Fire and Fury: Idiots Guide to Painting American Civil War Figures


Thomo has, over recent years, been purchasing lots of American Civil War figures in 15mm. These have been collected from multiple manufacturers. I have been looking for a quick and easy way to paint them all and so, after a bit of research through the book collection, I present to you, the Idiots Guide to Painting American Civil War Figures.

There are a couple of methods of painting figures and some of them are described in various places on the Internet. The descriptions may not necessarily be for painting American Civil War figures, but the principles are basically the same. When I get a chance, I will include Some Painting Links in the Links section of Thomo’s Hole.

There are a couple of basic styles of painting. Broadly speaking, they fall into the categories of shading and highlighting figures and of black shading. Shading and highlighting consists of starting with a base undercoat for the figure of a white, or light grey tone. Detail is then painted on, such as the flesh tones for the face and hands. A thin ink wash, darker than the painted tone is then applied to the areas just painted. This should run into the cracks and folds on the figure. After that a highlight colour is applied to the high spots. The highlight colour should be a lighter colour than the base colour. The result of this is a shaded figure, where the shading varies across three shades.

An alternative to this is the ‘black shading’ method. In this case, the figure is under coated in black. Detail is then painted in, with each area painted covering almost the entire area of the detail. As more colours are applied, an small area of black appears between each of the colours. This causes a delineation of the colours and provides an appearance of a shaded figure. Any detail areas missed simply appear as an area in deep shadow on the figure. The advantage of this method of painting is that it is quick when painting lots of figures. I do not like this method for most wargames figures, however, I do find it a good method that produces an excellent result when applied to Civil War figures, especially figures from the Union.

And now, the Idiots Painting Guide to American Civil War Figures. There are two sections below (two sides in the war after all) and they contain enough of the basic information needed for a quick paint job of both the Union and the Confederates. The colours and descriptions are based on the way the troops appeared in 1862 and most of 1863. As the war progressed through 1864 and later, the Union forces became more standardised and the Confederate forces less so. In fact, it was sometime after 1863 that the Confederates really started to appear in butternut. Before that, they tended to appear in a more regular uniform.

The guide below allows you to build a reasonable representative set.

Union Troops Infantry Cavalry Artillery
Jacket or coat Dark Blue Dark Blue with yellow trim Dark Blue with red trim
Trousers Light blue Light blue Light blue
Kepi Dark blue Dark blue Dark blue
Felt Hat Black Black Black
Officer’s sash Red Red Red
Officer’s shoulder bars Light blue edge with gold Light blue edge with gold Light blue edge with gold
Officer’s and NCO’s trouser stripe Dark blue Yellow Red
Chevrons Light Blue Yellow Red
Leather straps Black Black Black
Pack Black
Canteen Black Black Black
Blanket Red or light blue Grey. Horse blanket is blue with orange stripe Light blue

Easy then, isn’t it. This guide will cover the major number of troops. There were exceptions to this. Zouaves, for example, tended to have rather bright uniforms. However, in the scale of Fire and Fury, we are dealing with brigades and divisions, so Zouaves would, as a regiment, simply provide a couple of stands in the brigade. Still, they do add some nice colour.


Confederate Troops Infantry Cavalry Artillery
Coat or Jacket Grey with light blue trim Grey with yellow trim Grey with red trim
Trousers Light blue Light blue Light blue
Kepi – note that later in the period, this was grey with the headband in the colour of the service Light blue with dark blue headband Yellow with dark blue headband Red with dark blue headband
Felt Hat Any shade from grey to brown or black Any shade from grey to brown or black Any shade from grey to brown or black
Officer’s sash Crimson Yellow Red
Officer’s and NCO’s trouser stripe Dark blue Yellow Red
Officer’s sleeve badges Gold Gold Gold
Chevrons Light blue Yellow Red
Leather straps – these were sometimes black as well Brown Brown Brown
Pack Brown
Canteen Black or other shades Black or other shades Black or other shades
Blanket Any shade from grey to brown Any shade from grey to brown Any shade from grey to brown

As with the Union, this is pretty easy then, isn’t it. This guide will cover the major number of troops involved at the time. As with the Union, there were exceptions to this in the Confederates. Zouaves, for example, tended to have rather bright uniforms. However, in the scale of Fire and Fury, we are dealing with brigades and divisions, so Zouaves would, as a regiment, simply provide a couple of stands in the brigade. Still, they do add some nice colour.

