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


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

1809 Spaniards - More Generals

Right - back to more appropriate subject matter. I've had very little time for wargame-related activities lately, but I had a stroke of luck. I supplied some spare Napoleonic figures to a rather mysterious chap named Goya, and he offered to do some soldier-painting for me by way of repayment. He has very kindly produced these splendid Spanish generals for me (I am confident I got rather the better of that deal) - they really are most welcome - the expansion of the 1809 army proceeds, but - as we all know - you just can't get the staff these days. Generals tend to be a catch-up item once the combat units are approaching critical mass.



Here you see a division commander - complete with his ayudante - and a brigadier. Fine fellows, and I'm very pleased with them. The castings are OOP NapoleoN 20mm - which only briefly saw the light of day before they passed into history. I'm trying to make my Spanish generals suitable for either of my two Spanish armies (1809 and 1812) - it is tempting to paint one or two up in the white uniform of a colonel of infantry (like the paintings of Castaños at Bailen), but that would be a no-no for 1812, so I'm holding back on that.

I am now prepared for all the predictable comments about the supposed incompetence of the Spanish army - do your worst; they are still a smashing little army!

19 comments:

  1. Some very nice work there Foy. The Spaniards always dressed well.

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    1. The red breeks are a bit snazzy, eh? I think they mostly wore the red breeks when they were in "Gala" order, but I'm sure they would dress up a bit for battles. Well, you have to, don't you?

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  2. What splendid chaps they are, ready to trounce the French.

    When people disparage the Spanish army I always invite them to compare it with the Prussian. The French invaded Spain, they suffered a catastrophic defeat losing a full field army, the remainder were bundled back to the Pyrenees. The Spanish then kept armies in the field fighting without break until their eventual victory five years later.

    The Prussians on the other hand rolled over in six weeks and then functioned as a French puppet state for seven years before they managed to put another army into the field.

    John

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    1. John - you are certainly better read than I, but my take on it is this:

      The Spanish field army struggled a bit - high turnover of troops and lack of training and equipment (esp horses and guns) - also being on their own territory meant there were plenty of friendly places to run away to. They were resilient - like the Prussians, they could handle the idea of defeat and recover from it. What they really don't get full credit for is the key role they had in defeating the French empire. They did not give up when they lost - they carried right on hating the French until next time - Napoleon couldn't get the hang of that at all - he was used to the idea of an "honourable" enemy admitting defeat and asking for a treaty. They messed up the French communications and supplies and broke them down, and the way they demoralised the French was, I believe, a model adopted by the Russians - ambush them, starve them, terrorise them, murder the messengers.

      Although it took a few years for others to finish it off, the Spaniards were key men - the Spanish ulcer won the war. People may scoff...

      And, anyway, they looked great in 1809.

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    2. More superficially read I suspect.

      Many of the problems are hard to replicate on the table. Take the battle of Medina de Rioseco. Two Spanish Armies, the Northern one under the very competent Blake, raised painstakingly by rebuilding up existing regiments to full strength.

      The central one under the idiot Cuesta, who handed out warrants to raise fresh units willy nilly, Loads of under officered, half strength, novice units. BUT all the favours handed out gets Cuesta the command not Blake. Cuesta then marches an army with no cavalry onto the plains to fight the French.

      Also; the French were incredibly bloody good, 14,000 men commanded by three outstanding French Marshalls. The Spanish managed to skirmish competently and fight stubbornly but the French still went through them like a knife through butter.

      I agree with you that the best solution is to make them fight stubbornly but be very unmanouverable.

      John

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  3. What splendid paint jobs. Well traded.
    I feel sorry for the Spaniards. History hasn't been kind to them, but the problems of the regular army were social and political. Anyone who thinks they couldn't or wouldn't fight is ignoring the whole guerilla and those moments when the Spanish soldier was given a fighting chance (and some shoes, ammunition, food and back pay).

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    1. Their generals were certainly a bit lumpy - the famous cartoon general is Cuesta, who was (reputedly) surly and lazy and dishonest and (worst of all) old, but some of their biggest faults were in taking on ambitious attacking strategies which they couldn't handle - some of them - especially Mina and his like in Navarre and elsewhere, were pretty damn good.

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  4. from what I see and read, the Spanish army was potentially very good. I think it's more a reflection of the incompetent officer corps and the resultant brittleness of the troops due to this lack of faith in their leaders. How do you model this in your games and or campaigns? is there a way for a competent leader to gain the confidence of his troops and through that make them better?

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    1. The rules I use mostly at present reflect problems with training - poor manoeuvring in combat, lack of resilience - Spanish troops will fight well in situ, but any action which requires co-ordinated movement puts them at a disadvantage, and when they suffer a reverse they are prepared to give up and try again another day.

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  5. I wonder how much of the "bad press" for the Spanish is an Anglo-Centric view of the Peninsular War (and almost any war). Most of us in the UK (and US) probably only read in English, which limits our sources and I suspect many of the popular historians were similarly limited. Add to that the British participants talking up their role and the not uncommon disparagement of all foreigners.

    The only problem my hypothesis is that all of this is supposition on my part because I can't read Spanish and have only read popular histories, and have forgotten most of them!

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    1. Contemporary relations between the leaders were uncomfortable - British xenophobia and unreasonable pride of the Spanish big contributors. Contempt they receive from Napier and similar suggests that they fell short in many ways, but it was their country, their war. Esdaile has been a breath of fresh air in recent years - many of us have suddenly found out that the contents of the Jac Weller book only cover a small proportion of the war.

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  6. Nice figures. I guess I've been badly influenced by Bruce Quarrie's rules in the 70s where I think it took a Spanish battalion 3 whole turns to change formation and then they'd shoot on a minus 5 using a D6! Still, it is important to make the Duke look good...

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    1. I think that is an area where they did not shine. Many of the men in the army had only been with their regiments a short time (constant creation of new units from raw recruits, and the remains of old units, lack of good officers, old fashioned (Bourbon) drill book and lack of confidence) - put them in a strong defensive position and tell them their country and their families were depending on them and they might do very well. Expect them to change formation under fire and carry out a flanking move and - apart from the Guards early in the war - they would struggle. Spanish defence of fortresses and so on was normally good, and they were often prepared to fight to the death in such situations, which Napoleon didn't think was cricket at all.

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  7. Great looking figures and nicely painted too. I always enjoy the challenge of playing with a Spanish army, its extremely hard, but fun..............I think?

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    1. Hi Ray - thank you - yes, agreed. The guerrilleros are interesting too - I had some mixed results with them in my Peninsular War campaign a couple of years ago - they are not very good in an open confrontation!

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  8. John, Prussia is dead flat, nowhere to hide! Spain is very rugged and had a bandut problem before the French arrived. Bandits just became patriotic robbers as opposed to criminals.

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  9. Lewisgunner,

    Quite true, and my comment is more than a little tongue in cheek. If Prussia was isolated by a massive mountain range Frederick may have been a little more defiant. Also when British aid was not so reliant 1795 -1808 the Spanish sought to become French vassals as the best option.

    But.. the Spanish did defeat a French army in the field, did relocate to regional governments and did continue to put recognisable and often independent armies into the field. And they did win.

    But of course, I agree I am being unfair to the Prussian army.

    John

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  10. Love the Spanish general. He is a bit on the thin side and his horse appears rather gaunt and long backed, so he has the look of a latter day Don Quixote which is very appropriate. I wonder if you could find an appropriately tubby servant figure for him??
    Roy

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    1. I'll have a look through my spare Hinton Hunts. Have you ever considered Specsavers?

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