Tuesday 26 February 2019

Franco Dutch War: Spanish victories at Bellegarde and Battle of Maureillas 1674

Battle of Maureillas, 1674:

This battle was fought in a secondary front of the Franco-Dutch War, unleashed by the French King Louis XIV in 1672 who invaded the United Provinces. A year later a Grand Aliance was formed against France to which, Spain joined. Until then, peacefull Rousillon (north Catalonia), since 1659  recognized as possession of the French crown, became  a front of the new war. France fought alone against numerous enemies in Flanders, Holland and the Rhine, so French forces were not very large in its southern border...This allowed the Spaniards to take the initiative.

Italian/Spanish Francisco de Tuttavilla y del Tufo, Duke of San German, was in charge of  military operations against France. This veteran, who had fought in Catalonia and Portugal in the previous two decades, had a respectable army of 8,000 infantry and 2,500 horses, with which he started the campaign in May 1674. Before that, San German tried, without success, to orchestrate  several conspiracies to revolt Roussillon against the French monarchy. It is worth to mention that a good part of this army (10 tercios) were taken and paid by the Catalan institutions and cities, which also raised numerous Somatenes (Catalan militias), apart from that, reinforcements from Castile and Naples were added to these troops.

The Theatre of operations: Roussillon and North Catalonia

the Duke of San German invaded the Rousillon by crossing the Pyrenees through the Col de Portell. The Spanish army was heavily supported by the Angelets de la Terra, the pro-Spanish Migueletes (miquelets, aka Catalan mountain guerrillas) from Roussillon. French troops, commanded by Monsieur Le Bret, could not oppose the large number of the Spanish attackers, and after beinqg defeated trying to block the passage to the invader on the Tech River, they concentrated around Perpignan. The Spaniards seized easily and in succession the castle of Maureillas and the towns of Arles and Ceret. The greatest success came on July 4th, when the impressive fortress of Bellegarde, which allowed the French to enter in Catalonia at their leisure, was surrendered without much resistance.
Given the chain of disasters, Le Bret was replaced by the famous Duke Frederick Von Schomberg. This general was born in Heidelberg, and was a veteran of almost 40 years of service, having fought in Dutch, Swedish, French and Portuguese armies.

Schomberg, who would end his days fighting against Irish Jacobites and his former French comrades, scored a small success over his adversary San German by forcing him to lift the siege he had laid on the village of Banyuls. At same the time, Schomberg,was reinforced with new troops, so he  had 12,000 infantrymen, 3,000 horses and an auxiliary militia of 10,000 men. While the hardness of the territory and the dispersion of its troops in different garrisons had left San German with only 4,300 infantrymen. and 700 horses... San German, seeing himself greatly outnumbered,  retreated with his army to the southern shore of the Tech River, where he quartered in a fortified encampment. From this position  Catalan migueletes did not stop harassing  French positions and convoys, even killing in an ambush  Josep d'Ardena, one of the main leaders of the anti-Spanish revolt of 1640.

Schomberg, who, in the past, had defeated a Spanish army in Montes Claros (Portugal, 1665) a few years before, could not effectively counteract the incursions of the feared Migueletes. For that reason He decided to deal with the main threat: the army of San German, and then finish off the guerrillas. With this idea in mind,  he ordered a surprise attack on the Spanish camp. However, the Migueletes themselves thwarted the operation, first discovering the French troops and then helping to repel the three assaults that the attackers threw on the parapets that defended the position. Finally, the Spanish cavalry expelled the French beyond the Tech River. In this action, a Swiss regiment leading the attack, was almost completely annihilated.

The battle at Spanish camp:

San German observes the battlefield

Catalan Militia Tercio defending the camp

Migueletes & Angelets de terra join the regular army in the defense

Guardia Chamberga pikemen 

French infantry launch repeated attacks

but are repelled by determined musketry fire

their attacks continue, fighting close quarters with pikes and plug bayonets

Casualities grow on both sides, but the Spaniards hold their line

the camp and baggage are saved

French call off the attack and will cross the Tech river from other place...

Despite the hard setback that had become his surprise attack on the Spanish camp, Schomberg did not desist in his attempt to destroy the Spanish forces behind their pits, trenches and parapets. If he could not break the defenses of the Spanish camp, he would try to drive the Spanish troops out into the open to take advantage of his numerical superiority. The first maneuver of the veteran general was to take the castle of Sant Joan de Pagès, north of the Spanish camp. The control of the old medieval fortification allowed him to have a safe position to cross the river and dispose his forces in front of those of San German, barely a quarter of a league from the castle. But the duke did not attack. Instead, both armies spent three weeks observing each other from afar, waiting for the enemy to be the first to move. And San German was the first to do it. Given the shortage of supplies, the Spanish commander decided to move south of the Pyrenees, on June 19.

