Saturday 31 January 2015

British Units at Casa de Salinas - 1809

British Units at Casa de Salinas
Division Major General Sir Alexander Mackenzie

Mackenzie's Brigade
2/24th Foot (Warwickshire Regt.)
2/31st Foot (Huntingdonshire Regt.)
1/45th Foot (Nottinghamshire Regt.)
Mackenzie's Brigade Light Battalion

Donkin's Brigade
2/87th Foot (Prince of Wales Own Irish Regt.)
1/88th Foot (Connaught Rangers Regt.)
Donkin's Brigade Light Battalion

Anson's Brigade
23rd Light Dragoon's
1st KGL Hussars

As promised I have put together some pictures of Mackenzie's 3rd Division with Anson's Light Cavalry Brigade as a prelude to playing out this rearguard scenario.

MacKenzie's 3rd Division, with Anson's Light Cavalry Brigade at Casa de Salinas
The map below illustrates the terrain for this scenario
The Casa de Salinas area
The strength and losses figures illustrate the historical cost to these units. The scenario will see if we can model something similar.

Lt. Colonel Rufane Shaw Donkin's Brigade, L-R, 2/87th Foot, 1/88th Foot, 5/60th Rifles, Donkin's Light Battalion
Rufane Shaw Donkin

Strength on the 25th July 1809
2/87th Foot - 599
1/88th Foot - 599
5/60th Foot (5 coys) - 273

Losses (killed, wounded, missing, total) suffered at Casa de Salinas 27th July 1809
2/87th (27/137/34/198)
1/88th (9/25/30/64)
5/60th (3/5/19/27)

Maj. General Alexander Mackenzie's Brigade L-R, 2/31st Foot, 1/45th Foot, 2/24th Foot, Mackenzie's Light Battalion
Strength on the 25th July 1809
2/31st Foot - 733
1/45th Foot - 756
2/24th Foot - 787

Losses (killed, wounded, missing, total) suffered at Casa de Salinas 27th July 1809
2/31st (24/93/2/119)
1/45th (4/14/7/25)
2/24th (1/7/1/9)

Maj. General George Anson's Brigade L-R, 23rd Light Dragoons, 1st KGL Hussars
George Anson

Strength on the 25th July 1809
23rd Light Dragoons - 459
1st KGL Hussars - 451

Losses (killed, wounded, missing, total) suffered at Casa de Salinas 27th July 1809
23rd Light Dragoons (-/1/-/1)
1st KGL Hussars (2/2/-/4)

Next up Spanish, some more Brits and the action at Casa de Salinas

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Seeing the Woods for the Trees

Finished trees and buildings back in 2013 on the old table!
In February 2013, I spent a weekend happily putting the finishing touches to some new Peninsular War buildings and a large collection of Woodland Scenic trees.

In the last two years these buildings and trees have stood duty from Rolica to Oporto and in the case of the trees I was gradually finding as much cluster foliage in the storage box as was actually on the tree armatures.

My trees after adding the filter material, spray painted dark green, already looking more verdant
Woodland Scenic trees can be a very frustrating product and I wasn't entirely satisfied with the finished product, despite having carefully followed the directions for putting these things together. I think they were designed for model railway use not for wargamers constantly picking them up and moving them to storage boxes.

So I started to look for a solution to resurrect my rather battered looking tree collection in time for Talavera which requires quite a few of them. There are always lots of great ideas out on the net and in the spirit of the JJ motto  "Adopt, Adapt, Improve" I went in search and found this useful idea at the 1000 Foot General blog who had obviously had a similar problem.

Test trees done, with the cluster foliage stuck on the filter material, producing a much better tree
I managed to source a supply of aquarium filter material which arriving white needed a spray coat of black and dark green before being squeezed on to the armature. The good news is that there is no need for glue; the armature just seems to grab hold of the filter material.

Once in place I started to use my new hot glue gun, and quickly became very fed up. I don't like hot glue as that molten stuff is agony if you get just a little on your hands and it seemed to take for ever.

So I reverted to using super glue to put the foliage clusters on the material and the picture above shows the finished look. However I have a box load to do as seen below!

So I am awaiting a bulk order of super glue to commence work as soon as. Once the cluster foliage is on then I will spray them with scenic cement and hopefully get more than two years worth of usage out of them.

When that box is done Talavera is back on track.

Monday 26 January 2015

Inside Wellington's Peninsular Army 1808-14, Rory Muir et al

On the 13th of this month I reviewed Sir Charles Oman's old tome, Wellington's Army as part of a reading plan to continue on and read a more contemporary offering, "Inside Wellington's Peninsular Army 1808-14", from Rory Muir, Robert Burnham, Howie Muir and Ron McGuigan; which as Robert Burnham points out, in his introduction to the book, was compiled very much as a continuation and expansion of Oman's original work.

So I thought I would share my thoughts about it by covering the contents and highlighting the areas that I found particularly interesting.

I should say that all four of the contributors to the book regular share their knowledge and insights on the Napoleon Series web site

which for anyone interested in the period is a fantastic resource and forum for academics and enthusiasts alike and one that I regularly use to check out peculiar bits of information that a Napoleonic nerd like me would find fascinating.

