The _GRANDE ARMéE_ (French pronunciation: ; French for GREAT
ARMY) was the army commanded by Napoleon during the
Napoleonic Wars .
From 1805 to 1809, the
It was renamed in 1805 from the army that Napoleon had assembled on the French coast of the English Channel for the proposed invasion of Britain . Napoleon later deployed the army east in order to eliminate the threat of Austria and Russia , which were part of the Third Coalition assembled against France. Thereafter, the name was used for the principal French army deployed in the Campaigns of 1805 and 1807 , where it got its prestige, and 1809 , 1812 , and 1813–14 . In practice, however, the term, _Grande Armée_, is used in English to refer to all of the multinational forces gathered by Napoleon I in his campaigns of the early 19th century (see Napoleonic Wars ).
The army grew as Napoleon spread his power across Europe. It reached
its largest size of 680,000 men at the start of the invasion of
Russia in 1812. The contingents were commanded by French generals,
except for the Polish corps and an Austrian one. The huge
multinational army marched slowly east, and the Russians fell back
with its approach. After the capture of
Napoleon led a new army to the Battle of the Nations at
* 1 History
* 1.1 1804–1806 * 1.2 1807–1809 * 1.3 1810–1812 * 1.4 1813–15
* 2 Staff system
* 2.1 Napoleon\'s Military Household
* 2.2 Army
* 3 Organization
* 4 Forces of the
* 4.1 Imperial Guard
* 4.2.1 Line
* 126.96.36.199 Grenadiers * 188.8.131.52 Voltigeurs of the Line * 184.108.40.206 Fusiliers
* 4.2.2 Light
* 4.3.1 Heavy cavalry
* 4.3.2 Light cavalry
* 220.127.116.11 Hussars (_Hussards_) * 18.104.22.168 Chasseurs-à-Cheval (Mounted Hunters) * 22.214.171.124 Lanciers (Lancers)
* 4.5 Marines of the Guard
* 4.6 Foreign troops in the
* 5 Support services
* 5.1 Engineers
* 6 Formations and tactics
* 7 Ranks of the
_For a history of the French army in the period 1792–1804 during the wars of the First and Second Coalitions see French Revolutionary Armies ._
Napoleon distributing the Légion d\'honneur at the Boulogne camps, in August 1804 See also: Napoleon\'s invasion of England
The alarming increase of French power in Central
Napoleon now turned his attentions to Poland, where the remaining Prussian armies were linking up with their Russian counterparts. A difficult winter campaign produced nothing but a stalemate, made worse by the Battle of Eylau on February 7–8, 1807, where Russian and French casualties soared for little gain. The campaign resumed in the Spring and this time Bennigsen 's Russian army was soundly defeated at the Battle of Friedland on June 14, 1807. This victory produced the Treaty of Tilsit between France and Russia in July, leaving Napoleon with no enemies on the continent.
Meanwhile, a revived Austria was preparing to strike. The War Hawks
at the court of Emperor Francis I convinced him to take full advantage
of France's preoccupation with Spain. In April 1809, the Austrians
opened the campaign without a formal declaration of war and caught the
French by surprise. They were too slow to exploit their gains,
however, and Napoleon's arrival from Paris finally stabilized the
situation. The Austrians were defeated at the
Battle of Eckmühl ,
fled over the
Charles Joseph Minard
With the exception of Spain, a three-year lull ensued. Diplomatic tensions with Russia, however, became so acute that they eventually led to war in 1812. Napoleon assembled the largest army he had ever commanded to deal with this menace.
The battle of Hanau (1813)
The catastrophe in Russia now emboldened anti-French sentiments
throughout Germany and Austria. The
Sixth Coalition was formed and
Germany became the centrepiece of the upcoming campaign. With
customary genius, Napoleon raised new armies and opened up the
campaign with a series of victories at the Battle of Lützen and the
Battle of Bautzen . But due to the poor quality of French cavalry
following the Russian campaign, along with miscalculations by certain
subordinate Marshals, these triumphs were not decisive enough to
permanently conclude the war, and only secured an armistice. Napoleon
hoped to use this break to increase the quantity and improve the
quality of his Armée, but when Austria joined the Allies, his
strategic situation grew bleak. The campaign reopened in August with a
significant French victory at the two-day
Battle of Dresden . However,
the adoption of the
Trachenberg Plan by the Allies, which called for
avoiding direct conflict with Napoleon and focusing on his
subordinates, paid dividends as the French suffered defeats at
Katzbach , Kulm , Großbeeren , and Dennewitz . Growing Allied numbers
eventually hemmed the French in at
"The Grand Empire is no more. It is France herself we must now defend" were Napoleon's words to the Senate at the end of 1813. The Emperor managed to raise new armies, but strategically he was in a virtually hopeless position. Allied armies were invading from the Pyrenees , across the plains of Northern Italy, and via France's eastern borders as well. The campaign began ominously when Napoleon suffered defeat at the Battle of La Rothière , but he quickly regained his former spirit. In the Six Days\' Campaign of February 1814, the 30,000-man French army inflicted 20,000 casualties on Blücher 's scattered corps at a cost of just 2,000 for themselves. They then headed south and defeated Schwarzenberg at the Battle of Montereau . These victories, however, could not cure such a bad situation, and French defeats at the Battle of Laon and the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube dampened moods. At the end of March, Paris fell to the Allies . Napoleon wanted to keep fighting, but his marshals refused, forcing the Emperor of the French to abdicate on April 6, 1814.
After returning from
Elba in February 1815, Napoleon busied himself
in making a renewed push to secure his Empire. For the first time
since 1812, the Army of the North he would be commanding for the
upcoming campaign was professional and competent. Napoleon hoped to
catch and defeat the Allied armies under Wellington and Blücher in
Belgium before the Russians and Austrians could arrive. The campaign,
beginning on June 15, 1815, was initially successful, leading to
victory over the Prussians at the
Battle of Ligny on June 16; however,
poor staff work, and bad commanders led to many problems for the
French army throughout the entire campaign. Grouchy 's delayed advance
against the Prussians allowed Blücher to rally his men after Ligny
and march on to Wellington's aid at the
Battle of Waterloo
Prior to the late 18th century, there was generally no organizational support for staff functions such as military intelligence , logistics , planning or personnel. Unit commanders handled such functions for their units, with informal help from subordinates who were usually not trained for or assigned to a specific task.
The first modern use of a
The Staff of the
NAPOLEON\'S MILITARY HOUSEHOLD
Napoleon snatches a moment's rest on the battlefield of Wagram , his staff and household working around him.
The _Maison Militaire de l'Empereur_ (Military Household of the Emperor ) was Napoleon's personal military staff and included the department of aides-de-camp (ADCs), orderly officers (until 1809), the Emperor's Cabinet with the Secretariat, a department that collected intelligence about the enemy using spies and the topographical department. Attached was also the Emperor's Civil Cabinet that included the office of the Grand Marshal of the Palace and the _Grand Écuyer _.
