Thursday, October 27, 2011

Russian Napoleonic Horse Artillery

As most wargamers are aware, the Russian army of this era had a particular fondness for the artillery arm. According to Nafziger, "their artillery was highly professional and well trained. It received special consideration and the finest horses available." The Russian ordnance was redesigned and standardized by Arakcheev in 1805, and in 1811, the Karbanov  gun-sight systems were installed. The Russian guns also used an elevating wedge adjusted by screws, an improvement over the plain wedges used elsewhere. Unfortunately, it seems that the quality of Russian gunpowder may not always have been equal to the caliber of its Artillery personnel and equipment.

Russian batteries were larger than those of other nations, consisting of eight long guns (6lbers or 12 lbers depending upon the battery) and four Licornes (20 pounders for the heavy batteries, and 10 pounders for the rest). Licornes were a kind of long barrelled howitzer unique to the Russian Artillery that had improved range and accuracy over conventional howitzers (although would suspect, perhaps someone less suitability for indirect fire). A Battery was organized into two six gun half batteries. Unlike most other armies of the era, the train personnel were integrated into each artillery company, separate train companies not being formed until 1819.

The first Russian Horse Artillery companies were formed in 1794. In 1802, the Horse Artillery adopted uniforms in the same general cut as the Dragoons, and they adopted helmets of the same style as the Dragoons and Cuirassiers in late 1803. Their jackets were dark green, with black turnbacks, collars and cuffs, piped red. Shoulder straps were red for the first battalion (of 5 companies each), and white for the second. The colors of shoulder straps changed by company with the dissolution of the HA Battalions and distribution of the individual HA companies to the various brigades in 1807 (see Viskovatov), before becoming universally red in 1808.

Here is a fine line of unlimbered Russian Horse artillery preparing to open fire. The trumpeters had red crests on the helmet, as in the Dragoons, and would have had white lace on the sleeves in full dress as well, again the same as for the Dragoons. In full dress their pants would be white, but here they are shown wearing the grey service overalls. These are 25/28mm Old Glory crew figures with the great Sash and Saber guns. 

Another view of the Horse Artillery. Additional minor uniform details include red cords on the the brass trumpets, and saddle cloths dark green with a yellow border and imperial cypher (A-1) in the rear corners. Bombardiers, being Corporals, had gold galloons on the cuffs, while Fireworkers and 1st Sergeants had them on both the collars and cuffs. Buttons were brass/gold for all. 

The front portion of the crests were white with an orange stripe for NCO's; officers' crests were white on the top and black on the bottom, separated by a thin orange stripe. I'll have to paint a few figures with these colorful crests for added interest!  By the way, we use the markers behind the guns to indicate "suppressed" status in the Field of Battle rules. 

A final view of the Horse Artillery in helmets; the crests changed from a fat caterpillar type to the thin brush-like ones seen here in 1808, the same time as they changed for the Dragoons and Cuirassiers as well. These units were painted in late 2010 (I use two stands for each battery in my armies, each with 1 gun and three crew (four crew for heavy batteries), which happens to fit in nicely with the Field of Battle rules as well. 

In 1814, the Horse Artillery adopted uniforms in the style of the Mounted Jagers, including the Kiwer, but in this case with red cords and pom-poms, and white plumes for the men. Cords were mixed black, white, and orange for under officers, and silver for officers. Plumes were red for trumpeters, white with a black tip and thin orange line between for NCO's, and white with a black and orange base for company grade officers. 

These Minifigs (both guns and crew) also show the new dark green pants with a double red stripe down the seam that was also adopted in 1814. The coat also became single breasted, as opposed to the earlier double breasted jackets. I'm not sure if the red borders to the saddle blankets shown here is correct, or if they were still yellow; I painted these guys many years ago, when all I had to go by was Funken and Knoetel!

Russian Artillery carriages are described as being painted "apple green", which would imply a somewhat lighter color than I have used, but most pictures that I've seen of Russian Artillery show a similar dark green shade. Like my French Horse Artillery units, the mounted crewmen, here using Mounted Jager figures, make it obvious this is a HORSE battery!  I could have done the thing with the Old Glory units, using Old Glory mounted Dragoons figures... but I was too cheap to do so!  :-)

A final view of the Horse Artillery in their more modern looking 1814 uniforms. Once again the Minifigs haven't held up all that badly 30 years later!

