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"Distinguishing one French line unit from another" Topic

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Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2016 5:39 a.m. PST

So far as I can tell there is almost nothing (in 28mm scale) that distinguishes one French line unit from another. In the shako era the pompom versus disc thing identifies 1st from other battalions but the command stand aside the centre companies are identical.

How do French army players handle that? Do you even care? It just seems a bit weird to me that a company may form part of a different unit from one battle to the next. Iam thinking some kind of coded uniform feature, like musket or backpack colour, might work. Thoughts anyone?

Cerdic13 Nov 2016 5:58 a.m. PST

Don't really care!

keithbarker13 Nov 2016 6:27 a.m. PST

The drummer's uniform was one thing that was different between French line infantry. Even though it should have been standardised after 1812.

But all my French line non-command bases are fairly identical and interchangeable.

acatcalledelvis13 Nov 2016 6:38 a.m. PST

I paint all my pompoms the same colour – I use the figures from anything from 1:33 to 1:1 scale – so it helps they all look the same – as per another commentator – they are all fairly interchangeable.
If I wanted to emphasise units I would do it through the command stand/figures

Dale Hurtt13 Nov 2016 8:07 a.m. PST

Tag the base with the battalion and regimental designation. But, to be honest, I have not cared since I stopped playing rules that required written orders (Column, Line, and Square) where it was critical to identify each individual battalion.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Nov 2016 8:27 a.m. PST

This is true of most eras. It's called a "uniform" for a reason!

Mike Petro13 Nov 2016 8:45 a.m. PST

I like to add a mounted colonel with the first battalion command stand.

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2016 9:00 a.m. PST

The variations in uniforms were quite marked. Within the historical context you can have battalions in grey greatcoats or brown. Some shako covers black and others white or buff. Campaign trousers can be white, blue, brown or grey. Some battalions had their grenadiers in bearskins others in shakos. In short, if you care, you can really ring the changes and have marked differences between the regiments while still staying historical.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2016 9:09 a.m. PST

Poor old GMB produce these inexpensive flags for just this reason. Heck you can even get second battalion fannion for some (tell me about it….I made one wrong click for 105th eagle loss and ended up with a dull grey flag….my fault)

Give even the tiniest, most obscure, unit an eagle. (Light Cavalry, Light Infantry, heavy Cavalry on campaign….who cares?) Add a banner from GMB and Bob, c'est votre oncle, je pense, a
moi m๊me.

Eeeeeeeeeeh, mon Francais….c'est formidable. Quatre bi่res Garcon, silver plate….

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2016 10:31 a.m. PST

A score of them we know the drummers, voltigeurs differences. The rest no clue.

Col Blancard13 Nov 2016 11:39 a.m. PST

go the Calpe Miniatures way.

- You can choose between route/march or march/attack pose.
- You can choose between either covered or uncovered shakos.
- You can choose between turned back or straight greatcoats.
- On top of that, you can decide to throw in special characters to make the units either ragged (no shakos) or enthusiastic

For the first battalion, the lentil pompom is fully coloured. 2nd (and 3rd) battalions can be represented with a white patch in the middle. Possibilities are almost endless.

see my 4-battalions brigade example:


link: link

Only greatcoat figures though.

Garde de Paris13 Nov 2016 1:14 p.m. PST

I could never have enough French "toys" in full-dress uniforms to able to do ANY with overcoats! But those Calpe's are marvelous!

Once planning to do 4 "divisions" of "French" Stadden 30mm infantry for the Peninsula, I only had parts of the 1st (Units from I Corps), 2nd (units from II Corps), and 3rd (Units from IV Corps – German Division; Polish Division; 3-4 Frenc units).

My First was to be 12 "battalions" of 36 from each actual regiment of the 1st Corps in Spain:

First Division (here brigade):

9th Leger – Dutch-style light infantry leggings – pointed front and rear, all edged white with scarlet, green or yellow "thingies" on the front (I believe a unique feature for any French battalion. Voltigeur wit yellow cuff flaps.

24th de ligne: Grenadier in shako; drummer with pale blue facings; Voltigeurs with their own mix of yellow and green.

96th de Ligne: Drummer of Voltigeurs from Rousselot with crimson lapels, cuffs and turnbacks, yellow collar, plume a mix of yellow and green, etc.

And so on. I was not able to acquire or "do" the 8th de Ligne (grenadiers with leather brim on the bearskin, slash cuff with scarlet edge); 54th de ligne (Intended to do Perry metal French line with colpack for the sapeur); nor one of the 94th or 95th.

