Thursday, 18 April 2013

French Infantry in 1815

The French Army probably did not look as we expect it to - films such as "Waterloo", reenactments and monumental paintings show the Infantry in particular wearing Imperial uniforms conforming to the 1812 reglement. But, the army during the "Hundred Days" was not the army of Napoleon, but the army of Louis.



The Infantry of the Line was re-organised according to the Royal Ordinance of 12 May 1814.  Each regiment was to consist of three battalions, each of six companies of which two were elite. Upon his return in 1815 Napoleon rather than increasing the number of regiments simply increased the number of battalions to five.


The Royal Ordinance of 19 April 1814 abolished all Imperial insignia and emblems; a subsequent Ordinance of September 1814 reiterated this and in October 1814 the various Royal Corps were instructed to replaced Imperial emblems with the Fleur-de-Lys.

The Infantry of the Line were dressed strictly to the 1811 and 1812 Reglement.  The Arrete of 8 February 1815 established the cost of the individual items of uniform and their cost.

For the Infantry of the Line:

Pantalons de Toile (canvas trousers - the Corps Royale had white wool)
Calecon (underpants)
Gilet a Mances in 4th quality white wool cloth
Capote (Greatcoat) in Iron Grey wool cloth
Bonnet de Police
I pair grey linen gaiters with bone buttons for marching order
1 pair black wool half-gaiters with copper buttons 

 "Cavalry style shako for the Grenadiers, decorated with scarlet lace, pattern cul de de, 10 and 18 lines thickness, with new-pattern plate bearing the Arms of France with number, chin scales and buttons." 
To cost no more than 10F 40c

"Infantry model shako for the Fusiliers and Voltigeurs; with cockade,  new pattern plate and chinscales and buttons."
To cost no more than 8F  60c

"Old shakos to conform to the new model."

Grenadiers and Voltigeurs wore an Aigrette - scarlet for the former, pale yellow for the latter. Fusiliers wore a woolen Houpette. No covers were issued because this was a peace-time army.

Grenadiers wore scarlet epaulettes and voltigeurs pale yellow ("to conform to the model of 19 January1812"). Fusiliers wore shoulder-straps. Sub-Officers wore gold lace rank stripes (Galon a Lezards) and the only Sub-Officer to have special pattern epaulettes was the Adjutant whose epaulettes had a mixed red and gold fringe.

Sub-Officers had their own pattern giberne (cartridge pouch) which was devoid of any ornament. They cost 4F 40.

Corporals and Soldats had a larger giberne, decorated with a single Grenade for the Grenadiers, Cor de Chasse for Voltigeurs and the Royal Cypher for Fusiliers. They cost    4F 85 complete.

All Sub-Officers carried the brass-hilted sabre-briquet from a shoulder belt (which cost  4F15). Other ranks carried only the bayonet - which buckled to the cartridge box belt. The belt and porte-baitonnette cost 4F 15. The cartridge box belt was wider than the sabre belt (pattern 19 January 1812).

Drummers wore an expensive Habit-veste lavishly decorated wtih the crimson-and-white Royal Livery. A Drummer's habit-veste cost some 8F 50 to make ( a regular Habit-veste cost a mere 2F 45). The Royal Lace cost 90c per metre and came in two widths. The Tambour-Major and Tambour-Maitre both had silver lace on their uniforms which cost 5F 60c.

Sapeurs did not wear the traditional Bonnet a Poil, and instead wore a Grenadier's shako. They were equipped with a buff-leather Tablier (apron) which cost  7F60c; guantlets (4F 05c) and a porte-hache and banderole (axe pouch and belt) which cost 12F and 4F 15c each. The axe cost 35F.

Voltigeur companies had two Cornets (Hornists) in lieu of Drummers. Each Cornet cost  21F 78c

The Hundred Days

The returned Napoleon re-introuced the Tricolour on 8 April 1815. New Tricolour cockades were issued and Royal insignia and emblems were ordered to be destroyed on 5 June 1815.

In theory new buttons and shako plates were issued, but it is very doubtful whether they were ever issued given the short period of time between the official order and mobilisation, and even the defeat at Waterloo just over ten days later

From stores inventories studied by Paul Dawson, we know that the Cavalry did not get rid of any of their Royalist equipment.

Therefore, at Waterloo the Infantry of the Line were wearing predominantly Royal uniforms. It is likely that the white cockade was replaced with the Tricolour; the Royal Arms on the shako plates may have been removed; the Royal Cypher on the Fusiliers' giberne was probably also removed. We know from the sotres of the Imperial Guard that their "Heads of Column" (tete de colonne) were still wearing Royal uniforms and their band, drummers and sapeurs were in the process of being redressed. It is likely, therefore that Line Drummers and Hornists were still wearing Royal Livery.


No comments:

Post a Comment