The New Windsor Cantonment, where Washington's Army spent the final year of the war, has a new visitors center that houses an old but extraordinary diorama of a long column of continentals on the march. Created in the 1960s by Paul A Buckley of Lexington MA, in collaboration with Col. Frederick Todd of the West Point Museum with custom miniatures from the team of Imrie Risley in upstate New York, the diorama was completed in sections that when fully assembled is 24 feet long. It has more than 300 figures in what looked to be 54mm scale, and is remarkably accurate in its depictions of the late war period.
I spent a wonderful visit at the Cantonment yesterday, and could not take my eyes off the model. Dioramas captivated my imagination as a small boy and have held my love and interest ever since. This one has so many marvelous details to discover, including elements of whimsy like a soldier being prodded awake while shirking in the bushes, and a dog pulling at a piece of cloth held by one of the marchers. The dog, the story goes, is a representation of the faithful hound of the artist, that sat on one of the completed sections of the diorama. One of the sutler's wagons is emblazoned with Todd and Buckley, provisioners, as the signature of the collaborators whose vision it depicts.
The display case is well labelled and interpreted, explaining the function of each of the marching individuals and units. I particularly appreciated the inclusion of camp followers and civilian onlookers, as well as the yellow mud clinging to wagon wheels and the regimental flags in their black casings. The only thing the interpretation lacked was an explanation of the reversed colors on the coats of the musicians, which for a blue coated regiment with red facings meant that the fifers and drummers wore red faced with blue. This allowed commanders to locate their main form of communication over the din of battle, but also makes those attired in red appear to be British. The trumpeter for the 2nd Dragoons was in a buff or off white coat faced with blue.
The exhibit is housed downstairs in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, whioch may explain why the facility at this State Historic site had the funds to create such a fine interpretive space. I was there to meet with one of the researchers about 18th century artillery as part of the hunt for a surviving example of a Salisbury cannon, but ended up having a wide-ranging conversation and personal tour of the exhibits. I mentioned that an ancestor through marriage to one of the Ogden siblings, Lt. Col. Francis Barber of 2nd NJ regiment (3rd establishment), had been killed at the very end of the war at this site by a falling tree, and he lead me to a display where the officer in question was featured, along with his sword, a present from La Fayette! The New Windsor Cantonment houses a number of such relics from other area sites, inckluding Washington's Newburgh headquarters now under renovation.