Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Portuguese Caçadores

I decided recently to add a battalion of Portuguese Caçadores to my Portuguese contingent of Wellington's army, light troops that fought with distinction alongside the British throughout the Peninsular campaign.
There are not many good sets of these available in 1/72. Emhar makes a set of Caçadores and infantry mixed, but I find the poses a bit stiff, the detail too lightly defined and the Caçadores in this set wear the earlier shako, similar to the British Belgic shako, which was quickly replaced with the stovepipe. There are some very fine Caçadore metal figures available through Hagen (from whom I purchased my Portuguese line infantry) but I needed them sooner than a trans-Atlantic order would take.
So I took a hard look at my HaT Peninsular British and decided they they would not be a difficult conversion. The biggest issue was the backpack and canteen - I could find no good reference for the packs and kit these troops used, and the Osprey images, as so often is the case, stubbornly show only the front of the figure. Then I had a "Eureka" moment, finding elsewhere in the Osprey book the image below, a period illustration showing Caçadores (Voluntarios Reales do Principe, formed in 1815) as they appeared in Brazil in 1815-16. Clearly shown is the British style backpack and canteen and notes indicated that the canteen was green. Whether this was the case with the earlier Caçadores, I don't know, but I elected to move ahead basing them on this information.

Caçadores in Brazil 1815-16 with British-style equipment.

The only conversions were to carve the lace off the cuff, give the cuff a point, alter the shoulder tufts into wings and, as a conceit, give them all moustaches.
 I was happy with the results but you can judge for yourself.

A bit of history...

6th Caçadores, 1811. Although this image shows the soldier with an ammunition pouch at the belt, the illustration of Caçadores above and show them with strapped ammunition pouches worn British style.
The Caçadores (Portuguese for "hunters") were established in 1808 in order to give the Portuguese army, in the process of being reorganized, a light infantry contingent. The previous light troops, The Legion of Light Troops had been disbanded in 1807 and most of the men drafted into the French Portuguese Legion.
The first six battalions were authorized on October 14, 1808, with each battalion attached to a Portuguese city, as was the case with Portuguese line infantry. On 20 April, 1811 six more battalions were added to the Caçadores.
The Caçadores were trained in British light infantry tactics and over time gained a reputation as daring elite troops, fighting with distinction in Wellington's army throughout the Peninsular War.
The 6th Battalion, which these figures are based on, was located at Vila Real, fought at Busaco in 1810, Fuentes d'Orno and Arroyo dos Molinos in 1811, Alamaraz and Vitoria in 1812 and Nivelle in 1813.
6th Caçadores

6th Caçadores in skirmish formation. I based these on magnetic bases so they could do double duty is stands four up and skirmishers two up.

Command stand. The officer is an altered Hagen Line Infantry figure, based on the officer in the Osprey book.

Command stand

Caçadore stand.Conversions were adding a pointed cuff and changing shoulder tufts to wings.

Rear view.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Battle of Roliça, August 17th, 1808

There are a number of Peninsular battles that I have wanted to try out that are for the most part better suited to a battalion level game rather than the brigade level Age of Eagles II rules that I have been playing. Roliça is one of those, essentially a division per side although the British outnumber the French by a considerable amount. This however is counter-balanced by the victory conditions, which give the British a fairly short time to achieve their objectives and the French two positions, one very strong, from which to thwart them.
Historically Delaborde was essentially fighting a delaying action until French reinforcements could arrive from Abrantes. Wellesley, knowing this, opted to attack without delay when he saw Delacorde taking up his positions on the high ground adjacent to the village of Roliça. When Delaborde saw that the British were attempting to outflank him he adroitly retreated to his second position on a ridge further south, steep and assailable on only narrow fronts.

This scenario was played on a 6' X 9' table using 1/72 scale miniatures. Brian North and I played with Brian's home grown rules and based the scenario on one which can be found here on JJ's Wargames. This game gave me the opportunity to trot out all of my newly painted British along with the red-coated Swiss and my Portuguese Caçadores done especially for this scenario. We only got through the first half but will reconvene for the battle for the ridge sometime in March.

