American Civil War ships

As my 1/1200 American Civil War project gains momentum, I decided that those ships deserved their own page, separate from the sailing ships next door.  I guess you could call it "sailing snobbery," but that's not really the reason (not the main reason, anyway).  My posts about ironclads have been some of the most viewed posts of all on this blog.  To me, it means that as I complete more ACW ships they should have their own page for pictures and reports.  So, with no further ado, here's the page for my growing American Civil War navies.  They're grouped by manufacturer so the page will be updated periodically with new miniatures being put under the manufacturer's heading.

More Pithead Miniatures:  2/13/20 Update

Well, I certainly did not mean for it to be a year between posting pictures of my Civil War ships.  However, I got started rolling on the Trafalgar Project, and let these go by the wayside.  So, when I hit a slump in working on those, I decided it was time to start working on these again.  All of the ships below are from Pithead, and are from three different sets of miniatures.  There will be an explanation of what set each ship is from underneath the pictures.

The first ship is the USS Westfield.  She was a converted ferryboat, and fought against forts St. Philip and Jackson during the New Orleans campaign.  After fighting on the Mississippi, she went to the Texas coast and was present for the capture of Galveston in October of 1862.  She was still at Galveston in January of 1863, when the Rebels recaptured the city.  Westfield ran aground on a sandbar during the battle, and was blown up to prevent her capture.  So, a short but active life.  My model is painted in a light gray, and I based this on the sketch below:
This was drawn long after the war, but sources on this ship are slim pickings.

Yes, it's a ferry but in this photo it is "facing" to the right.
The next ship is another ferry, and not only lasted longer than Westfield, but fought under both flags.  This is the USS Clifton.  She also fought against the Mississippi forts with Westfield, helped capture New Orleans and also fought at the Battle of Baton Rouge.  The Clifton also helped capture Galveston, but survived that battle.  She met her end at the Battle of Sabine Pass in September 1863 where she ran aground and was captured by the Confederacy.  She was used as a gunboat and a blockade runner, but ran aground off of Sabine Pass in 1864 and was destroyed by the crew to prevent her re-capture.  As with Westfield, I'll show you the sketch that informed my painting and then the miniature herself.

The next ship is the USS Granite City.  She started out as a blockade runner, was captured by the US Navy in March of 1863, and was on duty in the Gulf by August of that year.  She was at Sabine Pass, but avoided capture.  She continued in Union service through 1864, where she was captured in April by the Confederates near the current site of Cameron, Louisiana.  Granite City went back to her original role of blockade running in January of 1865, but was run ashore and destroyed while coming out of Galveston, Texas.  Apparently there are no pictures of her.  Given her quick turnaround, I decided that she would probably still be painted in her light gray blockade runner scheme.

Unfortunately, blockade runners were not "colorful" ships.

The next Union ship in this party is the USS Owasco.  She was a Unadilla class gunboat (aka, the "90-day gunboats").  Like all the others, she fought at forts Jackson and St. Philip, and at Galveston.  She did not attend Sabine Pass, and finished out the war maintaining the blockade of the Texas coast.  After the war, she was sold out of service in October of 1865. 

Owasco as originally built.

I may add rigging to these ships at a later date.

As you can see, this model doesn't have the yardarms that are shown in the "as-built" drawing.  This is not necessarily wrong.  As the war went on, rigging on these ships was reduced, and I have seen pictures of other 90 day gunboats with bare poles, just like my miniature.  A good example of this is the picture of USS Aroostook in China after the war:

You can justify almost anything if you look through enough pictures. . . .
All of these ships are from Pithead's "Union Texas ships" set.  It is a pretty comprehensive set, and will let you do just about any ACW naval scenario set on the Texas coast.  The complete set is pictured below.  At this point I have them all painted except for USS Corypheus, and since she is a sailing schooner, I am going to try and make some sails for her.

Photo from Spithead Miniatures
This next picture actually finishes one of the groups that I ordered.  The miniatures are of tugboats and rafts/barges that have been set afire.  These were used against the Union ships at Head of Passes on the Mississippi River.  The idea was that the rafts were chained together, then towed/pushed into position and let go.  They would then drift downstream and (hopefully) snag a Union ship.  Needless to say, there are no pictures of the actual ships, so I simply followed the painting directions from Pithead.

