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Pint-sized fighters are focus of model soldier exhibit

November 17, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - Tourists and history buffs who spent part of their afternoon Sunday at Antietam National Battlefield had the rare opportunity to catch a three-dimensional glimpse of what Civil War soldiers actually looked like - albeit a fraction of their size.

The National Capital Model Soldier Society held its sixth annual Chuck Young Memorial Model Soldier Exhibition at the Park Visitors Center on Sunday. The exhibit featured hand-crafted, toy soldier-style figurines depicting soldiers from several wars in American history. The exhibit focused heavily on miniature soldiers, ranging in size from 15 mm to 200 mm, from the Civil War period.

Society member and former commanding officer Joseph E. Bles said the exhibit gives attendees some extra visuals, in the form of tiny Union and Confederate soldiers, to think about during their respective tours of the premises.

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"When people come to the battlefield, this really enhances their experience," Bles said.

The society, started in 1961 and based in Annandale, Va., is the second oldest miniatures club in the country, according to Bles. Though more than two-thirds of its 84-member club is based in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., there are members from as far away as Australia and Malta.

Commanding Officer Norb Lustine said he is not surprised that people from foreign countries would have an interest in creating model soldiers from American historic periods including the Civil War, World War II and, more recently, Operation Desert Storm.

"Why am I interested in Medieval times? It's just an interest in history," Lustine said.

Lustine said the average piece takes two to four weeks, for multiple hours per day, to complete.

"We're striving for perfection - but it's fun," Lustine said. "Before you know it, it's 4 in the morning, and your wife asks you if you're coming to bed."

Bles joked that's how "retired" members of the club work on their miniatures. Bles said he takes the "nickel-and-dime" approach to completion.

"If you do it on a regular basis, a couple minutes a day, you'd be amazed at what you can accomplish," he said.

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