Monday, July 13, 2015

Napoleonic Ottomans: the Nizam-i Cedit finished

Yikes! Its been over a month since the last post which means this has gone from a monthly to more of an occasional blog. Hmmm..  In times past I would have worried about that but work and family life ('other stuff') seems to get in the way. I've not had a decent game in months either for much the same reasons. But despite this the figure painting continues and I'm nearing the halfway mark with my Ottoman Turk/Egyptian Mameluke army with the Mamelukes finished and now the Turk's Nizam-i Cedit - their attempt to build a European-style national army. Note these guys were in virtual competition with the Janissaries, the latter of which were essentially dragooned (mainly) Christian slave boys provided by the despicable Devshirme system (similar to the Mamelukes as well).

A couple of Dixon(?) figures I made into a command stand
The Porte depended on this elite of fierce Muslim converts to provide the backbone of the Turkish army for centuries and it is no surprise that they became a powerful force sometimes even dictating who became the Ottoman Sultan!  In the end they were massacred in 1826 (slaughtered in their barracks) and most of the survivors executed, largely by a version of the Turkish national army - themselves successors to the Nizan e-Cedit of the Napoleonic period.

Mulazin (lieutenant) of Nizan-i Cedit and standard-bearer
The officer on the other end (in the round cap) is a kolugasi or senior lieutenant - the title meant 'chief of slaves in the Sultan's service' (typical Ottomans!) although they were recruited from Turks rather than  subject or conquered peoples

The Nizams actually worked well despite the opinion of many Europeans that they were a barely organised rabble. In truth they were relatively well equipped and trained at first by European officers. Their Turkish officers were a bit of a mixed bunch by all accounts - court favourites of the Porte getting the plum appointments etc, but when it came down to it they generally acquitted themselves well. Napoleon faced them at Aboukir during the Turks attempted invasion of Egypt (they lost that one big-time) and also at Gaza (lost again) but surprised the French by fighting like demons to the last. In fact Napoleon was so impressed by the danger the few thousand survivors posed to his tenuous line of supply that he had them all killed (a very Ottoman-like gesture) in a slaughter that besmirched his career and reputation.  He finally encountered them at Acre where a small orta (regiment) of about 400 joined with a motley collection of Turks, Syrians and British sailors and marines under Sir Sydney Smith to completely stymie Napoleon in one of the great turning points in history.  All of which makes for endless 'what-if' wargaming possibilities. I think the French in Egypt one of the most neglected and underrated of all the episodes of the Revolutionary/Napoleonic period.  The whole enterprise was astonishing in its scope - the largest (successful) sea-borne invasion force at least in modern warfare, before the Allied armada at D Day in 1944. Had Napoleon been successful in the siege of Acre, it would have opened the entire Middle East to him - there was little to oppose a march on Istanbul and there was nothing between him and British India. The forced French retreat back across the waterless Sinai to Egypt was a disaster unparalleled until that in Russia thirteen years later.

March column of Nizam led by a kolugasi
The Brigade figures I've just finished are sculpted by the prolific Paul Hicks and are some of the nicest figures around - as good as the Perrys in my opinion.  If I have a criticism its a minor one - as discussed in a previous post about the Mamelukes, the ankles (and fetlocks) are slender so that they bend easily and can - if you're not careful - break off from the bases.  If like me you use a hot glue gun to attach figures to painting sticks, when finished painting use a hair dryer to soften the glue before removing them from the sticks. The glue is easy to clean off the bases and there's no risk of the bends or worse.  The marching Nizam's muskets are also slender and I did have a partial breakage (the only one out of 60 figures I must admit) which required some superglue reinforcing but that's more just a hazard common to all metals - how many bayonets have snapped off before, during and after painting etc?  [My repair trick for that nowadays is supergluing hard plastic ones rather than trying to reattach the broken metal]

Anyway, pretty pleased with the way they turned out. The flags are sort of conjecture - the green one is anyway - but they match the first Turkish national flags that appeared around that time.  Nizams may have carried unit standards similar to those of other Turkish units like the Janissaries but the flags appear unique to them during this period.  The next lot to tackle are the Janissaries and I am unashamedly going to plagiarize those wonderful Old Glory ones that Vinnie has on his Lonely Gamers blog.  If I can paint them half as well I'll be very pleased indeed. BUT for the moment I have to drop everything and paint WWII Italians in anticipation of my first game in ages next month - a Bolt Action Alamein series of games. So I'd better stop blogging and get cracking on my Italians!

I've just now looked at the photos and realised that I've done something that's punched the red up to a horrific purple-pink - dammit!  They did NOT look like that when being processed for the blog! Grrrr....

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