|Regimiento de la Muerte, 1809|
Most wargames armies have some unit somewhere that turns out to be a bit of an embarrassment – mostly it’s because by rights it shouldn’t be there, and mostly that is because their owner fancied the uniforms, or found the figures cheap at a swapmeet. How many miniature Napoleonic French armies contain a completely inappropriate unit of Mamelukes of the Guard, for example? My own follies in the building up of my Peninsular War armies include a post-1813 line chevaux-legers unit (never set foot in Spain), which I still include in the OOB when it suits – well, they might have appeared (I got some old Garrison figures on eBay); the other was a smashing unit of Les Higgins/PMD Scots Greys – I converted the command figures and everything. This unit still causes me some grief, in retrospect – they were absolutely beautiful, but historically the regiment spent the entire Peninsular War in Britain and – more seriously – they threatened to encourage me to expand my collection to cover Waterloo, with two distinct types of light dragoons and so on. So I sold them on eBay a few years ago, and they went for the starting bid, which was a major heart breaker - not entirely because I am a skinflint, but because I loved them and was insulted.
In this vein, one unit which has always intrigued me is the Regimiento de la Muerte, one of the Spanish “new regiments” raised after the French invasion. These guys appear in just about every known book of uniforms for the Peninsular War, the early use of a British looking uniform is notable, and they became such an iconic Spanish unit (beginning at a time when relatively little was known about that army - by me, certainly) that a lot of tabletop Spanish armies had them. Bueno did a few illustrations of them, though I’m not sure why they have such prominence - Douglas Miniatures, in particular, had only three Spanish Napoleonic figures – a classic line grenadier, with bearskin, and a fusilero and officer of the “Death Regt”. The Death boys will paint up as 1812 blue-uniformed chaps, so they are useful anyway.
I have recently chanced upon a small additional supply of 1812-style S-Range Spaniards, which is very pleasing, and one possibility was that they could be painted up as the Muerte, and thus swell the ranks of my 1809 army, since my 1812 army is probably quite large enough. Problem is that my OOB is based on the battles of Ucles and (a bit) Ocaña, and Muerte were not at either of these places. Out of general interest, I thought I’d check out my JJ Sañudo database, and see what the facts are for Muerte.
|Funcken: Who's the guy in the middle, then?|
Well now. First thing to note is that their full name was Voluntarios de la Muerte o Victoria, they were raised in 1809, and disbanded 18 months later, and the second thing is that there was a completely different, much more famous light infantry unit named the Voluntarios de la Victoria (this is Volunteers of Victory – nothing at all to do with the city of Vitoria) who were featured in the old S-Range catalogue (SN7s, complete with brimmed hat) and had a long and distinguished war record right through to Toulouse in 1814.
|Clonard plate: Left to Right: Voluntarios de la Patria, Leales de Fernando VII,|
Santa Fe, La Muerte, Voluntarios de la Victoria
So what of the iconic Muerte, so well known to wargamers? Since it is not lengthy, and might be of interest, this is their full regimental history:
30 Jan 1809 - Single-battalion unit of line infantry raised by D. Francisco Colombo
18 Mar – present at action of Villafranca
20 Mar – official army return describes them as “Regto de la Victoria”, 1 battalion, strength 500 men, under “Capitan” Colombo
22 Mar – 500 men, under Colombo, present at action of Pontevedra
23 Mar – At Vigo, in Galicia – regt formed into 3 battalions, totalling 1000 men; these were built around 1 company of the “Regto de la Victoria”, 1 company of the line Regto de Zamora and 1 company of the Granaderos Provinciales de Galicia, with a substantial intake of volunteer recruits
24 Apr – Action of Santiago; regiment listed as “Regimiento de la Muerte”, consisting of 3 battalions.
26 Apr – at Caldas de Reyes
2 May – attached to La Carrera’s Division on the Miño, at a strength of 1 battalion [where were the rest?]
June – at the Siege of Tuy
7 Jun – 1 battalion present at Battle of Puente Sampayo, with Noroña’s Divn.
30 Jun – return has “Regto de la Victoria o Muerte” at a strength of 1725 men, which seems unlikely.
3 Jul - …they are once again “de la Muerte”, commanded by Colombo.
18 Oct – Battle of Tomames, 1 battalion with the Vanguard Divn, commanded by Mariscal de Campo Martin de la Carrera – 1 killed, 5 wounded, 1 slightly wounded(?).
23 Nov – Action of Medina del Campo, with La Carrera’s Vanguard Divn.
28 Nov – Battle of Alba de Tormes – 148 men present with La Carrera’s Divn.
18 Dec – Regimental cadre(?) marched to Galicia; 135 men transferred to 1st Voluntarios de Cataluña [which is, in fact, one of the units in my Ucles OOB army].
5 Feb 1810 – Possible that 1st Vols de Cataluña present at defence of Badajoz.
15 Jun – 1 battalion in Galicia, with Imaz’s “Vanguardia Provisional” division.
1 Jul – regiment disbanded – remaining strength absorbed by the Regimiento de Lobera.
And that, it seems, was that. It would appear that the battalions served separately, and their war service was brief but active – the numbers seem to have fluctuated wildly, though this may just be dodgy record keeping, and I would guess that the bulk of the men in the ranks had little training or experience. I have no wish to disapprove of anyone who served in defence of his native land, but the unit seems to be notable primarily because plates of their uniform survive rather than as a result of any particularly distinguished combat record. I shan’t bother adding them to my 1809 line-up – not least because they didn’t exist until some months after my target OOB.
I find Sañudo’s database a veritable goldmine of information – a great find.