or make suggestions.Thanks for visiting!

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Last modified: Thursday, 09-Jun-2011 12:52:59 MST.