The ADCs to the Emperor were mainly loyal, experienced generals or, at times, other senior officers whom he knew from his Italian or Egyptian campaigns. All were famous for their bravery and were experts in their own branches of service. Working directly under the supervision of the Emperor, these officers were sometimes assigned to temporary command of units or formations or entrusted with diplomatic missions. Most of the time, however, their tasks consisted of making detailed inspection tours and long-distance reconnaissances. When they had to carry orders from the Emperor to an army commander, these would be verbal rather than written. The appointment of ADC to the Emperor was so influential that they were considered to be "Napoleon's eyes and ears" and even marshals were wise to follow their advice and render them the respect due to their function.
On 29 April 1809, a decree organized their service. Every morning at 0700, the duty ADC and his staff were relieved and the new ADC for the next 24 hours had to present the Emperor with a list of names of the staff under his command. This would consist of two supplementary daytime general ADCs and one night ADC, one equerry and (through a rotation system) half the number of orderly officers, half the number of the _petits aides de camp_ (two or three personal ADCs to the general ADCs, who might also be commanded directly by the Emperor) and half the number of pages. Their number differed from time to time, but only 37 officers were ever commissioned ADC to the Emperor and at normal times their number was restricted to 12. Each of these officers wore the normal general's uniform of his rank, but with gold aiguilettes as the symbol of his function. The appointment of ADC to the Emperor did not always last as long as the Emperor's reign; an ADC might be given another position such as a field command, a governorship, etc. and would be removed from his ADC status until recalled to that post.
The _officiers d'ordonnance_ (orderly officers) may be considered as junior ADCs, with the rank of chef d\'escadron , captain or lieutenant . They, too, were used for special missions such as reconnaissance and inspections, but also to carry written orders. In 1806, when these posts were created, they were members of the Imperial Guard ; in 1809, while retaining their military status, they were taken under control of the _Grand Écuyer_ in the Emperor's Civil Household. The decrees regulating their service were signed on 15, 19 and 24 September 1806 and finally on 19 September 1809.
ARMY GENERAL HEADQUARTERS
Alongside the Emperor's Military Household but functioning as a
totally independent organization was the _Grand État-Major Général_
The role of Chief of Staff in the
Lest one think this was a safe officejob of the modern staff officers, a contemporary subordinate staff officer, Brossier, reports that at the Battle of Marengo :
"The General-in-Chief Berthier gave his orders with the precision of a consummate warrior, and at Marengo maintained the reputation that he so rightly acquired in Italy and in Egypt under the orders of Bonaparte. He himself was hit by a bullet in the arm. Two of his aides-de-camp, Dutaillis and La Borde, had their horses killed."
Organization of the
One of the most important factors in the Grande Armée's success was
its superior and highly flexible organization. It was subdivided into
Napoleon placed great trust in his
The main tactical units of the
FORCES OF THE GRANDE ARMéE
Main article: Imperial Guard (Napoleon I)
France's Imperial Guard (_Garde Impériale_) was the elite military
force of its time and grew out of the _Garde du Directoire_ and _Garde
Consulaire_. It was, quite literally, a _
Size of the guard over time YEAR NUMBER OF SOLDIERS
1813 85,000 (mostly young guards)
There were three sections:
* OLD GUARD (_VIEILLE GARDE_): Composed of the longest serving veterans who had served three to five campaigns in Napoleon's army, the Old Guard was the elite of the elite guards regiments of the _Grande Armée_.
* _GRENADIERS à PIED DE LA GARDE IMPéRIALE (IMPERIAL GUARD FOOT
GRENADIERS)_: The Grenadiers of the Guard was the most senior
regiment in La Grande Armée. During the 1807 campaign in
* MIDDLE GUARD (_MOYENNE GARDE_): Consisted of veteran soldiers of at least 3 campaigns.
* _FUSILIERS-CHASSEURS_: In 1806, the Fusiliers-
Chasseurs was formed
as a regiment of middle guard infantry. All members of the Middle
guard were veterans of 2–3 campaigns, and were commissioned as NCOs
in the Line regiments. Arguably the best infantry of the entire Guard,
Chasseurs most often operated together with its sister
formation, the Fusiliers-Grenadiers, as part of a Guard
Fusilier-Brigade. The Fusilier-
Chasseurs saw extensive action, proving
their worth time and time again, until they were disbanded in 1814
following Napoleon's abdication. The Fusiliers-
Chasseurs were not
reformed in 1815 for the
Waterloo campaign . Fusiliers-
a dark blue _habit_ (or coat) with green epaulettes fringed red, red
turnbacks and white lapels. Under this they wore a white waistcoat and
either blue or brown trousers. The Fusiliers-
Chasseurs shako had white
cords and a tall red over green plume. The Fusiliers-
armed with a Charleville modele 1777 musket , bayonet and a short
* _FUSILIERS-GRENADIERS_: Formed in 1807, the Fusiliers-Grenadiers
was a regiment of middle guard infantry. The Fusiliers-Grenadiers was
organised in the same way as the Fusiliers-Chasseurs, being a slightly
larger formation. The Fusiliers-Grenadiers most often operated
together with its sister formation, the Fusiliers-Chasseurs, as a part
of a Guard Fusilier-Brigade. The Fusilier-Grenadiers saw extensive
action, proving their worth time and time again, until they were
disbanded in 1814 following Napoleon's abdication. The
Fusiliers-Grenadiers were not reformed in 1815. Fusiliers-Grenadiers
wore a dark blue _habit_ (or coat) with red epaulettes, red turnbacks
and white lapels. Under this they wore a white waistcoat and white
trousers. The Fusiliers-Grenadiers shako had white cords and a tall
red plume. The Fusiliers-Grenadiers were armed with a Charleville
modele 1777 musket, bayonet and a short sabre.
* MARINS DE LA GARDE (_MARINES OF THE GUARD_): Sometimes translated
as _The Seamen of the Guard_, were formed in 1803, with their initial
purpose being to man the vessel transporting the Emperor during the
expected crossing of the
English channel prior to the invasion of
England. The battalion was formed with five _équipages_ (or crews),
companies in all but name. After the cancellation of the invasion, the
Marines remained a part of the Guard, manning whatever boat, barge or
other water vessel Napoleon traveled in, as well as acting as a combat
unit. Seamen of the Guard wore navy blue hussar-style dolman jackets,
laced gold, with navy blue Hungarian style trousers decorated with
gold lace. They wore a shako trimmed in
* YOUNG GUARD (_JEUNE GARDE_): Initially was made up of veterans with at least one campaign under their belts, together with bright young officers and the best of the annual intake of conscripts . Later its ranks would be filled almost entirely by select conscripts and volunteers.
* _TIRAILLEURS-GRENADIERS_: In 1808, Napoleon ordered the most
intelligent and strongest recruits to be formed into the first
regiments of the Young Guard. The taller of the recruits were inducted
into the Tirailleurs-
Grognard of the Old Guard in 1813 *
Tirailleur of the 1e
Fusilier-Grenadiers and Fusilier- Chasseurs of the Middle Guard, 1806–1814.
