Sunday, September 18, 2011

French Napoleonic Hussars

The French Hussars of the Napoleonic Wars, 1804 - 1815

There were 10 regiments of these spectacularly colorful light horsemen at the begining of the Empire in 1804. The 11th regiment was raised from the 2nd Dutch Hussar regiment in 1810. The 12th hussar regiment was raised in February from the 9th (bis) Hussars stationed in Spain, itself created in January 1812. The 13th regiment was raised in January 1813 from recruits in Italy; it was combined with the 14th Hussars in December 1813, but then re- raised again in January 1814 from the remnants of the hussar regiment Jerome-Napoleon. The 14th Hussars were raised in Italy in January 1813 as well.

The uniforms of the Hussars were very complicated and extremely expensive. Their heavily laced shell jacket or dolman, or the fur trimmed pelisse were usually both worn only in full dress, assuming the soldier actually had both. Of course, in my own miniature armies, they always do, and Full Dress is the order for the tabletop! The following table gives the distinctions of the various regiments of French Hussars:



Regt
Dolman
Collar
Cuffs
Pelisse
Pants
Lace/Buttonsce
1
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
Red
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
White/Silver
2
Brown
Brown
Sky Blue
Brown
Sky Blue
White/Silver
3
Grey
Grey
Red
Grey
Grey
Red/Silver
4
Dk Blue
Dk Blue
Scarlet
Scarlet
Dk Blue
Yellow/Gold
5
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
White
White
Sky Blue
Yellow/Gold
6
Scarlet
Scarlet
Scarlet
Dk Blue
Dk Blue
Yellow/Gold
7
Dk Green
Scarlet
Scarlet
Dk Green
Scarlet
Yellow/Gold
8*
Dk Green
Scarlet
Scarlet
Dk Green
Scarlet
White/Silver
9
Scarlet
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
Yellow/Gold
10
Sky Blue
Scarlet
Scarlet
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
White/Silver
11
Dk Blue
Scarlet
Scarlet
Dk Blue
Dk Blue
Yellow/Gold
12
Scarlet
Sky Blue
Scarlet
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
White/Silver
13
Brown
Sky Blue
Sky Blue
Brown
Sky Blue
White/Silver
14
Dk Green
Scarlet
Scarlet
Dk Green
Scarlet
White/Silver


The second listing under lace/buttons applies to the officers, the first to the troopers.

* Several sources show the 8th Hussars as having red  (or red mixed with dark green) lace and white buttons, probably starting sometime after 1805.

Another detail of hussar dress were the “barrel sashes” worn around the waist, forming vertical bands of alternating colors usually red/white or  red/yellow according to the lace color, but at least in the case of the 8th regiment, red/green was known as well. Finally, the  elaborately decorated covers of the hussar’s sabretaches formed yet another item of delicious extravagance. There were many variations in pattern, usually based upon the uniform colors of the regiment, and the regimental numeral along with wreath or eagle motifs. On campaign, these expensive items were often covered by plain black leather bearing the regimental number in white or yellow metal, or simply left home! Later in the Empire, these simpler devices were made regulation, but is doubtful that older designs were retired by those who already owned them! The Sabretache listing below is far from exhaustive, most regiments having several different patterns in use at any one time...


Regt
Barrels *
Sabretache: Ground, Device, Border
1
Red
Lt blue, green wreath white “1”, red with white inner piping
2
Red
Red, white “2” beneath yellow eagle, white
3
Red
Lt grey, white 3 beneath white eagle, white
4
Red
Red, green wreath around yellow “4”, yellow
5
Red
Lt Blue, yellow eagle and “5”, yellow
6
Red
Red, yellow eagle and “6”, yellow
7
Red
Dark Green, yellow wreath around “7”, yellow
8
Red
Red, white eagle w/ white “8” on green shield,  green
9
Red
Red, yellow eagle and “9”, white
10
Red
Light blue, white eagle and “10”, white
11
Red
black, gold “11”
12
Red
?? probably just black with white metal “12”
13
Red
?? probably just black with white metal “13”
14
Red
?? probably just black with white metal “14”



Troopers of the 1st company, 1st squadron, or compagnie d’ elite, usually wore colpacks with red plumes and cloth bags. Officers of all companies in the hussars often wore the colpack as well. They also substituted gold for yellow and silver for white lace, etc, wherever they appeared in the troopers uniform. Bandoliers of colored leather with metal ornamentation were also common for Hussar officers, at least for full dress wear.

Until the introduction of the Imperial Livery in 1811, Hussar trumpeters would usually have worn reversed colors for both the Dolman and pelisse, and sometimes even the pants. Trumpeter shakos might be like those of the troopers, or made with colored fabric or white or black Colpacks might be worn. Not surprisingly for troops with such flamboyant uniforms to start with, some regiment’s trumpeters were dressed distinctively in colors that were soley the whim of the Colonel. One suspects the more somber Imperial Livery “wore out” rather quickly and that non regulation garb for hussar trumpeters returned after a fairly brief interval!  Existing uniform sketches would seem to confirm this speculation. As with other French cavalry, the trumpeters generally rode grey or white horses, and their sheepskin saddles were customarily black instead of white.