The book is a compilation of essays by all four contributors allowing them to bring to bear their particular expertise in a given area of Wellington's army and I apologise for making this a long post but I want to do this book the justice it deserves and if as I hope you are interested in the subject you might find this helpful.

Chapter One  "Wellington and the Peninsular War - The Ingredients of Victory" by Rory Muir

This chapter carries on from Oman's original by looking at the key events that shaped British and Wellesley's involvement in the Peninsular War and the progress of it through to its conclusion. It really captures the understanding, that looked at from our modern perspective, the war seems an obvious campaign for Britain to have been involved in with the logical progression of the wearing down of Napoleon's Empire.

However, as with more recent conflicts, the decisions to get involved, just as the likely outcomes, are not as clear cut when viewed from a contemporary stand point, when all the pressures not to get involved seem to clamour for priority. To quote Muir following news in early August 1808 of the French defeat by Spanish forces at Bailen, " The salvation of Spain seemed assured, and Lord Castlereagh, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, even dreamt of cutting off the French retreat at the foot of the Pyrenees and forcing their whole army to surrender. In the heady days of the summer of 1808 nothing seemed impossible."

Dupont's French army surrenders to the Spanish at Bailen - July 19th 1808
The enthusiasm for supporting the Spanish uprising in 1808 versus the voices warning against getting involved, reminded me of the so called "Arab Spring" and the clamour to support the various national uprisings of recent times. The mantra seemed to be first Libya, then Egypt and on to Syria. However as we know support for and an understanding of where these national uprisings will go is never clear and easily predictable.

Muir points out that the Spanish deputies did not ask for British military assistance. They were more than confident that the Spanish Army and people could deal with the French. The last thing that they wanted were more foreign troops in their country. On the other hand, the British Government wanted more involvement than simply supplying large amounts of cash and arms and so a preliminary operation to liberate Portugal seemed to be the most appropriate way to activate British military involvement.

Muir points out that the British army in 1808 was not small, having over 200,000 regulars plus a further 90,000 well trained, full time militia for home defence. However the requirement to provide garrisons at the many strategic points in the Mediterranean and through the growing British Empire, reduced the forces available for other operations to fewer than 40,000 men. This number rose slowly throughout the war, but never got above 70,000; this compared to French forces in the Peninsula at a peak of 350,000 and above 300,000 men for several years. Thus we have Wellesley's proposal to supplement British forces with a new British trained Portuguese army in a combined force under British command.

The trials and tribulations of British involvement are covered in some detail and we are taken on a year by year, battle by battle account of the war, looking at the political constraints that seemed to plague the military requirements, with the Regency crisis over the ill health of King George III and the comings and goings of the administrations of Perceval and the opposition Whig party and the support they had from the Prince Regent. All this whilst Wellington is having to deal with the Portuguese Regency and the massive strains of Massena's invasion and rape of the Portuguese country. However, as Muir points out, there is no doubt that the commitment to the war by the various Pittite administrations of Portland, Perceval and Liverpool deserves great credit for providing and maintaining Wellington's forces throughout, and is often overlooked.

Wellington's generalship is assessed versus the various French commanders he faced, fighting a dozen full scale actions plus many lesser ones between 1808-14, with an unbroken record of success, demonstrating equal ability on the defence and offence. Muir highlights the crossing of the Douro at Oporto as probably the most remarkable of his operations in terms of daring and professional skill and the Battle of Salamanca as perhaps the finest of his victories. I must say that I totally agreed with those two choices.

However, like Napoleon, Wellington was not a military innovator and the British army he led cannot have all its success laid at his command. The principal tactics of two deep line, disciplined volley fire and bayonet charge were already in place since the far off days of General Abercrombie's expedition to Egypt in 1801. The combination of these strengths together  with Wellington's command abilities and his reorganisation of the army into divisions acted as multipliers to the overall effectiveness.

Muir concludes his review with a quote from Wellington on the day after the battle of Waterloo when he told a friend "By God, I don't think it would have done if I had not been there!" pointing out that this remark holds true for the Peninsular War as well. Wellington was the indispensable ingredient of victory.

Chapter Two "The Origin of Wellington's Peninsular Army, June 1808 - April 1809" by Ron McGuigan

This chapter covers the British forces that served in the early days of British involvement in the Peninsular War and is a positive "gold mine" of information that is, as far as I know, not readily available elsewhere. I speak as someone who spent some time in the last two years searching for details of the various organisations of British troops, that sprung up and were made available for the liberation of Portugal in 1808 and I would have killed for this chapter alone during the construction of my orbats for my Vimeiro series of games. I still have a campaign in mind when the new C&G campaign system becomes available and now I have all the information I need to construct the forces that were involved alongside the potential additions all covered in this excellent chapter. If you want to know about the British army in the Peninsular during these early years this chapter makes this book worth having on its own - enough said.

Chapter Three "British Observing Officers of the Peninsular War" by Robert Burnham.

If you ever watched the Sharpe TV series you might remember the character played by that great actor, Brian Cox, namely Major Michael Hogan. This fictional character created by Bernard Cornwell captured the spirit of this unique group of exceptionally talented officers who formed an elite corps of intelligence gatherers for Wellington and his army. The first thing to mention is that they were not all British officers, having four Spanish and two Portuguese among their ranks. They were tasked with roaming specific parts of the Iberian country, of interest to Wellington, monitoring and reporting back on the activities of the French forces, liaising with allied Spanish and Portuguese forces, especially the various guerrilla groups and feeding back information about the land and the environment any British force may be tasked with entering.

