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Nominee 4: Agustina of Aragón

Since Nominee 3 was Joan of Arc, we'll turn next to a woman known as the "Spanish Joan of Arc" - Agustina Raimunda María Zaragoza y Domenech (or, more simply, Agustina of Aragón). She was a woman caught up in the French siege of Zaragoza (1808) during the Peninsular War. At one point, when the men had abandoned the lines, she loaded and fired a cannon at short range into the assaulting French troops. Her bravery inspired her comrades, who returned to repulse the assault. Here she is firing the gun at the advancing French:

She became quite famous for making such a determined stand, although this was not the last of her actions. The siege was successful in the end, and she was captured. Her hatred of the French was exacerbated when she witnessed them murder her son while in captivity. After making a daring escape, she went on to lead a band of guerillas. She later became a captain of artillery, and some say that she served with the British artillery at the battle of Vitoria (although others claim this isn't true.) Here she is in (presumably) her captain's uniform, along with another image of her by her artillery piece, in the aftermath of the victory she inspired:

What is undeniable is that she has become a major symbol of heroic resistance to oppression. She was depicted by no less an artist than Goya in his Disasters of War series, and has also been depicted in film (1950), and, more recently, in a graphic novel (now also made into a movie, apparently).

More difficult by far is to find miniatures that would be suitable for her. There was even some discussion about female guerillas on The Miniatures Page. Redoubt Enterprises does make some 28mm female guerillas in their Napoleonics line (SG17 - SG19), and no doubt there may be pirate figures from other manufacturers which could be used. Someone on TMP pointed to a female duellist from Blue Moon's Swashbucklers set. Front Rank have a great series of Spanish Napoleonic infantry, including guerillas, but no women! And even the pirate ranges don't have female artillerists. Many fantasy-type lines such as Reaper have female pirate characters, but these are often too much for what an historical gamer requires. This one isn't too over the top, but not what you'd like to see, either. You might be able to do something with this one if you toned it down a bit, but it would take some work. You get the picture.

But wait! What about this? I lied - there are 28mm Napoleonic female artillerists!

The picture here is from a finished eBay auction, but a little more googling and I found the blog post linked to above. I couldn't find them on the Elite Miniatures site, and then realized that it was a different company altogether: Elite Wargames and Models (their site was down when I wrote this, but hopefully its back online now). [Editor's Note: The new site is now up, and they do not only female artillerists but female guerillas and various troops from both sides - impressive!] And there are some depictions of Agustina wearing a pelisse, so the figure with the portfire is perfect. I'll bet whoever sculpted these had looked at pictures of Agustina before getting to work.

In general terms, however, it brings two different questions to mind: (1) With so many good figures available, both for the guerillas and other Spanish troops, why do we always seem to think primarily of the British as fighting against Napoleon's army in the Peninsula? When you go to the Wikipedia site on the Peninsular War, and go to the side bar (look at the bottom of it) linking you to all the battles (you have to click the "Show" link) there is a listing of 170-some-odd different actions. Of which how many featured the British army, exactly? And the Spanish army of the period was not perhaps the equal of Wellington's British one, but Wellington didn't win that conflict alone, obviously. I'm not pointing fingers here, either - my own Peninsular wargaming is as Brit-centric as anyone's, maybe moreso.

And (2) Why does our hobby generally avoid simulating siege warfare, when this was a major feature of so many popular wargaming periods? We have good skirmish rules for Napoleonics (for example Sharp Practice) and many other periods, to simulate the small-scale actions that make up the exciting parts of sieges. Lots of good terrain manufacturers are doing useful things, too (two of my favorites are Reiver Castings and Paul's Modelling Workshop, but lots of people make this stuff). And we are slowly seeing rules for pike-and-shot periods introducing more siege-related systems. I understand why sieges are considered hard to game on the tabletop - there are too many things which are logistically intensive and not very exciting, like, say, digging trenches and waiting around for the enemy to starve to death - but surely we can think of clever ways to overcome these difficulties? (Especially with computers to help us, this has got to be true!) Maybe it's just me... Anyway - something to think about.

So - my admiration goes out to Agustina Raimunda María Zaragoza y Domenech, and if I get my hands on those Elite figures, she may well put in a showing on my wargames table.

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