Playing with Little Troops

This is how the fascination with little toy soldiers starts – setting up a battle with Americans, British, Germans and Japanese soldiers, throw in a few tanks and some terrain, and you’ve got a battle. This little scene was captured with my iPhone.

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The Saint of Anjou

The Saint of Anjou

Jacques Cathelineau - the Saint of Anjou

One of my favorite figures is the 54mm sculpture of Jacques Cathelineau produced by miniature company Nemrod. I entered him in the SCAHMS show a few years back and what follows in the text I used to accompany the entry to give some background. I can’t recall exactly where I found the text – I probably edited it together from Michael Davies book and other internet sources. The figure is based on a famous painting of Cathelineau by Anne Louis Girodet de Roucy Trison.

Perhaps the most famous common man to fight against the infamous French Revolution was the heroic Jacques Cathe­lineau. He was a brilliant strategist and a natural leader. Born in Pin-en-Mauges on January 5, 1757, there was nothing in his background to suggest that he would become such a legendary military leader. Before the revolution he was a traveling salesman, living a peaceful life with his wife and five children.

The Vendean rising occurred when France’s revolutionary government began to restrict Catholic worship. On 24 August 1790 the decisive blow came with the unfortunate King Louis XVI forced to give royal assent to the civil constitution of the clergy, by which the Church of France was turned from being Catholic into a mere national establishment, defying the author­ity of the Pope.

The regime also brought in what are now familiar revolution­ary policies: a stream of arbitrary laws on nationalization, wage and price-fixing, arbitrary powers to municipal councils, taxes, levies and ultimately requisition and expropriation. The Catholic clergy remained as a force to challenge these injustices. The re­gime therefore enforced their replacement by schismatic clergy who had taken the civil oath.

All this was massively rejected by the Vendee and elsewhere. Churches served by the “intruder-priests” – were deserted. The people went to hear Mass in the woods with their old pastors who had refused the oath and gone into hiding to avoid arrest. The first insurrection arose in Brittany in February 1791 and then spread to the Vendee. It was greeted with brutal savagery.

In September 1792 the Republic was proclaimed and on January 21, 1793, the King and Queen were guillotined. The news was greeted with profound shock. The Republic thought it had silenced the peasants, but in fact they were preparing for all-out-war. Early, in March 1793 the whole West rose, the peasants leading.

Jacques Cathelineau by Girodet

Jacques Cathelineau by Girodet in the Musée national du Château de Versailles

At Pin-en-Mauges, near St. Florent, lived 35-year-old Jacques Cathelineau. A party of insurgents came to him and implored him to help save those threatened by the republicans. “They must be saved,” he said, looking up to heaven in prayer. “What will become of us,” cried his wife surrounded by his five children. “Have confidence,” he said, “God will be with us.”

Cathelineau armed himself with his rosary, a pistol, and a saber, pinned a badge of the Sacred Heart upon his tunic, and went out into the public square. During the seventeenth century, the whole of western France had been stirred by the missions of St. Louis-Marie Grigon de Monfort, and the red badge of the Sacred Heart, popularized by the saint, was to be come the principal emblem of the Vendean solders, together with the White Cockade, symbol of legitimate Christian monarchy.

In quick order he organized the local forces and then went from town to town, enlarging his army through his appeals for loyalty to the Church and the Kingdom of France.

When Cathelineau engaged the republican forces sent in to suppress the Vendee uprising, he was the ideal warrior. His tactical skill was well known, as was his desire to be among his troops at all times, fighting alongside them. This deeply endeared him to his soldiers who soon gave him the name, “The Saint of Anjou” for his brilliance, courage and piety.

After the victorious battles of Fontenay and Chemille in April and May 1793, the Vendeans were organized into a united force: the Grand Catholic and Royal Army. The post of Commander in-Chief fell upon Cathelineau. It was an inspired choice.

