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"[1805] More on Rsv Gren Dvn- Planning/ Deployment Enigma" Topic

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Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2020 4:57 p.m. PST

From several earlier threads we've covered the development of the French 'army' that is colloquially referenced in English as "Camp du Boulogne", whereas it was actually a broad based, multiple corps sized structure spread over a long stretch of her Northern (and occupied) seaboard coast and ports.

>> refer: TMP link

I cited the anomaly that arose from multiple [original and secondary] sources of information regarding one specific concern.

My quandry for clarity:

*4 – "Barring one exception- none of these regiments lost their 'elites'." That one belonged to a regiment stationed in "Belgium" or Helder I think (to late to look up). This 'extended' frontier of France was under the military command of the very ablest Marshal- Davout and thus we find the active 'regiment' split among two corps.

His 15th Legere, in Friants Division, was the only regiment 'within' the Grande Armée whose manpower had been 'touched' for inclusion in the Reserve Grenadiers. This produces something of a quandry to analyse as toward the end of the campaign, this little unit was a vital cog in the very major action on the right flank of the Battle of Austerlitz.
I plan to expand on this with another post soon..

So_ on the day the support and replacement Davout gave to Soults troops along the line of the Goldbach villages being held by Legrands troops (though not in person), not to mention high quality local command and management of the situation over the day, was superb and necessary for the victory at Austerlitz.

The immediate arrival of his ad-hoc avant-garde-a part of his Second Division- merely one infantry regiment (108e deLigne/ 2 bons); two very low strength light companies (15e Legere- called Voltigeurs in various documents); and the 1er Dragons, forced marched from Raigern about 10kms away since 0500 or so after a brief sleep of a few hours to rest.

Arriving at the battle site of Austerlitz around 8:00am, the GBD Heudelet 'avant-garde' of the Third Corps (Davout- who followed not far behind), this command after a sweaty jog I imagine:-

108e de Ligne- 1er et 2eme bons
15e Legere- 2 companies – only 64 men total (*) called Voltigeurs.
Attached- 1er Dragons (Col..)

The most obvious question arises- how could the two 15e Legere companies be Voltigeurs? The regiment was unique in one way- it was the only regiment active in the Grande Armée whose actual manpower had been taken for the elite ‘United Grenadier Division' first formed under Junot since Jan 1803. Subsequently and officially entitled the ‘Grenadier de Reserve' Division, colloquially known then and now named for the commander GDV ‘Oudinot Grenadiers'.

The manpower was designated, by Napoleon (refer to his known copious correspondence) to be the carabinier/ grenadier and another company (voltigeurs or chasseur) from each of the 3 battalions of units formerly known (until mid 1803) as Demi-Brigades. Each of these 6, same regiment companies formed an homogenous ‘elite' battalion by which they were commonly known and addressed by N. in his correspondence. He even admonished subordinates that had used alternative labels, stating that they were to be fully recognised as belonging to their parent regiments.

The balance of the 15e Legere regiments' two bons were still marching up from Vienna, there were 12 companies in total according to one OB source. The calculation is therefore very basic arithmetic.

At 9 companies per bon, this gave 18 companies in the field, less the ‘elites' detached to the Reserve Grenadier Division (Oudinot). which was 6 companies, 3 carabinier and 3 chasseurs/ voltigeurs. Because however only two battalions were ‘in the field' this meant that the main regiment should have fielded 14 companies, not 12. Perhaps there was a simple error in the count of the OB cited (*2 *3).

Or had there been an ‘off field' rearrangement take place of some companies or personnel of the regiment between the two substantive ‘corps'? Had the ‘voltigeurs' been returned to the III Corps and regiment prior to the arrival at and advance from Vienna?

I have the Situation for the United/ Grenadiers of the Reserve 1805 both pre and post battle.

There is no detailled information about the 15e Legere, however kindly Frédéric Berjaud has its 'partner' regiment well documented, so we must rely upon the corrollary effect for some info at link section 2- II/ LA CAMPAGNE DU BATAILLON D'ELITE A LA DIVISION OUDINOT, 1804-1806.

