Monday 31 July 2023

Dragoons and Dragoon Operations in the British Civil Wars 1638-1653

Dragoons and Dragoon Operations in the British Civil Wars, 1638-1653’ by Andrew Abram is one of offerings from Helion in their Century of the Soldier series. It is also number 99 in the series and to be honest it of the doesn’t seem two minutes since the first book in this prolific series appeared in print. Apologies for yet another book review but I’m still away from home so no games or even painting to report upon just yet but back home on 15 August and that’s where I’m staying until next year!

The book’s sub title could very well be along the lines of ‘everything you ever wanted to know about dragoons but didn’t ask’. This quite weighty book provides the reader with a comprehensive description of every aspect of what being a dragoon meant and entailed in the British Civil Wars. They were said to be ‘jacks of all trades’ but in truth many units were masters of many, such as combined arms tactics and specialist operations.

The first half or thereabouts of the book provides us with a comprehensive description of the origins and roles of dragoons, tactics ( including the aforementioned specialist operations, their organisation, pay and other benefits, clothing, equipment, standards and everything to do with horses, their care and feeding and horse harness. I found the latter area of discussion provided an especially interesting insight given the importance of horses to their role on the battlefield and on campaign.

The second half investigates the dragoons in action, with the Oxford army, that of the Earl of Essex, the Eastern Association and the New Model Army. These provide a detailed understanding of their role and operations. There were some very good units, often recruited from veterans of Continental warfare, and very many poorly led ones, especially in the early days of the wars.

The book is well written and an engaging read, and furthermore is really interesting, insofar that I lost myself in it for several hours when reading it for this review. The narrative is supported by a wide range of illustrations and several tables. Some are contemporary images, others photographs of present-day historic locations that feature in the text.

I am not aware, and stand to be corrected, of any other authors who have written such a detailed account of this rather overlooked subject; traditional views often hold dragoons in some level of contempt when compared to the more dashing cavalrymen, but it’s all very ‘apples and pears’. Prince Rupert among many commanders understood and utilised their unique skills both on and off the battlefield, and having read this book I am now much more appreciative of the importance dragoons played in the Civil Wars. This is yet another book worthy of a place on my groaning bookshelves.

ISBN 978-1-804511-95-4. 334 pages, softback

Friday 21 July 2023

The Campaign in Poland 1806-1807

The rate at which Helion are publishing books covering the period between 1805 and 1807 is such that anyone with an interest in the efforts of the Russian army during these years will probably feel like the proverbial kid in a sweet shop there is so much on offer!

Following hard on the heels of ‘Tsar Alexander’s Second War with Napoleon 1806-1807’ by Alexander Ivanovich Mikhailovsky-Dailevsky, we now have ‘Confronting Napoleon. Levin von Bennigsen’s Memoir of the Campaign in Poland, 1806-1807. Volume 1, Pultusk to Eylau’.

The book starts with an interesting series of discussions on the geopolitical situation in Europe, particularly with relevance to Russia and her relationships with her neighbours such as Sweden, the Ottomans, Prussia, Austria, France and England.

This is all useful scene setting before we are launched into a very informative narrative of the campaign, which is ideal for those readers with limited understanding of this complex campaign, but no less so given the source material for anyone with a greater depth of knowledge. The course of the campaign through the wilds of Poland in winter is particularly interesting, written as it is from the perspective of Benningson in his memoirs, where he describes the logistical nightmare of campaigning in Poland, and the operational challenges faced by a far from unified Russian command. Of course everything comes to a conclusion (for this volume at least) with the confusing bloodbath that was the battle of Eylau, which is described in detail.

The book contains a number of useful maps, both of the theatre of war and of some of the individual battles, together with a number of contemporary black and white illustrations. Do not overlook the numerous and detailed footnotes as they provide some fascinating supporting information, as does the inclusion of Marshal Ney’s captured correspondence.

This book is a must for anyone interested in this campaign, and this is a tremendous first volume. I eagerly await volume 2.

The down side of all these books on the years from 1805-1807 is that my plans for a Russo-Swedish War 1808-1809 project have been expanded, as I am going to end up with far more Russians than required for that little war, but I WILL have enough for these campaigns as well. All I need is to find someone with enough French to fight them. Get painting guys!

ISBN 978-1-915070-44-9. Softback, 230 pages.

Thursday 13 July 2023

Early Napoleonic Russians on Holiday and The Great Game

By which I mean I am on holiday again, not my Napoleonic Russians heading off to their summer dachas, or worse still invading the Raj via the North West Frontier, but you knew what I meant…..

So, I’ve brought some figures to paint this trip, in the shape of a couple of regiments of Russian infantry, totaling six battalions of 32 minis each, plus two half batteries of artillery. They’re all Casting Room Miniatures (CRM) in greatcoats so painting them ought not to be a big chore (famous last words no doubt). I’ve brought some ‘speed paints’ with me to do the greatcoats, gaiters and shakos and the rest will be done in acrylic. Not sure still how speedy they are in practice, and the figures still don’t paint themselves!

In the past week I’ve decided rather unhelpfully to re-organise my Russian line infantry into regiments of three battalions, each of 32 figures. Having spent the last three years getting the miniatures together for this project whenever CRM had a sale, restructuring the army is a bit silly but it should work out. So rather than the original organisation of two battalions of 24 per regiment we now have three of 32. Eight miniatures from each battalion are grenadiers while the rest are musketeers so other than there being an extra battalion for each regiment not much has changed. My two jager regiments will now need expanding slightly and my lone grenadier regiment will need another battalion. 

Having decided to add yet another Russian army to my collection (already I have Russians for the SYW, FRW and Crimean War) with the main objective of gaming the Russo-Swedish War of 1808-1809 I've decided it'd be nice to be able to use these Russians to fight the French between 1805 and 1808.  A dastardly Russian trick however was to change uniform regulations between the end of the campaign in Poland and the start of the war against Sweden. I shall however adopt a flexible approach, by which I mean I will do what I like as I like the early j├Ąger uniforms and busk it with the shoulder straps and collars on the grenadiers and musketeers.

Katherine’s birthday party this evening so I doubt I’ll make any progress with the Russian hoards today.