Monday, 2 April 2012

I had four green fields, each one was a jewel.

So this one time in Heaven, God went missing for a week.  On the seventh day, the Archangel Michael went looking for him and found the Great Architect resting on a cloud, looking down at a blue-green world.

"Michael, " the Creator said.  "Come down and have a look at this, will you?  'tis me new project I've been working on.  It's a new world, called Earth, and everything there will be in perfect balance?"

"How so, Lord?" said Michael, for when the boss is keen to show off his new toy, it's smart to be appropriately interested.

"See there?" God pointed at a strung-out continent running from north to south. "That's called America, and in that continent there will be great wealth in the north, balanced by great poverty in the south.  And over here, see this continent to the north, cold and filled with pale skinned peoples?  That's balanced by this big continent in the south filled with dark skinned peoples and hotter than the divil's own oven."

Michael shifted uneasily, uncomfortable at the mention of The Adversary, but also not quite sure whether the great lord Jehovah had quite gotten the idea of what "balanced" meant.  But still keen to show interest, he pointed at a small island "What's that green place there?"

"Ah now," said "I'm especially fond of that place.  It's called the Emerald Isle, and it's home to the most beautiful countryside, rolling hills and lush forests, and crystal clear lochs.  No serpent shall dwell there. The people of this land will have great spirit, and will travel the world over as poets and playwrights, singers and saints.  And there'll be this drink, a stout ale blacker than the darkest night, that they'll all go mad for, and people will travel from all round the world just to drink it."

The Archangel Michael pondered for a moment before saying "Lord, it sounds wonderful, but is it too wonderful?  The people of this land sound like they're triply blessed to live in such a place.  Where, Lord, is the balance?"

And God looked wisely at Michael and said "Ah now, just wait 'til you see the bastards they're getting fer next-door neighbours."


By the mid 19th century, Ireland had been under English rule for.. well too long.  Irishmen had emigrated to the four corners of the world, but still clung fiercely to their roots.  Many regiments raised in the American Civil War characterised themselves as "Irish" as a matter of pride.  When that war concluded in 1865 it left a large number of battle-hardened men, trained in modern warfare, with nothing to do but look to home.

In another world, they may have wasted their energies with raids against Canada, or been betrayed by traitors from within.  But the US government saw an opportunity to use these expatriate soldiers to plant a thorn in the side of the world's greatest superpower.  Anglo-American relations at this time were not great, and Britain had come close to interceding in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy.  An Irish uprising could keep Britain too busy on their side of the Atlantic to think of further interference in American affairs.  President Johnson, at the urging of his intelligence chiefs, authorised covert support for an Irish rebellion, to be spearheaded by Irish-American veterans returning to free their homeland.

US agents made contact with the leaders of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the main pro-independence group with an estimated 100,000 followers across Ireland and the rest of Britain.  The IRB were only too grateful for the promise of funding, weapons and experienced troops.  Pinkerton agents were soon able to wheedle out those in the Irish organisation who were still secretly loyal to the British, and with those potential security risks purged, planning for a general rising began in earnest.  The leaders of the revitalised independence movement took the name "Fenians" (pronounced FEE-nee-ans) after the bands of Celtic warriors from Irish legends.

In early 1867, the Fenians struck.  Some 20,000 Irish-American veterans were landed in countless bays along the coastline and moved quickly to disrupt telegraph and rail communications links.  Simultaneously, IRB groups on the mainland staged a number of disruptive attacks aimed at confusing the British and slowing down any possible response.  Ports were blown up, Royal arsenals were raided and trains derailed.  These diversionary tactics gave the IRB the time they needed to deal with the British forces in Ireland.

Across the country, bands of IRB volunteers gathered together and using whatever weapons they could gather, struck out at the British.  The occupying forces were taken by surprise, and before they could respond, the rebels had joined up with the veteran Irish-American forces, who brought with them the latest in scientific weaponry.  The British troops were far from beaten however, and within a few days had managed to launch a series of counter attacks into rebel held territory.  Fighting continued for weeks, further re-inforced from the mainland once the British Government had recovered from the shock attack.  Eventually affairs settled down into a clear stalemate.  The British clampdown in the north meant that the Fenians could no longer hope to extend their territory any further without suffering unthinkable losses of life and materiel.

