Friday, February 16, 2018

Austrian Ulans

I just noted that I have a few things that I have in my cabinet which haven't been posted here.
One of these are Austrian Ulans from Franznap which actually were a gift from Francesco Messori, the artist who has sculpted these figures.

There were several regiments of Ulans in the Austrian army during the Napoleonic era. Lancers were actually pretty popular among many European armies of that time. As light cavalry, they fulfilled many roles. Therefore, these chaps were not only equipped with lance and sabre, but also with firearms.

The main difference between the Ulan regiments was the colour of the Czapka helmets. The depicted regiment, No.2 (Fuerst [sovereign] zu Schwarzenberg), had Czapkas in green colours.
The set contains four mounted figures. The weapon arm - in one case the lance itself - are delivered separately, which makes the fixing of the flag easier. Taking into account the many different poses that can be achieved by attaching different arms in different positions and mounting different figures on different horses, you can create a really huge cavalry force in which every rider looks somewhat different.

Personally, I don't like to paint cavalry too much - it it more time consuming then painting infantry, painting horses gives me the creeps. Nevertheless, I can only say that these are magnificient miniatures. Easy to paint, highly detailed.
For the wargamer records, this is a unit that can be used for many scenarios. One squad fought at Austerlitz, the regiment at Essling, Aspern and Wagram. During the 1813/14-campaign, it fought at Hanau, St.Croix, Brienne, Troyes, Bar-sur-Aube and Arcis-sur-Aube. It was not in battle in 1815.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Boston Hussars

When I read about the configuration of the US army from the period of the 1812 war, I was surprised to read that it consisted far more of infantry then the European armies did. Actually, the regular army only had around two regiments of dragoons and that was it. Most cavalry units on the US side came from the state militias and, again, that cavalry mainly consisted of dragoons. Boston, located at the Massachusetts Bay, at that time was - according to the 1810 census - the 4th largest city of the United States of America with a population of around 34000 people. Massachusetts obviously had a style of it's own - among the units that they sent into battle, was the only Hussar unit that participated in the war of 1812 on the US side.

The Hussars of Boston were equipped in 1810 in a sort of mixture of Prussian-hussar and French guard-hussar style by Josiah Quincy and were formed as elite militia cavalry. This unit existed until 1818, but it didn't see much of a battle as far as I have read. But the Hussar phenomenon wasn't over then - there were four other regiments that existed in the US army system - the Georgia Hussars for example existed until 1867.

I first discovered the Boston hussars on a unitorm page on among the units of the Massachusetts militia. For a while I tried to convert other hussar miniatures, but always found that there were some features that were simply differing too much from European hussar uniforms & equipment in order to be replaced or imitated just by converting and mixing some European hussar figures. Next step was the try to re-model the required parts with greenstuff, but after all, even that proved impractical.

I finally became convinced that it would be the wisest way to make a complete new figure by. scratch - unfortunately, I'm a total loser when it comes to figure modelling. So I contacted the guys at and placed my very first order for a brand new figure. The master can be seen on - it has been created by Massimo Costa. If you like to have one, you can order the Boston Hussar miniature at Hagen's shop.

That uniform colour in addition with the other features makes a splendid little miniature. It wears the great dress - but with a sharp scalpel you could easily cut away all that decorating stuff on the trousers in order to switch it to the field dress look. I'll do that with one of my Boston hussar figures in a while. ;-)

Monday, January 15, 2018

Some impressions: Strelets Brits'n Scots

Hello and all the best wishes for 2018 to you all!

Today I want to show you what keeps me busy at the moment so that my posting ratio has plummeted to the bottom.
It's the new Strelets British line infantry (on the march) and the Highland infantry (standing at ease). I bought both sets to try them out and see if the new generation of Strelets figures is really that nice as it looked on the web.

Trooper, modified to US infantry for the war of 1812

One thing is for sure: the figures have improved a lot. Some years ago, Strelets figures had a bad reputation among many miniature painters. They often lacked correct proportions and moulding quality often wasn't that good, resulting in figures that had 'unequal' sides. When I bought their knights, I often ended up with rather goblinesque or two-face-like miniatures. Every set contained a handful of rather useless figs. But that's not the case with these chaps here. Sculpting quality has improved hell of a lot - these Brits look better then many other plastic figures on the market.

