French flag 1804, from French flag 1812, from
French Infantry of the Napoleonic Wars.
1805 - 1815

"The [French] cavalry swaggered, the martial clanging of its scabbards ...
Artillerymen strode with aloof pride - was not Emperor himself also a gunner ?
But it was the sweaty soldats d'infanterie, the gravel-agitating,
beetle-crushing infantry who truly carried the French Empire
on their burdened shoulders and bayonets."
- Colonel John Elting (, US military historian

"After several years of war many volunteers
and levies knew no other life than soldiering.
They grew up very quickly under fire, facing
the armies of Prussia, Austria, Britain,
Spain, Russia and Turkey. " - Terry Crowdy

The numerous wars made the military service
unpopular. It became necessary to hunt up the
refractaires with mobile columns.
The new army was huge but the 18- years old
soldiers lacked stamina and the long and rapid
marches and hunger weakened them physically.

. "This terrible Napoleon and his infantry,
we expected them to appear anywhere."
- General Langeron, (, Russian army


Captain of French 
94th Line Infantry
Picture: captain of 94th Line Infantry Regiment in 1810-1812.
"It is well known with what gallantry the [French] officers lead
and with what vehemence the troops follow ..."
- William Napier (, British army

After the bloody battle of Valutina Gora (1812) "Gudin's division
were drawn up on top of their companions' and Russian corpses,
amidst half-broken trees, on ground ripped up by roundshot ...
Gudin's battalions were no longer more than platoons.
All around was the smell of powder. The Emperor couldn't pass
along their front without having to avoid corpses, step over them or
push them aside. He was lavish with rewards. The 12th, 21st and
127th Line and the 7th Light received 87 decorations and promotions."
Britten-Austin - "1812 The March on Moscow" p 214

"Their movements compared with ours are as mail coaches
to dung carts. In all weathers and at all times they are
accustomed to march, when our men would fall sick by
hundreds ... Another peculiar excellence of the French
infantry is their steadiness in manoeuvering under fire."
- John Mills of British Coldstream Guard

French Infantry Under Napoleon.
"The army's infantry is its most essential component.
Even today, no army can take and hold any ground
without the use of infantry." - George Nafziger

French infantry in Egypt. Years of almost incessant campaigning included bayonet charges, amphibious assaults, partisan warfare, urban combat and more. But despite the glamor of the divisions of Imperial Guard and heavy cavalry, an often overlooked fact is that the mainstay of the French army throughout the napoleonic wars was the long-suffering, hard-marching infantry regiments and battalions. There were hardly more than dozen regiments of armored cavalry; there were rarely far fewer than two hundred infantry regiments holding the various fronts around Europe. Unfortunately, these critical units often go almost completely unnoticed in histpories of the war.

With few exceptions, most armies in history have been built around a core of infantry. "The army's infantry is its most essential component. Even today, no army can take and hold any ground without the use of infantry." (Nafziger - "Napoleon's Invasion of Russia" p 13, 1998)
The infantry was the basis of the Napoleonic army, which was the largest army in the World in that time. Such army was necessary as France had several powerfull enemies on land; Russia, Prussia and Austria all had large armies. In this situation accepting only volunteers (as it was in the small Swiss and British armies) was not enough. To meet the numbers conscription was at work. Conscription hustled to arms a lot of quivering creatures who would never have gone to war of their own free will. The process of weeding out the weak was under way in the first stages of every campaign.

French infantry enter Paris. In 1792, every able-bodied Frenchman was declared liable for military service, and National Guard was formed. Revolutionary France had been the first to adopt the principle of universal conscription, according to which all young men of draft age were subject to being called up; in fact, however, a system of drawing names was in place, and as a result, only the minority of those eligible were enrolled every year. Even though entering the draft lottery was theoretically required of all male citizens, malfunction exemptions, favors and bribes - together with every man's perfectly legal right to buy a replacement if he could afford one - guaranteed that the burden of conscription fell principally upon the country and town folks. Nevertheless, the army considered itself as representative of the entire society.

French line infantry
of Revolutionary Wars. The new French armies, composed of demoralized regulars and untrained volunteers, refused to face the disciplined Austrian troops and were more dangerous to their own officers than to the enemy. The victory at Valmy stimulated the French morale, then the Jacobin fanatics infused the French soldiers with something of their own demonic energy. Untrained but enthusistic volunteers filled the ranks. In the spirit of liberty and equality, the volunteers elected their officers, and discipline all but disappeared.

Lacking time to train the vast masses of conscripts and volunteers, Carnot fostered the amalgame, which used the Royal Army as the hard core around which new regiments were formed, thereby greatly facilitating the implementation of the new tactics; the recruits could be used in line and as skirmishers, where discipline and training were more important than elan. Everything was in short supply, so the armies did without tents, trains, and similar impedimenta, learning to live off the land, and were thus able to move more rapidly than their foes. Carnot was also ruthless. Trusting no one, he used a system of political commissars, to keep an eye on the reliability of generals Success was the only criterion for rank. Bonaparte was a product of his times.

"On 1 Jan 1791 the infantry was reorganised into 104 line regiments and 12 chasseur battalions (light infantry). A report to the Assembly noted that these units were woefully under-strength. Initially the Assembly wanted to bring the standing army up to full strength and raise battalions of National Guardsmen as its reserve. However, many politicians distrusted the army after the mutinies of 1790, the widespread desertion and the inability of officers to control their men ... Consequently, on 21 June (the day after the King's failed attempt to flee France) and on 22 July 1791, the formation of 185 battalions of gardes nationaux volontaires was ordered." (Crowdy - "French Revolutionary Infantryman 1791-1802" p 8)

Bonaparte in Italy,
picture by Job During 1793-1796, the infantry was reorganized into demi-brigades, each with 1 battalion of old soldiers and 2 battalions of volunteers, in the hope of combining regular steadiness with volunteer enthusiasm. Initially, the result was that each element qcquired the other's bad habits. There was no time to drill the disorerly recruits into the robot steadiness and precision demanded by linear system. (Esposito, Elting - "A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars")

Under Napoleon the discipline of the troops greatly improved although now and then were problems. When the 69th Demi-Brigade mutined a general arrived to see what the trouble was. The infantrymen cheerfully explained that they had no complain except that they had nothing to do; they simply had 'bored themselves' and so kicked up a little excitement to make life interesting !

There was no corporal punishment in the French army. In contrast the Russians used gauntlet, and the Brits flogged the troublemakers.

In 1809 Napoleon chastised the lack of discipline in some infantry divisions. He noted that since Battle of Wagram, Tharreau's division had attended neither battalion school nor target practice. Henceforth, the Emperor ordered, the men would perform the basics of the soldier's school and practice platoon drill each morning. They would fire 12 cartridges daily at the marks and for 2 hours in the evening perform battalion maneuvres. (Arnold - "Napoleon Conquers Austria")

French fusilier,
by Steven Palatka Every infantryman was armed with musket, bayonet, and carried a knapsack, water bottle, and blanket or greatcoat, besides an ammunition pouch. According to David Chandler "Training remained rudimentary. The new conscript might receive 2 or 3 weeks of basic instruction at the depot, but he would fire on average only two musket shots a year in practice. Much stress was placed upon the attack with cold steel ..." (Chandler - "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars" pp 207-208)

It was by no means an illiterate infantry. In 1812 the 33rd Line Infantry Regiment had 500 "privates worthy of NCO rank" and more than 700 who understood the decimal system, and the first three rules of arithmetic. Many of the officers were classically educated.

In 1803-1807 France had probably the best infantry which had ever existed in Europe up until that time. It was the Camp of Boulogne that Napoleon's greatest military ideas were executed. The Napoleonic foot soldiers were known for agility, stubborn attacks, and the speed of their marches. Maneuverability and speed were the characterictics of Napoleon's lightning campaigns.
Chlapowski writes: "The arrival of the first French infantry division [to Poland], belonging to Davout's Corps, made a strange impression on me. A dozen or so of us rode out to meet it, and about a mile outside the city we saw fields completely covered with individual soldiers, in greatcoats of every color, carrying their muskets with the butts in the air and picking dry paths through the fields to avoid the knee-deep mud on the road. Right outside the city [Posen], by the windmills, there was a beating of drums, and they all came running to form ranks and in the blinking of an eye they had taken off their greatcoats, straightened their bicornes on their heads and become the most regular armies. They then marched at a lively pace into the city with bands playing. They halted in the market square, stacked their weapons and took out little brushes to wipe the mud from their shoes and began fooling around as if they had only been marching for a mile, not the 150 miles they had just completed. I stared in amazement at these boisterous infantrymen, so far undefeated. They might as well have been going to a dance.
They were not like the Prussian infantry ... Those had seemed a full head taller, with broader shoulders and far stronger, but, at the same time stiff and wooden, and after a half-mile march, when their column had halted for some reason, they had straight away broken ranks to rest." (Chlapowski/Simmons - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer" p 10)

French fusilier 
by Dmitrii Zgonnik
of Ukraine Many of the victories from 1805 to 1807 were both easy and decisive. In 1806 and 1807 "In action, the infantry was still splendid, and did not as yet require to be formed in deep columns of many battalions, such as was Macdonald's at Wagram, three years later." (Petre - "Napoleon's Campaign in Poland, 1806-1807" pp 27-28)

In November 1805 at Mariazell 4 French battalions routed 8 Austrian battalions. The French took large numbers of prisoners. General Friant wrote that at Austerlitz "No sooner had the 15th Legere and 33th Ligne arrived and deployed than they marched on the enemy, nothing could resist their attack, the 15th was directed at the bridge and chased a corps 10 times more numerous than they, penetrated Sokolnitz, intermingled with the Russians, slaughtering with the bayonet all that dared oppose them."
General Thiebault described how the infantry manoeuvered at Austerlitz (on the Goldbach Heights): "The two corps [of Lannes and Soult] executed their rearward movement in squares, chequer-wise... For my own part I was no less struck by the novelty than by the magnificence of the spectacle. Nothing could be finer or more imposing than the 30 moving masses, which after two hours' march extended over a distance of five miles, while their arms sparkled in the sun." The Russians and Austrians noted that the French regiments maneuvered calmly and with precision "as if on parade ground." The musket fire of French infantry was very effective due to the considerable musketry practice with live ammunition that the French had received at Boulogne Camps.
"The French infantry was indisputably the finest in Europe in 1805, and perhaps even the finest infantry fielded throughout the wars of 1792-1815." (Goetz - "1805: Austerlitz" p 45)
Austrian Gen. Stutterheim wrote: "The French infantry manoeuvered with coolness and precision, fought with courage, and executed its bold movements with admirable concert."