Now I admit that I'd hung on too dear hope (and trust) that all the corps involved in THIS Reserve Grenadier Division were in fact elite companies of their regiments, or at worst became elite companies when the regimental manpower that was despatched initially included 'chasseurs' (no fusliers are ever cited).

While every 'red' company was elite, we can't actually prove it for the 'yellow' company. This anomaly doesn't help!

Any suggestions/ alterntaives or proof?
davew *milk*

- *2-Duffy
- *3-Goetz

MarbotsChasseurs21 Nov 2020 6:05 p.m. PST


You are correct about the 15e Legere being called voltigeurs. Letters from Marshal Davout in Napoleon's Finest, constantly refer to them as the companies of voltigeurs. He says in a letter dated 6 December 1805, " The 1st, comprised of the 108th Regiment of the Line and the companies of voltigeurs of 15e Legere… The 2nd comprised of the 15th Legere Infantry [less the companies of voltigeurs] and 33rd Line."

All I can add is from Frédéric Berjaud website on Chef de batallion Louis Etienne Dulong de Rosnay

Le 2 décembre, à Austerlitz, c'est Dulong lui-même qui commande le 15e léger, le colonel étant absent et le major Geither ayant été blessé dès le commencement de l'action. La division Friant combat dans le village de Sokolnitz, à la droite du dispositif français. Le régiment composé d'une majorité de jeunes soldats recule devant la poussée russe, mais Dulong parvient à les reprendre et même à contre-attaquer. A l'issue de la bataille, Davout félicite Dulong, démarche exceptionnelle de la part du maréchal.

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP23 Nov 2020 10:55 p.m. PST

Yes err, thanks, I cited that site above.
So there's no alternatives then- Davout said I want my men back, and he got them?
Tant pis!

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2020 4:08 p.m. PST

Well, the issue isn't at all cleared to me about up of 'how' two companies of voltigeur ended up with/ back with Davout and the regiment.
Also logically, I can't see only 64 men (or all personnel?) being retained as 'two companies', when that number barely contains the strength of one.

I'd imagine that the 'two' was merely a formal title of whence they originated, but actually performed as a single entity. Given all the who-haa about 'regulations' and tactical doctrine etc.

However, I guess I reconcile myself to creating a 'regiment d'elite' with carabiniers and chasseurs instead of voltigeurs; while the 'petit companie' adjoining the 108eme carries the burden at Telnitz.
cheers d

Prince of Essling17 Dec 2020 1:53 p.m. PST

Historique du 90e régiment d' infanterie de ligne, ex- 15e léger
Author : Belhomme, Victor-Louis-Jean-François (Lieutenant-colonel).
Publisher : C. Tanera (Paris)
Publication date : 1875

Text suggests it was just 3 companies of carabiniers detached to the battalion d'elite. They formed a regiment with 12th legere's elite battalion under Colonel Desailly.

Only 2 battalions of the 15th legere took the field as the 3rd formed part of the 2nd reserve corps under Lefebvre.

Heudlet's Brigade with the voligeurs from the 15th legere and 108th ligne preceded by a regiment of dragoons formed the head of Davout's column, followed by Kister's brigade 15th legere (remainder) and 33rd ligne. The two battalions of the 15th legere had no more than 754 men under arms.

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2020 3:46 p.m. PST

Indeed Sir I think you nailed it!!!

I've no possible interest in after-N affairs so wouldn't have been looking there!

Seems strange, in light of N. explicit and detailled administering of 'his' army that such a variation were possible! Though we don't see the detail of the 15e Leg. 'orders' to Berthier like we do the 12e Leg. it hardly seems possible they were different.

He was all for 'balancing' and maximising manpower in 'battle units', particularly at this time in the Reserve Grenadier Division, so one wonders how this became about that one of the said 'elite' battalions, wasn't completed.

We can only conjecture that Davouts skill and abilities to train to sort out the voltigeur companies before the campaign got under way gained precedence over N. desire to just man the war battalions.

That Voltigeurs of the 3rd Bn marched with the 'regiment (1er et 2eme Bons only)'- giving it three under arms and I'd dare to imagine that was in fact why there were really TWO in name only at Austeritz. Possibly the rest was attritional loss of the forced march.

