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"On Uniforms and The Reliance on ‘Empire’." Topic

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SHaT198405 Jun 2021 9:26 p.m. PST

Subjects: History; Uniforms and Supply;Contemporary Illustrations.

Such of historical and modern writers expect, seemingly never having been in a ‘good old fashioned bureaucracy', that everything thats gets written, gets done. Research tells us that, much of what's written, may be fiction, even when presented as fact. Sound/ look familiar?

In 1803 the First Consul wrote:
The 57th Demi-brigade, Citizen Minister, received neither the clothing of the Year X nor that of the Year XI…
By the state you sent me, I see that in general clothing is very delayed. Many of these corps will receive a new complement of conscripts, and they will be very embarrassed [to not receive uniforms]. It would be essential to take effective measures to ensure that the Year XI cloth was delivered within the first three months; otherwise, we will never have an army equipped.
The month of Vendemiaire is approaching. I am not in trouble for food. Saint-Omer, Bruges, Compiègne are places where it is abundant. I think you are taking measures for fodder and especially for meat. Meat is much cheaper in this country than in Paris. "

So there we have it from the horses mouth. The Army of the Ocean Coasts was not being supplied with basics, even when it was encamped or bivouaced in a limited, non-war setting.

The source and accuracy of First Empire uniforms is much discussed, considered and criticised over time. As more of both real and illustrated forms became known, into the public view, so much has changed.

On some contemporary illustrations there are various degrees of accuracy, or provenance, to be exhibited. One such is given in Didiiers article.

"Avant d'entrer dans le détail, quelques mots d'abord sur Boersch (d'après L. de Beaufort, le Briquet). Né à Strasbourg avant la Révolution, ouvrier boulanger de son état, il avait épousé la nièce du peintre Benjamin Zix. Installé dans son échoppe, qui donnait sur la rue principale de Strasbourg, il suivait des yeux toutes les troupes qui passaient dans la ville. Quelques fois, il invitait les soldats à lui rendre visite dans sa boutique. Il notait consciencieusement les détails de leur uniforme, qu'il reproduisait ensuite sur du carton découpé à l'aide d'un canif puis les montait sur des plots en bois. Cette notation dure plusieurs générations, puisqu'elle est achevée sous la Restauration. La collection d'ailleurs est terminée par son fils, Ch. Boersch, mort en 1861. Elle passe ensuite aux mains de la famille Kolb, qui la partage avec Meyer Boersch, héritier et descendant du boulanger. Cette Collection fut exposée en 1901 à la brasserie Korcher à Paris, et au château de Rohan à Strasbourg en 1903. Le 10 mars 1971, la Collection (ou une partie ?) est vendue à Angers, soit 4000 soldats de tous corps, dont la 57e Demi-brigade. Pour celle ci, L. de Beaufort a pu noter la composition suivante :"

"Before going into detail, a few words first about Boersch -according to L. de Beaufort, [in] Le Briquet. Born in Strasbourg before the Revolution, a baker in his state, he married the niece of the painter Benjamin Zix.

Installed in his shop, which overlooked the main street of Strasbourg, he saw all the troops that passed through the city. He sometimes invited the soldiers to visit him in his shop. He conscientiously noted the details of their uniform, which he then reproduced on cardboard cut using a canif?? and then mounted them on wooden studs. This notation lasts several iterations, since it was completed under the Restoration. The ‘collection' was finished by his son, Charles Boersch, who died in 1861. It then passed into the hands of the Kolb family, who shared it with Meyer Boersch, heir and descendant of the baker.

This Collection was exhibited in 1901 at the Korcher brewery in Paris, and at Rohan Castle in Strasbourg in 1903. On March 10, 1971, the Collection (or part of it?) was sold AT? Angers, 4000 soldiers of all corps, including the 57th Demi-Brigade. For this one, L. de Beaufort was able to note the following composition:
Tambour-major et 27 Musiciens, 7 Sapeurs et 2 Officiers supérieurs.
Une Compagnie de Grenadiers avec 1 Officier, 2 Sous-officiers, 1 Tambour et 23 Grenadiers.
3 Compagnie avec chacune une trentaine de personnages, Officiers, Sous officiers, Tambours et Fifres, et Porte-drapeau."