The Fenians had failed to liberate all of Ireland, but the southern end of the country, roughly equivalent to the ancient kingdom of Munster, was securely in their hands. In December 1867 they declared this to be the Free Irish Republic, which with significant financial and diplomatic pressure from the US, the British were forced to acknowledge.  Over the following few years, things settled into an uneasy cold war between the Republic and the British territory in the north.  New ironclad monitors of US design and construction flew the Fenian flag up and down the south Irish coast, putting paid to any hope of a counter-invasion.  There were countless skirmishes along the border, but nothing sufficient to re-spark a full-blown war.  It wasn't until the Russo-German Invasion of England in 188x that the Irish Republican Brotherhood saw the perfect opportunity to restart the struggle for Irish independence.  But not only would Fenian troops push north in the Emerald Isle, two expeditionary forces were sent across the Irish Sea to land in Liverpool and Wales.


Plausible?  Who cares!  It gives me an excuse to field my green-clad Fenian army and opens up another front in the Invasion Of England campaign!

The boys in green parade as Wellington's statue burns in the backround.
This was another bumper painting week - all but two of the infantry in this picture were completed in the space of a week - 62 figures.   The vehicles I've spotlighted before in a previous posting.  Not pictured - one steam tractor armed with a pair of assault guns, a unit of cavalry (or possibly two) and an ironclad "Iron Brigade" trooper.  None of which have been painted up yet.

On the left are two units of irregular volunteer/militia, inspired by some of the great units you can see gracing VBCW battlefields.  They're a fairly random selection with WWII partizans rubbing shoulders with ACW draft rioters.  All were given a greenstuff armband and one or two that looked too modern were given slight conversions.  They look to me like a bunch of lads from all walks of life who've come together in a common cause with whatever firearms they can lay their hands on.  Although nominally part of the Fenian army, I've got the figures for a number of similar irregular units, which will have different colour armbands, all of which could be used whenever I need irregular troops for a scenario (local British francs-tireurs against invading Prussians, anti-Crown rebels in A Very Victorian Civil War, Scottish guerillas ambushing Tsarist forces)  I'm really happy with the way they came out, every man jack of 'em is a character.
The Irregular Volunteers
In the centre and right are two companies of Fenian regulars, the Republic's standing army built around the cadre of Irish-American ACW veterans.  While by 188x many of these troops will be native born Irishmen, I'd argue that the units' heritage and traditions would encourage a fashion for American styled beards & moustaches!  Although I'm not personally fussy about what rifles figures are armed with, the Springfield musket would be appropriate right up until around 1890.  The original gun was a muzzle-loading black-powder percussion cap rifle, with over 700,000 weapons made.  After the war many of these were given the "Trapdoor Springfield" conversion which converted them into a modern breechloading cartridge-firing rifle, comparable with the British Martini-Henry.  Trapdoor Springfields were the US Army's main rifle until 1892.  With my daub 'n' dip painting, I'd argue that the differences between the 1861 musket and the 1873 Trapdoor models wouldn't be noticeable in 28mm.
The leader, Col Kelly is waving his legendarily outsized top hat.
I used milliput to convert his original slouch hat into something
resembling the comical "leprechaun hats" you can buy for
St Patricks Day.
Centre front is the standard bearer, who may or may not be swapped into one of the regular units in play.  Behind them is a group of three "bombers".  Now I've posted before about my thoughts on fielding a potentially controversial army like the Fenians, and let me tell you now that having figures on the table that are just one letter away from being called "IRA bombers" is right up there on the raggedy edge of my personal comfort zone.  But the fact remains that "dynamiting" was a tactic used by the real-world Fenians after their 1867 rising fizzled.  I also wanted something to make the Fenians distinct from the other VSF forces I'm fielding.  Since the Fenian vehicles are on the whole lacking in heavy weapons, these "bomber" Main Characters give them a much needed anti-vehicle capability.  Plus I'd like to think that having a figure in a green domino mask tossing a black sphere with a fizzing fuse and "BOMB" written on it in big white letters isn't going to be misinterpreted as support for real life terrorists.

So I finally have my Fenian VSF army, first dreamt of way back in the early Noughties.  I'm feeling a bit burnt-out on figure painting so it could be a while before they get their cavalry troop.  With a bit of luck I'm hoping to give these boys an airing in a test game sometime over the Easter weekend.


  1. Nice work on the miniatures!
    (I know what you mean about personal comfort zones. I guess that's one reason I'm not very big on "modern" era gaming (by which I mean anything post-1900. ha ha). Even a good amount of the Colonial stuff strikes a bit close to my personal comfort zone. I try to tinge it with humor and Imaginations/imaginary history. But sometimes I think I should go back to fantasy and use orcs and dwarves and such in place of historical or semi-historical human armies/cultures.)

  2. Now that's a profitable session with pigments and brush! Nice work, sir.