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"French light infantry fanions" Topic

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Le Breton Inactive Member26 Nov 2017 6:58 p.m. PST

By 1812, by regulation, all French army (not guard) infantry regiments were to have eagles with their 1st battalions, and to have plain colored fanions otherwise. The colors were listed for the 2nd through 6th battalions.

But, the French army (not guard) light infantry regiments were not supposed to take their eagles on campaign. The order to keep the eagle in the depot was some years old, but was re-interated in an instruction by Napoléon in February 1812, when asked by the colonel of the 7e léger for permission to place his eagle with his 1st battalion.

Question 1
As they were not supposed to have eagles with their 1st battalions on campaign, what color fanions were light infantry regiments supposed to use instead?

I know of exactly one example of a fanion used in 1812 or later by a French army (not guard) light infantry regiment (a captured one from the 7e léger – the same unit as whose colonel wanted to use the eagle).


Question 2
Does anyone have any other examples?

Question 3
What contemporary evidence is there – beyond the regulations and the one example of the 7e léger – that the army (not guard) light infantry regiments actually used fanions at all in 1812 and later?

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP27 Nov 2017 12:42 a.m. PST

Interesting that it is not a 'plain colour' as per regulation.

I tend to give every battalion a 'lozenge' design flag anyway because I think it looks better. Your picture seems to back me up, even if it is for only one battalion!

Artilleryman27 Nov 2017 2:21 a.m. PST

This is a simple question with a complicated answer. As has been said, the battalion fanions were supposed to be plain but, the French Army being the French Army, the rules were bent and ignored, a tendancy facilitated by the Army's wide-spread deployment. Some regiments, both Leger and Ligne, obeyed the rules and had plain fanions. Some added lettering to identify the unit while others added grenades and horns. Some regiments used the lozenge design illustrated while others (such as 2nd Ligne) had unique designs with bars of red and blue vertically or horizontally in different proportions for each battalion. Just Google Image 'French Infantry Fanions' to see lots of examples. Also try here:

As to a fanion for the first battalion? Officially this would not be required as the first battalion would carry the Eagle. As the Leger were instructed not to carry their Eagle, I suspect that they either ignored it (as my model battalions have), created a flag or carried the colour without the Eagle.

Col Blancard27 Nov 2017 3:37 a.m. PST

The picture represents a '4th Battalion' fanion (not a 1st battalion). I would bet all battalions in the regiment had similar fanions, with only the number changing.

Of course that is totally beyond the rules!

Le Breton Inactive Member27 Nov 2017 4:35 a.m. PST


Thank you for your comments.

In the nice page you linked, there was exactly one light infantry regiment's fanion (fanion de bataillon, fanion tactique) – the 7e léger!

The Decree of 25 December 1811, Article 4 specifies :
"Les corps isolés et bataillons isolés n'étant pas au complete de douze cent hommes, auront pour enseigne un drapeau sans aigle."
Translation : Isolated units and isolated batallions not being of 1200 men when complete, will have for an ensign a flag without eagle.

We have an instruction specifically saying to use the national flag without the eagle. However, the instruction does not really apply to the situation of a 1st battalion of an army light infantry regiment.

We might note that both the original order of March 1807 and its repetition per the decision of March 1812 specified that light infantry regiments were to leave their "eagles" in the depots, without explicit mention of the flags.

So perhaps an army light infantry regiment's first battalion was supposed to carry something like this, but with a spearpoint instead of an eagle at the top ?


Artilleryman27 Nov 2017 4:45 a.m. PST

I think that seems logical.

Le Breton Inactive Member27 Nov 2017 5:31 a.m. PST

"I think that seems logical."
I suppose so also. I think that this is the closest to "per regulations" as one could interpret (recognizing that as far as we have seen, the regulations and orders on the topic of 1st battalions of army light infantry regiments are not very explicit).

On the other hand, one might expect a few of these to have been captured, and kept as trophies, as they do identify the regiment and have Napoléon's name.

There were really no captures of French army light infantry eagles or flags during 1812-1814. The 4e léger lost their eagle *with* its flag attached in late March 1814 when Cossacks overran their depot in France. I know of no other.


von Winterfeldt27 Nov 2017 5:35 a.m. PST

about light infantry, I know only form Berka, see link


see plate 5.

von Winterfeldt27 Nov 2017 5:42 a.m. PST


ERROR - no url for link

von Winterfeldt27 Nov 2017 5:44 a.m. PST

not light infantry but maybe from Oudinots "elite" battalions

ERROR - no url for link

Le Breton Inactive Member27 Nov 2017 7:21 a.m. PST

Thank you, dear Colleague!

For the Berka, it was published in Prague c.1810 – and the images look to me like troops of the era 1808-1810.

Were there any French in Prague in this time period? Do we now where Berka was when he did his drawings? Notice the backgrounds – several look like locations where they French were staying : a sort of barracks row in one, a police check point in another, and so on.

Was the origin of the Berka ever disussed on Markus Stein's forum? My ability to search in German is limited, I am ashamed to say.

von Winterfeldt27 Nov 2017 10:37 a.m. PST

Yes, the units are most likley 1809 era, when French invaded Austria – publishing in Prague doesn't necessarily mean – that the author had to be a resident, Prague was an important city in the Austrian Empire.
The back ground could be Schönbrunn, for example, it would fit.
However it is not known how genuine Berka is, some of the illustrations seemed to be influenced by other published plates, like Weiland or Geißler (Light infantry carrying meat on the bajonnets).
As for the fanion – it is an ongoing debate wether it is a jalonneur (depicting a grenade so for a carabinier company) or a battalion fanion.

