domingo, 24 de febrero de 2013

Article on Scribd

I have recently published a 27-pages article in Spanish focused on the capture and defence of the fortress of Schenkenschans in 1635 by Spanish troops in north-west Germany. Enjoy it!


lunes, 25 de junio de 2012

Camino a Rocroi, new blog

I've created a new blog, Camino a Rocroi (Road to Rocroi), focusing on the Spanish military campaigns, battles, sieges and soldiers of the 17th century. You can access it by following this link:

I'll write primarily on unknown actions, obscure officers and oddities about life in the army. Hope you'll enjoy it.

miércoles, 6 de junio de 2012

The Irish switch sides

The very unknown story of a regiment of Irishmen which passed from Spanish to French service, and what happened to them.

Irish soldiers were regarded as the best of the Spanish armies of the 17th century just before Old Spaniards and Italians. Thousand of Irishmen enlisted the ranks of the Spanish armies during and after the Nine Year's War and the Irish Confederate Wars, and some of them were treated as elite units, not only at the Low Countries, where they did their most distinguished services, but also at Portugal and Catalonia, where they helped the Spanish king in attempting to crush both independentist revolts (What a paradox!). Irish troops were employed at the Catalan War since the beggining. An Irish tercio (Tyrone) was present at the 1640-41 campaign, seen action at the Battle of Montjuïc, when Tyrone was killed from a musket shot. Severely decimated by the battle-losses and the terrible three-months siege of Tarragona, Tyrone's regiment was transfered in 1642 to the Portuguese front. But let's go to Richard Grace's story...

Dutch map of Ireland in 1650, by Jan Jansson.

Richard Grace was an Irish royalist officer who in the final years of the Irish Confederate Wars harassed the Parlamentarian troops and earned some reputation. England set upon his head a reward of £300, so he fled to Spain with 1,200 followers with the aim of enter in service of King Philip IV. The King wellcomed him, and Grace's regiment was sent to Catalonia in 1653. There, Grace's Irishmen met other Irish units: Bernard Oncale's (O'Calahan?) and Richard Burke's regiments. Irishmen, however, were not welcomed by Catalans. Our well known Miguel Parets wrote on them, on they arrival to Barcelona this same year, that they were "people for whose poverty, multitude and no cleanliness always carried with them diseases and filth", and tough he admited that some of them were "very good and brave officer and soldiers", he also claimed that "others were thieves who did much harm in Catalonia". Irish soldiers were forced to live on the streets with their wives and children, because Catalans did not want them lodged on their homes.

Moreover, Spain was involved in financial difficulties, and Irish regiments were often unpaid. Grace and some of his officers fell soon disenchanted with their new life in the Spanish ranks, and Grace began to take in consideration a flight to France, were his beloved Charles II of Englad has sought refuge. His regiment and himself were detached by Viceroy Juan de Austria to garrison the fort of Hostalric, near the city of Girona. From there, Grace and his men planned switching to the French side. Marechal Hoquincourt invaded the northern Catalonia in june with 13.000 men and laid siege to Girona. Grace contacted with the French marechal and promised him the loyalty of his regiment and the control of the fort. But he was discovered...

The Marquis of Sierra, Maestre de Campo General of the Spanish army, tried to besiege him on the fort, but on the appearence of Hoquincourt's troops, he was forced to allow Grane and his soldiers of abandoning unharmed the fort and move to the French camp. Since then, no Irish unit was left to guard alone any post, fort or castle. Outraged by Grace's treason, the Irish officers of the loyal regiments wrote a very critical manifest against him. Thus begins the manifest: "Irish Maestres de Campo and Sargentos Mayores wich are serving to his Catholic Majesty in his Royal Army of Catalonia abominate the perfidy of Maestre de Campo Richard Grace and show to the World their desire of taking satisfaction of the insult he had done to the Irish Nation". And satisfaction was taken. Not from Grace, who had a long life and was killed at the age of 79 at the Battle of the Boyne, but from his men.

No mercy for the turncoats. Excerpt of Foot soldiers in a battle, a village burning beyond,
by Sebastian Vrancx.

Grace's former regiment was still present at Catalonia in French service in 1657. That year a French army of 6,000 infantry and 3,000 cavalry under Duc de Candale descended upon Barcelona, and Grace regiment was a part of them. They were inflicted a sharp defeat by the Spanish army led by the Italian Marquis of Mortara at Castellfollit, castle whose French governor sold to the Spaniards for a good prize. Candale lost 1,500 dead, 600 prisoners, 500 horses, 2 cannons, 14 carts and all the baggage. The Irish turncoats were not given quarter. Only the officers were preserved to be hanged afterwards, being all the soldiers put to the sword.

  • Ruiz Rodríguez, Ignacio: Don Juan José de Austria en la Monarquía Hispánica: entre la Política, el Poder y la Intriga. Madrid: Librería-Editorial Dykinson, 2007.
  • Barrionuevo, Jerónimo: Avisos (1654-1658), precede una noticia de la vida y escritos del autor por A. Paz y Mélia. Madrid: Manuel Tello, 1892.
  • Real Academia de la Historia: Crónica Catalana de Miguel Parets. Memorial Histórico Español. Tomo XXV. Madrid: Manuel Tello, 1893.

martes, 5 de junio de 2012

Spanish army at Salses, 1639-40

Here is a list of the tercios/regiments of the Spanish army which besieged the castle of Salses in Rousillon the winter of 1639 to 1640. More than the 40% of the soldiers (about 13.000) were Catalan recruits. The first 9 units were levied and paid by the Generalitat, the city hall of Barcelona, and the nobility of the country. Other units included Castilian, Aragonese, Valencian, Italian, Walloon and Irish soldiers. The castle, in French hands since july, was retaken, but a heavy cost: 10.000 men died, mostly from illnes.

su Magestad en el Principado de Cathaluña, contra
el Frances.

Something that draws considerable attention is that some regiments had just a few dozens of musketeers, while others had few or no arquebusiers (the Irish tercio, specifically). Sadly, I don't know the reason. The best equiped tercio, on the other hand, is that of Barcelona (under Josep de Sorribes, former cavalry captain in the Army of Flanders). I hope to get soon a good relation of the cavalry.

Source: Relacion Verdadera de Todo lo Sucedido en los Condados de Rosellon y Cerdaña, desde los primeros de Iunio, que entrò el enemigo por aquel principado, hasta diez y nueve de Setiembre, que se dio la batalla al Frâces, en la qual queò desbaratado. (Universidad de Sevilla) [Link]