Thursday, 11 June 2009
The First Carlist War: basics
The First Carlist War proper lasted from 1833 to 1840, but the tensions behind it were to cause outbreaks of violence at various times up to the civil war of the 1930s. It is a simplification to say that those tensions were, first, between supporters of absolute monarchy and those who wanted greater democratic representation (who were referred to by a new word, "liberals") and, secondly, between the supporters of Don Carlos, the brother of King Ferdinand VII and those who were loyal to Queen Isabel II. But the catalyst for the call to arms in the early 1830s was the death in September 1833 of King Ferdinand VII , father of Isabel and brother of Don Carlos. Ferdinand had ruled since the expulsion from Spain of the French in 1814. At the time of his accession, the Spanish monarchy was subject to the Salic Law, i.e. that no female could inherit the throne. Ferdinand overturned the Salic Law in 1830, arguably without due consultation and consent of parliament and/or in contravention of the constitution. Doubts as to the legitimacy of Ferdinand's actions meant that when he was succeeded by his infant daughter Isabel (with his wife Christina as regent) those who supported tradition, absolutism and the primacy of the Salic Law had a case for supporting a male pretender. That pretender was Don Carlos and his supporters became known as "Carlists".
The army largely remained loyal to Isabel and Christina; with men and officers drawn from all ranks of society, the army was a natural supporter of "liberalism". The Carlists drew support from all over the country, but particularly in remoter areas which had retained local traditions and some autonomy, and which considered a centrist liberal government as a threat to their way of life. A "hotbed" of Carlist support was the Basque region of northern Spain and many important campaigns took place in this area. The ensuing conflict, in which troops from Britain, France and Portugal participated, was bloody and vicious.
I am still very much "feeling my way" in this period and intend to add a bit of history to each post on it. This is also to ease the lack of hard information about the battle record of individual regiments and units. Unlike the AWI, many of the battalions I paint will have a generic use, particularly the Spanish units. But there are a few similarities in the two periods: the First Carlist War requires little cavalry and artillery (largely due to the nature of the terrain); it was a nasty civil war in which people switched sides often; the main combatants were joined by auxiliary troops from other nations; the nature of the fighting and terrain often required loose, open-order tactics. To me, these are some of the attractions of the period.
And so to wargaming basics. Figures: in 25mm there is the Perry Miniatures range (I believe that Frei Corps provide a 15mm alternative), and I imagine that in the usual way other manufacturers' products can be plundered, especiall armed civilians from Napoleonic ranges. Rules: I'm looking at the 19th century "General de Brigade" variant called "There are your guns". Source material: well here's the problem. I am aware of only two readily available books in English - Edward Brett's "The British Auxiliary Legion in the First Carlist War" and "The First Carlist War" by Conrad Cairns and Michael Perry. The latter does the work of Osprey with the bonus of oustanding paintings from Michael. Also of use are two websites: the Balagan wargaming site (here) and the FCW Yahoo group (here), which boasts several very knowledgeable gamers amongst its membership. Scenery: without further research on what Basque landscape looks like (I have been there once, when I was 10), I will make do with traditional Peninsular War buildings; the 2 models that appear in the background of the photos are from a new range by Tablescape. Music: I always feel that one good way to get inside a period is to listen to period music. I know very little about 1830s Spanish music, although I am aware that the "zarzuela" was very popular in Spain from this time onwards, being essentially a kind of operetta. I'm looking forward to learning more. Wine: yes, I'm going to struggle finding Spanish wine to help get me in the mood...
So there you have it. I appreciate that this is a rather dry post and the photos above (of the BAL) are only a taster of what is, I think, a colourful and interesting period. Without further ado I will post up the first battalion of Isabelino regular army, to be followed by more regulars, horse artillery and the British Auxiliary Legion. There's also a game chez Perry planned for the end of the month, which should produce some good photos. I have some ECW too, and I see that Burgoyne's artillery has sneaked its way onto the painting table, so all is not lost on the AWI front. After all, it will always be the One True Period....