Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard (Nappy Cavalry Project Set #25)

Italeri have produced a number of very impressive Napoleonic cavalry kits and I’m pleased to have finally tackled their Mamelukes set; possibly one of their best.

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It has involved painting a lot of detail in a large range of colours, which in turn has meant a much larger investment in time to produce them. Was it worth it? I like to think so, they are unique in my collection and looks pleasingly colourful.

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Whilst it’s taken quite a while to get them painted, but the sheer exotic value of their turbans, scimitars, etc, etc, has kept me going.

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The Mamelukes made up a very small force in Napoleon’s cavalry, but the impact of their fame gave them an importance far beyond their limited numbers, and it’s no surprise that Italeri and HaT (amongst other manufacturers) have featured them in their range.

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Well, I can now place these figures into the cabinet with the other Nappy Cavalry Project regiments. And that means I can finally get on with packing for my much-needed summer holiday! Until I return, I send my very best wishes to all readers of this humble blog and leave you with the usual regimental biography and photos!

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Now, I wonder if there are any regimental museums where I’m going…


Biography: Mamelukes of the Imperial Guard [France]

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The word “Mameluke” is an Arabic term meaning ‘property’, indicating the status of Mamelukes as being slaves. Since the 9th Century, the Mamelukes were an influential military caste of slaves which rose to become a power in Egypt eventually ruling as the independent Mameluke Sultanate until 1517, and thereafter ruling as vassals of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte led his French ‘Army of the Orient’ to invade Egypt to both protect French trade and threaten Britain’s own. The most formidable force in the Egyptian army was undoubtedly the Mameluke cavalry. Equipped in an almost medieval fashion, sometimes including chain mail and iron helmets, they were expert horsemen and swordsmen. Armed with curved sabres of very high quality, they could out-fence most conventional cavalry and were observed to have actually sliced through French muskets.

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Napoleon soundly defeated the Mameluke army at the Battle of the Pyramids where he repelled their massed cavalry attacks. The formidable Mameluke cavalry had impressed him, however, as the only effective arm of the Egyptian army. Consequently, on the 14th September 1799, French General Kléber established a mounted company of Mameluke auxiliaries which were soon reorganised into 3 companies of 100 men each known as the “Mamluks de la République”. In 1803, they were again organised into a single company attached to the Chasseurs-à-Cheval of the Imperial Guard.

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Whilst the officers were occasionally French, the rest of the force were at various times made up of Greeks, Egyptians, Circassians, Albanians, Maltese, Hungarians, Georgians and Turks (amongst others. All were armed with a brace of pistols; a long dagger tucked into their waist sash; a mace; and later even a battle-axe.

The Mamelukes served in Poland, Spain and in Russia, fighting at the Battle of Wagram and most notably at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805 where the regiment was granted an eagle and its roster increased to accommodate a standard-bearer and a trumpeter. Service in Spain led to a famous painting by Francisco Goya depicting their charge against the uprising of the citizens of Madrid on 2 May 1808, a massacre which in part led up to the Peninsular War.

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El dos de mayo de 1808 en Madrid By Francisco de Goya

In 1813, losses accrued over many campaigns meant that the Mamelukes were inevitably reinforced with Frenchmen who were designated as ‘2nd Mamelukes’. Of the 2 companies of Mamelukes, the 1st was ranked as Old Guard and the 2nd as Young Guard.

CHARGE MAMELUKS AUSTERLITZ

On his return to power in 1815, Napoleon issued a decree stating that the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard would include a squadron of Mamelukes. It is not known whether they formed a complete squadron at Waterloo, or simply attached themselves as individuals to various units; Mamelukes were almost undoubtedly present, however.

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Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1815, there were widespread reprisals against individuals or groups identified with the defeated Napoleonic regime. These included the small number of Mamelukes who were still in the army. Eighteen of them were massacred in Marseilles by vengeful Royalists while awaiting transportation back to Egypt.

