Work in Progress

Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro)

Posted by John Simmons on 13 Sep 2023, 22:41

We decided that for our next ACW wargame, we wanted to do one of the lesser known "western" battles (i.e., not Shiloh or Chickamauga). We settled on Stones River, a battle about which none of us knew very much. The principal fighting took place on the last day of 1862, on hilly terrain near the geographical center of Tennessee. And I learned once I started reading that Stones River was in fact, proportionately, the bloodiest battle of the entire Civil War, with both sides taking over 30% of their total forces in casualties. Since it will be my turn to host again, I've been working on the table for the game, and I thought I might share some images. The primary battlefield was actually west of Stones River, across the river from Murfreesboro. I'm nearly done with the table, though the game itself won't take place for a while.

The first picture is from the north end of the field, looking south from over McFadden's ford:

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Looking southeast, along the Nashville Turnpike and the Nashville & Chattanooga railroad:

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Looking east along Asbury Road, from above Widow Burrows' house:

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Looking east along the Wilkinson Turnpike:

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Looking west along the Wilkinson Turnpike, toward the "slaughter pen":

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The bend in Stones River on the east side of the field:

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Looking east from behind the Griscom house:

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Looking west across the south end of the field, where most of the Confederate units began their attacks:

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Looking east across the south end of the field:

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I've also begun working on the Union and Confederate command groups for the game. First, William Rosecrans, commanding the Army of the Cumberland (or XIV Corps):

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Thomas Crittenden, commanding the Left Wing (designated by a pink (!) flag):

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George Thomas, commanding the Center "Wing" (designated by a light blue flag):

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Alexander McCook, commanding the Right Wing (designated by a light crimson flag):

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Braxton Bragg, commanding the Army of Tennessee:

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William Hardee, commanding Hardee's Corps:

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Leonidas Polk, commanding Polk's Corps:

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John Breckinridge, commanding the reserve corps, which was largely unengaged during the battle on December 31:

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One more problem to deal with: Stones River was fought in cold, wet weather, and all of the troops who owned them fought in overcoats. Indeed, the most famous contemporary image of the battle shows even the Union artillerymen working their guns in their light blue overcoats. Unfortunately, there are very few figures in our scale representing Civil War troops in overcoats, and none at all (that I know of) representing artillery crew in that garb. So there's a lot of conversion work to be done before the battle can be fought by figures in appropriate attire.

I'll post more about the preparations for the game as they proceed.
John Simmons  United States of America
 
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Posted by Bessiere on 14 Sep 2023, 03:45

You've picked one of the most evenly matched battles in war to recreate, one I've gamed hundreds of times playing civil war generals 2 but it easily could have gone either way. Your scenery looks terrific and very accurate. Communication was a most difficult tasks for the South as units spread down the Union lines then began to penetrate the pickets. Co-ordinating attacks with nearby units became a very iffy affair. The final attacks against the union batteries was a suicidal order and the execution of those orders was testimony to the devotion of those Confederates. Enjoy your game I'm sure it will be a grand affair.
Cheers,
Bessiere
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Posted by C M Dodson on 14 Sep 2023, 08:52

Hi John.

Tremendous work in your usual brilliant style.

This was a dreadful affair, fought in the winter and your terrain projects the bare landscape at that time of year brilliantly.

The command stands show some clever conversions although, personally I think the commanders would be mounted unless at a fixed HQ.

With respect to winter uniforms, the Itallieri artillery sets are all in coats .

The Revell Confederate set also has guys in coats too.

Ironically, I did not use these as my action is in September ( although it rained overnight) .

I am looking forward to seeing this come to fruition. It will be exceptional as always.

Inspired I am……off to the garage!

Best wishes,

Chris
C M Dodson  United Kingdom
 
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Posted by C M Dodson on 14 Sep 2023, 09:47

I have been looking at the David Greenspan picture of the battlefield to stir up my memory cells. Great stuff.

I have had a rummage and have some troops in greatcoats if you fancy them?

The painting is poor but are welcome to have them if it helps your project.

Drop me a pm with your address if you would like them.

My wife will be delighted to have a clear out !

Best wishes,

Chris
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Posted by MABO on 14 Sep 2023, 10:33

I had a computer game with which I could replay the battle. Since then I know something about it. As the others already mentioned, your table is really complex and cool. I will follow your next posts. Thanks Chris for giving tips for troops in coats. I really like the Italeri Artillery Set!
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Posted by Santi Pérez on 14 Sep 2023, 19:59

The drone images of that battlefield are amazing, John, as do all the Command groups. :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:

Santi.
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Posted by Rich W on 14 Sep 2023, 22:43

I look forward to the updates on this!
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Posted by Michael Robert on 15 Sep 2023, 10:10

Hello John,
a really neat set-up, your landscape. I am full of admiration. Needed to read all about this campaign first because I never heard about this one. Was interesting reading on Wikipedia.
Concerning your command groups I just have a little concern with the fellows with the big heads - the sculpting and proportions do not marry so well with the rest. Of course, as always a question of personal taste. Will be great to see the results.
Greetings
Michael
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Posted by Minuteman on 15 Sep 2023, 16:59

Then scenery that you have prepared for this game looks splendid, and you have clearly put a lot of time and effort into researching this and modelling the table-top.