The Vendeans secured an extraordinary number of astonish­ing victories against impossible odds. Cathelineau believed in the principles that would later be known as ‘shock troop tactics’ , charging quickly into the enemy ranks and fighting them hand-to-hand, causing panic and confusion. However, his bravery would ultimately be his undoing. After taking the city of Angers, the Grand Army council decided to attack Nantes. The city was well defended, and while storming the city a shoemak­er shot him from a window in the center of town. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet in his chest and the wound became infected. On July 14, 1793, Cathelineau died at Saint-Florent-le­ Vieil. His death was mourned as one from which the counter­-revolution would never be able to recover.

The tide had turned against the Vendeans, although each time the republican Convention declared that the Vendee was finally silenced, the Grand Army would win another victory against terrible odds.

Then a new republican general arrived in the West, Louis-Ma­rie Turreau, infamous for commanding the “infernal columns” which marched through the Vendee burning, pillaging, rap­ing, bayoneting and attempting to kill every living thing. This genocidal policy was undertaken by order of the Committee of Public Safety in Paris: “Exterminate every brigand to the last – that is your duty.” The columns marched all over the Vendee for seven months from January until July I 794.Turreau proudly reported that no prisoners were taken.

Vendean badge of the Sacred Heart

The Vendean badge of the Sacred Heart "God and the King"

But even all this did not cow the Vendeans who rallied to their remaining chiefs. On 15 October 1795, they awaited the arrival of the Count d’ Artois, the King’s brother. He never arrived. “Monsignor, you have brought me my death warrant! Today 1 have 15,000 men; tomorrow I shall have barely 1,500!” cried Charette to the King’s messenger. Hope faded and parishes began to lay down their arms.

Yet, still the war was not over. Both Chouans and Vendeans, despite the desperate state of the countryside, continued the battle so long as full freedom was denied to the Church.

By 1796, however, the Directory had fallen and a new leader appeared: Napoleon Bonaparte. He immediately began to treat with the Vendean religious leader, Abbe Bernier. By December full liberty was restored to the Church. However, the Vendee was only calmed after 15 July 1801, with the signing of the Concordat between the Pope and Bonaparte. But the cost in hu­man life and suffering had been incalculable.

In this great epic of heroism, endurance and sacrifice it has been said that the Vendean struggle was a costly failure. It was certainly costly; but not a failure. The peasants fought to restore the King, the Catholic religion, and to avoid service in the revolutionary militia. In the last two they were successful and visibly so. True, they did not immediately restore the King, but the monarchy returned in due course.

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Quite a Character – Carter P. Johnson

Carter P Johnson, sculpted by Mike Good

One of the more colorful characters of the US Army during the late 19th Century, Carter P. Johnson is the subject of a 90mm miniature sculpted by Mike Good. The figure is based on a illustration by Frederick Remington done in 1888  for Harper’s Weekly, titled  Lieutenant Johnson and the Tenth United States Cavalry in Arizona. This figure is also the “logo figure” for the Southern California Area Historical Miniature Society (SCAHMS) and was the “painter’s figure” at the 2011 California show. I entered this figure in the SCAHMS show and also in the Ventura County Fair this year and working on it made me curious about the real Carter P. Johnson. His story follows…

The most picturesque character in the regiment in those days was Carter Johnson, who remained in it until he was retired at Fort Robinson. The regiment will always cherish his memory and fighting qualities with many a laugh at his eccentricities, adventures and misadventures.… But he would require a whole book to himself. – Frank McCoy

Carter Page Johnson enlisted in the army in Virginia in 1876. He was a sergeant at the time of the 1879 Cheyenne outbreak from Fort Robinson, Nebraska. In 1882 he became one of the few non-commissioned officers to rise from the ranks to become an officer. A year later he was assigned to the Tenth Cavalry and sent to Arizona.[i] He later served in Cuba and Philippines. Major Johnson retired from the army is 1909 after 33 years of service. He came out of retirement in 1916 to command Fort Robinson briefly, before his death the same year.