In 1804, the
* IMPERIAL GUARD HORSE GRENADIERS (_GRENADIERS à CHEVAL DE LA GARDE
IMPéRIALE_) : Known as the _Gods_ or the _Giants_, these troopers
were the elite of Napoleon's guard cavalry and the mounted
counterparts of the _Grognards_. The
_ Le Chasseur de la Garde_ (Chasseur of the guard, often mistranslated as _The Charging Chasseur_), 1812 by Géricault .
* IMPERIAL GUARD HORSE CHASSEURS (_CHASSEURS à CHEVAL DE LA GARDE
IMPéRIALE_) : Known as the "Favoured Children" (connotations of
_Spoiled Brats_), the
Chasseurs à Cheval of the Guard were the light
cavalry of the Guard, Napoleon's favourites and one of the most
recognisable units in _La Grande Armée_. In 1796, during the Italian
Campaign , Napoleon ordered the formation of a bodyguard unit after he
narrowly escaped an attack by Austrian light cavalry at Borghetto
while at lunch. This 200-man unit of Guides was the forerunner of the
Chasseurs à Cheval of the Guard, and their close affiliation with the
Emperor was shown by the fact that he often wore the uniform of a
Colonel of their regiment. In their flamboyant green, red and gold
hussar style uniforms, the chasseurs were known to exploit their
position as the emperor's favourites, showing poor discipline and even
insubordination on some occasions. They first saw combat during the
battle of Austerlitz, where they played a role in defeating the
Russian Guard cavalry. During the
Peninsular War the
ambushed by a large British cavalry force at Benavente in 1808 and
defeated. They regained their reputation by showing extreme bravery
during the Battle of Waterloo.
* ELITE GENDARMES (_GENDARMERIE D\'ELITE_): Nicknamed _The
Immortals_ because they rarely saw combat, the Gendarmes nonetheless
performed a vital role. Gendarmes were the military police of La
Grande Armée. Along with maintaining security and order near the
headquarters, the Gendarmes would provide honour guards for
high-ranking visitors, interrogate prisoners and protect the Emperor's
personal baggage. The Gendarmes wore dark blue coats with red lapels
and tall boots, along with a bearskin slightly smaller than that of
* LANCERS OF THE GUARD (_CHEVAU-LéGERS-LANCIERS DE LA GARDE IMPéRIALE_):
* 1st Light
* EMPRESS DRAGOONS (_DRAGONS DE L\'IMPéRATICE_): Formed in 1806 as
the Imperial Guard
* SCOUTS OF THE IMPERIAL GUARD (_ECLAIREURS DE LA GARDE IMPéRIALE_) : During the terrible retreat from Moscow, Napoleon was very impressed by the skills of many regiments of cossacks . He used them as a model to create a new cavalry brigade, the Scouts, which were formed during the Imperial Guard reorganization in December 1813. 3 regiments of a thousand men each were created and their squadrons attached to existing regiments:
* 1st Rgt: _scouts-grenadiers_ under Colonel-Major Claude Testot-Ferry 's command (wounded and titled Baron of the Empire by Napoleon himself on the battlefield of Craonne on 7 March 1814) * 2nd Rgt: _scouts-dragoons_ under Colonel Hoffmayer's command * 3rd Rgt: _scouts-lanciers_ under Jean Kozietulski's command
The scouts had only the time to distinguish themselves during the French Campaign in 1814 and were dissolved by Louis XVIII upon his restoration.
While the infantry was perhaps not the most glamorous arm of service
in the Grand Armée, they bore the brunt of most of the fighting, and
their performance resulted in victory or defeat. The
The _Régiments de Ligne_ varied in size throughout the Napoleonic Wars, but the basic building block of the Infanterie of the Line was the battalion . A line infantry battalion was numbered at about 840 men; however, this was the battalion's 'full strength' and few units ever reached this. A more typical strength for a battalion would be 400–600 men. From 1800 to 1803 a line infantry battalion had eight fusilier companies, and one grenadier company. From 1804 to 1807 a line infantry battalion had seven fusilier companies, one grenadier company, and one voltigeur company. From 1808 to 1815 a line infantry battalion had four companies of fusiliers, one company of grenadiers, and one company of voltigeurs. According to the rules, every company was to have:
* 120 privates, * 1 Corporal-fourrier (Clerk), * 8 Corporals, * 4 Sergeants, * 1 Sergeant major, * 2 second lieutenants, * 1 first lieutenant and 1 captain * plus a field element of 2–4 drummers and 2 fifers
Grenadiers were the elite of the line infantry and the veteran shock
troops of the Napoleonic infantry. Newly formed battalions did not
Regulations required that Grenadiers recruits were to be the tallest, most fearsome men in the regiments, and all were to have moustaches . To add to this, Grenadiers were initially equipped with a _bonnet à poil_ or bearskin , as well as red epaulettes on their coat. After 1807 regulations stipulated that line Grenadiers were to replace their bearskin with a shako lined red with a red plume; however, many chose to retain their bearskins. In addition to the standard Charleville model 1777 and bayonet, Grenadiers were also equipped with a short sabre . This was to be used for close combat, but most often ended up serving as a tool to cut wood for campfires.
Voltigeurs Of The Line
Voltigeurs (literally, _Vaulters_ or _Leapers_) were élite light infantry of the line regiments. In 1805, Napoleon ordered that the smallest, most agile men of the line battalions be chosen to form a Voltigeur company. These troops were to be second only to the Grenadiers in the battalion hierarchy. Their name comes from their original mission. Voltigeurs were to vault upon horses of friendly cavalry for faster movement, an idea which proved impractical if not outright impossible. Despite this, the Voltigeurs did perform a valuable task, skirmishing and providing scouts for each battalion, as well as providing an organic light infantry component for each line regiment. In Voltigeur training, emphasis was placed on marksmanship and quick movement.
Voltigeurs were equipped with large yellow and green or yellow and red plumes for their bicornes. After 1807, their shakos were lined with yellow and carried similar plumes. They also had yellow epaulettes lined green and a yellow collar on their coats.
Originally, Voltigeurs were to be equipped with the short dragoon musket, however in practice they were equipped with the Charleville model 1777 and bayonet. Like Grenadiers, Voltigeurs were equipped with a short sabre for close combat, and like Grenadiers this was rarely used. Voltigeur companies could be detached and formed into regiments or brigades to create a light infantry formation. After 1808, the Voltigeur company was situated on the left of the line when in combat. This was traditionally the second highest position of honour in the line of battle.
Fusilier of the Line, c. 1812.
The Fusiliers made up the majority of a line infantry battalion, and may be considered the typical infantryman of the Grande Armée. The Fusilier was armed with a smoothbore , muzzle -loaded flintlock Charleville model 1777 musket and a bayonet . Fusilier training placed emphasis on speed of march and endurance, along with individually aimed fire at close range and close quarters combat. This differed greatly from the training given to the majority of European armies, which emphasised moving in rigid formations and firing massed volleys. Many of the early Napoleonic victories were due to the ability of the French armies to cover long distances with speed, and this ability was thanks to the training given to the infantry. From 1803, each battalion comprised eight Fusilier companies . Each company numbered around 120 men.