Austerlitz's Climax The Battle of Austerlitz was a glory day for the French infantry. Napoleon had strong centre under Generals Vandamme and St. Hilaire climb the Pratzen Heights, the key position on the battlefield. Kutuzov and part of Russian staff rode forward with Jurczik's Austrian brigade. As they drew closer against the French center and began to deploy, the French placed 6 heavy guns behind the 36th Line Regiment (3 pieces on either end of the regiment) and waited. Both sides deployed in almost a mirror image of each other.
On north flank Vandamme sent one battalion of 10th Light but the attackers wavered and the Austrian grenadiers counterattacked. The French were driven off to the northwest. Grenadiers' victory was short-lived as Boye's dragoons (part of 3rd Dragoon Division) charged and surrounded them. The grenadiers were captured "almost to a man". The Austrian VI/23rd Infantry instead of coming to the grenadiers' rescue they threw their muskets and fled in panic. (Goetz - "1805: Auserlitz" p 184)
On the southern flank appeared Kamenski's brigade, the Russians were unaware of the situation further north. The French II/10th Light (750 muskets) exchanged volleys with two Russian battalions (total of 1,000 muskets). Both sides held ground however the Russians suffered heavier casualties than the French. More battalions drew into line adjacent to the ones already in firefight. Approx. 3,000 Frenchmen stood in line and fired at 3.000 Russians. After 20 minutes of this firefight and after the Austrian brigade under Jurczik fell back the Russians began wavering. Russian General Langeron described this combat: "Soon, the French lines initiated a very sharp and very murderous fire of musket and canister upon the brigade of Kamensky which in a moment had many men rendered hors de combat. (Kamensky's brigade) answered with a less sharp and badly directed fire, the majority of our soldiers fired in the air ... in justice I ought to say that despite the superior number of the enemy, despite their little experience of war and the effect on them of an unforseen attack on their rear, despite the noise of gunfire, which many of them were hearing for the first time, they maintained themselves admirably for nearly 2 hours and in these two hours more than half of the two regiments were left dead." (Langeron - "Journal inedit de la Campagne de 105; Austerlitz" p 75)
General Langeron arrived, placed himself at the head of Russian grenadiers and led them in bayonet charge. This attack was successful and one grenadier battalion captured 2 guns and almost reached Pratzen. St.Hilaire led counter-attack, he drove the grenadiers back, recaptured the guns and took the Russian positions.
In the center Austrian Jurczik's brigade advanced against Pratzen. Thiebault ordered his infantry to hold their fire until the Austrians had closed to 30-40 meters. When the whitecoats drew closer the French infantry unmasked several cannons and opened a murderous fire. The Austrians were surprised and halted, unable to move forward one step. The French opened musket fire and charged with bayonets. Jurczik's first line (3 btns.) fell back, while his second line (2 btns.) counterattacked but without success. Jurczik was mortally wounded.
GdD Vandamme's infantry attacked Kollowrath and Miloradovich on the Pratzen Heights. According to Robert Goetz "for at least an hour, intense fighting raged across the entire length of the Pratzen Heights" Vandamme's divisional battery took active part in it firing canister at the whitecoats. The Austrians wavered and when few squadrons of French dragoons charged from the flank, they broke and fled. The dargoons captured hundreds of prisoners and sabered Austrian and Russian gunners. Once Kollowrath's northern flank was falling back, his center began crumbling. Around 11 AM Kollowrath ordered all his forces to withdraw. Vandamme's infantry rushed forward with a cheer. Once Vandamme's men crossed over the crest Napoleon lost sight of them. They were now advancing against the second line under the command of Miloradovich. They opened a heavy musket fire killing and wounding many Russians and some Austrians. Both sides held their ground and paused - for a while - to put order in their weary battalions. Vandamme renewed his attack after 11:15 AM and broke the Russians. They fled toward Zbishow.
According to Robert Goetz the fighting on the Pratzen Heights had marked the climax of the Battle of Austerlitz. The superb performance of the French made the Austrians' brave attempts futile.

French infantry at Waterloo Even in Spain many units performed gallantly. John Burgoyne wrote in "Life and correspondence of Burgoyne": "The French regiment came up the hill with a brisk and regular step, and their drums beating pas de charge: our men fired wildly and at random among them; the French never returned a shot, but continued their steady advance. The English fired again but still without return ... and when the French were close upon them, they wavered and gave way."

In Salamanca (1812) the French 25th Light and 27th Line attacked while the British line hesitated and stood firm for a moment. The British then broke and fled. An English officer described a fight between the elite British Fusiliers and the French: "The French regiment formed close column with the grenadiers in front and closed the battalions ... They then advanced up the hill in the most beautiful order without firing a shot ... when about 30 paces distant our men (British) began to waver, being still firing ... The ensigns advanced 2 paces in front and planted the colors on the edge of the hill and officers steped out to encourage the men to meet them. They (British) stopt with an apparent determination to stand firm, the enemy (French) continued to advance at a steady pace and when quite close the Fusiliers gave way: - the French followed down the hill on our side."

French light infantry
in combat. Picture by
Dmitrii Zgonnik 
of Ukraine Colonel Waller, (British 2nd Division) witnessed a French attack against Picton's "Fighting Division" in 1810 at Bussaco: "At this moment were seen the heads of the several columns, three I think, in number and deploying into line with the most beautiful precision, celerity and gallantry. As they formed on the plateau, they were cannonaded from our position and the regiment of Portuguese... threw in some volleys of musketry into the enemy's columns in a flank direction, but the (Portugese) regiment was quickly driven into the position ... the (French) columns advanced in despite of a tremendous fire of grape and musketry from our troops in position in the rocks, and overcoming all opposition although repeatedly charged by Lightburne's Brigade, or rather the whole of Picton's Div., they advanced and fairly drove the British right wing from the rocky part of this position."

French infantry pursuing Wellington's army in 1812. 
By Motte Picture: "the French arrived [at Tordesillas], 60 ... headed by Cpt Guingret, a daring man, formed a small raft to hold their arms and clothes, and plunged into the water, holding their swords with their teeth, swimming and pushing their raft before them. Under protection of a cannonande they crossed this great river, though it was in full and strong water, and the weather very cold, and having reached the other side, naked as they were, stormed the tower: the Brunswick regiment then abandoned the wood, and the gallant Frenchmen remained masters of the bridge." (Napier - "History of the War ..." Vol IV, p 138)

In Leipzig (1813) a group of French infantry swam the Elster River near Mockern and began firing, the surprised Prussians were taken in crossfire and fled.

French infantry at Smolensk, 1812 Many napoleonic battles were very bloody and cost many lives. In 1812 after the battle of Valutina Gora "Gudin's division were drawn up on top of their companions' and Russian corpses, amidst half-broken trees, on ground ripped up by roundshot ... Gudin's battalions were no longer more than platoons. All around was the smell of powder. The Emperor couldn't pass along their front without having to avoid corpses, step over them or push them aside. He was lavish with rewards. The 12th, 21st and 127th Line and the 7th Light received 87 decorations and promotions." (Britten-Austin - "1812 The March on Moscow" p 214)

In Borodino the French infantry have suffered even more. Sergeant Bertrand of 7th Light Regiment writes: "A roundshot took my captain's head off, killing or mortally wounding four men in the first rank. The lieutenant takes the captain's place; scarcely is he at his post than he's himself stricken by a piece of grape which shatters his thigh. In the same instant the sous-lieutenant's foot is shattered by another shell fragment. The officers hors de combat, the sergeant-major absent, I, as senior sergeant, take command of the company."

French infantry in Russia, 
by Chaperon. In 1812 majority of veterans was swallowed up in the bloody battles and the snows of Russia. The casualties were horrible and it required a heart of stone to look on those gallant men, mangled, frozen and torn, and heaped in thousands over the fields and roads.

The reconstruction of the infantry in 1813 was not a simple task. One cannot just strike the earth and expect legions, armed, clothed and trained. Napoleon used everything he had. In 1813 the young soldiers were called "infants of the Emperor." Thousands of the footsore men entered Dresden, wore their battle dress and marched into battle singing "Victory is Ours". Marshal Davout wrote: "in spite of their youth ... I cannot recall having found more ardor in our old troops." They have fought bravely at Dresden and Leipzig. At Dresden "The streets were full of French troops, especially the open spaces in the suburbs ... Amongst these troops the bursting shells produced only a feeling of exhilaration and eagerness. They were to fight under the immediate command of a leader whom they still believed to be invincible.
Aster tells a curious story of a battery which received orders to be ready to move into the fighting line. The men were dust-stained and untidy after their long march. The moment they heard the order, each man began to get out of his haversack his parade uniform, which it was thought suitable to don on such an occassion. Comical scenes ensued, as men, in the act of changing their trousers, had to skip off as they might to avoid a shell about to burst. All were laughing and cheery, as if about to go to some fete. Such was the spirit of Napoleon's soldiers." (Petre - "Napoleon at War" p 226, publ.1984)

Napoleon aand infantry In 1813 at Leipzig the defense of Probstheida was incredible. Digby-Smith writes: "The courage and ferocity shown by both sides in the battle of Probstheida was truly unique, as were the losses they suffered. An attempt by the Old Guard to advance south, however, was stopped by the Allied artillery on the low hill about 500 m away. Generals Baillot, Montgenet and Rochambeau were all killed during the fighting here, while French regiments which especially distinguished themselves were the 2nd, 4th and 18th Line and the 11th Light. Even Prinz August von Preussen wrote most flatteringly of the enemy's valour ..."
Allies staff officer Maximilian von Thielen writes: "The French were holding out with unparalled stubborness ..."

In 1814 the French infantry found itself in heavily reduced size. A handful of heroes faced all of Europe to whom they themselves had taught the art of fighting over the past decade. In 1815 it was no more than a glorious memory. After the 100-Days Campaign the French King Louis XVIIIth decided that no reminder of the Republic or the Empire would be allowed to survive in the army. The organization of the army and the uniforms from the Empire were banned.

French infantry and captured flags, 
Museum of the Army in Paris Napoleonic infantryman was easy everywhere, little or nothing worried him, neither the pyramids of Egypt nor the vast plains of snowy Russia. No matter where he found himself, he considered himself to be a representative of the French way of life. The army will never forget that under Napoleon's eagles, deserving men of courage and intelligence were raised to the highest levels of society. Simple soldiers became marshals, princes, dukes and kings. The French soldier had become an equal citizen by right and by glory. Every soldier of Roman Empire could make a career in the army. The veterans could even aspire to become
primus pilus.

French infantry looting
in Prussia. The French infantrymen were not angels and sometimes behaved badly. "The 43rd regiment of line infantry had ... became involved in so many duels that the active enmity of the citizens [of Caen] compelled its retirement." ( Parquin - "Napoleon's Victories")

There were also cases of cruelty and abuse of prisoners. Chlapowski of Napoleon's Guard Lancers writes: "The Austrian defense of the town had been fierce. A great many French corpses lay in front of and on the bridge leading to the city gate. ... After a fierce struggle the French had broken into the town and ran amok among the Austrians, leaving many corpses around the streets. .... [they] having lost many men before taking the town, exacted a terrible revenge afterwards. The Emperor refused to enter the town until the following morning. I think even he was disturbed by the sight of this carnage."

French infantry
fighting in church.
Campaign in Spain. Among the French troops occupying Spain looting was rampant, discipline was poor. The veterans were demoralized by plunder and waste and by the cruel war with Spanish guerillas. They had got out of the habit of being inspected. Training had fallen off during the years. Several hundred of veterans were selected from the troops in Spain and sent to join the Middle Guard. Although they looked good with tanned faces, some of them went around and stole things in Paris. General Michel arrested them and sent to prisons.
The civilian population in Spain were treated by the French in a manner that ranged from the merely boisterous to downright brutal. Rape, pillage, murder, thievery, drunkenness and anything else were common. "... the number of towns whose inhabitants were accused of firing on the French - most notably, Medina de Rio Seco and Chinchon - experienced appaling massacres. To decribe this policy as genocide - a term that can certainly be applied in other contexts, most notably the Vendee - would be to go too far. Many French officers were, in fact, keenly aware that their aim had to be driving a wedge between the insurgents and the populace as a whole and struggled hard to keep their men under control, whilst further restraints were often exercized by the civilian officials who became involved in the various anti-bandits tribunals established by such rulers as Joseph Bonaparte." (Esdaile - "Popular Resistance in the French Wars" p 12)

Arresting those who attempted
to avoid conscription.
Picture by T. de Thulstrup. The numerous campaigns made the military service unpopular in France. In 1813 in the west of France it became necessary to hunt up the refractaires with mobile columns, and the generals reported that they were afraid to use their young sldiers for this purpose. The new army was huge but the 18- and 19-years old soldiers lacked stamina and the rapid marches and hunger weakened them physically. Camille Rousset gives the following as a common type of report on inspection: "Some of the men are of rather weak appearance. The battalion had no idea of manouveruring; but 9/10 of the men can manage and load their muskets passably." General Lambardiere writes: "These battalions arrive fatigued, every day I supply them with special carriage for the weak and lame ... All these battalions are French; I must say that the young soldiers show courage and good-will. Every possible moment is utilised in teaching them to load their arms and bring them to the shoulder." So poor were they in physique that the Minister of Police protests against their being drilled in the Champs Elysees during the hour of promenade, on account of the scoffing and jeering they gave rise to.

