Hasty Breastworks for American Civil War

I have not put on a ACW Fire & Fury game in a long time and thought this month would be a good time to correct that. I have been gaming F&F since the early '90s and it sometimes feels like I have gamed every conceivable ACW battle imaginable! While I have participated in several games of Antietam using the original Fire & Fury rules, I realized I had not gamed this battle at all with my current gaming group ... in the last 20 years!

And as I have not gamed the battle using the Regimental level rules, it was an easy call to pull out my copy of Civil War Battle Scenarios Vol 1 for Regimental Fire & Fury to run the Cornfield scenario later this month. When looking over the terrain notes, I noticed that both the Walker and Douglass confederate brigades start the game behind some hasty breastworks made out of piled up fence rail. As all my 15mm fieldworks are geared for WW2, I thought I'd go about making a couple of feet of fields works for 1860's.

After reading about the battle, it seems that the breastworks were just piled up sections of fence rail ... so I thought it would be easy to also just pile up some toothpicks and pour glue over them to hold them together. While it would be more "realistic" I did not like the look of it. In addition I was going to have to either do layers of fence or make a jig to build up the height of the breastworks. So after viewing some actual pictures and reading several other blogs about it, I decided on making them a little less "hasty".

I collected up the materials, 6" popsicle sticks, toothpicks, putty, a few rocks, paint, knife, glue and water. Then found a suitable "work space" (a priority mail box) and started the build.

I realized early on that the 6" sticks were going to warp, so I ended up cutting each in half (3" sections.) I actually think the smaller sections will work better in the game as well.

I first mixed some putty, paint and water into a cup and spread the dark brown paste to each popsicle stick. Then cut a little section of toothpick and placed them upright along the centerline of each popsicle stick to use as a barrier for the piled fence rails. I planned on "piling" up the toothpicks on the half closest to the unit, with the other half flocked to blend with the table.

For the pile of fence rails I used toothpicks and cut each end down to even them up. Then I just started gluing them down to the paste, then atop each other. I broke a few and laid them at angles to the rest and used some rocks to fill in larger gaps. I was in a hurry and some of them turned up a little short, but in the end they will all work just fine on the gaming table. I let this dry overnight as it was getting late at the store.

The next day I painted on a mix of water, glue and lighter brown paint to the rocks and fence rails. This was to both prime them for painting but also add more strength to the piles of fence rails.

Once they were dry the next step was to paint the rail fences. I ended up using three colors, Terracotta Beige, Khaki Tan and Light Buttermilk. Not much thought went into the colors, I just grabbed two lighter brown colors and a "white" from my box of craft paints.

I painted each section using a slightly modified overbrush/wet blend process. I first applied a heavy coat of Terracotta Beige over about 80% of the fence rails, then I dry brushed a thick coat of the Khaki Tan onto it to lighten them up. I mixed some Light Buttermilk into the Tan and lightly dry brushed the fence rails, trying to pick out the edges and ends. I also dry brushed the earth as well.

Finally I added a some small stones and light grass color flock. As this was drying I glued down small clumps from my clump foliage remnants container to give each of them a green "look". In reality, with all the feet trampling the ground as they built up the breastworks, the area around it would be mostly dirt/mud. That however looks too stark on the gaming table, so green foliage to the breastworks it is!

Considering I did three feet of breastworks in less than two days work, they turned out pretty good. The only thing I would/will do differently is just make sure that all the works are waist high, a couple of them are pretty low.

I am thinking I'll next airbrush the map onto a green cloth next week. We won't have enough fence for the battle but airbrushing in all the roads, fields and woods will help divide the battle field up. And time permitting I might look at turning some astro turf into cornfields...