In 1805, one of the Fusilier companies was dissolved and reformed as a _Voltigeur_ company. In 1808, Napoleon reorganised the Infantry battalion from nine to six companies. The new companies were to be larger, comprising 140 men, and four of these were to be made up of Fusiliers, one of Grenadiers, and one of Voltigeurs.
The line Fusilier wore a bicorne hat, until this was superseded by the shako in 1807. The uniform of a Fusilier consisted of white trousers, white surcoat and a dark blue coat (the _habit long_ model until 1812, thereafter the _habit veste_) with white lapels, red collar and cuffs. Each Fusilier wore a coloured pom-pom on his hat. The colour of this pom-pom changed depending on the company the man belonged to, as military uniforms reached their excessive pinnacle at around this period in time. After the 1808 reorganisation, the First company was issued with a dark green pom-pom, the second with sky blue , the third with orange and the fourth with violet .
Training for _Légère_ units placed a strong emphasis on marksmanship and fast movement. As a result, the general _Légère_ soldier was able to shoot more accurately and move faster than his _Ligne_ counterpart. _Légère_ regiments tended to see more action and were often used to screen large manoeuvres. Naturally, because commanders turned to the _Légère_ for more missions than the _Ligne_, the _Légère_ troopers enjoyed a higher esprit de corps and were known for their flamboyant uniforms and attitude. Also, _Légère_ troops were required to be shorter than line troops, which helped them to move quickly through forests as well as to hide behind obstacles when skirmishing. The formation of a _Légère_ battalion exactly mirrored that of a battalion of line infantry, but different troop types were substituted for the Grenadiers, Fusiliers and Voltigeurs.
The Carabiniers were the grenadiers of the _Légère_ battalions. After two campaigns, the tallest and bravest chasseurs were chosen to join the Carabinier company. They performed as élite shock troops for the battalion. As with the grenadiers, Carabiniers were required to wear moustaches. They were armed with the Charleville model 1777, a bayonet and a short sabre. The Carabinier uniform consisted of a tall bearskin cap (superseded in 1807 by a red trimmed shako with a red plume). They wore the same uniform as the chasseurs, but with red epaulettes. Carabinier companies could be detached to form larger all Carabinier formations for assaults or other operations requiring assault troops.
Voltigeurs performed exactly the same mission in the _Légère_ battalion as they did in the line battalions, only they were more nimble and better marksmen. The _Légère_ voltigeurs were dressed as chasseurs, but with Yellow and green epaulettes and before 1806, a _colpack_ (or busby ) replaced the shako. The colpack had a large yellow over red plume and green cords. After 1807, a shako replaced the colpack, with a large yellow plume and yellow lining. As with the line voltigeurs, _légère_ voltigeurs could be detached and used to form larger formations as needed.
Chasseurs (_Hunters_) were the fusiliers of the _Légère_ battalions. They made up the majority of the formation. They were armed with the Charleville model 1777 musket and a bayonet, and also with a short sabre for close combat. As was common in the Napoleonic army, this weapon was quickly blunted by being used to chop wood for fires.
From 1803, each battalion comprised eight chasseur companies. Each
company numbered around 120 men. In 1808, Napoleon reorganised the
The chasseurs had far more ornate uniforms than their contemporaries the fusiliers. Until 1806, they were equipped with a cylindrical shako with a large dark green plume and decorated with white cords. Their uniform was a darker blue than that of the line regiments, to aid with camouflage while skirmishing. Their coat was similar to that of the line troops, but their lapels and cuffs were also dark blue, and it featured dark green and red epaulettes. They also wore dark blue trousers and high imitation hussar boots. After 1807, the cylindrical shako was replaced with the standard shako, but was still embellished by white cords. As with the line fusiliers, chasseur companies were distinguished by coloured pom-poms, but the colours for the different companies changed from regiment to regiment.
Officers of _Infanterie Légère_, 1803–1815. *
Chasseurs of _Infanterie Légère_ 1806.
By decree of the Emperor himself, cavalry typically comprised between
a fifth and a sixth of the Grande Armée.
The elite among all French heavy cavalry line formations, the two
regiments of Mounted Carabiniers had a very similar appearance with
the Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard; bearskins, long blue
coats, etc. and were mounted exclusively on big black horse prior to
1813. They were largely used in identical manner to the Cuirassiers,
however, being(initially) unarmored, they were less suited for
close-quarters, melee combat compared to their armored brethren. It
should be noted though that unarmored heavy cavalry was the norm in
The heavy (Grosse) cavalry, equipped and armed almost like the
knights of old with a heavy _cuirass _ (breastplate) and helmets of
brass and iron and armed with straight long sabers, pistols and later
carbines . As with the knights, they served as the shock troops of the
cavalry. Because of the weight of their armour and weapons, both
trooper and horse had to be big and strong, and could consequently put
a lot of force behind their charge. Though the cuirass could not
protect against flintlock musket fire, it could deflect shots from
long range, offered some protection from pistol fire and could protect
the wearer from ricochets. More importantly, in an age which saw
cavalry used in large numbers, the breastplates provided protection
against the swords and lances of opposing cavalry. Napoleon usually
combined together all of his cuirassiers and carabiniers into a
cavalry reserve, to be used at the decisive moment of the battle. In
this manner they proved to be an extremely potent force on the
battlefield, leaving their opponents impressed if not awestruck. The
British, in particular, who mistakenly believed the cuirassiers were
Napoleon's bodyguard, and would later come to adapt their distinctive
helmets and breastplates for their own Household
The medium-weight mainstays of the French cavalry, although considered heavy cavalry, who were used for battle, skirmishing and scouting. They were highly versatile being armed not only with traditional sabres (the finest with three edges made of Toledo steel ), but also muskets with bayonets (which were kept in a saddleboot when riding), enabling them to fight on foot as infantry as well as mounted. Part of the price for this versatility was their horsemanship and swordsmanship were often not up to the same standards as that of the other cavalry troops, which made them the subjects of some mockery and derision. Finding enough of the right kinds of horses for these part-time cavalrymen also proved a challenge. Some infantry officers were even required to give up their mounts for the dragoons, creating resentment towards them from this branch as well. There were 25, later 30, dragoon regiments. In 1815, only 15 could be raised and mounted in time for the Hundred Days .
These fast, light cavalrymen were the eyes, ears and egos of Napoleonic armies. They regarded themselves as the best horsemen and swordsmen (_beau sabreurs_) in the entire Armée. This opinion was not entirely unjustified and their flamboyant uniforms reflected their panache. Tactically, they were used for reconnaissance , skirmishing and screening for the army to keep their commanders informed of enemy movements while denying the foe the same information and to pursue fleeing enemy troops. Armed only with curved sabres and pistols, they had reputations for reckless bravery to the point of being almost suicidal. It was said by their most famous commander Antoine Lasalle that a Hussar who lived to be 30 was truly an old guard and very fortunate. Lasalle was killed at the battle of Wagram at age 34. There were 10 regiments in 1804, with an 11th added in 1810 and two more in 1813.
