Wednesday, February 23, 2011

French Chasseurs a Cheval

    OK, well my French Napoleonic army was starting to complain to me pretty bitterly about lack of equal time on the blog, and the cavalry men in general were feeling slighted; hence this post concerns the French Chasseurs a Cheval of the Line. These guys were the workhorses of the French Cavalry, responsible for scouting and screening, as well as providing the bulk of the limited cavalry assigned to each Army Corps. Not quite as flashy as their Hussar comrades in arms, they are still never the less my personal favorite among all the French cavalry of the Napoleonic Wars.
    At the start of the wars of the Revolution there were but 12 regiments (1789), but their numbers rapidly increased, reaching 26 regiments by only 1793. At the start of the Empire in 1804 there were 24 regiments, numbered 1 to 26, with the 17th and 18th being vacant, those regiments having been disbanded under the Republic for "acts of indiscipline". Under the Empire, the 22nd - 26th regiments were evidently habitually broken up and assigned as staff troops or guides to the various Army Corps and their commanders. Later, the 27th (1808), 28th (1808), 29th (1808), 30th (1811) and 31st (1811) regiments were raised from various sources. The 31st regiment had an evanescent existence, being converted almost immediately to the 9th regiment of Chevau-Leger Lanciers, wearing a dark blue Polish  style uniform completed with czapska, and sporting buff colored facings and Czapska top.
    Under the Republic, the Chassuers wore a dark green dolman akin to the hussars, but generally without the pelisse, decorated with copious white (silver for officers) lace/braiding. Officially the dolman was abolished under the Empire, but its use persisted for quite some time in certain regiments. Regiments known to have been at least partially clad in the dolman include the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 10th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 19th, 20th and 24th  in the early years of the Empire (1804 - 1806), the 4th in 1808 and the 5th as late as 1811.  Trousers were generally dark green with white lace on the knots and seems when worn with the dolman, otherwise the seam only was usually piped in the facing color of the regiment. In 1809, most units would have been wearing the the habit Kinski, which was replacing the older habit long. The facing colors appeared on the turnbacks, collars, and cuffs as well as piping the lapels or seam of the jacket. Waistcoats were worn, and could be seen below the lower V-cut of the jacket. Officially there were white, but green, red, yellow, orange and facing colored versions were all known, often laced in imitation of the dolman.
    Theoretically, a regiment consisted of 4 squadrons of 2 companies each, the first company of the first squadron being the compagnie d' elite, more or less corresponding to the grenadiers of the infantry of the Line. On paper, each company had 82 troopers, 1 trumpeter, 14 NCO's and 3 officers, with a regimental staff of 21, thus totaling some 821 men; in practice such numbers were rarely if ever achieved, especially in the field, with 600 men probably being a regiment in pretty good shape.

The regiments were assigned facing colors as below (turnbacks not worn on the dolman, obviously); where an item was dark green it was piped in the regimental color, and collars and/or cuffs in the facing color were piped in dark green.

Regiment                  Turnbacks                 Collars                Cuffs                  
1st                               Scarlet                        Scarlet                 Scarlet
2nd                              Scarlet                        Green                  Scarlet
3rd                               Scarlet                        Scarlet                 Green
4th                               Yellow                        Yellow                 Yellow
5th                               Yellow                        Green                    Yellow
6th                                 Yellow                      Yellow                  Green
7th                               Pink (Rose)                  Pink                     Pink
8th                               Pink                            Green                   Pink
9th                               Pink                            Pink                      Green
10th                             Crimson                     Crimson                Crimson
11th                             Crimson                     Green                    Crimson
12th                            Crimson                     Crimson                  Green
13th                             Orange                       Orange                  Orange
14th                            Orange                         Green                    Orange
15th                             Orange                       Orange                   Green
16th                            Sky Blue                      Sky Blue                Sky Blue
17th                            (vacant)
18th                            ( vacant )
19th                             Aurore                         Aurore                    Aurore
20th                            Aurore                          Green                      Aurore
21st                            Aurore                          Aurore                     Green
22nd                           Capucine                       Capucine                 Capucine
23rd                           Capucine                       Green                      Capucine
24th                            Capucine                      Capucine                  Green
25th                            Madder Red                 Madder Red             Madder Red
26th                            Madder Red                 Green                       Madder Red
27th                            Madder Red                  Madder Red            Green
28th                            Amaranth                      Amaranth                 Amaranth
29th                            Amaranth                      Green                      Amaranth
30th                            Amaranth                      Amaranth                 Green

