Monday 6 May 2013

Further reading, and scenarios for wargaming the South American Wars of Liberation

The South American Wars of Liberation are a fascinating part of overall the Napoleonic wars, and provide the potential for very colourful Napoleonic battles in the New World. Set in the period starting in 1810, and running up to 1830, these wars covered the breadth of Spain's crumbling American empire, with the key campaigns set in the North around modern day Venezuela, in the South in Argentina, Chile and finally in the North West/centre in Peru, as well as in Mexico.

I wanted to provide a list of books and sources which I think can provide a quick and entertaining introduction to the period, the tactics and ideas about how to wargame them. Probably the first book I came across was The Armies of Bolivar and San Martin by Terry Hooker. This Osprey book is a great little introduction to the period, and gives a broad outline of the campaigns and uniforms (and the illustrations are excellent).

The masterpiece in terms of it scope and depth of detail for the Wars of Liberation has to be "Liberators" by Robert Harvey. This covers all the major campaigns and battles from Mexico to Tiera Del Fuego, from the beginning of the Republican movement under Miranda to the death of Simon Bolivar in 1830, and the abdication of the Emperor Pedro in Brazil in 1831. I cannot recommend the book enough as a Tour de force history of the wars.

Of more specific and recent interest is the newly published "Conquer or Die!" by Ben Hughes. Focusing solely on the exploits of the British (and Irish) Legions in the wars. This is clearly geared towards military historians (and wargamers), and presents each of the battles and campaigns of the Legion in its various forms and amalgamations, including detailed battle maps and orders of battle (OOBs) where available.

Here you can see one example for the Battle of Boyaco. I would recommend this book, especially for the depth of essential detail it provides for gamers.

Last, but not least, are the excellent series of books and supplements by John Fletcher over at Grenadier Productions. Again the first book titled "Liberators" really gives a very good overview of the war in the South and the campaigns of San Martin and Bernardo O'Higgins. it provides a wealth of uniform information for the Argentinian, Chilean and Spanish Armies, with details of all the major battles, with maps and OOBs included. This is a must for the wargamer or Military historian.

There is also an additional Supplement that goes along with this that you can purchase as a PDF.

The other book focuses on our heroes again in the British and Irish Legions. There is again a nice overview of the history of these units followed by some uniform guides, and then more details of battles. There is also then several nice tactical and skirmish level scenarios presented. Again, good for use with the smaller battles that were most common during these wars, as well as for Skirmish games ideal for the Sharp Practice rules or other sets.
I believe John Fletcher has another book in the pipeline that will focus solely on the Northen campaigns of Simon Bolivar and his generals. These can be purchased directly from Grenadier Productions (see link on left).


  1. Great book list, I was flicking through the Liberators book the other week around Posties!

  2. I can recomend a gret battle to wargame, Pezuela's victory over Rondeau's army : Viluma 1815.

    1. Thanks for the link Daniel ;-)
      There's also a great review of all the sources over at the Balagan blog which I had missed before: