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The Forces of Spanish King Charles III, part 2
Spanish Soldiers in Old Havana
Spain 1759–88

Prior to the reforms of 1763 - in imitation of those undertaken in France by Vallière, and in part supervised by him - the Royal Artillery Regiment was an amorphous body containing all field and fortress artillery (except coastal batteries) in Spain and the colonies. There was great variety in unit sizes and equipment, and an attempt had been made to reform the Artillery and Engineers in 1756 under the Count of Aranda. But resistance to such change was so great that Aranda resigned two years later, having achieved little.
The artillery uniform consisted of a blue coat with red cuffs and lining, and yellow-metal buttons (though this was little worn on service), blue trousers, white stockings, and a red long-sleeved waistcoat. As the coat was typically not worn, the waistcoat gave the appearance of a red jacket. The hat was a tricorne in black, with golden edging and the Spanish red cockade. Officers wore a better quality version of the same uniform, with gold edging to the waistcoat, and would more normally wear the coat.

General Officers

At the start of Charles III`s reign there were about 150 officers in the Spanish Army with the rank of Brigadier or higher - by the 1790s there were over 600. Charles III seems to have had a habit of promoting officers - mainly for political reasons or due to royal whim - as for example he promoted a series of officers after the disasterous Portuguese Campaign of 1762. The Spanish Officer Corps was an entirely noble preserve - proof of nobility was required to enter - and the young candidate would look for a cadet post in an infantry or cavalry regiment (there were 2 such positions to each company) subject to availability. The sons of captains or above could serve as cadets from the age of 12 years, while others must wait until the age of 16. From a cadet, the nobleman rose through the hierachy by family or personal influence, or patronage. This was fairly standard for the Eighteenth Century, but without any formal training (just what they learnt `on the job`) the resulting officer corps was of very variable quality. As noblemen they would know how to give orders to inferiors, but any other skills were down to luck or native ability. Overall, the officers were poor (as seen to an even greater degree in the army of the Napoleonic period). Charles III (or at least his advisors) seem to have been aware of this, and several attempts were made to rectify it. Military Academies were opened from 1762, and a small number of non-nobles were allowed into the officer corps from 1763 (`officers of merit`).

Regimental officers wore a uniform similar to their men - though of better quality - but officers of field rank wore a dark-blue coat with a thick gold stripe down the outside of the arm, with cuff decoration depending on rank, and red trousers. A polished cuirass (front-plate only?) may have been worn. The tricorne was black with white-over-gold lace.

Medical Services

The Army Hospital was created in 1704, as a back-up to the Regimental Surgeons then in position. In 1720 field hospitals were authorized, each having a physician and an apothecary (civilians hired on contract for the campaign), and in 1728 the position of Battalion Surgeon was brought in to supplement the overworked Regimental Surgeons. As in all armies of the period, treatments were somewhat crude - with amputation of serious limb wounds often resorted to, as a preventative measure against gangrene.
Soldiers who were unable to undertake active campaigning due to wounds or illness were sent to the Invalid Corps, created by a decree of Ferdinand VI and then improved under Charles III. The Invalids were categorised into `Capable` - who were fit for garrison and training duties - and `Incapable` - fit only for light duties. However, numbers were limited and not all disabled soldiers received such treatment. Many were forced to leave the service into penury.

by David Gimenez
Article ID 83
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