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"French Napoleonic legere ~1811, plume color for colonels" Topic

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photocrinch14 Jul 2019 6:30 a.m. PST

I have seen red and white representations for the plume color of Colonels and Lieutenants (officers and eagle bearers) for light infantry. I'm trying to understand if there was some discretion or what the system was for assigning color. The only reference specifically I have found so far is that white was typical for regimental staff, so one would assume eagle bearers to have white plumes, but I have also seen images of Colonels and Lieutenants (not described as carabiniers, (which would obviously have red plumes)in shakos with red plumes.

I'm modeling the 1st and 2nd battalions of the 6th legere in Spain and want to make sure I have the plumes of the eagle bearer (I assume white) and other officers correct, most especially the colonels.

Thanks for any light y'all can help shed on the topic!


photocrinch14 Jul 2019 6:57 a.m. PST

Here's a link to the regimental colonel at the time, but no illustrations of him in uniform unfortunately.


Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2019 8:29 a.m. PST

There is a lot of variation in the uniforms of Napoleon's army especially before 1812 and especially in the leger regiments. However, unless you can find a specific reference to Colonel Molard, I would give the colonel a white plume as well as the 1st Eagle Bearer (i.e. the one carrying the Eagle). I have an illustration of the Major of the 6th Leger in 1810 with a white plume with a red top. Also, most of the illustrations I have seen of chefs de bataillon have white plunes so I would go with that.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2019 8:30 a.m. PST

Looks like most illustrations of superior officers have a white plume. If he wants to singularize he might have a bit of a coloured top though I have yet to find a sample of that.
Or you can invent a story that he had his shako carried away by a ball and borrowed one from one of his grenadiers!

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2019 8:34 a.m. PST

Yup, regimental staff have white plumes.

photocrinch14 Jul 2019 9:02 a.m. PST

So to make this even more precise a question; lets assume white plume for the colonel and I would assume also the chef de battalion (are they considered regimental staff?).

How about the color bearer for the 2nd battalion? This gets tricky as I am going to model the second battalion as still carrying it's regimental colors as many weren't returned as required for years. Any thoughts as to whether the color bearer of a second battalion was considered regimental staff and therefore would have a white plume, or would a color bearer (lieutenant?) have a plume the color of his company? e.g. green for chasseurs.

Would a 2nd battalion flag (not a fanion) in 1811 be best modeled on a staff with a pike head or an eagle? Clearly a conjectural question as I have no idea if the 6th was one of those regiments that was slow in returning their colors and eagles.

Garde de Paris14 Jul 2019 9:14 a.m. PST

How many men will be in your "battalion?" I use 36, sometimes 12 men wide and 3 deep. I can easily use them as 3 "battalions" of 12 men each. My 1st Battalion would have the eagle; my 2nd would have the only other officer at the right end of the line; and my 3rd battalion would be all private men.

I have the 26th line for Spain, the 4th, 5th and 6th of which served in II Corps, with no eagle. All my other French 36 figure units had an eagle.


photocrinch14 Jul 2019 9:17 a.m. PST

I'm modelling at 36 figures per battalion, Usually 2-3 battalions per regiment, which gives room for each battalion to have colors or a fanion.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP14 Jul 2019 9:47 a.m. PST

Chefs de Battalion have red plumes – not considered "Regimental" staff.

Battalions other than the first didn't carry flags as I understand it. Fanions for aid in maneuvering is it. Otherwise there wasn't a national flag and a regimental – they had one set of colors and it was with the eagle.

Never more than one eagle per regiment, period. If you have to model other flags then yeah pike head though again I don't think there was such a thing during this period.

Lieutenants and Sous-Lts are in their respective company colors.

photocrinch14 Jul 2019 10:12 a.m. PST

Thanks Flashman! I think that is where the distinction must lie – with the chefs de Battalion in red plumes, Colonels in white. Very helpful!

Interesting regarding the flags. My understanding was that each battalion was issued a flag until 1808 and it was only then that battalion flags came into use by 2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions. I have read many battalions were understandably slow to return their colors, and my assumption was a veteran battalion like the 6th would have been in no hurry to return a flag with so many battle honors. Of course as I said, purely conjectural.

Thanks for all of the help!


von Winterfeldt15 Jul 2019 3:56 a.m. PST

I cannot agree with Flashman, chef de bataillon – should be part of the regimental staff as well, and before 1808 each line battalion carried one eagle – light were forbidden to carry them in the field after the losses of eagle in 1807

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP15 Jul 2019 5:32 a.m. PST

My source on the plume is T.E. Crowdy's "Napoleon's Infantry Handbook" Page 77 "It is only in 1810 that specific instructions appear to have been issued on the matter. On 9 November of that year a decision stated that colonels ought to wear a white plume; … battalion commanders, all red."

Here's Keith Rocco's "Chef de Battalion":


If you have a better source than Crowdy's on the matter, I'm happy to take a look at it.

Prince of Essling15 Jul 2019 7:43 a.m. PST

According to the 18th February 1808 decree by Napoleon on the organisation of infantry listed staff as:
1 Colonel
1 Major
4 Chef de Bataillon
5 Adjutants
1 Quartermaster/Paymaster
1 Paying Officer
1 Eagle Bearer
1 Surgeon major
4 Assistant Surgeons
5 Assistant Adjutants
10 Regimental Sergeant-Majors
2 2nd & 3rd Eagle bearers
1 Drum Major
1 Corporal Drummer
8 Bandsmen (including 1 Bandmaster)
4 Master Craftsmen

photocrinch15 Jul 2019 10:03 a.m. PST

This is why I love this site – such of wealth of information! Thanks to you all. I would never have been able to piece all this together on my own, as it appears to have been quite the moving target.