By painting these up, I've actually finished one of the groups I ordered.  These belong to the "Louisiana ironclads and fire rafts" group.  Just like the Union ships, the picture from Pithead shows all the vessels in the group. Louisiana and Manassas are shown in my earlier post.

The last ship in this post is the start of another group from Pithead.  She is the Resolute, from Spithead's "Louisana Defense Fleet" set.  These were a group of converted merchant ships that the Confederate War Department purchased as part of the defenses for New Orleans (duh 🙄).  They were commanded by Confederate Navy officers, but manned by Confederate Army personnel.  This was apparently the source of almost endless friction between the two groups.  Even without said friction, converted warships don't tend to do too well against real warships, and the lifespan of these were measured in months for the most part.  Still though, if you want to run a  campaign you are definitely going to want  these.

 Resolute was a cottonclad, and I tried to make that apparent with my paint job.  Personally, I think I should have more brown showing and less off-white since the brown represents the sacking that cotton bales were wrapped in.  As for pictures/drawings of the original, I haven't been able to find any.  Consequently, here is Pithead's picture of this set:

I've still got a few ships to go on this group, obviously!

Pithead Miniatures

Pithead is based in England, and is probably best known as a major manufacturer of 10mm miniatures.  However, they also do a line of ships under the name of Spithead Naval Miniatures.  Phil at Pithead/Spithead deserves a major shout out for being willing to make miniatures of ACW ships when hard data about them is hard to come by.  One thing for sure: either he has excellent researching skills, or excellent researchers doing work for him.  His ships are sold in sets, and give an excellent value for the money.  All the master models are hand carved, and are not as precise as the 1/1200 scale offerings from Thoroughbred Miniatures.  For me though, they really capture the funky, knocked-together feeling that a lot of the Civil War ships from both sides seem to have.  Also, if you want some of the more unique vessels, there is nowhere else to go for them in 1/1200 scale.

There is one last thing about Pithead Miniatures that I feel obliged to point out before the photos, and it's important enough to get its own paragraph.  Please remember that these photo are considerably larger than the miniatures themselves.  What looks very rough in the pictures, are actually quite nice on the table.  After all, the CSS Louisiana and CSS Manassas pictured below are only 2.5 and 1.5 inches long, respectively.

First up are vessels from the set entitled "Louisiana Ironclads And Fire Raft Tugs."  This is a six piece set, and consists of 2 ironclads, 2 tugboats and 2 fire barges.  Pictured below is the large Confederate ironclad, CSS Louisiana.  This vessel was built to help defend the Mississippi River below New Orleans, and was launched in February of 1862.  A month later, she was sent downriver to Forts Jackson and St. Philip to defend against the Union fleet coming upriver.  Unfortunately for her, CSS Louisiana had a number of problems, one of which was that her engines were barely strong enough to make any headway against the current!  After the Union fleet ran past the forts, CSS Louisiana was scuttled by her crew.  Most sources have her painted gray, but her commanding officer said that the casemate had been painted white, because the gundeck was almost uninhabitable during hot months.  I decided to go with white, as it makes a nice difference from all the gray ships running around.

I deliberately went with a patchy white coat over the gray,
 based on my assumption that she was repainted rather quickly.

Next up is the CSS Manassas.  There's no real agreement on what this ironclad looked like; some sources say one stack and some sources say two.  Phil at Pithead decided to go with the two stack arrangement, and I must say that I like the look of it.  Even the color of the ship is up for some debate.  Some sources say she was a "navy blue" while others call it a "lead gray."  I decided to go with the gray for this one, as I was afraid that a blue hull might blend into the base too much.

She is much smaller than CSS Louisiana, and I probably should have put a scale of some type in the photos.

Next up are some Union ships.  These Pithead miniatures are from the "Texas Naval Battles" set.  These are Union ships that were present at the battles of Galveston and Sabine Pass, both of which are local history for me.  So, while not strictly Mississippi River related, I still had to have them!

First in this set is the USS Arizona.  Originally the merchant ship SS Arizona, she was seized by the Confederates in 1862 and turned into a blockade runner named Caroline.  After being captured by the Union navy, her original name was restored and she joined the other side.  There's not much information about her, picture-wise so I used the woodcut below to paint and rig her:

Yes, I rigged this ship.  They just look naked without something on the masts.

