Save the Colors!

Inspired by Keith Rocco's painting, I constructed the diorama using converted commercial figures. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see step by step photos of the construction process.


August 29, 1862

'The Very Vortex of Hell'

During the Second Battle of Manassas, Hood's Texas Brigade swept down on the isolated 5th New York Zouaves. A fine regiment was about to be destroyed.

Keith Rocco's amazing painitng depicts those deadly moments. Sergeant William Chambers grasps the 5th New York’s regimental banner from Sergeant Francis Spelman as a bloody clutch of Zouaves, some sheltering behind their own dead, try to Save the Colors!

To learn more about this incident go to Brian Pohanka's article at the History Net.

Compare the diorama to the painitng. Click on images for enlarged views.
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Painting by Keith Rocco. Click here to visit his web site.

Initial mock-up using 11 figures. This shows the figures before conversion.

Initial mock-up using 8 figures on an smaller base.

I originally planned to show all 10 figures including the casualties to the right front on a larger base.

But after some tinkering with the composition, I liked how just these 8 looked on a smaller base.

The resin base is from a Time Machine vignette and has a dead zouave molded right on it. He was perfect for the scene. I enlarged the base with Miliput putty to make room for more figures.

The oak oval came from a local hardware store.

Time Machine figure modilfed to carry furled flag. Pewter foil for the flag was tricky to get to scale shape. I may redo the flags.

Originally a Des Kit confederate, he was modified to be a wounded Zouave.

This Hornet zoauve fgure was originally throwing a horseshoe.

A Dragon plastic figure converted to Zouave.

Time Machine figure with added backpack, rifle and fez.

Shenandoah casualty figure converted to zouave with fez and jacket.

Once I had the figures painted, I concluded that the original, larger composition was superior. I corresponded with Keith Rocco and he agreed.

The figures were too crowded on the smaller base. They also hung over the sides making them prone to damage. This photo shows how I mocked up the new base. I used a piece of styrofoam building insulation to extend the terrain. This base has a plexiglass cover for added protection. Two additional figures would be required.

I used AB Epoxy Putty to blend the small oval base to the larger rectangular styrofoam base. While I was at it I made two new flags using AB Putty. These were the third set of flags I made for this diorama. The first attempt was with Andreasculpt. It rolled very thin, but the fringe was too fragile. The pewter foil I used in the second attempt didn't drape properly. The AB Putty seemed to work the best. It is not was as brittle as the Andreasculpt.

The final placement of the figures is still being refined. Working small amounts of AB Putty beneath the caualties helps make them lie more realistically.

The base has received a first coat of Ceramcoat Toffee acrylic paint. This is a nice color for the clay type soils in the Manassas area.

Adding first layer of ground cover. I used finely sifted dirt from decomposed shale. I took care to keep the dirt off the painted figures. It is better to do add figures aftter this step.

Spray the whole diorama with "wet water", a very dilute mixture of water and dish wash soap. This helps the dilute white glue penetrate the dirt in the next step.

Apply a 50-50 mixture of dilute white glue and water to the scenery. Avoid the painted figures. Next I added Heki scenic grass and some small twigs and stones. I did this process twice, thus building up layers of ground cover.

Once the glue is dry, paint the dirt with appropriate colors. I applied a wash of dilute Burnt Umber and then drybrushed with a lighter shade of Toffee.

Here are the painted flags. To add the cross pieces I drilled a small hole in the flag staff and soldered a .020 in brass rod in the hole. I also used the solder to shape the finial on the regimental color. I find that soldered brass flag poles, swords, spears, etc. are far stronger than the cast ones that come with kits. They are fun to make too!

Too bad the back side of the regimental color will be hardly visible.

I used a scenery product made by Silfor, available from model railroad shops, for the grass . This Silfor grass was a light spring green but it is available in different colors. Since this battle took place in August, I darkened the color with acrylic paint.

A view of the completed diorama and base.

Close up view of the focal point of the completed diorama.

Detail close-up of opened cartridge pack on ground.

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