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"A question about Legere units" Topic

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Field Marshal30 Nov 2008 11:50 p.m. PST

Did the French ever Brigade Legere? What was the highest unit Legere where together? 3 Battlion regiments?

EagleSixFive01 Dec 2008 3:52 a.m. PST


Quatre Bras
6ème Division d'Infanterie – Jérôme Bonaparte – 8 019
1ère Brigade – Bauduin – 4 229
1er Bataillon / 1ère Légère – Despans-Cubières 616
2e Bataillon / 1ère Légère 621
3e Bataillon / 1ère Légère 615
1er Bataillon / 2e Légère – Maigros 578
2e Bataillon / 2e Légère 569
3e Bataillon / 2e Légère 577
4e Bataillon / 2e Légère 570

As to number of battalions, that very much depends on year/regimental strength.

By the way, at this point in time there is no difference in training between line and light except uniform.

Footslogger01 Dec 2008 5:34 a.m. PST

There were a couple of brigades in Oudinot's/Lannes 2nd Corps, 1809, made up of the hastily recruited and understrength 4th battalions of many regiments, the Legere ones being brigaded together, eg:

Brigade Conroux:
6th, 24th, 25th, 9th, 16th and 27th Legere, total 2500 men at Aspern,

Brigade Coehorn:
17th, 21st, 26th and 28th Legere, 4 bns @ 1300, plus Tirailleurs du Po and Tirailleurs Corses, 450 men each. Again, Aspern strengths.

This arrangement was more than a bit ad hoc; Davout's Third Corps is more typical, with a single Legere regiment in each division, listed as the senior regiment of the first brigade, and paired with a ligne regiment.

badger2201 Dec 2008 8:04 a.m. PST

In 1812 4 of Davout's I corp divisions had 5 BN brigades of legere.

chasseur a cheval01 Dec 2008 8:05 a.m. PST

Several régiments fielded 4 or even 5 full bataillons in 1812. These were termed a "brigade", under a général de brigade. The colonel of the régiment typically commanded the first 2 or 3 bataillons, and the major en second (a new rank formed at this time) commanded 2 bataillons. Each bataillion further had the usual chef de bataillon.
Examples :
1er corps, 1ere division, 1ere brigade, 13e légère – 5 b'ons
1er corps, 2e division, 1ere brigade, 15e légère – 5 b'ons
1er corps, 3e division, 1ere brigade, 7e légère – 5 b'ons
1er corps, 4e division, 1ere brigade, 33e légère (ex- 1er légère hollandais) – 4 b'ons

Also, a brigade could be made up with separate régiments, usually then to include some "foreigners". How "légère" was a foreign régiment might be debated in some cases – as it was often hard to tell "légère" from "ligne" by 1812 absent the usual differences in uniform and nomenclature common in the French national units.
Examples :
4e corps, 13e division, 1ere brigade – 7 b'ons
--- 8e légère – 2 b'ons
--- 1er régiment provisoire croate – 2 b'ons (ex- Grenz-Infanterie, as "légère" as it gets)
--- 84e de ligne – 3 b'ons
4e corps, 14e division, 1ere brigade – 8 b'ons
--- 18e légère – 2 b'ons
--- régiment Joseph-Napoléon – 2 b'ons (probably should not be called "légère")
--- 53e de ligne – 4 b'ons
4e corps, 15e division, 1ere brigade – 8 b'ons
--- 1er légère italien – 1 b'on
--- régiment royal dalmate – 3 b'ons (probably should be "légère", by uniforme and nomenclature if nothing else)
--- 2e de ligne italien – 4 b'ons

Note how there are twice as many bataillons in 4e corps, 14e division, 1ere brigade or 15e division, 1ere brigade compared to 1er corps, 4e division, 1ere brigade. But, Eugène had a tendency to assign staff officers to temporarily lead parts of brigades, and after La Moskowa the two Spanish battalions were detached on road security duty.

chasseur a cheval01 Dec 2008 8:35 a.m. PST

Eagle :
Le Cent Jours
For the 1er régiment légère :
-- the officer you list is colonel Amédée-Louis de Cubières, dit "Despans-Cubières" (1786-1853), who ocmmanded the régiment
-- chef de bataillon Jean-Baptiste Jolyetcommanded the 2e bataillon – I dont have the commanders o fthe other two bataillons at hand (sorry)
-- the strengths shown (for before Quatre-Bras) omit 11 officiers & 25 sous-officiers et soldats in the état-major du régiment
-- their partner in the 1ere brigade, 6e division was the 3e régiment de ligne

For the 2e régiment légère :
-- the officer you list is colonel Pierre-François Maigrot (1776-1826), who commanded the régiment
-- chefs de bataillon (1er – 4e bataillons) : Basset, Colombani, de Negrier & d'Herbail(?)
-- the strengths shown (for before Quatre-Bras) omit 23 officiers & 24 sous-officiers et soldats in the état-major du régiment
-- their partner in the 1ere brigade, 5e division was the 61e régiment de ligne

If I have these mistaken, please do correct me. Thanks.

chasseur a cheval01 Dec 2008 8:52 a.m. PST

You're faster, but the 33e légère was only 4 bataillons de guerre, I am thinking ….