The next Union ship from the same set is the USS Sachem.  She was a purchased ship, and saw action all over the East and Gulf Coasts and the Mississippi River before being forced to surrender at Sabine Pass in 1863.  She became a Confederate ship for a while, and then a blockade runner, but disappears from history in about April of 1864.  Pictures of Sachem are even harder to come by than pictures of Arizona, but I did find this colored lithograph of Sachem and Clifton under fire at Sabine Pass:
I stumbled across this, and was happy to find it.

A close-up from the above lithograph.  Not much, but when it's all you've got....

With this as my only source, I based my Sachem on the lithograph.

I just can't leave a vessel with naked masts.
Like I said earlier, I'll add more Pithead ships as they're painted.

Thoroughbred Miniatures

Thoroughbred is best known for their 1/600 ACW miniatures, but they have a small (and expanding) range of 1/1200 ships as well.  Each of their 1/1200 ships are sold individually, and at this writing are all white metal, whereas Pithead ships are resin with white metal parts.  Thoroughbred miniatures are amazingly precise, and I believe that they are computer designed and carved.  They are top-shelf models, and their prices reflect that, ranging between $6-12 US, with most of them seeming to cluster around $8-10 per ship.  Of course, that's nowhere near as much as a Langton sailing ship, so expensive is really relative.

The photo below of the USS Essex will give you an idea of just what a Thoroughbred ship looks like.

My paint job really doesn't do it justice.

Update: 2/14/19

In looking at my ACW ships, I've come to realize that I have been really bad about putting up pictures on the blog as I've painted them.  As with so many things, this was brought to my attention by a reader.  When he said that he was looking forward to seeing more ACW pictures, I thought it would be a simple matter to move pictures over from the other posts on the main page.  Much to my surprise, there were no painted pictures to move!  So, here are some more of the Thoroughbred ships I've painted and ignored for photo purposes.  First, some ironclads.

"Which side is she on?"
"I can't tell, both sides are using the same color paint!"
This is the Atlanta.  She started life as a blockade runner, was converted into a Confederate ironclad, captured on her first sortie and spent the rest of her life as a Union ironclad.  The USN used her as is, so she is perfect for either side.  I made flags for both sides and drilled a small hole on the back of the casement for them; of course those small flags are the first thing to get lost.  Next up are the two opponents for Atlanta's only battle as a Confederate ship.

USS Nahant

USS Weehawken
Both of them are Passaic class monitors, and so are as alike as you would expect sister ships to be.  The colored turrets and funnel bands were a historical method used by the USN to tell the ships apart.  As with so many things from this war, the sources are conflicting as to what ships wore which scheme when.  I went with the color schemes that were most consistent for these ships across the sources.  Without those, there's not much to do with these ships other than paint them gray.  Here's an interesting piece of trivia about these ships:  While Weehawken sank at anchor in December of 1863 the Nahant was not stricken from the Navy until 1904, and performed harbor defense duties in New York City during the Spanish-American War!

Next are the river gunboats.  This first one is a running-mate to the Essex pictured above, the USS Benton.  Based on a catamaran-hulled snagboat (a boat used for removing logs and branches from the river), Benton was large enough to be house the extra staff needed by an Admiral.  Consequently, she was used as the flagship of the river fleet for most of the war.  Commissioned in February 1862, Benton was used throughout the conflict, being sold off in November of 1865.

"Not a pretty ship" is probably the nicest thing you could say about her appearance.

You'll note that this ship looks a lot dirtier than the Essex.  In one of the sources I read, it was mentioned that her wooden deck was a lot darker than the other ships in the river fleet.  I don't remember if I had a source saying she was rustier/dirtier than other ironclads in the fleet, but I thought it would look good with the darker decks.  The rust is actually a different color than the deck, but that doesn't come through very clearly in the photo.

The next group of ships are ones that I don't think get a lot of love from gamers, but were certainly vital in the early parts of the war.  Those are the timberclads.  They held the rivers open until the ironclads could be built, and so are an important part of any Civil War campaign game on the Mississippi river.  There were three of them: Lexington, and the two sisters of Conestoga and Tyler.  Why yes, I do have all three of them; thank you for asking.