1.The British advance on Roliça

The British advance on Delaborde’s first position adjacent to the village of Roliça. The French Line (1/70th and 2/70th) along with a couple of companies of the 4th Swiss and the 26th Chausseurs (out of picture bottom right), under the direct command of Delaborde occupy the high ground west of the village while the two battalions of Legér are massed in and around Roliça under the command of General de Brigade Brennier.
The British advance with Hill’s brigade on the right (bottom - 1/5th, 1/9th and 1/38th), Nightingale’s centre (29th and 1/82nd) and Fane’s on the left (top) opposite Roliça. 
Crauford’s brigade (1/50th, 1/91st and 6th Caçadores) advances in reserve behind Nightingale along with the Allied horse (20th Light Dragoons and Portuguese cavalry).

2. The French lines as seen from the southern ridge

Delacorde has no intention of making his stand here, on the high ground next to Roliça (upper right) when he has a much stronger position on the ridge to the south (south of Columbeira, seen here lower left). His intention is only to delay the British long enough to allow the rest of the Army of Portugal to deploy across the front of the British march on Lisbon.

3. French right in Roliça

Brennier positions his troops in Roliça with one battalion of light infantry in skirmish formation in and around the village while the second waits in column to the rear.

4. Fane's brigade advances on Roliça

Fane’s Rifle companies (2/95th and 5/60th - here dressed as 95th!) advance on Roliça in skirmish formation while the 38th follows up.

5. British Rifles skirmish with Brennier's Léger

6. Wellesley surveys the battlefield

From the high ground north of Roliça Wellesley watches with satisfaction as his troops deploy in this, his first Peninsular battle.

7. Crauford and Nightingale in the British centre

8. Hill advances on the Roliça high ground

French and British skirmishers exchange fire as Hill’s three battalions advance with the hope of enveloping the French flank.

9. French cavalry driven off

Delaborde sees an opportunity to harass the British right and sends in his 26th Chauseurs under command of one of his ADC’s, but after driving in the Northumberland’s skirmishers, the British line forms up and sees them off smartly with a telling volley.

10. Fane's Rifles move in to seize the north side of Roliça

Meanwhile on the right Fane send in his Rifles to engage the French skirmishers scattered around Roliça and seize the northern most houses. The British gain a foothold in these houses and engage in skirmishing with the French who occupy the southern half of the village.

11. Overview

At the bottom Fane’s rifles skirmish with Bennier’s Legér around Roliça while (centre) Nightingale moves to force the French off the high ground with Crauford in reserve. The British cannon engage the French artillery which begins thinning Nightingale’s and Hill’s ranks.
At the very top (British right flank) Hill’s 5th sees off Delaborde’s cavalry after a failed attempt by the French horse to rattle the British flank.

12. British and Portuguese cavalry move to support right flank

Wellesley sends one of his ADC’s over to lead the 20th Light Dragoons (using Hussar stand-ins) and Portuguese horse against the French on the British right, before they can regroup and charge again while the 5th forms up to charge the two companies of Swiss (red coats in the hedgerow!) skirmishing on their flank and holding up Hill’s advance.

13. Hill and Nightingale push forward

As the British push forward Delaborde gradually withdraws his troops from the high ground. The French cannon fire continues to tell on the British lines, while a deadly skirmish battle rages between the two sides. 

14. Brennier's Legér abandon Roliça

As the troops on Brennier’s left fall back Brennier himself, (left side of picture), on the loosing end of the skirmish battle for Roliça, also begins to withdraw the two battalions under his command.  Fane throws the 45th and his Rifles into an assault on the town, hoping to drive out the Legér left behind as a rearguard, but the first attempt is driven off.

15. Allied cavalry drive off the 26th Chausseurs

The opposing cavalry clash on the British right  and again the 26th come out on the loosing end. Meanwhile the 5th (upper right) are spared having to rout out the 4th Swiss who, vastly outnumbered and seeing the British forming up for the charge, throw down their arms and surrender.

