3 February 2006

Organisation: French Line Infantry Regiments 1815

French Line Infantry Battalion in Column Attack (Eureka Miniatures)

In line my endeavour to replicate my miniature battalions as accurately as possible, this article discusses discuss the organisation of French line infantry and my basing methodology for wargaming infantry regiments during the 1815 campaign.

French infantry of the Armée du Nord in 1815 were very poorly equipped. Many historians point out that in line with the speed with which Napoleon re-assembled his army since his escape from Elba, many conscripts were issued with only a shako, greatcoat, belt and musket, wearing civilian clothes underneath.

In 1815, the theoretical strength of an infantry battalion was 900 men though at Waterloo few had half that number. Excluding the Imperial Guard, French infantry were divided into regiments d’infanterie de ligne (line infantry) and d’infanterie légère (light infantry).

At the restoration of Louis XVI in 1814, the size of the regular army was radically cut with the loss of 66 line infantry regiments and then renumbered from 1 to 90. Furthermore, each regiment was reduced from up to 5 battalions to only 2. On Napoleon’s return from Elba, he only had time to partially revise the system allowing regiments to assume their old numbers whilst regiments were raised from 2 to five battalions (in theory rather than practice). On 1 July 1815, new Eagles & flags were presented to each regiment, to be carried by the Porte-Aigle of the 1e battalion on behalf of the entire regiment. These flags were again of tricolour design but lacked the fine embroidery of the 1812 pattern due to their speed of manufacture but carried the battle honours with the addition of those gained in the campaigns of 1812-14.

French Imperial Rank Structure 1815
In order to portray command bases accurately, it’s important to understand the system of rank used in 1815. Many historians inaccurately cite Royalist rank titles in their OOB’s. The Royalist ranks of Louis XVI were dropped on Napoleon’s return to power and superseded with the Imperial rank structure below (NB. I have used the French spelling):

Maréchal (Ney & Soult were the only Marshals on campaign)
Général de Division – GOC Division (2 Infantry Brigades)
Général de Brigade – GOC Brigade (2 Infantry Regiments)
Colonel – GOC Regiment (2-4 Infantry Battalions)
Major – generally staff officers (ADCs)
Chef d’Bataillon – GOC Battalion
Capitaine – Company commanders
Lieutenant – Company officer
Sous-Lieutenant – Company officer
1e Porte-Aigle (Premier) – Eagle bearer (usually a Lieutenant)
2e & 3e Porte-Aigle (Deuxième & Troisème) – Escorts to Eagle bearer (usually a Sergent)
Adjutant-sous-Officier – Senior NCO (RSM)
Fourrier – supply/admin NCO
Homme de Troupe (Private)

Organisation: Battalion
During the Waterloo Campaign Napoleon’s line infantry regiments consisted of 2 to 3 field battalions with an average strength of 520 – far below the proscribed 900. The strongest battalion was the 1/10e Ligne with 718 all ranks and the weakest was the 3/108e Ligne with only 251 men, which I have used as examples for basing. The average height of French line infantry soldier was as follows: Grenadiers - 170cm (5’6”); Fusiliers - 164cm (5’4”)Voltigeurs - 159cm (5’2”).

Each battalion comprised of six companies:

x 4 Fusilier Companies (Centre)
x 1 Grenadier Company (Elite)
x 1 Voltigeur Company (Light – skirmishers)

An average battalion of 520 men all ranks comprised:

x1 Colonel - mounted (1e battalion only)
x1 Adjudant-Chef - in the rank of captain (mounted) (1e battalion only)
x1 Officer-Paymaster - he went with troops overseeing pay and financial records
x1 Chef d'Bataillon - mountedx1 1e Premier Porte-Aigle (1e battalion only)
x1 2e Porte-Aigle – Escort (1e battalion only)
x1 3e Porte-Aigle – Escort (1e battalion only)
x1 Adjudant-Major - in the rank of captainx6 Capitaine (Captain - 1 per company)
x12 Lieutenant (2 per company)
x18 Sous-Lieutenant (3 per company)
x1 Adjudant Sous-Officer – the Senior NCO (1 per battalion)
x1 Drum-Major
x6 Sergent-Major - in the rank of senior NCO (1 per company)
x18 Sergent (3 per company)
x 38 Caporal (6 per company – 2 as escorts to the Eagle)
x12 Drummers (formed behind 4th & 1st Fusilier companies when in column attack)
x 403 Hommes de Troupe (Privates)

NB: Not included in these figures are the non-combatants attached to the regiment including:
x1 Surgeon & his aides;
x1 Shoemaker
x1 Gaitermaker
x1 Gunsmith
x1 Tailor
& musicians.

Click on the links below to view Alexis Cabaret’s brilliant uniform plates that feature seven figures on each:

Figure 1 – Officer
Figure 2 – Drummer
Figure 3 – Sergent (Sergeant)
Figures 4-6 – 3 examples of a private
Figure 7 – Caporal (Corporal)

Fusilier Uniforms
Grenadier Uniforms
Voltigeur Uniforms

To see all his uniform plates click on the image below

- definitely one of the best uniform resources on the Net!

3 February 2006

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