Friday, 5 March 2010

2mm: The Alamo

I thought I would take the opportunity to commemorate the anniversary of the heroic defence and fall of the Alamo in 1836 to showcase an old 2mm project of mine, in fact my first using miniatures of that size, namely a scratch built reconstruction of the Mission, and the forces at the time of the final assault by Santa Anna's Army.

Most of these photographs have been available to members of the 2mm Yahoo Group for the last couple of years, but I thought it would be an idea to show them to a wider audience; apologies to those of you who might have seen them before, but I hope they might in some small way go to show others what 2mm minis are capable of.

I had been trying to find an excuse for some time to try and make use of the 2mm troops from Irregular, when I hit upon the idea of re-creating the Alamo; it seemed to me that the cost and scale of 1/900th would make it easy to reproduce the end of the siege at 1:1 figure ratio, whilst allowing terrain that would not spread across acres of gaming table.

By restricting things to the final assault itself, troop types would necessarily be limited, as well as overall numbers, bearing in mind it was my first time at painting anything this small. Producing 180-odd Texians, and 1400 or so Mexicans would have been something I would have balked at even in 6mm, but seemed reasonable using the Horse and Musket range from Irregular.
Perusal of their catalogue had shown a number of well-sculpted cannon that would cover the Alamo's guns, and their Napoleonic era block formations would not be out of place for the self-styled Napoleon of the West's forces.
I initially had some concerns as to how to portray the necessarily 'individual' nature of the majority of the U.S., Texian and Tejano volunteers, but this was resolved by making use of the strips of dismounted dragoons available in the Renaissance range - no particular worries about uniform differences at this scale!

My overall aim was to portray the sweep of the whole battle, give a bird's eye view of the action as it were - I have always been a fan of the type of reconstructions you often see in museums, that are normally beyond the scope and budget of us ordinary mortals!

For the Alamo itself, I thought a scratch-build would play to the strengths of the tumble-down nature of the original - for which read- even my limited skills could have a good stab at portraying the buildings and walls! Indeed, I ended up using all sorts of rubbish and bits and bobs to produce it, but this some how gave a pretty good representation in the end, I think.

I was lucky enough to get an early copy of Todd Hansen's excellent "The Alamo Reader", which not only draws together all the original sources available on the epic story, but crucially has an excellent overview of the surviving contemporary plans and plats of the defences.

The actual appearance of the Mission at the time of the siege has always been a controversial and difficult subject, as well as being a developing science over the years, but recent scholarship has done much to give us a really good idea of what it would have been like.
I'm not saying that mine is in any way a true or even 'scale' model, as I was aiming at something that would work as a table top wargaming piece, but I tried to incorporate features that have been confirmed to have existed in recent years.

The superlative scale reconstruction and resulting book by Mark Lemon, "The Illustrated Alamo 1836", was actually in production whilst I was building mine, otherwise I would have had an even better source to follow, I suppose I could say 'great minds think alike'... :-)

Certainly, having bought this book subsequently, I would recommend it to anyone as The authoritative visual reproduction of the Alamo as it was; truly an amazing piece of scholarship and model making.

I started my plan with the idea that if a six foot man was represented by a 2mm high miniature, then 3 feet would mean 1mm in terms of ground scale, and this rather ignorant and clumsy appreciation of mathematical scaling actually ended up being not too bad in recreating the footprint of the mission itself, of course it soon became useless in making the actual height of walls and buildings look in any way meaningful against the 2mm figures, so I wimped out, and followed what looked right next to the minis rather than trying to be feet and inches accurate.

This attempt at in-the-dark geometry produced a ground footprint, with admittedly a few tweaks here and there to help with balance and proportion, and a set of buildings on a 31 by 24cm off-cut of hard constructional plastic that I happened to have lying around:

This gave some reasonable space to depict the immediate environs of the Mission complex, and have a go at the various watercourses and outerworks, without being too unwieldy as a terrain piece.
The buildings themselves were made with a bodge of off-cut foamcore, sprue, plastic, cardboard and paper; there are even some bits of band-aid as roofing, and the sound selector switches of a very old LP record player in there somewhere!
Steel pins and wire stand in for wooden logs and the fallen trees in the Abbatis, and some liberal smearings of filler add to the construction. I was in no way going to be able to represent accurately the iconic and intricate carved exterior facade of the Chapel, so chickened out and photocopied a drawing, which was then reduced and stuck on to the front!

(Remember, all photos on this Blog are 'clickable' for a large-scale Macro view)

Great liberties were taken with the actual placement of doors and windows, and some, at the time these pictures were taken, were very amateurishly daubed on...(I hasten to add these have been finessed somewhat since).
So she ended up pretty rough and ready, but hopefully represented the spirit of the original.

From the North Wall, now, and at Travis's battery, we get the first view of how those 2mm sized little men look in-situ. I found the dismounted dragoon strips, with a bit of filing down of headgear here and there, surprisingly good at depicting the defenders of the Mission, although of course I can't really claim to have painted in any racoon-skin caps or accurate New Orleans Greys uniforms.....

