Thursday, October 6, 2011

Russian Napoleonic Guard Cavalry

Prior to 1801, the Cavalry arm of the Russian Imperial Guard consisted of the Horse Guards (Cuirassiers), Lifeguard Hussars, and the Guard Cossacks. In late 1801, the most prestigious of all the Russian Imperial Guard cavalry regiments was raised as an active Cuirassier regiment,  the Chevalier Guards or "Gentlemen of the Guard". Prior to this time, it had been mainly ceremonial in function, but as it dated back to Peter the Great, it was still considered the senior regiment of the Guard cavalry. In 1809 the Arch Duke Constantine Uhlan regiment was taken into the Guard, forming both the Lifeguard Dragoon Regiment and the Lifeguard Uhlan Regiment. In May of 1813, the Emperor Cuirassier regiment was taken into the Guard as the Lifeguard Cuirassiers. Finally, a Guard Mounted Jager regiment was formed in April 1814, and the Lifeguard Dragoons were renamed the Lifeguard Horse Grenadiers.

As a general rule, the uniforms of the Guard cavalry differed from their line counterparts only in relatively minor details, such as the use of the "Guard Star" emblem and the petlitzi or "guard lace" on their collars and cuffs. The units of Guard Cavalry in my Russian wargames army make up both some of the newest and some of the oldest troops I have.

This is the famed Chevalier Guard, composed of members of the Russian nobility. It's uniform was white with  red facings and yellow petlitizi. 

Like the Line Cuirassiers, blackened armor was used for the Cuirass. The trumpeter has the red crest usual for Russian trumpeters of the line as well. The lace on the trumpeters uniform is yellow with a thin red stripe down the middle. 

The Guard Star appears on the helmets (in silver) and the ornaments in the corners of the saddle blankets and pistol covers. I'm very pleased with how these figures, which are 28mm by Essex, came out. They were just completed a few days ago!

The standards of the Chevalier Guard were unique in the Russian army, first in being a "vexilum" type, thus hanging down from a horizontal bar. Second, the pattern, a white cross on a crimson filed with a silver fringe is completely different form any other Russian standard as well. Although conjectural on my part, I think the design is intended to reflect Alexander's role at Protector Of the Order of St John on Malta (a rather odd situation, linking an Orthodox monarch and a Catholic Knightly Order!). The field is often depicted as a much more pink color, but I've chosen Dark red as my interpretation of "crimson" here. I constructed the frame with 2 pieces of floral wire, which were spot glued together with cyanoacrylate ("crazy") glue. As this kind of glue has almost no strength against shearing forces, I then literally lashed the two pieces wires together with black sewing thread (I wasn't an Eagle Scout for nothing, I suppose), and then coated the joint and threads in Duco cement. So far this looks to be durable. The banner actually moves and flaps on the cross bar, so it's kind of cool that way, too!

These fellows are the Lifeguard Dragoons - Minifigs painted about 25 years ago by my good freind Paul, one of my original wargames group dating back to High School. I met all of that group directly or indirectly through Scouting, both Paul and my good friend Chuck also becoming Eagle Scouts.When Paul moved to Arizona many years later, he left them in my care. I've done a small amount of touch up work on them, making one figure a trumpeter by painting the crest of his helmet read, and adding the yellow lace to the sleeves of his jacket.

I also used a light blue gray wash on the horses to both bring out some of the detail of the models, and also tone down the original "pure" white color, as well as a dry brush of dark grey to the combs of the helmets. The white horses are not historical, but they do look sharp!

Aside from those minor upgrades, the paint job is all Paul's, and looks pretty good I think, even after a quarter century and many battles fought!

This is the Lifeguard Hussar regiment, also just completed in the past few days, using 28mm Essex Russian Hussar figures. The standard is actually that of the Horse Guards; like all Russian Light Cavalry regiments, they probably either didn't either have a flag at all, or left it behind on campaign. 

