History is rarely accurate when written at the time. The first comprehensive History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire wasn’t published until 1776, and William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich wasn’t published until 15 years after the end of World War II. And so it goes with the great Battle of Bricksburg, which took place October 1-4 at BrickCon in Seattle this year. Now, nearly three months later, thanks to the intrepid battlefield photography of Sean Edmison, we have an unprecedented view of this historic engagement between the Union and the Confederacy.
The idea for the Battle of Bricksburg was conceived during BrickCon 2014. We envisioned a realistic, historical contrast to our many years of sci-fi displays such as the original Zombie Apocafest 2008 and Numereji 2421.
In the end, about a dozen TBB readers and staff members participated in building a cohesive display that was assembled from individual segments as well as loose brick in the two days before the public exhibition hours on Saturday and Sunday. The display featured about a thousand troops, including cavalry, sharpshooters, supply trains, medical corps, and even a pair of ironclads on the nearby river.
Union troops charge forward in front of an 1800’s farmhouse built by Caylin. Another group of Union soldiers has captured some Rebels.
Our friends over at Beyond the Brick produced a video overview of the display, in which I describe some of the display’s highlights and show off details like the BrickArms stackable cannon balls that are hard to see in photos.
Particular thanks go to Will Chapman of BrickArms, who supplied huge quantities of stackable cannonballs, cannon muzzles, caplock muskets (by the thousand, in gallon bags), bayonets, cavalry sabers, and pistols. We would not have been able to achieve the level of historical realism in the display without these accessories, many of which Will custom-designed and injection molded in small batches by hand just for this display. Similarly, we relied on historical flags and unit banners printed and donated by Dave Ingraham of Cape Madness.
The Union Army held the high ground during the Battle of Bricksburg, atop a sloping hill built by Steve Walker. Sean Edmison’s artillery overlooked the battlefield, defending a Union field hospital behind the lines, built by Ty Keltner. Notice the surgeon and undertaker…
My brother flew up from San Diego for BrickCon this year, and the Battle of Bricksburg became a bit of a family affair. Our great-great-great-grandfather Asa Morrell Stevens served at Gettysburg with the First Maine Volunteer Cavalry under General J. Irvin Gregg, where he and his comrades charged the Confederate line led by General J.E.B. Stuart, forcing a retreat of the Rebel forces. Naturally, our LEGO Battle of Bricksburg had to have a Union cavalry charge.
The center of the display included a large 19th-century farmhouse built by TBB’s own Caylin — a second Union field hospital defended by about thirty U.S. Colored Troops who’ve captured a group of Confederates. Don’t miss the wonderful tree and swampy area built by TBB’s Chris.
Farther along, the Union troops are surrounded in a salient by Confederates, with the US Army dug in around a rough log cabin and vegetable garden built by my brother.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, they themselves are backed up against a river patrolled by the Union ironclads USS Passaic (built by Chris) and the earlier USS Monitor (built by TBB co-founder Josh).
This year, The Brothers Brick awarded prizes in three categories:
- Best Landscape Section: Awarded to the foundation of the display, Steve Walker’s hill.
- Best Structure or Vehicle: Awarded to the cornerstone of the display, Ty Keltner’s wonderfully and horrifically detailed Union field hospital.
- Best Unit: Awarded to Sean Edmison for his stellar Confederate troops defending a fence (photo below). Each of Sean’s minifigs was incredibly detailed, and any one of his Union and Confederate cavalry, infantry, and artillery units would have deserved this award.
Another special thanks to William, who proposed the MILS (Modular Integrated Landscaping System) standard as the basis for the 32×32 sections underlying the display, and who built dozens of them ahead of time — the display could not have come together as cohesively without that standard, nor without all those field and road sections. In a two-day marathon of finger-numbing construction, most of the rest were built onsite by my brother and Merlin_of_LEGO, from loose brick that Josh brought…
A longstanding tradition at BrickCon on the fourth day is to invade other displays. We chose to invade ourselves, and I brought out all the dinosaurs from ChronoCon last year and converted some of the Union cavalry into the First Illinois Volunteer Dinosaur Cavalry, with Abraham Lincoln on a velociraptor, of course. The Rebels didn’t stand a chance…
One of the “you had to be there” aspects of a large, collaborative LEGO display like this is finding all the little stories that display contributors have set up. Take some time going through Sean’s album of 160 photos, along with more photos in the photo pool on Flickr.
I’ll leave you with this shot of the crowd gathered around the Battle of Bricksburg. Recognize any celebrities?