The high stress suffered during military campaign (they were put into action without full training) exhausted many of them. They fell sick by hundreds, there were also deserters and stragglers. Special detachments were formed to catch the stragglers and find the weak and 'make them walk'. In Paris alone 320 soldiers of Young Guard were arrested for desertion and sent to prisons. During Emperor's journey from Dresden, through Gorlitz to Bautzen, he saw the German roads and villages choked with thousands of stragglers. Napoleon was outraged and issued the following order: "Every soldier who deserts his flag betrays the first of his duties. As a consequence, His Majesty orders: Article 1. Evry soldier who deserts his flag without legitimate cause will be subject to decimation. To this effect, as soon as 10 deserters are returned the generals commanding the army corps will have them draw lots, and have one shot." Bautzen. 6 Septeber 1813 Napoleon." (Bowden - "Napoleon's Grande Armee of 1813" p 160)

"The strength and physical stamina of the young conscripts, and consequently the quality of their regiments, left much to be desired; they could not march like the veterans, fell easy prey to sickness, and the standard of their training when they left the depots in the spring 1813 was frighteningly low. The ability of battalions to manoeuvre was poor, and many recruits could not even load their muskets. When the reinforcements drafts marched to the front, carts had to follow them to pick up the footsore and the exhausted." (Digby-Smith, - p 29)

The new units were thrown together quickly and their men had not had the necessary time to form the interpersonal bonds within their companies that gave them the morale strength necessary to wage war successfully. Despite these problems, the army's morale was generally high. Many of the young troops who stayed in the ranks, were filled with boundless confidence in their leader whom they loved with unflagging devotion.


"The 43rd regiment of line infantry had ... became involved
in so many duels that the active enmity of the citizens [of Caen]
compelled its retirement." - Parquin: "Napoleon's Victories"

Line Infantry
Light Infantry
Irregular Infantry.

French voltigeur 
of line infantry in 1812 The total strength of the French infantry under Napoleon varied. In the beginning of Napoleon's reign, France had 90 line and 26 light regiments. In 1813-1814 it reached 137 line (numbered 1st-157th) and 35 light (numbered 1st-37th) regiments. Only in 1815 (Waterloo Campaign) the strength of French infantry fell below the initial numbers and totaled: 90 line and 15 light regiments.
Regiment had 2-5 battalions. In 1808-1815 each battalion had six companies:
- 1 grenadier company (elite, assault troop made of the strongest and most experienced men)
- 4 fusilier companies
- 1 voltigeur company (made of the shortest men, good runers and marksmen)

Official minimum height.
Line Infantry
Light Infantry
grenadier - 173.5 cm (French 5'4")
voltigeur - 159.9 cm (French 4'11")

However, the actual average height of napoleonic grenadier and carabinier was slightly below the official minimum requirement. It was due to the fact that sometimes shorter men were also accepted if they had 4 years of service and have participated in at least 2 campaigns. Newly formed regiments and battalions didn't have grenadiers as they not had been in enough combat.

Actual average height.
Line Infantry
Light Infantry
grenadier - 170.25 cm
fusilier - 164.5 cm
voltigeur - 159.5 cm
carabinier - 168.25 cm
chasseur - 163 cm
voltigeur - 158 cm

PS> In the 18th and 19th centuries, the whites in USA were taller than people in Europe. Several nations have now surpassed the US, particularly the Dutch and the Swedes. In the late 19th century, the Netherlands was a land renowned for its short population, but today it has the 2nd tallest average in the world, and only shorter than the peoples of Herzegovina and coastal Croatia, where males average 186 cm. In 2005 the average height of 20-30 years old male was: China 170 cm, France 175.5 cm, Germany 178 cm, Israel 175.5 cm, Poland 176.5 cm, Portugal 172.5 cm, Sweden 180 cm, USA (whites) 179 cm, USA (blacks) 178 cm

Line Infantry
"Good line infantry is, without doubt,
the sinew of an army." - Napoleon

French line infantry 
by Funcken The number of line regiments was almost identical with the number of departements in France. In 1790 France had been reorganized into 83 Departments of similar size and each was subdivided into 4-5 parts. Each Department had to furnish 4-5 battalions of line infantry to the Revolutionary Armies.
In 1792-1793, from conquered territories were formed new 4 Departments (main cities: Avignon, Chambery, Nice and Bale). In 1796 were added further departments with Belgian cities: Bruges, Ghent, Mons, Antwerp, Brussels, Maastricht, Liege, Namur, Luxembourg. These 9 new departments had to furnish Belgians into the French army. At least half of the Belgians spoke French (Wallons). In 1798 further four departments on the right bank of Rhine River and one in Switzerland were added to the Empire reaching grand total of 96 Departments.
In 1812 there were 134 departments, among them the department of Leman, with Geneva as capital, the department of Rome, the department of the Zuyder-Zee, capital Amsterdam, and the department of the Lower Elbe, capital Hamburg.
It was truly a Grand Empire.

After the defeat in 1814 and Napoleon's first abdication, this number of France's departments sharply decreased and France entered the Waterloo Campaign with only 86 departments.

In 1803 the French army had 89 regiments of line infantry, numbered 1st-112th. Twenty three numbers were vacant: 31, 38, 41, 49, 68, 71, 73, 74, 77, 78, 80, 83, 87, 89, 90, 91, 97, 98, 99, 104, 107, 109, 110. The majority of vacant regiments were due to yellow fever and casualties suffered on San Domingo.
List of disbanded or/and reraised regiments:
31st - disbanded in 1803-4
38th, 41st, 49th, 68th, 71st - vacant
73rd, 74th, 77th, 78th, 80th - disbanded in 1803
83rd, 87th - vacant
89th - in 1803 part was merged with 8th and part was sent to West Indies. Upon return the 89th was disbanded.
90th - vacant
91st, 97th, 98th, 99th, 109th, 110th - disbanded in 1803.
10th - disbanded in 1803, reraised either in Dec 1813 or Jan 1814.
107th - disbanded in 1803, reraised in 1814.
113rd - formed in May 1808 from troops of Tuscany.
114th, 115th, 116th, 117th, 118th, 119th and 120th - formed in 1808 from the provisional regiments of Army of Spain (formed in 1807).
121st - formed in Jan 1809 from the 1st and 2nd Reserve Legions.
122nd - formed in Jan 1809 from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Reserve Legions.
123rd, 124th, 125th - formed in Sept 1810 from Dutch, disbanded in 1813.
126th - formed in 1810 from Dutch, disbanded in 1813 and amalgamated to 123rd.
127th - formed in 1811 from Garde de Hambourg and Garde de Lubeck.
128th - formed in 1811 from Garde de Breme.
129th - formed in 1811 from Reg. d'Oldenbourg, detachments Garde de Westphaliens and French troops. Disbanded in 1813.
130th - formed in 1811 from 1st, 3rd, and 6th Auxilliary Btns. of the Army of Spain.
131st - formed in 1811 from Walcheren Regiment (or French conscripts).
132nd - formed in 1811 from the foreign Regiment l'Ile-de-Re (or French conscripts).
133rd - formed in 1811 (or 1812 ?) from the 2nd Meditarranean Regiment (Italians).
134th - formed in Jan 1813 from the 1st Regiment Garde de Paris.
135th - formed in Jan 1813 from the Cohorts of National Guard.
136th - formed in 1813 from the Cohorts of National Guard**.
137th, 138th, 139th, 140th, 141st, 142nd , 143rd, 144th, 145th, 146th, 147th, 148th, 149th, 150th, 151st, 152nd , 153rd, 154th, 155th, and 156th - were formed in 1813 from Cohorts of National Guard **
** - The formed in March 1812 88 cohorts sent in 1813 numerous pleas to Napoleon asking permission to take the field. Their uniforms were identical to troops of the line. The cohorts were composed of 78.000 able-bodied men ages 20 to 26 and were formed by department [in few cases 2 weaker departments formed 1 cohort]. The cohorts were something between the National Guard and the army and had to serve only within the limits of the Empire. Approx. 70.000 were infantrymen and 8.000 artillerymen. The officers and NCOs were selected from retired veterans or from National Guard who already had seen service in the field army. They were of low quality and drilled the cohorts in company and battalion evolutions without much succe from the army. Napoleon accepted the pleas from cohorts joyfully, each cohort became battalion of 6 companies. In this way the Emperor was able to form 22 new regiments of the line, the cohorts gave 70.000 infantrymen. (- S. Bowden)
By the way, the 2nd and 93rd Line fought as marines at the naval battle at Trafalgar.

Many regiments of line infantry won fame on the battlefield. The 57th Ligne (Le Terrible) enjoyed a great reputation and was one of the best of line regiments. On their flag was inscribed Bonaparte's remark about their bravery at Rivoli. In 1805 at Austerlitz the following French line regiments captured Allies colors: 14th, 18th, 33rd, 43rd, 48th, 55th, 75th, and 108th.
In 1812, after the bloodbath at Borodino, the 57th Line was awarded with a badge of Legion of Honor affixed to their Eagle. The 84th Ligne was another top drawer outfit. In 1809 Napoleon ordered to inscribe in gold lettering the words "1 against 10" (un contre dix) on their flags for their fight at Saint Leonhard. Two battalions of the 84th Ligne with 2 guns entered the town of Graz, seized stable and cleared the streets, and took 450 prisoners. The Austrians held only the church and cemetery. Fierce musketry halted the 84e. At midnight the French scaled the cemetery's walls and took the defenders by surprise. Approx. 120 Austrians surrendered. The French realized that there were more Austrians in the neighbourhood. The 84th considered a withdrawal only to find that the whitecoats had surrounded them. The French put all prisoners into the church, and took cover behind cemetery wall.
Although most of the Austrian forces were militia, they outnumbered the French by 10 to 1. The only first rate unit was the Simbish Infantry Regiment. In the morning the whitecoats attacked the cemetery several times. In one attack they penetrated the church to liberate their comrades, in another attack they dragged off one cannon before the French counterattacked and retook it. In one of the last attacks the whitecoats scaled the wall and captured one of 84th's eagles. Sergeant Legouge single-handedly entered the fight to save the eagle. Running out of ammunition the French decided to use bayonets and cut their way to safety. They escaped and met up with a relieving troops sent by Marshal Marmont.

In 1806 at Jena, the 111th Line Infantry captured a Prussian battery despite 6 volleys of canister.

In 1809 at Aspern-Essling the Austrian cuirassiers executed a bold charge. "Instead of losing momentum by ordering a square, he [Saint-Hilaire] commanded the trusty 105th Line to face to the flank, told the drummers to beat the pas de charge, and advanced against the enemy horsemen. Infantry charging cavalry was thing rarely attempted. It demanded great resolution. ... The 105th met the challenge and drove off the startled Austrian heavy horse." (Arnold - "Napoleon Conquers Austria", p 70)
In 1809 at Raab "A 12-gun Austrian battery dominated the field. To confront it, the French infantry formed 'in a single line with 3 pace intervals supported at some distance by 10-man platoons commanded by an officer." (Arnold - "Napoleon Conquers Austria", p 113)

In the beginning of March 1814, the French-Italian troops arrived at the walled city of Parma. One battalion of 9th Line Infantry marched down the length of the ramparts with a picket of Italian 1st Chasseur Regiment. The French voltigeurs arrived at San Francesco Gate, with Second-Lieutenant Hutinet at their head, they scaled the wall and chased off the militia troops guarding it. They opened the gate and allowed the entry of the battalion. The Austrians and British began to withdraw. On learning this, the French brought forward another battalion of the 9th. The allies were hastily scurrying along Parma's narrow streets and bridges to evacuate the city.

