|Dionisio Alvarez Cueto's excellent depiction of a Spanish soldier at Talavera in the Bourbon white uniform|
As I am about to start work on the Spanish forces at Talavera, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the Spanish army of this period and the time leading up to it.
When looking at modelling the Spanish forces, the time period can be quite informative as the Spanish uniform, if it could be called that, was in a massive state of flux with the problems caused by the destruction of bases and magazines and the means to keep an army supplied with arms. ammunition and food, let alone uniforms.
The state of dress for the Spanish seems to go through three loosely defined periods, with the early war (1808-09) seeing the period when the original Bourbon Royal uniform could be seen on the battlefield, together with some more exotic examples of, very often, French inspired dress. The mid war (1810-11) when the remnants of Bourbon uniform became mixed with French and British uniforms together with traditional peasant clothes that the recruits turned up in; and the late war period (1812-14) starts to see the impact of British supplies with units able to adopt a more uniform appearance, and with the French bell topped shako look still popular with some.
I use the term "loosely" because the ability to identify the dress of specific units at specific times is limited; and I see numerous questions on forums asking about the dress of Spanish troops at such and such period. A lot of the time we are left to best or educated guess work, and I will be working to those norms as well. In addition to the changing appearance of Spanish troops the unit organisations would also see change, with British and French systems being adopted with a similar level of variability.
With the popular uprising against the French in Madrid on the 2nd of May 1808, the French found themselves with too few troops to control and hold the whole country. In the turbulent months that followed, with the collapse of the Spanish government, many regional junta's were formed in areas free of French occupation.
With the eviction of French forces from Madrid later that year, the Central or Supreme Junta was formed to coordinate the fight against the French. Initially it enjoyed the confidence and cooperation from the provincial juntas, but the reoccupation of Madrid by Napoleon forced it to flee to Seville and from there it failed to fully exert its previous authority over the others.
With little central control each junta started to raise an army to fight the French which, when combined with the lack of coordination and the petty regional jealousies, often led these early attempts at resistance to regular defeat. However these ad hoc Spanish forces, though defeated and dispersed into the many mountain ranges in Spain, never capitulated and quickly and enthusiastically rallied around the hard core of regulars; with other conscripts and volunteers quickly replacing those lost to the enemy or who joined the guerrilla bands.
This resilience to defeat and a determination to take the war to the French convinced the British government to act in their support.
The regular Spanish army had been consistently neglected in the years before 1807. Organised much like other western- European armies of the late 18th century, in 1808 it consisted of 137,000 men including 30,000 militia.
|Line & some Militia Fusiliers|
|Spanish Light Infantry|
|Spanish Heavy Cavalry|
|Spanish Foot Artillery|
|Many militia units are recorded as being in brown clothing|
rather than the regulation white with red facings
The Army of Estremadura that fought at Talavera was made up of troops from four sources. The first group came from the army that was thoroughly beaten at the battle of Gamonal near Burgos in November 1808 as part of Napoleon's personally led invasion campaign.
Spanish Army of Estremadura
Battle of Burgos/Gamonal
l0th November l808
Commanding General: General Blake (absent?)
Interum Commanding Officer: Mariscal de campo Conde Belveder
lst Division: General de Alos
4/Spanish Guard Regiment (980)
Provincial Grenadiers of Estremadura (l/2 bn)(500)
l/,2/Majorca Infantry Regiment (2)(l,460)
2nd de Cataluña (l,050)
Tiradores (Sharpshooters) (l coy)(170)
Voluntarios de España Cavalry Regiment (3)(360)
Horse Battery (4 guns)(62 men)
Sappers (l/2 bn)(254 men)
2nd Division: General Henestrosa
4/Walloon Guard Regiment (300)
l/,2/Volunteers of Badajoz (2)(l,475)
Sappers & Miners (254)
lst Hussar Regiment (3)(298)
2nd Horse Battery (6 guns)(92 men)
2nd Hussar Regiment (Lusitania) (300)
Batallon de escolares de Benavente (500)
Provincial de Tuy (l)(450)
Foot Battery (4 guns)(30)
|Battle of Gamonal - 10th November 1808|
Battle of Burgos/Gamonal 1808
The second part came from the remains of the small army led by General San Juan, that had vainly attempted to prevent Napoleon's march on Madrid at Somisierra, the General being lynched for suspected treason by his routing army.
|Charge of the Polish Light Horse at Somosierra Pass|
Spanish Forces Defending Somosierra
Army of the Reserve
lst Voluntarios de Madrid (l,500)
2nd Voluntarios de Madrid (l,500)
Guardias Walonas (500)
Jaen Infantry Regiment (2)l,300)
l/,3/Corona Infantry Regiment (2)(l,039)
Cordoba Infantry Regiment (l,300)
Badajoz Infantry Regiment (566)
l/,3/Irlanda Infantry Regiment (2)(l,l86)
Reyna Infantry Regiment (2)(927)
Provincial de Toledo (500)
Provincial de Alcazar (400)
3/Voluntarios de Sebilla (400)
Principe Cavalry Regiment (2)(200)
Alcantara Cavalry Regiment (l00)
Montesa Cavalry Regiment (l00)
Voluntarios de Madrid Cavalry Regiment (2)(200)
Artillery (22 guns, 200 gunners)
In time I aim to put the whole army together, but initially I propose to start with units that played a significant role in the Battle of Talavera. I have put together an order of battle with notes on the units, with a particular focus on, in bold, the units I will model first. My notes determine what the unit is, which will generally define the look of the unit with, line infantry in Bourbon pre 1808 uniform, light infantry in the pre 1808 blue uniform illustrated above, etc My first battalion of line infantry will have half the battalion as grenadiers to represent the regimental grenadier component. For more information on the look of these units follow the link at the bottom for a PDF of information.
