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"French that Fought in the Penninsular Campaign" Topic

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Gone Fishing11 Mar 2019 4:52 p.m. PST

I really will get around to doing my own research, promise, but as I narrow down what campaign I'd like to focus on some quick answers are very helpful.

Can any of you tell me if the French Chasseurs infantry in bearskins and the Cuirassiers would have fought in the Penninsular Campaign? (Working from the uniforms I'd enjoy painting, you see…)

Thank you for any pointers!

EDIT: Oh heavens, I misspelled Peninsular in the title. And I can't change it. Be merciful.

Musketballs11 Mar 2019 5:48 p.m. PST


Several provisional Cuirassier regiments were formed from depot squadrons and the like for the French invasion of Spain in early 1808. The 1st Provisional regt later became a permanent unit, the 13th Cuirassiers. This unit fought in Catalonia for most of the Peninsular war, before Suchet's force was pulled back to France. Opponents would be mostly Spanish, but with some action against Anglo-Spanish-Sicilian amphibious attacks in 1813. The 13th is noted for adopting brown uniforms, btw.

The other 2 Prov regiments were destroyed by the Spanish – the 2nd at Bailen in 1808, the 3rd at Mollet in 1810. Survivors presumably went to the 13th.

The Imperial Guard was part of the massive French force sent into Spain in late 1808 to retrieve the situation following Bailen. The Chasseurs-a-Pied were part of this, but AFAIK only the Young Guard and the Imperial Guard Cavalry saw much in the way of action.

Mike Petro12 Mar 2019 1:12 a.m. PST

Did you mean Infantry (Guard) Chasseurs in bearskin or Light Infantry Chasseurs in Colpack?

As for Provisional Cuirassiers and the 13th, paint them! I would go with a small provisional regiment made up of a couple different facing colors, or the 13th.

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 1:30 a.m. PST

After 1809 most of the Guard went home apart from some cavalry and the units of the Young Guard. The latter wore shakos.

The French infantry that did wear bearskins in the Peninsular were the line infantry grenadiers and the light infantry carabiniers (the light infantry equivalent of grenadiers). Not all regiments did but some definitely were wearing them and were mistaken by British diarists for the Guard. (Light infantry chasseurs were the equivalent of the line infantry fusiliers i.e. the centre companies.)

Musketballs12 Mar 2019 4:17 a.m. PST

Some interesting information here on the 13th:


If you're not too hung up on the Chasseurs-a-Pied, Suchet's force is an interesting one to look at. As well as French, it also included Vistula Legion, Italians (including the Napoleon dragoons) and Neapolitans.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 4:44 a.m. PST

Of the three provisional heavy cavalry regiments sent into Spain, made up of both cuirassiers and carabiniers (the latter being unhappy about it), the 1st Regiment became the famous 13th Cuirassiers and they were augmented by as many of the 2d Regiment that escaped Dupont's disaster at Baylen.

The 3d Regiment was ordered to be disbanded in 1809-1810 by Napoleon but it was found in garrison in early 1811 at Toulouse and Avignon-900 men and 300 horses, apparently left there by an error on the part of the Ministry of War.

At Mollet in January of 1810 Duhesme had a detachment of less than 200 heavy cavalry who were captured by the Spanish. That is about a squadron and as the provisional heavy cavalry regiments were organized as five squadron regiments, it apparently wasn't the entire regiment but I'll have to research the subject further.

Gone Fishing12 Mar 2019 5:19 a.m. PST

This is so helpful, gentlemen, thank you. As you may have guessed, I'm actually not too picky at this point on which unit in bearskins I'm painting – I just want bearskins. I like the look of 'em; I'd like to paint 'em; and knowing myself as I do, I know that if I'm happy painting it can provide the needed juice for a project to get rolling. Same goes for the Cuirassiers.

Musketballs, I'll take a peek at that link later today when I have time. Thank you, and thank you all for all your patient help. You know, it's a funny thing – for years I've heard about the notorious Napoleonics Boards here on TMP, and so approached, with my admittedly rather stupid questions, with a good deal of trepidation. So it's been with a great deal of pleasure that I've seen what charity and patience there are here, along with knowledge; the knowledge I was expecting, the charity maybe not so much. Can't thank you all enough! I'm getting quite enthused with the period. (Last night I dreamt of basing units of French Guard!)

Murvihill12 Mar 2019 1:00 p.m. PST

I've seen that spelling of Peninsula on a nautical chart of Alaska, so at least NOAA agrees with you.

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP23 Sep 2019 6:32 p.m. PST

This thread is way old and died I know, but I'll chuck in- get a book! Or several!

Even the Osprey series, the old Blandford "Colour Series" Uniforms of the Peninsular War, ©1978 by Phil Haythornthwaite and excellent Michael Chappell illustrations can be had for a $1 USD at second hand shops and all help to build knowledge of what you want. ISBN 0 7137 0841 7.

Having the 'Garde' means you also get to use them under Napoleon. Just remember crappy rule sets that 'charge points' for commanders, you wont be left with many troops to control!

Bearskins did not survive in campaign use in hot climates. Sure they had to wear 'em, but soldiers had to adapt quickly or die of fatigue.

Brown uniforms- let's correct that to 'replacement clothing' used local brown cloth to manufacture. So the mixtures would wide spread the later the period advances. Yes the 13th Cuirassier certainly were known for it. In it's early days however, the amalgamated regiment (Premiere Regt. Provisiore) would have the uniforms of their parent corps, although outward appearances of the 3 squadrons? of (1,2 3) cuirassier barely differed- they were vastly different to the two from the Carabiner regiments (1 and 2).

If you really want to see bearskins- do a parade in Paris, or the 1805/ 06/ 07/ 09 campaigns. As the cuirassier were formed into the well known heavy cavalry 'Reserve' used under Murat (mostly) you get them as an added bonus.

For interests sake- my rendition of the Grande Armée 1805 includes a part of GDV Nansouty's 1st Heavy Division. Trying to avoid the obvious elitism bug, I've complete the 3rd Brigade first.

If you want to enthuse and drool over French cavalry successes and details, look no further than the excellent David Johnson book 'Napoleon's Cavalry and its Leaders'- BT Batsford Ltd London ©1978 ISBN- 0 7134 1180 5. You cannot miss the jacket cover (don't buy a book without it!) beautiful painting by Meissonier* of the cuirassiers labelled 1805! May have been reprinted, not sure.

*Meissonier* is one of the preminent French historical painters (another being Detaille) of non-contemporary artwork depicting in excrutiatingly researched detail and form, the arms of Napoleon (among others).

"Alors, casquet en tete!".
"Helmets on"! Surely used to warn of action a plenty!
Regards davew

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