Monday, June 18, 2018

Napoleonic Portuguese

Last February, for my birthday I treated myself to a big order of 1/72 Portuguese Napoleonics from Hagen Miniatures. At some point I realized that if I was going to fight my way through the Peninsular battles I would need more than just the French and Spanish armies that I had laboriously built up over the past few years.
I had already embarked upon a fledgling British army, but as any student of the  Peninsular Wars knows, a full third of Wellington's army were Portuguese regiments. By all accounts the Portuguese army was in a pretty sorry state by the time the first British troops arrived in Portugal as years of inactivity and nepotism had left them ill- equipped to challenge the invasion of their country by Napoleon's forces.
But soon after their arrival the British, with some understandable resistance by their Portuguese hosts, began to reorganize their army along the British model. This task was allocated to Beresford, a mediocre British fighting general who proved himself remarkably up to the task. Early on much of the Portuguese officer class dead wood was stripped away, elderly and ineffective generals pensioned off and younger more competent officers promoted. But more significantly, a large number of British officers were drafted into the Portuguese army, with the offer of a one level rank increase for their services. A system was set up for the higher ranks built on the principal that if a Portuguese officer was in a position of command the officers immediately above and below them were English and vice versa.
Under this reorganization the Portuguese forces were rapidly brought up to a high level of competency and deported themselves with honour and pride throughout the remainder of the war, with the possible exception of the cavalry who always performed with mixed effectiveness and were never integrated into the British army to the same degree. However the infantry and artillery regiments  were thoroughly integrated into Wellington's army, typically one Portuguese brigade paired with two British in each division, with the divisions always under command of an English general.

Anyone who has looked for 1/72 Portuguese Napoleonic miniatures knows that options are limited, the only figures available in plastic that I'm aware of being a set of mixed cazadores and infantry by Emhar. The figures are well enough done, but I find the Emhar detailing too lightly defined and the poses too wooden to be that appealing. I had already seen some beautifully sculpted  Spanish cavalry in metal on the Hagen site which I had been coveting and had discovered a really nice range of Portuguese figures so I put in an order for a modest-sized force, enough for three or four brigades of infantry, a brigade of cavalry and three batteries of artillery for the AoEII ruleset we use in our group - about 130 or 140 figures in total.
For the infantry I decided to paint them up with regiments representing each of the three traditional Portuguese divisions, with each division having its own colour carried on the turnbacks (yellow for the north, white for central and red for the south based on the recruiting areas for each regiment). A full chart for the Portuguese infantry uniform colours can be found here
The Hagen figures are modeled with the stovepipe style 1810 shako, and I elected to paint them with a mixture of the winter and summer dress, which translates simply to either blue or white trousers.  Some of the figures were modelled as NCO's, which the Osprey books indicate would have yellow braid epaulettes as were their sword sashes. Officers wore gold epaulettes and red waist sashes, the  sashes often with silver tassels. Cavalry and artillery also wore the same regional divisional colours on turnbacks with regimental colours on piping and cuffs.
All the flags came from Warflags and there is good flag information on that site.

Further reading on the Napoleonic Portuguese army:
Nafziger's Armies of Spain and Portugal 1808-1814
Oman's Wellington's Army 1809-1814
My modest Portuguese army, four brigades of infantry, one of cavalry and three batteries of artillery.

5th Cavalry Regiment (Evora) I added a flag-bearing arm on the standard bearer and some epaulettes and sash on the commander. The horses in this set were full of life but a bit large, requiring a bigger base than normal to accommodate. The figures came with alternate heads wearing shakos, perhaps more appropriate for the later years when the British were there but I liked the leather helmets so stayed with those.

8th Regiment (Castelo de Vide). I opted for the King's colours on some (such as this regiment) and the regimental colours for others. I believe every regiment would traditionally have carried both, the first carrying King's colours and the second battalion regimental colours.

12th Regiment (Chaves) with regimental colours (the colour corresponded with the regional division colour).

2nd Regiment (Lagos) with regimental colours.

4th Regiment (Freire) with King's colours.

Command stand and casualty. I had ordered the Hagen command set but in the end only used these two figures, converting the other two to British officers (see previous post). In the AoEII level of game I only need divisional commanders who were almost exclusively British in Wellington's army.

Artillery with the south divisional colours. Each cannon came with six figures so I ended up with a lot of extra artillery figures which I am converting to British!


  1. You have achieved a really nice look with these Bill, subtle, understated, yet distinct details -a difficult feat to pull off. Very nice.

    I have some metal figures (my guard foot artillery come from their extensive range) but I haven’t tried them yet. Did you find you needed to change any techniques from painting plastic to metal?

  2. Great looking figures, any cacadores on the cards?

  3. Eventually, I expect. Maybe my birthday present next year!