Chasseurs -à-Cheval (Mounted Hunters)
These were light cavalry identical to Hussars in arms and role. But, unlike the chasseurs of the Imperial guard discussed previously and their infantry counterparts discussed below, they were considered less prestigious or elite. Their uniforms were less colourful as well, consisting of infantry-style shakos (in contrast to the fur busby worn by some French hussars), green coats, green breeches and short boots. They were, however, the most numerous of the light cavalry, with 31 regiments in 1811, 6 of which comprised Flemish, Swiss, Italians and Germans.
Some of the most feared cavalry in Napoleon's armies were the Polish lancers of the Vistula Uhlans . Nicknamed _Hell's Picadors_ or _Los Diablos Polacos_ (The Polish Devils) by the Spanish, these medium and light horse (_Chevau-Légers Lanciers_) cavalry had speed nearly equal to the Hussars, shock power almost as great as the Cuirassiers and were nearly as versatile as the Dragoons. They were armed with, as their name indicates, lances along with sabres and pistols. Initially French ministers of war insisted on arming all lancers identically, real battlefield experience however proved that the Polish way of arming only the first line with lance while the second rank carried carbine instead was much more practical and thus was adopted. Lancers were the best cavalry for charging against infantry in square, where their lances could outreach the infantry's bayonets , (as happened to Colborne's British brigade at Albuera in 1811) and also in hunting down a routed enemy. Their ability to scour and finish off the wounded without ever stepping off their saddle created perfect scenes of horror for the enemy. They could be deadly against other types of cavalry as well, most famously demonstrated by the fate of Sir William Ponsonby and his Scots Greys at Waterloo. Excluding those of the guard, there were 9 lancer regiments. After the wars, the British were impressed enough to create their own lancer regiments.
A French _ Carabiniers-à-Cheval _. *
The Emperor was a former artillery officer, and reportedly said "_God fights on the side with the best artillery_." As may therefore be expected, French cannons were the backbone of the Grande Armée's forces, possessing the greatest firepower of the three arms and hence the ability to inflict the most casualties in the least amount of time. The French guns were often used in massed batteries (or _grandes batteries_ ) to soften up enemy formations before being subjected to the closer attention of the infantry or cavalry. Superb gun-crew training allowed Napoleon to move the weapons at great speed to either bolster a weakening defensive position, or else hammer a potential break in enemy lines.
Besides superior training, Napoleon's artillery was also greatly
aided by the numerous technical improvements to French cannons by Jean
As the name indicates, these gunners marched alongside their guns, which were, of course, pulled by horses when limbered (undeployed). Hence they travelled at the Infantry's pace or slower. In 1805 there were 8, later 10, regiments of foot artillery in the Armée plus 2 more in the Imperial guard, but unlike cavalry and infantry regiments, these were administrative organizations. The main operational and tactical units were the batteries (or companies) of 120 men each which were formed into brigades and assigned to the divisions and corps.
* Divisional artillery: Every division had a brigade of 3 or 4
batteries of 8 guns (6 cannons and 2 howitzers) each.
Battery personnel included not only gun crews, NCOs and officers but drummers, trumpeters, metal workers, woodworkers, ouvriers, furriers and artificers. They would be responsible for fashioning spare parts, maintaining and repairing the guns, carriages, caissons and wagons, as well as tending the horses and storing munitions.
Gunner from the horse artillery of the Imperial Guard
The cavalry were supported by the fast moving, fast firing light guns
of the horse artillery . This arm was a hybrid of cavalry and
artillery with their crews riding either on the horses or on the
carriages into battle. Because they operated much closer to the front
lines, the officers and crews were better armed and trained for close
quarters combat, mounted or dismounted much as were the dragoons. Once
in position they were trained to quickly dismount, unlimber (deploy)
and sight their guns, then fire rapid barrages at the enemy. They
could then quickly limber (undeploy) the guns, remount, and move on to
a new position. To accomplish this, they had to be the best trained
and most elite of all artillerymen. The horse batteries of the
Imperial guard could go from riding at full gallop to firing their
first shot in just under a minute. After witnessing such a
performance, an astounded Duke of Wellington remarked, "They move
their cannon as if it were a pistol!" There were 6 administrative
regiments of horse artillery plus one in the guard. In addition to the
batteries assigned to the cavalry units, Napoleon would also assign at
least one battery to each infantry corps or, if available, to each
division. Their abilities came at a price, however, horse batteries
were very expensive to raise and maintain. Consequently, they were far
fewer in number than their foot counterparts, typically comprising
only 1/5 of the artillery's strength. It was a boastful joke among
their ranks that the Emperor knew every horse gunner by name. Besides
better training, horses, weapons and equipment, they used far more
Of all the types of ammunition used in the Napoleonic Wars the cast iron, spherical, round shot was the staple of the gunner. Even at long range when the shot was travelling relatively slowly it could be deadly, though it might appear to be bouncing or rolling along the ground relatively gently. At short range carnage could result.
Round shot were undeniably inaccurate. This was because, despite their name, round shot were never perfectly spherical, nor did they fit their gun barrels exactly. Air acted on the irregular surface of the projectile. These irregularities invariably threw them off target to some degree. It is often also a matter of confusion as to why a 12pdr shot was so much more effective than a 6pdr shot. This is because the impact of a shot was not only related to its weight but also to its velocity , which, with a heavier projectile, was much greater at the end of the trajectory.
There were two forms of close-range weapon, which were extremely useful at up to 270 m (300 yards ). Grape shot and canister , or case, were the anti-personnel weapons of choice of the gunner. Grape was a cluster of large metal spheres tied together around a central spindle and base and normally sewn into a bag, whereas canister was a metal case filled with smaller iron or lead spheres. The whole purpose of these types of shot was to break up when fired from the gun forming a wide cone of flying metal that acted in the same way as a shotgun cartridge .
For longer-range anti-personnel work the common shell was also used. This was normally only fired from a mortar or howitzer and was a hollow sphere filled with gunpowder charge. The top of the shell had thinner walls than the bottom and had an orifice into which was forced a wooden fuse normally made of beechwood . The fuse was designed to be ignited by the discharge of the gun and had a central channel drilled through it filled with a burning compound. Before firing, the fuse was cut to a certain length corresponding to the desired time of burning and hammered into the top of the shell by a mallet . When it arrived over the target the fuse, if correctly prepared, exploded the main charge, breaking open the metal outer casing and forcing flying fragments in all directions. Although favoured for siege work, the common shell was not always effective against infantry .
The final type of projectile for the field artillery used by the French was the incendiary or carcass (a name for an incendiary projectile). Initially this device was composed of a metal frame, which was covered with a canvas cover and filled with a special recipe, typically saltpetre 50 parts, sulfur 25 parts, rosin 8 parts, antimony 5 parts, and pitch 5 parts. However, during the early 19th century, another form of carcass became common and this took the form of a common shell with two or three apertures in its exterior into which a similar composition was put. Carcass rounds were normally only issued to howitzers or mortars, the suggestion being they were intended to attack towns. This does not preclude them from being used on the field but quite what their purpose would have been there is not clear.