The two divisions, 3rd and 5th, will show the look of most of the infantry and the selected cavalry units will do their bit to add plenty of colour to my allied army and include the more active components of the Spanish forces at Talavera.
Spanish Army of Estremadura (Battalions & Squadrons)
Commanding General: Lieutenant-General de la Cuesta
Second in Command: Lieutenant-General de Eguia
Major-General of Infantry: Major-General de Alos
Major-General of Cavalry: Major-General de Villalba
Artillery Commander: Brigadier-General Rodrigues
Engineer Commander: Brigadier-General Zappino
|Day dress uniform for a Spanish Lieutenant General|
Illustration - Jose Maria Bueno
2nd Volunteers of Catalonia - Light Infantry
2/Cazadores de Barbastro (l) - Light Infantry
Cazadores de Campo-Mayor (l) - Light Infantry
Cazadores de Valencie y Albuquerque (l) - Light Infantry in kilts
2/Cazadores Voluntarios de Valencia (l) - Light Infantry in green jacket, pants, dolman with helmet
|Catalonian Light Infantry|
Cantabria Infantry Regiment (3) - Line Infantry
Granaderos Provinciales (l) - Militia Grenadier
Canarias Infantry Regiment (l) - Militia Infantry
Tiradores de Merida (l) - Light Infantry in Shakos
Provincial de Truxillo (l) - Militia Infantry
2nd Division: Major-General Iglesias
2nd Majorca Infantry Regiment (l) - Militia Infantry
Velez-Malaga Infantry Regiment (3) - Line Infantry
Osuna Infantry Regiment (2) - Volunteer Line Infantry
Voluntarios Estrangeros (l) - Volunteer Line Infantry
Provincial de Burgos (l) - Militia Infantry
|Officer & Grenadier of the Imperial de Toledo Regt|
3rd Division: Major-General Marquis de PortagoBajadoz Infantry Regiment (2) - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Antequera Infantry Regiment (l) - Volunteer Light Infantry in Shakos
Imperial de Toledo (l) - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
Provincial de Badajoz (l) - Militia Infantry
Provincial de Guadix (l) - Militia Infantry
|Officer of the Irlanda Infantry Regiment|
Irlanda Infantry Regiment (2) - Line Infantry (Foreign Regiment in Blue Coats)
Jaen Infantry Regiment (2) - Line Infantry
3rd Seville Infantry Regiment (l) - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
l/Leales de Fernando VII (l) - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
2nd Volunteers of Madrid (l) - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
Voluntarios de la Corona (l) - Line Infantry
|Officer & Fusilier of the 3rd Seville Infantry Regiment|
Real Marina, lst Infantry Regiment (2) - Line Infantry
3/Africa Infantry Regiment - Line Infantry
Murcia Infantry Regiment (2) - Line Infantry
l/Reyna Infantry Regiment - Line Infantry
Provincial de Siguenza (l) - Militia Infantry
Standard Bearer and Fusilier of the 2nd Volunteers of Madrid.
I am going to have to get that Colour made to order
lst Division: Lieutenant-General de Henestrosa
Rey Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line
Calatrava Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line
Voluntarios de Espana - Regular Cazadores
Cazadores de Seville - Volunteer Cazadores
Reyna Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line
Villaviciosa Cavalry Regiment - Regular Dragoon
Cazadores de Madrid - Volunteer Cazadores
Carabineros Reals (l) - Regular Line
Infante Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line
Alcantara Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line
Pavia Cavalry Regiment - Regular Dragoon
Almanza Cavalry Regiment - Regular Dragoon
lst Hussars of Estremadura - Volunteer Hussars (Blue coat, scarlet breeches & pelisse, green hanging cloth on colpack)
2nd Hussars of Estremadura - Volunteer Hussars
|Cazadore Light Cavalry|
4l Infantry Battalions (28,000)
2 Cavalry Divisions (6,000)
Artillery (30 guns)(800)
1 battery of 6 x 12lbr
1 battery of 8 x 8lbr
2 batteries of 6 x 8lbr
1 battery of 4 x 4lbr horse artillery
The Spanish army of the Napoleonic period poses a lot of challenges to the wargamer looking to capture the look of these troops, and we are often forced to make decisions based on incomplete information. That together with the overall poor battle performance probably puts some off from playing them.
Personally I think they are a fantastic looking army with the variety and mixture of dress adding to the feast for the eyes. The performance and rating of the troops makes playing them well, a real challenge to wargame, but again I think that adds to the attraction. Some Spanish units performed extraordinarily well and occasionally their armies were able to defeat French armies in open battle. Part of the attraction for me will be to randomise the quality of these troops so you are never sure which Spanish army has turned up, and I can't wait to have them out on the table.
There are more sources than ever available about the Spanish armies of this period. My own list is not exhaustive and a simple search on the net will reveal plenty of others.
Sources, among others, I have used include:
The Osprey Men at Arms series 321, 332 and 334 by Rene Chartrand & Bill Younghusband
The Armies of Spain & Portugal 1808-14, G.F. Nafziger
Osprey Campaign 253 - Talavera 1809
Talavera - Wellington's First Victory, Andrew W Field
Great Battles of History Refought, Talavera - Richard Partridge & Mike Oliver
The Spanish Ulcer - David Gates
The Peninsular War Atlas - Nick Liscombe
The following is not my information and I can't find the blog to attribute it to, so I have put it on a PDF for others to use and I've added illustrations from my own research. If you know who put this together let me know and I will attribute it appropriately.
Next up the 1st Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment.
Next up the 1st Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment.