Thursday, November 17, 2016

French Napoleonic Line Infantry in Bicorne, part 1

For some time I had been feeling that I needed more French Line infantry. It is the one troop type that it always seems there isn't quite enough of in my collection. Sure, I can easily fill in with Italians, Westphalian, Poles and assorted Confederation of the Rhine troops... and I have. I had been considering doing another 'Division" of 4 units with Foundry figures in a pose that I hadn't already used for my existing troops ("loading"), but they're just so darned expensive, even with the post Brexit-vote pound, well over $2 per foot figure. Also, the composition of their command packs and the number of figures in their packs is odd, creating further increased cost due to wasted figures.

When I was at Histioricon this July, my long time friend from the Piquet mailing list was once again selling stuff at the flea market. Among the many items that I didn't need was a box of 50 Old Glory French Fusiliers in Bicorne. When Freddie offered them to me for $20, it became decided that the new French Division would be wearing the uniforms of the early Napoleonic Wars, 1804 - 1807. I put them away without inspecting them very closely... until I decided to do the Austerlitz game this December 3rd. Even after paring down the Order of Battle twice, I was still left needing 32 units of French Line, and I have "only" 28 of them. I then recalled these troops, and sorted them out. I found that I had enough figures to make 4 units of 12 fusiliers, including command. I will have to eventually add grenadiers and voltigeurs to bring them up to my usual 18 figure strength, but for this game I will be using 12 figure infantry units anyway to decrease the footprint on the table as well as the time needed to pack, set up, take down, repack, and then unpack them again at home, so this will work out fine for the business at hand.

This is the first of the units, designated as the 54e Ligne.

The 54e is descended from the Royal Roussillon Regiment, first raised 1657.  I had some GMB French 1804 pattern infantry flags on hand, but they were just too big for the Old Glory flagpoles and Eagles. Fortunately, I also had a generous supply of old Signifer flags, and those are what you see here. 

Among others, this regiment fought at Austerlitz, Friedland, Somosierra, Talavera, Waterloo

These figures are listed as being in "campaign dress", and I really enjoyed all the little details the sculptor added to them, as well as the very animated style. Note the frying pans strapped to the packs of the figures in the foreground!

I included the two bareheaded figures in this unit; they fit well with the Campaign theme. 

The next unit of the Division is the 45e Ligne. By the way, the units of the Division are mostly from the Division of  Pierre Belon Lapisse, Baron de Sainte-Hélène, which formed part of  Victor's I Corps at Friedland in 1807. I couldn't resist the name!

The 45e Regiment descended from the Regiment de la Couronne, raised 1643

It fought at the battles of Austerlitz, Mohrungen, Friedland, Talavera, Dresden,  and Waterloo.

Note once again the various sacks, gourds, water bottles etc hanging off the figures

I gave this unit light buff  colored pants, figuring they had replaced their worn out Government issue with some locally liberated items. There is one blank spot left by a "deserter"; that will have to be filled when I purchase and add the Grenadiers and Voltigeurs to the unit next year. 

I enjoyed painting the older, long tailed coats - it made it much easier to do all the little intricacies of the French Line infantry uniform:  white lapels and turn-backs piped red, red collars and cuffs piped white, with dark blue cuff flaps bearing 3 brass buttons, red edging on the pockets, etc.I gave the drum rims a rather Republican flavored tricolor rims. 

Although these are troops of the early, glory days of the Empire, they look so Republican that I found myself singing La Marseillaise to myself often while painting them. More appropriate would be another song of the French Revolution, Le Chant du Départ. Lyrics as below. The song was made the Anthem of the Empire by Napoleon (not to be confused with the Hymn of the Empire, Veillons au Salut de l'Empire).