Each had one figure with a green tab glued under the stand of one of the rear-rank figures with regimental number. All units had an eagle, and could be split into 3 battalions of 12 figures..

I had reliable information, and succeeded to add the 16th Leger (long-tailed coats; scarlet edgings on vest and coat for gren and volt; drummer in green, white edging); 45th de Ligne – used 1815 Waterloo figures with the tricolor; 27th Leger – long-tailed coats, drummer with sky blue coat and breeches, crimson facings (carabiniers with bearskin); 63rd de ligne – drummer with orange facings, grenadier with scarlet trimmed shako; and one of the 94 or 95th at Victrix Plastics – Bearskins with scarlet cording, no plate, voltigeurs with their own mix of yellow and green epaulettes and plumes.

lots of regiments in Spain has some identifiable characteristics. The 65th is one of my Victrix units for the 2nd Division (units who served at one time in 2nd Corps):

TMP link


Footslogger13 Nov 2016 4:35 p.m. PST

As above, all fusiliers in the unit have the same pompon colour.

I make the most of available alternative command figures. And do some converting.

Some units have eagles, others fanions. Occasionally nothing.

One plus of the lack of difference is that my 1813+ French units are generic and could be any regiment as required.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2016 5:05 p.m. PST

Right, but what about the fusiliers who aren't command and who look exactly like all other fusiliers?

Art13 Nov 2016 5:28 p.m. PST

G'Day Phil

I have quite a few fusiliers that are painted up as voltigeurs…because by regulation voltigeurs were not supposed to have epaulets furnished by the Regiment…that's where "Une caisse noire"…a reserve of money normally given by the soldiers comes into play…

I also have fusiliers who are "eclaireur" that were attached to the avant-garde with the grenadiers…but I have them painted up so they look like they have been out and about scouting…

Best Regards

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP13 Nov 2016 9:02 p.m. PST

Don't know, don't care. An infantryman is an infantryman.

Edwulf13 Nov 2016 10:39 p.m. PST

I think they had small ones. Numbers on plates and buttons…
maybe on shake covers or cartridge boxes. But essentially the same some interesting differences for drummers.

The Egyptian uniform and white uniforms had regimental distinctions so I don't know why the blue uniforms were kept so "generic" while dragons, Chassuers, Hussars, Lancers, Foriegn infantry all had them.

Footslogger14 Nov 2016 2:42 a.m. PST

"but what about the fusiliers who aren't command and who look exactly like all other fusiliers?"

I'm happy for the fusiliers to look like all other fusiliers. They're supposed to.

So long as I can tell one unit from another on the tabletop, that's enough. EG:

"Blue pompons, officer with raised sword and eagle" is enough for me to know it's not "Violet pompons, officer with bandaged head, eagle bearer in blue overalls"

As for unit quality, "Greatcoat, no standard" is likely to get used as Marie-Louises, march battalions or provisional regiments.

None of my units has an identical twin. They're mostly Perry plastics, but those are supported by a good range of metal regimental and battalion command packs, and spare officers and NCOs.

GeordieMike14 Nov 2016 3:27 a.m. PST

The only real specific way I try and distinguish my french line / light units largely is to try and get the correct colour scheme for the drummers (before introduction of the Imperial livery later on), many of which we do have information on, although quite a few we have nothing and it means resorting to a bit of guesswork.

Incidentally Garde de Paris, where did you get the information on – 24th de ligne:…..drummer with pale blue facings…..

This is one line unit I want to do but don't have any reference for the drummer, is it from a picture you found in a book / online?

The only other exception I have for distinction is that I'll be doing the 15th Line in the largely white uniform, as they kept it for longer than most in the Peninsula and it adds a bit of variation.



Major Bloodnok14 Nov 2016 5:22 a.m. PST

Depending on how thick your bases are, why not colour code them? Paint the rear of the bases of a reg't. a single colour, such as blue. To identify the battalions, paint one to three vertical lines, in white, for the 1st-3rd bns.

Garde de Paris14 Nov 2016 7:43 a.m. PST

Hello, GeordieMike!

I have not seen my Staddens in a couple years since we downsized and moved home to PA, and I was writing from memory (not a reliable process at 80!).

I am looking at "Napoleon's Soldiers" by Guy Dempsey, with illustrations from the Otto Manuscript (contemporary to 1807 era). It show a sapeur of the 24th de ligne, with bearskin, no plate, red epaulettes, plume, cords and flounders.

