Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax

 The time has come,' the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.'
I could write a lot of little—or not so little—posts on various things or I could just write a grab-bag of scattered topics. Much is going on and, to quote Lewis Carroll again, "you must run as fast as you can just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that."

So I'm running twice as fast as I can—or trying to. I have so many new wargaming irons in the fire that I don't know where to start. I'll just go from today and work back.

The Miniature Company is my homeboy

Quite by accident, I discovered The Miniature Company. I forget how. I tend to bump into a lot of things on the Interwebs when I'm not looking where I'm going. I think I saw some pics of one of their recent releases (Dark Age Welsh) and when I went to their site, behold: Egyptians. The pics of the minis looked very nice. So, after pondering a purchase for a responsible period (i.e., overnight while I slept), I made a small order. It just arrove on Monday. They're lightening fast on fulfilling orders.

I was pleasantly surprised I must say. You can never really tell enough about a mini from a picture. You have to have the tactile experience of feeling it, weighing it in your hand, turning it around to see it from all angles. The minis did not disappoint. They're BIG. They have HEFT. They're METAL (of course). I love them.

TMC (left), Warlord/Cutting Edge (right): Same scale, the difference is heft
I just finished cleaning and primering a dozen bowmen. The castings are clean with just a bit of mold lines to burnish out. The metal is soft enough to make it easy to clean. The style of the figures is a bit exaggerated, which is correct IMO for any figure. Save us from sculptors who want to make sure everything on the mini is exactly proportional.

TMC has only four packs released so far for the Egyptian line: spearmen, bowmen, command, warrior priests (basically, bald-headed bowmen). I ordered enough of the first three packs to make two units of archers and one unit of spearmen for a Chariots Rampant army. Dave from TMC says that there will be a total of 20 packs for the Egyptians, so I'll have to wait a little bit for the chariots, which will finish the army.

TMC has other lines that look promising. Hittites are planned (no minis yet), Saxons have just started to appear, the aforementioned Welsh are well underway (all foot so far), there is a pretty impressive Classic Indian range, and Persians too.

After spending a while on Tuesday evening cleaning the Egyptian bowmen, I got so enamored of the minis that I ordered enough Welsh for a Saga warband. The next morning, I got an email from TMC saying they'd been cast and posted. I should have them early next week. Lightening fast I tell ya.

TMC has become a new infatuation for me. I may need an intervention.

I'm still working on my Sumerians. I only have some basing to do and one four-equid battle cart to finish before I have a 24-point Chariots Rampant army. Then I go in search of opponents to fight and kingdoms to conquer.

All things colonial (America)

When the eventual (Jan '19) release of Patriots and Rebels was announced earlier this year, I got pulled back into gaming the American Revolution. From there it kind of snowballed into a multifaceted Amerindian fest of epic proportion.

I have posted before about my foray (aided and abetted by Kevin Smyth) into early, early Native American warfare using Pulp Figures/Crucible Crush Flint and Feather minis and the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules. That lead to an increasing interest in the French and Indian War, which I was never too interested in before. I bought a pile of Galloping Major Canadian milita and Huron allies, which are well under way and adding to the clutter of my painting table and the various nooks and crannies at Stately Chez Dave where I stage or sidetrack projects. There's only so much room on the painting table to clutter up.

I've just started the last 19 figures of Hurons. I like Galloping Major minis. Like TMC, they're big and they have heft. The metal is pretty hard, so filing can be chore, but there's very little to clean on the figures. An hour or so sitting down and filing with Netflix playing on the computer in front of me, et voila.

Galloping Major Hurons on deck
Galloping major is now shipping the Troupes de la Marine from their last Kickstarter. I didn't get in on that; it kicked off well before I caught the FIW bug. They likely won't be available on the website until January or so. I can wait. I'll start with colonial militia and rangers for their opponents. I'm sure I'll eventually add in British regulars and, whenever Galloping Major produces them, French regulars of the line.

With my recent research into my ancestry, I've discovered two direct ancestors who were killed in King Philip's War: My 8th great-grandfather John Graves (along with his brother Isaac) and another 8th great-grandfather Nathaniel Parmalee. (The Parmalees were once nobility in what is now Belgium. Ardent Protestants, they were displaced by the Spanish during the 80 Years War and forced to take refuge in England. There they turned Puritan and wound up coming to America as part of the Great Migration of Puritans and other non-conformists escaping religious persecution in England.)