Carter Johnson in the 1888 Harper's Weekly drawn by Frederic Remington

Chasing Indians in Arizona

For most of the troops there was little glory in this campaign. Their’s was the harder duty, to prevent outbreaks, rather than chase the renegades back onto their reservations. Their’s was the dismal duty to guard mountain passes, water holes, and trails that did not lead to glorious lighting.

The Tenth and the Fourth were in close cooperation during this campaign. The troops of the Tenth, under Lebo, Bill Davis, Carter Johnson, Ward, Grierson and others, were holding stations at Mescal Sorings in the Whetstones ; at Calabasas, under the Santa Ritas ; at Crhtenden ; at Tempest Mine, just over the line in Sonora, and at La Noria. The Fourth had stations on the south side of the Huachucas, at Bisbee, at Skeleton Canyon and to the east, with a few troops at Camp Bowie.

In 1887, about half the regiment pursued the “Kid,” one of Geronimo’s disciples. It was a hard campaign, but unsuccessful. He was never caught ; he may still be running. Lieut. Carter P. Johnson gained commendation by the skill, energy and endurance with which his outfit pursued this outlaw.[ii]

Adventures in Cuba

As 1st Lieutenant, Carter Johnson commanded black soldiers with Troop M of the Tenth Cavalry on a detached assignment with the Cuban forces.

“Joy came to the old soldiers of Troop M, when Lieut. C. P. Johnson was given a detachment from it and from the other oufits at Lakeland; they were to perform a “special mission” in Cuba. Better, they were mounted With them went General Munez and staff, 375 assorted Cubans, and a great quantity of arms and munitions for General Gomez. They sailed on the Florida, convoyed by the Peoria, on June 21st.”[iii]

The Expedition did not get off to a good start

“The Battle of Tayacoba was a disastrous American effort to land supplies and reinforcements to Cuban rebels fighting for their independence in the Spanish-American War. Repulsed at the port of Cienfuegos on 29 June 1898, the American force aboard the USS Florida went ashore near Tayacoba the following day. Prior to the drop off of mules, men, and materiel, a small landing party was dispatched to provide reconnaissance on Spanish outposts in the area. Rowing onto the beach, the force crept into the jungle but was discovered by Spanish scouts and soon scathed by enemy fire. Unable to retaliate or even protect themselves, the Americans retreated onto the beach only to find that their boats had been sunk by Spanish cannon fire.

Out on Florida, Lieutenant Johnson began organizing rescue attempts. The first four were dispersed by heavy enemy fire and forced to retreat, but the fifth, operating under cover of darkness and crewed by only four men of the U.S. 10th Cavalry, successfully located and repatriated American and Cuban survivors. Once the U.S. fighting men were safely aboard Florida, they promptly left the bay of Tayacoba.

All four rescuers, Dennis Bell, William H. Thompkins, Fitz Lee, and George H. Wanton, were subsequently awarded Medals of Honor for their heroism.” [iv]

The rest of the mission was more successful.

The SCAHMS 2011 winning Painter's Figure

“A landing was attempted near Tunas, but the Florida ran aground ; Spanish troops rapidly assembled and poured a hot fire on the two ships. The little gunboat Peoria was quite insufficient. Fortunately the larger gunboat Helena came along, towed the Florida off the sandbar, and gave the Spaniards a few whiffs of shrapnel. The landing was effected at Palo Alto, and made a junction with General Gomez July 3rd. The records cast little light on the doings of this detachment, but they ‘cooperated’ with the Cubans, without casualties, and the M troopers rejoined the regiment at Montauk in September.”[v]

“Some day the regimental history must have the account of his foray in Cuba in the summer of ‘98 with the picked troop that took in arms and supplies to Gomez, not forgetting the fight at Arroyo Blanco, where he had a fight with General Gomez as well as with the Spaniards, and pulled down the Cuban flag from the flagpole, and having no American flag at hand, ran up his blue blouse as a sign of capture, and threatened to shoot the first man that attempted to lower it.”[vi]

There is another view of this flag-rasing incident, from another Regimental history.