George Grasse's site gives one set of explicit listings of French Hussar trumpeter uniforms, as well as some pictures of beautifully painted larger scale Hussar models.


Tim Reese's schematic drawings of French Hussar uniforms are an excellent reference in general, and illustrate at least one trumpeter variant for each regiment as well.


The Napoleonistyka site’s section on uniforms includes the glorious plates of French Hussars from Fred and Liliane Funken’s L’Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats du Premier Empire. I bought my copy of this work at age 15 way back in 1970, and taught myself to read basic French to make use of it. That was soon followed by Knoetel’s Handbuch der Uniformkunde and an understanding of basic German, which improved greatly when I took 2 years of German in college, that language being highly recommended for Chemistry majors back then, much of the early Chemical literature and encyclopedias (Beilstein!) being in German. I was more interested in being able to read Knoetel, though! I also have J.O.B’s plates and others on CD, courtesy of Uniformology, a compact but not always terribly easily searched format.


For those of us who find painting sabretaches tedious, but the effect worthwhile, there is this excellent sheet of  Aldo Stocco's print-out Hussar Sabretaches as listed on Robert Egar’s “The Napoleonic Wargamer” blog. As I do not have permission to share Mr. Stocco’s fine work, I have provided the link above.


Both fascinating, and proof that full hussar kit is no less expensive now than it was 200 years ago, is this French company making and selling Reproduction Sabretaches They are quite beautiful, but average 500 Euros each! I imagine some of these images could be manipulated and printed out for use on 28mm or larger figures as well. Hmmm!


Well, time to move on to some pictures of my own Hussar regiments. These are all Wargames Foundy figures.


This is the 2e Hussars, dressed in marroon brown dolmans and pelisse, with sky blue pants and facings. 



I've painted them still wearing the old fashioned queues and powdered hair.



This picture shows the sabretaches well. 



The trumpeter wears "reversed colors"; note also the difference in the plume colors.



This is the 4e Hussars; this particular regiment has always been my favorite for some reason. 



The 4e Regiment has dark blue dolmans and pants with red pelisse. In away this is a bit reminiscent of the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard, substituting blue for green.



The trumpeter once again wears reversed colors with a different plume variant; even the sabretache colors for this trumpeter are different from the troopers.



The trumpeter's uniform is especially well seen here.



Here we have the 9th Regiment of Hussars. The trumpeter's sabretache is once again different in coloration from that of the troopers. 



Rather than the usual reversed colors, this trumpeter wears a more fanciful design, doubtless a caprice of the Regiment's colonel. This particular variant is described below.



Another view of the 9th Hussar regiment.



The 9th regiment of Hussars; note the colpack worn by the Elite company.



Other Uniform Variants:


1st Hussars: Funken shows trumpeter in reversed colors except both collar and cuff are light blue; pants light blue. Sabretache red with white border and large “1” surrounded by green wreath (1807). Osprey shows a trumpeter (1812) wearing a white pelisse (black fur) with light blue lace and white metal buttons (scarlet dolman?), light blue pants, and the tall shako rolleau in light blue fabric with white band at the top and a scarlet pom-pom.


3rd Hussars:  Knoetel shows a band leader in scarlet dolman, pelisse (black fur), and pants with grey-blue collar and cuffs (both piped white,  and grey-blue braid, white buttons. Sabretache grey-blue with white eagle, red border (the troopers have plain black with brass “3”). Black Colpack with grey-blue bag trimmed white, black plume. Osprey shoes an officer, 1809-1813, in regulation uniform but with brown fur on the pelisse.Red leather baldric, boots, and belting complement the silver buttons anf lace on the dolman, pelisse, and pants.


4th Hussars: Knoetel shows an officer wearing black colpack with red bag and plume, more or less regulation uniform, but grey fur on the pelisse. Sabretache red with yellow border and large “4” in the center; troopers abretache similar but yellow eagle in the center with small 4 below.  Osprey shows trumpeter (1804-5) with reversed colors including scarlet pants, dark blue and red flamme trimmed yellow wrapped around the shako. Osprey also shows a Trumpet Major (1810) in reversed colors, but with red mixed with yellow cords on the pelisse (and presumably dolman, if worn), a scarlet shako also with the same colored cords. Black plume.


5th Hussars: Knoetel shows  troopers (1807, 1808) with medium blue shako and white plume, another with a  black shako with medium blue topped white plume. Sabretache variants red center with yellow border piped white, one with just a large yellow “5” in the center, another with the same surrounded by a green wreath. Osprey shows trumpeter with light blue dolman with white cuffs, scarlet pelisse  (black fur) and pants. Shako covered with white fabric, yellow cords and plume(1805) . Hourtelle (1809) shows a trumpeter with whitepants and dolman (blue cuffs and collar trimmed red), and blur pelisse (black fur). All have yellow lace and buttons. Hako is blue with a white plume. Trumpeter’s sabretache is blue with yelllow border piped red, yellow eagle with “5” below it, all surrounded by a green wreath.


