Friday, 27 March 2015

Rey Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line Cavalry

The Regimento del Rey, charge General Laval's German Division at Talavera
Spanish Army of Estremadura
3rd Division: Major-General Marquis de Portago
1st Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Battalion Badajoz Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Line Infantry
2nd Antequera Infantry Regiment - Volunteer Light Infantry
Imperial de Toledo - Volunteer Line Infantry in Shako
Provincial de Badajoz - Militia Infantry
Provincial de Guadix - Militia Infantry

Rey Cavalry Regiment - Regular Line

La Romana
The story of the Rey Cavalry Regiment's involvement in the Peninsular War starts before the war had begun, when in May 1807 it was part of a picked formation of the best troops Spain had to offer her ally at the time. This Spanish division was under the command of Pedro Cara, 3rd Marquis of La Romana and was destined to join an allied force assembled in Hamburg to lay siege to the Swedish garrison of Strausland.

Spanish Corps of la Romana, l4 May l807 (number of battalions)
Princessa Infantry Regiment (3)(2,282)
3/Guadalaxara Infantry Regiment (l)(778)
Asturias Infantry Regiment (3)(2,332)
2/Voluntarios de Barcelona (light infantry)(l)(l,240)
del Rey Cavalry Regiment (540)
del Infante Cavalry Regiment (540)
Almanza Dragoon Regiment (540)
Foot Artillery (270)
Horse Artillery (89)
Train (68)

It was whilst the contingent was in Hamburg that the Suhr brothers produced their famous pictures of the various Spanish units, including the Rey Regiment

Officers of the Rey Regt(left) and Engineers(right) pictured in Hamburg
In the year that passed with their movement to Northern Germany and later into Denmark, the relationship between Spain and France changed from allies to mortal enemies with the rising in Madrid in May 1808.  In what reads like a Bernard Cornwell novel, the Spanish contingent were spirited away from their former allies, by the Royal Navy, when it had been confirmed that the troops wished to be returned to Spain, to join the war in ridding their country of Napoleon and his imposed regime.

La Romana's Division was landed at Santander on the 11th October 1808, where the infantry immediately marched to join the Army of Galicia as its new 5th Division, whilst the cavalry headed down to Estremadura to gather new horses.

In December 1808, the Rey are listed with the Army of the Reserve in a poor state; 
Dragones del Rey 29/35/l50/l6l** , ** Numbers are officers, NCO's, soldiers & horses.

On the 28th March the Rey are shown as part of Cuesta's army at Medellin alongside their cavalry colleagues from La Romana's Division, the Infante and Almanza regiments. With a total strength of around 3,200 cavalry between eight regiments and an average of 400 men a piece, it seems likely that the Rey regiment were back up to strength. The battle was not one of the Spanish cavalry's best days and with 8,000 casualties and 2,000 prisoners lost to Marshal Victor's French army, they and the rest of Cuesta's force found themselves outside Badajoz looking to rebuild and prepare to advance with the British under Wellesley.

Battle of Medellin

It was at the forthcoming battle of Talavera that the Rey regiment was able to retrieve some of the lost reputation that Spanish cavalry had drawn to itself with its numerous failures; causing it to be distrusted by its own infantry and British allies alike.

Talavera - The Spanish cavalry are positioned behind Portago's Division by the Pajar, when Laval attacked in the afternoon
Under the command of Lieutenant General, The Duke of Albuquerque and in support of General Portago's 3rd Infantry Division, the regiment with a reported strength of 3 officers and 348 men (Spanish sources, WSS Magazine - not sure the number of officers looks right!), led by Colonel Don Jose Maria de Lastra managed to take advantage of the heavy fire that greeted the German troops of General Laval as they made their second attempt to take the redoubt at the Pajar de Vergara. The German troops had fallen into disorder from the fire they received and the charge by the Rey regiment hit the Hessian and Frankfurt battalions in the flank as they tried to regain their composure.

Colonel de Lastra was wounded in the charge, and his lead was taken over by Lieutenant Colonel Rafael Valparda, as the charge rapidly broke the forward momentum of General Leval's division and compelled it to withdraw for a second time.

The after report by General Cuesta about the action makes vivid reading
"......Captain Don Francisco de Sierra gained much distinction by taking a cannon while vanquishing its defenders; Ensign Don Pablo Cataneo, of 16 years of age, slew four Frenchmen, and all officers and men of the regiment manifested proof of its valour and discipline."

Andrew Field, in his account of the charge, states that
"The Hessians and Frankfurters were ordered into square. However, they were unable to do this before they were successfully charged by the Regimento del Rey (the King's Regiment), who sabred many (before they managed to fall back to the relative safety amongst the olive trees)........the Spanish cavalry also managed to overrun a battery of artillery that was struggling to move up in support of the infantry attack. Four guns, three from the Baden battery and one from the Hesse Darmstadt battery, were captured and dragged back to the redoubt by Lieutenant Piniero. In this charge the Frankfurt battalion lost an officer and thirteen men killed, and five officers, including the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Welsch and sixty four men wounded."

