It was back in 1992, when I was flipping through Issue 15 of Command Magazine that I was first inspired to wargame the Fenian Invasion of 1866 and specifically The Battle of Ridgeway. There was an excellent article on the obscure conflict (and if you look at so many of the projects on this blog, you understand I love obscure conflicts). It had color photos of reenactors, color maps and a solid writeup. I was in high school at the time and the options for figures were a bit more limited in those days. The Fenians are fairly straightforward since they were primarily kitted out in ACW surplus and/or civilian garb. The Canadian militia was a bit trickier with the tunics, trousers, shakos and porkpie caps.
(13th Battalion Hamilton Militia)
In the meantime, I purchased several other publications on the little-known invasion. Probably the best of the lot being Peter Vronsky's book on the subject. I even purchased a small portable boardgame in a tin in the battle (more on that later).
About 20 years later, I had tracked down relatively suitable figures for the Canadians in 15mm and painted some up...I even posted it on this blog. It took some effort to track down suitable figures and order them from a small manufacturer in New Zealand but that project stalled like so many others...
(The magazine issue that started the project...)
Years later, Pendraken released a decent sized range of Canadian militia specifically for the 1866 Fenian invasion. 10mm is my favorite scale by far but I had already gone through great effort to collect armies in 15mm and I had so many other projects in my lead pile.
Fast forward to now. Recently Pendraken held their painting competition and, on a lark, I submitted a couple of entrants into the ring. My Falklands Argentines here took second place. Ironically enough, the Argentines were purchased in part from proceeds from me placing in the 2015 Pendraken Competition with these buggers. I was very surprised and humbled when I found out my Argentines took 2nd place in their category, netting me a £20 gift certificate. I decided to apply that to a Fenian purchase from Pendraken. I also purchased some Canadian cavalry and artillery for what-if scenarios and figures from the ACW range for the Fenians themselves. The figures were sorted but what of the rules?
Ridgeway was a small battle with no more than 1500-2000 total participants, the vast majority of the combat seems to have been conducted in loose skirmish order. There were no massed ranks or Pickett's Charges in this one and some of the antics give the impression of a very amateurish donnybrook rather than disciplined combat. Casualties were very low, the Canadians didn't bring extra ammunition and their commanding officer mistakenly gave the order to form square when he thought he saw Fenian cavalry on the edge of the battle.
I decided I would probably come up with some kind of home-brew quickplay ruleset for this unique battle. The company would be the unit of maneuver (giving each side around 15-20 units) and a company would be a single base with 4-5 figures on it in loose order.
Back to that aforementioned boardgame I previously purchased...it had the rather catchy title "Army of Ireland" and it had some very simple rules that have a bit of flavor for the battle. I plan to borrow from these a good amount when I craft my own.
At any rate, the figures are ordered, the brain is percolating ideas and I ordered another book on the subject to read when I ultimately embark on the project. As for the when...well, I want to tackle my high priority projects first this year but its possible we revisit this later in 2021. Hopefully its not another decade before I post on them again...