I cannot see his collar, hidden by the beard, but his lapels and turnbacks are a rich, "dark sky blue" edged scarlet. The coat could pass for Wurttemberg! short closed lapels, square across the bottom with 3 brass buttons below, to the short turnbacks. He has tight white breeches, with short, "v-notched" black leggings edged and fringes scarlet.

Seems safe to do the drummer in a conventional French uniform with dark sky blue lapels edged scarlet at least.

When I get to my troops, I must also consider grenadiers with bearskins! I think I did mine in shakos.


GeordieMike14 Nov 2016 9:06 a.m. PST

Hi GdeP,

Thanks for the info, I'll go with that colour scheme for the 24th Line then!

I must admit, the grenadiers with bearskins look nice and I have used them for various French Line battalions where they were documented to have had them (with some info on past TMP discussions if I remember correctly). Otherwise I have generally opted, again for a bit of variation, to have them in shakos if there is a lack of evidence in support of bearskins for a particular regiment.

Personal choice of course and either way, doing it one way or the other doesn't necessarily mean the choice itself is wrong.



Murvihill14 Nov 2016 10:21 a.m. PST

I paint the back left corner of the stand in a national color, then paint the battalion number in a contrasting color. The regiment number is on a tag stuck to the bottom along with my initials.

42flanker14 Nov 2016 12:22 p.m. PST

I suspect that many of those minute, finickety clothing distinctions between companies or battalions of the same regiment, particularly in the French army but in general, were not so much for command and control but for the soldiers' sense of esprit de corps; and again, not so much in the smoke and chaos of battle (after a few weeks or months on campaign how many of those details would even survive, let alone be perceptible) but in general. 'The narcissism of small differences.'

AICUSV14 Nov 2016 4:52 p.m. PST

I too have painted my drummer for the 24th as GdeP described, but then he gave me the description years ago. But then I got him back, had him over for a game and showed off a new unit. The drummer was painted in a pink and green uniform with some other strange details. He became a little excited as to where I got the info on it. After feeding him a little BS, I finally confessed that I made it up. I no longer get to concerned over my Nap French and color code the bases.

Now if you're talking WAS or 7yw French, that's different. The pockets better have the correct number of buttons and be cut in the correct direction.

trailape15 Nov 2016 3:28 a.m. PST

The First Battalion of Each Regiment carries the Regimental Eagle with a Tricolour (French Flag) Attached.
Other battalions have White (2nd), Red (3rd) Blue (4th), Green (5th), Yellow (6th), Violet (7th) or Sky Blue (8th) Fanions (simple Flag).
Occasionally the Drummers might have a reversed colour coat reminiscent of the old Regimental colour facing.
That's about it.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP15 Nov 2016 4:00 a.m. PST

The issue if I can call it that is a French 1805 battalion contains two flank and seven centre companies, one of which is the command stand. The other six companies / stands are identical to each other and also to all other centre companies.

So from one battle to the next there is no way short of painting markings on them to identify which company belongs in which battalion.

Rod MacArthur15 Nov 2016 4:04 a.m. PST

I painted all of my 1:72 plastic French Infantry (all Airfix) with the pre-1812 diamond shaped shako plate, and put a regimental number on it. I did this over 30 years ago and am not sure that my eyesight would be up to it now.

My French companies all have pom-poms in company colours, solid for first battalions and with a white centre containing the battalion number for 2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions. 1st battalions have Eagles, 2nd, 3rd & 4th have white, red and blue fanions (none of my French Regiments have more than four battalions, but if they did then the system could be extended as trailape shows above).

I also use different figure poses for each battalion in the same regiment, to help to distinguish them quickly.

You can see some of these on my website under the Horse & Musket/Napoleonic/Napoleonic Infantry section, although the photos are too small to see the Regimental numbers on the shako plates.


Garde de Paris15 Nov 2016 7:41 a.m. PST

Hello, AICUSV!

The drummer in pink (rose, please!) faced dark green is for the 88th de Ligne in Spain, so you did a correct rendition!

The 88th was captured at the fall of Badajoz in Spain, under siege by the British, along with (among others) the Hessen Darmstadt Gross und Erb Prinz regiment. An elite of the 88th is much represented with covered shako, 88 in laurels painted on front; in white vest instead of habit; and with baggy white overalls. The Hessians were also shown in field gear in one of the old Tradition magazines.

This is another way to distinguish Napleonic units.


Rod MacArthur15 Nov 2016 8:19 a.m. PST

Prompted by this discussion, I have now posted a blog on my website showing how I identify my French Infantry.



