You And Who’s Army?

Back in October I commented that the blog would probably go quiet for a bit while I was working on “a sort of side-project” (see here). I didn’t really want to post anything about it until I’d got a reasonable amount to show, so here we are! A Mexican Republican Army for the period 1862 – 1867 no less!

Now I’m pretty sure that some of you are now thinking WTF! At first glance it doesn’t appear to be much of an army at all and is pretty top-heavy – a colonel with his drummer, three subordinate officers that he can issue orders to, plenty of flags to wave about and a reserve drummer (since you can never have too many drummers)! But I do have a plan! Once again I’ll have to apologise for this being a long post!

Bit of historical context first though, some of which I might get wrong! In 1861 Mexican President Benito Juarez suspended payment on foreign debts so the British, French and Spanish opted to send naval forces and troops to Veracruz at the end of 1861 in an effort to persuade the Mexicans of their folly. The British and Spanish soon decided to withdraw but the French decided to stay. En route to Mexico City the French were surprisingly defeated at Puebla, so they brought in more troops and settled down to besiege the Mexican forces in Puebla. After a prolonged siege Puebla surrendered and the French marched on to Mexico City and from there out to more outlying regions, forcing the Mexican Republican government to essentially conduct guerrilla warfare for the next few years. With the USA occupied with its own civil war at the time, French Emperor Napoleon III decided to establish an empire in Mexico and the imperial crown was offered to, and eventually accepted by, Maximilian, brother to the Austrian emperor. However, once the American Civil War was over the USA wasted no time in demanding a French withdrawal and the last French troops left in early 1867. Despite Maximilian and the French having created an Imperial Mexican Army, the latter was defeated at Queretaro and Maximilian met his end in front of a firing squad! French involvement in Mexico is usually referred to as either the Second French Intervention or the Mexican Adventure (which makes it sound a bit like holiday package, something it most definitely was not)!

Anyway, time for a little bit about the figures.

The first group (shown above) are also my entries for Roger’s Mo’vember Challenge, although moustaches on 20mm figures are not so easy to see! The figures are a Mexican officer by Jacklex and two colour bearers, converted from Newline Designs ACW figures (I’d be stuck without this range of figures). I actually had to buy two new Vallejo acrylic colours specifically for the green and red on the flags and, somewhat surprisingly, the Carmine Red turned out to provide very poor coverage (I think the only reason the red on the flags looked halfway decent was because I drew them up in PowerPoint first). The Jacklex Mexican range is new and I was pleased to be able to get some of the figures, although the sculpting has been kept sympathetic to the older Jacklex figures and the detail is quite basic.

The next group (shown above) are the remainder of the figures. Left to right these are the colonel and his accompanying drummer (an Italeri plastic ACW officer and Newline ACW drummer), a Jacklex Mexican colour bearer, a Jacklex Mexican officer, another Newline drummer and, finally, a Jacklex Mexican militia officer. The colour bearer is wearing the blue infantry uniform with black shako, whereas the drummers wear the more common campaign dress in white cotton with a blue kepi. From what I’ve read, I’ve got quite a bit of flexibility with Mexican uniforms and, as will soon become obvious, I’ve exploited this fact heavily!

I’d originally thought about wargaming this conflict decades ago and even bought and painted a handful of the excellent Wargames Foundry 28mm figures for it, but I didn’t really see that going much further than small skirmish games and I eventually passed my figures on to my long-suffering regular wargames opponent John (who had, and still has, loads of Old West figures). I never really thought much more about it until I realised that I could maybe start it up as a side-project, making use of figures I’ve painted over the past few years for my Paraguayan War armies. Consequently I started to plan this by making use of figures I could scrape together until I found out this year that Jacklex had released a range of 20mm figures for the conflict.

So . . . the picture above shows some of my Brazilian troops for the Paraguayan war, and the picture below . . .

. . . shows my complete Mexican Republican army at this point! The nine figures in the photo at the start of this post have been swapped in for some of the Brazilian figures, a Brazilian mounted cacadore unit has been added to represent a Mexican irregular cavalry unit and a Paraguayan infantry unit represents the 2nd Morelia national guard battalion (rear right in the picture above). More units are planned, along with some Imperial Mexican units and foreign contingents (including Belgians and Egyptians) so watch this space. It’d be nice to have as many Mexican troops for this conflict as Mark Morin has Aztecs but that is not going to happen!