The Battle of Borodino was glory day for the French line infantry. Captain Francois of 30th Line described attack on the Death Redoubt (Raievski Redoubt): "Nothing could stop us... We hopped over the roundshots as it bounded through the grass. Whole files and half-platoons fell, leaving great gaps. General Bonamy ... made us halt in a hail of canister shot in order to rally us, and we then went forward at the pas de charge" A line of Russian troops tried to halt us, but we delivered a regimental volley at 30 paces and walked over them. We then hurled ourselves at the redoubt and climbed in by the embrasureds; I myself got in through an embrasure just after its cannon had fired. The Russian gunners tried to beat us back with ramrods and levering spikes. We fought hand-to-hand with them, and they were formidable adversaries." Captain Bonnet describes how the Russian skirmishers arrived in good order a little to the left "... and a dense column to our right. I deploy my battalion and, without firing, march straight at the column. It recoils. When carrying out this movement we were so exposed to grapeshot from the guns in the village that I saw my battalion falling and being breached like a crenellated wall. But still we went on."

Light Infantry
"The light infantry had acquired a tradition of
dash and aggressiveness ... rapid deployment and
expert skirmishing." - John Elting

French light infantry, 
picture by Funcken There were two types of infantry, line and light. Both were able to execute all maneuvers, incl. skirmishing. (Each company of infantry was divided into 2 sections, but when skirmishing it was divided into 3 sections: left, right and center. The skirmishers of the left and right section had their bayonets removed when on the skirmish line. Only the center section had their bayonets fixed. Their primary target were enemy's officers, gunners, and skirmishers.)
The light infantryman however was more intensively trained in marksmanship and in executing all maneuvers in higher speed.

The light infantry formed advance guards and scouting parties. This kind of service had fostered the soldier's intelligence and independent judgement. No longer he was a mindless robot in a lock-step formation, moving and firing only upon order.

Napoleon's light infantry enjoyed a great reputation in Europe. In his "Basic Reason for the French Success" Prussian general Scharnhorst maintained that the individual French soldier, epitomized by the light infantryman, had decided most of the tactical engagements of the war. Scharnhorst wrote: "The physical ability and high inteligence of the common man enables the French light infantryman to profit from all advantages offered by the terrain and the general situation, while the phlegmatic Germans, Bohemians and Dutch form an open ground and do nothing but what their officers order them to do."
Major K.F. von Knesebeck saw the French in six engagements, deploy "their entire infantry" in open order as skirmishers "with decided superiority." Knesebeck believed that the Prussians and Austrians could learn a great deal from the French light infantryman. According to author Gunther Rothenberg "Rigidly controlled and regimented, the Austrian skirmishers rarely were equal to the French."
(Not all French commanders used the light infantry the best way. In 1812 at Smolensk von Suckow sees "a French staff officer, without even reconnoitering the terrain, lead the Wuertemberg Light Infantry - in particular its superb Foot Chasseurs - straight up to the high wall, where they're simply mown down. Decimated and furious at being forced to carry out such an absurd mission, they're obliged to beat a retreat, after losing 5 officers within only a few minutes." (Britten-Austin - "1812 The March on Moscow" p 195)

More often than not it was the light infantry storming the gates of farms and towns. For example at Waterloo the gate of Hougoumont was stormed by the 1st Light Regiment, and the gates of La Haye Sainte was attacked by the 13th Light. In Hougoumont Lieutenant Legros - nicknamed "The Smasher" (L'enforceur) choped a hole through the door panel with an axe.
In La Haye Sainte the French broke down the outer door of the passage through the stables. It was here where both sides crossed bayonets. The attackers were pushed back but the French light infantrymen climbed up onto the roof of the stables and fired down into the yard at the German riflemen. The riflemen attempted to block up holes in the walls made by artillery fire but the French scaled the walls and bursted into the farmyard.

In 1809 at Ebelsberg, the men of the 26th Light, covered themselves with glory.
“Then the 26th Legere set out across the Traun bridge to begin one of the celebrated assaults in French Napoleonic history. … Austrian battery, sited on a rise behind the village [Ebelsberg] had acquired the range during prior French crossings and now dominated the scene. Musket fire flailed the bridge’s exit. Pouget … ordered his men to open their ranks and sprint across the bridge, thereby reducing the time spent in the lethal beaten zone of flying metal. Gaining the far side, the 26th Legere reformed under the shelter of buildings … General Coehorn rode up to Pouget, gestured toward a narrow village street, and said: ‘You are going to follow this street to a chateau occupied by the enemy. You will attack it.’ By now it was apparent that whoever held the chateau controlled the village below. … the colonel dismounted, placed his sappers to the fore, and marched his men up the winding, cobbled street.
So narrow was the passage that in places his column had to shrink to a 6-rank frontage. After a stiff climb, Pouget sighted his objective 40 paces away. … As his leading company of carabiniers reached the small square outside the chateau, muskets suddenly appeared from window and turret … and the resultant discharge of noise, smoke, and lead arrived before the French could react. … The disciplined defenders of the [Austrian] Jordis Infantry Regiment, supported by sharpshooting Grenzers, had waited until enough French soldiers massed at the top of the alleyway before firing … Ignoring the casualties, when the smoke cleared, Pouget studied the chateau’s entrance. … He had his best marksmen, the carabiniers, engage the defenders in a musketry duel. … In the first ten minutes, 3 carabinier officers and 53 men … fell here. The combat proved harder still on the light companies jammed motionless in the alleyway at the rear. … As the sappers charged forward to axe their way through the wooden door, other French soldiers found an unprotected cellar entrance and began to clear the chateau room by room. When the sappers burst through the front door, the garrison laid down their weapons and surrendered.” (Arnold - “Napoleon Conquers Austria”)

In 1809 at Aspern-Essling the 24th Light's in brilliant bayonet charge overran Austrian battery. The French took 700 prisoners and recaptured the church. Soon however the Austrian Beniovski Infantry Regiment counterattacked and took the church.

The regiments of light infantry were given mountainous departments from which they would draw conscripts and recruits. In 1803 the French army had 26 regiments of light infantry, numbered 1st-30th. Four numbers were vacant: 11th, 19th, 20th, 30th. In 1813-1814 there were 35 units numbered 1st-37th, two numbers were vacant. Below is a list of disbanded and raised regiments:
11th - disbanded in 1803 and reraised in 1811
(from the following btns: Tirailleurs Corses, Tirailleurs du Po, Tirailleurs de la Legion de Midi and Valaison)
19th - disbanded in 1803 and reraised in 1814
20th - disbanded in 1803
30th - disbanded in 1803
31st - raised in 1804
32nd - raised in 1808 from Italians (Grand Duchy of Toscany)
33rd - raised in 1808 from provisional regiment, in 1809 disbanded and reraised in 1810 from Dutch
34th - raised in 1811
35th - raised in 1812 from 1st Regiment de la Mediterrane (formed in 1810)
36th - raised in 1812 from Regiment de Belle-Ile (formed in 1811)
37th - raised in 1812

In 1815 (Waterloo Campaign) there were only 15 regiments of light infantry.

Irregular Infantry.

There were several units of irregular infantry.
The chasseurs des montagnes were formed to deal with the Spanish irregulars, bandits and gangs of deserters along the French-Spanish border. They were uniformed in dark brown with sky-blue facings. They earned reputation as excellent guerilla hunters and eradicators, specializing in swift cross-country movements. However, this unit was weak and had only 3 battalions of light infantry. Although these battalions were made of regular troopers their replacements were apprehended efractaires from the Pyrenees departments, who returned to duty under the pledge that they would serve only on the Spanish frontier. In 1814 the chasseurs des montagnes were disbanded and transferred to line and light regiments.
Le 3ème Bataillon de Chasseurs de Montagnes
est un groupe de reconstitution napoléonien

The miquelets francais was another unit formed on the Spanish border during 1792-94 and 1808-09.. It was an old French custom to recruit independent companies of Basques and smugglers for partisan mountain warfare. Moncey and Perignon commanded such units early in the Revolution. For many Frenchmen the Basques' features suggested extreme ferocity. These iregulars were armed with very long-barreled muskets with a set-trigger, pistols and snickersnees.

In 1815 Napoleon formed Chasseurs des Pyrenees to guard the Spanish frontier. Napoleon wanted 9 battalions but the time was short and only seven and half were formed.

The Chasseurs des Alpes was formed in 1813 in preparation for an Austrian offensive in Italy and for fighting the Piedmontese Barbets. It had 1-2 battalions formed of former smugglers, poachers, gamekeepers and ordinary mountaineers. In 1814 the Bourbons disbanded this unit. In 1815 Napoleon formed 2 battalions.

The Chasseurs de la Reunion were formed as part of the garrison of the Isle de France (Mauritius). It was all-black formation. They proved worthless as combat troops.

The cipayes (sepoys) were made of natives in India. There were only few companies and they were disbanded in 1803 when the small French colonies in India were lost to the British in 1803.


The musket was the basic French weapon,
issued to all dismounted troops
unless otherwise specified.

Napoleonic Infantry Weapons: Muskets and Bayonets.
"In their own time they made and broke empires;
they won, and nailed down, the independence of the USA.
Together with the Roman short sword and the Mongol composite bow,
they rank as the greatest man-killers of all-history. ... "
- John Elting

of Line Infantry
1812. The muskets were muzzleloading and smoothbore. But, primitive as they appear today, such weapons deserve respect. John Elting writes: "In their own time they made and broke empires; they won, and nailed down, the independence of the USA. Together with the Roman short sword and the Mongol composite bow, they rank as the greatest man-killers of all-history. ...
The musket (fusil d'infanterie) was the basic French weapon, issued to all dismounted troops unless otherwise specified. ... Napoleon on assuming power, ordered a commission of artillery officers to establish the necessary new models of individual weapons. The resulting 'System of the Year IX (1800-1801) was basiacally an improved and simplified version of the 1777 models. Some improvements were made in musket designed in the 'Year XIII' (1805-1805).

French Musket and Bayonet.
"Americans found them definitely
preferable to the British 'Brown Bess,'
though the latter threw a heavier slug:
caliber .75 as compared to the French .69."
- John Elting

French musket Charleville Napoleonic infantryman was armed with 'Charleville' musket (fusil d'infanterie) model 1777 (AN IX), with overall length 151.5 cm, (barrel length 114 cm), triangular bayonet 45.6 cm and a short saber.

Some of the elements of the 1777 Charleville model are the finger ridges on the trigger guard, the brass frizzen, and the cheek piece carved in the stock's butt with a straighten frizzen cover and slightly different front band.

The 1777 Charleville was considered by most Europeans as the best musket in the world. These smoothbore muskets were named after the armory in Ardenne, France. It was also distributed to the Americans, and later became the basis for the pattern of the Springfield Musket 1795. They are 60 1/2 inches, with a 45 inch barrel, and have "U.S." stamped on the butt stock.

During prolonged firing the soldier had often to clear the vent with a pin carried on his pouch belt, and clean the barrel which often fouled after 50 or 60 shots. Cartridges were spoiled by humidity. In wet weather men who failed to keep them dry, or to cap or wrap up their lock plates, were incapable of firing a shot.

By today's standards, muskets are not very accurate due to the windage (gap) between the projectile and the barrel. Depending on the type and calibre, it could hit a man's torso at up to 200-300 paces, though it was only reliably accurate to about 50-100 paces.

