Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The War of 1812 was fought largely in Canada and the northern US, therefore winter gear was a necessity. At the Battle of Crysler's Farm (the correct spelling, although "Chrysler" is sometimes used by those more familiar with the cars), the American 3rd Brigade commander Covington mistook the British 49th Foot for militia because of their greatcoats.

 The British Army's winter gear included not only the greatcoat, but also various fur-covered shakos, fingerless gloves, and "beef boots," the design of which Renee Chartrand speculates to be similar to a "mukaluk," although no examples or documentation of their design survive today.

"Beef boots." 

 Shako with fur cover.

Officers took the field in a variety of gear, including custom-made fur hats, long fur stoles, leather-cuffed trousers, and boots of various types.

The straps were worn under the cape which covered the shoulders. The blanket is still rolled and strapped over the backpack, but should be painted the light tan color of British blankets rather than the grey of a greatcoat, since the greatcoat is being worn and not rolled over the blanket. Sashes are worn over the coats, but wings and epaulettes are not.

These figures are available in standard packs, or in a bulk pack containing a 24-man unit.

The spirit of a British army on the march in the winter is best portrayed by this photo from the Crimea, a war fought by the British in uniforms which were still very Napoleonic in appearance:

As always, visit www.knuckleduster.com to see what's new!

All the Best,
Forrest Harris

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


US forces arrive. Left (your left) to right: Towson's artillery, US  9th, 22nd, and 11th infantry. Winfield Scott just behind them, discussing with his aide ways to have them all killed.
At a quarter-till-eight in the evening, American commander Winfield Scott emerged from the woods with his 1st Brigade of the Left Division and immediately came under heavy artillery fire as his troops hastened into position. There were remarkably few incidents of disorder during this challenging deployment, due in no small measure to Scott's belief in extensive drill and harsh military discipline. It was this discipline that gave his units the ability to march into effective artillery range, about 400 yards from the enemy, and stand there like Russian grenadiers, to be murdered by the bushel, as their commander tried to decide what to do next.

Winfield Scott was a blunder waiting to happen. An arrogant, aggressive, moody, and unpredictable martinet, he was also a remarkably unimaginative field commander who allowed his brigade to be practically annihilated, using up ammunition in wasted shots at out-of-range targets. We didn't use any special rules for him, but there are certainly opportunities to do so. If anyone would suddenly lose patience and order a headlong charge into the teeth of the guns, it would be Winfield Scott, as you will see in time.

Jessup's 25th advances up the right flank along an easily-missed camouflage cloth path.
Fortunately, Scott had an ace-in-the-hole: Jessup's 25th infantry, which was sent on a deep flanking maneuver up a recently-discovered track through the woods along the river on the American far right flank. The 25th included a company of light troops under the command of Ketchum, who skirmished ahead of the main body, and was responsible for taking many officers and messengers prisoner before the night was over. We did not actually march them up the flank as in the photo, but held them off-board and placed them at the start of  American turn 2 astride Lundy's Lane in line, just inside the woods, with Ketchum's tiny unit on their right in skirmish order.

And now for the fashion show. As you're no doubt already aware, Scott's brigade was issued short grey roundabouts instead of blue regimentals due to supply shortages, and the dark machinations of rival commanders elsewhere in the theater. All four regiments under his command sport these, along with the false-front "Tombstone" leather shakos, white summer trousers, and equipment as depicted below.

 Blanket rolls were not unheard of in the war, and the standard-issue pack was plain buff canvas with a light blue painted flap.  The lettering on the flap as well as the "US" on the canteen are available as water-transfer decals from Knuckleduster. The designs in the photo at left were hand-painted.

Scott was accompanied by Nathan Towson's artillery, a section of two 6lb. guns and one 5.5" howitzer, represented on the board with a 6lb. section. The gun is large; it's made by Elite and it probably a bit too big for our figures. I may be replacing these with Front Rank until Knuckleduster can design ones of their own. When choosing artillery pieces to use for the Americans, French Napoleonic pieces work well since the US appears to have mounted their guns using the Gribeauval system, and with mostly iron barrels. I had to file the Napoleonic eagle off this gun (heartbreaking thing to do to an Elite artillery tube) and sculpt an American eagle in its place.

