Monday, October 12, 2009

Carlist Wars: Isabellino Line Cavalry

A new unit for my slowly growing Carlist Wars collection: this time, Isabellino line cavalry. Although cavalry played a relatively minor role in the conflict, I couldn't resist some of these yellow-coated dandies. You'd have not seen waves of heavy cavalry sweeping across a Carlist Wars battlefield but there was a fair selection of units and uniforms to choose from nonetheless. I chose to work on some of the more ubiquitous in the Isabellino army mainly because of the uniforms and the lances (although lancers are not my favourite models to work with).

Excerpt from The First Carlist War 1833-1840, A Military History & Uniform Guide (Conrad Cairns, 2009):

"The cavalry was always a fairly minor (or non-existent) part of a government force.... The nature of the ground over which most of the war was fought precluded the use of large mounted forces, as did the difficulty in finding sufficient re-mounts."

The [cavalry] arm only increased by two regiments (to a total of 18) during the war. However, there was a great improvement in effectiveness, starting, it must be admitted, from a very low base." (p.34)

Once again, these models are from the Perry Miniatures collection and, as usual, the sculpts are quite nice and the animation varied but not cartoonish; however, I do have a couple of reservations about these models. The horses have few variations (not a big issue) and these variations I find to be very much difficult to work with. The horses are lively and full of movement but many of the hooves are modeled off the base and connected by a thick stringer. While modeling the hooves off of the base lends some creditable movement and vivacity to the sculpts, it also makes for some ugly chunks of metal joining the hooves to the bases. You can see some of these in the photo below. On some of them I have removed the large chunk of metal and replaced with a more slender pin.

The nature of the horse sculpts requires (for me, anyway) either the removal of the connecting metal chunk and replacement, for strength and stability, or leaving it in place. The former can be time-consuming and fiddly (and doesn't always look better) and the latter is just plain ugly. Of course, I could just be making a mountain out of a mole hill (hey, maybe that's what they are!).

Another issue I have with the horses is the bases. They tend to be rather thin and easily bent (in contrast to a Front Rank base, for instance). While not a big problem, coupled with the hoof-to-base-metal-chunk-thingy, it takes these otherwise brilliant sculpts down a few notches.

Now, a confession of a mistake and thank goodness it's not too late to correct it. The next unit on the blocks for this collection is (or was, more accurately) a Madrid militia battalion. I was first inspired to model this unit because of the great emerald green flag in the Adolfo Ramos flag collection. I dutifully did my research, although it was a of a limited nature given the few resources available. I had in my lead pile enough infantry figures in greatcoat and epaulettes to create this unit and I had made a start on the painting when I happened to notice a submission on this very unit on the Carlist Wars Yahoo group. 'Great,' I thought, 'I can see how someone else has painted this unit and maybe take some pointers and inspiration.'

Well, to my mild shock I found the unit painted by Giles Allison to be completely different to my projected unit. I quickly realized the source of the differences. The emerald green flag that had so enamoured me was not for the Madrid militia but for the Batallon Provincial de Madrid (a provincial militia unit), and it said just that on the bottom of the flag sheet. The unit of Madrid militia that I had found in Conrad Cairn's book (see above) was not the same. Fortunately, I had chosen greatcoated figures for this unit and I had only blocked in the base colours when I realized my mistake. The figures are at a basic stage of painting that can allow a switch to another unit's uniform details. Now the question is, to what unit do I switch? The most obvious would be to make a second battalion of provincial guard (for the first, see here). The figures I've started match those in my first battalion and I have a flag for them. I'll have to continue with my research to see if I can find another alternative.

Lesson learned: read the damned text more carefully. Doh!


  1. First, the cavalry are fantastic! I haven't plucked up the courage yet to paint any FCW cavalry and these are inspirational. I know what you mean about the stringers and bases. I suppose you can disguise the stringers a bit with foliage but the bases do bend a lot.

    Secondly, researching uniforms for this war is a nightmare! I had to check the yahoo group several times as I was painting the provincials as it's so easy to get confused. But then again it works both ways - there were regional variations and no one can prove that your hosen unit didn't wear the uniform you've chosen....I'm working on another provincial regiment at the moment and have put them in regular army grey winter trousers and am doing the collars differently.

  2. Giles,

    Thanks for the compliment. Yellow is definitely not my favourite colour to paint.