This would have been the ideal place to end this post, but I reckon if I did that I’d have Marvin over at Suburban Militarism commenting immediately along the lines of “This all looks very nice but how can you wargame the French intervention in Mexico without having any Foreign Legion figures?” and he’d be right! Consequently, I decided it’d be better to post about this once I’d got my Foreign Legion figures painted (see below).

Four of these figures are brand new, whilst six of them are partially repainted figures that are about 20 years old. The legionnaires are all Italeri/ESCI plastic 1/72 figures and although they represent figures from around the late 19th Century they fit quite well here (the ammunition pouches and weapon details are incorrect for 1860s Mexico). The officer (more on him later) is from the plastic EMHAR Franco-Prussian War French infantry set.

I’d originally painted six of the figures for my French forces in Vietnam in the 1880s but a quick change of jacket and sash colour gave me figures for use in Mexico (the figure on the right of the line in the picture above is the repainted test figure – I can tell these figures are old as they have their eyes painted). The bases on these figures are in my old style with milliput representing earth, and sand painted green and drybrushed yellow to represent grass. I’ll just leave these bases as they are since they’re quite tidy.

As for the officer, he also qualifies for Roger’s Mo’vember challenge. Although he’s wearing his coat buttoned closed with epaulettes on the shoulders, he’s a good likeness for Captain Jean Danjou, who commanded the Foreign Legion company that fought at Camerone on 30th April 1863. Danjou lost his left hand in the Crimean War and wore an artificial hand frequently depicted covered with a white glove. Every year on April 30th the Foreign Legion solemnly parades Captain Danjou’s artificial hand and remembers all of their fallen comrades. You can find out more about the battle at Camerone at this excellent site and I always find the translation of the Latin inscription on one of the memorials raised near the site of the battle quite moving:

Here there were less than sixty

Facing a whole army

Whose weight crushed them under

But their lives, before their courage,

Left these French soldiers

Also seems quite appropriate considering that we’ve not long had Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day and Remembrance Sunday.

As far as other French troops are concerned I don’t really need to paint any more. My French forces for Italy in 1859, France in 1870 and Vietnam in the 1880s mean I have enough for now, which means I can try and concentrate on Mexican Republican and Imperial armies. My intention is to add new units in between working on other projects but we all know that plans are there to be changed!

30 comments

  1. Great work on all John, and a good way to get multiple uses from the same models as well by the sound of it.
    Not a war I’m at all familiar with so shall watch with interest.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Dave! 🙂 I have a few projects that spin off in to side-projects and more to come (although not sure when)! There are quite a range of uniforms worn by the troops involved in Mexico, probably more than I’ll have for my Paraguayan War troops!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. These look great and enjoyed reading the background, didn’t know much at all about this adventure! Technical question for you, how do you make your banners? I need to make a few banners for some napoleonics models and am looking for inspiration!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ahh I hoped you’d mention the battle of Camarón as it’s one of my favourite “last stand” battles and you didn’t disappoint. I’m glad you added the white glove to the Captains hand 😉 Great work here mate and the history lesson was great too. I’m sure I’ve said this before but I really enjoy seeing your style of painting. It’s always so crisp and vivid.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Matt! 🙂 Another one of those projects that I’ve kicked about for years has finally surfaced almost by accident – I’ve already got all the French I need (even without the Foreign Legion) and the Brazilians get me over half a Mexican army with little effort!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So this is the secret project! I think its a great one, John and I like how you’ve found soldiers that have fairly colorful and interesting uniforms to paint. Painting camo is nice but I would much rather paint some vibrant colors myself. I’m looking forward to seeing more! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow John, La Legion Etrangere and Capitaine Jean Danjou, plus a shout out for me? Christmas came early buddy! Having studied French military history and the lore that IRO referred to, this was a joyous post indeed. I echo his crisp comments – the minis really are beautifully done in your inimitable style. That period in history was only possible because of the ACW, but the Monroe Doctrine reasserted itself post-war. It is a fascinating interlude in the history of both countries. Superb post! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lovely work John, and no, you can never have too many drummers!
    I like the way you’re always pushing into uncommon areas of military history; I for one have learnt a lot from reading your posts.
    One day, though, you might just focus on something simple, like the Eastern Front for example 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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