Saturday, October 29, 2011

WIP: The Texas Hussars

My Mississippi Project is going to require a fair amount of painting for both side.  Foot, horse and guns-maybe 200 figures between now and Enfilade.  (Really?  What am I thinking?) Of those, 50 figures are mounted.  I've purchased all of them and they're just awaiting paint.  The Americans have twenty mounted militia from OG, and ten light dragoons also from OG.  The Spanish have ten of the mounted cuera from Dayton Painting Consortium and ten of the Texas Hussars based on the Perry Brothers plastic French Napoleonic hussars.

The Perry figures have the virtue of providing several different head choices, so it was possible to pick the mirliton shako worn by early French hussars.  The pieces fit well and and aren't ambitiously fiddly.  I've finished all the horses and am working on the riders.

I started by assembling all the bits-horses and riders and shooting them with white primer.  I chose my horse colors carefully.  All the colors are Delta Ceramcoat or Vallejo.  All colors received a drybrush highlighting followed by a dark wash.  The sheepskins are ivory washed with a grey-brown. I chose Vallejo's vermillion for the colored points and the valises, and trimmed them in Prussian blue.  The bridles, strapping etc were all in Ceramcoat black with a quick highlight of charcoal.  I found the horses to be fairly simple to do.

Right now I'm wrapped up with the riders, which are a bit more challenging.  Face it, hussars are pretty busy and the challenge is to remain patient enough to finish them.

Thus far I've focused on finishing their shakos and pelisses.  I painted the base coat of the dolman Vallejo vermillion.  Then I painted the pelisse Vallejo blue gray, highlighting with Vallejo azure.  Then I did the fur edging in Ceramcoat spice brown.  I decided to give the pelisse white lining, but because I wanted good coverage I used Vallejo foundation white. I worked for a while on the pelisses, but finding them fairly tedious I took time to do the shakos.  I stayed with a basic black, avoiding the red wing in one of the examples.

That's where they stand today.  I hope to have the pelisses finished tomorrow, and move on to the dolman.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ramon de Murillo and the Texas Hussars

Ramon de Murillo was a citizen of New Spain.  In 1804, according to historian Jesus de la Teja, Murillo sent a letter to King Charles IV's foreign minister, Manuel de Godoy offering his analysis of Spain's frontier forces in New Spain.  Murillo claimed six years experience as a cadet at the desk of the Interior Provinces as well as service in several Indian campaigns.

De la Teja published his analysis of Murillo's letter as well as the letter itself on the web.  Those with an interest in Murillo's proposal to modernize frontier forces in the Spanish borderlands. Murillo was highly critical of the cuera horsemen, their armament, their dress and their appearance.   The lance was too easily broken, though the shield was still valuable because it protected the horse and rider from Indian arrows.  The leather jacket, literally the cuera, was unsightly and too long.

Murillo, clearly influenced by Napoleonic military fashion proposed troop types to supplant or at least bolster the cuera militia.  First he recommended the cuera reduce their leather vest from thigh length to waist length. Murillo also suggested a reorganization of the presidial units defending the Spanish frontier.
Murillo's cuera with shortened leather jacket and leather leggings.  For all his complaints, the lance  is retained.

Finally, Murillo offered two new troop types to supplant or complement the existing militia units defending the borderlands.  First he suggested the cuera companies be replaced by a chasseur unit.  Though I am unable to provide a picture of this unit, it is it is depicted in Murilla's own watercolor on pg. 507 of the Teja article. These were to be deployed in "flying companies."  However the jewel of Murilla's reorg was to be, what he described as the heavy cavalry unit, the Texas Hussars or Usares de Tejas. I've provided several pictures of the Texas Hussars from a variety of sources, including the Murillo watercolor.
54mm figure of a mounted Texas Hussar.  The base colors are in agreement with the images that follow.  Red or scarlet Dolman with light blue pelisse and light blue trouser.  Sword and shield are deployed with carbine present.

The shield is round, unlike other depictions in modern modeling examples.  They have more of the "apple" or heart shaped shield similar to the genitor light horse of the middle ages.

