Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The 54mm American Civil War Collection of Kenneth Van Pelt

Pass in Review

     I began collecting 54mm toy soldiers for wargaming in the American Civil War in 1983.  Gaming with 54mm figures was always a single figure skirmish pursuit prior to this project and now I wanted the full battle feeling of large contingents of troops moving and fighting on a large scale.  It was considered very unique (odd) at the time to try and establish a game on such a scale as most people only collected and gamed with 25mm or smaller miniatures. 54mm was relegated to the toy aspect of the hobby and that is what drew me into wargaming in the first place so I didn't mind.  It is a lifestyle not a hobby and so I have never regretted the amount of space my collection has needed - both in setting up a game and storing all the collected pieces.  The 54mm toy soldier occupies a place in the "history" of wargaming and I sought out that history and wanted to make it come back alive before my eyes. 
     So here we have a celebration blog entry into my American Civil War collection.  I have an interest in dating the collection for posterity and have tried to recall all the arrival dates and painting into uniform of all that you see here.
     In the above image  we have a headquarters diorama used on the game table to mark the location of the Union headquarters during a game.  Created in the early 1990's for a VBACW game at the local Heart of America Historical Miniature Games Society convention.  This was made with Marx figures and then the rest is all scratch built by me.  Inside the tent is a miniaturized copy of Joseph Morchauser's rules "How to Play Wargames in Miniature."
     These next three images are the core of my MARX Union collection.  I got these Louis Marx figures from a collector in North Kansas City.  He was an illustrator and had come upon a large collection of Marx and wanted to sell them.  I visited his house and we struck a bargain on the whole collection.  It included the pieces you see here and also a Confederate side as well.  These are based on 3x3" matboard and numbered sequentially 1-6.  I allow that these represent a regiment on the game table and in Morchauser's system we use a roster system to mark unit effectiveness and when to take them off table as casualties.

Louis Marx Union

Louis Marx Union

Louis Marx Union
Louis Marx Union manning Dulcop cannons.

Louis Marx Union as skirmish infantry.  The horse and musket period in our rules calls them light infantry and we use them as faster more mobile units.  They are skirmishers in the ACW.

And here to finish off my Union first army is the Britains Deetail ACW cavalry.  The expedient of getting a mounted group for the ACW games led me to go with the awesome Deetail range of figures.


And now on to the Confederates

     A MARX manned Confederate Headquarters.  similar in design and scratch built by me to mark the location on the battlefield of the Confederate commanders.
     These three images are the MARX compliment to the collection of Confederate infantry regiments.
Based on 3x3" matboard and numbered for the Morchauser rules.

Add in Cavalry.

      And finally my collection of Confederate artillery batteries.  These are very neat cap firing cannons that I bought at the Lone Jack Civil War Museum in Lone Jack, Missouri.  Very costly at the time but they fire caps with a spring loaded breech mechanism and are very loud.
     This is my first chapter in the pass in review of my ACW collection.  In the next entry we will see the Accurate figures, BMC figures, and some bits and pieces in my collection from other wargamers.  Some who have painted for my collection on request and then others who willed their collection to me on their passing. 


  1. Its good to see the veterans passing in review.

    I remember stopping on my way home c1996/7 to buy some Deetail ACW cavalry for a game that night to fill a gap in the OB. It was the first time since I was a kid that I'd bought factory painted toy soldiers.


  2. Ken

    If you haven't already, check out the 54mm ACW figures from All the Kings Men. IIRC, they are authorized metal versions of TSSD sculpts, and are incredible. Inexpensive, too.


  3. Thanks for the comments gentlemen. I will check out the AKM figures. Even though I feel "done" with my ACW set up.

  4. Your armies remind me of when I got "The Blue and the Grey" play set that Sears, put out when I was a kid in the 70's. You have done what I used to dream of back then, having regiments that looked like regiments. I might have to dig those old soldiers out....