As mentioned before, exact color schemes for these ships can be debated all day.  There appears to be general agreement that Lexington was brown (unpainted or painted, don't know).  Conestoga was either black or very dark gray, which could be a faded black.  Hence, the patchy blotchy work on my ship.  Also, a pure black ship is very boring, visually.  Tyler had (at some point in her service) a light gray hull with a darker gray top to the paddlewheel boxes.  I tried that scheme but didn't like it, and went with darker gray bulwarks as well, making sure that the darker gray went around the ship.

In looking at the riverine ships, you will see that my bases are blue, just like the oceangoing ships.  I know the Mississippi river is not blue; if you're going to write me about that then save your electrons.  This was a deliberate decision on my part.  I thought about clear bases, but realized that I wouldn't be able to store them in a magnetic box if I did that.  After looking at some river mats, it was apparent that the most cost-effective way to go was to stick with the old gamer's trope that all water is blue.  Otherwise, you have the potential issue of ocean ships cooperating with river ships, and the ocean ships have blue bases on a green or brown river.  To me, that would look worse than blue water for everyone.

Stone Mountain Miniatures

I don't have any of Stone Mountain's ships.  Those are the old Houston's Miniatures from the early 1980's or thereabouts.  While advertised as 1/1200 scale, the general consensus among gamers is that they are closer to 1/1000 scale.  If I couldn't get a specific ship anywhere else I would go with them, but I wouldn't mix their ships with other manufacturers in the case of sister ships.  What they do have are some nice batteries, especially the 1 or 2 gun ones.  The Anaconda campaign rules let players build batteries along the Mississippi River, that are as small as 1 gun.  So, these are nice to have for just that type of situation.

I did do a bit of work on this one.  The gun is from another company, and I put a platform made of very thin card for the gun inside the emplacement.  The figures are actually 1/800 photoetch crew members for model ships.  In theory they are much too big, but in practice they look about right compared to the gun.  I don't know how well they will hold up in use, but I do think it makes the battery look much better than being empty.  The future emplacements might wind up being empty; we'll just have to see.


  1. Excellent paint job, especially the bases and a nice touch with the rigging. I may now need to look at my models again to add some rigging. Can't wait to see more photos.
    I mainly have Red Eagle's 1/1200th ACW ships after seeing them at a show in England a few years back. Nice models and really cheap as they were £1.50 each ($2). I think these used to be sold by Skytrex but I am not 100% sure.

    1. Thanks, Cap'n. I wasn't sure about continuing to do rigging on my ironclads, but with your comments I believe I'll continue. Like I said, as a sailing ship guy I just don't think that naked masts look right.

      I've been really bad about updating this page. There are some other ships finished, and a couple that just need the bases painted. I will get pictures of those ships and post them sometime this coming week.

      You're right about Red Eagle; those used to be the Skytrex ships. I had Skytrex and Navwar ships when I first started doing naval games back in the 1980s, but none of them have survived the moves over the years. I have thought about buying some of those transitional steam ships for years, but honestly don't know what I would do with them. 🤔

  2. Dang Brian, you make these look good. I quite like the looks of the Benton. I have some Stone Mountain ships and they run all sizes, not very accurate to the named vessels either. Love the page!

    1. Thank you Vol. I had some of the Stone Mountain ships many years ago, and didn't care for them much back then. I figure for stuff like batteries, scale is not quite as important as it is for ships. Land emplacements can be any size, so I don't mind using them.

  3. Hi Brian! Apparently my blog roll only updates when you post on the sail page so I missed this, but found it on TMP.

    What a great collator iron clads! They look great. I’m really big into ACW miniatures as you know but never really took interest in the naval ones. Even though one of the best quotes of naval warfare comes from ACW:
    “Damn the torpedos, full steam ahead!” 😀

    1. The sad part is, I have been painting these ironclads and then doing nothing with them! Now that there are a few painted up, I'm thinking about having a non-historical bash so that we can try out some rules for them.

      I have 15mm ACW troops myself, about a division per side. I've just never put them up on the blog. They were painted in the late 80's- early 90's, and haven't seen action in a few years.