Painting Guide for the South American Wars of Liberation

These are just rough notes about how to pant specific units. Refer elsewhere for more complete guidance, including:

Skin Colour

From John Fletcher on Liberators 1810-1830 Yahoo Discussion Forum:

For a general rule I’d suggest always paint the officers white/European for all Royalist units. For the rank and file I’d paint a large majority as white troops for 1811-1812, a 50-50 mix for 1813-1815 and 75-25 in favor of mestizo or indian skin tones for 1816 onwards. Same with the Spanish units, for a “just arrived” look I’d paint them all white/European but if you want a unit that’s been on service for a few months/years start mixing in more and more mestizo and indian troops.

The Royalists did have some dedicated pardos and morenos units but they don’t show up in the book scenarios often and as the war progressed the tendency was to fill the ranks as opposed to strictly adhere to the colonial caste system.


I paint Spaniards/creoles as “white” troops using “flesh” color with a brown wash. I paint mestizo and indian troops as “hispanic”; sort of brown with a red tint followed with a brown wash. I paint black troops as dark brown; typically dark brown with a brown velvet or chocolate brown wash…I’m never really sure if the wash makes much difference with these guys. I paint mestizo and black troops with black hair. I give most white troops either dark brown or black hair, with a handful blond/tan or cinnamon brown/red.

The rank and file of the 7th and 8th infantry were made up of ex-slaves in 1817-1818. From my understanding these 2 battalions retained that characteristic even after they were merged into the Rio de la Plata battalion in Peru. It’s not unreasonable to think they incorporated mestizo and indian recruits in the course of their service, especially in Peru 1820-23, but I don’t how much that affected their overall composition. The 11th infantry was a “white” (blanco) battalion.

Unlike John I paint both European and Indian troops the same, i.e. “flesh”. I do distinguish the Black troops.


The alternate red uniform shown in Liberators! is in fact from the Blanes painting shown in Osprey (and which also appears on page 27 of Liberators!). In fact, this uniform belonged to another black battalion, also known as the 7th, that served in Alto Peru at the Battle of Sipe Sipe. Blanes mistakenly showed the 7th Infantry regiment that served in Alto Peru and wore red coats being reviewed by San Martin in Chile in 1820 (and he got the facing color wrong to boot; the actual red coated 7th had black facings, not yellow). It was quite some time before I understood the confusion myself and I left the red alternate uniform in the book in case some readers, like Blanes, preferred the color of romanticized popular imagination over the uniform dark blue of reality.

Then latter he said

One thing to remember is the racial composition of a unit could and did change based on circumstance. A unit might draw recruits from very different regions with different racial and class mixes. For example, in “Adventures” we see the 1st Venezuelan Rifles. Initially it was composed of a mix of British, Irish and South American Indians, commanded by British/Irish officers. Eventually it came to be replenished with drafts of Colombians, freed slaves and Ecuadorans. So, depending almost on which year you’re interested in, the unit could be any number of racial shades.

I confess to not having the level of expertise nor the database to provide comprehensive coverage of this question. Certainly I’ll make that information available when I run across it and others can post their findings as well. I wish Yahoo Groups had a better method for searching the archives, or even organizing the files section, so that this kind of information was easier for the members to access…

Frank V on the Liberators 1810-1830 Yahoo Discussion Forum mentioned:

Most Chileans and Argentinians were of Spanish origin, not much intermixing with the natives, not many natives in Chile to begin with. Peruvian and Bolivians had more natives.

A few units were noted as having Black troops:

  • Any unit with a name like “Pardos & Morenos” (literally “mulattos and coloureds”).
  • Argentine
    • 6th (Morenos) Battalion in the Banda Oriental campaign
    • 6th (Pardos & Morenos) Infantry Regiment of the Northern Army. Note there was also a 6th (Blancos) Infantry Regiment with white troops.
    • 7th Infantry Regiment the other ranks were freed slaves. Officers were either white or black. Actually there were three 7th Infantry regiments and at least two of them were black:
      • 7th Infantry Regiment of the Northern Army
      • 7th Infantry Regiment of the Army of the Andes.
    • 8th Infantry Regiment (8th Battalion of Free Negroes) of the Army of the Andes
    • 10th Infantry Battalion in the Banda Oriental campaign
    • Rio de la Plata regiment in Peru (merged 7th and 8th Regiments from Army of the Andes)

Arequipa Infantry Regiment (Royalist)

Pedro (losmensajes) in a message on the “Ethnicity of Royalist Forces” on the Liberators 1810-1830 Yahoo Discussion Forum said:

I read about: -Troop of royalist Battalion of Arequipa was a black/Mulato/Pardo people. -over time the white spaniards meet in “company of preference” of royalist expeditionary battalions (“compañias the preferencia” de los Batallones expedicionarios) aka company of grenadiers or chasseur”.

