Garibaldi: Beyond the Vosges

By Rob Morgan

If I’d been able to find my Italian file, I’d probably have added this to my note on Garibaldi’s troops in the Army of the Vosges, which Jim Rohrer created recently. Now, Garibaldi inspired many nations to create units named after him, or based on the famous ‘Red-Shirts’ of the Risorgimento. All are worthy of examination.

One article written by the Italian historian Andrea Viotti, appeared in Military Modelling many years ago, in June 1982, hard to find these days. Following the landings of Garibaldi’s ‘Thousand’ at Marsala in Sicily in May 1860, volunteers from across Europe flocked to his banner, forming small ‘legions’ which fought across the island and took part in numerous battles, usually outnumbered. The British volunteers formed three distinct units, an ‘English Battalion,’ which soon became ‘Dunne’s Brigade,’ which fought well at Milazzo and Volturno, and the ‘British Legion’ which was formed later in the campaign. There was also a ‘Scots Company’ under arms for a shorter time. The Illustrated London News, that splendid source of 19th century military and naval material, lauded the British support for Garibaldi, and so the uniforms, equipment and activities of these men were well recorded.

Both the News and Viotti’s article provide details of the uniforms of these Garibaldini. All three can be easily made from the numerous sets of American Civil War infantry about, I prefer the HO/OO or 20mm scale, but for Jim’s benefit any of the many 54mm (1/32nd) ACW sets around are just as good. The British Legion wore ‘red shirt’ tunics, trousers and the kepi. The News shows that many men wore straw hats during the heat of the campaign, which allows Confederate figures to be employed.

British Legion troops were infantry, wearing red tunics with green cuffs, red kepi with a green band and white trousers with black shoes or boots. Oh, and a motley arrangement of all sorts of leather and cloth equipment. Brass buttons, incidentally. Officers wore a green stripe down the button front of the tunic, gold epaulettes, and the Legion were equipped with all sorts of muskets and personal weapons, swords, pistols, cutlasses.

Dunne’s Brigade will make for a most attractive table top force in any scale. They were dressed all in white, shirts or tunics, and wore bright green collars and cuffs. They also wore the red kepi with green band, sometimes with a havelock cloth behind, many wore the straw hat, and could probably pass for Mexicans! No, not the sombrero! Same equipment, cloth or leather, black or brown boots, and a variety of muskets, bayonets, etc.

The Scots Company wore the red shirt or smock, and tartan trousers, with a tartan neckerchief. Tartan varies; they may have worn a number of personal, clan or standard tartans, take your choice. Again, equipment and muskets of a motley sort, from a variety of sources. There would almost certainly have been a piper, wearing a kilt, not the most difficult figure to find in 54m scale, but you’ll need to change the headgear, obviously.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen an easier wargame force to convert! Simply a rather different paint job from the usual Blue and Grey kit of the American war. Incidentally, there was a small British naval contingent too, sailors manning  light ship’s cannon. I mentioned a preference for the standard, 20mm wargames scale, and in this a few of the Airfix cowboy set will do for seamen, the Confederate and Federal Infantry for the three units, with a few of the gunners from the Artillery set. For an officer on horseback I’d use the mounted figure from the Airfix Foreign Legion set, just trim the kepi a little. There were one or two nurses with them, and the walking woman from the Wagon Train set will do for them, and the same set will provide one or two townsmen volunteers. In 54mm, plenty of these types around too.

I’d be interested if someone could review the 54mm figures they use, it’s a scale I’ve not been active in since I was a youngster, but it clearly has some potential.

More on Garibaldi shortly, I think.

Avanti! as they say.

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1 Response to Garibaldi: Beyond the Vosges

  1. jimr says:

    Rob, I use Armies in Plastic 54mm figures. They seem to be good value. Almost any 19th century European soldier could be turned into a Garibaldini, just by painting his shirt red. Since volunteers came from all over Europe, the uniforms were very diverse. As you indicated, a single unit from the same country could be uniformed identically. On the other hand, if units mixed, then their uniforms would be a hodgepodge. The red shirt is the common denominator.
    But I think cutting the tassel off a kepi seems like a good idea. Those things are bit flashy for soldiers who want to over-throw imperialists.

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