French Infantry Units

The infantry was the core of every Napoleonic army and the French army was the largest in the world during these times. Having such a powerful army was necessary for France with enemies such as Prussia and Austria forming part of her land borders. The strength of the French infantry varied during the wars, at the beginning of Napoleon’s reign France had 90 line regiments and 26 light regiments, In 1813-1814 this reached a peak of 137 line and 35 light infantry units. At Waterloo this was reduced to 90 line regiments and only 14 light regiments.

The number of line regiments was almost identical to the number of departments in France (Similar to an English County). In 1790 France had been divided into 83 departments with 4-5 parts to each department. Each of these departments had to supply the army with 4-5 battalions of line Infantry.

The French operated under a levee en masse procedure where everyone of fighting age was signed up for military service to France should they be needed. This meant that Napoleon had a large amount of troops at his disposal should he need them. But these new recruits were very basically trained at the depot before joining their battalions where it was expected that the veterans of the battalion would pass on their knowledge to the newer members. This often meant that the level of training the infantrymen would receive would not be comparable to that of the other countries.

Line and light infantry both performed in similar capacities during the wars, but light infantry were trained more intensively in marksmanship and executing orders at higher speeds than their line counterparts. They also formed the advance guards and scouting parties of an army on the move.

1794 FIRST ORGANISATION OF THE FRENCH ARMY

Aleksandr Averyanov. The Struggle for the Bagration Strongpoint

In 1793-94 the French introduced the change moving their battalions into what would be called demi-brigades which consisted of three battalions of infantry. The second battalion would be made up of seasoned veterans who had already seen service, while the 1st and 3rd battalions would be made up of conscripts  and known as volunteer battalions.

Because of this the French developed the “Column of Attack’ as this required much less training of the conscripts rather than advancing in formed lines.

This structure of Demi-brigades lasted until 1803.

French Infantry 1793-1803

n.b. The maximum number of combat dice any of these units can have is five dice.

Special Rules (Light Infantry Only)

  • Deployment Marker – Units of Light Infantry allow the owning player to use an additional deployment marker in the scouting phase.
  • Skirmishers – Light infantry are able to deploy skirmishing troops in front of the main battle line. When doing so they can only be attacked by cavalry or opposition skirmishers.

1803 SECOND ORGANISATION OF THE FRENCH ARMY

Napoleon reintroduced the term “regiment” as of 1803 and demi-brigade was only used from that point for provisional troops. At this point there were 90 line Infantry battalions of which 19 had four battalions and the remainder had three. Of these battalions one would be the depot battalion and the others would serve in the field. The light infantry had 3 regiments of four battalions and the other 24 had three battalions, once again with one battalion acting as a depot battalion.

1803 ‘war’ battalion

1 grenadier company (80-90 men)
8 fusilier companies (120 men)

Occasionally the Grenadier companies would be detached from their parent battalions and formed into Grenadier battalions or even entire Grenadier divisions.

In 1805 one of the fusilier companies of each battalion was converted into a Voltigeur company and in 1806 before going to war with Prussia the 3rd battalions were dissolved to replenish the 1st and 2nd battalions.

1805-1808 Battalion
1 Grenadier company (80-90 men)
7 Fusilier Companies (120 men)
1 Voltigeur company (120 men)

French Infantry 1805-1808

n.b. The maximum amount of combat dice these units can have is five.

Special Rules

  • Deployment Marker – Units of Light Infantry allow the owning player to use an additional deployment marker in the scouting phase.
  • Skirmishers – French Light and Line Infantry are able to deploy skirmishing troops in front of the main battle line. When doing so they can only be attacked by cavalry or opposition skirmishers.
French Line Infantry

1808 THIRD ORGANISATION OF THE FRENCH ARMY

In 1808 Napoleon ordered the restructure of war battalions from nine companies to six stronger companies. Between 1808 and 1815 a battalion numbered 840 men in strength on paper, in reality a battalion would normally be between four to six hundred men in strength. Marshal Davout was of the opinion that a battalion of anything larger than 960 men was too cumbersome to be managed properly by its commanders.

1808 War Battalion
1 Grenadier company (140 men)
1 Voltigeur company (140 men)
4 Fusilier Companies (140 men each)

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French Infantry 1808-1815

n.b. The maximum number of combat dice these units can have is 4.