14 thoughts on “Fire and Fury: Idiots Guide to Painting American Civil War Figures

  1. Nick Hardy 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    Hi,

    Quick question, did only Officer’s and NCO’s have a trouser stripe for ACW armies?

    Many thanks – regards Nick.

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  2. thomo the lost 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    On full dress uniforms, yes, there were many regiments that had trouser stripes. On daily use though the trousers are likely to have been without stripes.

    The guide is a very general quick painting guide but if you want to research regiment by regiment, then have a look at this website:

    http://howardlanham.tripod.com/newindex.html

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  3. Bill Bartlett 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    Federal NCO's and officers were the only ones with a trouser stripe. A sergeant's stripe was a full inch wide and the corporals were (I think) about 3/4 inch wide, but definitely thinner than the sergeants. Officers didn't have a stripe, per se, on their kerseys, but rather a thin piping. The colors were dark blue for infranty, yellow for cavalry and red for artillery.

    BTW, the canteen strap was usually a white cotton tape that followed the shape of the canteen. The haversack was black (being tarred cotton) and the cartridge box straps were black for the federals with a brass plate that is usually on the center of the chest. (the troops didn't like this piece of equipment because the felt it was an aiming point for the johnnies, and the "lost" them in the field.

    Don't forget the brass cartridge box plate and the brass tip of the bayonet scabbard.

    I realize this is a little late, but I just saw the message and didn't see a response.

    Hope this helps.

    The Union Forever!

    -Bill Bartlett

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  4. Martin 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    Thomo.

    Just a quick note on your painting guide.

    My research has it that the Federal canteen for the volunteer state troops had a white canvas strap and a light blue cloth cover, and for the regulars a blackened leather strap and a dark blue cloth covering.

    don't know if this bears out with your findings, but I hope it helps

    M

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  5. Anthony 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

    Imagine my surprise when a search for "ACW Figures" turned up this blast from the past…you do realise an easier way is to just send them off for someone else to paint them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Glenn Lash 15 October 2009 / 5:23 am

    I have a complet conf. army @ gettysburg based for fire and fury that Iam looking to sell photo can be sent. Glenn

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  7. Jim 24 June 2014 / 6:31 am

    Awesome, great simple guide. Thank you!

    Like

  8. Brian 27 July 2014 / 10:10 am

    Where is the best place to buy civil war unpainted figures and what is better, plastic or metal.

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  9. Lawrence Bateman 12 April 2015 / 2:40 am

    Nice easy guide. I just ran across it. I do have a couple of things.

    Federal Blankets should be Grey to Grey-brown (Panzer Aces DarkMud), you can make some of them Tan, to represent the Late War Emergency blankets. You could also leave them Black, or Cream color (to show they are rolled up in the ground cloth or Shelter tent). Lt Blue can be used for rolled up Great coat on top of Knapsack.

    Canteens for both sides, can be any color from dark blue, tan (ish), grey (ish), greenish blue, etc… (you could also make some Gunmetal grey (to show canteens without covers). The straps could be of white cotton, leather brown, or black leather.

    Confederate Trouser, use more greys, and Butternut stay away from Sky Blue. Coats, stick with plain Greys, and Butternut. The cuff bands or hat bands would have been some distinctive units, but for the most part, Just Greys!

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    • Thomo the Lost 12 April 2015 / 11:13 am

      Thanks for the comments Lawrence – they will add some straightforward variations for the guide.

      Like

  10. Jim 15 September 2015 / 10:11 pm

    And don’t forget to paint a couple of Confederate brigades in newly issued uniforms like Longstreet’s Corps at Chickamauga who had newly issued uniforms that were so dark blueish gray that some regular Army of Tennessee units thought they were Yankees!

    Jim

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