In my recent posts, I've covered units that are a bit on the obscure side, the Austrian Landwehr and Volunteers, and the Army of Baden. This post concerns the single most commonly seen unit of the Napoleonic Wars, French Line Infantry Regiments (or Infanterie d' Ligne). If you're going to play wargames in the Napoleonic era, there's certainly no way to avoid these guys; indeed, you'll probably have to paint some of them... maybe a lot of them, LOL! First a little background that the Grognards among you can probably skip.
Organization of the French Line Infantry, 1809
What we wargamers tend to think of as the standard organization of French Line infantry regiments was in fact officially set fairly late in the Napoleonic wars, by the decree of 18 February, 1808. This established the organization of a Regiment d' Ligne as having 4 active battalions (or battalions de guerre) of six companies each, and one depot battalion of 4 companies. As the wars progressed, Napoleon more often added additional battalions to existing regiments than created new units altogether - thus some regiments eventually reached as many as 7 combat battalions. Napoleon could be famously thrifty, and this was probably to save money on the expensive regimental staffs!
Each combat battalion had a company of Grenadiers, the original elite troops of the battalion, and usually composed of of the most veteran and courageous soldiers of the battalion. Even the French infantry units of the Revolution included grenadier companies, egalite be damned, at least when it came to the army! The name originally came from the 18th century troops who were hand picked to hurl early versions of grenades, essentially gunpowder filled metal spheres with a fuse that had to be lit before it was thrown. By the Napoleonic wars, grenades were almost exclusively limited to siege and rarely naval usages, but the name (and indeed the grenade emblem itself) stuck as a mark of the elite soldier. The Grenadiers were distinguished by red epaulets, red plumes, red grenade emblems on the turnbacks of their coats (and anywhere else they could get away with), and often red cords and/or bands on their shakos. A few units still clung to their bearskin hats, but by 1809 there were relatively few line grenadiers still so equipped.
Introduced officially by the decree of 20 September 1804, the second elite company of a Line combat battalion were the Voltigeurs (literally, "vaulters"!). These men were intended to be particularly adept as skirmishers, and thus were selected from the smaller, more nimble (and often more independent as well) soldiers of the battalion. They were also supposed to be more veteran and courageous than their run of the mill comrades, and might otherwise have belonged to the Grenadiers aside from their stature. They were distinguished by yellow (or chamois/buff) collars on their jackets, yellow hunting horn emblems on the turnbacks of their jackets, and yellow (and/or green and/or red in various combinations) epaulets and plumes, and again often yellow (or green) cords and/or bands on their shakos.
The remaining 4 companies of the battalion were the center or Fusilier companies. Their turnbacks were ornamented with a variety of emblems over the years, including red diamonds or hearts, dark blue stars, regimental numbers, and crowned "N"s. Their shako cords were generally white when worn, and colored shako bands were not used. The color of the pom-poms on the shakos of the Fusiliers varied by the company; dark green, sky blue, aurore, and violet for the 1st through 4th companies respectively. These fantasins made up the bulk of the Line infantry, and thus the Army as a whole.
Each company, at least theoreticaly, had 121 privates, and was commanded by a Captain, and also included a lieutenant, an sous-lieutenant (2nd Lt. in American parlance), a sergeant-major, four sergeants, 8 corporals, a caporal-fourrier, and two drummers, thus 140 men in all. The battalion was commanded by a chef de battalion, the equivalent of a major in modern US terms. Included within thew totals of each Grenadier company were four sapeurs (pioneers).
The regimental headquarters included the Colonel of the regiment, a Major (equivalent to a Lt. Colonel in modern US terms), four chefs de battalion, five adjuntants, five assistants, ten sergeant-majors, an Eagle bearer (Porte-Aigle) and two escorts (once the Eagles were withdrawn from the individual battalions as originally issued in 1804, but now restricted to one per Regiment), a sapper corporal, a tambour major and a tambour-caporal (Drum-Major and drum corporal), a bandmaster and seven musicians (often more if the Colonel could afford to pay them!), four craftsmen, a quartermaster, a paymaster, and finally a surgeon major and his four assistants. Including the depot battalion, the theoretical full strength of an 1809 French Regiment d' Ligne was thus some 3,970 officers and men. Needless to say, such totals were seldom if ever achieved in reality, especially once an active campaign was under way!
Sash and Saber figures. In 1809, deviations from the regulations were quite common, especially for the Tetes de Colonne ("heads of column), namely the drummers, musicians, and sappers, and standard bearer and escorts. The musicians and Drum Major in particular were often uniformed (at the Colonel's expense) in all manner of highly non-regulation styles and in colors that would make a peacock feel rather plain and ordinary! In this unit, the drummer has dark red lapels on his jacket as a whim of the Colonel.
All four of these units were painted as part of the Fifth Division of my French Napoleonic army, as part of the 2009/1809 project. A note on my Wargames organization. Each of my Infantry units ordinarily has six stands of 3 figures each. This works out perfectly for the French, with one stand being Grenadiers, one Voltiguers, and the other 4 stands being Fusiliers. One of the Fusilier stands is the Command stand, and typically has an officer, standard bearer, and a drummer. I call my units Regiments. Each of my Infantry Divisions has 4 Regiments of Ligne and 1 Regiment of Legere (Light Infantry). Within a Division, all the units have the same (or very similar) poses and are from the same manufacturer. If you were paying extra close attention,you might notice that the pop poms on the fusilier shakos of a given regiment are all the same color, instead of company color (obviously, I could shuffle them up to have each company with the right colored pom pom. The reason for this is purely practical - I use the pom-pom color as a way to distinguish the various Regiments within the Division. An alternative way to do this might be to use the color of the pants; although white was regulation, troops wore whatever they could find once the offial issue wore out... grey, brown (especially in Spain), buff and even dark blue pants were commonly seen.
Well, I hope that all wasn't too boring; I'll gradually inflict the rest of my many French Line Regiments on you, the readers, but having covered all the background detail in this post, those should be mostly pictures and not as much blather!