16. Overview

On the right side of the picture the French can be seen in full withdrawal from the British as they retreat to their second position on the ragged ridge south of Columbeira. Final rounds of the British cannon destroyed the French battery, so Delaborde will be fighting the next phase of the battle without artillery.
At the top centre Crauford assumes the lead from Nightigale’s tired troops, who shift left. Under a hail of small arms fire, the last of Brennier’s Legér still in Roliça bolt from the houses and rejoin their parent battalion, also in full withdrawal. Fane’s brigade regroups from its fighting for Roliça and hustles up on the British far left.
Hill also follows up on the British right, but more slowly, having taken the brunt of the French artillery fire, as his troops accept the surrender of the Swiss, bottom centre.

17. Wellesley watches as the French retreat from their first position towards the southern ridge

18. The last French bolt from the village

The French rearguard left in Roliço falls back upon its supports

19. French withdrawal

The distance between the French and British widens as Wellesley realigns his troops, throwing Crauford’s fresh troops into the advance in the centre.

20. Delaborde observes the withdrawal

21. British form up in preparation for the second phase

As the French retreat to the high ground of the steep ridge south of Columbeira, the British form up behind their skirmishers in attack columns in order to negotiate the narrow gullies that give access to the top of the ridge.

The aftermath of the first half saw both sides trading off equal casualties, mostly through skirmish and cannon fire as the French refused to be engaged in this forward position. Probably the French would have come out the better except for the loss of their Swiss, who surrendered en masse (as they did historically).

Part 2 to come when Brian returns to Canada in March to resume our battle. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Red-coated French - the Swiss 4th Infantry Regiment

As I was just coming off painting numerous battalions of British and had my red-coat-painting chops well-exercised I was eager to get this Swiss regiment on the table. As so often is the case, I was also inspired by the fact that my gaming buddy and fellow Peninsular War aficionado Brian North was going to be back in Canada (he lives in Europe so we have a trans-Atlantic gaming schedule) and we had agreed to play out the Battle of Roliça, where the 4th Swiss were present.
Out with the bottles of red again. Other than the colour of coat, which Napoleon allowed his Swiss mercenaries to retain in recognition of their - um - Swissness, the uniforms were essentially the same as French Line. 

A little history...

The intention originally was to raise six demi-brigades of Swiss following the occupation of Switzerland by French revolutionary forces in 1778 but this recruitment was less than successful. In 1805 Napoleon authorized the recruitment of a Swiss infantry regiment, and three more were created in October of 1807. All regiments fought well, in both Spain and Russia, their musketry so well-controlled that French general Merle remarked, "It was pity that the Swiss couldn't handle two muskets at once, if they could I would issue them."
In the Peninsula the Swiss fought in numerous battles, including the battle of Bailen where, with Dupont on the verge of defeat,  the Swiss battalions in Schramm's brigade famously deserted to their Swiss mercenary counterparts in the Spanish army! 

The 4th Regiment was engaged in the following battles in the Peninsula:
1808 - Lisbon, Alcolea, Obidos, Roliça and Vimeiro
1809- Chaves, Tuy and Oporto
1810 - Vallavoid

Saturday, December 29, 2018

95th Rifles (and magnetic skirmisher basing)