Widowson15 Jul 2019 11:31 a.m. PST

Here is some clarification. Prior to the 1808 reorganization, standard bearers were NOT regimental staff. Each of the two battalions had an eagle, carried by battalion level staff. The reorg of 1808 went to a regiment of three battalions, and no third eagle was issued. So the second battalion eagle was supposed to be returned to the depot. The REGIMENT now had only one eagle, and it's attendants were now regimental staff. So, from 1808 on, white plume on the eagle bearer. Before 1808, anyone's guess but not white.

Widowson15 Jul 2019 11:35 a.m. PST

Oh, and if the second battalion keeps its eagle after 1808, it's on the down low. No white plume for that eagle bearer. And this could look a bit screwy, since the official first battalion eagle would not be part of the first battalion any more – it was regimental. The two eagles could find themselves uncomfortably close together.

photocrinch15 Jul 2019 1:14 p.m. PST

Thanks Widowson!
I'm pushing it a bit having the first battalion with an Eagle at all, as it is a legere battalion so shouldn't carry the eagle in the field, but hey, maybe they were just on parade. The second battalion would not have had an eagle to begin with, but should have had a national flag, which I will assume they retained and it will be on a standard pike head (I'm wishing washy on this one and may just give the 2nd battalion a battalion flag instead of the national flag). If modeling a national flag, the lieutenant carrying the flag would likely not be regimental staff it seems and would have a plume in company colors (green for fusiliers). If a battalion flag, it would be carried by a senior NCO I believe.

von Winterfeldt16 Jul 2019 3:57 a.m. PST

Rocco shows a Guard unit – with a fancy eagle / colour and the officer with a silver gorget – despite gold buttons? Fawn stirrup straps instead or red / crimson ones?

I was under the impression that chefs de bataillon did wear a white plume with a red tip – I have to check my sources on that.

Prince of Essling16 Jul 2019 4:18 a.m. PST

Article 11 of the 1808 decree states"…… The Eagle will always remain wherever the greater part of the regiment are assembled. The Eagle Bearers will form part of the regimental staff. ……"
Article 18 " Each field battalion will have a flag (enseigne) borne by a non-commissioned officer selected by the Battalion chief from one of the companies of that battalion. The depot battalion will not have a flag."

Although Napoleon's decree stated that each regiment was to have only one Eagle in the field, he did not order the return of all Eagles previously issued to individual battalions and squadrons until 25 December 1811. It is likely that this was not finally complied with until spring 1812, as units raised prior to 1808 steadfastly retained them and proudly displayed them in the field.

Prince of Essling16 Jul 2019 5:19 a.m. PST

Emir Bukhari "French Napoleonic Line Infantry 1796-1815" pages 88 & 89:

"The bicorn was the standard issue in the early years, and bore a white pom-pon for senior officers, green or yellow for Voltigeur officers and red for Grenadier officers and of company colour for fusiliers. It was often topped by a plume of like colour for grand occasions. The pom-pons were of no fixed shape or size. the bicornes were sometimes further embellished by tassels in the corners, the weight of which depended on the rank of the wearer.

With the introduction of the shako in 1807, the officer's version bore a gold braid upper band and frequently golden chevrons. Golden cords and tassels were added as occasion demanded, as well as the plume to the pom-pon.

With the 1810 model shako, a more specific ornamentation was derived by 1813:

Colonels: An upper band of gold lace 35mm in width, followed by a second 15 mm in width below that. A golden round shaped pom-pon supporting a white plume.

Majors: An upper band also 35mm thick of gold followed by a silver one 15mm in width. the plume again with a golden pom-pon was red over white.

Chef-de-bataillon: An upper gold band 35mm wide and an all red plume.

Capitaines: An upper gold band 30mm wide and gold tufted company coloured pom-pon.

Lieutenants: An upper band 25mm in width and either a fringed pom-pon (red for grenadiers green or yellow for voltigeurs or a plain one of company colour, sometimes also bearing a fringe, but of gold.

Sous-Lieutenants: An upper band of gold, 20 mm in width, but with the same pom-pon arrangments for Lieutenants.

Adjutant-Majors: A large white carrot-shaped pom=pon.

Adjutant-sous-officiers: A white pom-pon and a gold band.

The shako band for the Adjutant-Major would, of course, depend on his rank. The headgear of the Colonels and Majors 'en second' would be identical to the acting ones. Gold cords and tassels were retained for full dress."

For the light infantry, substitute silver for gold and vice-versa for the above ornamentation…..

Remember the Major was supposed to be left in charge of the depot battalion.

Prince of Essling16 Jul 2019 12:22 p.m. PST

PS – I should have also said that the Legere were authorised with a form of shako in 1801 (resembling the mirliton but without a wing, slightly wider towards the top and a detachable peak); followed by the 1806 shako which was introduced for all infantry the following year.

von Winterfeldt16 Jul 2019 12:57 p.m. PST

thanks so I confused the major with the chefs de bataillon.

photocrinch16 Jul 2019 4:57 p.m. PST

Like I said – a wealth of information! I am quite comfortable with my proposed plan now. Extremely helpful!

Prince of Essling06 Aug 2019 11:59 p.m. PST

Excellent article by Didier Davin in French on the 6th Legere at link

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