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741 hits since 7 Nov 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 9:56 a.m. PST

… Napoleón Era in your wargames!…
You can also vote for other units not used in your games.


Mine are:

Infantry: Dutch Militia
Artillery: Ottoman.
Cavalry: Spanish


Amicalement
Armand

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 10:01 a.m. PST

According to TMP Napotalians is the answer to all 3 questions.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 10:18 a.m. PST

Spanish militia infantry was not very good either

British cavalry were great shock troops but just couldn't figure out when to stop charging

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 10:40 a.m. PST

I would also go with Neapolitans for all three. I mean, the Spanish could beat them. I think that Murat said, when new colours for uniforms were suggested, 'Dress them in white, blue or red, they will still run all the same.'

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 10:50 a.m. PST

and when you have agreed a list, it is even more important to ask why particular units of some nations seemed to show such characteristics.

Tell me that Spaniards cannot fight with almost suicidal bravery (and effectively so), remember that these Neapolitans were descended from men who contributed to the Roman legions, consider that the Netherlanders' defence of Quatre Bras saved Wellington's reputation.

Bad training and equipment, bad officers, a cause one does not believe in….not your nationality, is what makes the difference. Ever seen what the Italian human torpedo crews achieved in WWII or looked at the entrance to Grand Harbour where Italian motor boats launched an almost Kamikaze attack? The Turkish defence of Gallipoli…..

We can all laugh at some notoriously bad units eg Duke of Cumberland's Hussars, but will we dismiss all Hanoverians on that basis?

No harm in posing this question of course. Just as long as we try to offer some kind of insight into….WHY?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 11:15 a.m. PST

Armand, those are types, not units. But I'll second Deadhead's nomination of the Duke of Cumberland's Hussars as worst Hanoverian unit of the period.

I'll have to work on the Americans a bit, but I think all the finalists were militia infantry at Bladensburg.

Sho Boki07 Nov 2017 11:21 a.m. PST

Russian Opolchenie
Russian Artillery
Russian Dragoons

But they beat with numbers..

Lambert Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 11:29 a.m. PST

On the Duke of Cumberland's Hussars, was it the troopers who refused to fight or the officers who ordered them to retreat? They were under fire, and as I've never been under fire I hesitate to criticise them too much.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 12:19 p.m. PST

"Russian Dragoons"
The Russian dragoons preformed much better then most of the French Dragoonerie in Poland 1806-1807.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 1:22 p.m. PST

Looks like Russian artillery got votes for being both the best and the worst of the Napoleonic era.

Le Breton07 Nov 2017 1:50 p.m. PST

Hi Artilleryman,

Murat was not part of the story of the uniform colors and Neapolitan troops. Here's what I could find out as to the origins of the story.

==============
The story appears in Swords ….

Naples …. Their general uselessness was expressed by some Italian ruler who, when consulted concerning his army's proposed new unformes, snarled, "Put 'em in blue coats, put 'em in red coats, the bastards will only run anyhow". (15)
(15) The identitiy of this monarch has never been nailed down, but his remark (variously phrased) is accepted legend. Phipp's "Armées of the First French Republiic", V:246 credits Ferdinand with "Dress them in blue, red or yellow, they will run all the same".

Swords Around a Throne
John R. Elting
London : Hachette, 2009
link

==============
The Colonel Elting says it came from here ….

As for his troops, the King of Naples himself once declared to a reformer of their uniform, "Dress them in blue, red, or yellow, they will run all the same" (2)
(2) Souvenirs, Le Lieutenant-Général Baron L. J. Lahure, Paris, 1985, page 178

The Armies of the First French Republic and the Rise of the Marshals of Napoleon 1
Ramsay Weston Phipps
Oxford : University Press, 1926
page 246
link

==============
The source given by Phipps says this ….

Les Napolitians justifièrent, à cette époque [décembre 1798], l'opinion que le roi Ferdinand exprimait, plus tarde, à son fils, lorsqu'il s'occupait à changer les uniformes : "Habille-les de la couleur que tu voudras, bleu, rouge ou jaune; cela ne les empèchera pas de se sauver."