1er corps, 4e division, 1ere brigade
général de brigade baron Joseph Barbanègre
aide-de-camp lieutenant Montbrun
33e régiment d'infanterie légère
colonel Henry-Jean-Baptiste Marguerye (blessé à Krasnoï)
--- 1er bataillon chef de bataillon de Jongh (blessé à Krasnoï) (ex- 1er bataillon du 1er légère hollandais)
--- 2e bataillon chef de bataillon Serré (tué à Krasnoï) (ex- 2e bataillon du 1er légère hollandais)
--- 3e bataillon chef de bataillon Schurmann (blessé à Krasnoï) (ex- 3e bataillon du 1er légère hollandais)
--- 4e bataillon chef de bataillon Patin (ex- 1er bataillon du 6e de ligne hollandais)
--- artillerie régimentaire lieutenant Bartels (blessé à Krasnoï), 4 canons autrichiens de 3-livres
major Van Berestein, à Givet dans le 2e division militaire
--- dépot du régiment, quartier-maître trésorier Langlois
--- 5e bataillon (4 compagnies de fusiliers, conscrits)

Or am I mistaken ??

badger2201 Dec 2008 9:18 a.m. PST

No you are correct. Missed that one, nice catch

Field Marshal01 Dec 2008 2:45 p.m. PST

Thank you very much guys….some fantastic information there!

JeffsaysHi01 Dec 2008 3:21 p.m. PST

As regards difference between Legere and Line; although there was no clear difference recorded in regulations for organisation or training, there appears to have been quite a difference in expectation / usage; at least form a sample of evidence revealed in Foucarts work.

In the lists of orders and combat reports in the campaign of 1806/1807 it can be seen that whenever a light infantry task came up normally the nearest available legere unit was assigned to it.
Where line units are found with the legere a more detailed reading shows the line generally provided formed support.

So in actual useage it would appear the Legere were treated differently, and, if only by such constant practice, could be expected to be far more adept at such tasks than the line. Combat modifiers in their favour would be historically realistic on this evidence.

Widowson01 Dec 2008 6:43 p.m. PST

As to the original question – no.

The French did not specifically brigade light regiments. The "standard" if such a term can be used, would be one regiment of Legere in each infantry division.

Napoleon was no doubt trying to placate his brother by giving him so many legere battalions in the Waterloo Campaign, but this was very unusual.

As for usage and experience with light duties, I would agree with Jeff, above. There was originally more of a distinction, but this and many other practices fell by the wayside as the wars dragged on and such luxuries were no longer affordable. One would think that the smaller, more agile recruits would be distributed into the legere units, but not neccessarily.

This is more of a question for Scott Bowden, who has done a lot of in-depth primary source research on the French Army.

chasseur a cheval01 Dec 2008 9:02 p.m. PST

"trying to placate his brother by giving him so many legere battalions in the Waterloo Campaign"
1ere division : 0 b'ons
2e division : 3 b'ons légères
3e division : 0 b'ons légères
4e division : 0 b'ons légères
5e division : 4 b'ons légères
6e division : 3 b'ons légères (prince Bonaparte)
7e division : 4 ou 5 b'ons légères (2 régiments)
8e division : 3 b'ons légères
9e division : 3 b'ons légères
10e division : 0 b'ons légères
11e division : 0 b'ons légères
12e division : 2 b'ons légères (+ 2 b'ons envoyés à Chamberry)
13e division : 0 b'ons légères
14e division : 3 b'ons légères
19e division : 0 b'ons légères
20e division : 2 b'ons légères
21e division : 1 b'ons légères
Are there errors in this summary, as I don't see prince Bonparte as having an unusual number of light battalions ?

"Scott Bowden …. in-depth primary source research"
really "in-depth" ?
I do wonder about that sometimes.

von Winterfeldt01 Dec 2008 11:22 p.m. PST

Yes – compared to Chasseur à Cheval – Bowden seems to me like a beginner.

French Light Infantry did not get smaller or lighter recruits – compared to the line.

chasseur a cheval02 Dec 2008 12:33 a.m. PST

Salut v. Winterfeldt,

You are far too kind.

Actually, I was rather thinking of you as I wrote the post above. So, as M. Bowden has so eagerly written, "Derselbe"!

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