17th c. colonial militia
And what do you know? Brigade Games produces a line of minis for King Philip's War. I've known about it for a little while, but I resisted buying anything until I found that I had ancestors who met their demise in the war. So of course I ordered a small force of armed and dangerous Puritans (foot and dragoons). I'll order some Indians from the range too, as soon as the smoke clears from all my other impulse buys—assuming no intervening impulse buys get things all smokey again. The number of figures won't be large, less than 60 or so overall. I plan to use Song of Drums and Tomahawks (a new favorite among rules sets), so it doesn't take more than 30 figures per side to have a reasonably-sized multiplayer game.

I read, therefore I game/I game, therefore I read

There's also the literary aspect of these projects. In January of this year, I had zero books on colonial American Indian wars. Zero. Since then, I've read several books on the French and Indian War and am now reading a handful concurrently with others queued up. One of them is Fred Anderson's massive groaning tome The Crucible of War. I'm a third of the way though its 746 pages. Massive though it is, the book reads quickly. Anderson is one of those historians that can flawlessly combine deep scholarship with the readability of a novel. I started reading Braddock's Defeat by David Preston. It's another very readable history. Preston acknowledges his indebtedness to Paul Kopperman's 1977 monograph Braddock at the Monongahela, so I had to get a copy of that too.

I've also got a few books, which I'm also concurrently reading, about the early American frontier generally. The First Frontier, by Scott Weidensaul is especially good. It's another of those very readable history books.

The plethora of books published about King Philip's War is astounding. It's a pretty obscure conflict and only lasted 16 months; yet it has captured the attention of a lot of academics of late, who have been churning out books. I have two books on order and a few others on my Amazon wish list.

I have piles of  books on Ancient Near Eastern warfare, but I came across a new title yesterday, Warfare and Weaponry in Dynastic Egypt. It's recent, having been published in 2017, so it may have some new information. With my enthusiasm for the new TMC Egyptians, I couldn't resist ordering it. It'll be in my hot little hands tomorrow (thanks, Amazon). It will add to such books I already have like Fighting Pharaohs (2002) by Robert Partridge, War in Ancient Egypt (2005) by Robert Spalinger, and Yigael Yadin's classic two-volume work The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (1963).

I'm happy so far with using the Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules for the colonial American projects. I think the nature of this warfare lends itself to that kind of game.However, I'm looking forward to Patriots and Rebels. I'm also eager to get a copy of Muskets and Tomahawks, which is out of print and unavailable at any price. The rumor is that Studio Tomahawk will publish a new edition now that Saga version 2 is out. I'm the impatient sort, but better to wait for the expected new release that spend time and money tracking down a copy of a version that will soon be superseded.

And its place knows it no more

I had dinner with Karen Bardsley a couple weeks back. She's the widow of my Friend Phil, who died in January 2017. She's still gearing up to sell his large collection of books, games, and minis. Among the items to be sold are three limited edition signed prints by Dale Gallon showing aspects of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. Phil was a direct descendant of Nathaniel Greene (his middle name was Greene), who commanded the Patriot forces at that battle. The prints meant a lot to him. I acquired one myself and am in the process of finding buyers for the other two (I can't afford them all—nor do I have wall space for them). The one I got shows Greene giving directions to the North Carolina Militia. In the background the bare field stretches back to the Hoskins house where the British are forming up.

It was great to see Karen again. She has a new man in her life since about April/May this year. He's recently moved in. He's not a gamer, but a good man anyway.

However, the visit left me with a lot of melancholy. I can't count the number of times I've sat on Phil's patio drinking the obscure sodas he was fond of buying or getting sloshed on Arnold Palmers spiked with Bourbon as we discussed game projects and shared our latest work. Or sat in his family room filling it with smoke from expensive cigars while we watched movies and drank Scotch. I've eaten dinner there numerous times and enjoyed so many of Phil's enthusiasms for barbecuing. I'm a fatter man because of Phil.

I recall his enthusiasm for adding new aircraft prints to eventually cover the den wall. I remember all the times I looked at various works in progress on his painting table wondering if or when he would finish them (as I wonder about all mine).

All gone. Don, the new man, has made Phil's den his own. The aircraft prints are gone, replaced by Don's collection of edged weapons (I think Phil would approve, he had a Civil War saber himself). The painting table is gone along with all the half-finished projects that cluttered it.