Souvenirs de la vie militaire du lieutenant général baron L. J. Lahure 1787-1815
baron P. Lahure
Paris : A. Lahure, 1895
page 178
link

The quote from Lahure has no attribution.

Louis-Joseph Lahure (Mons 1767 – château de Wavrechain-sous-Faulx, près de Valenciennes 1853) was a Belgian revolutionary iwho had fled to France after the failed Barbacan rebellion of 1787. In December 1798 he was the chef de brigade (commander) of the 15e demi-brigade d'infanterie légère (a largely Belgian unit). Severly wounded in the leg at the Trebbia in 1799, he held no further active coomands under the Consulate or Empire.
His bio : link

Ferdinand had only 2 sons that survived to adulthood, and only the elder of the two (and heir to the throne) took any rôle in government, and that mostly after 1810 : Principe Francesco Gennaro, duca di Calabria (1777-1830) – later king of the Two Sicilies from 1825 to 1830.
His bio : link

==============

I could find nothing indicating that Ferdinand ever spoke to his son about uniforms. Whether or not it reflects any actual appriasal of his troops by Ferdinand, Lahure never returned to Italy after 1799, so it is hard to see how he would have heard what Ferdinand said *later* about anything. Lastly, Lahure's comment was about the performance of Neapolitan troops in 1798-1799, not about their service as part of the French Empire.

Edwulf07 Nov 2017 2:37 p.m. PST

Worst infantry – Spanish/Russian peasent levy.
Worst Cavalry – Neapolitan.
Worst Artillery – Neapolitan …. I guess.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP07 Nov 2017 5:03 p.m. PST

Re: the Duke of Cumberland's. Everyone was under fire at Waterloo. Many regiments took 25% losses, and some were nearer 50%. If I remember correctly, the Duke of Cumberland's Hussars took 2% and broke. There's a reason they and only they were disbanded following the battle.

As for whether officers or enlisted men were at fault--you have to look really hard to find historical battles in which there are a stack of dead officers but the enlisted men have fled. If the officers do their jobs, the regiment as a whole will stay with them.

I'm still going with regiments and not arms of service. Possibly 3rd Line for Westphalia? The ones the Duke of Brunswick walked right over and then recruited in 1809.

evilgong07 Nov 2017 6:44 p.m. PST

Worst infantry – Austrians, I mean who wants to paint all that white.

Worst cavalry – French Dragoons not provided with horses, because they have no horses

Worst Artillery – those Himalayan peoples still using counterweight stone-throwers.

Brechtel19807 Nov 2017 7:16 p.m. PST

The Russian dragoons preformed much better then most of the French Dragoonerie in Poland 1806-1807.

It should be remembered that there were three divisions of French dragoons that participated in the great French cavalry charge at Eylau. Grouchy's dragoon division in particular distinguished itself there. There was only one division of cuirassiers in the charge, that of d'Hautpoul. Nansouty's division was not present.

Grouchy's division also did very well at Friedland that June and Grouchy was acting as chief of cavalry as Murat was not present. Nansouty's division was also present with Grouchy on the French left flank. Latour-Maubourg's dragoon division did very well on the French right flank.

For the reserve cavalry divisions after Eylau, St Sulpice had taken command of d'Hautpoul's cuirassier division, Lahoussaye had taken command of Sahuc's dragoon division, and Latour-Maubourg had taken command of Klein's dragoon division.

So, it might be a good idea to define 'most.'

Brechtel19807 Nov 2017 7:21 p.m. PST

I would not rate the Russian artillery arm as the worst of the period. The Prussian artillery had the most trouble, much of it a remainder of Frederick the Great's pettiness, and it was the least proficient of the major powers. The top three among the major powers were the French, British, and Austrian.

I would rate the Russian artillery arm as the most improved, but not close to the best. It was also the most numerous, but quantity does not usually override quality.

