O'er the Hills Early Peninsular War Scenario Book

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Thursday, 7 May 2015

1st Vistula Legion Lancer Regiment, later the 7th Lancers


If you ask any student of the Peninsular War to name some famous cavalry units that come to mind, the Vistula Legion Lancers are bound to be included in the list. They would immortalise their part in the history of the war in company with the 2nd and 10th French hussars by the destruction of Colborne's British infantry brigade at Albuera in 1811; taking advantage of a fortuitous down pouring of rain that masked their approach and defeating any attempted defensive musketry as they took the 1/3rd (Buffs), 2/48th and 2/66th Foot in the flank, destroying the three battalions, with the 2/31st Foot just managing to form square and save itself, and almost turning the battle. However as the regiment took post at Talavera, all this lay in the future.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Albuera

The Vistula Legion was the second component of Polish troops that served in the Peninsular War, with the Legion infantry and lancers serving separately from the troops of the army of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.


The 1st Vistula Lancers entered Spain with the other units of the Legion in June 1808 with four squadrons and a strength of 717 men under the command of Colonel Jan Konopka as part of Marshal Lannes Corps that was sent to lay siege to Saragossa where Colonel Konopka was wounded.


In August 1808, following the Spanish victory over Dupont at Bailen and the eviction of Junot's Corps from Portugal,  Napoleon realised that the situation in Spain would require his personal attention and the army as a whole was reorganised for the second invasion. This reorganisation found the Vistula Lancers attached to III Corps under Marshal Moncey as part General Watier's cavalry brigade:


III Corps: Maréchal Moncey - 15th November 1808, source Oman.
Cavalry Brigade: Général de brigade Wathier
3/1st Provisional (13th) Cuirassier Regiment (7/101)
1st Provisional Hussar Regiment (24/237)
2nd Provisional Hussar Regiment (20/216)
Cavalerie de Marche (12/28l)
Polish Lancers (33/674)

III Corps played a leading role in Napoleon's assault on the River Ebro and the second siege of Saragossa in 1809.

January 1809 brought more changes in the organisation of the French forces with Napoleon realising his need to prepare for a coming war with Austria and the Vistula Lancers found themselves briefly attached to General Lasalle's Light Cavalry Division with the 9th Dragoons as part of Montbrun's cavalry brigade based at Talavera. However this new division only lasted a month as three of its generals left for service on the Danube with the Emperor between January and March and with Lasalle himself recalled in April.


In February 1809, the regiment was back under the command of General Watier as part of III Corps under General Junot, who replaced Marshal Moncey during the second siege of Saragossa on the 29th January 1809 seeing the city surrender, after an epic struggle, on the 20th February.

III Corps: Général de division Junot - 1st February 1809, source Oman.
Cavalry Brigade: Général de brigade Watier (1,652)
13th Cuirassier Regiment
4th Hussar Regiment
Polish Lancer Regiment
1st Provisional Hussar Regiment
1st Provisional Light Cavalry Regiment

In April 1809, the regiment was reassigned to General Ormancey's Light cavalry brigade part of Merlin's division in IV Corps commanded by the recently appointed General Horace Sebastiani and operating south of Madrid. It would be under this command that the regiment would be present at Talavera.

IV Corps: Général de division Sebastiani - 28th July 1809 at Talavera, source Oman
Cavalry Division: Général de brigade Merlin (1,188)
Brigade: Général de brigade Strolz
10th Chasseur à Cheval Regiment
26th Chasseur à Cheval Regiment
Brigade: Général de brigade Ormancey
Polish Lancer Regiment
Westphalian Chevauleger Regiment


The brigade commander, Colonel, Baron Francois Leon Ormancey was one of the older officers commanding in the army at 53 years old and would not be confirmed as a General de Brigade until the following year being the second oldest colonel to be promoted among all Peninsular cavalry generals. The average age of a newly promoted General de Brigade was 37 years old.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_L%C3%A9on_Ormancey

The regiment was in reserve to the division for most of the day briefly relocating in the afternoon to support French manoeuvres in the northern valley. They suffered casualties of just two wounded, reflecting their passive posture during the battle. They would certainly vent any frustration from their first meeting with the redcoats two years later, but that, as they say, is for another day.

