FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR GALLERY
When I was eight years old, which is to say well over a half-century ago, I wrote to Marx Toys to request that they produce a French and Indian War toy set among their many boxed collections. I received no response to that letter. The French and Indian War became important to me as an eight-year-old largely because of the movies Northwest Passage with Spencer Tracy and Robert Young and The Last of The Mohicans with Randolph Scott. I’m sure the Classic Comic The Last of The Mohicans played its part as well. In the many years that followed, the French and Indian War remained an interest… there was simply something majestic about it with its dark forests and Woodland Indians, the independent-minded frontiersmen and the European forces dressed in uniforms that were out of place but nonetheless added to the mystery and majesty of it all. In more recent years, my interest in this childhood romance with history was fed by Allan Eckert’s Wilderness Empire, the reading of Kenneth Roberts’ Northwest Passage, and Daniel Day-Lewis in a new version of The Last of the Mohicans.
I never lost hope that one day some manufacturer would give me the figures I had been denied by Marx Toys, and about a decade ago my dreams were realized when Blue Moon 15mm-18mm came to life and among its first offerings was a French and Indian War line of figures with 64 figure/building packs. It was as though my letter had been misplaced all those years ago and had somehow been found and delivered not to Marx but to Blue Moon. They were giving me almost everything I had ever wanted from the French and Indian War… forts, Indian lodges, cabins, blockhouses, canoes, Indian villagers, European colonial settlers, Indian warriors, British troops, French troops, rangers, French marines… It was/is wonderful, and I began to buy!
Around January of this year (2015) I completed my African Adventure Gallery for my 28s and began organizing and painting my 15mm-18mm French and Indian War collection. As I write this, it is now the first week of October 2015, and my work on my French and Indian War collection has come to an end… approximately 1500 figures are painted, and I’ve brought to life a Woodland Indian village (reflecting the Abnakis village burned by Rogers on the St. Francis in 1759 complete with 17 lodges, several European style cabins, a meeting house, a church, a blockhouse with an elevated gun position, scalp poles, a large village drum, a fish drying rack, lean-to’s, lacrosse goal posts, beached canoes, and two Indian watchtowers), a British colonial farm community, two forts, a fleet of French whale boats and canoes for the assault on Fort William Henry, and French siege entrenchments with cannons and mortars.
In presenting this gallery, my principal aim is to display my collection. I say that up front so that no one will be left with the impression that I am attempting to present history. This gallery is not devoid of a historical relationship but that relationship is loose and the historical events loosely portrayed have been selected as a means of meeting my central goal of displaying the collection. My references for figure painting have ranged from long viewings of John Jenkins’ French and Indian War figures, to the French and Indian War on Pinterest, to the Funcken Lace War volumes, in addition to a lot of Osprey material.
This gallery includes four main table layouts and some small vignettes. Each table is 5 feet x 7 feet. I work with two actual tables so when my daughter finishes photographing Table #1 (the French and Indian attack on a British farm community), I take down Table #1 while she is photographing Table #2 (the French attack on Fort William Henry/1757) and Table #1 becomes Table #3 (the ranger/light infantry attack on the Abnakis village on the St. Francis/1759). Once Table #2 has been photographed and my daughter moves on to Table #3, I take down Table #2 and use it to set up Table #4 (the unsuccessful British assault on Fort Carillon/1757). I intentionally did not follow a historic time sequence in presenting these tables because I did not want two fort-related layouts to come one right after the other.
As indicated above, most of my figures and structures are from Blue Moon 15mm-18mm, and most of those are from their FIW collection although I did pick some wagons and mortars up from their AWI and Napoleonic lines. The largest number of non-Blue Moon figures are from the Old Glory 15s SYW line (British and French infantry and artillery), and the whale boats (pirate longboats), oarsmen, and seated infantry are from Peter Pig (great stuff). I also have some Woodland Indians from Peter Pig as well as Frontier Miniatures. There are a few SYW officers from both Essex and AB Miniatures included as well. The animals (farm animals, deer, bears and turkeys) are by Preiser. The spruce and pine trees are by Grand Central Gems. The fields are by Musket Miniatures. I think the fences are from Stone Mountain Miniatures, but I got them a couple decades ago, and I am no longer sure. The grain stands are HO, but I have no idea who made them… again purchased many, many years ago. The entrenchments I’m pretty sure are Gallia. The waterfall is a resin décor piece I picked up at the swap meet a few years back. I got it for $3. It required a lot of cleaning up and patching, but I really wanted a waterfall for this collection so I’m very happy I found this one. The church is a repurposed resin music box I picked up at the swap meet for $3. I did some minor modifications and gave it a new paint job. The scalp poles, dock, fort gun platforms, ladders, lacrosse goal posts, fish drying rack, lean-to’s, village drum, wells, cannon hoist (my name for it), and Indian watchtowers are all scratchbuilt by me… mostly using Evergreen plastic and some plastic HO scale telephone poles I got off the bargain table at my local model train shop. The lean-to foliage is from Bachmann Scene Scapes and is called Wire Foliage Branches. The scalps on the scalp poles are made with floral wire. The rock portion of the wells is Milliput over Evergreen tube and the rope is floral wire. The village drum is Milliput over a water bottle cap.
The ground cover is indoor-outdoor carpet I purchased on clearance about 30 years ago. It is terrible carpet but great ground cover. The mural background was painted by my daughter who as mentioned above did the photography. She has done the photography for all my galleries and really makes them come to life. We photograph the layouts in the garage with all the garage doors open so we can get the benefit of natural light while allowing me to set up the first two tables the night before… I couldn’t do the night before set-up if we took the pictures in the backyard.
After six decades, a little boy’s dream (my dream) has come true with the completion of this collection. It feels great! Hope you enjoy it, too.