French vs Russians in 1812 at Smolensk.
Picture by F. Neumann The infantryman also carried bayonet. "The earliest French bayonet attack occured no later than 1677 at the siege of Valenciennes, where, after an enemy cavalry charge 'the musketeers, having put their bayonets in their fusils, marched at them and with grenades and bayonets, chased them back in the town.' In another use of the plug bayonet, dragoons beat back enemy forces at a river near the same town in 1684. ... As they have so often in their history, the French pictured themselves as particularly apt in the assault with cold steel. A belief in a special French talent in combat a l'arme blanche probably goes back as far as Merovingian times. The cult of the bayonet peaked late in the 18th century and again, with tragic consequences, just prior to World War I. Much of the language later assumed by advocates of the bayonet was already current in the 17th century. Writing in 1652, Laon expressed the belief that 'French infantry is more suited to the attack than to the defense.' The French never seemed to tire of contrasting their own energy in the assault versus their enemies' stolid nature, particularly when Germans were involved. 'The [German] infantry is constant enough when syanding fast, but it is not lively in the attack and cannot carry off a coup de main. Chamlay agreed in the superiority of the French infantry on the offensive, starting in 1690 ... The same confidence typified opinion in the War of the Spanish Succession ... No less a figure than Marshal Villars praised 'the air of audacity so natural for the French infantry ... is to charge with the bayonet ..." (Lynn - "Giant of the Grand Siecle" pp 487-488)

Cartridge box and bayonet
of the French voltigeur. Cartridge Box (Giberne)

Ammunition to the Charleville Musket was kept in the black cartridge box. It was called giberne and was carried by all infantry. For campaign the cartridge box (or rather the large outside flap) was covered by 'white' fabric covers made of undyed linen. On the cover was painted regimental and battalion number.

Infantry Sabers (Briquetes)

Saber of the voltigeur. One white leather belt went over the left shoulder to support the cartridge box on the right hip. Other belt supported the short saber. The infantry sabers were short and of little value in combat. When the saber was taken away from some troops, the bayonet was transferred to the other belt. (The natural color of the leather belts was buff, but they were whitened with pipeclay. Officers wore no crossbelts).

The short sabers were a burden during skirmishing but the soldiers liked them. Maybe it was a question of status, the 'noble' cavalryman carried sabers so why not we infantrymen, right ? These sabers were mostly used in the camp although they were kept during combat. Sometimes the infantrymen left their sabers in depots before marched into the field. For example before the battle of Fuentes de Onoro the French infantrymen left their sabers in depots. The 2nd Conscripts of Young Guard in Spain left them behind while being on campaign of pursuing the Spanish guerillas across rough terrain.

Officially the short sabers briquetes were issued only to the elite companies (grenadier and carabinier companies) and to the infantry of the Imperial Guard. Unoficially also the voltigeurs and chasseurs carried them. The Decree of 27th October 1807 forbade the voltigeurs to be armed with the sabers. Of course none of the guys took it very seriously and they kept their weapons until 1815.
The center companies (chasseurs) of light infantry regiments had to give up their sabers in 1807. But in some regiments it brought little result so the order was repeated in 1815. Only NCOs, grenadiers (carabiniers) and musicians were officially allowed to be armed with short sabers.


Organization and Tactics of French Infantry.
Regiments, Battalions and Companies.

Emperor Napoleon and French infantry
with captured Allies Colors. The basic building block of napoleonic army organization was the individual soldier. A small group of soldiers organized to maneuver and fire were section and platoon. As elements of the army’s organizational structure become larger units, they contain more and more elements. A company was the smallest element to be given a designation and affiliation with higher headquarters at battalion, regimental, brigade, and division level.

Prior to the Revolution, the French Army was composed of three-battalion regiments. In 1792 before the Battle of Valmy, it was decided to form demi-brigades instead of regiments. Each demi-brigade was made up of one regular battalion from a pre-revolutionary regiment combined with two battalions of volunteers. The demi-brigades were adopted by the entire French army two years later.

In 1803 Napoleon was re-instated the term "regiment", the "demi-brigade" being applied henceforth only to provisional troops.

Each line and light regiment had: staff, 2-6 "war" battalions and 1 "depot" battalion. In 1811 Napoleon ordered that majors-in-second be named for all regiments with 4-6 war battalions.

In the beginning of Napoleon's reign the war battalion [Bataillon de Guerre] had:

  • staff of battalion
    - 1 grenadier company (80-90 men)
    - 8 fusilier companies (120 men each)

    Sometimes the grenadier companies were detached from their parent battalions and formed so-called grenadier battalions and even entire divisions. Already in 1796 Bonaparte formed a special advance guard by detaching the grenadier and carabinier companies from most of his demi-brigades and forming them into a provisional division (4,000 men) under General Dallemagne. It consisted of two brigades commanded by Lannes and Lanusse, horse battery and light cavalry.

    In 1805 one of the fusilier companies became a voltigeur company. In Sep 1806 before the hostilities with Prussia, the 3rd war battalions were dissolved to replenish the 1st and 2nd battalions and sent cadres to France to collect conscripts.

    Battalion of line infantry 1805-1808:

  • staff of battalion
    - 1 grenadier company (80-90 men)
    - 1 voltigeur company (120 men)
    - 7 fusilier companies (120 men each)

    In 1808 Napoleon ordered the organization of war battalion [Bataillon de Guerre] being changed from 9 to 6 (stronger) companies. These changes were implemented in troops on primary theater of war while those on secondary theaters (Spain and Italy) would keep their 9-companies battalions for some time. Between 1808 and 1815 the battalion was 840 men strong. (Davout's opinion, in a letter dated 10 Sept 1811, was that a battalion of 960 men was too large to be managed properly.)
    In reality tye strength of battalion was between 400 and 600 men. For example in 1809 at Wagram were 255 btns. with an average of 556 men each. Many line regiments formed their 4th field battalions. In 1811 Napoleon ordered that majors-in-second be named for all regiments with 4-6 war battalions.

    Battalion of line infantry 1808-1815:

  • staff of battalion
    - 1 grenadier company (140 men)
    - 1 voltigeur company (140 men)
    - 4 fusilier companies (140 men each)

    This is interesting that prior to going into battle, a battalion would have all companies equalized by the Chef. If the grenadier or voltigeur company was short on men, then selected fusiliers were accpted to help fill out their ranks. It was important to maintain the frontage of the troops not only by the above described process but also by taking the men of the third rank. Sometimes the 3rd rank would dissolve as the men were drawn to fill out the files in the 1st and 2nd rank.

    The "depot" battalion was commanded by the senior captain, with a major in command of the depot itself. In the depot the new soldiers were clothed and trained. (The annual drawings took place and a numbered ballot for each man who had reached the required age was placed in an urn. There was a quick physical examination. The best age for recruits was between 20 and 25, the younger than that were weaker physically and lacked stamina.) Once trained and dressed the new soldiers were sent to the front and joined one of the three field battalions of their parent regiment.

    "Each company [of depot battalion] had different specific duties. The 4th Company of the battalion rarely if ever left the depot. It was charged with training recruits and included in its ranks the regiments's artisans, the enfants de troupe (soldiers' sons carried on the battalion payroll), and any veteran soldiers awaiting retirement, discharge, or pensioning. The 1st and 3rd Companies were responsible for transporting newly trained recruits to the field battalions. ... The 2nd Company of the battalion was generally assigned to act as guards for naval vessels as well as for the garrisons to man them." (Nafziger - "Napoleon's Invasion of Russia" p 14)

    The company was an administrative unit, the tactical unit was the platoon (peloton). In 1808-1815 each company consisted of 140 men:
    - 1 captain
    - 2 leutenants
    - 1 sergeant-major
    - 4 sergeants (They were gritty, hard-bitten lads who kept the troop well under control.)
    - 1 furrier
    - 8 corporals
    - 2-3 drummers
    - 121 privates

  • ~

    "The crash of drums, beating with the harsh unity
    that stamped them as the voices of veterans in war
    woke me from my reverie and made my heart throb
    with their stony rattle. Never did I hear such
    drums and never shall again; there were years of
    battle and blood in every sound."
    -Benjamin R. Haydon

    Drummers, Cornets and Musicians.
    The evening before the battle of Wagram
    "The Emperor slept in the lee of 12 grenadier drums
    stacked in groups of three." - Henri Lachoque

    French drummer, 
by Funcken Just as modern company commander relies on his radio operator, his Napoleonic counterpart depended on his drummers and cornets. During a battle it was very noisy and not everyone could hear a officer's voice. For this reason every company had drummers and cornets. They also performed a service that went beyond supplying a rhythmic musical accompaniment to the marching infantry. The musicians carried wounded officers out of danger zone and after battle stacking their drums, they would await the grim task of carrying their stricken comrades to field hospitals.

    The musiacians occupied a central place in the life of the troop during peacetime for they signalled the routine of the day, the posts, reveille, reviews etc.
    "During the Empire the drummers, trumpeters, and musicians were pampered. They wore elaborate uniforms and received high pay. ... With bass-bound ebony sticks they beat the March, Charge, Quickstep, ... The famous syncopation erroneously called the 'Lame Duck' was borrowed from the Prussians whose drummers beat this singular rhythm when their officers were late for assembly." (Henri Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory" pp 209-210)

    The drummers had to master
    an often bewildering litany of commands.

    Each company had 2-3 drummers. But the drum was an unhandy, heavy instrument and for this reason the "brave little drummer boy" of tradition was not much use on napoleonic battlefield. Training of drummers was largely oral, mouth-to-ear. Occasionally, with a slow learner, the technique could be hand-to-ear ;=)

    The drummers had to master an often bewildering litany of commands and especially the beginners had difficulties with holding the drumstick properly without hitting the rim of the drum as often as the drum-head, which would bring down upon them a reprimand from the instructor, or in some cases a rap across the knuckles for some persistently awkward boy.

    Generally the drummers were not necessarily boys. For example at Waterloo the average age of the drummers in the British II/73rd Foot was 23, and had an average of 8 years service each. When 13-year-old Parisian street urchin, by name Victor, wanted to join the 5th Regiment of Tirailleurs (Young Guard) as a drummer-boy, he was turned down because of his tender age and puny physique.

    "... their tone squeaky and
    "far more productive of
    laughter than martial fury."

    According to Colonel Elting (USA) during 1804-5 first the light infantry regiments and then the voltigeur companies of the line regiments had them replaced by cornets. Those were "hunting horns" with circular tubing and a flaring bell. The cornets were "immediately and immensely unpopular" ; their tone squeaky and "far more productive of laughter than martial fury." Nothing seems to have been done officially, but all light regiments gradually recovered their drums. The cornets remained, at least for show.

    Musicians (Regimental Band)
    The band played when troops waited for action
    or marched behind the advancing battalions.
    But most often the band was left behind the troops
    once they got into the fire zone.

    Officially there were also 8 musicians per infantry regiment but colonels often increased their numbers to 20-30. During battle the regimental bands were often grouped to form massed big bands. The infantry sang the songs refrain.

    The band played when troops waited for action or marched behind the advancing battalions. In 1812 the bands were playing and marching in front of their parent regiments when they were crossing the Niemen River and border of Russia.
    In 1813 in Dresden the sounds of regimental bands came out of the suburbs. It was the infantry of Imperial Guard advancing out of the city and against the Russians and Prussians.
    In 1815 at Ligny the band of 23rd Line Regiment played when battalions marched in columns proceded by skirmishers. But most often the band was left behind the troops once they got into the fire zone.
    The musicians didn't participate in the combat.
    At Borodino the bands played before battle. "Before dawn on 7 Sept the bands on the right flank began playing the reveillle to wake up the infantry, and it was gradually picked up all along the line. They pleyed the most rousing pieces. Music does a great deal to prepare the spirit for battle. ..." (Chlapowski, - p 116)


    Sappers (Combat Engineers).
    Sappers wore grenadier uniform with crossed axes
    and grenade badges on the sleeves. Their fur cap
    was without front plate. Beards were mandatory.

    French sappers in action. Each battalion had 1 corporal sapper and 4 privates sappers. These strong men with facial hair marched together with regimental band and near the Eagle/flag.

    Sappers were picked men from grenadier (carabinier) company. They were equipped with axes. Sappers wore grenadier uniform with crossed axes and grenade badges on the sleeves. Their fur cap was without front plate. Beards were mandatory.

    During combat they broke in gates, chopped gaps in palisades, built small bridges or destroyed them, broke garden walls or loopholed them to provide protected firing positions for the infantry. Before Waterloo Napoleon have ordered the sapper companies of I Army Corps (d'Erlon's) to be ready to construct barricades around the conquered buildings of La Haye Sainte and prevent the enemy from reoccupying them.