It is important to know that not all nations shared the same types of artillery projectiles. For example, the Congreve rocket , inspired from the Mysorean rocket artillery , or the Shrapnel shell , which combined the killing effect of grape shot with the ranges achieved by round shot, were used only by the British Army .
The _Train d'artillerie_, was established by Bonaparte in January 1800. Its function was to provide the teamsters and drivers which handled the horses that hauled the artillery's vehicles. Prior to this, the French, like all other period armies, had employed contracted, civilian teamsters who would sometimes abandon the guns under fire, rendering them immobile, rather than risk their lives or their valuable teams of horses. Its personnel, unlike their civilian predecessors, were armed, trained and uniformed as soldiers. Apart from making them look better on parade, this made them subject to military discipline and capable of fighting back if attacked. The drivers were armed with a carbine, a short sword of the same type used by the infantry and a pistol. They needed little encouragement to use these weapons, earning surly reputations for gambling, brawling and various forms of mischief. Their uniforms and coats of grey helped enhance their tough appearance. But their combativeness could prove useful as they often found themselves attacked by cossacks, Spanish and Tyrolian guerillas.
Each _train d'artillerie_ battalion was originally composed of 5 companies. The first company was considered elite and was assigned to a horse artillery battery; the three "centre" companies were assigned to the foot artillery batteries and "parks" (spare caissons, field forges, supply wagons, etc.); and one became the depot company for training recruits and remounts. Following the campaigns of 1800, the train was re-organized into eight battalions of six companies each. As Napoleon enlarged his artillery, additional battalions were created, rising to a total of fourteen in 1810. In 1809, 1812 and 1813 the first thirteen battalions were "doubled" to create 13 additional battalions. Additionally, after 1809 some battalions raised extra companies to handle the regimental guns attached to the infantry.
The Imperial Guard had its own train, which expanded as _La Garde's_ artillery park was increased, albeit organized as regiments rather than battalions. At their zenith, in 1813–14, the Old Guard artillery was supported by a 12-company regiment while the Young Guard had a 16-company regiment, one for each of their component artillery batteries.
MARINES OF THE GUARD
A Marine of the Guard
The four regiments of the marines of the
Ancien Régime disappeared
on 28 January 1794. The _Marins_ (French spelling) of the Grande
Armée were divided into the _Bataillon des Marins de la Garde
Impériale_, also known eventually as the _Matelots de la Garde_,
formed on 17 September 1803, and _Matelots des Bataillons de la Marine
Impériale_ of which some 32,000 served with the French Navy at its
height of expansion by Napoleon. Units of the latter were created for
service on land by conscripting naval personnel surplus to requirement
of the Navy. There also existed the marine artillery, which were
mostly naval gunners used for coastal batteries and fortresses called
_bataillons de la Matelot du Haut-Bord_ (or _Les Equipages de
Haut-Bord_ – marines of the High Shore) created by Napoleon's decree
on 1 April 1808. The flag of the _1er Régiment d'Artillerie de
Marine_ survives today, and lists Lutzen 1813 as one of its battle
honours. Some 63 artillery batteries were so manned (some numbers
remaining vacant). Some examples include: _22_ième _Équipage de
Haut-Bord_ from the ship
Donauwörth Marine _
The "Marins de la Garde" (transliterated as "Sailors of the Guard", but more accurately "Marines of the Guard") were organised into five _equipages_ (ship's company), each with five _escouades_, with a total strength of 737 men, the unit having been created ostensibly for the preparation of the invasion of England .
The unit was almost entirely destroyed in the Spanish Campaign of 1808 at Baylen , but was rebuilt, and in 1810 the battalion was expanded to eight equipages with a total of 1,136 men, but this was severely reduced by the casualties of the Russian Campaign , and only 350 officers and men remained in the ranks in 1813. With Napoleon's first abdication, an ensign and 21 marins accompanied him to Elba , and returned with him for the Hundred Days Campaign when their strength was increased to an _equipage_ of 150 officers and men.
The marines were distinct in several ways from other _Grande Armée_
units in that naval rather than Army ranks were used, the uniform was
based on that of those of the Hussars , and it was the only unit of
The battalions of marine artillery were conscripted for the 1813
campaign, and included four regiments with the 1st regiment intended
to have 8 battalions, 2nd regiment 10 battalions and the 3rd and 4th
regiments four battalions each, totalling 9,640 men in all serving
with Marshal Marmont\'s 6th
FOREIGN TROOPS IN THE GRANDE ARMéE
Józef Antoni Poniatowski See also: V
Many European armies recruited foreign troops, and Napoleonic France
was no exception. Foreign troops played an important role and fought
with distinction in La
French pioneer during the Napoleonic Wars
While the glory of battle went to the cavalry, infantry and artillery, the army also included military engineers of various types.
The bridge builders of the Grande Armée, the _pontonniers_, were an indispensable part of Napoleon's military machine. Their main contribution was helping the emperor to get his forces across water obstacles by erecting pontoon bridges . The skills of his pontonniers allowed Napoleon to outflank enemy positions by crossing rivers where the enemy least expected and, in the case of the great retreat from Moscow, saved the army from complete annihilation at the Berezina .
They may not have had the glory, but Napoleon clearly valued his
pontonniers and had 14 companies commissioned into his armies, under
the command of the brilliant engineer,
In addition to the pontonniers, there were companies of sappers , to
deal with enemy fortifications. They were used far less often in their
intended role than the pontonniers, however, since the emperor had
learned in his early campaigns (such as at the
The different types of engineer companies were formed into battalions and regiments called _Génie_, which was originally a slang term for engineer. This name, which is still used today, was both a play on the word (_jeu de mot_) and a reference to their seemingly magical abilities to grant wishes and make things appear much like the mythical Genie .
One of Napoleon's most quoted lines is his dictum that "An army is a creature which marches on its stomach". This clearly illustrates the vital importance of military logistics . The troops of the Grande Armée each carried 4 days' provisions. The supply wagon trains following them carried 8 days', but these were to be consumed only in emergency. One man was allotted to 750 grams of bread, 550 grams of biscuits, 250 grams of meat, 30 grams of rice, and 60 grams of grain; one liter of wine was shared between four men. Insofar as possible, Napoleon encouraged his men to live off the land through foraging and requisition of food (which was known as _ La Maraude _). An integral part of the French logistics system was the inclusion in every regiment of several women known as cantinières (also known as vivandières, but "cantinière" was by far the more common term among French troops). These women were married to soldiers in their regiments, and acted as sutlers, selling food and drink (especially alcohol) to the troops. They were considered "absolutely necessary" to the functioning of the army, and the Consular Decree of 7 Thermidor, Year VIII set their number at four per battalion and two per cavalry squadron. These women fed the troops when all other logistical arrangements broke down.