My Regimento del Rey are composed of the excellent Spanish cavalry from AB, and the unit completes the Spanish force detailed to support the artillery position at the Pajar de Vergara.

Sources referred to in this post
Wargames Soldiers & Strategy Magazine, Issue 50 - The Battle of Talavera 1809
Talavera 1809 - Osprey, Rene Chartrand & Graham Turner
Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain - Andrew W. Field

Next up, pictures of General Portago and his force as a whole and then a few Spanish skirmishers, casualties and the gunners that manned the Pajar redoubt.


  1. Hi JJ, I wish the sculpts had massive bicornes like the picture shows!
    Presumably no flag was carried? Nicely painted as ever, you are a machine!
    Best wishes, Jeremy

    1. Hi Jeremy,thank you. Yes I'm not sure how literally we are to take Messrs Suhr and their depiction of the Rey's bicornes, as I would assume a certain practicality comes into play when attempting to wear a large sail shaped chapeau at the charge!

      I tend not to give my cavalry units flags. I know the British were ordered to leave theirs in depot and certainly they didn't have the need to use them quite like the infantry where the standard was very much a rallying and command centre for the unit.


  2. A great looking unit, I wonder how the Spanish kept them over sized bicorns on their heads???

    1. Hi Ray, thanks for your comment. I reckon they probably had a steel pudding bowl under the felt stuff, similar to the British Heavies. However unlike their British allies I have not seen any reference to chin scales used to secure their war bonnets, so perhaps a simple leather strap pulled tight just prior to the charge being sounded.

  3. Replies
    1. Hey thanks Dan, and I will be putting up a group shot of the whole Spanish contingent on the Pajar wing later in the week.

  4. Excellent post once again, I've painted this regiment many years ago (6 figures at our scale), and I'm never tired of this uniform...great job, and fantastic post!

    1. Thanks Phil, I too have thoroughly enjoyed painting this and the other Spanish units. They make a great contrast to British red.

  5. Fantastic looking unit. Your painting skill is incredible.

    1. Hi Adam, that's very kind, I'm glad you like them. I'll be picking up the scenarios this week with the Night Attack scenario, so I hope you find it interesting.

  6. I read once that the first volley from the Spanish infantry scared themselves so much the entire army glad without further ado (all except for a dragoon regiment on the other flank). This was from an English historian, though--is that untrue?

    Chris Johnson

    1. Hi Chris, your account is based on events that occurred on the evening of the 27th of July 1808 when the allies were settling in on the Talavera line. I covered the details in my post on the 1st Battalion, Badajoz Regiment (the link is is the order of battle at the start of this post). Three battalions from Portago's division, the Badajoz and Toledo regiments and the battalion of the Leales de Fernando Regiment in General Manglano's division, fled after they volleyed French cavalry pickets. When you read the battle experiences of the Badajoz regiment you can sympathies with their poor state of morale, and yes some British commentators overdid their rhetoric on the matter, but at least Wellesley intervened with Cuesta and persuaded him not to execute quite as many of the poor fellows that he eventually did.

  7. Thanks for the clarification. Interesting how nationalistic viewpoints sneak into "objective" historical accounts. A guy in one of my college English classes commented that history was never controversial, as it was always evident exactly what happened at any given time. It was all I could do not to laugh aloud.

    Best regards,


    1. I think history is often as objective as the subjectivity of the person who is reporting it allows it to be.

      I accept that, given I am British, I am want to come at the subject of the Peninsular War from an Anglo-centric stand point and a lot of the reporting I refer to comes from British writers from the period, but I strive to find sources that give a balanced view and try to put those events into a more rounded perspective, based on well argued facts.

      With regard to Talavera, I thing Andrew W. Field's book, mentioned in the references to this post is a great read.


  8. Great stuff Jeremy. I have a general question to ask, being no expert on Spanish Napoleonic armies. How did the Spaniards utilise their Grenadiers? We're they converged or used piecemeal in the Regiments/Battalions. Many thanks.

  9. Hi Darren,
    Both the militia and Line infantry had grenadiers. In 1808 the militia had eight grenadier battalions. In the line regiments each regiment normally had three battalions, the first composed of two grenadier companies and two fusilier companies and the other two battalions just with four Fusiler companies. I can't think of a specific situation where a Spanish commander grouped his line battalion grenadier companies into a separate battalion, but that is not to say that it might not have been done. Generally though the only complete battalions of grenadiers that are shown in historical orders of battle are those of the militia.