Sunday, 4 April 2010

Peninsular musings...

One of the very first uniform books for the Napoleonic Wars that I ever bought- probably the first when I think of it- was this one by the ubiquitous Philip Haythornthwaite and illustrated by Mike Chappell.  Fantastic plates of troops in all their tatty splendour.  
I've read it countless times over the last quarter-century and more, and took it off the shelf again last night for some light bedtime reading.

While skimming through the order of battle section at the back of the book, I noticed that the French Army of Portugal under Marmont contained at least three regiments that were to send battalions to the 8th Division in Europe.  

Foy's Division at the Battle of Salamanca included the 6e Regt. Légère and the 69e de Ligne, while the 59 de Ligne can be found in Clausel's Division. 

The 16e Légère and 40e de Ligne also fought in the Peninsula, if not at Salamanca itself.  

Now these would have been almost certainly have been wearing the pre-1812 uniform- which was almost certainly not worn in the Peninsula at all, at least not in in any significant numbers.

However, most- not all- of my French infantry are uniformed according to the Bardin regulations.   C'est la vie.  Fortunately, my wargaming has never been tied too tightly by the bonds of historical exactitude, so I can live with the anachronism.

Therefore, and in my alternative universe, it is an accepted fact that early in 1812 an ad-hoc brigade of the above units (under the brave and battle-seasoned Gen. Bouillon-Cantinat) was formed for service in the Peninsula, consisting of  veteran regiments who were chosen to field-test the new Bardin regulation uniforms under combat conditions. 

That Richard Sharpe rogue will get his come-uppance, you just wait.


Docsmith said...

Ha! That was one of my first Blanford's as well - and much thumbed through and re-read until I lent it to a friend so he could paint up some Peninsular Brits and that was the last I ever saw of it. Grrrr.

What great little books - 'sometimes equaled, never surpassed' IMO (Osprey's notwithstanding). Concur with your comments on historic exactitude - fortunately the introduction of new uniforms and bits of kit appears to have been very haphazard so that older issues can be found right up till the end of the 100 Days. From my reading on the matter it appears that the Russians were the most consistent of the major European armies in terms of changes to uniforms instituted throughout the army - that your impression? The little Blanford on the 1812 campaign (which I will NOT be lending out!) seems to support the theory!


Robert said...

I feel your pain! I am so loath to lend out books. I've had so many valuable books lost, "liberated", and treated poorly in the past that I only lend to my most trusted friends anymore- and then only grudgingly!

The Blandfords were a great series. I have many, including the one on Waterloo uniforms as well as the later, larger edition of the Russian Campaign book. I have to admit, though, that the smaller books had a lot of charm- and were in hardcover!

About the same time I picked up the Peninsular War volume, I also got myself the ACW book and Mollo's Uniforms of the Seven Years' War. I can't believe how much the latter is going for on eBay these days, but I'm not selling mine! Dated, but special; I bought it on spec, at that point knowing absolutely nothing about the SYW. I soon afterwards dived into the era in 15mm. It remains a favourite period of mine, all thanks to Blandford.

Regarding uniform issues. I certainly have no problems with the authenticity of extending pre-1812 uniforms into the 1813-14 campaigns. Supply was on it's last legs, and the two would coexist with the older uniform most likely predominating in most theatres.

As far as the Russians are concerned, my understanding was that elements of the 1809 regulations could be found right up to the fall of Paris in 1814- there were some contemporary illustrations that give evidence for this.

There was certainly an effort to try to outfit all the units with the new uniforms of course, but with the rapid expansion of the army- and the expense- it would not be uncommon to see the earlier shakos at least being worn by some regiments.

To add some variety, I've read somewhere that in the months after the 1813 Spring campaign, many Russian units were woefully under-strength and were reinforced by draughts from the Opelchelnie. Some of these may have had no opportunity to get the regulation uniforms for their new units, so still wore their militia uniforms.

Some may even have have still been wearing the grey coatee that was used by new recruits on their way to the depot. So I might add the occasional militiaman in with my Russian IXth Corps regiments.

No doubt, thought, that when the opportunity did present itself, the Russians promptly made sure that everyone was in regulation gear.

DeanM said...

That's one book I still need to acquire. One of my first (bought by my mom when I was a youngster) is Haythornthwaite's Uniforms of the Napoleonic Wars - I still have it, close to four decades now. I used it on my first Airfix Napoleonics and now with Perry and Victrix. Looking at the price on the still very good jacket, it was originally priced at $6.95 for this first publication in 1973. Great books like this are a treasure. Regards, Dean

Rafael Pardo said...

No problem with the uniforms in our parallel worlds!... Moreover, three feet above the table, the uniform details become undetectable!