Some of the ugliest ships known to man
The mid-19th century was a real transition time for warship design – sail to steam, wood to iron, smoothbores to rifled guns, roundshot to shell – and the American Civil War landed plump in the middle of it all. While some wargamers dismiss this as a boring standoff (citing the Monitor and Merrimac (Virginia) duel, there’s a lot more to it than that. An ironclad like the CSS Tennessee might have been relatively immune to shot, but she was still forced to surrender at Mobile Bay after being rammed, her guns knocked out and her crew driven nuts by concussion. So, gaming this period is far from straightforward. That’s just what you’d expect from a period when the technologies of armour, guns and engineering were all evolving so rapidly.Then you’ve got all those wooden warships, or cottonclads, or tinclads, or rams. You’ve got rifled guns, smoothbores and underwater mines. Add to that the human aspect – what was it like to go to war in what looked like a large upturned bath, or a cheesebox on a raft? That’s what makes this such a diverse and interesting period – and offers something different.For years I had a couple of American Civil War fleets – 1/600 scale ships – a mixture of metal Thoroughbred models from the USA and resin Peter Pig ones from Britain (at a fraction of the price).I then sort of went off the period, and it was only recently I rediscovered it again – with a twist. My ACW kit is now on long-term loan to my pal Bill Gilchrist. Still, I kept some models back – wooden steam-powered ones.They’ve now been re-configured as Danish, Prussian and Austrian warships for the Schleswig War of 1864. If truth be known I’ve always been a little more interested in the European wars of this period than the ACW. Still, with the development of 3D printing, I might try other uncharted waters. I’ve tried several rule sets over the years, including Smoke on the Water, Iron & Fire and Bill’s own house ironclad rules. Now though, I’ve settled for the very slick set Dahlgren & Columbiad by David Manley, which suit me pretty well.
The Prusso-Danish War of 1864
I’m not sure why I went down this road. Actually, it might have had a lot to with a visit to the Danish Naval Museum in Copenhagen. I also liked the idea of gaming the ironclad era without ironclads – or rather without too many of ’em. There wasn’t much to this naval war either, which makes it easily do-able – a battle of Helgoland, another off Rugen, and a few skirmishes. You don’t need a lot of ships, which means 1/600 scale is ideal.