Friday, January 1, 2021

Painting Challenge Submission 2 - General Wolfe and the Louisbourg Grenadiers

New forces for the Quebec 1759 Project - General Wolfe and the Louisbourg Grenadiers.

Happy New Year folks! Last year I unveiled another project - painting forces for the Siege of Quebec and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 28mm. Progress on this project is...let's just say it is moving at a "stately pace", but there has been some painting happening and I'm pleased to share recent results with this second submission to Curt's Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge. Here is a command base for General James Wolfe, commander of the British forces on that fateful day in September outside Quebec, and the "Louisbourg Grenadiers", another unit for my collection of British forces for the battle. All of the figures are 28mm metal castings from Wargames Foundry, save for the figure of Wolfe himself, which is a 28mm metal figure from Warlord Games.

The Louisbourg Grenadiers

The "Louisbourg Grenadiers" - figures from Wargames Foundry.

The "Louisbourg Grenadiers" were a provisional converged battalion comprising the detached grenadier companies from the 22nd Foot, 40th Foot and 45th Foot regiments of the British army. The name comes from the French fortress of Louisbourg (on Cape Breton in Canada), which the British had captured previous to mounting their campaign against Quebec, and I believe all three of the regiments saw service in that action. 

Beautiful sculpts from Wargames Foundry - note cast details on the mitres - this is a huge help.

The converged unit went on to see heavy action during the Siege of Quebec in the summer/autumn of 1759, and were prominent in the right of the British line during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham outside the city in September. Wolfe counted on the grenadiers to be a reliable strike force for his army.

The left of the grenadier line...also a shot of General Wolfe leading the unit...

To represent this unit on the gaming table, I opted for miniatures from Wargames Foundry's Seven Years War range - not only do they include grenadiers in firing poses, but the Foundry range also offers a number of officer and musician poses for the grenadier units that you cannot find in Warlord's current French and Indian War figure range. The Foundry figures have two other advantages - the details on the mitres are cast on to the figures, giving me at least a fighting chance of creating a consistent - if vague - representation of the insane and intricate symbols the grenadiers wore on their head gear. The second advantage is that Foundry still offers free shipping at a reasonable order level!

View of the rear detail on the figures...those hefty Wargames Foundry figures are crowded on to the bases...

Painting these figures was certainly a bit of a headache, and the finer points of detail are clearly beyond my brush skills. But the excellent quality castings from Foundry allow the opportunity to give a nice, consistent "look" from a couple feet away, which is what I generally aim for with my painting.

Two of the Regiments - the 22nd and the 40th - wore "buff" facings. "Buff" is a colour I struggle to get right, as I'm...not really what sure what colour it is bloody supposed to be - not quite white, not quite tan...who knows...anyways, I muddled around with different combos of flesh-tones and faded khakis from GWs range to get something I was happy with. The 45th, with dark green facings, was a little easier...I opted to paint the musicians in the colours of the 45th, as the green gave a better chance to show off the bonkers details of the reverse uniforms worn by drummers/fifers during that era. Being a provisional unit, I understand (from much smarter people) that there was no colour party for the Louisbourg Grenadiers, so there are only musicians and no flags here with this unit.

The right of the British line takes shape...small but growing collection for this project.

The Foundry castings are lovely - but I was struck by how beefy and tall these miniatures are...I know grenadiers were supposed to be tall lads, but wow! They barely fit on their 50mm square bases...certainly they would not mix well with Warlord Games figures, but as they are on their own unit, it's not an issue. Not so much when it came to General Wolfe...

General James Wolfe

General Wolfe - figure from Warlord Games. The grenadiers behind him are castings from Wargames Foundry.

In any game it is nice to have small bases to represent command figures for the forces on the table. In the era of the Seven Years War, these bases often host officers wearing the finest 18th century garb - big hats, big cuffs, fancy gloves, beautiful horse furniture, and well-dressed flunkies to carry out commands, pass messages, reassure their boss, recite poetry etc.

But the Siege of Quebec was no such campaign. Not only was the North American theatre of operations particularly merciless in terms of what the weather and terrain would do to such nice clothing - if you could even it get it there - but the snipers and warriors among the enemy would be sure to mark you out and finish any snappily-dressed officers in short order! Along the St. Lawrence in the summer of 1759, less was more...