    During the battle of Ligny the French infantry attacked the strongly defended chateau. Their skirmishers opened fire while sappers attempted to smash down one of the three gates. The Prussians shot the sappers within moments and opened fire on ths skirmishers.


    Grenadiers (line infantry) and Carabiniers (light infantry).
    The grenadiers (and carabiniers) were elite troop,
    selected for their stature and war experience.
    They were also granted a higher pay.

    French grenadier, 
by Steven Palatka French carabinier, 
by Steven Palatka In 1805 approx. 1/3 were veterans of at least 6 years' service. Thearmy of 1812 was almost as good as the famous Grand Army of 1805-1806. In 1812 however there were less veterans in the ranks. According to de Segur the old-timers could easily be recognized "by their martial air. Nothing could shake them. They had no other memories, no other future, except warfare. They never spoke of anything else. Their officers were either worthy of them or became it. For to exert one's rank over such men one had to be able to show them one's wounds and cite oneself as an example." They stimulated the new recruits with their warlike tales, so that the conscripts brightened up. By so often exaggerating their own feats of arms, the veterans obliged themselves to authenticate by their conduct what they've led others to believe of them.

    The elite companies (grenadier, voltigeur and carabinier companies) were made of such veterans. Each war battalion had one grenadier company (carabinier in light infantry). The grenadiers were often used as spearhead of attacking force. They were also granted a higher pay. (King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, required from his grenadiers to be brave, good marchers, with black hair and moustaches, not appear too amiable or laugh too easily and not have an effeminate aspects. He formed them in battalions and used as crack troops on battlefield.)

    According to the French Regulations of Internal Economy and of Infantry [Section IX, Article 1] issued in 1791: Grenadiers are supposed to set an example of good conduct and of subordination. They are always to be selected from the soldiers of the most distinguished and approved merit. Every year, on the 9th September, a list of privates to complete the grenadier company is to be formed. Each of the several captains in a battalion will select the 3 most eligible men from his fusilier company to become grenadiers. These selected men must have been serving for at least for 2 years and be at least 173.5 cm tall (French 5'4"). These selected men were assemled, talked about, and examined by the captain, officers, NCOs and two senior troopers of the grenadier company. The captain of grenadier company listens to the reports and remarks made, note down such as appear to him founded and then decides whom of the selected men put on the list to propose to the commander of demi-brigade. The commander of the demi-brigade judging from the reports which have been given to him by the captain will accept only those of the earlier selected by the captain men who "deem worthy of a decided preference."
    Of course there were exceptions. Coignet went from his auxiliary battalion straight into grenadier company basically he was taller than average and strong.

    The Imperial Decree of February 18th 1808 stated in Article 9th: "The Grenadier Company (...) shall be taken from the totality of the corps, from among the men most appropriate by their (...) and shall be accepted only if they have 4 years of service and have participated in at least 2 of the following campaigns: Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena or Friedland."
    Newly formed regiments and battalions didn't have grenadiers as they not had been in enough combat.

    The grenadiers were also trained how to operate guns.

    As for their appearance it was stipulated that they must present a formidable sight, with moustaches, red epaulettes and tall fur caps. The epaulettes broadened their shoulders and the tall bearskins made them look even taller.
    The bearskin was more difficult to cut through than shako and had better padding than the helmet. But it was quite expensive and a black waxed cloth was used as protection against bad weather. In July 1805 the carabiniers were ordered to return their bearskins to regimental depots in preparation "for the coming campaign" and adopt shakos instead. In 1811 only few carabiniers and grenadiers retained their bearskins, most wore shakos. In February 1812 the fur caps were officially discontinued in grenadiers and carabiniers due to shortage of bear skins. Grenadiers' shako had red shevrons and bands.


    Fusiliers (line infantry) and Chasseurs (light infantry).
    The fusiliers and chasseurs formed
    the bulk of the infantry.

    French fusilier in 1810, 
by Joineau French chasseur in 1809, 
by Joineau Each war battalion had only 1 grenadier and 1 voltigeur company, the remaining 4-8 companies were made of fusiliers (chasseurs in light infantry). The fusiliers (chasseurs) occupied the center of battalion line and for this reason were called centre companies.

    The fusiliers (chasseurs) were without the prestige and priviledges of the grenadiers (carabiniers). However those of them who served in at least 2 campaigns, were brave, strong, and tall, were in some point admitted into the grenadier (carabinier) company. If they were not tall enough they were admitted into the voltigeurs.

    Until 1806-1807 the fusiliers wore bicorn hats. By 1807 it was replaced with shako. The fusilier also wore dark blue coat with white lapels, red collar and red cuffs. In cold weather they wore beige, dark blue or grey greatcoats. Oficially the epaulettes were worn only by the grenadiers and carabiniers. But already since the beginning the chasseurs (centre companies of light infantry regiments) wore them until 1812-1813.


    The voltigeurs were the shortest men of the battalion
    and best suited for skirmishing, ladder climbing, and urban combat.
    In 1805-1806 was introduced requirement of 2 years of
    excellent service for being admitted into voltigeurs.

    The voltigeurs were a new branch of infantry and were introduced by Napoleon in 1803. The Decree issued in March 1803 ordered raising a 10th Company in the regiments of light infantry. These were voltigeurs and were formed by taking the 6 smallest men from every chasseur company in the battalion. In December was decided that the voltigeurs won't be taller than 4'11' (French) and their officers not exceed 5'.
    In regiments of line infantry the 3rd Fusilier Company became Voltigeur Company.

    In 1805-1806 was introduced requirement of 2 years of excellent service for being admitted into voltigeurs. In 1808 the voltigeurs were officially assigned to the left of battalion line (on the right flank stood the robust grenadiers).

    In 1809-1810 the voltigeurs were granted a higher pay.

    The voltigeurs were the best suited troopers for skirmishing, ladder climbing, urban combat, and for scouting. The voltigeurs were trained in firing rapidly and accurately and were expected to be able to march at the trot. Napoleon also wanted them to vault up behind cavalrymen on horses but in real combat this happened only very few times.

    Sometimes the voltigeur companies were detached from their parent battalions and formed in large formations for specific tasks. Chlapowski writes: "... the Emperor himself arrived there and sent Talhouet with 200 voltigeurs across the Danube River on boats to the crossroads of Pratern. From there, Pourtales, who was Berthier's ADC, then swam with a dozen or so voltigeurs across the stretch of the Danube separating Pratern from Vienna. This all happened as night was falling." (Chlapowski, - p 65)
    On May 18th 1809 groups of voltigeurs rowed across the Danube River carrying a cable that would support the bridge to the Island of Lobau (this bridge would lead to the Austrian-held shore). These voltigeurs cleared the island and construction of the bridge began. To protect the pontonniers, Major Sainte-Croix (ADC to Massena) took 200 voltigeurs across Danube River to the right bank. Meanwhile the pontonniers were able to complete the bridge.
    According to Austrian historian Rothenberg in Wagram Col. Sainte-Croix with 2,500 voltigeurs (!) and 10 guns were ordered to cross the Danube River and establish a small bridgehead. The voltigeurs were carried in specially constructed barges also with bulletproof shielding. The surprised Austrians offered little opposition with only their jagers operating in small clumps in the woods had fought well. (Rothenberg - "The Emperor's Last Victory" pp 158-159)
    In 1812 before the three bridges were thrown over the Niemen River, 3 companies of voltigeurs of 13th Light Regiment crossed silently in skiffs and landed on the Russian bank. They took cover behind a little escarpment formed by the river and looked for the enemy's scouts and light artillery.

    Theoreteically voltigeurs were armed with 141.7 cm long dragoon muskets (it was a shorter version of musket, easier to load and carry for the short man). But it was rare and voltigeurs were armed as the rest of infantry, with long muskets. They also carried a bayonet and short saber.

    The voltigeurs distinguished themselves by wearing yellow collars, and yellow-red or yellow-green epaulettes. Wearing epaulettes by voltigeurs was never oficially allowed - actually it was prohibited. The Ministry of War even complained that voltigeurs were "entitled to no other dress distinctions than yellow collar." Order issued in September 1808 prohibited the use of regimental funds for the purchase of epaulettes for voltigeurs.

    Between 1804 and 1809 some voltigeurs wore the unofficial colpacks, sort of fur cap replaced by 1809 with shakos.


    After Napoleon's abdication the Bourbons
    did their best to see that all the napoleonic
    standards and eagles were destroyed.
    In some regiments the officers burned
    the standards before mixing the ashes
    with wine and drinking them down.

    Eagles, Flags and Fanions.
    "When Bonaparte saw passing in front of him
    the flags of the 30th, 43rd, and 96th Demi-Brigades,
    as these flags did not present any more than a stick
    surmounted with some rags pierced by grapeshot
    and blackened by powder, he took off his hat
    and bowed himself as a sign of respect."
    - St.Hilaire

    The practice of carrying standards, to act both as a rallying point for troops, and to mark the location of the unit, is thought to have originated in Egypt some 5,000 years ago. It was formalised in the armies of medieval Europe, with standards being emblazoned with the commander's coat of arms. As armies became trained and adopted set formations, each regiment's ability to keep its formation was potentially critical to its, and therefore its army's, success. In the chaos of battle, not least due to the amount of dust and smoke on a battlefield, soldiers needed to be able to determine where their regiment was. The medieval standards developed into the Colours of the infantry and cavalry.
    Such became the significance in this context that, for a regiment to lose its colours was a disgrace, with the capture of an enemy's colours being seen as a great honour. This is why that, whenever the colours are paraded, they are always escorted by armed guards and paid the highest compliments by all soldiers and officers.

    "A month after being proclaimed Emperor in May 1804, Napoleon decided on the emblem of Empire. He considered the cock and the lion but rejected both in favour of an eagle with wings spread. It became the design of the Great Seal of State and the emblem of the army and navy. In the army the Eagle would be carried on top of a pole with a standard underneath. The Eagle was the supreme importance. When writing on the subject to Marechal Berthier he stressed that it was the priceless symbol of France and the Empire, while the standard below it was of lesser importance and could be replaced if necessary. ... Because the Consular Guard, and then the Imperial Grenadier and Chasseur Guard regiments, were normally in barracks in Paris or on palace duties, their Eagles were kept in a room next to the throne room in the Tuileries." (Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion" p 200)

    Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena, Auerstadt,
    Eylau, Heilsberg, Friedland, Wagram

    1804 flag, from With the establishment of the Empire in 1804, the regiments were presented with a new flag (drapeau) for every battalion. The 1804 pattern of the flag was lavishly braided, bearing the regimental number within a laurel wreath, the diamond inscribed in gold lettering. During campaign the flag was removed. In 1808-1815 the Eagle-bearer (Porte-Aigle) was accompanied by 2 escorts (2nd me & 3eme Porte-Aigle) in the rank of NCOs and carried halberds. Triangular pennons (61cm x 20cm) were attached to the halberds, red for that to the right and white to the left of the Eagle-bearer. The Eagle would be carried with the 2nd Company of I Battalion in every regiment.

    In September 1806 it was ordered that regiments of light infantry should hand in all their Eagles at the beginning of a campaign. The Eagles should be kept in depots. But several regiments carried their Eagles until 1814 and even one regiment lost its Eagle in battle in that year.
    In 1808 was issued order that only one Eagle was to be carried by the regiment (newly formed regiments were given only one Eagle). The Eagles and flags of other battalions and squadrons were to be returned to regimental depots. It took several years before the order was implemented.
    In 1811 some 2nd and 3rd battalions still had their colors in the field.
    The rank of Eagle-bearer (Porte-Aigle) was oficially introduced. He was an officer of proven valour and at least 10 years service or 4 campaigns of Ulm, Austerlitz, Jena and Friedland. The guards, 2nd and 3rd Eagle-bearers, were sergeants who were paid as sergeant majors - this was a way of rewarding brave and seasoned NCOs who could not aspire to the rank of officer (or simply saying they were too stupid). The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Eagle-bearer were armed with a short saber and pistols.