I am presently working on the Texas Hussar, using the Perry French Hussars.  I'll provide you more of a play by play of their painting as they near completion.  Suffice it to say I like these miniatures very much.
Murillo's own watercolor of the Texas hussars, very similar to the example above and those that follow. 

The Texas Hussar found on a Spanish web forum.  The blue is darker, the pelisse fur is black and the "wing" of the mirliton shako is red. 

Another miniaturist's version of the Texas Hussar. 

It is unclear whether the Texas Hussars ever took the field.  Some sources say they served from 1803-05, but that would be a year before Murillo's letter to Godoy.  They are, to say the least beautifully uniformed and accoutered. However, as Teja points out, under-resourced, it is likely they would have devolved into a condition similar to the cuera: practical uniforms with practical equipage and armament according to their need.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Mississippi Project: Defending the Spanish Border

In 1783 the United States and Spain were allies, two of the signatories of the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution.  The United States won its independence and  the vast lands west of the Appalachians to the Mississippi River.  If they could wrest them from their Indian inhabitants.  Spain won the Floridas from Britain, together with its port of Pensacola.  If they could stave off their weak but potentially dynamic young ally.
The Louisiana Regiment was  one of the few regular Spanish formations in North America.

Fast forward 15 years. By 1797 thousands of settlers poured over the Appalachians into Kentucky and Tennessee.  The American army, through stumbles and disasters, conquered a peace with the Indians.  Productive farms in the Ohio valley, unable to get their goods over the Appalachians sent it by flatboat to the Mississippi and from there to New Orleans, where it was sold or trans-shipped to the Atlantic coast or Europe.   Or not.

The stumbling block was Spain.  The Spanish controlled New Orleans, the Floridas and Mexico.  They were determined to keep the Americans, rapidly expanding west, out of Spanish territory.  To do that they established military posts on the west side of the Mississippi, established posts at Natchez and Chickasaw Bluffs on the east side of the Mississippi (against the terms of the Treaty of Paris) and made peace overtures to the powerful Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians in the Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama regions. They put oared gondolas on the Great River with orders to inspect and obstruct traffic headed to New Orleans.
Chickasaw warrior.  The Spanish made alliance with many native tribes to deter invasion by the Americans.
The Spanish empire bordering American territory was enormous.  To garrison it, the Spanish depended on a few European troops augmented by colonial militias.  The system of presidios, or military posts, was systematized in New Spain by the 1770's as was the number of cuera or presidial militia.  These soldiers were intended largely to defend the frontier from Louisiana to New Mexico, chiefly against Apache and Comanche indian attacks.  Armed with the escopeta, a short musket or shotgun, sword, lance and shield, they were deemed to be effective against clubs, lances and arrows wielded by indigenous warriors. Their clothing featured a knee length leather vest, heavy enough to turn aside many of these weapons, much like the buff coats worn by Cromwell's Ironsides. As more of the indians were armed with trade muskets from English traders, they posed a greater challenge for the cuera.

In order to maximize their troop strength to deal wit a potential American conflict the Spanish made alliances with various Indian tribes.  In order to preserve approaches to New Orleans, the Spanish enlisted the aid of Chickasaw warriors.  To the west, the Spanish were on friendly terms with the Comanches, and included some of their number in the expedition to intercept Lewis and Clark.
Traditional Cuera soldier that served in the Spanish borderlands.  This  illustration  shows  the subject with lance, shield and musket.  He is equipped with a thigh-length leather jacket. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'

Today is the feast of St. Crispins, the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt is 1414.  For those of us who cherish the Hundred Years War, it is a day to be remembered.  I can honestly say (and I have several times on this blog) that John Keegan's account of the battle in The Face of Battle remains one of my most important motivators to continue in miniature gaming and particularly the Hundred Years War. 

