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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Staff Department - Interim Report

With a couple of Real Life interruptions, my recent run of French staff figures coming off the painting production line has slowed to something of a stagger, but I'm getting organised again today.

Some of the figures waiting to be painted. These are all Art Miniaturen and
Hagen, I think. You really can't get these French chaps to form an orderly queue.
There are quite a lot of figures to paint, so some kind of order in the queue is needed, and also I have some research to carry out to check on uniform details and so on. The new House Standing Order, I remind myself (and anyone else who is interested), is that Brigade Commanders are to be based on their own (on a 30x45mm base), Division Commanders are now to be upgraded to a group of 2 (the man himself plus an ADC, on one of the 50x50 bases which were previously the correct issue for Army Commanders) and Army Commanders are to be based with 2 support staff on a new size base - 60x60 - which is really not completely new here but is borrowed from my ECW army system (I have dozens of spare bases this size).

The next things to pick off, then, are some ADCs for 3 of the Division Commanders of my Armée de Portugal (Messrs Foy, Clauzel and Maucune, who will have to be rebased accordingly, with maybe a slight cosmetic makeover), and a replacement for my current Marshal Marmont, complete with a couple of new ADCs for him. The present Marmont will reappear later as a Division Commander, identity to be confirmed - all I need to do for that is change the border colour on the base (blue to white, in fact) and allocate a new catalogue number.

One associated task will be to replace some of my old S-Range French generals with more modern castings - these will mostly be NapoleoN, Art Miniaturen and Hagen figures. This is not because of any unfair prejudice against the older figures - they will certainly stay around to fill in any odd staff jobs that crop up - but the new support staff are from these makers, and the more modern sculpts do not make a comfortable group with S-Rangers - something about conflicting visions of the human form, I think, but my past experiments of putting a mixture of Old School and more modern 20mm figures into combined personality groups have not been wonderfully successful. Anyway, it's something else to think about.

Suitably demure figures for the new Marmont and his chums. No, they are not drunk - I
am having a lot of trouble getting BluTack to keep still - it seems to creep about and change shape
in the night.
Unusually, I think, I am something of a fan of Auguste Marmont, a character the mention of whose name normally produces abusive hostility. Let us not get into that - as resident commander of a large portion of my French Peninsular War army he deserves a little respect - in this house at least. From what I have read, Marmont liked things done by the book - I do not expect too much overdressing by the ADCs in his army, and the casting chosen for the new version of the man himself does not have furry shabraques or anything. All very calm and proper. [Digression Alert: Marmont, as I recall, decided to cut down on the waste and the self-indulgence in his new command in Spain, and one measure was a drastic reduction in the number of personal transport animals allowed for officers - the spare horses thus released were promptly drafted to help out with the terrible shortage of dragoon mounts. One interesting theory concerning the poor performance of Boyer's dragoon division at Salamanca is that a proportion of the horses had not been fully combat trained, and panicked under fire. Feel free to mock or take notes, as you wish.]

If I am to paint up two completely fresh ADCs for the Marshal, I reckoned it would be a nice touch if they were approximately correct in dress. One immediate source for checking this stuff is the biography of Captain Parquin, who was attached to the bodyguard of Marshal Marmont at the time of Salamanca. Parquin is noted for his love of a good story, and a good few fibs creep into accounts of what he saw and whom he spoke to (and what was said, for that matter), but there are a lot of precious gems in there. Having unscrambled Parquin's recollection of the spelling of the names, I sat down with my Martinien volume of officer casualties (plus a slightly clunky but invaluable Windows database system of the same material produced by a French genealogy firm) and various other odds and ends (notably Google), and found that Marmont's ADC's in Summer 1812 included Col. Richement, Capt. Fabvier, Lt. Périgault de la Chaix (possibly seconded from 118e Ligne, which was in Bonet's Divn) and Lt. Lancelot-Meunier (who appears to be from the 15e Chasseurs à Cheval) - there may have been others, obviously, but this will do to be going on with. Fabvier was unfortunate enough to be sent to carry news of the Salamanca catastrophe to Napoleon in Russia, where he arrived just in time to be wounded at Borodino - lucky white heather, anyone?

One snag I have is that the available ADC figures (and I have quite a wide choice) invariably have subaltern's epaulettes, so Marmont will have two sous-lieutenants at his beck and call. One will be in dead straight ADC regulation dress, the other - hmmm - the other might just be a Chasseurs à Cheval officer - we'll see how it goes.

More of this soon, I hope.

In passing, I must once again express my enthusiasm for Robert Burnham's wonderful book about the French cavalry in Spain, Charging against Wellington, which is the most fantastic collection of data and narrative - one of my favourite books about the period - I can get lost in that for hours, sometimes days. Yesterday I was checking out just why the 20e Chasseurs were in Spain (Parquin's unit) - it seems they contributed a couple of squadrons to the 2nd Provisional Cavalry Regt (for a while brigaded under that formidable head-banger Fournier-Sarlovèze - famed as the original of the crazed Harvey Keitel character in The Duellists). While reminding myself of this, of course, I was distracted in all sorts of directions - this book is lethal.

If you don't have it, and are interested in the nuts and bolts of who and what the French cavalry were in Spain, and in everything they did, you can pick up used copies of this book at very cheap prices. I have no vested interested in this, by the way, so don't tell them I sent you.


  1. Based on your recommendation, Charging against Wellington is add to my Wish List. Sounds like a book that I would enjoy and perhaps provide motivation for getting my own Peninsular War back onto the gaming table. Maybe even adding another unit to the collection. It has been a long time since a 28mm Napoleonic unit has crossed my painting desk.

    As for your commander basing scheme, seems completely reasonable to me since I follow a similar pattern.

  2. I think naval and military have it.