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The Wagon Chase

When I was a kid growing up in southeastern Ohio, I loved to watch TV Westerns and to play Cowboys and Indians on my grandparents’ sprawling farm. Among my favorite scenes to watch (and then to recreate outdoors) was the ubitiquous horse-drawn wagon or stagecoach chase, where mounted Indians or outlaws chased down a fleeing wagon, as the wagon guard and passengers blazed away from the careening vehicle, hoping to stop the pursuers. The scene must have been repeated in slightly different fashion in scores of movies and TV shows. Sometimes, the bad guys killed everyone and took the wagon or coach; at other times, the good guys got away to fight again another day. I had hundreds of Marx and MPC 54mm plastic figures of soldiers, cowboys, and Indians, and spent many a cold Ohio winter night chasing down little plastic wagons. Ah, the memories.

An 1863 New York Times newspaper account from a Union cavalryman elicits similar images describing an incident during the early stages of the Battle of Hanover

As the fighting opened along Hanover’s Frederick Street, a portion of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry fell back before a sudden mounted charge by the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry. As the Tar Heels surged ahead, they encountered a fleeing wagon, the private ambulance of Dr. Wood, chief surgeon of Kilpatrick’s Division. The Rebels began to hack at the canvas cover with their sabers to reveal the contents, piercing the covering with over a dozen gashes. The sole occupant was a hospital attendant named Spaulding, suffering from an illness and very much concerned about the swords hacking away above his head. He crawled up to the front and told the driver, a soldier named James Forsythe, to swap places with him. While Spaulding held the reins, Forsythe blazed away with a six-shooter the pair had, holding the Rebels at bay until the ambulance could reach safety.

Anyone else ever play Civil War with toy soldiers? What are your favorite memories? Do you still have them?