Monsieur Ducel Mameluke de la Garde  1813-1815.
Monsieur Ducel Mameluke de la Garde 1813-1815.

The brightly coloured Oriental dress and exotic weaponry of the Mamelukes gave them an influence far beyond the small size of their regiment; an influence felt beyond the battlefield into fashionable society! The Mamelukes loyalty to Napoleon was never questioned and they, fatally for some, became synonymous with him and his empire.

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Notable Battles: Austerlitz, Wagram, Waterloo.

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Hussars of the Tsar

This year, I have added a regiment of Russian Astrakhan Cuirassiers to the Nappy Cavalry Project and also finished painting the 17th Regiment of Foot for the 2017 Benno’s Figures Forum Group Build project.

What to tackle next? Why, more Napoleonic cavalry, of course! So, I’ve picked up my box of Zvezda Napoleonic Russian Hussars which are my 22nd Nappy Cavalry Project regiment. I originally intended to have a go at these before Christmas, but there was something of a problem with these figures, so let me explain:

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My daughter kindly holds up my latest box of Napoleonic cavalry!

Now – I find Zvezda figures need special preparation before painting, which I forgot to do. I charged on carelessly! Without some pva glue as an undercoat, I find my careful paintwork can just fall off the figures at the slightest touch. Having neglected to do this before spraying my primer, I now found I had the problem of removing all the flaky paint again. Although the paint flakes off easily, it does so unevenly, such that I struggle to completely remove it. I’ve tried scrubbing the figures with toothbrushes and also leaving them to soak for days in both Dettol antiseptic and bleach; none of these techniques were entirely successful. I’ve now tried blotting the figure with sticky Blu-tac which does indeed lift the paint off – but it’s hard and slow work.Finally, I’ve managed to clean up the last few figures ready to ‘begin again’.

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Zvezda Russian Hussars – primed and ready to go (finally…)

All fairly dull stuff, I’m sure anyone will agree who’s reading this! So, a far more fun thing to do, I find, is to decide upon which of the many colourful Russian hussar regiments I want to depict. I was pointed in the right direction very kindly by “matgc“, a talented Brazilian painter on Bennos Figures Forum (and I urge anyone to visit his excellent blog ‘My Ever-Growing Armies’ and view his own wonderfully vibrant Zvezda Hussar figures).

There were 12 Russian Hussar regiments in 1809, each wearing their own unique array of colours which is just what I love about Napoleonic cavalry. Out of these choices, I whittled them down to these preferred options (with their brief uniform descriptions):

  • The Pavlograd Hussars – Dark Green dolman / Turqoise pelisse / Yellow braid / Dark Green trousers
  • The Elizabethgrad Hussars – Grey dolman / Grey pelisse / Yellow braid / Dark Green trousers
  • The Soum Hussars – Grey dolman / Grey pelisse / White braid / Red trousers
  • The Izoum Hussars – Red dolman / Dark Blue pelisse / White braid / Dark Blue trousers
  • The Olviopol Hussars – Dark Green dolman / Dark Green pelisse / Yellow braid / Red trousers

Hmm, choices..choices… Of the other regiments, some wore black or brown dolmans which look terrific, including the said matgc’s chosen regiment,the  Akhtyrsk Hussars. However, having previously painted Prussian Hussars wearing both black and brown dolmans, I fancied a different colour for my cavalry collection. So, my choice is…

The Soum Hussars! These hussars are in grey with red trousers (see contemporary prints below). Perfect – I’ve not got a cavalry regiment in grey and red! I’d better shake up my bottles of grey paint in readiness…

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A Soum Hussar
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Russian Hussars – Left: Akhtrysk Hussar; Centre: Izoum Hussar; Right: a Soum Hussar.

Russian Hussar regiment info courtesy of the very splendid “Blunders on the Danube” blog – visit it here.