    Smolensk, Borodino, Krasne, Berezina,
    Dresden, Leipzig, La Rothiere, Paris.

    1812 flag, 
from In April 1812 was ordered that each regiment of light and line infantry will receive a new tricolor pattern flag, which bore on the reverse the battle honors of the regiment. The battle honors were restricted to battles at which Napoleon had commanded in person.

    In 1812 every infantry regiment had only one Eagle. It was carried by an eagle-bearer (officer) and guarded by 2 guards (sergeants, brave but usually too stupid for commission) and 6 furiers (drawn from companies). The 2 guards (sergeants) were not the jalonneurs of the battalion.

    Battalion fanion. The Eagle was with the 2nd Company of 1st Battalion.
    The 2nd Battalion carried white fanion,
    the 3rd red fanion,
    the 4th blue fanion,
    the 5th green fanion
    and the 6th yellow fanion.

    In 1812 some regiments left their Eagles in depots and went to Russia with fanions only. The Old Guard regiments, however, kept its 1804 pattern standards until 1813.

    In 1814 Napoleon reissued Eagles to regiments who had had them confiscated or/and destroyed by the Bourbons. The eagles and tricolor flags were bigger but much simpler. All the regiments of Young Guard carried simple fanions.

    Ligny, Waterloo.

    1815 flag, from The flag of 1815 was also a tri-color pattern but it lacked almost all the magnificent embroidery of 1804 pattern. After Waterloo the Bourbons did their best to see that all the napoleonic standards and eagles were destroyed. In some regiments the officers burned the standards before mixing the ashes with wine and drinking them down. The officers of the 2nd Swiss Regiment in napoleonic army, tore their standard into strips with each officer keeping a piece.
    (HUMOR. During the Civil War in USA, the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry carried into battle a wooden perch to which a bald eagle (named Old Abe) was tethered. The bearers caried their macot in the front rank of the color guard. On Oct 3 1863, a bullet severed the cord that held the eagle to his perch, and Old Abe flew along the flaming battle line, losing several of his feathers to enemy fire. - Don Troiani "Civil War" p 76


    "If the campaigns are studied,
    the French certainly owes most of
    their victories to her light infantry"
    - Prussian general Schanhorst

    The Best Infantry Regiments.
    Rheir Colonels, War Record and Battle Honors (1795-1815).

    Officer of 76th Line
Infantry Regiment. The French army contained many regiments of line and light infantry whose soldierly skills and deeds of daring reflected the unsurpassed devotion of the soldiers to their cause and to Napoleon. They all won immortal fame in those ten terrible years of strife.

    (line regiments)

    4th Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne
    4 Battle Honors:
    1796 - Arcole, 1800 - Hohenlinden, 1806 - Jena, 1809 - Wagram
    37 Battles and Combats:
    1791 - Expedition to Saint-Dominique, 1795 - Mannheim, 1796 - Mantoue, Castiglione, Verone, Primolano, La Brenta, Caldiero, Arcole, Tagliemento, 1798 - Expedition to the Iles Saint-Marcouf, 1800 - Engen, Moeskirch, Memmingen, Hohenlinden, 1805 - Ulm, Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau, Heilsberg, Koenigsberg, 1809 - Eckmuhl, Aspern, Essling, Wagram, 1812 - Smolensk, Valoutina, La Moskowa, Krasnoe, 1813 - Dresden, Leipzig, Hanau, 1814 - Brienne, La Rothiere, Monterau, Troyes, 1815 - Ligny
    In 1804 their colonel was Joseph Bonaparte, brother of the Emperor. In 1805 at Austerlitz the Russian Guard cavalry captured their flag. In 1807 at Heilsberg the 4th was part of St.Cyr's Infantry Division. In 1809 at Wagram the 4th Ligne was part of Massena's Corps and - again - lost Eagle, this time to the Austrians. In 1812 at Borodino the 4th was part of Ney's III Corps. In 1813 at Leipzig the 4th Line regiment was part of Dufour's 5th Infantry Division and was involved in heavy fighting for Wachau. In 1815 at Ligny the 4th was part of Girard's 7th Infantry Division and attack Prussian flank.

    18th Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne "The Brave"
    3 Battle honors:
    1796 - Rivoli, 1805 - Austerlitz, 1812 - Borodino (La Moskowa)
    38 Battles and Combats:
    1792 - Jemmapes, 1796 - Dego, Lonato, Castiglione, Saint-Georges, Caldiero, Arcole, Tarvis, 1797 - Rivoli, 1798 - Fribourg, Alexandrie, Chebreiss, Pyramides, 1799 - Saint-Jean de Acre, Mont-Tabor, Aboukir, 1805 - Hollabrun, Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau, Heilsberg, Friedland, 1809 - Ebersberg, Vienne, Essling, Wagram, Znaim, 1812 - Smolensk, La Moskowa, Krasnoe, 1813 - Dresden, Leipzig, Hanau, 1814 - Magdebourg, La Rothiere, Montereau, 1815 - Surbourg, Strasbourg
    in 1807 at Heilsberg the 18th was sent to outflank the Russian position. It found itself isolated and attacked by numerous Cossacks. Two more battalions and one battery were sent to support the 18th before it was able to withdraw. Near Eylau, the 18th Ligne lost its flag and Eagle to the Russian S.Petersbourg Dragoons. In 1809 at Wagram the 18th Ligne and 26th Legere were part of Legrand's Division (Massena's Corps). The 18th had fought at Aspern-Essling, and at Wagram and lost 45 of 54 officers killed and wounded ! At Raab the 18th delivered am audacious charge that sent the Austrians reeling and took 5 cannons. In 1812 at Borodino this regiment was part of Ney's III Corps.
    It was on 18th November 1812 at Krasne, that the 18th lost its eagle. Marshal Ney led his troops in a frontal attack that ended in failure. According to Col. Pierre Pelleport, the 18th Regiment was “virtually destroyed” by Russian Lifeguard Uhlans. By Pelleport's order, the eagle was placed at the head of the regiment although other troops sought to hide their own eagles by dismantling them or hurrying them to the rear. Approx. 600 of the Frenchmen became casualties, including 350 dead and few survived by the skin of their teeth. The infantry fled pell-mell across the white field, carrying with them the few officers who were trying vainly to rally them. Officers Koracharov and Bolchwing and uhlan Darchenko of the II Squadron captured the eagle and flag (drapeau) of the 18th Line and were awarded with the St. George order. The 18th Line had requested a replacement eagle for the one lost at Krasne and Napoleon approved the request in 1813.
    In 1813 at Leipzig this regiment was part of Vial's 6th Infantry Division and was involved in heavy fighting for Wachau.

    57th Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne "le Terible"
    3 Battle Honors:
    1797 - La Favorite, 1805 - Austerlitz, 1812 - Borodino (La Moskowa)
    43 Battles and Combats:
    1792 - Spire, 1793 - Mayence , 1794 - Fontarabie, Pampelune, 1797 - La Favorite, 1799 - Zurich, Diessenhofen, 1800 - Engen, Moeskirch, Biberach, Hochstedt, Nordlingen, Oberhausen, Neubourg, Landshut, Hohenlinden, 1805 - Memmingen, Ulm, Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, Lubeck, 1807 - Bergfried, Deppen, Hoff, Eylau, Lomitten, Heilsberg, 1809 - Thann, Abensberg, Eckmuhl, Ratisbonne, Essling, Wagram, 1812 - Mohilov, La Moskowa, Malojaroslavetz, Viasma, Krasnoe, 1813 - Dresden, Pirna, Kulm, Rachnitz, 1814 - Strasbourg
    In 1805 at Austerlitz the 10th was part of Vandamme's Infantry Division and participated in the storming of Pratzen Heights. It was one of the most decisive moments of this epic battle. In 1807 at Heilsberg the 57th was part of St.Cyr's Infantry Division. They stormed the redoubts in the center of Russian positions. The Russians counterattacked and the fighting was tremendous. In 1809 at Wagram the 57th Ligne and 10th Legere were part of Grandjean's Infantry Division (Oudinot's Corps) In 1812 at Borodino this reegiment was part of Davout's I Corps and they captured one of the Bagration Fleches. It was one of the bloodiest fights of the Napoleonic Era. Napoleon said: "The Terrible 57th which nothing can stop." These words were proudly added to their flag. The Directory ordered such inscriptions removed, thereby proving once more that they knew nothing about solders.

    84th Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne "One Against Ten"
    2 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Ulm 1805, 1812 - Wagram
    30 Battles and Combats:
    1792 - Valmy, 1794 - Oneille, 1795 - Saint-Martin-de-Lantosca, 1796 - Borghetto, Mantua, Cerea, Bassano, 1800 - Engen, Moeskirch, Hochstedt, 1805 - Ulm, Austerlitz, 1809 - Sacile, Prewald, Graetz, Wagram, 1812 - Ostrowo, Smolensk, La Moskowa, Malojaroslawetz, Krasnoe, La Beresina, 1813 - Feistritz, Laybach, Isonzo, Caldiero, 1814 - Verone, Mincio, Plaisance, 1815 - Waterloo
    The 84th Ligne, in tribute to the victory over 10,000 Austrians at Graz in 1809, had a silver plaque attached to the staff of its eagle with the inscription "Un Contra Dix" ("One Against Ten"). In 1809 at Wagram this regiment was part of the famous MacDonald's column. When its eagle and flag were destroyed in 1812 in Russia, its colonel saved the plaque.

    85th Regiment d'Infanterie de Ligne
    6 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Ulm, 1805 - Austerlitz, 1807 - Eylau, 1807 - Friedland, 1809- Essling, Wagram
    38 Battles and Combats:
    1795 - Loano, 1796 - Mondovi, Borghetto, Lonato, Castiglione, Roveredo, Rivoli, 1797 - Tramin, Gorges 1798 - Malte, Chebreiss, Les Pyramides, 1799 - El-Arish, Saint-Jean-d'Acre 1800 - Heliopolis 1805 - Ulm, Austerlitz, 1806 - Auerstadt, Custrin, Czarnovo, Pultusk, 1807 - Eylau, Friedland , 1809 - Eckmuhl, Ratisbonne, Wagram, 1812 - Mohilew, La Moskowa, Wiasma, Smolensk, Krasnoe, Wilna, 1813 - Pirna, Kulm, Dresden, 1814 - Laon, Paris. 1815 - Waterloo
    In 1809 at Wagram the 85th Ligne was part of Gudin's Infantry Division (Davout's Corps)

    (light regiments)

    1st Regiment d'Infanterie Légère
    3 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Ulm, , 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Friedland
    47 Battles and Combats:
    1792 - Spiere, Mayennce, 1793 - Le Boulou, Collioure, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Muga, 1794 - Le Montagne-Noire, Rosas, 1795 - Loano, Bardinetto, 1797 - Armee du Nord, 1799 - Zurich, Stokach, 1800 - Moeskirch, Bregenz, Mont Tonale, Hohenlinden, 1806 - Lago-Negro, Monterano, Sainte-Euphemie, Sigliano, 1807 - Strongoli, 1808 - Valence and Tarragone, 1809 - Vals, Saint-Hilary, Raab, Presbourg, and Saint-Colomba, 1810 - Grenouillere, Montblanc, and Salona, 1811 - Tarragone, Saint-Celoni, and Serrat, 1813 - Bautzen, Lukau, Juterbock, Dessau, Leipzig, and Zara, 1814 - Chalons-sur-Marne, Mincio, Bar-sur-Aube, Saint-Georges, Saint-Romans, 1815 - Ligny, Waterloo
    In 1813 at Dennewitz the 1st was part of Pacthod's 13th Division (Oudinot's XII Corps). In 1815 at Quatre Bras they had thrown back Wellington's charges. At Waterloo this regiment was heavily involved in the attacks on Hougoumont chateau.