Of course another important motivator was the fine Kenneth Branagh movie version of Henry V.  The stirring St. Crispin's Day speech remains one of the finest monologues in all of Shakespeare.  You can find it here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Mississippi Project: American Service Dress 1792-1807

My Mississippi Project took a brief detour as I took a couple of weeks to work on figures for an upcoming Martian game. Before my trip to Mars however, I painted the fifteen unpainted Wayne's Legion figures I still had hanging around.  For some reason, I thought I had more, but no such luck.  I looked everywhere and dope-slapped myself when I realized I'd painted some of them for War of 1812 Virginia militia.  Doh!
Old Glory Wayne's Legion Line skirmishing.  Quite serviceable figures though the necks often seem a bit too long.  Posing with muskets is also a bit dicey.

A few of these figures sport the blue wool winter service trousers.  They would serve well as American infantry from 1792-1810

One might wonder why the heck Virginia militia would be dressed similar to Wayne's Legion, whose uniforms were designed in 1792.  The fact of the matter is that American uniforms changed very little from the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 up until the eve of that other great Indian fight nobody knows anything about, the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.

Though the uniform went through several permutations, the uniform of the period was adopted with Congressional authorization of the Legion of the United States in 1792. Built on the wreckage of the army butchered at the Battle of the Wabash, the Legion was composed of four sub-units, each of 1,280 composed of dragoons, artillery, light infantry, and line troops.  Wearing a distinctive round hat with bearskin crest, each of the four sub-legions wore red facings, but distinctive markings-a colored hat band and plume.
1792 Regulation Uniforms.  Note the colored plume and hat band of the sub-legion.  They would be gone with the passing of the Legion.  Note the knee length coat. Charles McBarron illustration
After the victory at Fallen Timbers in 1794 and the triumphant Treaty of Greenville in 1795, Congress downsized the army and eliminated the Legion, reducing the army from 5,120 to 3,000 troops, discarding the light troops and forming the remainder into four regiments.  These regiments dressed alike with red facing and those troops wearing white bearskin crests changed to dark crests.

Though the uniform went through the minor changes, such as the addition or subtraction of lace here and there, and the lengthening and shortening of uniform coats allowing turnbacks or not, the United States infantry changed its dress very little.  The round hat with bearskin crest became the standard headdress for infantry and artillery, with the cavalry wearing a Tarleton helmet.
Later dress.  The infantryman wears blue trousers as part of his winter dress.  The green dragoon uniform is evident.  From MAA 352 by James Kochan and David Rickman.
There was one major  change during this time and that was for dragoons.  In 1799 they adopted green uniforms, mostly through the work of a contractor waiting on authorization from the War Department.  In 1801, the dragoons were unhorsed and became foot soldiers unless mounted troops were required.  A cost saving measure.  In 1808 the dragoons received another new uniform, this time blue with white trim and a helmet similar to those worn in the War of 1812.

In 1810, with the country preparing for war, the infantry received altogether new uniforms, one familiar to War of 1812 buffs.  They would see use in the victory at Tippecanoe and the embarrassment of Queenston Heights.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Making the Most of My In Service Days: Thursday Live Blog

It's darned early, 5:03 AM.  I have today off, courtesy of my principal, the much revered Brian Lowney and the Puyallup School District.  October 6th and 7th are district and state in-service days.  In the old days we had these days off to participate in teacher trainings offered by districts state wide.  Now they're pretty much used for catching up or taking a break after the first month of school.

I plan to use my day mostly for painting little men, so I'll keep you posted throughout the day on what I get done.  Warning*: this will be live blogging, little snippets of info, hopefully accompanied by pictures as the day goes along.  It will also be largely unfiltered.  I'll mix in various other activities as the day goes along.

5:10 My day begins with our pets.  15 year old cat Daphne, mini-Australian shepherds Jack and Lucy, nine and ten respectively get fed and then I take the dogs for a walk.  Nothing long, about 15 minutes in our development.  It's been pissing rain the last 24 hours, but I managed to get them out in between most of the raindrops.  It's dark, so picture taking is out (besides my iPhone is charging and my pics will be with my phone today. Probably.) After we get back and dried off a bit, I'll settle in to read and maybe a nap until Lorri heads off to work at7:00.  I've been a bad sleeper for a number of years now and the best I can manage is 6 1/2 or so hours per night.  Last night was worse than usual.  Pretty wakeful after 2:30 and wide awake at 4:00.  Definitely a nap in the cards.

