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"French naval battalions" Topic

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Keith Talent14 Apr 2019 3:55 p.m. PST

Anyone have any definitive sources on how the naval battalions in marmonts' corps in 1813 were organised?
I don't believe they used a standard 6 company infantry organisation, but I've no idea what it actually was.
Any answers? Thanks.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP14 Apr 2019 4:49 p.m. PST


The following is from Scotty Bowden's Napoleon's Grande Armee of 1813, pages 26 and 28 [page 27 is a full-page illustration of a marine in dark overcoat with epaulettes on both shoulders, dark pants, and bicorne with multicolored "ribbon" plume]:

"Before the naval gunners joined the army they formed their scattered detachments into regimental formations. … Each regiment had a headquarters and staff headed by 1 colonel and 3 majors. Each battalion has as its commander, 1 chef de bataillon, assisted by 1 adjutant-major and 2 adjutants sous-officiers. Every battalion of marines consisted of 6 equal companies of men, each composed of 1 captain, 1 lieutenant, 1 sous-lieutenant, and 137 other ranks, resulting in a paper strength of 844 combatants per battalion." [footnote: Ministere de la Marine, Historique de L'Artillerie de la Marine (Paris, 1889), page 98.]

It goes on to state that "… the navy balked at giving up all of its gunners, successfully arguing with Clarke [Minister of war] that some personnel had to be retained in order for the port batteries to be manned." But due to this decrease in naval strength, Napoleon ordered that enough conscripts be added to make a total of 14 war battalions with an average strength of 604 officers and men. But the parade strengths of the VI Corps taken on April 25, 1813, had each battalion averaging 691 effectives.

Of course that number declined as the campaigning began. Of course what you really wanted to know was their organization, which was 6 companies per battalion. Whether or not they had "flank" companies is not delineated in Bowden. But from Bowden's earlier discussion of the formation of the cohorts into field battalions, he states that each of those battalions had just six fusilier companies, without grenadiers or voltoguers.


Widowson14 Apr 2019 9:27 p.m. PST

I've seen Bowden posting on this forum recently. Maybe he'll find this thread.

Prince of Essling15 Apr 2019 4:48 a.m. PST

My notes on Naval Artillery (Artillerie de la Marine) – adapted from: John R Elting "Swords Around a Throne"; Rene Chartrand & Francis Back "Napoleon's Sea Soldiers"; Delauney & Guittard "Historique de l'Artillerie de la Marine"; Otto von Pivka "Navies of the Napoleonic Era"; Paul Lecene "Les Marins de la Republique et de l'Empire, 1793-1815"; Eugene Pacini "La Marine"; Alain Pigeard "L'Artillerie de Marine sous le Premier Empire" (Tradition magazine); Vice-Amiral Krantz "Historique Artillerie de la marine"; Leon Hennet "Les milices et les troupes provinciales"; J.R.M. Malaize "Essai Historique & Chronologique sur les Troupes de la Marine, Depuis leur origine jusqu'a nos jours.."; Philip J Haythornthwaite "The Napoleonic Source Book"; Correspondance de Napoleon avec le Mnistre de la Mrine"; "Correspondance de l'Empereur Napoleon Ier"; Charles Pauly "Etude sur l'inscription Maitime"; & La Garde Chauvin website.

The naval artillery was reactivated in 1795, when 7 demi-brigades were formed.

In 1802 separate battalions were formed – on 20 June for Martinique and on 20 July for Guadeloupe. Both battalions were decimated by yellow-fever.

In May 1803 Napoleon converted the demi-brigades into 4 regiments – the 1st and 2nd regiments each had a HQ of 15 personnel; 4 battalions of six companies (each of 204 personnel). The 2nd regiment gained a fifth battalion in June 1805. The 3rd and 4th regiments each had a HQ of 9 personnel and 2 battalions. In addition there were 4 companies of ouvriers (each of 153 personnel) and 4 companies of apprentis-cannoniers (apprentice gunners) each of 141 personnel. Service in the artillerie de la marine was by voluntary enrolment.

On 6 October 1803 three new compagnies d'apprentis-cannoniers were created for the ports of Dunkirk, Lorient and Ostend.

On 9 November 1804 the artillerie de la marine received the title Corps Impérial Artillerie de la Marine.

In 1805 the compagnies d'apprentis-cannoniers were reduced to 6 – 2 at Brest; and 1 each at Toulon; Rochefort; Lorient; & Dunkirk.

On 7 May 1805 a 5th compagnie ouvriers de la marine was created to serve Antwerp (Anvers) & Boulogne. On 11 June 1805 a 6th compagnie ouvriers de la marine was created to serve Genoa. At this time the battalions of the regiments of artillerie de la marine were deployed:

1st regiment: 4 battalions at Brest;
2nd regiment: 1st battalion at Genoa; 2nd & 4th battalions at Brest; 3rd & 5th battalions at Toulon.
3rd regiment: 2 battalions at Rochefort.
4th regiment: 2 battalions at Lorient.

From December 1806 recruitment for the artillerie de la marine was no longer voluntary; it now followed the same system of conscription as for the land army.

From 27 May 1807 until 20 June 1809, one battalion from Brest was detached to Concarneau to guard the ship Veteran commanded by Jerome Bonaparte, which had been blockaded in that port by a British squadron.

From 26 November 1807 until 10 November 1808 a battalion of the artillerie de la marine was with General Junot's Corps that invaded Portugal. They were tasked to arm, refit & provision 9 abandoned Portuguese ships at Lisbon. The battalion returned to France under the terms of the Convention of Cintra.

From 1809 to 1812 the artillerie de la marine was required to provide manpower to the Equipages.

A provisional battalion was deployed at Belle-Isle from 1809 until 1811.