This uniform represents the 16th line infantry regiment

I mainly bought the British infantry to convert them into various US infantry uniforms for the war of 1812. It's easy because the uniforms are generally the same - cut off the epaulettes, reshape the shako plate and cords a bit and there you go. Backpacks can be converted to the blue overcoat version, but mustn't. All that easy. And the uniforms contain a wide range of grey, black, brown and blue. Nice.

Here's another conversion for the war of 1812

It's a trooper of the 15th US line infantry regiment

The only issue I have with those figures, are the muskets. In some cases, they look a bit arquebus-style. That's were Strelets still have to learn a bit - make them guns a bit more slender and everything is fine.

A trooper of the 78th Highland Regiment
Called the "Ross Shire Buffs", the regiments companies fought in various war theatres

The Scots, in fact, are a challenge of their own. The figures - again with the musket issue, but in lesser numbers, are quite splendid. I like that modelling very much. But all these tartans... I mean - it's dozens of figures in tartans. It'll take me a real long time to finish all of these buddies. This one here is complete, 14 others are on 70%, but the rest isn't even primed...
...any condolences? No? Blimey....

You can use that regiment for Egypt, Walcheren, Java and - as far as I know it - Waterloo
Whatever. It's fun painting them and hopefully, I'll live long enought to get them finished, so what?

Happy new painting year, friends!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Another year is almost gone. :-)

Hello, my friends!

Not much left of 2017. Time to make a personal figure check up, eh?
I hope that you all had enjoyable holidays and that your year was good, as well.

My year was pretty cool. It started with playing a background role in an opera (no singing involved, luckily), starting an interesting assignment at a lawyer's office, then quitting again when a far more interesting opportunity showed up in September. Changing my job twice this year, acting at the opera and writing my second novel took plenty of time. This resulted in far lesser blog entries this year. Nevertheless, I still enjoy miniature painting very much.

I have finished one figure setup for my long-term project recently. It's the command figures for my Isembourg regiment.

Bright blue. Really nice.

There's some stuff that I have painted this year but haven't presented on the blog yet. This is mainly because I haven't put them onto bases yet. I'm not quite sure how to assemble the war of 1812 american infantry. For example. But time will show. Or better said: I'll show them to you when it's the right time. :-)

Well - what was it that I put onto my 2017 list? Let's see...
  • One single or multi figure display for FIGZ - check
  • A multi-figure setup just in case I decide to go to the Lingen show - check
  • Completing Baden Jagers and fusiliers -  started the fusiliers, Jagers at 80%
  • Complete my Russian hussar vignette - *sigh* not even continued
  • Complete the SU100 vignette with tank riders - check
  • Complete the French departmental guard display (14 figures left) - check
  • Finish my Kingdom of Holland setup of Pre-Bardin units until FIGZ (only 4 figures to go) - 2 left
  • Finish the Garde de Paris (3 units left) - check
The finishing list of 2017 looks like this:
  • Baden Jagers - 8 figures
  • Isemburg command - 2 figures
  • 1812 American and Canadian infantry - 13 figures
  • 1812 US line infantry - 29 figures
  • Italian infantry of different units - 8
  • Dutch infantry - 1 figure
  • French infantry - 31 figures
  • Spanish infantry - 1 figure
  • figures for contests - 8 figures
  • British infantry - 2 figures
So that's a total of  103 figures. Less then last year.
Which means that I don't plan too high in numbers for 2018.

Plans are:
  • complete the Baden figures
  • eventually finish the Russian hussar display
  • complete all Strelets Highlanders (at ease) which I bought recently
  • paint the Dutch light infantry for having a complete unit overview of Kingdom-of-Holland infantry for this year's FIGZ
  • complete all figures for my 'deserters' project
  • finish the Boston hussars on my desk
That's not quite a lot. I guess it's better then starting with ambitions that I - as every year - won't be able to fullfill.

I wish all the best to you for 2018. May it be a successful, healthy and lucky year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

More men behind the lines - the Gardes d'honneur

When I discovered the departmental reserve troop system, I had already stumbled accross the Guards of Paris as a unit. In one of them articles, there was a remark that 'they had been in larger scale, what the honour guards had been for the smaller cities'. So I started to find out what that meant.

