Friday, July 10, 2015

Waterloo: Weather, Greatcoats and Shako Covers

I have an ongoing difficulty with the widespread preference of some wargamers for depicting those who fought at Waterloo in greatcoats. There is this persistent notion that from 11:20 am or thereabouts on 18 June 1815, men would have marched and fought in heavy woolen greatcoats because it rained the night before. Together with this idea is that men went into battle with shako covers. This prevailing view and desire has in turn steered sculptors and manufacturers to provide such figures for 1815 - they'd be mad not to of course.
I do not dispute that the weather in Belgium can get cool even in high summer and that weather can change with radical dips and rises in temperature. The morning would have been misty as it was in late May 2012 when I last visited - it was cool also on my visit. Having said that, there was no rain on the day in question and it had ceased by 7:00 am at the latest by all accounts. The meteorological study by  Wheeler and Demaree demonstrates the previous evening's downpour and electrical activity was nevertheless a shallow trough of low pressure following a scorching previous day.
I suggest that it would have been and still is wholly impractical to attempt to march and fight with a sodden greatcoat by midday when the mists were clearing and the weather warming. If worn the night before (and I certainly would have if I'd had one) it's a matter of drying it as best one can and then rolling it and strapping onto the back-pack or saddle. Once on the move, greatcoats would have weighed the men down significantly - heavy on the arms, cumbersome and increasing fatigue for the French in particular who did most of the foot-slogging over muddy ground. An active soldier will have generated his own heat and combined with rising temperatures (even if only a few degrees) in what must have been developing as a humid zone would have been galling. Worse that that, it would simply have been insane.
An active person in the great outdoors is going to dry quicker under even a feeble sun with less on - not more. The uniform jackets were all wool also and should have provided sufficient insulation against any breeze which may have prevailed and if sodden, would have been heavy enough on their own without the assitance of another and thicker layer of soaked wool on top of it.
Of course, there's no such thing as uniform when it comes to uniform. There are references to members of the French Old Guard wearing greatcoats but more to cover civilian attire when a soldier was without a full uniform. For the appearance of the Guard, appearances were almost everything in front of their Emperor. I regard this; however, as an exception to the general rule. I say leave your greatcoated infantry for the Russian winter campaign but keep them away from Waterloo.
On the subject of shako covers - they are an item for campaign as opposed to the day of battle. They were no more likely (on either side) to retain their shako covers by midday than I would carry an open umbrella for four hours after it had stopped raining. As with all items of uniform, given sufficient preparation time (and there was plenty on the day of battle at Waterloo) regiments would have gone into battle as splendidly arrayed as was practicable to identify themselves (particularly important amongst the Allies), increase their own morale, to impress or even intimidate the enemy and display before their own command. It was a different era to the modern.
My difficulty in the persistence of greatcoats and covers only truly extends to when I cannot purchase figures sculpted without them - which is the case for my Elite Miniatures Nassau regiments. In any event, this is my considered opinion - very much considered but nevertheless very much an opinion only. Please feel free to disagree. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Waterloo: Papelotte Map Adjustment

 I must say, for the wargaming researcher, the internet is a blessing from Olympus. A rapid search through Google Earth and voila; an in-situ aerial view of Papelotte farm house. The roads have not essentially changed their course it seems for about two hundred and fifty years making it very simple indeed to translate modern birds eye photography to my map references.
A closer view clearly demonstrates the farm house today and it's orientation to the road - Chemin de la Papelotte. Contrasting this photo to older records (photos), sketches and the Hovels Ltd model and it is clear how to orientate the building - the outer courtyard being where the similarly sized square of heavy vegetation to south is today. What also becomes clear is the relative inacuracy of Adkin's map in his Waterloo Companion is for the placement and orientation of Papelotte.
There will be no substitute for use of the model itself in precisely locating placement of Papelotte on my terrain. Nevertheless, I have shown the amendment of the position and some fiddling with my proposed hedges and crops.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Black Powder House Rules for Napoleonics

Black Powder House Rules by UnluckyGeneral

A few thoughts Grant and I had on how Black Powder rules applied to the way we enjoy our Napoleonic wargames. As you will see if you read the House Rules amendments, we felt that heavy artillery was insufficiently represented and the horse artillery rules governing movement were too fluid; allowing them to magically appear and disappear about the table-top without the practical need for a limber model.
We preferred to limit interpenetration and also felt that units were too easily paralyzed through the disorder rule so introduced a chance of saving against it. 
Most rules allow for forming square as a reaction to charge but we enjoyed the old Grand Manner requirement to form square only in your own move - being a matter of judgement. Not abandoning it entirely, we are providing for a last minute attempt all the same but at a risk of potential disaster. This certainly reflects battlefield events such as those which took place at battles such as Quatre Bras.
Finally, the only provision for Napoleonic battalions deploying skirmishers is the 'mixed order' ability in Black Powder. We felt it ignored the particular capabilities of specially trained and experienced Light Battalions so we are experimenting with transfer of the whole battalion fire rating to its skirmish line. For us, only sufficient figures representing the light companies of any line battalion are ever deployed in the 'mixed order' but will opt for 'up to a third' in the case of light battalions in keeping with Black Powder recommendations.