Hopefully you can imagine Crockett at the Palisade, whilst in the distance, you can spy the Pecan tree against the West wall:

Turning now to the Soldados of Santa Anna's forces, below we see the troops of General Cos's column of attack, awaiting the start of the pre-dawn assault. I wanted to try an echo the lines of troops drawn on the plan by Sanchez Navarro, which luckily were easily portrayed by the cast-together blocks from Irregular Miniatures.
Each block, under close inspection, has a certain number of individual figures sculpted into it, so I could be sure of getting a pretty accurate rendition of the 1400 or so who are thought to have made up the main assault force on the day itself. Principally, for instance, we can see 52 and 26 figure blocks for the various companies of Fusileros, with a screen of Cazadores Light Troops out in front:

A view from the South, during a re-fight of the battle using a modified version of the 2x2 Napoleonics rules, sees the various columns converge upon the defenders, Colonel Morales' Cazadores in evidence here:

So...let's take you to the early morning of the sixth of March 1836, when out of the darkness, from all directions, the Mexican army attacks the walls of the Alamo:

Alerted, some sources say, by the premature cheering of the advancing Soldados, an exhausted and weary defence rouses itself for the event they all knew was coming; certain death, and certain Glory:

In the face of musket and cannon shot, the Mexican troops courageously press forward until under the walls, and crucially, under the range of the muzzles of the Texian artillery, which could not be depressed down from the 'battlements' of the rather ad-hoc fortress:

It is a little unclear as to who broke into the defences first, but it seemed that the taking by coup de main of the Southwest corner and 18pdr gun position, was instrumental in cracking open the walls of the Mission:

From then on, sheer weight of numbers would begin to tell on the defenders, who could not engage without exposing themselves to counter-fire atop the parapet, which was in the main unprovided with adequate firing steps or crenellation. It is likely that in this way, William Barret Travis himself was killed, leaning out to shoot down on the enemy:

It was inevitable, perhaps, that the likely less than 200 defenders would never be able to hold the extended length of the Mission's walls against a more numerous foe:

Finally, desperately, the defenders were pushed away from the West and North walls, and corralled into the dead-end of the Long Barracks and the famous Chapel itself.

What terrible final moments resulted for all those who died, the surviving sources only hint at; what we know for sure is that it was a desperately close-fought and savage battle at close quarters, and the despotic command of Santa Anna himself had left little opportunity for clemency or mercy. Most of the garrison are thought to have been killed, with only a handful of the women and the black servant of Travis left alive to tell the tale.

The refight and game itself was instructive in that I think it backed up the opinion that the real defence must have been surprised by the Mexican assault - initially there were horrible casualties and morale issues when the cannon were allowed to play freely on the approaching assault. In the end, though, the numbers themselves told, and once the walls were penetrated, it was all over.

You'll have noticed that none of the strips and blocks of figures are based; this was merely in order to facilitate placing them properly inside the narrow confines of the defences, on what is, after all, a somewhat unique terrain piece and one-off project. I found it was a good introduction for what are both the weaknesses and strengths of 2mm miniatures, and hopefully these photos might encourage some more of you out there who are yet to give them a try, that they are really quite fun to work with.
For now though, on this anniversary of the epic defence of Texan liberty, I urge you all to:

"Remember the Alamo!"

(For those who might want to explore the battle and its context further online , an excellent discussion group on both history and current research into the battle, frequented by many noted authorities on the subject, can be found here:

an exploration of the many interesting topic threads can be very rewarding.)


  1. This is really fantastic stuff and will be bookmarked for future reference to show the naysayers what 2mm is capable of.

  2. Fantastic stuff indeed!
    Really shows the strenght of the smaller scales. A 28mm version might look cartoonish in comparison

  3. Hi guys, glad you liked the little photo report; I'd hoped it had given the impression of hovering high over the battlefield; I think 2mm certainly allows it to look as 'real' as you can get on the table top!

  4. Like your small Alamo! Great job. Actually I saw it year before this post on some website and was inspired with 2mm scale :)

    By the way, have a look what i've found on youtube

  5. Hi Fjodin, thanks for the comment, and the compliment!

    Thanks as well for that link - great stuff - you're getting really good at digging out those hidden military treasures on YouTube.

  6. Great project, this is my favourite and I've read them all! Thanks for the tip with the bandages, I stole the idea to make villages for WW2 Italy and the peninsular war.

  7. Hi there, glad you liked it - it's amazing what you can put together with a few afternoons and a well-stocked Bits Box!

  8. Irregular now offers a 2mm Alamo set, complete with buildings. Have you seen it? Is it adequate for the job?

    Best regards,


  9. Hi Chris, no, I didn't realise that - I saw some photos many moons ago of the 6mm version, but not a 2mm one - I'll have to have a look out for that!