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"What unit most impresses you? " Topic

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1,031 hits since 14 May 2018
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gamer1 Inactive Member15 May 2018 10:44 a.m. PST

First, disclaimer, this is a question of casual interest and conversation, no hard core info. As I continue to try and learn more about the period in general I continue to learn about all kinds of "famous" units that did things above and beyond what was expected or thought possible.
That being said I am sure most if not all of you have a favorite story and unit or two you have learned about that has stuck with you. I am curious about them and hopefully will learn something new. On a side note I know history doesn't like to mention it much but does anyone know of a unit that is famous for being a real disappointment or making a major unexpected fail? Like a Guard unit that turned out to be no better than militia even though they were well lead, trained, etc.
So…….to start things off, I have two favorites I have heard/read about from more than one source, so I assume is true, feel free to correct me:) First, the Russian Pavlov Grenadiers, why? I understand they are the only infantry unit that was willing to and did charge cavalry. Considering they had to be veterans, they had to know it was suicide but they did it anyway. My understanding is they took horrible losses but rescued cut off units, during Borodino I think? To me, that has to take all kinds of……… know what. In my mind, in most ways they were just as good as any French Old Guard unit.
Second is the French Old Guard Hoarse Artillery. From what I understand, not only were they basically twice as fast with their guns than any other unit of the same but once, when threatened by Cav, they mounted up, drew swords and charged the enemy Cav, drove them off and then went back to their guns and continued their famous "work".
So, there yah go, my two. I know there are countless more……….?

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2018 11:03 a.m. PST

Opolchenie with pikes. Because they are cool looking.

Marcus Brutus15 May 2018 11:04 a.m. PST

Second is the French Old Guard Hoarse Artillery.

I can't resist. Does that mean they could yell twice as loud as any other horse artillery? Their yelling presumably causing them to be hoarse! That is impressive. :)

JimSelzer Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2018 11:14 a.m. PST

I like the kilted highlanders if for no other fact that they were damned near invincible in Europe but recoiled from Andy Jackson at New Orleans so they had their good days and bad

22ndFoot15 May 2018 11:37 a.m. PST

The Highlanders at New Orleans, the 93rd, were not wearing kilts. Perhaps this is why they recoiled from King Andrew's prepared defences.

holdit15 May 2018 12:27 p.m. PST

The troops I'd least like to have to attack would be any the British Guards regiments, and the troops I'd least like to be attacked by would be the Old Guard.

If it's OK to just think in terms of visuals, I've always been particularly impressed by the Trooper of the Isum Hussars on plate 52 of Haythornthwaite's "Uniforms of 1812". His uniform is a nice mix of red and dark blue, his shako seems to be worn at a slightly rakish angle and he is holding an evil-looking sabre in his hands. Not someone you'd want charging at you…

valleyboy15 May 2018 12:58 p.m. PST

Any troops wearing Busbies and the Czapka
Its all in the look – yes I know I'm so superficial :-)

Le Breton Inactive Member15 May 2018 1:03 p.m. PST

I posted about these guys before, but they are a real favorite ….

18th Druzhina of the Saint-Petersburg opolchenie (militia)

This was a batallion of free (non-serf) Urdmurt and Permiak hunters and trappers from the dense forests north-east of Vologda. The territory to this day is mostly unsettled, except for a few towns grown up around trading posts along the Northern Dvina. Most were pagans, animists. When they got to Petersburg they were mass converted to Orthodoxy, which they might not have noticed too much given their general inability to speak Russian.

They were issued a 50/50 mix of Russian obr. 1808 rifles and captured French muskets to replace the hunting weapons that they had brought with them – and the plain green uniforms of the Petersburg opolchenie. Maybe they thought of their new flag as a kind of totem.

Their small training cadre came from the 2nd Marine regiment and the 4 company sergent-majors from the instructors at the Guards NCO school. In early October 1812, they mustered 18 company-grade officers (mostly from remote internal security units) and 593 other ranks, under the command of the recently retired lieutenant-colonel of marines, Ivan Fyodorovich Morental' (whose last assignment had been the formation of the 47th Jägers), a Protestant from Tallinn in Estonia.

They set off to join Vitgenshteyn's 1st Separate Corps, arriving after 2nd Polotsk. They fought every action thereafter, including stopping a cuirassier charge toward the imperial staff and His Majesty at Leipzig, and being the first infantry unit to enter Paris.

Despite the marines' and NCO instructors' best efforts, they were deemed utterly incapable of any sort of formation (even a jäger chain), and were allowed to fight as they wished – which was typically single riflemen shooting lying down, and the musketeers spotting and covering them. As one would expect of former hunters, they developed a reputation for sniping at enemy officers and gun crews.