Lancer dress, top right and sheepskin cloth,bottom right. Note the plain fronted Czapka, quite different from the GDW Uhlans

Trumpeter, top right, and the red and white lance pennon used in the Peninsular War bottom right
The illustrations above are from the excellent resource that is Histofig
http://empire.histofig.com/-Les-legions-polonaises,183-.html

My Vistula Lancers are composed of figures from AB using the Grand Duchy of Warsaw range of Uhlans. The Vistula Lancers portrayed by AB have them using pointed shabraques (saddle cloths) and the classic illustrations of the Lancers has them using French style sheepskin saddle cloths with yellow dogs teeth edgings, hence the recourse to using the Uhlan figures after removing the eagle badges from their Czapkas.


Next up, "Intellegence Officer in the Peninsula" - Book Review, Talavera - Attack on the Pajar de Vergara and the Westphalian Cheveau Legere.


Other sources consulted for this post;
Charging Against Wellington - The French Cavalry in the Peninsular War 1807-14, Robert Burnham
The Peninsular War Atlas, Colonel Nick Lipscombe
Sir Charles Oman's orders of battle

18 comments:

  1. Lovely Jonathan!
    My nephew is doing the 7th for the later period, I have to do 1 figure of them getting whacked over the head with a trumpet for a command base so very handy reference!

    You ever thought of doing wee videos for YouTube. I think your stuff would go down very well!

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    1. Hi Paul, thanks mate.

      I saw your video clips and was very impressed. I have just mastered getting some decent lighting and improving the photography, so I guess the next step would be to do some video clips. I will have to see how straight forward it would be to do.

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    2. The basic point and chat is fine for me with little time, keeping them short and uploading while I paint. IMovie is very easy to master if you have an iPhone or iPad. I plan to do the edited videos for finished product only. Look forward to your videos! 😉

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    3. Thanks for your recommendations, I love a challenge, so I'll have a play around and see what I can come up with.

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  2. Jonathan that's a very nice unit the horse flesh is very well done .
    Regards Furphy .

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    1. Hi Furphy and welcome to the blog. Thank you, I was particularly pleased with the trumpeter's grey as I was trying out the Coat d'Arm horse grey shade and thought it gave a really nice base coat.
      Cheers
      JJ

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  3. Ah, lancers. What is not to like ?

    I think the vignette at the beginning of the articles works well mate.

    Vince

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    1. Cheers Vince. Absolutely, I was thinking back to our little Balaclava bash up at Chas' with the Light Brigade doing their stuff. With these and the Westphalians we will have a very pretty lancer brigade on the table.

      Oh great, I'm glad you like the header, I think I will use the style to indicate a unit post and I want it to capture the look of the unit.

      See you Saturday
      JJ

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  4. A great paint job for a famous unit, well done!

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    1. Thanks Phil. Given that the Vistula Lancers are such an iconic unit, I was keen that they looked the part on the table and they will have a big feature in future games.

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  5. Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment Rupert, glad you like them.
      Cheers
      JJ

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  6. One of my fave units and very well executed - hope my Poles turn out as well in 28mm as yours have in 15mm!
    Best wishes, Jeremy

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jeremy, well over to you. I look forward to the post.
      JJ

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  7. These look great. Yellow normally fills me with dread, but yours looks like it has a nice depth to it. Did you have to go over it a few times to get such a good contrast?

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    1. Hi Lawrence, thank you.

      Yes yellow is a notoriously difficult colour and you need plenty of pigment to get a good result. Vajello are my colours of choice because of that and as I am using three tones I can build the colours up. So for my yellow I start with a base of dark yellow, a mid coat of flat yellow and a highlight of deep yellow.

      Hope that helps
      Cheers
      JJ

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    2. Thanks JJ, much appreciated. My preferred paints are the Foundry triads but I like Vallejo for quite a few things and in particular find their "Model Color" metals very good.

      I am on a quest looking for a "magic" yellow which will provide sufficient depth upon a single application, without becoming lumpy and obscuring detail. Until then I should probably resign myself to the fact that I will be destined to have to go over the same ground at least three times.

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    3. Well if your quest is successful and you find that magic yellow let me know. I guess I paint my figures in the spirit of I will probably be looking at them for a long time over the years so I might as well spend a little time in comparison getting them to look as good as I can get them.

      Enjoy you painting
      JJ

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