    6th Regiment d'Infanterie Légère
    7 Battle Honors:
    1800 - Marengo, 1805 - Ulm, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau, Friedland , 1809 - Essling, Wagram
    41 Battles and Combats:
    1795 - Pirmassens 1796 - Mantua, Castiglione. 1800 - Romano, Montebello, Marengo, Gazzoldo, Goito, Pozzolo, 1805 - Elchingen, Ulm, Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, Lubeck, 1807 - Eylau, Peterswald, Guttstadt, Friedland, 1809 - Villafranca, San-Payo, Santiago, 1809 - Essling, Wagram, 1810 - Cuidad-Rodrigo, Almeida, Busaco, 1811 - Fuentes-de-Onoro, 1812 - Arapiles, 1813 - Lutzen, Bautzen, Buntzlau, Potznitz, Leipzig, 1814 - La Rothiere, Vauchamps, Montmirail, Craonne, Orthez, Toulouse, 1815 - Ligny, Waterloo
    In 1791 their colonel was Thomas O'Meara [Irishman], in 1815 at Ligny the 6th was part of Pecheux's 12th Infantry Division and attacked the village of Ligny in the very center of Prussian possitions.

    9th Regiment d'Infanterie Légère "Incomparable"
    4 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Ulm, 1807 - Friedland, 1809 - Essling and Wagram.
    35 Battles and Combats:
    1793 - Neerwinden , Arlon, 1794 - Fleurus, Mayence, 1795 - Ehrenbreitstein, 1800 - Romano, Marengo, 1805 - Ulm, Durrenstein, Vienne, Halle, Lubeck, 1806 - Waren, 1807 - Mohrengen, Eylau, Braunsberg, Friedland, 1808 - Madrid, 1809 - Medellin and Talevera, 1809 - Essling and Wagram, 1811 - Chiclana and Fuentes-de-Onoro, 1812 - Badajoz and Bornos, 1813 - Vittoria, 1813 - Lutzen, Bautzen, Kulm, Peterswald, and Leipzig, 1814 - Toulouse, Santa-Maria de la Nieva, 1814 - Montmirail, 1815 - Ligny
    There were quarels between the Consular Guard and the 9th Light , which - Napoleon having dubbed it "The Incomparable" in Italy - was not about to be impressed by any "Praetorians." In 1808 the 9th participated in the storming of the Somosierra Pass in Spain.

    10th Regiment d'Infanterie Légère
    7 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Ulm and Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau, 1809 - Eckmuhl, Essling and Wagram.
    38 Battles and Combats:
    1795 - Dusseldorf, 1796 - Rastadt, Neresheim, Kehl, Biberach, 1799 - Limmath, Zurich, 1800 - Engen, Hohenlinden, 1805 - Ulm and Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau, Heilsberg, Friedland, 1809 - Thann, Landshut, Eckmuhl, Essling, and Wagram, 1812 - Alba, Carascal, Estella, 1812 - Smoliany, Borisow, 1813 - Pampelune and Roncal, Lutzen, Kulm, Buntzlau, Naumbourg, Dresden, Leipzig, Hanau, 1814 - Vauchamps, Bar-sur-Aube, and Arcis-sur-Aube, 1815 - Strasbourg
    In 1805 at Austerlitz the 10th was part of St.Hilaire Infantry Division and participated in the storming of Pratzen Heights. It was one of the most decisive moments of this epic battle. In 1807 at Heilsberg this regiment was part of St.Hilaire's Infantry Division and attacked the Russian center. In 1809 at Wagram the 10th Legere and 57th Ligne "The Terible" were part of Grandjean's Infantry Division (Oudinot's Corps)

    11e Regiment d'Infanterie Légère
    - Battle Honors:
    39 Battles and Combats:
    1794 - Schanzel, Kaiserlautern, Mayence, Mombach, 1795 - Loano, 1796 - La Bochetta-di-Campione, La Corona, Lonato, Saint-Georges, Tyrol, Lavis, Brixen, 1797 - Rivoli, Mantua, Valvasonne, 1798 - Malta, 1799 - Offenbourg, Stockach, Trebbia, 1800 - Fischbach, 1802 - Gros-Morne, Crete-a-Pierrot, La Cap, Vertieres, 1812 - Sivotschina, Soolna, Polotsk, Beresina, 1813 - Dresden, Leipzig, Hanau, 1814 - Brienne, La Rothiere, Valjouan, Monterau, Troyes,
    In 1803 this unit was disbanded and the number 11e was remaining vacant until 1811. In 1811 the regiment was formed of several famous battalions: Bataillon de Tirailleurs Corses, Bataillon de Tirailleurs du Po, Bataillon de Tirailleurs de la Legion de Midi, and Bataillon Valaison. In 1813 at Leipzig this regiment was part of Vial's 6th Infantry Division and was involved in heavy fighting for Wachau. In 1815 at Ligny the 11e was part of Girard's 7th Infantry Division and attack Prussian flank

    13th Regiment d'Infanterie Légère
    5 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau, 1809 - Eckmuhl, Wagram
    25 Battles and Combats:
    1792 - Valmy, 1793 - Wattignies, 1795 - Dusseldorf, 1796 - Ireland, 1800 - Melagnano, Volta, Mincio, Passage of the Adige, 1805 - Austerlitz, 1806 - Auerstadt, 1807 - Landsberg, Eylau, 1809 - Rohr, Landshut, Ratisbonne, Dunaberg, Wagram, 1812 - Smolensk, Moskova, Viasma, Krasnoe, Beresina, 1813 - Dresden, Kulm, 1815 - Waterloo
    In 1809 at Wagram the 13th Legere was part of Morand's Infantry Division (Davout's Corps). In 1812 at Borodino this regiment was part of Morand's 1st Infantry Division (Davout's Corps) and participated in the attacks on Great Redoubts (also called Raievski Redoubt and Death Redoubt). In 1815 at Waterloo the 13th Légère captured farm of La Haye Sainte, in the very center of Wellington's positions.

    24th Regiment d'Infanterie Légère
    6 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau, 1809 - Eckmuhl, Essling, Wagram
    26 Battles and Combats:
    1797 - Mayence, 1800 - Montebello, Marengo, 1805 - Austerlitz, 1807 - Bergfied, Eylau, Lomitten, Heilsberg, Friedland, 1808 - Andujar, 1809 - Essling, Wagram, Znaim, 1812 - Krasnoe, Smolensk, Valoutina, Borodino, 1813 - Bautzen, Dresden, Leipzig, 1814 - Commercy, Brienne, La Rothiere, Monterau, Bar-sur-Aube, Arcis-sur-Aube
    In 1807 at Heilsberg the 24th was part of St.Cyr's Infantry Division. In 1809 at Aspern-Essling the 24th Light's in brilliant bayonet charge overran Austrian battery. The French took 700 prisoners and recaptured the church. Unfortunatelly at Wagram the 24th lost their Eagle to the Austrians. In 1812 at Borodino this regiment was part of Ney's III Corps. In 1814 at La Rothiere one battalion of this regiment was involved in the stubborn defense of La Rothiere against repeated attacks of the Russian infantry.

    25th Regiment d'Infanterie Légère
    6 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Ulm, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau and Friedland, 1809 - Essling and Wagram
    30 Battles and Combats:
    1796 - Altenkirchen 1799 - Stokach, Le Grimsel, 1800 - Hermette, Mincio, Valeggio, 1805 - Gunzberg, Scharnitz, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Allenstein, Guttstadt, Friedland, 1808 - Saragosse and Cascantes, 1809 - Tamammes, 1809 - Essling, Wagram, 1810 - Cuidad Rodrigo, Alcoba, 1811 - Redhina, Foz-do-Aronce, Miranda-del-Corvo, 1812 - Salamanca (Arapiles), 1813 - Lerin and Muz, 1813 - Lutzen, Wurschen, Buntzlau, Leipzig, 1814 - Toulouse
    In 1812 at Salamanca the 25th Legere Light and 27th Ligne attacked while the British line hesitated and stood firm for a moment. The British Redcoats then broke and fled.

    26th Regiment d'Infanterie Légère
    7 Battle Honors:
    1805 - Ulm and Austerlitz, 1806 - Jena, 1807 - Eylau, 1809 - Eckmuhl, Essling and Wagram
    30 Battles and Combats:
    1800 - Suze, Brunette, Bosano, 1805 - Ulm and Austerlitz, 1807 - Hoff, Eylau, Heilsberg, and Konigsberg 1808 - Saragosse, Andujar, Baylen, 1809 - Eckmuhl, Ebersberg, Essling, Wagram, Hollabrun, Znaim, 1812 - Oboiardszino, Polotsk, Torezacew, Borisow, Beresina, 1813 - Hambourg, Dresden, Leipzig, Freibourg, Hanau, 1814 - Ligny, Brienne
    In 1807 at Heilsberg the 26th was heavily involved in the ferocious fighting for the redoubts. In 1808 at Baylen they surrendered to the Spaniards. In 1809 at Wagram the 26th Legere was part of Legrand's Infantry Division (Massena's Corps). In 1813 at Leipzig this regiment was part of Dufour's 5th Infantry Division and was involved in heavy fighting for Wachau. One battalion of the 26th (made of raw recruits) was crushed by the Prussian landwehr and reserve infantry at Hagelberg.

    Battle Honors
    light regiments
    line regiments
    6th Légère
    10th Légère
    26th Légère
    24th Légère
    25th Légère
    85th Ligne
    13th Légère
    16th Légère
    27th Légère
    94th (95th ?) Ligne
    7th Légère
    9th Légère "Incomparable"
    17th Légère
    4th Ligne, 13th Ligne,
    24th Ligne, 25th Ligne,
    36th Ligne, 88th Ligne,
    96th Ligne, 105th Ligne,
    111th Ligne, 112th Ligne,
    113th Ligne, 114th Ligne,
    115th Ligne, 116th Ligne,
    120th Ligne, 124th Ligne,
    127th Ligne, 128th Ligne,
    133rd Ligne, 136th Ligne,
    142nd Ligne, 144th Ligne

    Battles and Combats
    light regiments
    line regiments
    - 93rd Ligne
    - 28th Ligne
    40th Ligne
    51st Ligne
    16th Ligne
    24th Ligne
    - 43rd Ligne
    1st Légère 5th Ligne
    - 39th Ligne
    26th Ligne
    96th Ligne
    12th Ligne
    34th Ligne
    36th Ligne
    57th Ligne "le Terible"

    Russian horse artillery 
at Berezina River, 1812. 
Picture by Oleg Parkhaiev.
    French infantry crossing the icy Berezina River in winter 1812.
    Russian horse gunners (in helmets) open fire on the French.
    Picture by Oleg Parkhaiev.

    Links and Sources.
    Recommended Reading.

    Plates - du projet de règlement sur l'habillement du major Bardin. Paris, Musée de l'Armée, Dist. RMN P. Segrette
    Elting - "Swords Around a Throne"
    Britten-Austin - "1812 The March on Moscow"
    Susane - "Histoire de l'Infanterie Francaise"
    Barres - "Memoirs of a Napoleonic Officer"
    Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory"
    Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion"
    Mageraud - "Armement et Equiement de l'Infanterie Francaise"
    Napier - "History of the War in the Peninsula 1807-1814"
    Chlapowski - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer" (transl. by Tim Simmons)
    Pictures of French grenadier and carabinier by Steven Palatka.
    Picture of French fusilier and light infantry in combat by Dmitrii Zgonnik, Ukraine.
    Les régiments d'infanterie.
    L'histoire de l'infanterie française.
    Musket Charleville.
    French Military.
    Le musée de l'Armée .

    Parade, Battle and Campaign Uniforms

    Napoleon's Foreign Infantry.
    Irish, Polish, Italian, German, Croatian and more ...

    Infantry Combat and Tactics - Part 1
    Musketry, Accuracy of Muskets, Bayonet Charges

    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies