A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Spanish Thoughts

1812 Spaniards in bicornes?
As ever, I find myself going about with a head full of plenty of half-formed ideas, but very little that is clear enough to do much about. It helps when a particular thread is hit simultaneously from two different directions – then there is an implication that a bit more focus is needed.

Napoleonic Spain is one such area at the moment. I had another friendly poke from Martin by email, asking me when the solo campaign is going to come out of the freezer and get moving again – which is a good question, pertinent, even, and I shall come back to this in a moment – and then I was doing some more clearing of the spares boxes and I came back to the old question of what am I ever going to do with my 1808-style Spanish infantry. Let’s have a look at this second bit first, just to be awkward.

I have a fair mound of unpainted Baylen-period Spaniards with nothing to do. Because my French and Anglo-Portuguese Peninsular armies are dressed for the later stages of the war (originally because of availability of figures, but now simply because that is what I have, and the momentum is established), it made sense to add Spanish forces from the same period, so my Spanish Nationalist line infantry have the post-1811 British style uniform. Blue jackets and shakos and all that. A sprinkling of white-clad chaps from 1808, in bicornes, in what was an old fashioned uniform even in 1808, would not sit well. They might look nice, but the anachronism would grate with me. Mind you, they would look nice...

This is how it always goes. This is not helped by the fact that my existing army contains a good proportion of milicias and voluntarios in round hats, not to mention guerrilleros, all of whom could be comfortably wheeled out at any date from 1808 onwards. Which, in turn, got me thinking that maybe I could make up some 1808 line units which could be combined with the irregulars to make an alternative Spanish army, for earlier in the war. Hmmm.

Mind you, they would have to fight Frenchies, some of whom are wearing distinctly 1812-style uniforms – I could just about live with that. But then, if they fought alongside the Brits, there are a good few of those who are straight from Waterloo, and that would be upsetting. Worst of all, I would have difficulty combining the two alternative Spanish armies into one big one for special occasions, which you can see would be a disappointment at a more childish level.

The alternative approach is to go back to studying the various books and bits and pieces and see if I can identify any units in bicornes which could justifiably be added to the existing 1811-12 army. JM Bueno’s Uniformes Espanoles de la Guerra de Independencia is always a treasure trove, and I turned up various odd militia units raised from colleges and academies who seem to have dressed in a rather outdated style, but they may be a bit rarefied. They might have been drinking clubs rather than regiments (no – I don’t mean it, I’m sure these guys fought like heroes).

The two Bueno pictures at the top of this post look more promising. The soldier on the left is from the Milicia Nacional Urbana de Madrid of 1812 – apparently, as soon as the French evacuated Madrid following the Battle of Salamanca, the local movers and shakers raised 8 battalions, no less, of these fine chaps, plus an attractive-looking unit of cavalry. Now you’re talking. Unfortunately, JJ Sanudo’s database of service records makes no mention of such a unit (or maybe I just missed it), so maybe they were disbanded, smartish, when Wellington went back to Portugal after Burgos. The jury is out on the Madrid boys – they are interesting, though.

The other soldier is from the line battalions of the Voluntarios Distinguidos of Cadiz. He is in parade dress, but apparently this unit was dressed like this throughout the war, and they have a very long and worthy record in Sanudo. They look good, too, eh? Sadly, they were, of course, rather stuck, not to mention besieged, in Cadiz, and would not be a convincing addition to an army in Castile. I am continuing to ponder the matter. There must have been other, similar, units which I could utilise.

The solo campaign. I have waffled on about how I was disappointed with some aspects of how the rules worked, and have been gently accused of putting the campaign on hold in a fit of petulance, which I would protest is only partly true. The campaign had reached an interesting phase, and I am determined to get back to it when the Autumn comes (which may mean when the lawns no longer need cutting). It would certainly be a pity to abandon it, and I have received an extra boost from the imminent arrival of some Spanish light cavalry (at last!), and a couple of new general figures, of which you will hear more. Admittedly, the acquisition of new toy soldiers does not make a very good reason to fire up the campaign again, but it all helps. Watch this space.

There you go – another entire blog post which doesn’t quite say anything.


  1. Evidently you must paint some Spanish infantry in shako!

  2. You have to love the Spaniards in the bicornes, they look fantastic and run away so convincingly.

    But then again, I have a Spanish army entirely made up of bicornes, none of this post 1812 nonsense for me!

    Foy, in this as in all things wargaming - I would be inclined to please yourself.

  3. Personally I'd go with Conrad's approach, but I think there is support for units with bicornes and even mixed shako/bicorne units purely on the grounds of logistics. New regiments and replacements would very likely have the newer style uniforms, but existing units (especially those in the field) are more likely to have the old style. There's the added 'human' element that no self respecting quartermaster (if you can call a quartermaster human) would ditch serviceable items of uniform or kit if there was a chance of wringing more use out of it.

  4. well put Gary.

    Perhaps you could do up a unit or two as 'old campaigners' with some torn or worn and repaired trousers or coat elbows?

    Just a thought, as it would be a shame to leave these veteran metal troops off the tabletop without a coat of paint ...

  5. I think that you can put every what you want in the field for a Spanish Army in the napoleonic wars, and be more or less historical. The horrible 1811 uniform was delivered to regiments slowly, and by 1812 a lot of line regiments or militia can be dressed with a mix of uniforms or rests. You must think that the uniforms reserves were used to dress new troops, so 1808 uniforms could be in use without problems.

    Ah! One more thing, the 1811 uniform is very hated here jajaja. If you see recreationist, very very few have 1811 uniforms.

    Regards from Spain

    1. Hi Jesus - thank you. Recreationists tend to select which bits of history they admit to here, too. This has been going on for many years - books on the Peninsular War published in English before about 1985 usually pretend the Spanish army did not exist at all, so we are making some progress.

      Cheers - Tony