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.

1 comment:

DeanM said...

Oooo. Cools stuff, Kevin. I will be reading that letter with interest. Best, Dean