Towson had a lot of trouble putting effective fire on the hill where the British artillery was situated. He tried different angles and methods before admitting that his fire was mostly effective only in bolstering the spirits of the American infantry and gave up. For this reason, artillery fire at the hilltop positions receives a -1 at any range.

The US dragoons. In Black Powder, the commander in the photo is superfluous (I painted him, so I'm putting him in the photo). They are rated as a tiny unit with marauding capability.
The battle began with a token cavalry force of US Light Dragoons and New York militia cavalry sitting on the Portage road awaiting instructions. High command stole them away for messengers and scouts rather than giving them any significant combat role, but they will of course be ridden into the ground by any gamer who gets his fat little hands on them.

In our scenario, the Scott's main body begins the game at the lateral road about 18 inches from the British guns, with the knowledge that reinforcements are due soon and that Jessup is away on his secret mission. The British go first. It is up to the American player, provided he survives the initial British bombardment, what to do with the main body of the 1st Brigade; whether to attack in some manner, retreat into the woods to take shelter until help arrives, or to stay put.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012


After much experimentation, our game club has put Lundy's Lane on the table using Black Powder rules. There was a lot of anquish and hand-wringing during the research and conversion of the historical roster into something workable in Black Powder.

We had a look at our limited table size (6' x 8'), and formed our units mounted four-to-a-stand with a 15mm frontage. We chose six stands as the Black Powder average unit, eight stands as large, four stands as small, and two stands as tiny. Any stands of skirmish troops were split front and back into two half-stands, each pair counting as one stand for unit size calculations. Distances were reduced to 2/3 (12" instead of 18" for fire, etc.).

Most units could be represented in a fairly straight-forward way, but some of the smaller light infantry units were combined in order to make formations that stood a chance of survival on a Black Powder battlefield. The light companies of the 41st and 8th were combined into one "tiny" unit ("tiny" being the smallest unit in Black Powder). In other cases, larger units were split up to operate as independent wings, as appears to have been done on the actual day of battle.


Let's take a look at Gordon Drummond's position at the beginning of the battle, and begin examining the units involved and how they are represented in Black Powder.

The first view is the center of his position on a 25-foot elevation crowned by a cemetary and one-story log church and meeting house. A potentially unweildy set-piece diorama was eschewed in favor of small stands bearing clusters of tombstones and a stand-alone resin building whose entirely representative position could be nuanced in order to fit troops in where needed.

Morrison and Drummond contemplating the ghastly business at hand.
Here we have the Commander-in-Chief, General Gordon Drummond and to his right (our left), Lt. Colonel Joseph Morrison, who commanded Drummond's center: the enormous 89th, flank elements of the 41st and 8th, a substantial part of the 1st Royal Scots, and an impressive collection of artillery. In addition to these assets, he theoretically commanded 500 Western and Grand River warriors, but they decided not to be commanded that day and took little part in the day's excitement (a few might be found roaming the right flank, skirmishing, taking scalps, posing for souvenir photos, etc.).

On the right end of Morrison's position (here and henceforth his right, the reader's left) were three companies of the 1st Foot, 171 men in total, described in some accounts as "flank" companies, and in others as "light" troops. We represented this with a small unit of lights and grenadiers, the former mounted on split stands for skirmishing in mixed order.

In the graveyard we find Drummond's artillery, including 24-lb. guns (we used Elite Miniatures' Russian Licornes mannned by Victrix artillerists), a 5.5-inch howitzer (all Victrix), and a Congreve Rocket battery (Old Glory). Two of the stands here belong to Morrison; the Congreve rockets and the 24-lb gun. The howitzer belongs to the light brigade, and represents a section of two 6-lb guns and a howitzer. The howitzer was chosen over a gun in order to give the British player some interesting variety; how often do we get to play with howitzers?

In the games we have played thus far, the heavy gun was given long range fire with no penalty, and caused a -2 on the target's morale saves. This, combined with the -2 morale save suffered from Congreve and howitzer hits, made the graveyard a daunting position to assault, at least in the daylight, and satisfactorily massacred Scott's brigade if they stood to face it during the long wait for reinforcements.