Quite a spectacular uniform, eh? Aside from the specific colors of the Pelisse, Dolman, pants, and lace, the basic uniform is the same as the hussars of the line. 

The Essex figures are very nice! The portemanteau (rolled up on the saddle blanket behind the rider) probably should be plain dark grey form the information I have, but I have, perhaps mistakenly, painted it in the French style, matching the colors of the shabraque (saddle blanket). The same is true for the portemateau of the Chevalier Guards as well.

A final view of the Russian Guard Hussars. Note that the fur of the pelisse is white for the troopers, grey for the officers, and black for NCO's; this was common to all Russian Hussar units. 

Here we are back to 25mm Minifigs from 25 years ago, once again painted by Paul, with a few very minor details added by myself, chiefly to the trumpeter. After moving to Arizona, Paul accompanied me to two Historicons, and was there for the first big playtest of the Field of Battle rules in 2005. 

If I recall correctly, I think the figures are actually those meant for the French Guard Lancers, no figures having been made by Minifigs (and many other manufacturers as well) specifically for the Russian Uhlans. 

Once again, I think Paul's painting still looks very good. I like the pose here, too, with the lances slung back behind the riders. The colors of the lance pennons were different for each Russian Uhlan regiment; this yellow and white pattern is the correct one for this unit. 

All four of these regiments will be taking the field at our (the Hartford Area Historical Gaming Society) running of the Battle of Borodino - first at Ellis Con in Danielson, CT (about half of the battlefield) on Saturday November 2011, and then at Historicon (the "Full Monty") in Fredericksburg, VA on July 20, 2012. Piquet's Field of Battle rules (2nd edition) by Brent Oman will be used for both games. they should be quite the spectacle, with plenty of action as well!

Good gaming,



  1. Cracking figures Peter,
    You are fairly getting through your late war Russians. Many to go still?

  2. Thanks, Paul. I have 2 more units of Essex Cossacks on the painting table, about 70% done, then 3 units of Hussars, 4 units of Opolchenie, some Foot Artillery, 2 more Jagers and maybe a couple of units of Grenadiers and Line (or perhaps Marines for variety). The the Vistula Legion, some Hessians, and maybe the Neuchatel Battalion. There are more after that - more Prussians (looking to 2013), and maybe even British for 2015... we'll see if I can hit 6,000 Napoleonics, LOL!


  3. Wow if you hit 6,000 Naps painted Peter get the champagne out!!! That is 1 impressive benchmark.
    The opolchenie and Marines sound interesting!

    I am pleased to say I am getting back into my painting now so wish me luck. Although 2012 is far to close!!!

    Look forward to seeing more of your wee men

  4. Paul,

    Good luck with your own (very talented) painting!

    I probably will make 6K by the end of 2015 - Just in lead on hand to paint I have 72 Vistula Legion, 18 Neuchatel Bn, 72 Young Guard, 30 Hessians, 32 more Russian Jagers (Falcon), maybe another 100 Russian Infantry of other sorts, 100 Tyroleans, another 100 or so Austrians, and I plan to add at least another 100 Prussians, plus I plan to do a Spanish and a British army. Then I can go back to Ancients and Renaissance.... or work on my HYW armies!

  5. Great post, very informative with good pictures. I really like this blog and will gladly concede to you most Napoleonic figures painted. I have 1500 15mm, and plan to paint no more than 600-700 more.

  6. Thanks, Mike. Remember that I have been at this a very, very long time - the oldest figures still in active use date back 35 years; God willing, I'll get another 30 years use out of them! I also love the Napoleonic era for the history, the personalities, the color and variety of uniforms, and its wide ranging nature. My own megalomania drives me to collect almost all the armies involved, but my original armies in order were French Austrian, Bavarian, and Russian. Having said that, Dan Beattie claims to have over 30,000 25/28mm Napoleonic figures. Now even I think that's a bit excessive, LOL (he says while thinking he really needs a few more Austrian "German" line to balance things out).