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"French White . . . ?" Topic

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Erzherzog Johann29 Apr 2021 11:52 p.m. PST

So next train of thought . . . I'm planning on modelling my French on 1809 (to pair with my Austrians) so I had a look at the order of battle to check which regiments were in the white uniform. There were a few present on the Danube. The white was left to be replaced due to wear and tear after blue was reintroduced in 1807. Suchet's comment about the "medley" of hats and shakos, white and blue uniforms, being finally over in November 1809 (but he was in Spain) suggests to me that a mix of white and new (so dark) blue would be appropriate. Thoughts?

Would I be best to depict those units (Regts 3, 4, 16, 18 and 46 were present at Aspern – Essling and I'd like to have this oddity represented) with a mix of blue and white uniforms in the formation? Also, what about the 4th battalions, which were evidently 1/3 veterans, 2/3 raw recruits? I presume the new troops would be in blue but some of the veterans may have been in white?

I know there's no definitive answer to these questions; I'm curious about the opinions out there.


Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2021 1:28 a.m. PST

I think that the general opinion is that the French on the Danube had replaced the white uniforms by the start of the campaign in 1809. Spain, being at the end of a long and difficult supply line were a bit slower in abandoning the white uniform. I have not seen any references to whit French uniforms in Germany and Austria but, on the other hand, I have not seen any references saying there definitely were not.

In short, put in a few white uniforms if you want but only sparingly.

VonBlucher30 Apr 2021 5:40 a.m. PST

I would think that with the 1809 campaign with the Austrians that you would want all the white uniforms removed as less likely any friendly fire instances

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2021 5:55 a.m. PST

As happened to the Saxons

Erzherzog Johann30 Apr 2021 3:34 p.m. PST

I've never seen it said that the change to white was to avoid friendly fire incidents against the Prussians though. The replacement began after the 1807 war with Russia. It may well be true that supply problems in Spain meant they got rid of their white uniforms later but that doesn't necessarily mean everything went perfectly smoothly everywhere else.

How frequently were uniform items meant to be replaced in the French army? If the idea was "as they wear out", there's no reason to think that would happen more quickly in a peacetime role in Bavaria or France rather than in an arduous campaign in Spain.

I'm not looking for a way to have more white units – the Austrians tick that box already and if I do some Italians that'll be more (and very similar looking to white uniformed French). But since there were some French units from 'the list' spread throughout the army on the Danube (I haven't checked the Orbat for Eugene), it will be hard to avoid them. I want to be as sure as it is possible to be that what I'm painting will be plausible.

Thanks again for the input,

GROSSMAN03 May 2021 3:05 p.m. PST

I used a very light grey on my French, looked pretty nice.

Erzherzog Johann03 May 2021 3:33 p.m. PST

My Austrians have off-white over Vallejo Deck Tan. A blind man would be pleased to see them . . .


Erzherzog Johann10 May 2021 11:20 p.m. PST

I'm thinking I might just include a token white uniformed figure in each – an officer for the 4th because it's believed only the officers were issued them, an ordinary soldier in any other case that I end up doing- as a nod to the brief change. I definitely don't want regiments of white-clad French fighting my white-clad Austrians, the whole point of having French is those blue uniforms, they're 'les bleus' . . .

Thanks all,

SHaT198412 May 2021 4:04 p.m. PST

I wasn't going to join in, but I'm pretty sure of some details of correction (as Armand has suggested…)

>>The replacement began after the 1807 war with Russia.
No I'm sure the 'army' in Germany received, some units marched, others delivered, white uniform pieces before the end of 1806.
Remember the claimed 'horror' of Napoleon seeing the white clad Frenchmen bloodied and butchered at Eylau?

>>How frequently were uniform items meant to be replaced in the French army?
Well documented, habits 3 years IIRC. However don't forget that 1807 folows two years of short bad weather campaigns, and a bit of 'occupation' in central German states for quite a while. Davout and probably the others, but his is documented, had major issues with lack of shoes etc.

>>since there were some French units from 'the list' spread throughout the army on the Danube

1809- Not IMHO; given the above, peninsular excpted, all the whites would have reverted to foreign units and the 'pretty boys' in the bands/ tete du colonne to use them up.

The army did not waste anything. Recall the citation from PoE or some such authority- the 3rd de ligne 'reassigned' existing chapeau in 1807 between the other fusilier companies when all the voltigeurs (3 companies) were issued 'new' shakos and emblems. Allegedly only the third bon of that regiment wore white, and they were probably 'reinforcements' who marched to Germany before the final '1807' gamble.

FWIW mes comrades… en avant…

Erzherzog Johann12 May 2021 10:40 p.m. PST

"The replacement began after the 1807 war with Russia."

Just to clarify, I meant the replacement of blue with white, not the subsequent reversion to blue, which happened after the Eylau episode. I wondered whether, since they were to be replaced as they wore out, there might have still been a few around in 1809 in the army on the Danube.

If however people are pretty certain that all white uniforms would have been out of service by then (other than in Spain, where we know some were still being worn), I'll happily do them all in blue.

I'm very aware that there are many people on this site much more knowledgeable than me on this subject.


von Winterfeldt13 May 2021 12:05 a.m. PST

I have to find the source but either in 1808 or 1809 the mix was over (hats, white coats, blue coats, shako) and generally for 1809 I would opt for blue coats with shakos.