So far as troops in overcoats are concerned, I can see the problem. The Strelets US infantry sets have been sculpted wearing frock coats, and clearly these are convert-able into either side; in some cases simply with a suitable paint job, and some head-swaps for Confederates. OK, so the frock coat is not a greatcoat, but it is some way in that direction?

I'm looking forward to updates. Keep up the good work!
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Posted by PatrickJ71 on 16 Sep 2023, 09:32

What an extraordinary and detailed battlefield you created!
Beautiful!
How big is that table?
Thanks for sharing and i am looking forward to the battle report.
Patrick
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Posted by John Simmons on 17 Sep 2023, 20:31

Many thanks to all of you for your very thoughtful and helpful comments. Chris, to you especially I'd like to express my thanks for your incredibly generous offer to send on your greatcoated figures. But I couldn't possibly let you go to all that trouble for a simple, one-off wargame. This won't be a grand project like your terrific Antietam undertaking (for the next installment of which I'm waiting eagerly).

And I think one of my friends and I have the overcoat issue somewhat under control, having set up a conversion assembly line, of a sort, working with pretty much every plastic set for every war that depicts soldiers in greatcoats. I've been working over the Strelets set of Russian Jaegers in overcoats, and with head and pouch swaps and bayonets added, they look pretty good. Their backpacks have to come off, of course, but the extra plastic there actually lets you carve on a pretty plausible rain cape. I'll post photos of those guys, and others, when they're finished.

I had a reasonable start on the overcoated troops with the units I made for an earlier Fredericksburg game, where the Irish Brigade famously charged the stone wall on Marye's Heights in their overcoats. Those guys are below:

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As those with good eyes will notice, some of those troops are painted as if wearing overcoats, but are actually wearing the frock coat with rain cape that was the official U.S. Army uniform at the start of the war. The considerably longer greatcoat, which also featured a rain cape, reached well below the knees. There is one such frock-coated figure in the Accurate Confederate set, another in the Italeri Union set, and a whole bunch of artillerymen in Italeri's gun sets. Unfortunately, that uniform was rarely seen in combat, as the frock coat was quite unpopular. And even when worn, most soldiers removed the rain capes. I will probably still end up taking the lazy man's route and using some of these frock-coated figures, hiding them in the midst of properly greatcoat-clad units, but I'm trying to have at least the vast majority in real overcoats.

As far as I know, the only easily-obtained greatcoated ACW plastic figures out there are the one Confederate rifleman in the Accurate set and the drummer with the tiny drum in the Italeri set. Then there are those two much rarer Ultima Ratio sets: the Union Irish Brigade set, which is all overcoats, and their Confederate Texas set, which has a few overcoats (along with other, interesting, cold-weather attire). But those sets are really hard to find and incredibly expensive, at least in the U.S. I've only got one of each. So it's conversions for me. I've done one Union artillery crew, as an experiment. I used the Italeri artillerymen, to get the rain cape and the artillery poses, but glued their top halves on to the bottom halves of Strelets Russian Mountain gun set, where the figures are in greatcoats. These conversions seem to me to have come out OK. And since those Russians are wearing kepis, I used the officer pretty much straight out of the Strelets box. Here's the result:

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As for the comments about the command groups, I'm afraid I have to just agree with the criticisms. I generally do use mounted officers, as Chris recommends. And they probably make even more sense in a battle like Stones River, where the Union commanders, at least, did a lot of riding around to reposition and rally troops during the collapse of the Union right wing. I had a bunch of standing officer figures lying around that I wanted to try painting up, and I probably let that fact unduly influence me. As for Michael's comment about the big-headed guys, I just agree that they look pretty dumb. Somehow they managed to look OK to my naked eye, But the camera really tells a different tale. They'll have to go.
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Posted by Peter on 01 Oct 2023, 19:21

Looking very nice! Thanks for sharing! :thumbup:
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Posted by MABO on 03 Oct 2023, 07:43

Maybe you could give your figures, operating the artillery piece, a wash with dark blue. All the details would be much crisper and they would look quiet more lifelike. Only my 10 cents of course! And also a question of personal taste.
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Posted by John Simmons on 06 Nov 2023, 17:34

I've been working on adding to my ranks of Union soldiers in greatcoats for our upcoming Stones River game. I have not yet tried any of the painting techniques kindly suggested by Mabo and others. As is pretty obvious, I'm afraid, I am not a great painter of figures. I mostly just slap paint on them, mount them, and get them on the table. But I've done a lot of conversions for this particular project, using parts of most of the greatcoated plastic figures available in our scale, regardless of historical period or nationality. And I thought that seeing some of those converted figures, however indifferently painted, might still be of interest.