Brian Cox as Major Hogan
The pre-requisites of these kind of men was a high level of personal intelligence, self reliance, observational skills and an ability with languages, especially French, Spanish and Portuguese. Sadly much of the activities of these very brave men is not recorded, as much of their reporting, hurriedly  scribbled down on scraps of paper to be entrusted to various couriers and taken back to Wellington's HQ have been lost. However one particularly diligent officer, Captain Charles Cocks of the 16th Light Dragoons made copies of his reports in his journal, a copy of which I got for Xmas and am looking forward to reading.

The chapter covers off  where these men operated, their organisation, the numbers of officers involved, the way they operated and how they obtained their information, the types of missions they carried out, the reports they made and how they passed on  their information, their accomplishments and casualties. Again I think this is the first time this subject matter has been covered this comprehensively.

Two "gems" from this chapter cover the exploits of Captain John Waters, 1st (Royal Scots) who as an ADC for the cavalry was, in 1808, scouting far ahead of Sir John Moore's army. In the village of Valdestillos near Sahagun he intercepted a French dispatch of the utmost urgency from Marshal Berthier, Napoleon's Chief of Staff, to Marshal Soult. It announced that the Spanish armies, Sir John Moore was marching to support, had been defeated and scattered and that Madrid had surrendered. Napoleon was rapidly moving his vastly superior numbers towards the British force and that the other French armies in the North were to close around the British to hold them fast, with Soult pushing across to cut off Moore's retreat. How this dispatch fell into Waters hands is another fascinating story,  covered in detail, but suffice to say that this information was instrumental in saving Sir John Moore's army from complete destruction.

The other more widely covered account is the later exploit of, the now, Colonel Waters discovering the barber at Oporto who had access to four wine barges, unguarded on the French northern bank. Waters led the mission to seize them and bring them over to Wellesley's force thus enabling the first British troops to cross the Douro and seize the Seminary.

Chapter Four "Order of Battle: Customary Battle-Array in Wellington's Peninsular Army" by Howie Muir.

This chapter could obviously have been a book in its own right and for me was an education into the thinking of the military system that Wellington and his men inhabited. As the chapter points out, it is difficult for the modern reader to understand how important battle array was to armies of this period relying on order, with everyone knowing their place within the system to allow that order to function smoothly. This order in Wellington's Peninsular Army with the addition of the divisional structure would reach levels of unconscious competence as units would arrive on the battlefield and take their positions as if controlled by an unseen hand, like that of a wargamer.

Battle Array illustrated in this map of the Battle of Corunna
With the development of more effective weaponry and killing power, the battlefield became empty and armies now spreading out into more dispersed formations forgot all the unnecessary skills and thinking that went with the close packed formations of the horse and musket era.

Muir explains the definition of array as the order in which an army is drawn up and called a line of battle. The order or pattern was based on ancient traditions of the right of the battle line having precedence and thus a position of seniority, whilst the left was the next position of seniority and the centre the most junior position. This pattern had a fairly common heritage across all the European armies and was very familiar to British armies throughout the 18th century.

The map above illustrates the principle, with Sir John Moore's army set up on the Elvina ridge at the Battle of Corunna in 1809. You can see the array in effect with the 1st Foot to the right of the 81st Foot in Manningham's brigade. Likewise Bentick's brigade has the order 4th Foot on the right, 42nd Foot on the left and the junior battalion in the brigade, the 50th occupying the centre.

The order of array went another level with the formalised divisions as they in tern were subdivided into brigades. On the battlefield one could expect the 1st brigade on the right, the 2nd brigade on the left and the third in the middle of the line. This concept even extended to allied forces operating in the allies country having the position of honour. At Albuera we see the Spanish forces taking position on the right of the Allied line, which was also expected to be the quiet end, and we all know how that turned out!

The Guards had a seniority above the line and were naturally assigned to the 1st Division along with the foreign corps, the Kings German Legion. Tradition had it that the 1st Division should also be the strongest and this would have several thousand more men than a typical line division.

The order of array would also determine the order of march on any given day to allow for the anticipated arrival before the enemy with the march set up to form on the head, to the left or to the right. If you imagine units in column of march planning to meet an enemy to the right then having the senior unit at the rear facilitates that manoeuvre maintaining array.

British units manoeuvre to cut off Salamanca in 1812 illustrating the order of march under array
What follows the explanation of the principles governing array are a series of battlefield examples illustrating the practise. Perhaps the most fascinating for me was the analysis of Talavera where the divisional commanders are getting used to their new set up for the first time, and with any first go it doesn't work exactly as planned. It appears that, with the Spanish occupying the first position of honour on the right, Wellesley intended the next position, the left, to be held by the Guards and 1st Division with Hill's 2nd Division  behind it on the left. Hill obviously wasn't working to this plan, finding himself  and his division on the right of the allied line behind the Spanish positions. This nearly caused a major problem when the French launched their surprise night attack on the Cerro de Medellin, on the British left flank, only to find Hill swiftly moving to his planned position and able to retake the Cerro once he had worked out where his force should have been.