Erzherzog Johann13 May 2021 3:30 a.m. PST

The only thing I know is that (per Haythornthwaite) the order to revert to blue was issued in October 1807, that the white was only to be replaced upon wearing out, and that Suchet, in November 1809, said, "the medley is over – there are no more hats, no more white coats".

I felt that late 1807 to early 1809 is a short time for them all to wear out, especially if the unit concerned was in a peacetime garrison role, i.e. not campaigning in Spain, so there might still be a few being worn in 1809 on the Danube (or in Italy if any of the regiments were there – I haven't looked). On the other hand, supply to Spain was more problematic.

It seems that the opinion of those who know more than me is that this is unlikely, that the white would have been completely replaced within about 18 months, in time for the 1809 war with Austria.

It would have been fun to include the odd white uniform in a unit but it's no big deal.


von Winterfeldt13 May 2021 7:57 a.m. PST

the white coats did not completely re place the dark blue ones, only a fraction of units had white coats, it was Suchet who reported to Napoléon, November 1809 that the mix is over neither white coats nor hats.

But he could only report of those troops he commanded.

If it is fun to included a white clad unit, I would do it, as long as it is the mere exception.

However what regiment would have all battalions be clad in white uniforms in 1809? A battalion – yes – but a complete regiment?

Erzherzog Johann13 May 2021 11:44 a.m. PST

Since they were phased out as they wore out I was thinking rather of just one or two figures in the unit – a nod to the process that had occurred – eg in the 4th they believe only the officers got them, so maybe one officer, everyone else in the unit in blue, in the same way people paint a French unit in Spain with some of the troops in regulation uniform, others in brown locally made trousers etc.


SHaT198413 May 2021 3:07 p.m. PST

OK maybe your comment of occasional figure was overlooked.

As I said tete-du-colonne certainly wore them. Yes vary command figures as you wish; i use chapeau for variation from 'complete shako' regiments we normally see masses of; pre-1809 NCO's not officers carry colours and eagles; fanciful drummers or cornets not neceesarily of the same company etc.; and most of my units have a 'sapper' figure, but have recently removed them from command bases.

I also throw in some campaign dress to odd bases; the hatless and bonnet-de-police always useful; same figures but with overalls etc. Some future elite companies will be stripped right down in campaign wear, compared to the full dress dandies!

Erzherzog Johann13 May 2021 3:44 p.m. PST

Sounds great!

von Winterfeldt13 May 2021 11:37 p.m. PST

Sorry but I wouldn't opt for white coated officers when the regiment was already in blue – one of the reasons why so much white officers coats survived was that they were never worn in the field.

SHaT198408 Jun 2021 4:12 p.m. PST

Hi John, Just found this, in 'Historique du 18me régiment d'infanterie', p207, notes on the post-Eylau/ Nieman occupation period cantoned in Poland and Germany.

Les habits sont raccourcis pour la troupe (24 juillet
1806); les officiers seuls continuent à porter l'habit long. Le sabre-briquet est enlevé aux voltigeurs
(7 octobre 1807). Une compagnie du régiment avait
fait l'essai de l'habit blanc ,mais l'habit bleu est repris
par tous au commencement de 1808. Enfin, la capote est de nuance grise.

Transl [mine]
Habits were shortened for the troops (24 July)
1806); the officers alone continue to wear the long habit. The sabre-briquet is removed from the Voltigeurs
(October 7, 1807).
A company of the regiment had tested the white habit, but the blue habit was taken up again by all at the beginning of 1808. Finally, the greatcoat is a grey shade.

So it would appear, despite jumping to conclusions that 'issued to' meant all, in fact in at least this case, was a rather restricted trial.

regards d

Erzherzog Johann09 Jun 2021 1:23 a.m. PST

Very interesting and helpful thank you. It's remarkable really that in all this time, these little nuggets haven't been collated together into a book, for those of us old enough to remember what one of them is :-)


SHaT198409 Jun 2021 2:44 a.m. PST

Yes John I agree- hence the need to keep these snippets of 'facts' on one owns filing system. I've basically had to relearn most of my knowledge iver 40 years of collecting and research, since I've decided to 'complete' my gaming 1805 armies together.

I'm not saying that all you read is gospel [in Memoires or regimental histories for example]- but this one select comment is far more precise than the wide ranging things like "Regiments were ordered to change to 5 battaliosn on xxx date 1808."

cheers davew

von Winterfeldt09 Jun 2021 11:21 p.m. PST

Colonel Trefcon, Carnet de Campagne, – 15e de ligne

When they – 15e de ligne, did arrive at end of January 1807 for a stay in Paris

"Pendant notre séjour á Paris, les deux battailons furent habillés de neuf et on leur donna l'uniform blanc."

Also they modernized their haircut in cutting off the queue.

Pendant notre séjour à Paris, on fit couper les cheveux aus soldats. Ceux de mon régiment les portaient encore à l'ancienne mode."

SHaT198410 Jun 2021 12:21 p.m. PST

Very true- as did a Demi-Brigade full battalion in 1802 or '03- the First Consul peremptorily sent them away to get 'proper' uniforms.
Seems he didn't go along with 'reuse' of existing cloth then!

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