I gave this stand the black tipped plumes of NCO"s (I'll have to add the thin orange stripe) to make it stand out, and call it my Guard unit. Otherwise the only other real distinction would be the gold Guard litzen on the collars and cuffs, which is pretty subtle!

A close up view of this single stand...

and another!

A Limbered Russian gun. Properly speaking there should be  4-6 horses per gun, but frankly that takes up way too much space on the tabletop for my tastes, so I just use the single pair. 

The integral train personnel of each company worse the same uniform as the artillery, but with grey trousers as their only distinction

What to do with extra crew figures? Make some Engineer units! These are admittedly pretty crude minor conversions. Still, just what your Russian Army needs to dig in, eh?

There were eventually 2 regiments each of Miners and Sappers. Their overall uniform was similar to that of the Artillery. Yellow pom-poms denote the sappers, and red the miners. Both had  white metal/silver buttons. Further details, if needed, can be found in Viskatov once again (translation by Mark Conrad). 

I again used NCO plumes for my "Guard" sapper company to make it easy to identify them on the tabletop, if not strictly historically accurate.

Until next time... keep your powder dry!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Battle of Raab, June 14 1809 - and Ellis Con, Danielson, CT

Eugene de Beauharnais, the Viceroy of Italy, Napoleon's stepson and commander of the French Army of Italy, was tasked with defeating the Austrian Erzherzog Johann in Hungary and dispersing the Hungarian Insurrectio, the feudal militia anachronism of the Kingdom of Hungary, which took the place of the Landwehr raised in the German speaking districts of the Austrian Empire. If successful, this would both prevent Johann from intervening in the decisive battle on the Danube that Napoleon had planned for since his repulse at Aspern-Essling in May. After his embarrassing defeat at the hands of Erzherzog Johann at the opening of the campaign in April 1809, Eugene had come back with a string of unbroken successes - first the pivotal Battle on the Piave, then Tarvis, then St Michael. His army was now composed chiefly of confident men who might fairly be considered veterans, while that of Johann's army contained a large percentage (about 30%) of Landwehr and untested Insurrectio troops. The two armies were roughly equal in numbers at approximately  40,000 men, although in characteristic Austrian fashion Johann weakened his battle line by detaching some 7,000 men to his extreme flanks, effectively removing them from the coming battle. Still the Austrians held a fairly strong position behind the marshy banked Pancza brook, buttressed by the walled stone strongpoint formed by the Kismegyer Farm, and the Szabadhegy heights beyond.

I've re-fought Rab several times over the years with various rules, and it is always a "close run thing". The most recent iteration was at Ellis Con in November 2009, a small but worthwhile all genres gaming convention held at the H. H. Ellis Technical High School in Danielson, CT, located in the far Eastern part of the state. The pictures below are from that battle, fought using Brent Oman's Field of Battle rules by Piquet. The majority of the players were members of the Ellis Simulations club, which sponsors the convention; none of them were familiar with the rules at all, but they all picked them up readily and were a lot of fun to play with. The pictures are from that game. Unfortunately, it was not until *after* this battle that I painted my own Hungarian Isurrectio troops, so they will not appear here.

Eugene and his French/Italian army has advanced upon the stream under heavy Austrian fire. Note, the blue "tie-died" shirts are the Simulation Club's official garb; to the right in the cap is Greg, wearing the classy Navy Blue polo shirt that is the official "uniform" of the Hartford Area Historical  Gaming Society (HAHGS). 

The elegant embroidered patch logo of the Society, designed by Thomas, is shown above.

Working out the results of combat along the brook....  the convention is held in a high ceiling aircraft hangar at the school, one of the original roles of the school being to train aircraft engine technicians, particularly for aerospace giant Pratt and Whitney, based in the Hartford area and now part of  United Technologies. 

The French Cavalry on the right wing has finally found the ford, and is starting their crossing; the Austrian/Hungarian players seem quite unconcerned, however.

The walled Kismegyer farm is seen in the Center ground, now under heavy assault.

Close up of the French assault on the Farm, which is really the linchpin of the Austrian position. In the actual battle, the garrison performed heroically and held the French off until near the end of the battle. I cam almost imagine them on the ramparts mooning the enemy and shouting  "Kiss my Hungarian A*#, you Froggies!"