The entire unit, with bases of four at the back and individually based units in the foreground. Figures are 1/72 Italeri, a beautifully sculpted set. I read some criticism that they would not often have fought with the sword bayonets or forage caps, but I like the look of both. I originally cut off the sword bayonets in the individual figures but have left them on for the four mans stands.
I decided to add the 95th Rifles as my next addition to my growing British Peninsular War army. The British 95th Rifles don't need much introduction as they are a well known unit and much loved by wargamers. Up until now I hadn't really required them as the rule set I play is a brigade level game and the Rifles were generally parcelled out amongst the various brigades as extra skirmish troops, a company or two at a time. But I am moving towards gaming at a battalion level, especially for some of the smaller-sized Peninsular engagements and needed these in the mix as they fought throughout the Peninsular War in wellington's army.
My original intention was to base some on individual stands to act as skirmishers when required and others in group stands when I needed them in a more formal arrangement (march columns and line formations - rare for the Rifles but I believe they did fight in line on occasion). But I soon realized that this seemed an inordinate amount of figure painting as I needed to have duplicates for each unit, especially as I would need some skirmish units for all of my regiments in the future.
So I came up with the following basing scheme, probably not original to me but one that I think works very well. It allows for paired skirmish stands (which will work) and uses flexible magnet sheets purchased at a dollar store.
The only trick was pairing the magnets before I cut the top and bottom bases, as different magnets would sometimes offset the paired bases slightly through repulsion. As a result, I needed to number the base and its corresponding figures - not a big deal. I was happy with the result and am now in the process of converting the light company stands in all my existing regiments to this basing.
I thought other gamers might appreciate the idea.

Magnet basing. Two smaller stands paired with the larger four man stand. They needed to be paired before cutting and numbered as some magnets repulsed slightly, creating an offset.

Paired stands in skirmish formation. I think this still gives a good effect!

The command stand (a paired magnet stand, as all the four man stands are for my Rifles, allowing them to skirmish 100% - pretty seamless!) I love the front figure at right with his cradled rifle.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Portuguese Ox Carts

I was reading Oman's book on Wellington's army the other day, and he was going on at length about the ox carts hired by the British to move their supplies through Portugal and Spain. I have always loved these rustic vehicles - until recently they were still in use in the Azores (a place I visit often as it is where my partner is from). I remember distinctly the day I was sketching an ox cart in the small village of Sete Cidades when the woman of the house saw us, and, aghast that it had been left carelessly in the front yard, had her no-good son go out and put it way in the shed!
My ox cart sketch in Sete Cidades from 1990 - fortunately I had captured enough to finish it up before it was carted away!

I was telling a friend with an interest in wood-working (as well as Napoleonic history) about these carts and their solid wooden wheels, and he was a bit incredulous that iron age wheel technology was still being used in Napoleonic times, never mind today. I'm not sure why spoked wheels weren't traditionally used on these carts and can only think that, outside of the possible absence of wheel wrights, durability trumped lightness and speed on the rough paths that passed as roads in so much of the Iberian Peninsula.
On my most recent trip to the Azores I spotted one of these carts in the town square of Maia and photographed it. Mostly these carts are no longer in use, only coming out dolled up with decorations and brightly painted for festas and special events. But it was this cart that served as my guide for this model.

Ox cart in town square, Maia, Azores

Although typically they are now painted, I wasn't certain what the situation was in the early 1800's. I found a few contemporary paintings that seemed to show them unpainted or with only the wheels painted, and decided to go with the latter. (Searches for ox carts came up with litttle but a search using the Portuguese carroça de boi came up with lots, including this excellent article. )

During the Peninsula War the British army didn't have its own transport arm but rather depended upon local resources. This often meant employing the services of the Portuguese ox carts and their drivers, which were in abundance and well-suited to negotiate the Iberian landscape. Oman writes at length about this in his book, but this one description stuck with me and is probably worth repeating here:

Such stores as did move upon wheels, and not upon mule-back, were carried on Portuguese ox-waggons, to which Wellington was compelled to have recourse for want of better vehicles. These were very primitive structures—the sides of wicker work, the wheels made of solid circles of wood bounded with iron, turning axle and all, which made their grinding noise almost intolerable. The excruciating thrills caused to the ear by a train of such carts are mentioned with disgust by nearly every Peninsular diarist, on his first introduction to life at the front. The only advantages of ox-waggons were that they were light, easy to repair, and specially built for the bad roads of the country: moreover, every peasant knew how to drive them, or to mend them at a pinch. Their weak points were that they were intolerably slow—two miles an hour was a full allowance—and that they were too small to carry much. However, they had to serve for want of better vehicles—and the army could not have lived without their service. An immense amount of them were employed, some on regular and long terms of hire, as part of the permanent transport of the army, others in a more temporary way, by requisition from the district. These last were always difficult to manage; professional muleteers would not object to travel, but impressed peasants loathed quitting their own district, fearing that they might be taken far afield—perhaps into Spain—before they were released. They were always trying to abscond with their precious bullocks, abandoning the comparatively worthless cart and its stores. A picture of the sort may be taken from Hennegan’s lively narrative of a march in 1809, when he had to take an unwilling train of “embargoed” waggoners across the mountains of Northern Beira.