Toward the end of August 1814, the survivors (10 company-grade officers and 208 other ranks present under arms), turned back east for the long walk home from Paris. On the way, the Petersburg Arsenal traded back the military longarms for their personal weapons. They were dismissed at Vologda at the end of February 1815 – and disappeared into the arctic cold of the snow-laden forests.

Brechtel19815 May 2018 1:03 p.m. PST

The Grenadiers a Cheval of the Imperial Guard as well as the Guard Horse and Foot artillery.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2018 1:16 p.m. PST

The Anglo-Portuguese Light Division in the Peninsular.

There is a quote by Wellington, not an easy man to impress, along the lines of 'no matter how arduous an employment I gave them, they always managed to accomplish it with half the losses of other troops'.

Marc the plastics fan15 May 2018 1:38 p.m. PST

Chasseur a cheval of the imperial guard – in pelises. Cue one of the most evocative and famous paintings of the Napoleonic wars

t Théodore Géricault

wrgmr115 May 2018 2:15 p.m. PST

French cuirassiers. Roam the wargame table like a panzer battalion, destroying everything in their path.

Mike the Analyst15 May 2018 2:31 p.m. PST

95th Rifles, 52nd and 43rd regiments and the 88th.
KGL hussars

Mike the Analyst15 May 2018 2:34 p.m. PST

As for disappointments there is the French Royal guard cavalry of 1815

jeffreyw315 May 2018 3:00 p.m. PST

Great story, Breton!

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2018 3:00 p.m. PST

Les grands frères – French heavy cav, notably the cuirassiers

evilgong Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2018 3:51 p.m. PST

Manchu Chinese infantry blocks with mixed weapons by rank, supported by skirmishing tiger-men and 2-man jingal teams, and battalion guns of rockets.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2018 4:25 p.m. PST

The KGL. They just don't seem to know when they've lost.

Lilian15 May 2018 6:11 p.m. PST

Chapeau Le Breton, I know that the Russian Army had until muslims and buddhist units and King Louis Bonaparte a Dutch Jewish Rifles Battalion, but a mostly pagan-animist battalion in an early XIXth century European Army that is le pompom, this takes the cake…I wonder if the Swedish and Norwegian armies with Sami/Lapplanders people had recruited some similar local militias

Kevin in Albuquerque Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2018 7:02 p.m. PST

Yeah, les gros talons. And any Artillery led by Senarmont. And Russian Grenadiers led by Suvarov, a little earlier, but jeez …

John Edmundson15 May 2018 8:26 p.m. PST

gamer1 wrote:
"First, the Russian Pavlov Grenadiers, why? I understand they are the only infantry unit that was willing to and did charge cavalry."

The men in the funny hats should be there on the strength of their funny hats, but they weren't "the only infantry unit that was willing to and did charge cavalry."

TMP link



von Winterfeldt15 May 2018 11:02 p.m. PST

infanterie francaise 1792 – 1807

Le Breton Inactive Member16 May 2018 12:59 a.m. PST

I really like the buddhist Kalmyk cavalry also.

The Petersburg militia had two other "interesting" battalions :
1st Druzhina – called "The Philistines" : middle class (so very very rare in Russia) sons of traders, academics, scientists and friendly foreigners from the city center.
17th Druzhina – again mostly hunters and forresters, including many Vepsi and other Finnic people from the Olonets region and Karelia, but also a leavening of ethnic Scots Protestants from the Olonets iron works and foundries (their families had been brought to Russia under Catherine's reign). Like the 18th Druzhina, they were kept with the army until the peace, and made it all the way to Paris.

seneffe16 May 2018 12:58 p.m. PST

gamer1- all the Borodino accounts I have say that it was the Litovski Guard regiment which 'charged' French Cuirassiers at one point during the massive to and fro combat in the centre in the afternoon. Exactly what form this 'charge' took, and how much of the three-battalion regiment took part in it- depends on which account you read- but all accounts agree that the French Cuirassiers were already halted in disorder by the Litovski's defensive volleys, and the charge was intended to drive them away- which happened and the Litovski reformed.
So a very brave act by highly disciplined elite troops but not quite the suicide mission it might sound like, and its casualties were similar to other units which did a lot of fighting at the battle.
The Pavlovski regiment (Line Grenadiers at this time) were away on another part of the field but also performing heroically under intense fire.

As for the story of the French Guard Horse Artillery mounting up, driving away cavalry and then re-crewing its guns- I've never heard that one. Happy to be proved wrong by a reference, but it sounds like one of the Grande Armee tall stories which used to be so common in English language histories thirty or forty years ago. It also sounds a like the story of Ramsey's Troop of the RHA galloping its way to safety through the French at Fuentes d'Onoro- which I think did happen but which most of the British at the time rightly regarded as a miraculous escape rather than a heroic feat of arms.