Head gear was a black shako with a silver plate and white cords, the cords being abolished in the later years, at least officially. In full dress, plumes were worn, again being later abolished. These were usually facing color over dark green or vice versa; white for senior officers and usually red for the compagnie d' elite. Elite companies generally wore red epaulets, and usually wore the balck fur colpack as well. Officers, whether of the elite company or not often wore the colpack, and often wore red or green leather boots in full dress. Their webbing for full dress was also often of leather in the facing color with silver ornaments. On to some pictures!

This is the 1e Regiment of Chasseurs a Cheval, wearing its scarlet facings. The trumpeter is dressed in reversed colors, as was common (although even more fanciful styles were not rare) prior to the introduction of the boring Imperial Livery in 1811. He has adopted a dramatic white fur colpack as his headdress, and as usual in the French army is mounted on a white or grey horse.

This view of the 1er Chasseurs shows their sheepskin horse furniture with regimental colored "wolf's teeth" border. Sheepskins were black for the trumpeters, white for everyone else.

The standard is by GMB, however I believe only the Dragoons had swallow tailed flags, although I could be wrong. This handsome unit is made from Sash and Saber figures.

Next up is the 13e Chasseurs a Cheval

Note the elite company trooper in colpack with red cords, a orange bag piped white, tall red plume, and red epaulets. According to the memoirs of Chasseur officer Charles Parquin, moustaches were obligatory for men of the elite company, just as they were for the grenadiers of the infantry.

This view of the 13e Chasseurs shows the black sheepskin of the trumpeter very well. His trumpet cords are mixed orange and white in color. The portmaneau at the rear of the sheepskin is dark green piped white for all regiments, as was the saddle blanket or shabraque (when worn). These chaps are Foundry figures.

These fellows are the 5e Regiment of Chasseurs a Cheval, perhaps my favorite regiment. I started in this hobby way back at age 13. My first armies were painted KILIA grade flats from Aloys Ochel in Kiel, DFR; I had little confidence in my artistic abilities! A few years later I decided I wanted to make the move to round figures and painting my own; my figures were 25mm by Jack Scruby, and my French Napoleonic army eventually numbered over 1,000 figures. The very first unit I ever painted was the 5th Chasseurs; by the time I entered High School I had purchased a copy of Liliane and Fred Funken's inspiring and heavily illustrated 2 volume L'Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats du Premier Empire, which I still posses. The picture of a group of Chasseurs galloping forth in their earlier uniforms was and still is just irresistible! This regiment, like the earlier Scruby version, is painted in the dolman they so long and so stubbornly clung to.

Note the lace bands on the chest of the dolman; the trumpeter is once again in reversed colors, in this case once again with white lace on his dolman as well.

The elite company trooper has a yellow bag piped white on his colpack but no plume. This unit is Sash and Saber figures once again.

The final of my four regiments is the 16e Regiment of Chasseurs a Cheval. This units is also a favorite of mine. Due to the earlier decommissioning of the 17th and 18th regiments, this is the almost the only French cavalry regiment to have sky blue facings, aside from the later Carabiniers and the future 5th Chevau-Leger Lanciers of the Line.

The trumpeter is once again in my beloved reversed facings; sky blue faced dark green.

A final shot of the 16th Chasseurs as they charge up a gentle ridge; note that in this case the trooper of the compagnie d' elite has both a sky blue plume on his colpack and a sky blue bag piped white. Foundry figures once again.

Thanks again for reading; not my best painting on these figures which were done more than 10 years ago, before adopting my current techniques. Still I think they are a dashing group!


  1. Nice read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing some research on that.

    And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile Thus let me rephrase
    that: Thank you for lunch!