An illustration of the Portuguese ox cart from the time of the Peninsula War. The dog in this picture inspired the one in my build.

“Leaning on their oxen at nightfall, they contemplated in mute dismay on one side the gigantic hill which they had just descended, on the other the roaring torrent of the Douro, which in its impetuous course seemed to threaten with destruction the temerity that would brave its power. The Santa Marias of some were answered by the more emphatic carajos! of others, but even these died away before the necessities of the moment, and unyoking the oxen, to afford them the shelter of trees, the drivers spread their large cloaks in the empty sheds, and soon in sleep seemed to forget their disappointment. The poor men, taken from their homes for our service, risked in the loss of their oxen the only means of support for themselves and families.
“The following morning, however, presented a curious scene. There stood the wains, securely packed, but looking as if the earth had brought them forth, for no vestige remained of the means by which they had been brought to this lonely spot. The rumour of the proximity of the French had determined these Portuguese on sacrificing the wains, if only they could ensure the preservation of themselves and oxen. What was now to be done?”
Another contemporary illustration. Some carts had solid wooden wheels, others with some of the wood removed.

As a matter of fact, the non-plussed guardian of the deserted convoy had to remain motionless for many days, risking the possible arrival of the French, till at last he procured boats on the Douro, and shipped his charge down to Oporto. Hennegan’s peasants got away with their bullocks—he and his escort were evidently sleepy and unsuspecting: but often a good watch was kept on the teams, and sentries placed over them. In such cases, if the weather was bad, or the French too near, the drivers would often sacrifice even their loved beasts, and simply abscond themselves, abandoning their means of livelihood.
From Wellington's Army, by Charles Oman

If you are interested in more information on the logistics faced by Wellington in supplying his army, here are a couple of excellent online references:

The Duke of Wellington and the Supply System during the Peninsula War, by Troy T. Kirby

Wellington's Army, by Charles Oman

The Build

The build was surprisingly easy to do, done over a few sessions. Here is a step by step.
For the wheels I started with washers glued to a piece of styrene. The oxen began life as cows from the Pegasus farm animal set, with a bit of radical surgery, and shifting up of the heads of two that were in a grazing position. None had horns, so wire armatures were added.

I cut out the wheels and washers and then interior shapes similar to the wheels of the ox cart in the photo at top - the centre of the washer provided a nice guide! The bodies of the carts and tongues were cut from balsa wood and assembled.

The two oxen with altered heads were patched up and the horns shaped with two part modelling putty.

The yokes were roughly shaped with putty around wire armatures, with wires popped in to provide holes for the sticks that would be added later.

For stowage I had some barrels and boxes from my Italeri French supply wagon kit. These were supplemented with some sacks I fashioned from Fimo. On the cart I added some thick modelling compound on the wheel rims and wire sticks to give texture.

Here are the drivers, created, as with my previous Spanish ox drawn limbers, from HaT guerrilla figures. The one on the right has had his gun removed, a blanket added and one arm repositioned with a new sculpted hand so that he could carry a staff. The small dog is from the Pegasus set.
In the background can be seen the finished carts and two oxen with yoke, all waiting to be painted.

 And here are a few more photos of the finished models:


Ox carts unlimbered. I modelled the yoke so the carts could be slipped out, allowing me to use the ox teams in the future to pull some more Spanish gun limbers.