French and Austrian cavalry engage in melee along the road to the fortress of Raab itself. 

Italian infantry exchange fire with the defenders, who are mostly Landwehr with a stiffening of Grenz and Regulars. The battle ended with the Austrians pushed back all along the line, the Insurrectio cavalry ultimately being all but destroyed in combat with the more experienced French cavalry, and running out of Morale points. Raab formed a worthy addition to two other famous French triumphs that fell on the 14th of June - Marengo in 1800, and Friedland in 1807.  Principal Sources:  John H. Gill, "1809: Thunder on the Danube", Volume III; and Robert M. Epstein, "Prince Eugene at War: 1809".

These are a few shots of another Napoleonic battle, but this time 1811 in the Peninsula. Greg ran this version of the Battle of Albuera at Ellis Con 2010, using Shako 2 rules.

British infantry form square: this time they managed to avoid destruction by the Vistula Legion lancers, as happened historically during a sudden downpour.

Ellis Con 2011 will be held from 9AM to 9PM on Saturday, November 19th. If you live (or go to school)  in Connecticut, Rhode Island, or Eastern Massachusetts, it is well worth the trip to attend. There is no preregistration, and admission is $10. Inexpensive food is available on site. The Time Machine Hobby store in Manchester, CT usually attends as a vendor, and there is a used games auction in the evening. More information is available on the Ellis Simulation Club's page (scroll down to "Ellis Con XXIII").  We will be running a big Borodino game there this year, centered on the assault upon the Great Redoubt (about half of the massive scenario we have planned for Historicon 2012). I hope to see some of you there!


Thursday, October 13, 2011


Certainly nothing shouts out "The Russians are Coming" like a swarm of Cossacks! These notorious irregular horsemen were the border guards of the Russian Empire, stationed in territories ("voiskos") bordereing the Turks or Eastern tribes. The regulation dress of the Cossacks (and other irregular forces) during the Naopleonic Wars is described in detail in Viskovatov volume 18, as translated by Mark Conrad; this volume also has a surprisingly large and detailed amount of information about the standards and flags of the Cossacks, Oplochenie, etc.

The most numerous of the Cossacks by far were the Don Cossacks. There were 80 regiments (called "pulks") each composed of 5 squadrons (or "sotnias") of 100 men, thus yielding 500 men per regiment, at least theoretically. The Ataman's regiment could be doubled in wartime. There were also 3 horse batteries. Over the course of the Napoleonic wars, the regulation dress of the various other Cossacks generally came to  more closely resemble those of the Don Cossacks. Period descriptions leave little doubt that regulation dress was the exception rather than the rule when these rapacious light cavalrymen took to the field on campaign.

The Bug Cossacks were raised in 1803 (3 Pulks), as well as the Black Sea Cossacks (10 pulks each foot and mounted), and Orenburg Cossacks (1 pulk of 10 sotnias). These were followed by the Stavropol Kalmuks (10 sotnias). In 1805, 10 pulks of Orel (Ural) Cossacks were added, and in 1807 1 pulk each of Evpatorski, Perekopski, Simferopolsi,  and Feodorsiiski Cossacks (per Nafziger), plus a pulk of Crimean Tartars. In 1808, 10 sotnias (and 2 horse artillery batteries) of Siberian Cossacks were added. In 1812 four pulks were raised from the Ukraine, but these ultimately became Uhlans, and another 15 pulks were raised from Little Russia. Finally, in 1811 there were 2 pulks each of Kalmucks and Bashkirs raised, with 18 more pulks of Bashkirs raised in 1814, although they were disbanded the following year. Thus, by the end of the Napoleonic wars, there were, at least in theory, as many as 75,000 of these irregular horsemen serving with the Russian army in one capacity or another!

This pulk of Cossacks I haven't designated as any one particular type, and they wear a mix of regulation dark blue and various home dyed brown clothing. The long coat is termed a Kaftan, and was very baggy, allowing many layers of clothing to be worn underneath it as protection from the frigid Russian winter... certainly a practical arrangement! For these fellows, I deliberately made their mounts as non uniform as possible, as befitting a highly irregular force!

