donderdag 20 september 2018

Portugal 1808/09 (project focus)

Following the capture of Corunna in January of 1809, Soult received orders to undertake the invasion of Portugal and occupy Lisbon. After regrouping his forces in Galicia, Soult had on paper 60,000 men available for the upcoming campaign. The Emperor’s instructions were explicit, Soult was to march on Oporto (February 1) and ten days later occupy Lisbon. [1]. Leaving Ney’s smaller corps to garrison duty and suppress guerilla activity, Soult had four divisions of infantry and three of cavalry for the invasion of Portugal, yet no one, including the Emperor was prepared for the difficulties posed by the winter period and the Portuguese countryside.

I hinted in a previous post an interest in writing a few historical scenarios based on Soult’s campaign in Northern Portugal. There are a number of reasons for this, the Portuguese play a prominent role as defender and the terrain which Soult’s army had to negotiate, both of which make interesting ingredients for Peninsular War battles. 

Our club members have enjoyed many of the scenarios designed for the ancient and medieval period and now that my interests have returned to the Napoleonic period, I would do a similar project. The ancient battles were a challenge to write scenarios for as most lacked essential details such as battlefield location, terrain and numbers of troops involved; yet despite the obstacles the end result did render a reasonable of interpretation the historical event. For this project this should prove less a problem as vital information can be sourced from official archives, personal journals and diverse military studies.

The next post will give a timeline of Soult’s campaign in Northern Portugal. I have found this a useful tool to orientate my thoughts before making a final selection, as there are possibilities for interesting scenarios between major combats. 

Next post: Timeline

[1]. C. Oman, vol. II, p. 171

dinsdag 11 september 2018

Portugal 1808/09 (Project)

Where to begin?

I found the British army positioned at Coimbra in late spring of 1809 would serve as an ideal start point for this project for two reasons, one it was small enough to collect and two; both British and Portuguese troops are represented in the organization. This was the time of the second invasion of Portugal with Soult capturing Oporto only to halt his campaign there in early April.

Prior to the capture of Oporto by the French, the Portuguese army had engaged the invaders in a series of battles in northern Portugal; these are on my list of scenarios to design for DBA-HX3. Building both British and Portuguese troops will require some time, but it will give me an opportunity to research the early conflicts of 1809.

Further plans to expand the collection are up in the air and I am aware of the fact that Wellesley did fight at Talavera which would also require Spanish troops. However, there are more than enough events taking place in Portugal that would make interesting scenarios; the uprising at Ulhão, the siege of Chaves, the Battle of Braga, the Battle of Porto (1st), the Battle of Grijó and to round off the campaign year of 1809, the Battle of Sobral.

Looking below at the table of organisation of British forces positioned at Coimbra there are two brigades of cavalry and nine of foot. Those highlighted in red will be collected and painted first and when completed a subsequent order to increase the Portuguese strength will be sent off.  

British Forces in Portugal, May 6, 1809

At Coimbra, Sir Arthur Wellesley

1st Brigade (Stapleton, Cotton)
14th, Light Dragoons, 16th Light Dragoons, 20th Light Dragoons, 3rd Light Dragoons K.G.L.
2nd Brigade (Fane)
3rd Dragoon Guards, 4th Dragoons.

Brigade of Guards (H. Campbell)
1/Coldstream Guards, 1/3rd Foot Guards, 1 co. 5/60th

1st Brigade (Hill)
1/3rd Foot, 2/48th Foot, 2/66th Foot, 1 co. 5/60th

2nd Brigade (Mackenzie)
3/ 27th Foot, 2/31st Foot, 1/45th Foot.

3rd Brigade (Tilson)
2/87th Foot, 1/88th Foot, 5 coys 5/60th, 1/1st Portuguese.

4th Brigade (Sontag)
2/97th Foot, 2nd bn. Detachments, 1 co. 5/60th, 2/16th Portuguese.

5th Brigade (A. Campbell)
2/7th Foot, 2/53rd Foot, 1 co. 5/60th, 1/10th Portuguese.

6th Brigade (R. Stewart)
1/29th Foot, 1st bn. Detachments, 1/16th Portuguese.

7th Brigade (Cameron)
2/9th Foot, 2/83rd Foot, 1 co. 5/60th, 2/10th Portuguese.

King’s German Legion Brigade
1st Line bn., 2nd Line bn., 5th Line bn., 7th Line bn.

Unattached Troops (Lisbon)
2/24th Foot, 2/30th Foot., Independent Light co. K.G.L.

British, King’s German Legion, Wagon Train attached

Cavalry                 3,134
Infantry              18,881
Total            23,115 (including Artillery, Engineers and wagon train)

This list is sourced from The History of the Peninsular War, vol. II by C. Oman, (p. 640). Compare this with the second link offering an overview between June 1808 - April 1809, The British Army in Portugal by Ron McGaigan.

vrijdag 7 september 2018

Portugal 1808/09 (Project)

I purchased a year ago three packs of Blue Moon British and these remained un-touched during my immersion into the ancient period. While awaiting an order for more figures I will have time to finish these figures. I envision the collection of British and Portuguese to model the British army based at Coimbra in May of 1809. This had an establishment consisting of two brigades of mounted and seven brigades of foot with each British brigade retaining a battalion of Portuguese infantry. The historical representation under the rules variant have each element of figures representing a battalion of foot or a regiment of mounted;  troop types who normally fought in open order, such as skirmishers, these have two elements.

The Portuguese
I am aware that the Portuguese uniform regulations pertaining to the Barretina shako being replaced by the Stovepipe took place later, but for time and economic reasons I opted for one style of uniform to serve for both the Portuguese and British. I will admit to not being a purist about this point, but my primary focus is the development of some interesting historical scenarios and less the depiction of accurate representation of figures.  

The miniatures
The three packs of Blue Moon 15mm to be painted are British Generals (10), Rifles (15) and Dragoon Guards. (15) A few British generals are reserved for the Portuguese and will have a Portuguese uniform and likewise some British rifles will be painted as Portuguese Cazadores. The cavalry posed another problem as the 15 Dragoon Guards are too many as only two regiments will be represented. I did not wish to purchase figures to fill out the compliment of light dragoons so after some cutting, filing and Milliput, six Dragoon Guards were converted light dragoons. Aside from the Tarleton helmet, all horse tails were docked as was the custom and blanket rolls were added (Milliput) for all the cavalry.

Hopefully by early next week I should have these painted up and photos will be posted. 

Illustration: By Soerfm - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Recommended reading.
The Peninsular War by Sir Charles Oman, all 7 volumes are available online.