While most black troops were participating in the actions around Santiago [and San Juan Hill], Troop M of the 10th Cavalry had joined General Gomez of the Cuban Army and took part in several actions. Their activities, once again unheralded, earned the Congressional Medal Honor for four of its enlisted men. “These soldiers of Troop M were isolated from other American forces about three months while they fought with the Cuban insurgent army, they participated in several notable engagements, these cavalrymen would be the only mounted troops during the Cuba campaign, four privates, Dennis Bell, Fitz Lee, William H. Thompkins and George H. Wanton, won particular distinction for staging a daring rescue operation on June 30, 1898 at Tayabucoa. But here again, there was an obstacle to overcome. ‘The whole company came near getting massacred on account of his (1st lieutenant  Carter P. Johnson), getting drunk. After the Cubans and his command had taken a fort and a block house, he got a barrel of rum, got drunk, pulled down the Spanish flag and ran up his blouse as the American flag. He was given just one-hour  to leave the fort. He ordered his men to fire upon the Cubans, which they refused to do, as they would have been massacred had one shot been fired.’”[vii]

Captain Johnson and the Absentee Utes

In October, 1906 Capts. Carter P Johnson and Robert G. Paxton of the Tenth Cavalry were sent from Fort Robinson to investigate and negotiate with a band of about 116 armed Ute Indians that refused to return to the Uintah Reservation. On October 31, Captain Johnson made arrangements through interpreters for a conference with the Utes between the Army and Indian camps near the Powder River. After difficult debate and discussions with Indians, they agreed to go the Fort Meade while a delegation was sent to Washington to request a transfer to the Cheyenne River (Soiux) reservation. Captain Johnson was in immediate charge of the Utes at Fort Meade and oversaw the ultimate transfer of them to the Cheyenne Reservation by June 30, 1907.

The division commander, from whose report the above account is summarized, quotes Colonel Rogers report on Captain Johnson’s services as follows:

“I wish to call attention to the excellent manner in which Capt. Carter P. Johnson, Tenth Cavalry, has performed the difficult duty to which he was assigned. Through his good work it has been possible for me to immediately engage the Indians in conference and carry out the instructions of the department commander and the authorities at Washington. Throughout all his work has been tactful, energetic, and resourceful, and since my arrival he has been loyal and invaluable in assisting and supporting me.”[viii]

Carter P. Johnson and Fort Robinson, Nebraska

On March 9, 1916, a large force of bandits under Pancho Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico. burning several buildings, killing eleven civilians and nine soldiers, and wounding many others. In retaliation the Punitive Expedition was organized under Gen. John J. Pershing, and additional troops hurried to the border. On March 14 the remaining Twelfth Cavalry troops at Fort Robinson, quickly left the post for Columbus.

After the sudden departure, only eleven soldiers and five civilian employees remained at the post. A military station, regardless of its garrison, needs a commanding officer so on March 31, Major Carter P. Johnson came out of retirement to command the almost vacant post.

This assignment was Johnson’s fifth tour of duty at Fort Robinson. He had been there in 1877 as a Third Cavalry private at the time Crazy Horse was killed. In 1878–79 he again served at the post with the Third as a corporal during the ill-fated Cheyenne Outbreak. In 1882, he was appointed as a second Lieutenant in the Fourth Infantry and again assigned to Fort Robinson. The next year Johnson transferred to the Tenth Cavalry, where he spent some years with the regiment on duty in the Southwest.