HappyHussar07 Nov 2017 9:25 p.m. PST

Worst infantry – there were French penal battalions in 1813 that fought in the Army of Berlin. Real go-getters! The Prussian Landwehr were Imperial Guard by comparison ;)

holdit08 Nov 2017 3:33 a.m. PST

Deadhead:

Tell me that Spaniards cannot fight with almost suicidal bravery (and effectively so), remember that these Neapolitans were descended from men who contributed to the Roman legions, consider that the Netherlanders' defence of Quatre Bras saved Wellington's reputation.

Bad training and equipment, bad officers, a cause one does not believe in….not your nationality, is what makes the difference.

Quite. The Spaniards you mention were also the descendants of the men whose tercios were well-respected not too many generations previously. The Neapolitans, as you say, were descendants of the men who provide the manpower for Rome's legions, as were Eugene's Italians, who performed much better during the Napoleonic wars than their counterparts in the south. Then we have the French, who stomped all over Europe during the Napoleonic heyday and put paid to the respected Prussians in very short order, but within 150 years their descendants were completely outmatched by their old enemy. On an even shorter timescale, Napoleon didn't have much respect for the Austrian soldier, until Aspern and Wagram, when Charles' (albeit limited) reforms began to to show results.

I remember Bob Coggins being accused of racism by someone who was unhappy with the poor ratings given to Spanish troops in Napoleon's Battles. But ability to fight effectively is not a racial or national attribute, rather a function of the culture and politics of the time, combined with more day-to-day concerns like food, pay, clothing, training, tactics and leadership. The raw material used to make the soldier, however, is effectively the same, and I suspect this is true the world over.

summerfield08 Nov 2017 7:37 a.m. PST

Now that is an interesting and difficult question as to what is meant by the worst.

Poorly equipped infantry
Prussian Landwehr
Russian Opolchenie
Spanish Volunteer units (1808-10)
Portuguese militia

Poor morale
The various prisoner and penal battalions that acted as pioneers.
The various German state infantry that had their arms removed by the French.

Artillery
Prussian artillery was well funded during the reign of Frederick the Great. He complained that he had to keep replacing it. The gun howitzers developed in Prussia influenced the Russian unicorns and subsequent adoption of long howitzers.
Gribeauval howitzer and the British Light 5.5" were rather poor being too short in calibre.
Spanish artillery had adopted the Gribeauval System but hampered by lack of horses.
Russian Artillery of the 1780-90s was a shambles. Tsar Paul and his son Alexander did a huge amount to rectify this. Speciallist from Britain (particularly Scotland) were employed to improve casting, construction and gunpowder.

Cavalry
Spanish and Portuguese due to lack of horses
Cumberland Hussars (for being too precious over their own horses in 1815)
French Dragoons lacking horses in 1805-06 campaigns.

Those come to mind.
Stephen

Osterreicher08 Nov 2017 10:00 a.m. PST

Stephen,
In terms of gaming, would you consider the Russian artillery and crew in 1805-1807 as average, better than average, or something different?

Also, would you consider the Russian artillery and crew better in 1812-1814 to be better than those in 1805-1807?

Don't mean to hijack the thread, and I could start a new one if you prefer. Thanks for the feedback.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Nov 2017 10:06 a.m. PST

Thanks Dear Doctor… (smile)


Amicalement
Armand

Brechtel19808 Nov 2017 10:41 a.m. PST

If artillery of the different nations is going to be looked at, it isn't just the field pieces that should be evaluated, but the entire artillery system of each nation.

An artillery system includes not only field pieces and siege artillery, but the artillery vehicles, the artillery organization, education establishment, training, tactics and employment, senior leadership, command and control, production facilities, quality control of production, etc. All of those encompass the artillery system, not just the field pieces.

Marcel180908 Nov 2017 12:54 p.m. PST

Worst cav/inf etc 1815 French royalists, Wellington apparantly didn't want them anywhere near the real army.
worst artillery Nassau in 1815 (as it was non existing) always wanted some Nassau artillery but it just wasn't there ;)

Brechtel19808 Nov 2017 2:46 p.m. PST

Prussian artillery was well funded during the reign of Frederick the Great. He complained that he had to keep replacing it. The gun howitzers developed in Prussia influenced the Russian unicorns and subsequent adoption of long howitzers.