For now I'm going to read An Artist in Treason by Andro Linklater .  It's a biography of James Wilkinson, general in the American Army during the Revolutionary War, but more importantly in the period from 1784-1813 or so.  It is a 2009 biography about one of the most extraordinary rascals in American history, and covers the era of my Mississippi project.  It's a very accessible work about Wilkinson's role as a spy for the Spanish during this critical era.

7:25 Emerged from the shower to howls of protest from Daphne, the dogs had their daily savaging of her food from her dish.

Today I have two chief goals.  The first is to finish basing the Space 1889 Martian swordsmen and Wayne's Legion figures I have on my desk.  You can see them here.  I used wood putty on their washers and Litko bases respectively as build-up.  Shouldn't be a big job.  I'll write more about them later.  The Wayne's Legion figures are from Old Glory's range.  Serviceable despite some errors.  The Martians are from RAFM.

I also want to finish painting the big critters. These are Gashants, riding beasts of Mars, again from RAFM.  I really like this particular version of the Gashant.  They appear large and fierce.  They are the mounts for some Martian native light horse, er, native light gashant, um, irregular mounted forces.

10:10  I'm off to run some errands--library and a haircut.  Worked on my Gashants while watching Khartoum.  Definitely one of my favorite movies.  I worked hard to even out the color on the critters.  They've been washed at least three times now.  First with a lighter color, then a darker shade of the base color, then with a black wash.  Started on the horse furniture, er you know what I mean.

2:00 Got back from my errands had some lunch and plugged in The Outlaw Josey Wales.  Probably my favorite Western and definitely my favorite Eastwood.   I've worked for about an hour adding details to the Gashants.  Painted their beaks, saddles and reins, their head armor in addition to blanket rolls and strapping.  Probably another hour's worth of work to go.  Unfortunately I have to take a break to make the dog's food (long story,) and clean up the kitchen. 

5:05 I've finished the Gashants and the basing for the Martian swordsmen.  I'm getting dinner ready which will keep me busy for a while.  

 8:30  Finished basing all the figures, and I'm probably ready to call it a night.  Maybe read for a bit, and check back in with finished figures tomorrow.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Useful Blogs--or at least I think so.

I have a couple of blogs I'd like to plug.  First is the Quindia Studios blog by Clarence Harrison.  Harrison has great pics of his work, and keeps us up to date on his League of Augsburg project.  But I confess I got there for only one reason.  Flag Mondays. Each Monday Harrison posts a useful flag for the American War of Independence.  Though he has plans to do British flags, he's mostly sticking with American banners.  American flags are tough because little is know about them for certain.  He's created beautiful flags for those units he is certain about, as well as those he's hypothesized for.  He also has some gorgeous national banners.  Every Monday.  I've downloaded 21 of them, and now all I have to do is make use of them.
Clare Harrison's Stars and Stripes variants.
Another blog I've taken to following belongs to Doug Hamm.  I've written a little about Doug before.  He is my good friend from Surrey, B.C. who often prods me about my lack of blog posts.  Doug has recently introduced his own blog, Dots of Paint.  Doug is a wonderful painter, certainly the fastest painter I've ever known and he is a master of the black primer paint system.  He has some fabulous projects he's created--a mammoth War of 1812 collection, a very nice pile of figures for the First Jacobite Rebellion, some very nice French and Indian War figures and many other explorations in other periods.  I'm sure he'll have some interesting things to say and share. Yes the Battle of Smythville does seem to have borrowed my name, which I'll try to understand at a later date.
These aren't French Napoloeonics, they are Plauche's New Orleans militia battalion from the Battle of New Orleans.  Doug Hamm has cornered the market on War of 1812, the interesting and the uninteresting.