Many thanks, a glass to you Sir! wine
[though I'm drinking Spanish at the mo']
regards d cup

Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP17 Dec 2020 9:10 p.m. PST

However- having said that, I've rechecked the 'Etat' of the Reserve Grenadier Division for 4 December 1805, and the numbers simply do not uphold the theory.
The 15e Legere 'elite battalion' has close to average numbers present in the Division. More detail later.
regards d

Prince of Essling18 Dec 2020 9:09 a.m. PST

From Carnot93's post at TMP link

The short answer – Yes, battalions of 6 companies each.

The long answer:

Oudinot's grenadier division of 1805 originated as an elite division formed 25 Jan 1804 (acc. to Belhomme) as part of the Advance Guard of the Army of the Ocean Coasts. The division was composed of provisional battalions formed by regiments that were on coastal and border defense duty within France. Each regiment formed a 6-company battalion with the grenadier and first fusilier company of each of its 3 battalions. Each regiment contributed 1 chef de bataillon, 1 adjutant-major, 1 adjutant and 1 surgeon for the battalion. These provisional battalions were paired up to form régimentes d'élite and according to the original orders were to be commanded by one of the colonels of the two regiments contributing the battalions. In fact, three were commanded by colonels, two by majors. So each of the elite battalions was 6 companies and each battalion of the parent regiments was left at 7 companies. Only one of these regiments later was a part of the Grande Armée (15e leg) and this is why at Austerlitz it fought with two 6-company battalions at Sokolnitz with the two voltigeur companies detached to Heudelet at Telnitz.

To fill in some command details:

Brigade Laplanche-Morthières
1st Grenadier Regiment (13th and 58th line) – Col. Froment of the 13th
2nd Grenadier Regiment (9th and 81st Line) – Major Brayer of the 9th

Brigade Dupas
3rd Grenadier Regiment (2nd and 3rd Light) – Col. Schramm of the 2nd
4th Grenadier Regiment (28th and 31st Light) – Major Cabannes de Puymisson of the 28th

Brigade Ruffin
5th Grenadier Regiment (12th and 15th Light) – Col. Desailly of the 15th

Interesting article from Sabretache link

Widowson21 Dec 2020 12:02 p.m. PST

There is a problem with the above calculation: in 1805, infantry regiments had only two battalions.

Prince of Essling21 Dec 2020 12:47 p.m. PST

@Widowson -NON, NON, NON!!!!

La Campagne de 1805 en Allemagne (ANNEXES et CARTES)
by Paul-Claude Alombert, Jean Colin
Publication date 1902

See Annex I. Forces de L'Empire au 16 thermidor an XIII
Most regiments had 3 battalions, though I will accept the overwhelming majority took the field with only 2 war battalions:
67 line regiments had 3 battalions
20 line regiments had 4 battalions
2 line regiments had 1 battalion

21 light regiments had 3 battalions
3 light regiments had 4 battalions
2 light regiments had 2 battalions


Personal logo SHaT1984 Supporting Member of TMP21 Dec 2020 2:19 p.m. PST

Of necessity I've been distracted by oher things for a few days…

There is a problem with the above calculation: in 1805, infantry regiments had only two battalions.

While there are a number of 'problems'[inaccuracies] with the quote, but that my friend is not one of them- you are dead wrong. You wrote that 'fact' a decade or more ago and [repeating] still haven't got it right.

Apart from the evidence PoE has cited, I'll add this short list of affirmative references:-

  • N. organisation and designation of 1803 Demi-Brigades (ie 3 battalions) to Regiments
  • Charrié- Drapeaux…
  • Armee of the Coast
  • Austerlitz OB

    Whilst in certain places outide Paris and major cities, regiments were allowed between 1801 and 1803 to wither away and did not get formal 'recruits' and rebuilt cadres.

    The entire army was subject to a revised rationale and forces 'tuned' during 1803 for the inevitable expansion that was planned.

    cf Cavalry and expansion/ centralisation of the 'Cuirassier' arm etc.
    regards dave

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