6th Hussars: Knoetel hows more or less regulation uniform, officer with black colpack having gold cords and red plume, white fur on the pelisse. Sabretache dark blue with gold eagle and border, gold metallic fringe. Trooper’s shako has red plume tipped black, sabretache dark blue bordered yellow, with yellow “6” surrounded by green wreath. Osprey shows a trumpeter (1812) in reversed colors, namely blue dolman with red cuffs and collar, red pelisse and pants, The pelisse has white fur, and he wears a white colpack with red bag. Hourtelle (1809) shows an elite company trumpeter in an all red dolman, pelisse (black fur), and pants, yellow lace , buttons, and red/yellow barrels. Black colpack with dark blue bag piped yellow, black plume with red pom-pom  at base. A trooper is shopwn in regulation uniform, sabretache dark blue with yellow border and “6”, surrounded by a green wreath.


7th Hussars: Knoetel shows trumpeter wearing all scarlet dolman, pelisse (black fur), and pants, with red mixed with yellow braid and trumpet cords, white colpack with the same colored cords, red plume tipped yellow, red bag piped yellow. Barrel sash dark green and yellow. Sabretache red with yellow border and “7”, surrounded by dark green wreath (including troopers).  Funken shows the same (1807).  Hourtelle (1809) shows an wlite company  trumpeter wearing a red dolman (with dark green collar and cuffs piped red) and pelisse (black fur), dark green pants, all with yellow buttons and lace. Black colpack with green bag piped yellow, red over white plume with yellow pom pom at the base.


8th Hussars:  Knoetel (1812) shows a large number of variants in headwear including the tall “shako rolleau”) covered in red fabric, as well as the earlier shako, and of course the colpack  for the elite compnay. Some have white lace on their uniforms, some red, some red mixed with green!  The trumpeter wears an all red uniform with dark green lace and barrel sash, white plume in place of the black of the troopers. Funken (1804-1806) shows trooper with red lace on dolman and pelisse, green lace on pants.


9th Hussars: Buquoy shows a trumpeter, presumably of the Elite company, 1812 wearing a scarlet dolman and pants with yellow braid, golden yellow pelisse with white fur and yellow braid, white colpack with red bag and light blue cords and plume. Sabretache red with golden yellow border and grenade emblem in the center. JOB shows a trumpeter of the same regiment, center company, 1806-12 wearing a golden yellow dolman, scarlet pelisse and pants, turquoise shako with yellow plume and cords, and white buttons and lace on the dolman (red collar) and pelisse, black fur and black lace on the pants. Light blue mixed with white trumpet cords. Hourtelle shows a similar uniform, except the lace on the dolman is blue.


10th Hussars: Knoetel shows trumpeter with reversed colors (red dolman with blue collar and cuffs, red pelisse with black fur, both with white mixed with blue lace as well as trumpet cords. Pants dark blue with white lace, barrel sash white and dark blue, shako dark blue with white lace band around the top, red plume. White sheepskin with dark blue “wolves's teeth” border. Plain black sabretache with gold shield bearing inscribed “10”.


11th Hussars: Funken shows (1810) regulation uniform, but with white fur on the pelisse and tricolor (red- white-blue) barrel sash.


12th Hussars:  Osprey shows a trumpeter of the 9th Hussars (bis) in 1812, the parent unit of the regiment, wearing yellow pelisse (black fur), yellow dolman with scarlet collar and cuffs, white buttons and braid, and light blue pants with scarlet stripe on the seem. His black Colpack has a scarlet bag piped white and a scarlet pom pom. Also described in 1813 after the name change is a new trumpeter’s uniform consisting of white dolman and pelisse with scarlet cords/lace, and light blue collar and cuffs on the dolman. the pants were light blue with white lace.



I hope you enjoyed this survey of the uniforms of the dashing Hussars. This concludes my coverage of the French Line Cavalry, having previously addressed the Chassuers a Cheval, Dragoons, Cheavu-Leger Lanciers, Cuirassiers and Carabiniers. The Cavalry of the Guard will be covered in the future as well.

Peter



SOURCES:
Weblinks as listed within the text of the posting above
Uniformology CD’s of uniform plates including those by buquoy, Marbot, JOB, and Knoetel.
E.G. Hourtelle, Austerlitz: the Empire at its Zenith and Wagram: the Apogee of the Empire. Histoire and Collections, Paris, 2003 and 2005 respectively.
Emir Bukhari and Angus McBride, Napoleon’s Hussars. Osprey Publishing, London, 1978 (reprinted 1989).
Fred and Lilliane Funken, L’Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats du Premier Empire. Casterman, Paris, 1968. (the 2 page plate in the center of this book, depicting a group of hussars from a variety of regiments charging, should enough to convince almost anyone they need some of these dandies in their army!)

2 comments:

  1. A great post!
    There is also many information at Napoleon-Series

    http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/France/Cavalry/Hussars/c_Reesehussars.html

    Best regards
    Rafa

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Rafa! I agree about the Reese diagrams. While some don't like painting hussars due to the complex uniforms, I do. That's a good thing because I have a bunch of Russian ones to do now!

    ReplyDelete