After reading this brilliant chapter I found myself digging out maps of various actions to see the array in effect. I even recall my review of the Battle of Barossa describing the argument between Guards officers and officers of the 87th Foot as to their relative positions in the line before commencing their attack. This rather heated discussion under fire from French artillery illustrates how importantly seniority and array was held at that time and can seem quite incongruous to modern readers.

Chapter Five "Wellington's Generals in Portugal, Spain and France 1809-14" by Ron McGuigan.

When I first took an interest in Wellington and his Peninsular army I remember reading accounts of incompetent senior commanders like Major General John Slade and Major General Sir William Erskine with consternation and thinking why would an intelligent commander like Wellington suffer such fools in his army.

The facts of course were that, unlike Napoleon, Wellington never had the total control over who Horse Guards in London appointed to his expedition and he also had to work within the constraints of the seniority system the British army operated at this time; that seemed almost designed to frustrate a commander like Wellington getting the command he deserved and to stop him having the junior commanders he needed. As this chapter points out, he could when required request for an officer to be recalled home, but he very rarely used this sanction as he took the view that all officers were doing their best and deserved his support.

Muir explains the determination of an officers rank within the army as having two definitions. The Substantive rank in the officers regiment was the rank for which he was payed that could not be reduced to a lower rank except by court martial. This Substantive rank was usually the same as the Army rank e,g a captain promoted on the 1st April 1810 in the regiment would be a captain in the army from that date. However where things start getting interesting is that seniority in the regiment was based on his commission date or when the officer exchanged into that regiment. Thus you could have a captain senior to all others in the army and yet be the most junior in his regiment having transferred into it and becoming junior to all the other captains that were there before him.

We are then taken through the variations to the system such as brevet rank (the officer is awarded a higher Army rank to allow a position of command, thus a Substantive captain might be a Brevet lieutenant colonel commanding others of that Substantive rank in his brigade. Then there was "local rank" giving an officer a temporary higher rank whilst serving in a particular location. He would revert back to his Substantive rank when he left. The local rank ensured that the officer concerned had the pay and privileges that went with his command. Officers from foreign regiments in British service (KGL, Brunswick Oels Jagers) were often granted Temporary rank which gave them seniority over officers of lower rank or appointed to the same rank after their commission date. The officer would lose his rank on leaving the army. The Guards had their own arrangements, Dual rank, with their officers having a higher Army rank to their regimental Substantive rank, Thus a Guards captain transferring to a line regiment would become a lieutenant colonel in that regiment.

For general officers there were only three Substantive ranks, major general, lieutenant general and general, with field marshal tending to be reserved for royalty, Wellington broke that norm by getting the ultimate promotion in 1813 on the express wish of the Prince Regent. The seniority rules governed the commands that general officers would expect, with a senior lieutenant general having command of the army with the next senior being his second in command and general of the 1st Division.

Once you have grasped the rules as laid out in Muir's first few paragraphs you are then led through the process of how the various generals that operated in Wellington's army were appointed and how they fitted into this jealously guarded ranking system. I found this a really informative work that helped clarify why the commands ended up the way they did and the way Wellington had to work to get the men he wanted in the important jobs he selected for them.

As you will see from my opening remarks on this chapter, it didn't always work smoothly, but the brilliance of Wellington is enhanced when you think of the number of appointments he got right.

Chapter Six "Filling the Ranks: How Wellington kept his Units up to Strength" by Robert Burnham

A really informative chapter that covers all the principle methods Wellington was often forced to employ, not only to keep his units up to strength but also of a quality that allowed him to keep an edge to his army over the French.

The chapter highlights the issues facing the British throughout their time in the Peninsular with 39,000 men deployed to Holland in 1809, whilst Wellington had to make do with a lot of the second battalions in his force of 23,000. The years 1810-11 saw an improvement in strengths as the army in Portugal grew to 38,000 by the end of that period. In 1812 a further 20,000 troops were sent out but the war began with America thus putting further strain on the pool of available forces at a time when the Allied army was moving over to the offence. By 1813 the strain on replacements was biting with Wellington reporting that of the sixty four battalions he had available, fourteen had fewer than 450 rank and file, whilst eighteen had fewer than 350.

Wellington was thus forced to take radical steps to maintain the fighting ability of his forces, some of them with much reluctance and against internal opposition.

The principle methods covered are the  battalions of detachments, the Spanish recruits, the Provisional battalions, the offer of Russian troops and the Militia. Some of the material I was already familiar with from my reading of the Napoleon Series site postings about the battalions of detachments and the Provisional battalions, with the information being really useful when I was modelling the units involved. The information about the Russians, Spanish and Militia options was new to me and very interesting.

Chapter Seven "British Bridging Operations in the Peninsula" by Robert Burnham"

The final chapter covering British bridging operations was a whole new area for me to immerse myself in. I was very used to reading accounts of the various campaigns where reference is made to the Allies crossing the River ..... at such and such point enabling them to get wherever, and never really considering much more than the Royal Engineers would have brought up a bridging train and plonked it down and off the army went. In that thinking I was wrong in several points.

The bridge construction responsibility lay with the Royal Staff Corps, a unit I covered in a previous post looking at the construction of the Royal Military Canal in Hythe, last year.

