Wargames set in the Americas from the 11th to 19th centuries

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Matamoros Battalion Completed

Here is the first of my completed Mexican units for the Alamo: The Matamoros Battalion.  They were a permanante regiment of regulars and were part of the third column which assaulted the eastern wall.  Their cazadores and granaderos went into composite units of the same type; the cazadores as part of the much smaller fourth column and the granaderos as part of the reserve.  

Cazadores with their Baker rifles

I have represented them here at a rough ratio of 1:10 but may well, in the future increase their number.  Some illustrations have them wearing the earlier 1832 double breasted coat but no one makes those figures so I am happy with the way they are in their 1833 regulation uniforms.  I'm sure there were a mixture in use at the time.

The commander of the unit at the Alamo was the 38 year old Colonel José Maria Romero, who also led the whole third column attack.  He was captured at San Jacinto but later released.  I have since bought a pack of senior officers from Boot Hill so might paint one of these up to represent Col Romero and demote the existing officer to an activo battalion.

The unit was originally formed in 1823 and by the time of the Alamo was one of the Mexican army's top battalions.  Despite taking heavy casualties at the Alamo ,Santa Anna had them as part of the army which pursued Sam Houston's force.  At the Battle of San Jacinto they were virtually annihilated, their standard was captured and is now in the Texas State Archives.  

To make my standard I took the flag you can buy from Boot Hill Miniatures but added my own scan of the Mexican Eagle from a picture of the original flag, for added authenticity.

Mariano Matamoros

The battalion was, like all of the 10 permanente battalions, named after a Mexican hero; in this case Fray Mariano Matamoros, a priest who became a military commander during the fight for Mexican independence but who was captured and executed by the Spanish.  The name does not, as might be thought, indicate that the troops came from the region around the town of Matamoros; the town part of the Texian forces launched a military expedition against before the Alamo siege, thereby dividing their forces.  The town of Matamoros was named for Fray Mariano as well, the name being changed from its original San Juan de los Esteros Hermosos in 1826.  Only the activo militia battalions came from particular regions reflected in their names.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Books on the Alamo: Part 1

One of the biggest expenses in working on a new wargaming period for me is the reference books to go with it.  I usually spend more money on the accompanying books than I do on the figures.

While there have been a huge number of books written on the Texan Revoloution (compared with, say, the Latin American Wars of Independence - at least in English) there is still a huge amount of controversy about what did or didn't happen.  Such uncertainty and the existence of alternative views is actually good news for a wargamer and adds to the "what if?" scenarios considerably.  While always approaching my wargaming, on the whole, from a historical perspective, the Mexican's campaign in Texas lends itself to very many alternative scenarios (what if the Texans hadn't defended the Alamo? What if the weather had been better after San Jacinto and enabled  a Mexican counter-attack etc.).

I have had a few books on the Alamo for some time but recently have been adding to my collection as I find reading about a particular campaign or battle keeps me focussed (as much as anything can keep me focussed, of course).  So it's time for a quick tour of the Alamo library starting, in this post, with those books which I bought mainly for the illustrations.

First up (top) is the Osprey The Alamo 1836 (2001) by Stephen L Hardin, who was the historical advisor on the 2004 The Alamo film.  With some atmospheric paintings by Angus McBride and excellent typical "Campaign" maps (which work particularly well on the small scale battlefields of the Alamo and San Jacinto) it's one of the best of the series.

The Alamo and the War of Texan Independence (1835-36) (1986) is the oldest of the three Ospreys on the subject.  There are four pages of Texian and four pages of Mexican uniforms.  The Mexican section is quite good although one picture is incorrect in showing white, not red, piping on the jacket.  These pictures were almost certainly used by the sculptor producing the Boot Hill Miniatures, from the look of them.

The final Osprey on the period is Santa Anna's Mexican Army 1821-48 (2004)and is the most recent.  Rene Chartrand is an expert on Mexican uniforms and has published several papers on the subject in the Company of Military Historians Journal.   However, this book covers the period before the Texan Campaign as well as the Mexican-American War a decade later.  The Mexicans changed their uniforms a few years before the Texan Campaign so many sources for uniform details are looking at earlier period uniforms.  Chartrand's book is pretty good in describing these changes but only a couple of pages of Bill Younghusband's crisp illustrations refer to the period in question.

One of the advantages in travelling via Texas half a dozen times a year is the fact I can pick up books on The Alamo which are harder to track down (at a reasonable price, anyway) in the UK.   Uniforms of the Alamo (2003) has the most detail of all the uniform books and while the illustrations aren't up to Osprey standards the text is very useful.  It suffers, like many uniform books, in having an over-concentration on senior officers' uniforms.

The Alamo (2002) by Frank Thompson, who also wrote a behind the scenes of the 2004 film book, has over seventy illustrations, some of which had never been published before.  It draws on a wide source of illustrations from period pictures, film stills and even comic books to illustrate its excellent summary of the siege.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Last figures for the Matamoros Regiment started.

I'm still suffering a bit of post-Salute shell shock but I did sit down and do a little bit more on the Matamoros regiment today.  I recently ordered the final figures I needed to complete the unit from Boot Hill Miniatures for one more unit of fusileros and a unit each of granaderos and cazadores. Boot Hill don't make granaderos but all you really need to do is cut off their cuff flaps and paint on the three yellow stripes Mexican granaderos had on their sleeves.  They do make cazadores armed with baker rifles, however, and these include shako cords so will look splendid when painted.

There were eight companies in a Mexican regiment of the time: one of granaderos, one of cazadores and six of fusileros.  I am using four figure companies which gives 32 figures.  The Matamoros regiment consisted of about 280 men so we have a ratio of about 1:10.  Using this ratio we have about 18 figures for the defenders which is probably not going to work in gaming terms.  The Alamo is like Thermopylae as regards getting something approaching a balanced game.  Impossible!  We will see. 

I've got 14 figures about 2/3 completed and the new 12 just started.  I'll see how I go over Easter but it would be nice if I could get them done over the next ten days or so.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Wargaming in the Americas

For no real reason I can fathom I bought a few of Boot Hill Miniatures excellent Mexicans back in 2011.  The range originally started off with Zorro and other appropriate figures for Spanish California but over time more and more Texan Revolution figures have appeared.  I painted half a dozen as the Matamoros regiment who were at both the Alamo and San Jacinto (where their standard was captured and now resides in the Texas State Archives).  Recently I have got more underway and now have enough to do the Matamoros regiment at about 1/10 ratio.

I have quite big plans for the Mexicans and really enjoy painting them because they are Napoleonic types but are easier to paint than the Perry Brothers figures, superb though they are.

I downloaded the flags that Boot Hill produced but they seemed huge.  An enquiry on TMP revealed that they had deliberately produced them oversize.  Why?  I can't understand why anyone wants out of scale flags.  As printed from their pdf they worked out about 6'x9' scale size.  A bit of research revealed the fact that Mexicans standards were in fact about 1 metre on a side and were square rather than oblong.  A bit of fiddling on the computer got the correct eagle for the Matamoros regiment off the surviving flag in Texas.  I added the Boothill flag text and re-sized and re-proportioned the standard.

At the same time that I am painting the Mexicans I have a unit of the Orinoco Miniatures British Legion underway from the Latin American Wars of Independence.  My interest in this period is due to my regular visits to Colombia on business and a visit I made to the Colombian Military Museum not long ago.  I also have some Spanish and Gran Colombian army figures to start work on.

This blog will also cover anything I do on the American Civil War, The French and Indian War and any conquistadores actions.