I'm happy for Karen. Don looks to be a keeper. Phil didn't want her to be left alone.

But for me the melancholy remains. A place that over a quarter-century had become as familiar to me as my own home was familiar no more. I couldn't help recalling the words of Psalm 103:
As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
As I move about cluttered, cat-infested Chez Dave in formerly bucolic Lynnwood, I have to imagine that one day it will be an empty place awaiting new occupants and so on until it's gone. No trace of me will remain in it. We don't live in imperishable caves any more (which is a good thing). Our homes are like the wood, hay, and stubble that burn up in the fire. But if we lived in caves, maybe we could leave a mark, like the handprints left by paleolithic man, to say, "I was here." Otherwise, it may one day be as if we never were.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Climbing the family tree

I've been fiddling about with my family tree and DNA mapping recently. It's one of those engrossing things I dragged my feet on for a long time before I finally dove in. It's been pretty rewarding, though I may be close to having satisfied all my curiosity—unless something really unexpected pops up.

My ancestry has never been that much of a mystery to me, although we all have family lore that might indicate, however tentatively, that we're 1/1024th Cherokee. I've heard stories about my family having Blackfoot ancestry, but it hasn't surfaced in the family tree or DNA (so far—maybe I should hire a Stanford professor to check it). Maybe I'm only 1/2048th Blackfoot, which would exclude me from Harvard's minority hiring preferences. 1/1024th seems to be the cut off. I do, however, have high cheekbones.

I submitted some spit to for a DNA analysis. The result was initially disappointing and left me highly skeptical about the validity of the testing. I know that I'm half Swede on my mothers side, but Ancestry put me down as 79%. That's too much. They also had me at 10% Iberian peninsula, which I knew couldn't be true, and 2% "Southern Europe," which is anybody's guess.

However, a recent update of the results, which Ancestry routinely does as more samples become available, brought the results back into sanity. I now show as 49% Swedish; 31% English-Welsh-Northwestern European; 14% German; 2% Norwegian; 2% Balt(?); and 2% Scotch-Irish.

Behold the primordial soup whence I came
I expect that it will refine further as more samples are added to the database. In the meantime, I'm having analysis done with two other DNA testing services: Helix and Living DNA. Both use a methodology different from Ancestry. I ordered them back at the I-can't-believe-this-is-really-me stage of the original DNA results. Because the updated results are more in line with what I know about my ancestry (apart from the Baltic thing), I'm less interested now in correcting things than getting a bit more information.

I've also gotten to work on's family tree builder.

I've had some genealogy information for several decades as well as some old family lore. My paternal grandmother's family are van Buskirks. She once told me that the original van Buskirk ancestor came to America from Denmark, which I knew had to be wrong. Danes generally don't have Dutch surnames. It turns out, however, that she was right, only his surname was Andriessen, very Danish that, and he changed it to van Buskirk after he settled in New Amsterdam in 1655, when he was 25 years old. He lived near a church in the woods, which is what van Buskirk means.

There is an document that turned up in Italy in 1900 called the Castello Plan, which is a map of New Amsterdam in 1660. The shoreline today is much farther out. The current site of the World Trade Center was still part of the Hudson River in 1660.

Castello plan of New Amsterdam in 1660
There is also an index that someone compiled showing the owner of every residence in town. Laurens Andriessen's house was on the Churchwarden's land just west of what is now Broadway. The current site is covered by the Broadway Atrium building at 45 Broadway, NYC.

Chez Andriessen on Broadway - a much different neighborhood back then
In 1658, Laurens Andriessen married a Dutch widow named Jannetje Jans, She was also a newcomer to the New World, having been born in Hoorn, but settled in Delaware with her first husband. He died of some New World sickness and sixth months later she married Laurens, who had gone to Delware with a commission to help the people affected by the outbreak if disease. Laurens and Jannetje were fruitful and multiplied and after many generations, I showed up.

The Andriessens/van Buskirks intermarried with other families that had deep roots in early European settlement in America. My 5th great-grandfather, Stephen Graves, served as 2nd. Lt. in the 3rd Co. of the 9th Regt. of the Albany County Militia (Van Ness' Regiment) during the Saratoga Campaign of 1777.

Thomas Graves, my 10th great-grandfather, his wife and children arrived in Boston sometime before 1632. I haven't yet found specific information about the exact year. One official record has them in Hartford, CT in 1645 where Thomas owned three plots of land.