Along a road behind the guns were posted the 89th foot, rated as a "large" unit in Black Powder. The 89th had black facings, and was one of only three British units that carried colours that day. Not much to say about them, except that they had black facings and, like the other British regulars that day, wore Belgic shakos. Initially, we gave the British regulars all kinds of special rules, such as first fire, crack, etc. We are in the process of taking another look at our use of special rules and perhaps trying a different approach, because we keep forgetting to apply them.

A tiny unit was created from the flank companies of the 41st and 8th. The 41st was said to be wearing white trousers as was their custom (see Osprey's British Infantry Trousers in North America), so I've painted half the figures in white trousers and half in grey. A Front Rank officer rounds out the unit.


The job of holding Drummond's left flank fell primarily upon the Incorporated Militia Battalion, a well-trained formation of Canadians who should be considered regulars in all respects. According to author Richard Feltoe, (Redcoated Plowboys, A History of the Volunteer Battalion of Upper Canada) they wore stovepipe shakos and red coats with green facings, in spite of speculation to the contrary by those who would have them in Belgic shakos and blue facings. The officers were probably in blue facings by recently introduced regulations, however many would probably still be in the round hat, very popular among officers of every ilk during the War. They would not necessarily be carrying colours, a tiny scrap of the truth I stumbled across but can no longer remember where. This is a six-stand, average-size unit in our Black Powder game.

Speaking of powder, here are some troops who took a powder in the battle. This tiny unit of dragoons is composed of Perry figures, and their counterparts were not risked on the field of battle by Riall that day in 1814, which of course doesn't prevent gamers from doing the obvious: frontal assault on the American guns! 

In the background can be glimpsed Phineas Riall, commander of most of the militia and light troops that day. One of the toughest choices to make regarding the command structure was what to do with Riall's division. His entire division is only the size of a brigade, and if two of his so-called "brigades" were only battalion-strength militia units. In our game OB we eliminated all of his subordinate commanders and traced the command of all his units directly to him. This had the most profound implications for the next two units . . .


Far out on the British right flank were The Glengarry Light Infantry, dressed exactly as Sharpe's boys, the 95th Rifles, but carrying Brown Bess muskets. They were part of Riall's division, but are considered marauders in Black Powder, which makes their extreme distance from Riall no problem when rolling for orders.

We represent them as a small unit (instead of 4 normal stands they are 8 skirmish stands). We found that Average size units with the advantages of skirmishers become far too powerful on the game table; only the lack of rocket-propelled grenades and GPS prevent them from destroying everything else on the board. It is our studied opinion that the spirit of the rules was for skirmish units to always be tiny or small, and that larger formations should be divided into these morsels.

The 36-inch journey to the commander, Riall, was an extreme impediment to the next unit, the sedentary militia of Lincoln and York. If they are meant to take a meaningful part in the battle, one has to ride over to them long enough to put them in march column, run them up the field using that formation's free moves, and then deploy into line or mixed order (they have light troops present) when close enough to use an initiative move.

In their collection of red and green regimental coats and multi-coloured civilian dress, they look just like a heavily-armed Christmas tree marching across Canada.

That does it for the British initial dispositions. The British player has a formidable position at the start of the battle, and one that must be carefully preserved until reinforcements arrive.


Thursday, May 3, 2012


You will notice that before I finally sculpted these much-needed bystanders, the staid and dour pioneer women, I went straight for the plunging necklines and frilly unmentionables of the saloon gals. Well, in a display of admirable restraint, I have dressed these ladies in boring, but historically accurate clothing carefully researched from among photos of reenactors, sutler's catalogues, and reference books.

What to expect when you're expecting? If you live on the frontier, endless drudgery!

Items of note include the aprons and bonnets, ever present in the honest woman's wardrobe. The fabric is often  light "gingham", which came in many patterns, including some very pretty polka-dots (to die for). The white on blue, and yellow on rusty-red are straight from the pattern books.  These aren't difficult to paint, and make you look like Michaelangelo.