MarbotsChasseurs15 Nov 2016 9:37 a.m. PST

Well I think one of the reason I really enjoy the Napoleonic time period is because my love for the different French uniforms. I am creating Davout's 3rd Corps for 1809 and trying my best to give myself a guideline for how I will paint and base my 6mm adler miniatures once my painting block goes away. Here is the 3eme Ligne and 30eme Ligne from two different divisions in Davouts Corps and I am able to tell the different in the regiments by the drummer uniforms and the elite plumes and or bearskins. Using juniorgeneral paper miniatures website I created my own uniform guides.

A shame it came out not in focus, but at least when I printed from my paint program they give me a good idea how to tell the difference between regiments.


42flanker16 Nov 2016 3:44 a.m. PST

While this thread has the attention of those with the knowledge, could I confirm whether, circa autumn 1811 , red cap distinctions on the chaco ('tufts', houpes, etc) would have been the preserve of grenadiers and drummers in the French line infantry. I am specifically interested in 34e Ligne.

Garde de Paris16 Nov 2016 4:42 p.m. PST

Page 98 in the Bucquoy book on the French infantry shows some sadly inadequate illustrations of some of the 34e de ligne.

The drum major in colpak red ball pompom, red bag on black colpak. Scarlet epaulettes which my have yellow crescents.

Scarlet collar with wide yellow or gold lace edge front and top. The cuffs appear to be scarlet, edged gold. Flap edged gold, but hard to see the "body."

An officer is shown with large cockade on the front of the shako instead of brass lozenge, eagle, whatever, held with gold loop. He has red ball pompom on top front, but is not designated as a grenadier. He has blue cuffs!!!! edged scarlet. White cuff flaps!!!! edged scarlet. Rest of coat is typical.

Another officer – grenadiers – on field dress, covered shako with red ball pompom. !!!blue long-tailed coat, single breasted, closed to the waist. Dark blue collar, cuffs, no lapels, edged scarlet. Scarlet edge to the coat front down to the turnbacks, which may be dark blue!!! Unique!!! The private man is in dark blue fatigue cap edged scarlet, scarlet grenade on front.

Scarlet collar on buff-colored duster or overcoat. Scarlet edge to cuffs of this coat, no flap. Scarlet epaulettes. Blue overalls, edged scarlet on side, covering white spats which appear to be worn over Spanish sandles!

A sergeant major of Grenadiers, no date, is shown in full dress. Scarlet pompom with scarlet tuft, no other scarlet on shako. It is on its side, and one does not get clear look at the front, but the seems to be a yellow or brass something there, not the big cockade. Scarlet epaulettes with gold threads mixed in. Classic coat, but cuff flaps are white edged scarlet.

A voltigeur on campaign is shown, much covered up. Yellow pompom on covered shako. Firing, so can't see collar or epaulettes. – though some yellow sticks up that may be part of the epaulettes. In the rear are two very small figures, closest appearing to have yellow eppaulettes with green crescent????

Seems to be a regiment with lots of unique features!!!!!


42flanker16 Nov 2016 5:24 p.m. PST

That is a rich panoply of detail. When you say 'inadequate,' Gde P, do you mean 'unreliable'?

Your survey does seem to indicate that, regardless of the other details, the red distinction, in the main, was indeed the preserve of grenadiers and the drum corps.

Do I have that right?


Garde de Paris17 Nov 2016 6:00 a.m. PST

Yes, Flanker. Scarlet indeed reserved for the Grenadiers. I Believe the "drum corps" would be two drummers drawn from the 5 companies of the battalion, and possibly the one or two from the Voltigeurs. I believe they had their own company distinctions – no fringed epaulettes for fusilier drummers, but perhaps the French version of "swallows nests" on the shoulders.

I said "inadequate" because I cannot tell if the whole battalion would have had the round cockade instead of the brass front piece to the shako, and if the whole battalion might have ever had dark blue cuffs edged scarlet, with scarlet cuff flap. Those would be truly unique among the French.


42flanker17 Nov 2016 8:19 a.m. PST

Thanks. I am curious because there is/was a tradition later maintained by the British 34th Regiment that following the battle of Arroyo Dos Molinos in 1811, they took prisoner at least a portion of the French 34e, notably the Drum Major and six side drums- which are still housed in the Regimental Museum in Carlisle.

One version of the story goes that men of the 34th marched from the battle also wearing shakos of the defeated French as trophies and, to commemorate this exploit, 25 years later (in typical Horse Guards fashion) were granted a cap distinction of a red and white tuft on their shakos.