In 1661, Thomas and family left Hartford, shaking the dust off their feet after an apparently acrimonious church split, and were part of the founders of Hatfield, MA, which was just across the Connecticut river from Hadley, MA, which was founded just a few years before in 1659. Hatfield was originally just a outgrowth of Hadley, but being separated by an unbridged river made church attendance—a must for pious Puritans such as they—difficult. The Hadley town council's refusal to allow a second church to be built west of the river, led to a formal split into two townships ca. 1663.

Hatfield/Hadley was smack in the path of King Philip's War. The legend of the Angel of Hadley is that William Goffe, an English Civil War veteran, one of Cromwell's major-generals, and one of the regicides who signed Charles I's death warrant, hid out in Hadley in the home of Rev. John Russell. (After the Restoration, Charles II had his father's killers tracked down. Goffe and Edward Whalley were two who escaped to New England.) As the story goes, when Indians attacked Hadley in 1675, Goffe, being a formidable soldier even then, came out of hiding, rallied the town militia, and beat back the attack, after which he left Hadley. The Merry Monarch never got his mitts on Goffe or Whalley.

Up Hadlians and at 'em!
My 9th great-grandfather, John Graves, was in the Hatfield/Hadley militia and would certainly have been involved in the fighting. His brother Isaac was a sergeant in the militia. John didn't have long to rest on his laurels, however. On September 19, 1677 John and Isaac were ambushed and killed by Indian raiders while they were shingling a house. The raid killed several others in the townships.

John Graves' 5th great-grandson was George Seldon Graves, who married Mary Willet, an Irish immigrant (and family servant, according to family lore). Their daughter was Minnie Graves, who married Rufus Judson van Buskirk, who was Laurens Andriessen's 6th great-grandson. Their daughter was my grandmother Mildred van Buskirk/Sullivan.

The Sullivans arrived in Boston in 1845, Johnny-come-latelys compared to the van Buskirks and Graveses, but they married into old families.

My 2nd great-grandfather, Daniel Frederick Sullivan, married Lovisa Jane Ranney in 1871. The Ranneys were here before the van Buskirks. Thomas Ranney, my 9th great-grandfather, was born in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland ca. 1592. He and his wife Bessie arrived in Connecticut sometime before 1640. They settled for several generations in Connecticut.

My 5th great-grandfather, Abner Ranney, served in Capt. Eli Butler's Co. of Major Elisha Sheldon's regiment of Connecticut light horse during Washington's retreat through New Jersey from October to December, 1776.  He was 29 years old.

Howard Pyle's Retreat through the Jerseys
Elisha Sheldon formed the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons in December, 1776 and served as its commander through the rest of the war. According to one record I have, Abner Ranney was discharged on December 22, 1776. There is no record (so far) of him serving later with the 2nd Continental Dragoons. However, there is some information about him serving briefly in 1782 in a troop of horse commanded by Daniel Sloper, who was another of the troop captains in Sheldon's Horse of 1776.

In any case, Abner married Lovisa Shepard in 1778. Lovisa was the daughter of Jonathan Shepard, with whom Abner served in Capt. Mosley's troop of Connecticut militia horse in September, 1776. Abner and Lovisa had 13 children, the oldest born on 9 April, 1779. Lovisa died in 1818 and Abner remarried. He outlived his second wife, too, and died in 1847 at the age of 100. Those Connecticut cavalrymen were long-lived. The last living veteran of the Revolution was Lemuel Cook, a Connecticut man who served in the 2nd Continental Dragoons and died in 1866 at the age of 106.

As I go through more and more records, I'm finding a lot of information about ancestors who were veterans of this or that conflict. I haven't really touched on the Civil War yet, but I have some information I need to flesh out about an ancestor who served in the 79th PA, which had a storied history from Perryville through Mufreesboro, Chickamauga, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta, the March to the Sea, and ended up at Bentonville.

This has been a pretty rewarding exercise. I've traced several ancestors back to Europe, but it becomes more difficult to get information once the records are not in English. As I said, I'll stick with it until it comes up flat, but so far it's been a wild ride of discovery. Who knew I had ancestors who fought (and died) in King Philip's War?

I'm expecting the Helix DNA test to tell me whether I have any Neanderthal in me. Maybe that's where I get my high cheekbones.