Un député du PeupleA deputy of the People
La victoire en chantant
Nous ouvre la barrière.
La Liberté guide nos pas.
Et du Nord au Midi
La trompette guerrière
A sonné l'heure des combats.
Tremblez ennemis de la France
Rois ivres de sang et d'orgueil.
Le Peuple souverain s'avance,
Tyrans descendez au cercueil.
Victory sings
Opens its gate for us
Liberty guides our steps
And from North to South
The horn of war
Rang the battle hour
Tremble, enemies of France
Kings drunk on blood and pride
Sovereign People comes forth
Tyrants go down to your graves
Chant des guerriers (Refrain)Song of the Warriors (Chorus)
La République nous appelle
Sachons vaincre ou sachons périr
Un Français doit vivre pour elle
Pour elle un Français doit mourir.
The Republic is calling us
Let's know how to vanquish or let's know how to perish
A Frenchman must live for her [the Republic]
For her [the Republic] a Frenchman must die
Une mère de familleA mother of a family
De nos yeux maternels ne craignez pas les larmes :
Loin de nous de lâches douleurs !
Nous devons triompher quand vous prenez les armes :
C'est aux rois à verser des pleurs.
Nous vous avons donné la vie,
Guerriers, elle n'est plus à vous ;
Tous vos jours sont à la patrie :
Elle est votre mère avant nous.
Do not fear that our motherly eyes shall weep
From us begone, cowardly grief!
We shall triumph when you take up arms
It is kings who should shed a tear
We gave you life
Warriors, it is no longer yours
All your days belong to the Motherland
She is your mother more than we are
Deux vieillardsTwo old men
Que le fer paternel arme la main des braves ;
Songez à nous au champ de Mars ;
Consacrez dans le sang des rois et des esclaves
Le fer béni par vos vieillards ;
Et, rapportant sous la chaumière
Des blessures et des vertus,
Venez fermer notre paupière
Quand les tyrans ne seront plus.
May their fathers' blade be placed in the hands of the brave,
Remember us on the Field of Mars (on the battlefield)
Baptise in the blood of kings and slaves
The blade thus blessed by your elders
And by bringing back home
Both wounds and virtues
Return to shut our eyes
When tyrants are no more
Un enfantA child
De Barra, de Viala le sort nous fait envie ;
Ils sont morts, mais ils ont vaincu.
Le lâche accablé d'ans n'a point connu la vie :
Qui meurt pour le peuple a vécu.
Vous êtes vaillants, nous le sommes :
Guidez-nous contre les tyrans ;
Les républicains sont des hommes,
Les esclaves sont des enfants.
The fates of Barra and Viala fill us with envy
They died, but they prevailed
Cowards crushed by the weight of years never truly knew life
He who dies for the People has lived
You are brave, so are we
Lead us against Tyrants
Republicans are men
Slaves are children
Une épouseA wife
Partez, vaillants époux ; les combats sont vos fêtes ;
Partez, modèles des guerriers ;
Nous cueillerons des fleurs pour en ceindre vos têtes :
Nos mains tresserons vos lauriers.
Et, si le temple de mémoire
S'ouvrait à vos mânes vainqueurs,
Nos voix chanterons votre gloire,
Nos flancs porteront vos vengeurs.
Leave, valiant husbands! Battles are your feasts
Leave, models for warriors
We shall pick flowers to crown your heads
Our hands shall braid laurels
And if the temple of memory (death)
Should open for your victorious manes
Our voices shall sing your glory
Our wombs shall bear your avengers
Une jeune filleA young girl
Et nous, sœurs des héros, nous qui de l'hyménée
Ignorons les aimables nœuds ;
Si, pour s'unir un jour à notre destinée,
Les citoyens forment des vœux,
Qu'ils reviennent dans nos murailles
Beaux de gloire et de liberté,
Et que leur sang, dans les batailles,
Ait coulé pour l'égalité.
And we, sister of the heroes, we who of Hymenaios marriage's sweet bonds
Are still ignorant
If someday to join his fate to ours
A citizen should express the wish
Let them come back within our walls
Embellished with glory and liberty
And let their blood, in battle
Have spilled for equality
Trois guerriersThree warriors
Sur le fer devant Dieu, nous jurons à nos pères,
À nos épouses, à nos sœurs,
À nos représentants, à nos fils, à nos mères,
D'anéantir les oppresseurs :
En tous lieux, dans la nuit profonde,
Plongeant l'infâme royauté,
Les Français donneront au monde
Et la paix et la liberté.
On the iron, before God, we swear to our fathers
to our wives, to our sisters
to our representatives, to our sons, to our mothers
that we shall annihilate oppressors
Everywhere, into the deep night
by sinking the infamous royalty
the French shall give to the world
peace and liberty


  1. I enjoy seeing French in bicorne and you have done a splendid job on these lads! Even the white turnbacks are piped red. Nice!