Oh, what the hell, here are the saloon girls:

I had to research underwear for that pack; it wasn't easy, because Osprey doesn't have a book on Victorian underwear; at least not in the Men-at-Arms series.

Forrest Harris


Friday, March 30, 2012


A selected pose from Knuckleduster's US Infantry in Linen Roundabouts;
a 360-degree view. Note the black belts used widely in the US Army;
white was generally worn only by the first seven regiments.
Painted and sculpted by Forrest Harris
The US Army had issued summer "jackets" (linen roundabouts) since 1802, and continued to use them during the War of 1812. They were routinely issued to troops in Southern posts, but they were also used widely in the North during the first two years of the war. In fact, due to clothing shortages, the winter of 1812-1813 was borne in linen coats by many regiments in Northern posts, including Harrison's 17th, 19th, and 24th US infantry, and the 12th and 14th US near Buffalo, New York. When the British captured the 17th Infantry at Frenchtown on January 22nd, they were still wearing tatters of their summer uniforms.

As easy as Austrians!

In 1813, Commissary General Irvine produced 10,000 linen jackets for that year's operations, and Wade Hampton's Canadian expedition wore them as late as October.

When the plain, blue coatee of 1813-1814, and the grey wool roundabout were available in reliable quantities, the use of the linen roundabout was relegated to the South, and extremely hot weather in the North.

The same figures may be just as easily used for the militia of the Northwest Army, who wore drab (dark grey wool) roundabouts in 1812-1813; some of these garments also made their way into the hands of US regulars. An illustration of the 19th Infantry exists in which a drab round jacket is worn.

Knuckleduster has represented this uniform with a unit of regulars marching in roundabouts and packs. Command figures in laced coatees may be used to command them, but as time allows, NCOs  and drummers in linen coats will become available wearing the early war shako, as well as militia in round hats and roundabouts.


Renee Chartrand, Uniforms and Equipment of the United States Forces in the War of 1812, Old Fort Niagara Association, Inc., 1992.

James Kochan, The United States Army, 1812-1815; Osprey Men-At-Arms 345, Osprey Publishing, 2000.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Drummond and Riall placing bets on the Congreve rocket's trajectory as the 89th stands behind them in terror. (Perry command figures, Front Rank sergeant,  Victrix artillerymen, and Knuckleduster line infantry)
The most furious battle ever fought between Canada and the United States, Lundy's Lane is a large battle featuring most, if not all, of the troop types present in the Niagara campaing of 1814. The time is drawing near when I will have sculpted everything necessary to fight this battle; as it stands at the present, I have the American forces covered handily, but still have British artillerymen, Congreve rockets, and mounted command to complete, as well as Native Americans (more a factor at Chippewa than Lundy's Lane).

In the months ahead, I'll be highlighting various units in the War of 1812 with photos, descriptions, and painting guides in order to encourage your own projects and entice you into buying more Knuckleduster miniatures! (Should have known there was a catch). By way of a preview, here are some photos of the Battle of Lundy's Lane on my own wargame table, soon to be descended upon by a half-dozen middle-aged men grasping copies of Black Powder in chubby hands, cuticles still bearing unmanly traces of craft paints; a phenomenon you're all undoubtedly familiar with.

First off, here's a look at the British center, situated in and around a graveyard at the top of the battlefield's prominent hill. Since this photo was taken, the British colours were affixed to their pikes. The center-front unit, the 89th, was one of only three units carrying colours that day. The others were the 1st Royal Scots and the 103rd :

 Here's a view of the British right, giving a bit of a panorama of their line:

 Hercules Scott hastens forward with a relief column. One benefit of making your own soldiers is the length of said column. Notice the meeting house and British center on the top of the hill.

 The sedentary militia trying to think of a way to impress Drummond  in order to avoid having their ammunition taken away and distributed among the regulars. Notice they were not one of the three units carrying colours that day.

 The Yanks come on in serried ranks, and head straight for the dubious cover of a split rail fence. Since this photo was taken, Porter's militia (top left) have gotten flags for their poles.

I will be adding more photos and more information about units, their uniforms, and other bits of trivia next time . . .