Additional supplies would be stockpiled and stored at forward bases
and depots which he would establish before the start of his campaigns.
These would then be moved forward as the army advanced. The Grande
Armée's supply bases would replenish the
The Flying Ambulances were developed by French battlefield surgeon Dominque-Jean Larrey to rapidly transport the wounded from the battlefield to field hospitals.
The medical services had the least glory or prestige, yet they were required to deal with the full horrors of war's aftermath. Though the Emperor recognized its chief, Dr. Dominique Jean Larrey as stated in the 'Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène': "The Emperor had only the highest praise for Dr Larrey, declaring that he left him with the image of a truly good man who combined all the virtues of effective philanthropy and science to the highest degree. Every wounded soldier was a member of his family. Larrey is the most virtuous man I have ever met."
While the technology and practice of military medicine did not advance significantly during the Napoleonic wars, the Grande Armée did benefit from improvements in the organization of staff and the establishment of a _Flying Ambulance_ system, by its Surgeon General, Baron Dominique Jean Larrey . After seeing the speed with which the carriages of the French _flying artillery_ manoeuvred across the battlefields, Baron Larrey adapted them for rapid transport of the wounded and manned them with trained crews of drivers, corpsmen and litter bearers. This forerunner of the modern military ambulance and triage system, was eventually adapted by armies throughout the world in the following decades. And this Dr. Larrey invented the «ambulances volantes» – "flying" ambulance (so-called due to their emphasis on speedily, or "flying", rushing the critically injured back to the field hospital for surgery). However, Larrey's rival, one Baron L.P. Percy, was the first to actually introduce much needed reform to the French Army's medical services. He was the first to introduce "a regularly trained corps of field litter bearers, soldiers regularly formed and equipped for the duty of picking up the wounded...and carrying them on stretchers to the place where means of surgical aid were provided" and thus also deserving of some credit. (Longmore, p. 26.) The differences between Percy's and Larrey's systems lay in their fundamental objectives. Percy's ambulance served mainly as a means of transporting surgeons and their instruments close to the engaged elements. In turn, stretcher-bearers could radiate from such proximity to retrieve the wounded. In contrast, Larrey's flying ambulance, though a much lighter and swifter carriage, was designed to follow the advanced guard and provide initial treatment to the wounded (by applying dressings on the field of battle) while emphasizing the need to rapidly transport the more critically injured away from the battlefield. Wounded were, thus, evacuated to points in the rear where surgeons could more effectively perform lifesaving procedures within not more than half an hour (Larrey, 1814, vol I, pp. 223–24.) The ambulances were horse-drawn wagons, modelled after the "flying artillery", for the collecting and carrying the wounded from the battlefield to the field hospitals. He first proposed this system in a report from the Italian Campaign of 1797 (Larrey, vol I, 1814, pp. 27–28.). The personnel for a given ambulance team included a doctor, quartermaster, non-commissioned officer, a drummer boy (who carried the bandages), and 24 infantrymen as stretcher bearers. As a result, Larrey increased the mobility and improved the organization of field hospitals , effectively creating a prototype for the modern Mobile Army Surgical Hospital .
Because of Larrey's efforts, and the popularity of his reforms of that of Baron Percy's, every regiment, division and corps had its own medical staff, consisting of corpsmen to find and transport the wounded, orderlies to provide assistance and nursing functions, apothecaries, surgeons and doctors which was more than any other army of the day would offer until around the time of the Crimean War and American Civil War . Even so, conditions in the Grande Armée, as in all armies of the time, were primitive at best. Far more soldiers died of their wounds or from sickness than in battle (see Napoleonic Wars casualties ). There was little knowledge of hygiene and nothing of antibiotics . The main surgical procedure was amputation , since the bleeding of a limb could be more easily controlled, and curare , an anesthetic that helps relax muscles, had yet to be developed as an anesthetic (although it was under experimentation during this time). The only means of anaesthetic consisted of strong alcoholic drink, or even, in some cases, knocking the patient unconscious. Opiates such as laudanum were available (in theory) for pain control. Typically only about two-thirds survived the operation.
After 1797, the flying ambulances were always present with the advance-guard of the army and even tended to the wounded on the battlefield, even under fire in stark contrast to the long-held tradition of waiting to collect the injured until after the battle in question during which time many of the most gravely wounded would have died for lack of proper medical attention. this boosted the morale for the rank and file of the French Revolutionary, and later Imperial, armies, but its most revolutionary aspect was Larrey's attention to the wounded on both sides of the battlefield. A noble concept that survived to modern times in the form of the Red Cross and the 1864 First Geneva Convention .
Accounts of the ordeals of the wounded are horrific reading. Napoleon, himself, once noted "It requires more courage to suffer than to die", so he made sure those who did survive were given the best treatment available at the best hospitals in France, in particular Les Invalides , while they recuperated. In addition, the wounded survivors were often treated as heroes, awarded medals, pensions and provided with prosthetic limbs if needed. Knowing that they would be promptly attended to, then honored and well looked after once back home, helped boost morale in the Grande Armée, and thus further contributed to its fighting abilities.
Most dispatches were conveyed as they had been for centuries, via
messengers on horseback. Hussars, due to their bravery and riding
skills, were often favored for this task. Shorter range tactical
signals could be sent visually by flags or audibly by drums, bugles,
trumpets and other musical instruments. Thus standard bearers and
musicians, in addition to their symbolic, ceremonial and morale
functions, also played important communication roles. A Chappe
semaphore tower near
Chappe's system comprised an intricate network of small towers,
within visual range of one another. On top of each was a 9-metre mast,
with three large, movable wooden rods mounted on them. These rods,
called the _régulateur_ (regulator), were operated by trained crews
using a series of pulleys and levers. The four basic positions of the
rods could be combined to form 196 different "signs". Provided with
good crews of operators and decent visibility conditions, a sign could
be sent through the 15 station towers between Paris and
Chappe's telegraph soon became one of Napoleon's favourite and most important secret weapons. A special portable version semaphore telegraph travelled with his headquarters. Using it he was able to coordinate his logistics and forces over longer distances in far less time than his enemies. Work was even begun on a wagon-mounted version in 1812, but not completed in time for use in the wars.
FORMATIONS AND TACTICS
While Napoleon is best known as a master strategist and charismatic
presence on the battlefield, he was also a tactical innovator. He
combined classic formations and tactics that had been used for
thousands of years with more recent ones, such as Frederick the
Great\'s "Oblique Order" (best illustrated at the
Battle of Leuthen )
and the "mob tactics" of the early
Levée en masse
Some of the more famous, widely used, effective and interesting formations and tactics included:
* LINE (_Ligne_): The basic three rank line formation, best used for
delivering volley fire and was also a decent melee formation for
infantry or cavalry, but it was relatively slow moving and vulnerable
on the flanks.
* MARCH COLUMN (_Colonne de Marche_): The best formation for rapid
or sustained movement of troops and a good melee attacking formation,
but it offered little firepower and was also vulnerable to flank
attack, ambush, artillery and "funneling".
