The Confederate Navy struggled to produce much that could be standardized and produced across the South. There simply weren’t many large naval shipyards, so useful ships were produced in many locations by local designers and fitted out as best the local conditions would allow. Thus, the Albemarle was built in a cornfield and the Atlanta began life as a converted blockade runner, the Fingal.
By contrast, though the Union navy pressed numerous civilian vessels into service as blockaders and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s massive Vanderbilt became an armed merchant cruiser, the Navy contracted and built 10 Passaic class monitors, nine Canoncicus class monitors, many other varied types of monitors and ironclads to fill out the ironclad fleet, plus 46 double-end gunboats, 23 90-day gunboats and a host of additional wooden vessels, all with reasonably standard designs built to standard specifications that made them reasonably compatible within their classes.
The Confederates did, however, have the Maury gunboats and the Richmond class ironclads. Matthew Fontaine Maury, the great oceanographer and proposed to Secretary of the Navy that the cash- and resource-strapped nation build hundreds of small gunboats, flush decked and armed with two powerful guns be built on every small river and inlet across the south to defeat the blockade. Only two were built-The Isondiga in the Savannah River and the Yadkin in the Cape Fear River.
The Richmond class ships, however, were more promising. Six of the ironclads were built in Atlantic ports. The Richmond served on the James River. The Chicora and Palmetto State defended Charleston. The Raleigh and the North Carolina were sentinels of the Cape Fear River and Wilmington. The Savannah protected its name-port. They were similar in dimensions and armament–four guns with some mix of Brooke rifles and smoothbores. Designer J.L. Porter called for robust engines, four of the six scraped by with tugboat powerplants that left them chronically under-powered with the extra bulk of iron armor.
Thoroughbred Figures makes a wonderful miniature of the Richmond. Toby Barrett, designer, caster and maestro of all things Confederate ironclads includes directions for the arrangement of bits to create all the Richmond class ship. Really, for fourteen bucks it’s a super miniature.
I decided to build the Raleigh and the Chicora pretty much out of the box. There is a level of fiddliness to these guys. There are grates and pilot houses to locate and I confess to some bad gluery getting some pieces a bit askew. There are also pieces such as boat davits and vents that require drilling holes in the right places. I managed to break two bits for my trusty Dremel for the Raleigh’s boat, and decided the Chicora could do without. In all honesty I built another Richmond years ago and didn’t try any of the tomfoolery. Does it matter? I think so but you have to decide what you want to deal with.
After assembly I glued ’em to a craft stick and gave ’em a good priming. Then I painted the fully that is barely visible below the casemate knuckle charcoal grey. Black would be okay too.
Now for the major paint. For the decking fore and aft of the casemate, as well as on the top of the casemate, I opted for Vallejo Deck Tan. Then it was on to the casemate itself.
I know what you’re thinking. “A Richmond, is a Richmond is a Richmond.” Why could I possibly need three? The answer is simple. They aren’t all the same color. Silly.
In opting for the Raleigh, I got to paint a dark blue version of that ironclad. I opted for Vallejo Prussian Dark Blue. Nice color, but not grey enough, so I dry brushed with Vallejo Light Grey and then again with Vallejo Sky Grey, so I got a great effect that I really like with the darker blue shining out beneath. It also did a great job of articulating the gunport covers.
The Chicora and all the ironclads of the Charleston Squadron are described as being variously painted as pale blue, then perhaps changed to a tan color, or maybe even whitewashed to reduce the heat off the armor. I, of course, opted for the pale blue. I looked over what I had and decided that paler was probably better. I used Vallejo Sky Blue (FS3550) from the RAF Mediterranean Model Air set. It’s very light and I think I used three coats. Then I thinned the Vallejo Black Wash and gave it a light dousing to bring out the armor.
I painted many metal pieces like galley stacks, boat davits and spar torpedo bits Vallejo Neutral Grey. Guns were painted black and highlighted with charcoal. Stacks were painted black and highlighted with Neutral Grey and lookie they’re done. Not a tough build or paint job.
My newer ships I’m mounting on 1.5mm acrylic bases by Litko. They are about two bucks a base with shipping, so not unreasonable. It allows me to clearly use the mat color as my background, rather than trying to match whatever I did 30 years ago. I may do some re-mounting as well and that might mean some repainting too. But I’m retired so who cares.
August has been a pretty productive month. I’ve finished 44 figures in the Philippines, wrapped up the Wilmington and North Carolina, as well as Raleigh and Chicora. I’ve got ten P-38J fighters that are asking for my attention and should be done some time this week. Life is good.