Monday, 23 January 2017
1809 Spaniards - a mystery unit?
This post covers a topic which has been discussed in a couple of my emails recently, so if you recognise any of it then I have simply opened the subject up a bit wider, in search of clues. Because, my dear Holmes, I am puzzled.
One of the forthcoming units in my 1809 Spanish army is a light battalion, the Voluntarios de Campo Mayor. I've included a picture of them in their 1805 regulation uniform, if only to give some proof they existed. I have checked my Spanish army database (a fine thing - the work of Col. JJ Sañudo), and it shows that they had a long and busy career during the Guerra de Independencia, but of course Sanudo's lists start in 1808, and I'm looking a bit earlier than that.
I have a little research to do to try to find an authentic (or at least feasible) flag for the unit. I enjoy lightweight digging jobs like this, but there is something a bit odd going on here. Campo Mayor is not in Spain at all - it is in Portugal. Why, then, would the Spanish Army have a unit named after (and raised in?) a Portuguese town? The regiment was raised in 1802 (I don't know where, at the moment), which makes it one of the very youngest of the regular regiments which existed prior to the huge explosion in new units raised from 1808 on. I am guessing here, but this may have something to do with Manuel de Godoy. The War of the Oranges (May-Jun 1801) had resulted in Spain capturing some Portuguese territory - including Campo Mayor and the province of Olivenza. The Treaty of Badajoz returned some of these areas to Portugal, though Olivenza remained Spanish until modern times.
Around 1802, one of the Spanish cavalry regiments changed its name to the Cazadores a Caballo de Olivenza, which may appear a little cheeky, in view of the very recent change of ownership (this is still a disputed region today), but it would have been really cheeky to name a new infantry unit after Campo Mayor, which - if it ever was Spanish - was only so very briefly.
According to Sañudo, the Voluntarios de Campo Mayor became (or were absorbed by) the Regimiento de Infanteria Ligera de Albuera (No.11) on 2nd March 1815. The mystery, then, is why and how the new light infantry battalion of 1802 was named after a Portuguese town? I'm still grinding my way through various books by Esdaile, Bueno and others, so I may yet find something, but I realise that someone might just know the answer.
All clues welcome, as ever!