Another view; these figures were just completed by me, and are 28mm Essex. The standard is by GMB, and of the pattern for the Black Sea Cossacks. I will probably call these Bug Cossacks, though. After all, it is their job to harass the enemy, so most players find that the enemy's Cossacks bug them (sorry!). 

If you're a French player, this is the view of Cossacks that you prefer to see! Cossacks were fierce and hardy, but undisciplined, and especially disliked facing Artillery - can't say as I can really blame them there!

By comparison, these are some very old (25+ years) 25mm Don Cossacks by Minifigs from my collection. They are in pretty much regulation uniform - dark blue kaftan with red facings, which became universal in 1812, aside from the Ataman regiment which had light blue. Prior to that, each pulk had their own color, determined by the pulk's commander; unfortunately, no record of these colors appears to exist, aside from the Ataman pulk.The Don Cossacks painted their lances red, and did not use lance pennons... both according to the official regulations, at least. 

The white belts shown here are an error - they should be black, again at least per regulation. The tall white plumes were added only when serving outside their home voisko. No information about Cossack trumpeters is known, but here I've given one a red plume, such as might have been found in a regular cavalry unit. The orange tipped plume denotes an NCO. 

Soft alloy lances certainly tend to corkscrew over the years, as seen here. If I get ambitious, I'll replace them with new ones made of floral wire. The red bag on the fur cap (or "astrakhan") was characteristic of the Don Cossacks (as well as several others); once again very practical head wear for the Russian winter!

This is a brand new unit of Don Cossacks, once again 28mm Essex figures. These men are wearing the "summer" uniform, a "demi-kaftan". this is a short vest-coat that stops at the waist. The baggy pants with a red stripe down the outside is unchanged in either season.

A somewhat blurry picture; I think this uniform looks very modern, almost Soviet in appearance; perhaps for that reason I have given these fellows light colored hair, while most Cossacks would have had dark hair. 

Once again a Frenchman's favorite view.... of Cossacks, I mean! The flag is once again by GMB, although this design properly belongs once again to the Black Sea Cossacks. 

This final pulk is once again composed of some old and a bit battered  25mm Minifigs. They are painted as Orel Cossacks in their post 1806 uniform. 

Uniformed similarly to the Don Cossacks, they had "raspberry" facings, and wore dark sky blue "girdle" sashes around the waist. Once again the years have taken their toll on the soft metal lances, and I really should get around to replacing them. 

The Orel Cossacks painted their lances black and had raspberry over white lance pennons, again at least per regulations. Although Nafziger (The Russian Army, 1800 - 1815, published by RAFM in 1983) indicates that their saddle blankets were trimmed in Raspberry, Viskovatov indicates white, as seen here. 

These four regiments are my part of the NINE Cossack units we'll need for Borodino...  Barry may be using a unit of his Late Medieval Hungarians as Bashkirs or Kalmucks if it comes down to the wire!

Till next time,


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Russian Napoleonic Guard Cavalry

Prior to 1801, the Cavalry arm of the Russian Imperial Guard consisted of the Horse Guards (Cuirassiers), Lifeguard Hussars, and the Guard Cossacks. In late 1801, the most prestigious of all the Russian Imperial Guard cavalry regiments was raised as an active Cuirassier regiment,  the Chevalier Guards or "Gentlemen of the Guard". Prior to this time, it had been mainly ceremonial in function, but as it dated back to Peter the Great, it was still considered the senior regiment of the Guard cavalry. In 1809 the Arch Duke Constantine Uhlan regiment was taken into the Guard, forming both the Lifeguard Dragoon Regiment and the Lifeguard Uhlan Regiment. In May of 1813, the Emperor Cuirassier regiment was taken into the Guard as the Lifeguard Cuirassiers. Finally, a Guard Mounted Jager regiment was formed in April 1814, and the Lifeguard Dragoons were renamed the Lifeguard Horse Grenadiers.

As a general rule, the uniforms of the Guard cavalry differed from their line counterparts only in relatively minor details, such as the use of the "Guard Star" emblem and the petlitzi or "guard lace" on their collars and cuffs. The units of Guard Cavalry in my Russian wargames army make up both some of the newest and some of the oldest troops I have.

