They Sacrificed Everything – Part 3

Here’s Part 3 of Jon Harbuck’s article. -editor.

54th mass 1The Shaw Memorial depicts the hero and his command marching through Boston on the way to the war, beneath an angelic-looking figure who appears to be pronouncing a benediction over their service.  One can almost hear the crowd cheering.  I’m not a great sculptor (classic understatement) but I was just able to fit onto the slab an impression of the angel hovering over Shaw, along with a slightly revised Latin inscription.

Having completed the bronze slab backdrop and attached Shaw to it, I turned to the file of marching soldiers between the Shaw figure and the full-rounds nearest the viewer.  As I mentioned before, these soldiers were planned as reliefs behind the full-round soldiers of the nearest file.  Sculpting them turned out to be easier than I expected.  Using one of the full-round kits (more about those later) as a scale guide, I drew the rough outlines of marching legs onto plastic sheet, cut them out, then tacked them together with liquid cement.  I repeated this for the torsos — very rough outlines with no details, focused only on proper scale — then cemented those into place above the legs.  (Assembling separate body parts helped to make each figure’s attitude slightly different, as with each unique character in the original Monument.)  Over these sheet plastic templates I rolled out epoxy putty, then used regular sculpting tools to press in the folds and other details.  Heads and right arms were sculpted separately, again on sheet plastic cutouts, and attached to the marching torsos.  Ditto with knapsacks and blanket rolls, surprisingly quick to sculpt when working in only two and one-quarter dimensions.

Saint-Gaudens's Memorial, 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Boston
Jon did some considerable sculpting and converting for his piece.

The marching figures in the Memorial have one glaring feature that I’ll bet ACW buffs spot right away:  Each solider wears his canteen slung over the right hip, where there should be a cartridge box instead.  This flaw was easy to correct — I cut cartridge box flaps from sheet plastic, sanded them to shape, then attached them to each figure.  Then I added a cartridge box plate (the “US” insignia) to each flap from the Michael Roberts line of photo-etched buckles and badges.

Saint-Gaudens’s Memorial features a drummer leading the marching soldiers.  Rather than place mine in the front file, however, I decided to make him a bas relief and position him just beyond the marching NCO.  I am lazy and not a great sculptor (did I mention that already?) and I decided that sculpting a drum and making hands look like they are actually drumming would be far easier in relief than in full round.  The drummer proved to be more work than the infantrymen, but I think the extra effort paid off.  Viewed from the front, the drum looks reasonably round even though it is quite thin and flat.  The drummer’s hands are semi round and his piano wire drumsticks stand fully out from the rest of the relief, and together they provide an impression of depth that isn’t really there at all.

The muskets shouldered by the bas relief file are white metal castings from the Shenandoah line (as are those on the full-round file) and are the only parts of the soldier reliefs that are fully round.  The figures sculpted onto the slab — like the Shaw figure — are slightly smaller than 54mm, so I fitted those figures with muskets from the Dragon Union Infantry set.  These are more petite than the Shenandoah pieces and better scaled to the rear file.  As things turned out, the slightly smaller size of the rear file figures adds some forced-perspective to the overall piece.

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