The Mississippi played in important role for Union strategy during the American Civil War. Control of the river would split the Confederacy into two while at the same time allowing the federal army to swiftly deploy troops and materiel. Warfare on the river was largely an improvised affair. This is true for the boats, which were often converted from civilian vessels, but it is also true of tactics, with ramming coming back into play after being obsolete for a couple of hundred years.
I’ve had the plan to game the period since reading about the exploits of the Mississippi Squadron, and when Galleys & Galleons came along, I decided to take the plunge and order a couple of boats.
There is a large selection of ACW vessels out there, ranging from 1/600 down to 1/2400. For several reasons I decided on 1/2400 – I’ve already got some sailing vessels in this scale and like its reasonable price and the fact that it doesn’t require a lot of space.
To my knowledge, there are two providers of ACW ships in 1/2400: Tumbling Dice and Panzerschiffe. Now I like Tumbling Dice very much, the sailing ships I’ve got are lovely and the customer service is exemplary. However, from what I’ve read and seen on the Internet (and from the samples I ordered), their ACW ship models are not very accurate representations – even for someone like me, who is no nit-picker. This is a pity, as their ships are generally more detailed than their Panzerschiffe counterparts. However, Tumbling Dice offer some nice and very useful supplementary material for the period, such as civilian ships and gun batteries.
The bulk of my fleets are from Panzerschiffe. Their ships are made of some kind of resin. The casting is ok, but there are not many details. Still, they look nice enough and paint up easily.
From Tumbling Dice, I ordered gun batteries and two civilian paddle wheel steamers, which will be used as army transports.
I also did some scratch building. First, I wanted a bit of scenery for scenarios, so I made a small wharf and an army camp. 1/2400 is pretty small – an average person wouldn’t even measure 1mm – but with balsa wood and some patience, it’s not hard to assemble something that looks the part.
When I had finished this, I decided to try something more ambitious. There were certain ships I wanted to have but which weren’t available, so I grabbed some more balsa wood and gave it a try.
First up was the CSS Grand Duke. I couldn’t find any images, so I based her on the USS Tyler. The second ship was the General Sterling Price, which served first in the Confederate navy and, after being captured, was used by the Union.
The last boat I made was the CSS Little Rebel, a small screw single screw ram.
They look a bit crude close up but, when seen from the distance, blend in nicely with the other boats.
I also made some markers for torpedoes (as mines were called at the time) and for sunken ships.
The rules modifications are also ready and I’m really looking forward to playing the first game with the gunboats and ironclads.