This is the famed Chevalier Guard, composed of members of the Russian nobility. It's uniform was white with  red facings and yellow petlitizi. 

Like the Line Cuirassiers, blackened armor was used for the Cuirass. The trumpeter has the red crest usual for Russian trumpeters of the line as well. The lace on the trumpeters uniform is yellow with a thin red stripe down the middle. 

The Guard Star appears on the helmets (in silver) and the ornaments in the corners of the saddle blankets and pistol covers. I'm very pleased with how these figures, which are 28mm by Essex, came out. They were just completed a few days ago!

The standards of the Chevalier Guard were unique in the Russian army, first in being a "vexilum" type, thus hanging down from a horizontal bar. Second, the pattern, a white cross on a crimson filed with a silver fringe is completely different form any other Russian standard as well. Although conjectural on my part, I think the design is intended to reflect Alexander's role at Protector Of the Order of St John on Malta (a rather odd situation, linking an Orthodox monarch and a Catholic Knightly Order!). The field is often depicted as a much more pink color, but I've chosen Dark red as my interpretation of "crimson" here. I constructed the frame with 2 pieces of floral wire, which were spot glued together with cyanoacrylate ("crazy") glue. As this kind of glue has almost no strength against shearing forces, I then literally lashed the two pieces wires together with black sewing thread (I wasn't an Eagle Scout for nothing, I suppose), and then coated the joint and threads in Duco cement. So far this looks to be durable. The banner actually moves and flaps on the cross bar, so it's kind of cool that way, too!

These fellows are the Lifeguard Dragoons - Minifigs painted about 25 years ago by my good freind Paul, one of my original wargames group dating back to High School. I met all of that group directly or indirectly through Scouting, both Paul and my good friend Chuck also becoming Eagle Scouts.When Paul moved to Arizona many years later, he left them in my care. I've done a small amount of touch up work on them, making one figure a trumpeter by painting the crest of his helmet read, and adding the yellow lace to the sleeves of his jacket.

I also used a light blue gray wash on the horses to both bring out some of the detail of the models, and also tone down the original "pure" white color, as well as a dry brush of dark grey to the combs of the helmets. The white horses are not historical, but they do look sharp!

Aside from those minor upgrades, the paint job is all Paul's, and looks pretty good I think, even after a quarter century and many battles fought!

This is the Lifeguard Hussar regiment, also just completed in the past few days, using 28mm Essex Russian Hussar figures. The standard is actually that of the Horse Guards; like all Russian Light Cavalry regiments, they probably either didn't either have a flag at all, or left it behind on campaign. 

Quite a spectacular uniform, eh? Aside from the specific colors of the Pelisse, Dolman, pants, and lace, the basic uniform is the same as the hussars of the line. 

The Essex figures are very nice! The portemanteau (rolled up on the saddle blanket behind the rider) probably should be plain dark grey form the information I have, but I have, perhaps mistakenly, painted it in the French style, matching the colors of the shabraque (saddle blanket). The same is true for the portemateau of the Chevalier Guards as well.

A final view of the Russian Guard Hussars. Note that the fur of the pelisse is white for the troopers, grey for the officers, and black for NCO's; this was common to all Russian Hussar units. 

Here we are back to 25mm Minifigs from 25 years ago, once again painted by Paul, with a few very minor details added by myself, chiefly to the trumpeter. After moving to Arizona, Paul accompanied me to two Historicons, and was there for the first big playtest of the Field of Battle rules in 2005. 

If I recall correctly, I think the figures are actually those meant for the French Guard Lancers, no figures having been made by Minifigs (and many other manufacturers as well) specifically for the Russian Uhlans. 

Once again, I think Paul's painting still looks very good. I like the pose here, too, with the lances slung back behind the riders. The colors of the lance pennons were different for each Russian Uhlan regiment; this yellow and white pattern is the correct one for this unit. 

All four of these regiments will be taking the field at our (the Hartford Area Historical Gaming Society) running of the Battle of Borodino - first at Ellis Con in Danielson, CT (about half of the battlefield) on Saturday November 2011, and then at Historicon (the "Full Monty") in Fredericksburg, VA on July 20, 2012. Piquet's Field of Battle rules (2nd edition) by Brent Oman will be used for both games. they should be quite the spectacle, with plenty of action as well!

Good gaming,