Interestingly, they were not responsible for bridge destruction, that lay with the Royal Engineers. The British army didn't have a bridging train available until June 1811, and so before that period, and even after, the Royal Staff Corps men were forced to improvise in their bridging operations using local materials and making do. Their methodology was recorded each time so that the methods employed could be taught to new officers during their training to help share best practise. This has left an amazing archive of drawings and descriptions of the various new built and repaired bridges that shows off the ingenuity of these men.

River crossings were few and far between in the Iberian Peninsula, a land crossed with several mighty fast flowing rivers, often fed in winter by melt water coming off the many mountain ranges. The ability to control crossing points became an very important feature of all the campaigns and it seems incredible to a modern reader that the British army was so unprepared in this aspect and yet went on to develop a corps whose expertise became second to none and their professional commitment shines through in Robert Burnham's account. A brilliant piece of work.

The final piece to this excellent book is the Appendix, by Robert Burnham, that picks up where Oman left off with a comprehensive listing of personal memoirs and journals written by veterans of the war in regimental listings also covering those serving in Portuguese and Spanish postings. Each item including a summary, the rank of the individual and their role and includes all those published since 1913 thus not in Oman's original work.

If you haven't guessed already, I think this book is a must have if you have a serious interest in the Peninsular War. The writing is informative and straight forward, thus easy reading for the experienced reader of this period or the novice. Both will find something here that they didn't know. I am pleased I had read Oman before starting this book as together they compliment each other and really lay a solid foundation for understanding how Wellington and his army operated and the aspects peculiar to that war that they very successfully overcame.

Thursday 22 January 2015

45th (Nottinghamshire Regiment) Foot - The Old Stubborns

From the cover of Military Modelling February 1982 - Illustration by Richard Scollins
L-R Private, Grenadier Company, 1/88th Foot, Sergeant, Battalion Company, 1/45th Foot,
Officer, Battalion Company, 2/28th Foot with King's Colour

British Units at Casa de Salinas
Division Major General Sir Alexander Mackenzie

Mackenzie's Brigade
2/24th Foot (Warwickshire Regt.)
2/31st Foot (Huntingdonshire Regt.)
1/45th Foot (Nottinghamshire Regt.)
Mackenzie's Brigade Light Battalion

Donkin's Brigade
2/87th Foot (Prince of Wales Own Irish Regt.)
1/88th Foot (Connaught Rangers Regt.)
Donkin's Brigade Light Battalion

Anson's Brigade
23rd Light Dragoon's
1st KGL Hussars

So the 45th Foot completes the forces that made up Mackenzie's 3rd Division, and his 1st Brigade tasked with the rear guard at Casa de Salinas.

In 1741, during the war with Spain, seven new regiments of the line were formed one of which was the the 56th Regiment of Foot. The new regiment was raised by Daniel Houghton, formerly a Captain in the 1st Foot Guards. In 1748, following the peace, several regiments above it were disbanded and the 56th rose to 45th in seniority.

Soldier of the 45th Foot in 1741

The regiment served in the American War of Independence from 1775-83 and on its return to England was billeted in Nottingham where it began rebuilding its strength around the 100 men that returned. With 300 men from the city joining its ranks, the locals petitioned King George III to add Nottinghamshire to the regimental title.

In 1806 the regiment was part of British invasion forces involved in the campaign against Spanish colonies in South America, before returning home and then being sent to join the British expedition to Portugal in 1808, landing at Mondego Bay on the 2nd August 1808. The regiment was destined to be one of those fairly rare British units that would serve in the Peninsular War from the beginning to the end in 1814.

An Ensign of the 45th Foot - 1814
After taking part in the Vimeiro campaign the 1/45th were not brigaded as part of Sir John Moore's army that was eventually evacuated back to England, although it seems that it tried to join him during the retreat to Corunna. Returning to Lisbon, it was part of the British garrison that was available to Sir Arthur Wellesley on his return to the country in April 1809.

In April the 1/45th were joined by several new untried battalions, the 2/24th, 3/27th and 2/31st and brigaded under Major General Mackenzie, forming part of Marshal Beresford's flank force supporting Wellesley's march on Oporto.

The 1/45th by this time were a seasoned Peninsular battalion and did not suffer the attrition that the other younger battalions in the brigade did. Thus prior to the march into Spain in July they had managed to pick up men from hospitals and detachments and increase their numbers for the forthcoming campaign.

In addition the brigade was restructured with the loss of the 3/27th.

The 25th of July found the 1/45th along with its fellow brigade members at Casa de Salinas overseeing the retirement of the allied army onto the Talavera position. General Mackenzie's 3rd Division was set up, as per normal, with his senior first brigade (2/31st, 1/45th, 2/24th) on the right and the second brigade (1/88th and 2/87th) to the left, note the 5/60th Rifles, part of 2nd brigade, were forward of the line on picket duties.

The 1/45th was in the centre of the first brigade when the position was assaulted and was to the left of the three battalions (1/88th, 2/87th and the 2/31st) that met the full force of the attack causing them to break.