This is true in 1817-18, after battle of Chacabuco viceroy Pezuela give orders to make a regiment of line infantry of Arequipa. Before send them to campaign of Maipu, the patriot spy in Lima say that vast majority of troops of Arequipa was black people.

[It applied] just [to] the infantry. The cavalry of Arequipa Dragoons was formed as normally did many hispanic american units: militias of mestizo and some prisioners of upper peru.

Pedro went on to explain where he’d read that:

Yes, in the chapter of Regiment of Arequipa, talking about the Rodil’s battalion to be formed in Arica, the battalion go to the port El Callao as a part of expedition of Chile, and reinforced there with black militias of Lima. Then “. La unidad así quedó integrada por mayoría de gente de color, tal como lo afirman los espías insurgente 126).” Por el Rey, la fe y la patria: El ejército realista del Perú. Luqui-Lagleyze pp 132 and pp 133′.

Dragons de la Patria (Patriot)

Here are pictures of the Dragoons of the Fatherland, a uniformed unit with only one barracks cap and a jacket. This unit fought in the Battle of Suipacha November 7, 1810.

Dragons de la Patria


John Mc wrote on the Liberators 1810-1830 Yahoo Discussion Forum on 31 July 2011:

Cesar Puliafito makes the case that the guns were a “British” pale blue. He bases this on two points:

1. In 1865 they were this colour;
2. The following description, by Miller, of the “Buenos Ayrean artillery”:
“Each gun was drawn by four horses, and each horse ridden by a gunner, there being no corps of drivers in the service. A non-commissioned officer and seven gunners mounted, were, besides the four already mentioned attached to each piece of artillery. The carraige and limber differ but little from what we are used to in English service, excepting that a pole is substituted for shafts.”

Although there are some interesting observations to be made from this passage, there is no mention of the colour, merely the nature of the equipment. I would give points to the idea that if the colour was radically different to that in “English service” this might have been mentioned. However, after a long description of harness and other horsey things, Miller goes on.
“To protect the wheel from the action of the sun, strips of hide an inch broad are bound round every spoke and felloe. This is done with green hide, and as the strips harden and tighten gradually as they dry they add very much to the strength of the wheel. Even that part of the overlay which covers the tire lasts a long time upon the South American carraige roads, and when it wears out it is easily renewed; but this species of clothing gives clumsiness to the wheels, and therefore upon going into action it is all cut away.”

Most countries painted their wheels to protect them from the elements (besides the old military axiom “If it moves salute it; if not paint it”) but surely if the rest of the carraige was also covered in hides, Miller would have mentioned that.

John Fletcher has mentioned that he believes that both sides guns were natural wood. I would like to know the basis for that. In support, the murals on the walls of the Museo Historico Militar, and a number of long after the event paintings show natural wood artillery.

To put the Patriots on hold for the moment.

Many years ago I was researching Spanish gun colours for the peninsular war. It was suggested that fortress guns were painted red (something which probably affects seige guns for the Patria Vieja) but field artillery were described as: Dark Yellow, Pale Brown; and natural wood. With a bit more reading it became apparent that the Spanish used the same ingredients as the French – Lamp Black, Ochre and Oil. Using less Lamp Black than the French (and the RFC by the way, if you like flame wars) you get a dark yellow or light brown (same really) colour. If your artist waits 20 years till drink and age have wearied the memory of old soldiers, they just say brown – which is wood colur – right?

Wrong, gun carraiges are subject to a lot of stress and wood needs to be protected from sun rain snow, just about everything short of fire and brimstone. In those days, varnish or laquer was a MUCH more hi tech product than paint. So people tended to paint their guns.

I would suggest that the Iberian Spanish and the American Royalists, and the guns taken by the Patriots (but not nec San Martin’s guns) were painted with a mix of ochre, lamp black and oil which approximates to R220/G200/B150 +/-.

So, given that San Martin’s artillery was made rfrom scratch in Mendoza by Fray Beltran, and given that Mendoza was a third world backwater, what colour would San Martin’s prodigious artiller train be.

I would invite comment from people with a source, or a memory, or just an idea, but I would ask you to state the basis for your comment. To get the ball rolling, I will make my best guess in the next post.