Le Breton- I love all the Opolchenie- to the point where I have more units than I think ever fought together in the same place. Is it right that only the 1st, 17th and 18th Petersburg wore green, and the rest brown or grey?

Le Breton Inactive Member16 May 2018 10:37 p.m. PST

Yes, that is as Viskovatov reports and I do not know of any report of information to the contrary. I think of "brownish gray" more than intentionally dyed a consistent brown or a specific gray – it was called "peasant cloth", and was undyed wool of middle/low quality.

Le Breton Inactive Member17 May 2018 1:03 a.m. PST

Another potentailly green uniform unit might be the 16th Druzhina ….
Unlike the first 15 others, this battalion was not composed of men from a specific area or region in/around Saint Petersburg. It was composed later than the others with a mix of men who did not march out with their own battalions (because of illness, or a permitted delay in reporting for duty) or who volunteered in excess of the quotas. The 16th departed Petersburg along with the 17th and 18th (who had marched long distances from their recruitment areas), after the first 15 had already left.
The 1st, 17th and 18th were provisioned directly from the suppliers in the center city (the last two at government expense). This would explain the use of available army-standard green cloth.
The 2nd-15th were provisioned locally to their regions around the city center, with the more genrally available "peasant cloth".
I do not know how the 16th was provisioned, and it may have actually been a mix of green and gray!

laretenue Inactive Member17 May 2018 1:42 a.m. PST

Le Breton.

Love your stories of the exotic Petersburg Opolchenie. But I can't find any militia units in orders of battle for Wittgenstein's Corps by 1814. Does that mean these Druzhini had been redesignated as battalions of line units? If so, do you know which, and would they have retained their singular appearance and identities?

Le Breton Inactive Member17 May 2018 6:05 a.m. PST

La Retenue,

The other regions were likely equally exotic (example – Kazan Tatars that did scout service for 3rd Western Army). I just know Petersburg best because I live their sometimes and my wife's family is from there.

Other than the 17th Druzhina and 18th Druzhina (which formed a combined militia battalion* sometime in 1813), all the other units of the Petersburg opolchenie did not follow the army all the way west – most going no further than the siege of Dantzig.

*The other militia battalions were simialrly combined as their strength fell below minimum standards of 288 rankers (12 files per platoon).

The militia units were sent home in autumn 1813 and formally disbanded on 22 January 1814 (O.S.). Quite a few individuals, however, volunteered to actually enter into army units (as had Moscow and Smolensk opolchenie after Borodino) – including quite a few of the 1st Druzhina getting commissions or "acting" appointments as Army officers. The men would have shaved their beards and been re-uniformed as soon as possible (which, when on campaign, might have been a while). By the time the Russian Army got to Paris, even the regulars were most all looking non-uniform in appearance – causing all sorts of odd work-arounds, like sharing uniforms unit-to-unit, when inspections were announced.

I really do not know the terms of this individual volunteer service. Normally it would be a real and permanent change in social status : serf class to soldier class. The volunteers would normally never go home again. This was such a great fear that a minor rebellion broke out in one of opolchenie collection centers shortly after the start of the call up when it was rumored that the militiamen were going to be inducted into the Army (this was not in the Saint Petersburg region). I suppose a special provision such as "for the duration" was offered.

One might ask why the special fate of the 17th Druzhina and 18th Druzhina? I really don't know this either. It may have been that they were free people, and thus no one was complaining that their serfs were still in the militia. Or because they were really very useful as snipers. Or because they were mostly not ethnic "Russians" and were therefore treated with less consideration. Or maybe they just all wanted to stay, fighting the French being less dangerous and more remunerative than mining, foundry-work, hunting and trapping in the artic wilderness. Or maybe the pagan gods (and Protestant pastors) told them to stay with their flag totems.

laretenue Inactive Member17 May 2018 6:18 a.m. PST

Thanks, Le Breton. I'm learning.

But can you show me the formation in which they served in Germany and France?

gamer1 Inactive Member17 May 2018 8:32 a.m. PST

Thanks all, really enjoyed the info, learned much!

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP17 May 2018 9:52 a.m. PST

The Black Musketeers of Louis XVIII's Maison du Roi (or indeed most of the cavalry of the First Restoration)

The finest dressed and some innovative uniforms…but absolutely useless. Must have made for a magnificent parade though.

Le Breton Inactive Member18 May 2018 12:15 a.m. PST

Le Retenue,
Attached to Army headquarters, as far as I remember.

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