During my research, I found an old book on the public database of the Toulouse biblioteque. (Book: Gardes d'honneur)

And there they were - a whole lot of new uniform pictures that I had to put into my Pre-Bardin-uniform project, which backlashed to more then a hundred uniforms yet to be painted.

Garde d'honneur of the city of Rochefort

Large cities had to setup such guards for the means of internal security. They served as protectors of the cities' officials and the city infrastructure. They guarded roads and streets as well as public public buildings. Larger cities tended to have their own city guards since medieval times. Under Napoleon, they mainly had these guards because the larger cities had the financial capabilities to pay for their security on their own accounts.

And as long as they had to pay them all by themselves, the city officials were relatively free to decide about the look of their city guards - not the equipment, which was same as it was for the standing army. Some of these uniforms looked really flamboyant, while other cities decided to put their men into rather conservative coloured cloth.
Garde d'honneur of the city of Moissac

By the means of battle readyness, one might consider these troops as militia. I haven't found much evidence of city guards that were placed on the field in a real fight, except when their cities came under siege.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The 'Garde municipale de Paris'

Paris, being the heart of France, always had it's very own guards. After the revolution, this guard went through several stages of organization, slowly deteriorating in men and functionality in the latest years of the 1790s. Therefore, the Garde municipale de Paris (or 'Guards of Paris', as I'll call them from now on) where created by personal decree from Napoleon Bonaparte himself in 1802.

Members of this troop had to fullfill some interesting criteria: they had to be between 30 and 40 years old, more then 1.65m tall, able to read and write and (!) they should have to be involved in at least five army campaigns. In other words: the Guards of Paris where not some background police dudes hanging around, they were real war veterans.

Their duties were the same as for the Gardes d'honneur in major cities or the Departemental reserves - they were responsible for inner security, guarded governmental infrastructure, patrolled in the streets, guarded prisons, city gates and protected governmental officials.

The Guards of Paris were organized in two demi-brigades, totally 2154 men strong.What is a bit tricky about this unit is the uniform documentation. Due to several sources claiming this or that configuration for the same time frame, it's a bit hard to say how the uniforms really looked like at this or that time. Although the general colours are of no doubt at all, this problem mostly is about cuff shapes and bearskin/shakos. Therefore, I had to decide for a certain variation in case of the tirailleur/voltigeur figure.

The basic uniform colour of the 1st regiment was green with red cuffs'n collar. The 2nd regiment wore it's uniform with the same colours the other way 'round. For the drummers, I basically found two versions: the one with the golden rims and the reverse-colours version. Well.

In 1806, both uniforms received white uniforms. Sitting at the center of the distribution chain, it is confirmed that they really got those uniforms. The distinctive colour of each regiment - red or green - remained. After the white uniforms were abandoned, they switched back to the old ones (what a waste of money, eh?).

What makes this unit interesting for wargamers is that here you have a 'militia' or 'city guard' unit with veteran status. Plus it makes a bright and colourful appearance.

The Guards of Paris were active on the battlefields from 1806 to 1812. Two batallions were involved in the campaign against the Netherlands and later took part in the occupation of Hamburg. In 1807, they took part in the siege of Danzig and the battle of Friedland. Detachements of the guards also fought in the battle of Alcolea, Bailen and Burgos in Spain.

In 1812, the Guards of Paris got involved in the coup d'etat led by general de Malet. The coup was quickly put down, the guard's colonel and his staff were shot and the Guards of Paris were disbanded. The infantry was used to reassemble the former 134th line infantry regiment, which later took part in the battles in Germany throughout 1813, were it was utterly destroyed.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The men behind the lines - French departmental reserves of the Napoleonic era

Okay. Let's learn something, shall we? This is going to be a long read, but it contains a lot of information about another not-so-usual aspect of the Napoleonic French military. 

When I started my 'paint all units in PreBardin-style uniforms'-project, I thought it was all about painting battlefield military units. Well - after a while I learned that I was totally wrong. I come from a country where you have the army on one side and the police on the other side. While the army is responsible for protecting the country against foreign enemies, the police is responsible for internal security. One side carries the big guns'n'stuff while the other one is equipped in order to deal with criminals, riots and keeping up public security.