* WEDGE (_Colonne de Charge_): An arrow or spearhead shaped cavalry
formation, designed to close rapidly and break the enemy's line.
Classic, and effective, mounted formation used throughout history, and
still used by tanks today. But if the wedge is halted, or its attack
loses momentum, then it is vulnerable to counter-pincer attack on its
* ATTACK COLUMN (_Colonne d'Attaque_): A wide column of infantry,
almost a hybrid of line and column, with light infantry skirmishers in
front to disrupt the enemy and screen the column's advance. Once the
column closed, the skirmishers would move off to its flanks, then the
column would fire a massed musket salvo and charge with their
bayonets. An excellent formation against a standard, thin line. The
Attack Column was developed from the "Mob" or "Horde" tactics of the
early French revolutionary armies. Its disadvantages were a lack of
massed firepower and vulnerability to artillery fire.
* MIXED ORDER (_Ordre Mixte_): Was Napoleon's preferred infantry
formation. Some units (usually regiments or battalions in size) would
be placed in line formation, with other units in attack column behind
and in between them. This combined the firepower of the line with the
speed, melee and skirmishing advantages of the attack column. It also
had some of the disadvantages of both, so support from artillery and
cavalry were especially vital for this tactic to succeed.
* OPEN ORDER (_Ordre Ouvert_): Foot and/or horse would spread out by
unit and/or individually. This formation was best for light troops and
skirmishers. It allowed for rapid movement, especially over "broken"
or rough terrain such as hills or forests, and offered the best
protection from enemy fire since the troops were spread out. Its
disadvantages were it did not allow for massed or volley fire and was
terrible for melee or close quarters fighting and thus, especially
vulnerable to cavalry.
* SQUARE (_Carré_): Classic infantry formation for defence against
cavalry. Soldiers would form a hollow square at least three or four
ranks deep on each side, with officers and artillery or cavalry in the
middle. It offered infantry their best protection against charges,
especially on good defensive terrain such as on the top or reverse
slope of a hill. Squares were slow moving, almost stationary targets,
however. This, along with their density, made squares very vulnerable
to artillery and to a lesser extent, infantry fire. Once broken,
squares tended to completely collapse.
* FLYING BATTERY (_Batterie Volante_): Designed to take advantage of
French artillery's mobility and training. A battery would move to one
area on the field, lay down a short, sharp barrage, then rapidly
redeploy to another area and fire another barrage, then quickly
redeploy again, etc. The combined, cumulative effect of numerous
batteries doing this all along the enemy's lines could be devastating.
The horse artillery were especially well suited for this tactic.
Napoleon used it to great success in the Armée's early campaigns. Its
flexibility allowed him to quickly mass well-aimed fire anywhere it
was needed. But it required superbly trained and conditioned
artillerymen and horses as well as close command, coordination and
control in order to work.
* GRAND BATTERY (_Grande Batterie_): An alternative artillery
tactic, when circumstances prohibited the flying batteries. Artillery
would mass its fire at a single, crucial point on the battlefield
(usually against the enemy's centre). It could be devastating if the
enemy was caught by surprise or in the open. But massing large numbers
of guns in a single area without the enemy's knowledge could be
tricky. Once the batterie opened fire and its target became clear,
measures could be taken to avoid it. It was also vulnerable to
Counter-battery fire from enemy artillery and needed protection from
cavalry attack. Although this has become the most well known French
artillery tactic, Napoleon preferred the flying batteries and used it
only when he had to or thought it posed a better chance of success.
Often at the start of a battle, he would mass batteries into a Big
Battery, then after a few salvoes, break it up into flying batteries.
In the early campaigns it was rarely used, but as the quantity of the
Armée's horses and quality of its artillerymen declined, Bonaparte
would be forced to employ it much more frequently in later battles.
* BOAR\'S HEAD (_Tête du Sanglier_): Was another hybrid formation,
somewhat like the mixed order but combining all three arms into a
wedge-like square, which could be used for assault or defence.
RANKS OF THE GRANDE ARMéE
Further information: List of Marshals of the
First French Empire
Unlike the armies of the
Ancien Régime and other monarchies,
advancement in the
_Maréchal d'Empire_, or
Marshal of the Empire , was not a "rank"
within the French Army, but a personal title granted to distinguished
Divisional generals, along with higher pay and privileges. The same
applied to the
GRANDE ARMéE RANK MODERN U.S./U.K./NATO EQUIVALENT
GéNéRAL DE DIVISION,
LIEUTENANT GéNéRAL (ancien régime rank reintroduced in 1814)
GéNéRAL DE BRIGADE,
MARéCHAL DE CAMP (ancien régime rank reintroduced in 1814)
ADJUDANT-COMMANDANT Staff Colonel
COLONEL EN SECOND Senior lieutenant colonel
MAJOR EN SECOND Senior Major
CHEF DE BATAILLON or CHEF D\'ESCADRON Major
CAPITAINE ADJUTANT-MAJOR Staff Captain
ADJUDANT SOUS-OFFICIER Chief Warrant Officer
ADJUDANT-CHEF Warrant Officer
SERGENT-MAJOR or MARéCHAL DES LOGIS CHEF First sergeant
SERGENT or MARéCHAL DES LOGIS Sergeant
CAPORAL-FOURRIER or BRIGADIER-FOURRIER Company clerk/supply Sergeant
SOLDAT or CAVALIER(Cavalry) or CANONNIER(Artillery) Private or UK equivalent
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* ^ Riehn, Richard K. (1991), 1812: Napoleon's Russian Campaign
(Paperback ed.), New York: Wiley, ISBN 978-0471543022
* ^ INS Scholarship 1998: Henri Clarke, Minister of War, and the
* ^ Christian Wilhelm von Faber du Faur, _Campagne de Russie 1812:
d\'après le journal illustré d\'un témoin oculaire_, éditions
Flammarion, 1812, 319 pages, p. 313.
* ^ Eugène Labaume, _Relation circonstanciée de la Campagne de
Russie en 1812_, éditions Panckoucke-Magimel, 1815, pp.453–54.
* ^ It was inscribed on the regimental flags issued in 1804
* ^ Elting, John R.: "Swords Around a Throne", pp. 60–65. Da Capo
* ^ Correspondance générale – Tome 12: La campagne de Russie,
1812 Par Fondation Napoléon –
* ^ Zamoyski, p. 536
* ^ Insects, Disease, and Military History: Destruction of the
Grand Armée Archived 2008-08-20 at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ Todd Fisher & Gregory Fremont-Barnes, _The Napoleonic Wars: The
Rise and Fall of an Empire._, pp. 36–54.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes, pp. 54–74.
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 76–92
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 200–09
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 113–44
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 145–71
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 271–87
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 287–97
* ^ Fisher & Fremont-Barnes pp. 306–12
* ^ _A_ _B_ McNab, p. 40.
* ^ McNab, pp. 40–42.
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* ^ Kevin Kiley The Grand Quartier-
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