Special Rules

  • Deployment Marker – Units of Light Infantry allow the owning player to use an additional deployment marker in the scouting phase.
  • Skirmishers – French Light and Line Infantry are able to deploy skirmishing troops in front of the main battle line. When doing so they can only be attacked by cavalry or opposition skirmishers.

NATIONAL GUARD

Napoleon did not believe that the middle-class National Guard would be able to maintain order and suppress riots. Therefore, he created a Municipal Guard of Paris, a full-time gendarmerie which was strongly militarised. However, he did not abolish the National Guard, but was content to partially disarm it. He kept the force in reserve and mobilised it for the defence of French territory in 1809 and 1814. In Paris during this period the National Guard comprised twelve thousand bourgeois property owners, serving part-time and equipped at their own expense, whose prime function was to guard public buildings on a roster basis. Between 1811 and 1812 the National Guard was organized in “cohorts” to distinguish it from the regular army, and for home defence only. By a skilful appeal to patriotism, and judicious pressure applied through the prefects, it became a useful reservoir of half-trained men for new battalions of the active army.

After the disastrous campaign in Russia in 1812, dozens of National Guard cohorts were called up for field duty the next year; four cohorts being combined to form one line infantry regiment. The 135ème to 156ème Régiments d’Infanterie de Ligne were thus formed. Many of these fought in the campaigns in Germany in 1813 and the invasion of France by allied Austrian, Prussian, Russian and British armies in 1814. Existing National Guard units, such as those of Paris, were deployed as defence corps in their areas of recruitment. Mass conscription was extended to age groups previously exempt from military service, to provide more manpower for the expanded National Guard. Students and volunteers from gamekeepers and other professional groups formed separate units within the National Guard. Clothing and equipment was often in short supply and even the Paris National Guard was obliged to provide pikes as substitute weapons for some of its new recruits. These field and regional units were disbanded in 1814 after the abdication of Napoleon I.

Six thousand national guardsmen took part in the Battle of Paris in 1814. Following the occupation of Paris by the allied armies, the National Guard was expanded to 35,000 men and became the primary force for maintaining order within the city.

French National Guard

n.b. The maximum number of combat dice the national guard can have is five.

IRREGULAR INFANTRY

Chasseurs des Montagnes Uniform

There were several units of irregular infantry.

The chasseurs des montagnes were formed to deal with the Spanish irregulars, bandits and gangs of deserters along the French-Spanish border. They were uniformed in dark brown with sky-blue facings. They earned reputation as excellent guerrilla hunters and eradicators, specializing in swift cross-country movements. However, this unit was weak and had only 3 battalions of light infantry. Although these battalions were made of regular troopers their replacements were apprehended efractaires from the Pyrenees departments, who returned to duty under the pledge that they would serve only on the Spanish frontier. In 1814 the chasseurs des montagnes were disbanded and transferred to line and light regiments.

the miquelets francais was another unit formed on the Spanish border during 1792-94 and 1808-09.. It was an old French custom to recruit independent companies of Basques and smugglers for partisan mountain warfare. Moncey and Perignon commanded such units early in the Revolution. For many Frenchmen the Basques’ features suggested extreme ferocity. These irregulars were armed with very long-barrelled muskets with a set-trigger and pistols.

In 1815 Napoleon formed Chasseurs des Pyrenees to guard the Spanish frontier. Napoleon wanted nine battalions but the time was short and only seven and half were formed.

The Chasseurs des Alpes were formed in 1813 in preparation for an Austrian offensive in Italy and for fighting the Piedmontese Barbets. It had 1-2 battalions formed of former smugglers, poachers, gamekeepers and ordinary mountaineers. In 1814 the Bourbons disbanded this unit. In 1815 Napoleon formed 2 battalions.

The Chasseurs de la Reunion were formed as part of the garrison of the Isle de France (Mauritius). It was an all-black formation.

The cipayes (sepoys) were made of natives in India. There were only few companies and they were disbanded in 1803 when the small French colonies in India were lost to the British in 1803.

French Irregular Infantry

Special Rules

  • Deployment Marker – Units of Light Infantry allow the owning player to use an additional deployment marker in the scouting phase.
  • Skirmishers – French Light and Line Infantry are able to deploy skirmishing troops in front of the main battle line. When doing so they can only be attacked by cavalry or opposition skirmishers.
  • Guerilla’s – Infantry of this type can move through Difficult terrain as though it was open ground and move through impassable terrain at movement of 2cm.

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you have any suggestions for improvement or you’d like to submit your results of playtesting please email me on Clausewitz.Tabletop@gmail.com

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