Back in the days of Napoleon Bonaparte, this wasn't the case in the same way throughout Europe. In many states, the king or local nobles payed for armed units that served as a militia which local nobles or representatives sent out to carry out police-like duties. This 'state militia' was the root from which the gendarmerie evolved, a paramilitary force that - in wartimes - often was used as light cavalry or horseback infantry. In other states, this function was carried out by the king's guards.

When I first discovered that there was something like a reserve army in behind of the line army of Napoleon's France, I was really puzzled. I read about 'reserve regiments' especially in the Prussian post-1812 army organisation structure, but the French counterpart wasn't only about creating regiments that were just for filling the gaps in the field army's ranks, the French departmental reserves were an armed body that carried out actual tasks. 
For the project, things got even worse when I found out that the larger cities also had their own military units, called 'Garde d'Honneur' - and that these also had their very own uniforms. So there was an army behing the army behind the army.
When I already thought to have painted most units, the number raised up again. Oh. My. Goodness.

As there were so many of these companies, painting them one by one would have shot the number of necessary drummer and officer figures under the ceiling, resulting in buying boxes of figures just for getting enough of just two figure types. On the other hand, I thought that people would like to see the system in behind of the different uniform colours. So the idea was born to put one figure per company onto one display. But making the groundwork for a marching block of more then 30 figures was a nightmare - and that's why I just finished this project a few days ago after a period of at least eight months from which I finished the last of these figures. Now here it is. 

By decree of May 1805, France created reserve companies for the internal security business of the countrie's departements. The size of the specific companies differed according to the population size and financial power of each departement. Actually, these companies were positioned somewhere between the gendarmes and the regular troops. Their duties were the protection of the justice apparatus and key infrastructure (prisons, prefectures, archives, depots) plus being a guard for official representatives. With having the reserve companies under their command, regional governors, who were the local representatives of the emperor's authority, received their very own armed force. 

To build up that reserves, the total number of conscripts of each year was split up - while one part went to the regulars, the others went to the reserve companies. The other way round, conscripts that didn't perform well in the reugular regiments were send to the reserve and vice versa. Officers were either retirees from the line regiments or magistrates. 

From behind, they look almost all the same

Being in the reserve nevertheless meant being a soldier - laws and regulations were the same. The prefects as commanders were responsible for the quality, morale and payment of their troops and had to write regular reports about troop conditions to the ministry in Paris. Nevertheless, reserve recruits were not to expect medals and a military career. The daily business of the reserves was guarding buildings and roads, catching deserters, guard prisoners and protect public officials. Apart from that, regular exercise and weapon training guaranteed that the reserves were always able to fill up the ranks of the line regiments. 

The departemental reserves were no doubt being considered to be real soldiers. Some reserve companies even went into direct combat, for example in the Peninsula or to counter the landing of British troops in the Walcheren area. Eastern departemental companies took part in the fighting during the 1814 campaign on French soil. In Napoleon's view, the reserves were a big pool of supply for the grande armee. Every now and then, hundreds of men were drawn away by the emperor's decree in order to fill up the losses of the line regiments or even to build up new regiments. 
Seven different distinctive colours in four combinations each

By the table, all departemental reserves were equipped in the same way as the linen fusiliers. In order to give each departement's force a specific distinctive uniform, the ministry invented a colour code. The methodology was simple. There were seven basic colours: white, poppy red, dark green, yellow, orange, purple and black. The first seven legions (companies) wore their distinctive colours on breas, cuffs and collar. The 8th to 14th on breast and collar, the 15th to 21st on breast and cuffs and 22nd to 28th on breast only. Drummers wore the company colour code in reverse order.
Drummers wore reverse colours
close-up: note the differences in the colour code (cuffs, collar, breast)

By 1807, bicornes were replaced by shakos. Due to decree of 1808, the blue uniform was replaced by a white one, but in the same way as this was handled in the regular army, the colour was switched back to blue again without many companies even having received the new uniforms. As I found no documentation on which company actually got a white dress, I decided not to paint them at all. 

The result looks really nice, doesn't it? It's certainly the largest 'unit' of this project so far.