Le Breton Inactive Member27 Nov 2017 3:36 p.m. PST

It is large for a jalonneur – and the thin pole I think is an artefact of the artist.

I always thought this looked like the battalion fanion for the tirailleurs du Po:
--- tirailleurs de la garde were in the corps de grenadiers
--- five grenades for the 5 départements formed (by 1809) from the Piémont
--- light infantry uniform, bearskin for carabiniers
--- made the Essling/Wagram campaign in 1809
--- per instructions, they should not have been carrying their eagle on campaign

von Winterfeldt28 Nov 2017 6:11 a.m. PST

could be – or couldn't be, maybe one has to check the memoires of Hulot.

Widowson28 Nov 2017 2:37 p.m. PST

Just as historical context, the reason the 2nd bn eagles were withdrawn was because of the transition from 2 bns of 9 companies to 3 bns of 6 companies.

The original 1804 issue of eagles had provided two eagles per regiment – one for each of the 2 bns.

Rather than cast new eagles for the 3rd bns, Napoleon thought it more prudent to remove the 2nd bn eagle.

Makes sense. This was even worse in the cavalry, where every squadron was originally issued its own eagle. They must have lost a LOT of those.

huevans01129 Nov 2017 9:51 a.m. PST

I am currently doing a legere regt and intend to use GMB fanions and no eagles for it.

I believe that the pattern of fanions was chaotic and that many regts simply created their own non-regulation fanions. The most convenient and attractive option for me is to use Graham's Jeune Garde fanions which have nice N's and grenades and horns on them and no unit designations. Each JG regt had its own colour of fanion and this allows one to have a different colour fanion for each bn.

Prince of Essling29 Nov 2017 11:49 a.m. PST

Hollander (O.), « Nos drapeaux et étendards; contribution à l'histoire du drapeau sous le règne de Napoléon Ier (1811-1814) », Carnets de la Sabretache, n° 107, 30 novembre 1901, Paris, p. 658-659 says
25 December 1811 decree – included for all infantry regiments (Article 9) – the fanions were supposed to have no inscriptions, no decoration, no fringes, were mounted on black wood (2 metres)….. but as we know the rules were ignored:

1st battalion has the eagle
2nd battalion white fanion
3rd battalion red fanion
4th battalion blue fanion
5th battalion green fanion
6th battalion yellow fanion

From Hollander's "Nos drapeaux et étendards de 1812 à 1815", Paris-Nancy, 1902 – page 95 decree of 15 December 1814 (?did he mean 1813?) 7th battalion purple fanion.

He mentions a fanion in the Vienna Arsenal – white fanion (before yellow?) in the centre a crowned eagle with the angles ornamented with 2 grenades and 2 hunting horns. In the centre of the horns is the number 13.

huevans01129 Nov 2017 2:48 p.m. PST


This is one of the GMB JG fanions.

Le Breton Inactive Member29 Nov 2017 4:06 p.m. PST

Thank you to all for your excellent assistance!

By regulations ….

Old Guard Infantry :
1 aigle with drapeau for each of the Grenadier and Chasseurs : with the 1er bataillon du 1er régiment
All other battalions : tri-color fanion without inscriptions without eagle

Other Guard Infantry (decree 10 March 1812) :
Fusiliers : plain blue
Tirailleurs : plain white
Voltigeurs : plain red
Flanqeurs : plain yellow

Actual examples : 13e * (top), 1er voltiguers, 4/7e léger (armée), 5e tirailleurs

* attributed variously to 13e tirailleurs and voltiguers, but if actually taken at Kulm it may be from the 2[?]/13e léger



Nice discusssion in English and images :

Fanion attributed to 3[?]/1er léger ; the size is 50 cm x 40 cm – almost small enough to be a jalonneur – but it appears the edges have been cut
(Collection C. D. V., donné par A. Pigeard dans Tradition 152)


huevans01129 Nov 2017 4:49 p.m. PST

Please note that the little flags jammed into musket barrels are NOT battalion fanions. They are drill markers. Not at all the same thing.

von Winterfeldt30 Nov 2017 6:04 a.m. PST

yes a good point, both are called fanions, but they are for different use, that fanions carried by the elite companies are used not only for drill but to help evolutions and manouevering during battle as well, while the battalion fanions act as point of dressing.
How would I paint my battalion fanions, well there are examples of 7e légère and deuxième de ligne, I would follow more or less – with vatiations that examples, I wouldn't gor for Young Guard patterns for line and light infantry.

huevans01130 Nov 2017 7:00 a.m. PST

How would I paint my battalion fanions, well there are examples of 7e légère and deuxième de ligne, I would follow more or less – with vatiations that examples, I wouldn't gor for Young Guard patterns for line and light infantry.

I don't believe that the JG fanions GMB uses are official patterns. In actual fact, I believe the official patterns for the JG were similar to those for the Line – undecorated flags in varying colours as per battalion seniority.

I think GMB just came up with attractive fictional designs and these would work as well for both JG and Line.

von Winterfeldt30 Nov 2017 7:41 a.m. PST

I agree that they are pure fiction but for my taste they are too close to Young Guard – it would be a good initiative to do free hand colours again.

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