Frederick the Great was blissfully ignorant of both artillery and engineers. He also treated their officers badly. He did inherit an efficient artillery arm when he assumed the throne, and one that had created an excellent field artillery with technical innovations that placed the Prussian artillery superior to that of Austria in the War of the Austrian Succession.

However, as succinctly stated by Christopher Duffy in The Army of Frederick the Great (second edition), on page 169, '[Frederick] never showed himself more arbitrary, obtuse or ill-informed than when he was dealing with his gunners and engineers…For a start there was the fact that artillery and engineers were generally regarded as grubby bourgeois arts, demanding hard and unglamorous toil, constant patience and the precise calculation of physical forces-all of which was alien to the temper of the old European military nobility.'

Mirabeau and Mauvillon wrote: 'Live with the Prussian officers, and you will see the officers of the infantry, cavalry, and hussars assume a great superiority over those of the artillery. The latter seem to recognize their lowly status, in a manner of speaking. The other officers intermingle and seek each other out regardless of regiment or arm, but it is altogether exceptional for any friendship to be formed between the gunner officers and the officers of the rest of the army.'

This second-class status lasted after Frederick died and definitely was a factor for the poor performance of the Prussian artillery arm in 1806, where three of the four artillery regiments were destroyed by the French. The only one that survived was the 4th Artillery Regiment, and that occurred because they were in East Prussia and were not involved in the Jena campaign disaster.

It is also noteworthy that the Prussians had no artillery school until 1791, and it was disbanded in 1808. And the Prussians had no unified artillery system until 1816 after the wars.

Brechtel19808 Nov 2017 5:37 p.m. PST

Worst infantry – there were French penal battalions in 1813 that fought in the Army of Berlin. Real go-getters! The Prussian Landwehr were Imperial Guard by comparison

If you're referring to the regular infantry regiments formed from the Disciplinary Regiments, then you're not giving them enough credit.

These units were formed from Refactaires (draft dodgers). They were formed and trained by picked regulars as cadremen and were later formed into five regiments named for where they were stationed: 1st Mediterranean, 2d Mediterranean, Walcheren, Ile-de-Re, and Belle-Isle. These regiments received refractaires whose only offense was draft dodging and they were not criminals of any other type.

Based on their level of training, they were used as garrisons, becoming reliable enough for that duty. Eugene remarked that they were good and willing soldiers. A combat-worthy infantry division was formed out of battalions from all five regiments. This was the 35th Infantry Division commanded by General Joseph Durette. Three battalions were taken from Belle-Isle, Ile-de-Re, Walcheren and 2d Mediterranean. Two battalions were taken from 1st Mediterranean.

Later in 1812 1st Mediterranean and Belle-Isle became regular light infantry regiments and the rest became line infantry:

1st Mediterranean was redesignated as the 35th Legere.
Belle-Isle became the 36th Legere.
Walcheren became the 131st Ligne.
Ile-de-Re became the 132d Ligne.
2d Mediterranean became the 133d Ligne.

I submit that they were not the worst troops in Europe-far from it, and that they were superior to Prussian Landwehr.

21eRegt08 Nov 2017 6:06 p.m. PST

Infantry – Spanish levies
Cavalry – Spanish
Artillery – Russian. Accomplished so little with so much.

42flanker08 Nov 2017 11:39 p.m. PST

ability to fight effectively is not a racial or national attribute, rather a function of the culture and politics of the time, combined with more day-to-day concerns like food, pay, clothing, training, tactics and leadership. The raw material used to make the soldier, however, is effectively the same, and I suspect this is true the world over.

Well put, Holdit

langobard Supporting Member of TMP09 Nov 2017 1:56 a.m. PST

Another evil question! In any Waterloo campaign I consider it vital to take the Duke of Cumberlands Hussars as they are no loss if they run away, but if they do something useful, the bragging rights are forever. In 30 years of applying that dictum, I haven't had the blighters do anything useful for me, but I persist…

Worst infantry, I am giving a blanket answer of "militia". I don't care if they are Spanish, French, Austrian, Russian or Prussian. Militia was useful only for garrison purposes through out the wars.