Guard Chasseurs a Cheval, with Napoleon [Nappy Cavalry Project Set #14]

After the better part of 10 months, after 15 regiments representing four nations, the Napoleonic Cavalry Project is now virtually complete. The 14th regiment is the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard, Napoleon Bonaparte’s personal escort. These dandies look like hussars, though wear colpacks on their heads. I’ve painted Napoleon in his familiar guise wearing the green uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs a Cheval.

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His horse is painted as being his famous grey which bore him throughout many a campaign; the Arabian stallion Marengo (a brief biography of the two is below).

Now it just leaves me to photograph a final parade of the regiments some time before Christmas!

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Bring on those photos!

 

Biography: The Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard (France)

The Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard originally began life as a part of a regiment of Guides raised by Napoleon when just a general in the Revolutionary Wars in 1796. They would go on to become one of the most prestigious regiments in the army, providing the personal guard to the emperor and nicknamed by some ‘The Pet Children’!

In 1800, a single company was raised of Chasseurs, commanded by the emperor’s stepson, which formed a part of the prestigious Consular Guide. This company took part in the narrow victory at the battle of Marengo. By 1802, they finally became a full regiment consisting of around 1000 men with a single company of Egyptian Mamelukes joining them as a part of the regiment later.

They performed a distinguished role at the battle of Austerlitz, badly mauling the Russian Imperial Guard. Missing the battle of Jena in 1806, the 1st Hussars (a regiment painted earlier in this project) had the privilege of escorting Napoleon on that occasion. They would return to personal escort duties in time for the triumphal entry into Berlin. They later took part in the great charge of Murat’s cavalry at the battle of Eylau in 1807.

During the Spanish campaign, this regiment performed well but was surprised, outflanked and badly cut up by British cavalry, their commander, Général de Brigade Charles Lefebvre-Desnouettes, being wounded and captured.

In the war of 1812, once more under the command of the returned General Lefebvre-Desnouettes, the regiment (as with the rest of the army) lost heavily over the course of the campaign, though distinguished themselves protecting their emperor from a particularly threatening attack by Cossacks.

During the final Waterloo campaign, they formed part of the Light Cavalry Division of the Imperial Guard, numbering some 1200 sabres. Though leading the initial advance on Quatre Bras, they were not seriously engaged and suffered light losses. At Waterloo, they were deployed as part of the cavalry reserve. The Guard Chasseurs were sent in leading the 2nd wave of fruitless attacks against the Allied squares in the afternoon and thus their proud history as Napoleon’s favoured cavalry regiment would finally come to an end.

Napoleon and Marengo: The emperor Napoleon and his horse Marengo formed a partnership at the early years of his rise to power. Imported from Egypt in 1799, the small stallion was a reliable mount and was present (and occasionally wounded) in many of his campaigns during the wars between 1799 to 1815. Together they experienced the battles of Austerlitz, Jena, Wagram, amongst others, and campaigns across the continent from Spain to Russia. They faught their last battle together at Waterloo in 1815. Parted, Napoleon was sent to St Helena in the South Atlantic whilst Marengo was brought over to Ely in England and, no worse for those years campagining, he finally died at the ripe equine age of 38.

Notable Battles: Austerlitz, Wagram, Eylau, Somosierra, La Moskowa, Quatre Bras, Waterloo


 

 

The face of Napoleon

And here he is, approaching his final lick of paint, the man himself; Napoleon Bonaparte!

I still have a few things to do such as hair and the tricolour cockade in his bicorn. He looks somewhat crazed with a wild stare! I don’t usually ‘paint’ eyes because at this scale, I feel it’s more effective to ‘shade’ them. However, Italeri seem to have sculpted them larger and more distinctly than usual with this figure, so I had little option but to try. More through accident than design, I’m pleased with the result.

Napoleon’s wearing the uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs a Cheval. He’s holding some rolled papers in one hand and his gloves in the other.

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His escort, the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard are nearly painted too (a couple of examples are below), so I’ll soon turn my attention to all the horses. Napoleon Bonaparte, of course, will be astride his famous Arabian grey, Marengo…