My latest project is the Spanish army for the beginning of the Peninsular war in 1808-09. These are the soldiers that rose against the French occupation, shattered the myth of French invincibility at Bailen, and defended their towns and cities in merciless house to house combat in countless sieges. Despite the ineptitude of the aristocratic officer corps, the savage infighting of their military juntas, and the chronic lack of training, arms, equipment and food, the armies of Spain rose time after time and fought the soldiers of the Emperor – almost invariably suffering catastrophic losses and humiliating defeats.
To field the Spanish armies in the wargaming field of honor takes a special kind of gentleman wargamer – a soul who is ready to accept countless defeats in anticipation of the one day when his opponent makes a deadly mistake, loses the battle and gives the Spanish commander eternal glory and bragging rights – “I was there when history was made on don Crispianos day, and the Spanish won!”.
In this first part of my ramblings about the Spanish army I will concentrate on the infantry. The uniforms of the army were even at this early stage in somewhat of a mixed state as the regulations had changed several times in the early years of the 1800s. The regulation uniform for this period was white for the line regiments and provincial militia units. The light infantry wore blue, although some units still wore an earlier green hussar-type uniform. During the war the uniforms were increasingly non-uniform, with brown local cloth being popular raw material. All this variety suits my style very well, as I like my units in trashy campaign gear.
For my 15 mm army I chose figures from Battle Honours, with a scattering of Old Glory and Naismith thrown in for variety. The Battle Honours figures come from the talented hands of Anthony Barton, and have his distinct style, but are smaller than the current crop of 18+ mm figures. I ordered the figures from the good people at Timecast Models, who distribute 15 mm Battle Honours and Old Glory in the UK, and delivery reliably to Finland.
I painted some light infantry battalions in the early green uniform. The majority of the figures in this battalion are from the Battle Honours pack BSP5. The heroic officer with a red sash is from the BH guerilla pack BSP6. The officer on the right is an Old Glory fellow. A number of other guerilla figures were added to have a suitably skirmishy feel to the unit.
The Spanish guards units had blue coats and trousers. As I was going for a campaign look, only one of these Walloon guards has his dress trousers on, the rest have made with whatever was available.
I wanted to make the rest of the infantry visually representative of the quality and state of the unit. In reality the Spanish were not just a rabble of peons itching to take off their uniforms and bolt away to loot the british baggage train. There were actually quite a few instances where the Spanish fought with great courage and determination, especially in this early period of the war. I chose to have three basic schemes for the infantry: Almost uniform white battalions, mixed white-blue-brown battalions, and almost brown battalions with the greatest variety of figure poses and uniforms. Most of the figures are from BH packs BSP1, 2 and 3. All the BH packs have a large number of grenadier figures in them, and have almost the same line infantry figures in them – just the ratio of standing/firing/advancing seems to change.
The white battalions have all the figures in the white coats with uniform regimental lapels and cuffs. I tried to have the figures in fairly similar poses, most of the battalion either standing or advancing. These units represent the regular regiments of the army with good morale and decent equipment.
The mixed battalions have a variety of uniforms, including the blue coats that the line infantry wore for a short time before switching back to white (or perhaps they are wearing French booty).
The greatest variety of figures is reserved for the freshly raised, ill-equipped and poorly trained battalions that made up a large part of the Spanish army. I used quite a few figures from the BSP6 Guerilla pack for these battalions, and very few white bits of uniform. There are also top-hat wearing Old Glory figures in these units.
You might notice that I’ve switched painting styles half-way into the project. The white battalion belongs to the new bunch, where I use a white base coat, block in the main colours and then use an Army Painter dip to bring out the details. Very fast and good results. The other battalions were done with dark base coat and two or three tone colour build up.
If you want to read more about these, I can recommend the Osprey uniform books and the excellent Peninsular Atlas for a good overview of the war and scenario material.
The Peninsular War Atlas
Spanish Army of the Napoleonic Wars: 1793-1808 v. 1 (Men-at-arms)
Spanish Army of the Napoleonic Wars: 1808-12 v. 2 (Men-at-arms)
Anonymous January 27, 2013 at 22:21
Sir, my congratulations on this fine project ! Let me suggest this book: The Spanish Army in the Peninsular War by Charles J. Esdaile, recently reprinted at Caliver Books for GBP 36.50.Reply
I will build my Spanish Army in 25/28mm, including guerillas also to be used in the First Carlist War.
JanneL February 17, 2013 at 20:42
Common courtesy prevents me from saying what I think about those ruffians at Caliver Books but it is safe to say I for one will never again conduct any kind of transactions, be they personal or business, with them any more.Reply
Jonathan Jones March 23, 2013 at 14:08
Excellent work, I have my three battalions of Fantassin awaiting the paint and I feel inspired. Well doneReply
1808 Spanish Napoleonic Cavalry | GeMiGaBoK April 22, 2013 at 13:06
[…] years of the Peninsular War, and I hope you find these notes useful. You can read about my infantry here, this post is a brief note about the cavalry figures I’ve used. The paintwork is still […]Reply
More Spanish infantry | GeMiGaBoK July 24, 2013 at 19:09
[…] for our club, and this has been a great opportunity to grow the ranks of my Spanish army. In my earlier posts I’ve shown pics of the units built around the excellent Battle Honours figures by Tony […]Reply