After serving in Cuba and the Philippines, Johnson arrived for duty at Fort Robinson with the Tenth Cavalry. Not desiring further overseas service, he transferred to the Eighth Cavalry, just before the Tenth left for the Philippines in 1907. In 1909 after thirty-three years of active duty, he retired at Fort Robinson as a major, and moved to a ranch west of the post on White River. Now, in 1916, he returned as commanding officer, Johnson was serving in that capacity when he died of heart problems at Alliance on December 12, while returning from a trip to Wheatland, Wyoming. As an efficiency report once said, Carter P. Johnson was “an excellent soldier and efficient officer.”[ix]

Today, Carter P Johnson Lake is located on the grounds of Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

The SCAHMS figure portrays Lt. Carter P. Johnson while he served with the Tenth U.S. Cavalry in Arizona, 1888 and is based on a sketch by Fredrick Remington that appeared in the Harper’s Weekly. It was sculpted by Mike Good.

[i] Voices of the American West, Volume 2: The Settler and Soldier Interviews of Eli S. Ricker, 1903-1919[i]

[ii] The history of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921 – compiled and edited by Major E.L.N. Glass, Tenth Cavalry.

[iii] The history of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921 – compiled and edited by Major E.L.N. Glass, Tenth Cavalry. “Chapter IV Cuba and Philippines,1898-1902”

[iv] Battle of Tayacoba from Wikipedia.

[v] The history of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921 – compiled and edited by Major E.L.N. Glass, Tenth Cavalry. “Chapter IV Cuba and Philippines,1898-1902”

[vi] The history of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921 – compiled and edited by Major E.L.N. Glass, Tenth Cavalry. Letter of Frank McCoy

[vii] A Unit History of the 10th Cavalry Regiment an Article by Anthony L. Powell

[viii] Annual Reports of the Secretary of War, Vol. 3 1907.

[ix] Fort Robinson and the American Century, 1900-1948 by Thomas R. Buecker

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Bull Run’s 150th

In honor of the 150th Anniversary of the battle of Bull Run, here some pics we took when we visited the Sierra Toy Soldier shop in Los Gatos, Ca last month. Quite an impressive window display they have, and a must visit store when we’re in the Bay area.




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Custer and his troopers

Since the boys like playing with all periods of little troops, they recently received some US cavalry guys and indians. We read about Custer and the Little Big Horn, checked out some books on him, and they remember the Custer character from the  “Night at the Museum” movies.

I thought I would try my hand at a quick painting job on Custer and a few of his men, with an eye on seeing if I could paint the figures and seal them in such a way as they could be played with on a regular basis and not have the paint come off in big chips, as happened with an earlier go at this… So I cleaned em up, didn’t really bother to remove much flash, sprayed them with clear Plasti-Dip and painted them with acrylics, and then sprayed them a couple more times with Plasti-Dip. The results have been GREAT! They feel very rubbery, but the paint stays on and they have a nice matte finish. The kids love to play with them and they go well with the Britains Civil war cavalry we bought at Sierra Toy Soldiers last month.

Custer and his troops painted

Kneeling trooper painted and unpainted

Kneeling trooper with rifle painted and unpainted

Standing trooper painted and unpainted

Trooper with arrow in his back painted and unpainted

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Hello world!

I like to share with anyone who is interested some of the little troops I’ve painted as a hobby. Since childhood I have built models and painted little soldiers to go with them. I found that painting the little guys is most enjoyable for me, and feeds off my abiding interest in several periods of history. I am especially fond of the American Revolution, the bicentennial of which occurred when I was 12 or so years old. I have also been a civil war re-enactor with the Richmond Howitzers, the largest artillery unit west of the Missisippi.

So I will mainly be posting pictures of  plastic soldiers in the 1/32 scale range, with a few 1/72 ones thrown in, as well as military miniatures I paint for display. The plastic figures can be played with while the military miniatures are just for looking at. I might even set up a few dioramas or scenes with the troops, or post pics of the kids playing with the little troops in a painted or unpainted condition.

Hall's Delaware Regiment Officer and troops

Accurate figures painted as the 10th Regiment of Foot

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