Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Welcome the French
I recall Eclaireur (author of the "British Grenadier!" AWI rules) mentioning to me a few years ago that he'd asked Alan Perry whether he intended to sculpt any French figures for the AWI. The answer was "not for about 5 years", and I believe EC told me this 4 or 5 years ago. This might give an indication of how much advance planning sculptors (or some of them at least) put into their ranges, or may suggest that the Perry Miniatures AWI range is a long-term venture which will see everything one could wish for released at some stage. I mention this conversation because the Perries took a bit of flack on the TMP forum when they announced the release of their AWI French. Most Perry news releases seem to be met with replies of "why didn't you release [my pet wants] instead?", but the reaction to the French was more focused. The arguments against are: (1) there are more obvious "gaps" in the range (e.g. American light infantry) and (2) there just aren't many gameable scenarios that involve the French. To be honest, both points are reasonably made and justified. But I'm sure everything will appear in time.
Personally I'm delighted to see these figures. I'm sure that for every person who wants to see light infantry in caps or Rhode Island negro troops there's another who wants to see the French. More importantly for me, having the French allows you to wander off the American continent and look at scenarios in the Caribbean, India and elsewhere and even consider "what ifs" involving large numbers of French and British infantry going head-to-head. Those types of scenarios won't be of interest to everyone, but I'm happy to be able to stretch the boundaries of the period and learn about what the French actually did in the field, whether in American or elswhere, to assist the American war effort (and of course further France's own ambitions). Anyway, the purpose of this post is to set down a few thoughts on how I intend to approach the French forces. I should add that as well as the new Perries I have been looking at the Eureka revolutionary wars range for suitable figures.
Following the 1776 army reforms, each regiment had two battalions. According to Rene Chartrand's Osprey, Each battalion had 6 companies - 4 fusilier, 1 grenadier and 1 chasseur. Full strength seems to have been 107 for the grenadiers and 171 for all the other companies. In addition to these, there was an "auxiliary recruit company" that was "added in wartime". I've read elsewhere, however, that each battalion had either the chasseur company or the grenadier company - a result of the regiments formerly consisting of just one battalion. The flank companies, however, were apparently used on a regimental rather than battalion level, and often placed in composite ad-hoc battalions for particular battles.
There are currently only 2 published "British Grenadier!" scenarios that feature mainstream French troops (there is a third, Gloucester Point, but that only involves Lauzun's Legion). La Vigie is a Caribbean action from 1778 that requires 6 battalions of 18 figures each (Armagnac x 2, Auxerrois x 2, Viennois and a colonial battalion) and separate combined grenadier and chasseur units of 18 figures (the chasseurs appearing as 3 lots of 6-figure skirmish units). Savannah has more complex requirements: 2 named battalions of 12 figures each (Armagnac and Dillon); 2 composite fusilier units, of 16 and 18 figures; 3 combined grenadier units of 8 figures each; and more skirmishing chasseurs amounting to 24 figures. Savannah therefore reflects the practice of French commanders gathering together elements of several different regiments into composite field units; ideally for these units I'd want each stand to represent a different regiment. The Savannah scenario also allows the French player to add the grenadiers to the various fusilier units, so I need to ensure that the poses of these troops are the same. Therefore, the approach I'm going to adopt is to paint up the flank companies at the same time as the fusilier companies.
Most readers will know that the French army changed its uniforms during the course of the AWI. There are two relevant "ordonnances": 1776 and 1779. The latter uniform is distinguished from the former by longer coats tails and the replacement of grenadiers' bearskins with cocked hats (although it mnay have been the case that some troops still wore their bearskins). Troops stationed out in the West Indies are unlikely to have received the 1779 uniforms before the Savannah campaign in October of that year. Therefore, the figures required for the scenarios above should be in the 1776 uniform. Troops arriving with Rochambeau in 1780 and Saint-Simon the following year would probably have had the 1779 uniform.
Incidentally, Perry Miniatures are remodelling their grenadiers, to remove the bags on the bearskins - there is an announcement on the front-page of their website (scroll beneath the plastics announcement). I'm not too fussed - I shall use the figures I have already bought for bombardiers de la marine, which did have bags on their bearskins.
I was quite confused about flags until I asked around on various fora. It seems that as part of the 1776 reforms the number of flags carried by each regiment was 1 per battalion. The first battalion carried the "drapeau blanc", i.e. the white colonel's flag (which seems to have been the same for most regiments); the second battalion carried the more colourful and distinctive "d'ordonnance" flag. This is helpful for recreating the La Vigie orbat, as GMB don't currently have colours for the Armagnac and Auxerrois regiments - I can use the drapeaux blancs from other packs. French flags were topped by a distinctive finial - these can be bought from Front Rank.
The photo above is a wip pic of the Armagnac Regiment. These were painted using a mid-grey undercoat instead of my usual black one, and I'm happy with the overall look - quite crisp and snappy, I think. Lee's Legion and the Von Mirbach regiment are finished and going through the basing process; ditto more First Carlist War stuff. If the sun ever appears again in London (this has been the worst winter on record) I might even be able to take some decent photos...