    1. Thanks, Jon. The French Line infantry uniform is actually rather elegant, if somewhat complex. I know some gamers paint most of their French in Overcoats so that they don't have to deal with it, but while I don't mind some that way, I like most of mine in their full uniforms!

  2. Je me permets exceptionnellement de répondre en français, vu le contenu de l'article...Superbe, tant du point de vue des figurines (magnifiques les bicornes) que de la chanson pleine d'enthousiasme...tout comme les figurines!

    1. Merci beaucoup, Phil. Vous êtes trop généreux!

      I was actually able to understand your comment just fine, although I used Google translate to confirm that and write back! I agree that commenting in French was highly appropriate for this post! I taught myself to read basic French back in High School so that I could decipher my copies of Funken, then not available in English. Don't ask me to write or speak French though - the results would leave you running for the exits screaming "Sauve qui peut!" or some such from the butchery inflicted upon your beautiful language! :-)

    2. Glad to read these lines, my pleasure!

  3. very nicely done, especially the piping on the tailcoats, which I agree are much more fun to paint then the bardic uniform.


    1. Thanks, John. I had fun doing them, and these are some of the best Old Glory Napoleonics I've seen for detail, faces, and animation.

  4. Lovely looking bicorne wearers, I have to admit that I don't really care for the bardin uniform so mine are all pre 1812 but I liked them having a shako so mine are technically 1807/1812 but I'll use themail whenever I can get away with it!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks, Iain. My preference is the same, for the 1807-1812 uniform with the shako, and that is how almost all of my French Infantry to date are depicted. I don't care much for the Bardin reforms (especially the Imperial Livery!) either. I must say, though, that I enjoyed the bicornes as a change of pace; there is another pair of regiments to come, and then eventually the expansion of all four units by the addition of Grenadier and Voltigeur stands.

  5. Thanks for helping empty the depot!
    Good job.....

    1. My pleasure - your surplus has become 2 Austrian Napoleonic Hussar regiments and 4 French Infantry regiments. What are you bringing next year? :-)

  6. You can never have enough French, and I am always partial to bicornes. I find them much more interesting to paint than shakoes.

    1. HI Lawrence. Well, the French remain my biggest army, and these troops increased their lead. I have Brigade games Dismounted Dragoons and Foot Gendarmes (more Bicornes!) to add to them as well!

  7. Really great looking units. I'm inspired to break my unpainted French bicornes out and work on them.

  8. Thanks! If they inspire you to paint some of your own that's the best possible outcome! BTW, I enjoyed reading about your start at gaming with your son. I have 2 adult daughters... but I do have a nearby 1 year old Grandson now. A bit too soon for any gaming for him, but we'll see in about 5 years!

  9. Pre 1812 (and perhaps after) I have no problem with my Frenchies wearing bicornes.The hat type was still a basic for undress and campaign wear. Who is is to say they aren't wearing those shakos deformed and destroyed by the winter rains and frosts? Oh and I like them too..

    1. Thanks, Robert. The bicorne was famous for becoming shapeless very easily, but as you say, the shako was hardly immune. I will not worry myself about troops in the bicorne being side by side with those in shako, that's for sure!

  10. Wonderful detail! Like they way you always seem to give your Battalions personality.

    1. Thank you, David. It's easier to do with 28mm figures and Old Glory due to the mix of poses in their large bags!

  11. Another excellent work Peter. Like you I have a certain "French feel" when pushing the bicorne infantry into engagement with the Allied Coalition forces.


    1. Not like the Prussians and Russians (and many others) didn't wear bicornes during the same time, bu the early imperial uniforms were much closer to the Republican ones, and thus feel more "French" to me, whereas the later uniforms are more "Napoleonic".