Add to this the reports of Wolfe's I read accounts of him, he struck me as a spartan man. Brave, disciplined, a "military thinker" for the era, but also not much for politics or the finer things of noble birth and rank. Hardly a revolutionary, but he seemed genuine in his care for the soldiers under his command, and in turn was well-liked by the rank and file troops who served under him. He was not the sort to demand fancy outfits on campaign, least of all during the 1759 campaign in the hearts of what was then still called "New France".

Monument to the battle at Quebec city - the Wolfe-Montcalm monument.

In the book "Death or Glory", which recounts in detail the Siege of Quebec, there are many excerpts from Wolfe's diaries and family memoirs, as well as those of his colleagues from the 1759 campaign. The James Wolfe emerging from those accounts is a bit of...well, he seems like a bit of a brittle, indecisive, mopey, passive agressive tw@t. He couldn't stand the navy (and hey, we've all been there, right?) even though the Royal Navy was critical to the ultimate success of the Quebec campaign. As the siege wore on, there was much friction with his senior officers, and Wolfe himself seemed to despair and waffle, looking for opportunities to approach the city which just were not there. He ordered raids that devastated the colony of New France, burning crops and villages up and down the valley, but the few military assaults attempted against Montcalm's defences around the Beauport shore were abject failures. Cartoons drawn by officers mocking Wolfe as a man obsessed with how to properly dig latrines, but unable to give orders decisively, still survive. As the siege wore on that summer, Wolfe eventually fell ill, and despair in the memoirs seems palpable.

And somehow, out of all of this, he led a daring - I would even say "nutter-adjacent" - against-the-odds assault across the St. Lawrence (with, again, critical assistance from the Royal Navy), one that took the French garrison by surprise and prompted a small European-style field engagement on the Plains of Abraham. The risks to the British in this engagement were huge - the army landed, but was badly exposed in the rear even as it faced the fortified walls of Quebec City and the massing of Montcalm's available forces. Really, this British force should have been badly beaten, even slaughtered.

The Death of General Wolfe - by Benjamin West, painted in 1770.

And yet... whatever issues he had, whatever sickness lingered, whatever the friction with his colleagues, Wolfe overcame the odds. He and his officers led the battle wisely. Wolfe himself led from the front - and paid with his life. Shot several times, he is said to have died on the battlefield just as reports of the French defeat arrived that day. Instantly, he became a military hero of the 18th century. His death commemorated in a portrait (which itself has a whole story, given that the scene in the portrait is not exactly "real"), there are schools and streets and all sorts of things named after him in Canada and elsewhere (or, I should say, there are for now).

The British command base for this hobby project needed to have a General Wolfe, and I opted to use the figure from Warlord Games to represent him. As there were really no "flunkies" in the 18th century sense present on the battlefield that day, I decided to put two grenadiers from the 22nd Foot on the base with him. Wolfe is said to have died in the arms of a grenadier from the 22nd Foot, and he was leading/directing the Louisbourg Grenadiers himself that day, so I thought it would be a way to put a bit more of a "crowd" on to the base of a senior officer and still make sense in the context of the setting. 

I believe that the real General Wolfe was a taller fellow for his time...but those Wargames Foundry grenadiers are huge, so I played a bit of silly bugger with the base to hide the difference.

The Warlord Games depiction of Wolfe is a lovely sculpt...complete with the arm band as he mourned the death of his father. But compared to the giant grenadiers from Foundry, the casting is very thin and very short. Thin is OK...poor Wolfe was puking his guts out for a couple weeks prior to the battle anyway.  But the height difference was a bit crazy, and so to compensate a I modeled a small "rise" into the base for Wolfe's figure to stand on - and I used a ton of ground work and grass to obfuscate the difference...

Thanks everyone - I hope you are all getting a chance to relax over the holidays - all the best in 2021!


Dusty said...

Excellent choice of unit. In the 1990s I was part of a group that re-enacted grenadiers of the 40th (Hopson’s) Regiment of Foot. 😊

ByronM said...

What a great entry Greg, and good thing I saw it here, as I missed it on the painting blog, as there are just soooo many entries to go through. Top notch work on this!

Dallas said...

Great work on these models and an excellent post dude! My favourite thing in old Quebec City has to be the cannonball/bomb that's now part of the tree that grew around it... supposedly from the 1759 battles.