Here is what Bucquoy said about the types represented in his famous facsimiles:
"The types of this series were mostly taken from the Boersch collection, an Alsatian collection established by a contemporary and which was the basis of many later collections. It is from all the known collections that is most likely to be accurate and we will have several times the opportunity to draw on interesting documents.
The position that our associate Henri Boisselier represented according to this source are those of the end of the Directoire, which remained in use under the Consulate and Empire, until the adoption of the shako.

So we can identify them between 1803 and 1805. All forms of dress come from the Boersch collection: the black Chinese hat has already been given by Job in the "Outfits of the Troops of France."

Note that the shape of the chapeau of the musicians, approaching the look of a "clam", differs from the hat of the fusiliers, known more as the hat of the troops of the Republic.

The chapeau of the fusiliers is adorned with a plumet in the colors of the battalions, celestial blue, orange yellow and purple (actually ‘lie de vin'), this is a peculiarity that is rarely found .

Boisselier was inspired by the [illustration] plates of Geissler, one of the most conscientious German cartoonists of the time.

These [depictions] are the outfits that the 57th Demi-brigade, nicknamed "la Terrible" since the [battle of] La Favorite of 1797, worn to the camp of Boulogne and that the 57th Line wore to Austerlitz and probably still to Jena."

A most worthy source of coroboration comes via:- Ganier Tanconville, in an article published in the 4th year Le Passepoil, tells us that the 57th of Ligne was "well known to the Strasbourgeois contemporaries of the Consulate and the Empire.

After first appearance in 1801, this city was the Regimental depot and garrison from 1805 to 1815… Everything they comprised in the war battalions, passed through and returned through this depot."

This gives even more value to the Boersch collection types represented here.

Frederic Berjaud

Liste des Officiers, des cadres de l'Etat major, des Sous officiers et des hommes
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Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2021 4:43 a.m. PST

A canif is a penknife or small folding knife.

SHaT198406 Jun 2021 5:03 a.m. PST

Thanks 4th_ not in my vocab and I fotgot to look it up as I hurried the posting… neither did translator !
cheers d

T Corret Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2021 4:38 p.m. PST

In Ivor Noel Hume's book, Martin's Hundred, he examines highly realistic Dutch interior paintings of the 17th century, which are noted for their fidelity to known artifacts. One of the best artists included in his paintings for over almost 50 years a delicate glass with a twist of paper in it. I keep that in mind in books like the Otto Manuscript. Artists may depend on a single image they have perfected, like that glass and paper, or the half moon axe Otto uses for many sappeurs as a shortcut to add life to a picture. Even eye witnesses who do quick sketches may need to fill in a part of a figure they overlooked. Art is not photography, but even there, many ACW photos use the same guns and knives in many pictures to add a warlike touch when the sitter was unequipped.

SHaT198406 Jun 2021 7:53 p.m. PST

Yes thanks for enlightening contribution.

I know you are not in any way referring to the countless 'reproductions' churned out to the adoring public (like copied Martiniens).
'Staging' is probably as old as warfare itself- it's how you look that counts and the response is entirely the enemies, or beholders…

With this information I'm assuaging my own fears and confusion- knowledge I wish I'd been able to utilise on my tour- so many chances if I'd just asked the right questions (like it was a mistake just visiting Chateau de l'emperi and not researching in their library, ie their collection of attributed artifacts).
cheers d

von Winterfeldt06 Jun 2021 11:08 p.m. PST

all sources need interpretation – the wider the approach, the better, it is like a puzzle and sources will contradict but also complement each other, this is the fun of research.

SHaT198407 Jun 2021 3:28 a.m. PST

Well said Sir!
Also I think I meant Martinet when i wrote hastily "Martiniens",

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