February 1, 2011

Picket Camp

The scenes depicted in these photos show the picket camp by Clairborne Creek Bridge. They were taken with my iPhone.

To set the stage, recall that in my layout the soldiers have been encamped in roughly the same spot for 4 months. They have had a chance to build elaborate camps for whole regiments and brigades. In these main camps the men have built  all forms of temporary but substantial housing, such as crude cabins complete with bunks, chairs, tables and fireplaces.

This scene is what they would call a picket post and is separate from their main camp. Small units would rotate duty at the picket post, spending a couple days there at a time. Sometimes the picket posts  would be on the front lines, with enemy pickets in plain sight. In that case, they would often the fraternize with oppossing  soldiers trading coffee for tobacco etc. 

Fresh sentries move to relieve the ones on duty
This bridge is surrounded by other Union forces, so only a small detachment is actually guarding the bridge. For example there is a full artillery battery about 150 yards to the south. (That will be the next scene. I plan to use slightly smaller scale figures for that scene to force the perspective.) So the main threat is from saboteurs, drunken soldiers or deserters. The pickets would return to the main camp when another unit replaces them. So the picket camp here is a simple set of tents.

Pvt McGuirk on duty at the rifle pit
The rifle pit is the duty station. That is where Pvt McGuirk is.  As second guard will be walking the bridge, but I have not added him yet. They have a small encampment for the squad about 40 yards from the bridge. That's where the tents are. I still need to add some more detail such as telegraph line and poles, discarded equipment, campfire, drying laundry and other stuff as the ideas come to me.

The NCO and visiting officer at the picket camp
As the scenery dries, I am touching up the area where the backdrop and the scenery meet to try to make the transition as close as possible. Getting the colors to match on the backdrop and the scenery was one of the main reasons I went with hand painted backdrops. I find I can control the colors better than if I used computer prints.

This period I am modeling is late winter-early spring, just before the spring campaigns kick off. So the new leaves have not come out yet. Most trees and shrubs are bare, but some trees keep their leaves until the new leaves push them off, a phenomena called marcescence (many oaks have this property).

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