Schematic, not to scale, illustrating the positions of Mackenzie's infantry at Casa de Salinas
The French attack consisted, according to Oman, of a Legere battalion (16eme Legere) in line followed by twelve other battalions, presumably in column. Andrew Field states that General Lapisse looking to take full advantage of surprise launched three battalions of the 16eme Legere into the attack before the other troops were up. He goes on to state that the half battalion of the 5/60th was beyond the frontage of the French attack and able to open fire on its flank. The other, the 1/45th, which had fought valiantly at Vimeiro - "a tough old regiment, was never shaken for a moment" - also held the French up while Wellesley and their own officers rallied the routed regiments.

Field goes to say, "Facing these two steady regiments, the French I Corps was introduced to British firepower for the first time. Although the 9eme Legere could not see the engagement, the sound of it in the distance still made an impression". "It was the first time we had heard the noise of an English fusillade..... indeed never had we heard a rolling fire as well fed as that."

Casa de Salinas revealed the inexperience of some of the British troops who had allowed themselves to be surprised even while their commander-in-chief was in their midst.
To quote the Napoleon Series "This misadventure cost the 1/45th, 7 men captured, 4 killed and Lieutenant Colonel William Guard and 13 others wounded".

The following day, during the Battle of Talavera, the 1/45th would suffer the fate of its fellow brigade battalions, being bombarded by French artillery in the morning and taking part in supporting the Guards brigade by bringing the French counterattack to a halt with steady volley fire. They would go on to lose a further 9 men killed, 133 wounded and 13 missing.

Wellington official report of the Battle of Talavera mentions the 45th.
"Upon this occasion the steadiness and discipline of the 45th Regiment were conspicuous". which given his comments and their record outlined above easily explains the nickname gained at Talavera - "The Old Stubborns".

My 1/45th are composed of figures from the Xan British Line infantry range with the two Ensigns and Lt. Colonel Guard from AB. The Colours are from GMB flags.

Sources consulted for this post were:
Military Modelling Magazine Feb 1982
Talavera - Wellington's First Victory in Spain, Pen & Sword Books

Next up The British 3rd Division at Casa de Salinas, on parade

Wednesday 14 January 2015

31st (Huntingdonshire Regiment) Foot - The Young Buffs

British Units at Casa de Salinas
Division Major General Sir Alexander Mackenzie

Mackenzie's Brigade
2/24th Foot (Warwickshire Regt.)
2/31st Foot (Huntingdonshire Regt.)
1/45th Foot (Nottinghamshire Regt.)
Mackenzie's Brigade Light Battalion

Donkin's Brigade
2/87th Foot (Prince of Wales Own Irish Regt.)
1/88th Foot (Connaught Rangers Regt.)
Donkin's Brigade Light Battalion

Anson's Brigade
23rd Light Dragoon's
1st KGL Hussars

The Casa de Salinas project nears completion with the addition of the second battalion in General Mackenzie's 1st brigade, the 2nd battalion, 31st Foot, otherwise known as the "Young Buffs".

The nickname was gained around 1760, to quote The Napoleon Series with my additions

"Because of their buff facing colour they were mistaken by George II for the 3rd Foot who greeted them with "Bravo Buffs" at Dettingen. The King, on being told that they were not the "Old Buffs", but were the 31st Foot, replied, "then bravo Young Buffs".

With the beginning of the War of Spanish Succession in 1702 Colonel George Villiers was directed to re-raise his foot regiment previously raised in 1694 for the nine years war, this time as the 2nd Regiment of Marines. Ending the war under the command of Sir Henry Goring, the Marine Regiment was converted to a Line Infantry Regiment in 1713. Thirty first in the list of seniority, it was known as Sir Henry Goring's Regiment of Foot.

2nd Regiment of Marines in the War of Spanish Succession
In 1751 the Regiment was officially numbered as the 31st Regiment of Foot. On the 1st of August 1804 the 2nd battalion was reformed at Chester in response to the war with France, and in November 1808, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel William Howe Campbell, formed part of the Corps under Lieutenant General David Baird which attempted to land at Corunna in late October, but together with the 3/27th Foot ended up being diverted to Lisbon in November.

Arriving too late to be part of Sir John Moore's campaign into Spain that year, the two battalions wintered in Lisbon forming part of the small British force under the command of Major General John Cradock.

Left behind by Sir Arthur Wellesley who took command of British forces in April 1809 and marched against Marshal Soult in Oporto, the 2/31st together with the 2/24th and 1/45th are put under the command of Major General Mackenzie as his 1st Brigade in his newly formed 3rd Division.

On the 25th July 1809 they were reported with a strength of 733 men all ranks.

The first taste of action for the 2/31st happened on the banks of the Alberche Stream east of Talavera

The inexperienced 1st Brigade was caught by the onrush of French voltigeurs followed by their battalion columns.

The 2/31st, falling back on their supports, re-established their order and it was then discovered that they had paid a high price for their initiation to battle with the loss of 119 of their comrades.

The casualties were 24 dead including Captain William Lodge, five officers and 88 men wounded and 2 men taken prisoner.

The next day the battalion received its final exams as far as battle initiation was concerned, forming the second line in Wellesley's defences. The battalion suffered heavy artillery bombardment and was involved in a severe fire fight with French troops leading to the death of their brigade and divisional general, Mackenzie, together with 21 men of the 2/31st. At the end of the days fighting at Talavera the 2/31st had lost, all causes, another 131 men.