In 1811 Artillery parks were created to serve the ports of Amsterdam & Rotterdam. There were also temporary artillery parks at Calais, Flessingue (Flushing); Hamburg & La Spezia. Also the same year the compagnie ouvriers de artillerie de la marine at Genoa was split into two – one part went to Cherbourg. A detachment from the artillerie de la marine of 3 officers and 120 men were sent to Spain to serve with the land artillery until 1814.

The decree of 29 February 1812 increased the strength of each company of the artillerie de la marine to 250 men. The regiments were stationed as follows:

1st regiment: 4 battalions at Brest;
2nd regiment: 1 battalion at Genoa; 2 battalions at Toulon; 1 battalion at Lorient; & 1 battalion at Rochefort.
3rd regiment: 2 battalions at Cherbourg.
4th regiment: 2 battalions at Anvers (Antwerp).

In 1812 thirteen officers of the artillerie de la marine served with the Grande Armée in Russia.

The decree of 24 January 1813 transferred the 4 Regiments from the Ministry of the Navy to the Ministry of War with effect 1 February. (The Ministry of the Navy retained 500 men from the artillerie de la marine for service with the fleet.) The regiments were formed as follows: 1st at Brest; 2nd at Toulon; 3rd at Cherbourg; & 4th at Antwerp. The Regiments were reorganised into battalions of 6 companies of 140 men each; battalion HQ of 4 personnel; regimental HQ of 4 personnel. The Regiment mobilised battalions as follows: 1st – 8 battalions; 2nd – 10 battalions; 3rd & 4th – each 4 battalions. 6 battalions remained in the ports and 20 (1st Rgt – 6 battalions; 2nd Rgt – 8 battalions; 3rd & 4th – each 3 battalions) joined Napoleon in Germany to serve in an infantry role in Marmont's VI Corps. 6 battalions were left in Mayence (Mainz) to act as cadres for reinforcements for the Regiments, while most of their men were used to reinforce the other field battalions. As a result the Regiments took the field as follows: 1st – 4 battalions; 2nd – 6 battalions; 3rd & 4th – each 2 battalions. They fought at Lutzen and Bautzen.

During the Armistice the ports sent 4 battalions to their parent formations in Saxony – 1 battalion remained at Brest & 1 at Toulon. On recommencement of hostilities on 18 August the Regiments comprised: 1st – 5 battalions; 2nd – 7 battalions; 3rd & 4th – each 3 battalions. They took part in the battles of Dresden, & Leipzig. During the retreat to the Rhine the 1st & the 2nd Regiments respectively left 350 & 734 men to defend Erfurt; also 300 newly arrived reinforcements from Cherbourg were left at Erfurt. The Régiments artillerie de la marine fought at Hanau.

The decree of 17 July 1813 established an artillery park at Cherbourg. During 1813-14 officers from the Regiments ere employed in the defence of Erfurt & Torgau, others at Danzig, Antwerp, Dresden, Mayence, Genoa etc.

Of the 17,338 men sent to Germany, 2,412 were killed, 7,291 remained in German hospitals, 2,319 were prisoners or in rear areas, 571 were transferred to the Guard artillery, 1,084 left at Erfurt (this excludes the 300 reinforcments). On 7 November 1813 the regiments were reorgnaised and their effective strengths were: 1st: 557 men in 2 battalions; 2nd 1,897 men in 4 battalions; 3rd: 632 men in 3 battalions & 4th 575 men in 3 battalions. Brest & Toulon continued to act as depots for the 1st & 2nd Regiments; Valognes became the depot for the 3rd, and Abbeville for the 4th. All Regiments were supposed to comprise 5 battalions (the 5th acting as the depot battalion).

In January 1814 the regimental depots were ordered to send cadres to Paris, where they formed the 2nd Division of the Corps de Réserves de Paris. Marmont's Corps fought at Vauchamps (capturing 1,000men), Champaubert, & Montmirail. Others from the artillerie de la marine fought in the defence of France. By 5 May there remained just 695 effectives.

L'artillerie de la marine was reorganised on 1 July 1814 with the name Corps Royal des cannoniers de la marine. The Corps comprised a HQ of 2 personnel, 3 Regiments (1st had 3 battalions & the other two had 2 battalions each. All of the battalions had 6 companies each of 124 personnel. In times of war the battalions were to be raised to 10 companies each of 207 personnel), 5 compagnies d'ouvriers each of 132 personnel, 6 compagnies d'apprentis cannoniers each of 139 personnel and a number of officers who were employed as necessary in the 6 directions maritime (the 5 great ports plus Dunkirk), 4 founderies, 3 forges and 1 quality control workshop? (atelier de perfectionnement).

The Regiments were deployed as follows:
1st regiment: 1st battalion at Cherbourg; 2nd & 3rd at Brest.
2nd regiment: 2 battalions at Toulon.
3rd regiment: 1st battalion at Lorient; 2nd battalion at Rochefort.

One compagnie d'ouvriers was deployed at each port. Two compagnies d'apprentis cannoniers were deployed at Brest and 1 in each of the 4 other ports. 16 officers were detached to the foundries & workshops.

Details of the Regiment during the 100 days is fairly scant. Upon Napoleon's return 2 battalions (2nd of the 1st Regiment & 3rd of the 3rd Regiment) were sent to Paris and 1st battalion of the 2nd Regiment was sent to Lyon to put both places into state capable of being defended. A 4th battalion was mobilised and sent to La Vendée.

My conclusion from all of this is that no elite companies were formed.

von Winterfeldt15 Apr 2019 5:20 a.m. PST

there quite some good threads on tmp on this, see links, there in the threads a lot of download links are available as well

TMP link

TMP link

Keith Talent17 Apr 2019 1:58 a.m. PST

Many thanks

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