The camps Spanish (in the mountainous area) and French (in the plain) on either side of the Tech River.
The field battle

The Duke of San German, in order to prevent a mass rout, made his troops form in order of battle and marched first the baggage train. But the French were not fooled, and they attacked the Spanish army on both flanks: In the right wing, the French onslaught was repelled by the Tercios of Barcelona and Vic, commanded respectively by Maestres de campo Francisco de Mari and Manuel de Sentmenat. Reinforced by the cavalry wing of the Count of Lumiares, which defeated the French squadrons, both Tercios forced the French infantry to flee. On the left flank the French regiments were held back by the Tercios of  Marquis of Aytona and the Guardia Chamberga (royal guards), the latter under the command of Marquis of Leganes. The French cavalry was also dismantled on that flank, and the infantry finally disbanded in search of salvation on the northern shore of the Tech.


Frederick Schoemberg, French Commander

Duke of San Germán, Spanish Commander

The French losses were very high. Between over 1000 men lost their lives, and some 1,500 or 1,600 were taken prisoner, including Schomberg's eldest son, who was a cavalry colonel. The French also lost all their artillery, 600 mounts, and most of the baggage. In addition, the Spaniards disabled with nails the cannons that could not be taken. On the Hispanic side there were also many deaths to be mourned. The Trozo (regiment) of cavalry of Medina was one of the most punished units, it lost practically all its troops. Schomberg still had superior forces, but he feared an outbreak of indiscipline, and in conjunction with the cold that soon came with the fall, were decisive in the decision of the, once victorious, general to retire to their barracks. Thus, the Spanish cavalry could enter the country looting here and there until the very gates of Perpignan. 
Unfortunately for Spain, the following year, in Sicily would explode the famous Messina uprising, encouraged and supported by France, and the Spanish crown would be forced to send to the Italian island, many troops of the Catalan front, wich was deprived of it best units. Schomberg then regained Bellegarde, and Spanish hopes of regaining the county of Rousillon faded.

Spain had to fight on the defensive for the rest of the war on the Catalan front, although, luckily, the troops sent to Sicily, after 2 years, were able to expel Louis XIV forces from Messina, ending the costly rebellion in 1678.

-Espino López, Antonio. Las Guerras de Cataluña 1652-1700. 2014
- Lynn, John A. The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714. 1999
- Balaguer, Víctor. Historia de Cataluña, tomo VIII., 1886.
- Cánovas del Castillo, Antonio. Historia de la decadencia de España desde el advenimiento de Felipe III al trono hasta la muerte de Carlos II. 1910.

Monday 18 February 2019

French for 30 Years War: New project!

Hello mates,

Recently I have decided to abandon my Swedish/Protestant project for 30 years war, and convert it into French.  Why ? Because I have already a Spanish Army, and although the Swedes are great army to paint and play with, they did not fight the Spaniards that much... Nordlingen 1634 and some other minor engagements ( As far as I know), so I thought it would be better to have a Dutch or French army, finally opting for the latter.

The reasons for the French are:

-Dutch war of independence is great for sieges, but not for field battles, after Spanish victory at Kallo, 1638,  field battles were rare.

-Building a TYW French army is great for me, because I can depict engagementes from 1628 to 1659.

- I can use English, German or Catalan regiment as allies or mercenaries depending on the front.

- Infantry regiments are well known, and the flags are easy to identify, unfortunately, the cavalry flags are almost unknown.

-interesting "unique" features  like more ribbons in late war.

-Lots of conversion and kitbashing posibilities!

The beginning and basis of my army will be the following:

- 3 native French regiments of Pike & Shot, (Picardie, Turenne, French Guards)
- English regiment for the Dunes or Catalan Tercio for the War in Catalonia & Rousillon. luckly, both used the St George Cross ! so a generic white flag with red cross will do the job ;)
-German regiment (Weimarian or similar)

-a couple of guns, light and medium.

-at least 3 horse squadrons, 1 cuirassier and 2 horse reiters or similar.

-command bases.

For the previous  units, I already have painted several ex Swedish pikemen, a light gun, officers etc, now dispersed in the different regiments. Also some ECW horsemen, and a command base that will loose its nice Swedish flag (and their sashes will be repainted in white).

Here you can see my "Work in Progress" pike blocks, I have used several manufacturers like Warlord Games, Northstar, Steve Barber, The Assault Group, Bicorne...:

Probably my future French Guards

Regiment Picardie

Regiment Picardie

Regiment de Turenne

And now, some colour plates for inspiration about 30 years war French Army:

First, some modern interpretations of the French army, taken from Several books and the internet, some of them are from Spanish book series "Guerreros y Batallas", editorial Almena.   Is our particular "Osprey" like books.

Cardinal Guard, Reiter, Pikeman 1640'

King's Musketeer 1630'

King's Musketeer 1630'

French Musketeer

French army 

Louis XIII and Richelieu on campaign

French cavalry


Gardes Françaises


Rocroi drawing, not very accurate...

French Officer

French Musketter from 1630 onwards

French at Rocroi 1643

French at Tuttlingen 1643

French artillery attacked by Bavarian Cuirassiers 1643

Catalan Tercio fighting in the French side

Catalan tercio fighting in the French side.

Old XIXc. illustration of 30 years wars French:

Flat tin soldiers

Some Mark Allen's flags

Some old paintings I like:

Condé at Rocroi

La ferté 1654

Rocroi, I find the uniforms a bit too late for 1643.