First, two more artillery crews in overcoats:

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Some casualties and "helpers":

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All the firing and advancing infantry I've completed thus far:

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I hope to find time to add more greatcoated Union troops before our game, but I've gotten up to a respectable number for representing soldiers stuck fighting a miserable battle in truly miserable weather.
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Posted by C M Dodson on 06 Nov 2023, 19:17

Hi John.

Good to see you are making progress .

I upgraded my Italieri guns by adding rope. Get two pins a short distance apart and wrap some cotton thread around them in a looping fashion. Glue to secure and then glue onto the gun carriage.

Not sure if you have the Italieri Parrots but generally the smooth bore guns were bronze or brass. The rifles , parrots and ordnance rifles being black.

Looking forward to the action.

Best wishes,

Chris.
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Posted by Minuteman on 07 Nov 2023, 17:13

Those serried ranks of soldiery in their greatcoats are looking very fine! I can appreciate the time you have spent in converting these: well worth the effort I would say. :yeah:
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Posted by JurgenH on 07 Nov 2023, 21:20

The szenarrio ist great.The Figures are superclean painted. I think only the Figures need a wash and light drybrush. They looks to clean for me. Congratulations for your great work.
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Posted by John Simmons on 09 Dec 2023, 16:31

Thanks once again for all the helpful suggestions, as I muddle on towards finally gaming Stones River. I'm still experimenting with washes and dry-brushing to improve the appearance of the greatcoated Union conversions. But I've at least now corrected the mistakes on the guns in the photos that I posted earlier. I think I must have been so focused on the conversions needed to make greatcoated Union gun crews that I paid no attention to the guns themselves. Chris is absolutely correct that the smoothbore gun barrels should not be black. As far as I know, apart from a few experimental models, the Union never produced any black (i.e., wrought iron) barrels for their Napoleons (smoothbore 12 pounders). So I went ahead and changed the three guns that I'd displayed earlier, making one a bronze smoothbore and the others rifled guns. These new versions are below:

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Interestingly, the Confederacy did produce a fair number of wrought iron Napoleons, though only during the last two years of the war (after the South lost control of the last of their most productive copper mines in Tennessee). I suppose that some of those guns must have fallen into (and been used by) Union hands. That, however, would have been later in the war than Stones River. The iron Napoleons were produced at the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond (now a historic site about an hour's drive from my home). The iron gun barrels made there apparently lacked the Napoleon's characteristic swell at the muzzle and had a thin iron band to reinforce the breach.

When I learned about the Tredegar iron Napoleon's a few years ago, it gave me an idea for a new use for the old Airfix ACW artillery piece. I had always used the Airfix guns as 3 inch Ordnance rifles, which is the only ACW gun that the Airfix model in any way resembles. But one can easily make a passable Confederate iron Napoleon from the Airfix cannon by simply wrapping some tape a couple of times around the breach of the barrel to enlarge it a bit. Below are a couple of pictures of one of the Tredegar iron smoothbore 12 pounders that I made from an ancient Airfix piece:

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Now it's back to work on mounted command figures and more Union greatcoats.
John Simmons  United States of America
 
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Posted by C M Dodson on 09 Dec 2023, 17:35

Hi John, fabolous work as always.

Another tip regarding the guns is to either put a thin strip of paper over the trunnions as per the originals or alternatively just paint a line of black.

Not many manufacturers seem to realise that without trunnions the barrel will fly off at the first discharge!

The rope trick looks lovely and adds to them.

Best wishes,

Chris
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Posted by John Simmons on 16 Jan 2024, 15:26

I've decided to follow Chris's advice once more and replace my standing command groups with mounted groups (our rules require that army- and corps-level commanders be represented by groups of figures). Stones River was a nasty, confusing battle, in which commanders were frequently in the dark about the battle's progress and the enemy positions. So I imagine that all of them did a fair bit of riding around. Here are pictures of the new, mounted (replacement) command groups:

First, William Rosecrans, commanding the Union Army of the Cumberland. I've tried to portray Rosecrans here as he appears in the best-known period illustration of the battle, riding a black horse and dressed in a plain black hat and the dark blue officer's overcoat, with the coat's amber/yellow lining showing as the flaps blow in the wind:

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Thomas Crittenden, commanding the left (pink) wing of the army:

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George Thomas, commanding the center (light blue) wing:

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Alexander McCook, commanding the right (light crimson) wing:

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On the Confederate side, first comes Braxton Bragg, commanding the Army of Tennessee. An aide reported that despite the weather, Bragg and other southern officers were wearing only kepis. Bragg always used the second Confederate national flag as his headquarters flag:

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William Hardee, commanding Hardee's Corps:

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Leonidas Polk, commanding Polk's Corps:

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John Breckinridge, former Vice President of the U.S., commanding the Confederate Reserve Corps at Stones River. Oddly, Breckinridge's favorite cold weather outfit was a uniform made of Kentucky blue jeans material. So I've depicted him here in blue, with a standard grey overcoat:

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Our actual wargame is scheduled to occur soon, and I'll post a battle report on the game as soon afterwards as I have time.
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