The 2/31st would go on to prove itself as one of Wellington's veteran second battalions that suffered, as did most second battalions, from an inability to maintain their strengths over time. Surviving the debacle of Albuera in 1811, by being able to rapidly form square and survive the destruction of the other battalions in its brigade, the 2/31st would continue to dwindle in strength.

The value Wellington placed on them was confirmed when four companies of the 2/31st , three companies of the 2/66th and three companies of the 29th Foot were combined to form The Provisional battalion in May 1811 following Albuera, later to become the 1st Provisional Battalion.

The 2/31st as part of the 1st Provisional Battalion would serve throughout the rest of the war ending its days before the walls of Toulouse in 1814.

My battalion is composed in the main with figures from the Xan range of British infantry with Colonel Campbell and his two Ensigns from the AB range. The colours are from GMB flags.

Sources consulted were:

Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain - Andrew W. Field

Next up the 1/45th Foot (Nottinghamshire Regt.) or "Old Stubborns"

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Wellington's Army - Sir Charles Oman

Sir Charles Oman is a figure who dominates the world of the English speaking Napoleonic wargamer interested in the Peninsular War. I have the seven volume "History of the Peninsular War" that he published at the turn of the last century and the research and accounts of the campaigns he wrote about have stood the test of time and serve as the foundation for the more modern accounts of the war available today.

I often find myself leafing through a volume and picking chapters at random, promising to read the whole collection from cover to cover one day. The seven books were written in very different times when people had the luxury to sit and do just that, so I plan to accomplish it when I have similar time on my hands.

In addition to the History, he also wrote "Wellington's Army" a single volume that pulled together all the aspects peculiar to that force that Sir Charles had amassed during his research.

I hadn't read this or even had a copy until recently, having always felt I was well served with more modern studies from the likes of Micheal Glover and Colonel HCB Rogers.

However I picked up a copy of "Inside Wellington's Peninsular Army 1808-14" by Rory Muir, Robert Burnham, Howie Muir and Ron McGuigan, published by Pen & Sword. These guys are renowned contributors to modern research with some great information available to wargamers on the Napoleon Series site - see the link below.

In his introduction, Robert Burnham highlighted the link between this new work on Wellington's army being a continuation on from Oman's original, seeking to add to and fill in aspects not covered previously, very often due to new sources of information not available to Oman.

So rather than dive in with the new research, I decided to read Oman's work first. As you will see from the link above you can read this freely on line but I always prefer a book where possible and so got myself a 1968 edition hardback copy for £4 from Amazon.

Wellington's Army - Sir Charles Oman First Published 1912

The first two chapters describes the wealth of material the author had access to during his research and the different characters who wrote down their experiences and explains why we can have an understanding of this army like no other of the period or of British armies prior to it. The second chapter is particularly useful in analysing the wealth of personal accounts in terms of reliability and detail which helps identify the must read from the others.

The next chapter looks at Wellington himself, in terms of his strengths and weaknesses, and how he was seen by his own men and the French. It seems clear that right from the start people who met the so called "Sepoy General" appreciated the intelligence and potential of the young officer. His planning and assessment capabilities were recognised early and his Memorandum on the Defence of Portugal, rejecting the pronouncements by Sir John Moore, laid before the British government in March 1809, that so clearly predicted the progress of the war to come is referred to as "a marvel of prophetic genius".

The strength in his planning and foresight enabled him to predict the shift in initiative to the French following the likely defeat of Austria in 1809. This enabled him to start work on the lines of Torres Vedras a full year before they were needed to fend off the massive French invasion of Portugal he had predicted, although he was expecting that force to have been lead by Napoleon himself.

To quote Oman
"Careful long sighted calculation was perhaps the Duke's strongest point. He had an immense grasp of detail, kept intelligence officers of picked ability out on every front and had compiled an almost exactly correct master roll of the forces opposed to him".

Wellington's insights of his enemy also included the characters of the French Marshals sent to oppose him, enabling him to, in time, predict their likely responses to his moves. The Battle of Sorauren in the Pyrenees is given as an example, where the Duke hastily assembling his troops to oppose the sudden French advance, spies Marshal Soult on the opposite peak observing him. With cheers ringing out from allied soldiers, the Duke, judging Soult to be cautious in his presence, observed the Marshal scribble a note to an aide and surmised that Soult would check his attack and thus allow the allies to get more men forward. 

"The 6th Division will have time to come up and we shall beat him" is the comment he made when he saw Soult scribble the message.

Oman covers the fact that the French saw Wellington very much as a defensive commander principally because the strategic situation forced him to be so. However once the initiative passed to his allied army, the French were treated to a commander able to administer the boldest of blows. 

General Foy
General Foy, commanding a division at Salamanca is quoted from a diary entry, six days after the battle.
"This battle is the most cleverly fought, the largest in scale, the most important in results of any that the English have won in recent times. It brings up Lord Wellington's reputation almost to the level of that of Marlborough. Up to this day we knew his prudence, his eye for choosing good positions, and the skill with which he used them. But at Salamanca he has shown himself a great and able master of manoeuvring. He kept his dispositions hidden nearly the whole day: he allowed us to develop our movement before he pronounced his own: he played a close game; he utilized the "oblique order" in the style of Fredrick the Great..... The catastrophe of the Spanish War has come - for six months we ought to have seen that it was quite probable".