It has never been stated categorically but the suggestion is that this recalled the red- or red and white- distinctions on the caps of the 34e.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2016 8:40 a.m. PST

The French colonels did, when they could,[$] give their troops unique distinctions, particularly the drummers and musicians. I know that one regiment had red/white/blue plumes at one point, though I'd have to dig through my books to find out which. Unique pompoms, cords, plumes and musicians' uniforms, but there were other distinctions at different times. That is not counting trousers, which could be distinctive, particularly when the source was 'unofficial'.

42flanker17 Nov 2016 10:36 a.m. PST

I don't believe any British regiment would go as far as to wear a French trouser.

Prince of Essling17 Nov 2016 2:49 p.m. PST

Further to GdP, the Bueno/Achard book on the French Army and its Allies in Spain 1808-14(taken from d'El Guil and other contemporary documents), has 3 versions of the 34e voltigeurs – one with red epaulettes white crescents and yellow fringes, yellow collars (wearing bonet de police).

The second wearing a shako with yellow pompom, red epaulettes, crescents and fringe yellow.

The third (1811-12)has a dark green pompom, scarlet epaulettes fringed green.

A grenadier (1811-12) is depicted in a colpack with scarlet collar & epaulettes.

So plenty of options…..

John Miller17 Nov 2016 4:18 p.m. PST

4th Cuirassier: I game with 15's and make every attempt to find something about the regt.s that might make them a little different uniform wise. Drummers colors comes up frequently, bearskins or colpacks on grenadiers or carabiniers, stuff like that. (I model the French army of 1809). Unit identification is very important to me so I mark each battalion etc., as 1/37 for instance. John Miller

42flanker17 Nov 2016 4:40 p.m. PST

So to put the question another way were red houpes, generally speaking, regarded as a standard distinction for line grenadiers?

42flanker18 Nov 2016 3:49 a.m. PST

PS- apologies. I just realised I'd not digested "scarlet reserved for grenadiers."

It seems however that red and white houpes for fusiliers, colours presumably arranged concentrically, are not in the picture.

Prince of Essling18 Nov 2016 11:20 a.m. PST


The Bueno/Achard shows a grenadier officer with red pompom but with a white centre; a superior officer with a white, red & blue pompom (reading from top to bottom).

Also another illustration of 2 grenadier officers – one has a red pompom surrounded by white disc; the other hasa white disc surrounded by red!

42flanker18 Nov 2016 4:36 p.m. PST

Thanks. That's good enough for me! As a starting point, anyway.

Is the Bueno Achard (etc etc) as obscure as it appears from an online search?

Prince of Essling19 Nov 2016 4:49 a.m. PST

The full title is "L'Armee Francaise et ses Allies en Espagne 1808-1814" by J M Bueno et H Achard The text is in french.

Alfons Canovas's website Miniaturas Militares has them buried away, but I cannot at present find the link – I will post when I can relocate.

42flanker19 Nov 2016 8:06 a.m. PST

I found these. Thanks




Garde de Paris20 Nov 2016 11:53 a.m. PST

42 Flanker, thanks for these great links!

But I am puzzled with the illustrations in the 2nd linke: ; 14e de Ligne French, in white habit.

One figure is shown with a drum on his back with red hoops. At first, I thought perhaps captured, as French drums had sky blue hoops. Then I see the "livery" edging on the tails, etc. Then a yellow ball with green tufts for Voltigeur, but no epaulettes. And finally, bullet pouch with crossed axes as for a sapeur – but ho beard, no scarlet epaulettes. Did someone get El Guil or the current artist (Bueno) get his sketches mixed up?

Later, among the 34e de ligne, we see drum with angled red/white striped hoopes, but top band in opposite direction to the bottom. Should be sky blue, no stripes?


Prince of Essling20 Nov 2016 1:25 p.m. PST

42 Flanker,

Well done – the links to all parts of the Bueno/Achard work are of course:

Prince of Essling20 Nov 2016 2:04 p.m. PST

42 Flanker,

The other Bueno pictures are from "LOS FRANCESES Y SUS ALIADOS EN ESPANA 1808-1814" a 2 volume work

Links to the parts on Alfons site are of course:

Prince of Essling20 Nov 2016 2:17 p.m. PST


Interesting observations – agree blue rims to be the norm but doesn't necessarily mean for all. I note that Rousselot shows a white uniformed grenadier drummer circa 1808 of the 17th line with a white & red hooped drum rims; he also has a fusilier drummer circa 1805-06 with red, white & blue rims.

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