I'm not designating a worst artillery. My reasoning is that artillery requires so much training and is usually considered an elite arm. There were certainly problems with it in every army at various times, but most of those same armies can point to instances where the gunners died defending their guns…

End result:

Worst cavalry: Cumberland Hussars
Worst infantry: militia
Worst artillery: NA

Whirlwind09 Nov 2017 2:09 a.m. PST

Very tricky…

For the worst, I found it quite hard to distinguish between the arms of service, maybe because the reasons for units being poor across the board would tend to be replicated across the board? Anyway FWIW:

Portuguese 1805-1808
Spanish mid 1809- early 1812
Neapolitan contingent in Spain 1808-9
Some of the German contingents in 1813

The various political and logistical reasons for these will be pretty clear.

Brechtel19809 Nov 2017 3:48 a.m. PST

Tell me that Spaniards cannot fight with almost suicidal bravery (and effectively so), remember that these Neapolitans were descended from men who contributed to the Roman legions, consider that the Netherlanders' defence of Quatre Bras saved Wellington's reputation.
Bad training and equipment, bad officers, a cause one does not believe in….not your nationality, is what makes the difference. Ever seen what the Italian human torpedo crews achieved in WWII or looked at the entrance to Grand Harbour where Italian motor boats launched an almost Kamikaze attack? The Turkish defence of Gallipoli…..

The Spanish regular army did not do too well overall in the Peninsula. Spanish 'suicidal bravery' was usually evident in the defense of cities against the French, such as at Saragossa.

The Spanish army did very well against the British in the War of the American Revolution, but by the time of the Napoleonic Wars its efficiency and training, as well as organization and leadership, had deteriorated-as much as from royal neglect as anything else.

The idea that the Italians of the period had 'descended' from the Romans is somewhat misplaced. They weren't Romans-and the population had been changed ethnically by the various invasions of the Italian peninsula since the time of Rome. They weren't the same people.

The northern Italians were still efficient as soldiers when properly trained and led, as was evident throughout the wars. The Neapolitans, on the other hand, were neither warlike nor efficient soldiers, which was one of the reasons there were French and Corsican units in the Neapolitan army under both Joseph and Murat.

What 'saved' Wellington at Quatre Bras were two Dutch-Belgian officers, one of whom had served in the Grande Armee. They immediately saw the strategic importance of the crossroads and acted accordingly.

Brechtel19809 Nov 2017 3:52 a.m. PST

The Spaniards you mention were also the descendants of the men whose tercios were well-respected not too many generations previously. The Neapolitans, as you say, were descendants of the men who provide the manpower for Rome's legions, as were Eugene's Italians, who performed much better during the Napoleonic wars than their counterparts in the south. Then we have the French, who stomped all over Europe during the Napoleonic heyday and put paid to the respected Prussians in very short order, but within 150 years their descendants were completely outmatched by their old enemy. On an even shorter timescale, Napoleon didn't have much respect for the Austrian soldier, until Aspern and Wagram, when Charles' (albeit limited) reforms began to to show results.
I remember Bob Coggins being accused of racism by someone who was unhappy with the poor ratings given to Spanish troops in Napoleon's Battles. But ability to fight effectively is not a racial or national attribute, rather a function of the culture and politics of the time, combined with more day-to-day concerns like food, pay, clothing, training, tactics and leadership. The raw material used to make the soldier, however, is effectively the same, and I suspect this is true the world over.

There is little or no correlation between the Italians of the period and the ancient Romans. In short, they weren't Romans. And not all of the legions were recruited in Italy. Caesar's famous X Legion was recruited, organized, and trained in Spain, not Italy.

And there are, political correctness aside, national characteristics. There were then, just as there are now. Antoine de Brack makes comment on that fact and illustrates it with examples. Different armies act differently, fight differently, and react differently. And that idea is neither racist nor reactionary, it is a fact of life whether or not you agree with it.

holdit09 Nov 2017 4:06 a.m. PST

Political correctness isn't a concern of mine. I never said there was no such thing as national characteristics. I believe there are, but I believe that they are less set in stone (or DNA) than they are by the more immediate factors I mentioned.

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