Yet for all his obvious abilities Oman catches the frailties as well by describing the Duke's aloofness towards his subordinates, referring by example to his treatment of Sir Thomas Picton whom he had requested to join the army in Belgium in 1815, not at all surprising given Picton's formidable record of command in the Peninsular War. Having arrived in Brussels, he sought out the Duke in the Grand Park, approaching him in a familiar "careless way, just as he might have greeted an equal". The Duke "bowed coldly to him" saying he was glad he had come and that he should lose no time in getting on his horse and taking command of his division. Picton was quite put out and let those nearby know about it.

Officers and men had the utmost trust in their commander's abilities, but could by no means say that that translated into affection, although the Light Division may have been the exception to that rule.

The next two chapters cover the tactics employed by Wellington's troops and their enemy the French. This makes for interesting reading although there are more insightful modern accounts that have taken Oman's analysis further and more comprehensively.

I reviewed "Galloping at Everything" by Ian Fletcher back in November where Oman's critiquing of British cavalry effectiveness was criticised for compounding the belief in their inability to conduct combat without becoming uncontrolled and having a suitable reserve, and Oman is found guilty as charged in his account of the 13th Light Dragoons at Campo Mayor.

However, to be fair to Oman, he states that the Duke was overly hard in his judgement of his cavalry and it's combat effectiveness and  goes on to say that"on the whole the outpost and reconnaissance work of the Peninsular Army seem to have been well done".

The chapters covering Wellington's lieutenants, Hill, Beresford, Graham, Picton and Craufurd show the heritage of most of the more modern accounts I have read of these men and covered off most of the information I was familiar with. 

Likewise the organisational chapters covering the structure of the army from Division down to the Regiment and battalion are quite comprehensive, but the reader would benefit from having Stuart Reid's excellent Osprey Battle Orders edition on Wellington's Army to hand to better illustrate the gradual changes to the structure over time. 

Of the latter chapters covering Discipline and Court Martials, The Army on the March, Impedimenta, Baggage and Ladies at the Front, Sieges, The Commissariat and Spritual Life, perhaps the disciplinary examples, the daily routine of marching and the trials and tribulations of the commissariat were the most interesting, with references made to accounts from veterans whose descriptions really bring the period into vivid imagination. 

In particular, the role of the Commissariat in helping Wellington become the envy of every French commander by enabling him to be able to keep his army together as a force rather than broken up into foraging formations and then having to disperse or starve. This advantage allowed him to set the agenda whenever he was confronted by the enemy, knowing that they would have to break off contact. Oman highlights the fact that Wellington paid for all his local supplies either in cash or promissory notes, and that troops threatening civilians with violence or of looting their property were punishable by death. To hold his troops to these high standards for the time, he demanded performance from his Commissariat who day after day would lead large teams of mules and screeching Portuguese Ox Wagons that enabled him to to pursue his war.

Oman describes the problems encountered with civilian muleteers who despite having large amounts of back pay owed to them continued to supply the troops, probably through a determination to help rid the country of the invader as much as about getting the pay they were owed. The ox wagons though used less, often due to the very poor roads, were more of a problem, with civilian drivers very unwilling to risk their animals to loss and quite prepared to desert in the night leaving the easily replaced wagon with its load, whilst getting away with the family ox. In time wary Commissariat officers learned to post sentries from the escort of replacement troops that were often sent up to the front with the convoys.

As well as troublesome muleteers and ox wagon drivers, troop columns and convoys often had to negotiate formidable regiments of army wives who mounted on donkeys would often try to get on the road before the troops in an effort to get to the next camp site ahead to be able to prepare for the arrival of their men folk. Their slow progress would often impede the troops, with one quartermaster taking things into hand by stopping the women and having to shoot one of their donkeys to prevent them proceeding further, causing much commotion in the process.

The time that's passed since Oman wrote this book doesn't detract from the quality of the writing and information it contains. I enjoyed the read and have a useful little addition to my library. If you are a student of this period I would recommend taking the time to read it and then take a look at more recent works that take our understanding further.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Maurice - A Great Game System

Yesterday I spent a very enjoyable day at the Devon Wargames Group, running my first game of 2015 and wheeling out a scenario I put together for Maurice. If you want to see the details of the set up and the game then just follow the link to the DWG Blog

Devon Wargames Group blogspot.Hold the Line- Maurice.

I mention in the AAR how good the game was and all of us said how enjoyable it had been to watch and play.

It got me thinking about how innovative Maurice is and the clever design Sam Mustafa has accomplished with it. I hadn't played Maurice for a while, but after a few rounds of card play we were soon in the flow and it is the cards that make the game, firstly, very different from one game to the next and, secondly, also captures the feel of this period of warfare in a very unique way.

When I put the scenario together I was thinking in terms of a clock mechanism to limit the number of turns for the Americans to have to hold their position before being able to claim a win. Then you see that the card play of limited decks enables a variable cut off anyway.

If you haven't played this rule set yet, then really make an effort to get a game.  Sam Mustafa still has his free "Lite" copy of the rules plus DIY cards still available on his site so you can have a go for free.

Friday 9 January 2015

Roman Command

As promised, some pictures of the Roman Command team based and ready to go.

I was worried these Aventine boys would a look large against some of my Warlord figures, but I think they fit in the collection quite nicely.

Next up the 31st Foot.