Miguel Costa Simón responded:

The Spanish Artillery rules for colors were strictly followed in all the theaters of war were the spanish troops fought. The color of all the wooden parts was blue-grey ( a color very similar to the english guns) and no other color without any doubt. In the chaos of the Peninsular war, some times the spanish artillery uses guns from miscellaneous precedence, and in these case the guns were of other colors (green-grey if were french….). The wooden color was not a normal option for any army because in all circumstances the guns were painted to preserve the wood from the use and from the effects of the powder and the smoke, so was very unusual to see a gun in wood without any paint.

the colonial used artillery was in the same colors as the peninsular artillery, indeed the “colonial” troops were more strict in the use and following of the government rules more than the peninsular units. In the spanish army the artillery has a consideration of elite troops, the best officers want to go to the artillery, and the best soldiers.


Vallejo Game Color nº 72102 Steel grey


Carlos on Liberators 1810-1830 Yahoo Discussion Forum when discussing the Infernales:

Here are some stamps (postage stamps)with good examples of gauchos from the province of Buenos Aires at the beginning of the 19th century.

Stamps of gauchos from the province of Buenos Aires at the beginning of the 19th century

I am also sending you a word document with a description of gaucho (clothes).

The Salta gauchos [salteños…someone from the region of Salta] during the period of Guemes probably used a red poncho (a black line or a black bow/ribbon was added after the death of Guemes), [this] very well known and characteristic kind of poncho was very useful for scaring green [Royalist] troops in [gaucho] cavalry charges.

I have sent a photo of a traditional group with the actual clothes [worn] by the inhabitants of Salta so you can also [see] the saddle cloths of the horses.

“El Gral. Martín Miguel de Güemes y sus Gauchos”
A. Struch – Salta 1912
Museo Histórico del Norte – Cabildo de Salta.




Carlos went on to say: Liberators 1810-1830 Yahoo Discussion Forum when discussing the Infernales:

There were irregular units formed by gauchos especially during the war in the north under the command of General Guemes. Hell’s regiment was in uniform but it seems that the rest of the many units that made guerrilla war were not. Nor was uniformed gaucho cavalry which charged in the Battle of Tucumán but had impressive feature lead guard. Post an example of a traditional ensemble current guardamontes gauchos salta with the rest of the clothing was different and that sending another image which gives an idea of the look of gauchos in time.

Description of the gauchos who fought in the Battle of Tucumán:

Tucumán en 1812 (leyenda), a los paisanos que actuaron en la Batalla de Tucumán.

Al observarlos marchar al tranco de sus caballos, con aire pesado e indolente, silenciosos, casi dormidos, nadie podía sospechar la legión de centauros que avanzaba. El ligero equipo lo formaban un largo lazo de esmerado tejido en trenza, atado a la culata del apero, boleadoras en las cabezadas del mismo, guardamonte de cuero, abierto en dos alas, que defendían completamente las piernas de los gajos espinosos y de los arbustos, en las constantes carreras.

Vestían más o menos lo mismo: calzoncillo ordinario, tapado hasta más abajo de la rodilla por un poncho delgado atravesado en cruz por entre las piernas, que ajustaba el amplio tirador de suela con botones de metal o de plata, donde el cuchillo, el yesquero y la vejiga de tabaco se aseguraban fielmente; saco de becerro llamado ‘coleto’, de mangas abiertas por el lado interior, pañuelo de algodón al cuello y sombrero de lana.

And my/google’s translation:

Tucumán in 1812 (legend), the peasants who served in the Battle of Tucumán.

Watching them go at a walk of their horses, looking heavy and sluggish, quiet, almost asleep, no one could suspect the advancing army of centaurs. The light equipment consists of a large lasso of carefully braided fabric, tied at the head of the implement, bolas in the halter of the same, leather guard, opened in two wings, that defend the legs fully from the thorny branches and shrubs, in the constant races.

They were dressed more or less the same: regular underwear, covered to below the knee by a thin poncho cross pierced through the legs, to fit the wide rifle bucket with metal buttons or silver, where the knife, tinderbox and bladder of snuff made sure faithfully bag calf named ‘jerkin’, open bag on the inside, cotton neck scarf and wool hat.



Gauchos at the Battle of Tucuman


Is also an image of gauchos from the northern provinces of Salta and Jujuy.

Gauchos from the northern provinces of Salta and Jujuy


Fletcher, J. (2005). Liberators! Volume 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Fletcher, J. (2006). Liberators! Supplement 1: The War in the South. Grenadier Productions.

Hooker, T. (1991). The Armies of Bolivar and San Martin [Men-at-Arms 232]. Osprey.

Luqui Lagleyze, J. M., and Manzano Lahoz, A. (1998). «Los Realistas» (1810-1826): Virreinatos del Perú y del Rio de la Plata, y Capitanía General de Chile [Hombres en Uniforme No 5]. Quiron Ediciones. [Spanish]

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