Tuesday, April 3, 2012

'The Fighting Cocks of the Army': Portuguese 6th Line Infantry from Porto


For the past few months the excellent Napoleonic forum 'La Bricole' has been hosting a painting competition focusing on 'bog average' troops. You know these lads, these are the dust-pounders, the beetle-crushers, the poor dog-faces that make up the vast majority of any army. So members of the forum have been busy producing a fine assortment of units ranging from Austrian Landwehr, French Chasseurs a Cheval, to Prussian Musketeers and Bavarian Chevauleger (just to name a few)
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So, after a little consideration I decided to get back to work on my Peninsular War collection by digging-up enough castings to do a largeish unit of Portuguese line infantry.


These are 28mm Victrix metal castings sculpted by the talented Paul Hicks. Great sculpts overall, with very good proportions and animation (though it must be said that their bayonets do have a tendency to be a bit thin and fragile). The regimental colours are by 'Flag Dude'. Sharp-eyed visitors will have noticed that I submitted a smaller version of this unit as part of my final entry to the Painting Challenge but it has since increased in size with fresh recruits.


This unit depicts the 6th Regiment of the Line which was composed of recruits from the northern region of Portugal, around Porto. This regiment was part of W.H. Campbell's 5th Portuguese Brigade who's units were all made up of men from the same area and saw hard campaigning from Busaco to Vittoria.




Some may ask to what reason a Portuguese brigade was commanded by a Scot? Good question: In 1809 the Portuguese government, finding itself facing dissolution and possible annexation by the French, was determined that their army should be reconstituted, with British assistance, to enable it to better defend its sovereign rights. As part of this arrangement Great Britain appointed General William Carr Beresford to reorganize, train and re-equip the Portuguese army along British lines.  A part of this reorganization resulted in several Portuguese regiments and brigades being led by British officers who were seconded from Wellington's army. The attraction to this for those British officers was that it allowed them to get a 'leg up' in rank without the heavy financial burden normally required to purchase their equivalent promotion in rank with the British army. 


The results of this close cooperation was a highly trained, extremely motivated Portuguese army that became an integral, if not indispensable, part of British military efforts in the Peninsula. In fact, by the last years of the war Portuguese units made up between one third and one half of the 'British' army that fought in Spain. They earned a reputation as tenacious fighters and uncomplaining campaigners, with their qualities best described in Wellington's famous comment that they were 'the fighting cocks of the army' which is no small accolade considering how typically reserved the Duke was to giving compliments!

18 comments:

  1. Really nice work Curt. They really capture that "warriors for the working day" quality that you mentioned is the theme of the painting contest.
    I didn't realize Portugese troops were so good, but what I know about the Peninsula War is minimal.
    Cheers,
    Mike

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  2. A proper man sized unit there Curt, looking really good too.

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  3. That's lovely looking unit you have done there Curt!

    Christopher

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  4. Very nice Curt, I have been away from the peninsula for awhile now, and your figures are tempting me back.

    John

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  5. Thanks guys!

    @Mike: Yes, they often overlooked in the British literature which is a shame as they were very solid troops. My wife and I vacationed near Porto last year and I managed to walk several of the battlefields. Busaco is particularly impressive - beautiful country.

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  6. fantastic job Curt, they look really great

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  7. A very nice unit, Curt, a wonderful painting work and one from the Iberian Peninsula!!!

    The Wellington´s comment about the "Cocks" is very good; this animal is a symbol of Portugal.

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  8. A very impressive looking unit Curt! Great painting!!!

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  9. Very impressive work! I've never tried the Victrix metals and think they may be worth a second look. I do need to add a few Portuguese units to my British army that performs double duty for both the Peninsular and the War of 1812

    Miles

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  10. Great looking unit there Curt.

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  11. Brilliant big unit really. Very colourful and the basing is just excellent.

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  12. Cheers guys!

    @Juan: Ah, I did not know that - very interesting anecdote. Actually, I thought my blog title might get the wrong crowd visiting my little corner of geek-space. Ahem.

    I think one of the armies I'm going to start soon the Napoleonic Spanish. They will be colourful!

    @John: Yes, that's right you've been in the Waterloo campaign for so long that I forgot you started your collection with the Peninsula.

    @Miles: I can fully recommend the Victrix metals. I've seen both the full Portuguese and Russian range and they are beautifully sculpted. Again, my only caveat is that they are quite finely cast and their bayonets are sometimes at risk. I often 'buffer' them up with a thin layer of superglue.

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  13. Cheers Fran, much appreciated!
    Curt

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  14. Lovely collection! The Portuguese people were so misused by the French. The memoirs I've read make my heart hurt for the fear and anguish they must have suffered. The rise of the Portuguese army is one of my favorites. They wanted the French out and set about getting it done!

    I want so badly to go visit all the battle sights in Portugal. One day, right. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Sarah! We spent a month in Portugal a few years ago and loved it. Such a beautiful country - especially the northern areas around Porto and Ponte de Lima. I managed to tour several of the Napoleonic battle-sites and thoroughly enjoyed myself (though I'm sure the excellent food and wine helped skew my appreciation!).

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