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"French uniform confusion - well I never!" Topic


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Erzherzog Johann08 Aug 2021 1:23 a.m. PST

So I always think of French line infantry with red collar and cuffs, and white coat turnbacks, piped red.

Osprey MAA141 has a table for the "1806 uniform", with lots of different colours. I'm guessing this is what was meant to happen with the roll out of white uniforms, but that it never happened because the white uniforms never really properly happened.

I know this seems basic but I've never really had to do Uniformology 101 (France) before because Austrians have a nice organised system where there are about 20 different colours, which combine with button colour and Hungarianness to create lots of unique regimental uniforms.

The French obviously felt that such a system was too easy . . .

So Dave very helpfully sent me a picture of a drummer of the 56th Line, which has sort of orangy pink (nearly aurore) facings etc. The Osprey table says the 56th would have had pink,and various other regiments would have had aurore so it clearly isn't mean to *be* that. Is there any method to the madness here that I might glean or is it just a case of a colonel going, "I like orangy pink; I'll put my drummers in that."

Confused,
John

Cerdic08 Aug 2021 9:16 a.m. PST

Yes

setsuko08 Aug 2021 10:51 a.m. PST

Yes there were the regulation uniforms, and there were the uniforms that the Colonels ended up picking. Those were not always the same thing. Also the French regulations were less extensive at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars, leaving more room for variations. Later on, desperation and lack of logistics replaced vague regulations as reasons for why not everyone wore the same uniform.

SHaT198408 Aug 2021 1:44 p.m. PST

Dear Confused,

Well, if I may interject again…

>>Also the French regulations were less extensive at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars<<

Utter rubbish!
Oh sorry, umm that appears to be in error!
The 'French' regulations were thorough and complete in both 1786-1791-1792 respectively. Ad-hoc were volunteers and early legere.

Thus, those regs carried through until someone of high importance, decided, lets say interferred with the norm, and due to some shady advice from who knows where, suggested a portion of the army be dressed in a simpler, plainer white cloth.

Think of it as an add-on to a massive army already in action. Certain units were 'detailed' and some got samples; some got completed battalions it is inferred; but no-one has ever produced a positive report that entire regiments (ie 3-4 war battalions) got them. Some units not in the 'detail' also received them, while others did not. Go figure!

On the 'Colonels' choice- yes a myriad of reasons led to a myriad of colours. The first and most logical is what was in stores already made- old issue; then captured cloth, material or uniforms; adaption of new features to an old form (ie plumes, cords and company insignia- pompoms etc.).

What happened in Paris didn't always reproduce a 1000km away in central 'Germany' where a large proportion of 'La Grande Armée' spent better of 3 calendar years cantoned and in garrisons (1805-07) while the boys in Paris got more fashionable, tighter and better home 'support'.

So___ uniforms didn't get thrown away; they wore out; bandsmen and tete-du-colonne probably even less. Unless a wholesale change were made (at some expense and that MAY have included personal cost of officers too) then a 'unit' didn't change overnight.

Remember the 'Guard' complained about wearing new uniforms for parades in Paris (1803/04) but then had to hand them in to the stores a day later!?

Various and multiple uniforms, models and of course equipment were in simultaneous use in differing theatres and campaigns. The same variety existed amongst all corps, perhaps the least affected being the cherished 'Garde' due to their quite prominent public relations role around Paris and other imperial domains. (And this goes for line units of the First Military District- Paris and Versailles etc. who were issued new uniforms to make the best impression on public and foreigners alike).

On the research side:-
The 'Redux' thread again carries a lt of the history and a few
gems of knowledge that probably can't or won't be repeated until the book of the web site comes out.
TMP link

We also covered this in your previous thread:- TMP link .

Plus:- TMP link .

regards+
dave+

JAFD2608 Aug 2021 2:56 p.m. PST

John Elting's _Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee_ goes into this. IMAO it's the best book around on 'how pre-industrial age armies _lived_', and everyone interested in military history oughta read it.

setsuko09 Aug 2021 1:37 a.m. PST

">>Also the French regulations were less extensive at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars<<

Utter rubbish!"

Lol yeah my fault then as I didn't think of 1786 as the "beginning of the Napoleonic Wars", I think more of those as Revolutionary Wars until a certain chap named Napoleon turns up. But that's semantics. I was referring to things like the greatcoat not even being mentioned afaik in the regulations at the start of the 19th century, and the Bardin regulations being more exhaustive than previous regulations, limiting a lot of the previous crazy variation in drummer uniforms etc., again afaik.

SHaT198409 Aug 2021 10:48 p.m. PST

my fault then as I didn't think of 1786 as the "beginning of the Napoleonic Wars", I think more of those as Revolutionary Wars until a certain chap named Napoleon turns up. But that's semantics. I was referring to things like the greatcoat not even being mentioned afaik in the regulations

Nevertheless some kind of regulations were in use [1786]; thus each rolled forward with the previous; no regime in human history has introduced new uniforms the day they started.

Republican armies habitually acquired equipment and clothing. Supposedly that was his 'raison d'etre' in '96 to burst forth on the Italian communities of Ligurian coast etc.

I'm no longer at all convinced by the repetition of epithets of Bonapartes ideas being any better than other C-in-C's, Ministers of War or alternative commanders. There were as many other commanders who took stable, significant and qualified steps in a decade of warfare that don't rank as bright as 'his' brilliance as we now know it.

Having said that- the matter of manteau and greatcotes/ redingcotes were always available in various ways- for cavalry, personal purchase by officers, and some general issues.

In the wet coastal Winters and Autumns of Brittany and Pas-de-Calais 1801-1804 they were issued among the various camps. Neither [regimental] training nor [naval] embarkation practice ceased because of the weather.

Similarly, prior to the transfer of forces to the East in 1805, at least one order for [I think] 30,000 capotes to be issued to some combat corps. I have a copy of the document 'Returns' of comfirmation and to whom issued.

So while a 'regulation' being issued from the MoW may not be extant, certainly the orders to do so were given formally, in this case the Emperor.

So the 'knowledge' of regulations doesn't give a picture of what actually happened in real life.

cheers d

SHaT198409 Aug 2021 11:58 p.m. PST

Sorry forgot to close quotes…
dinner intervened, you know the rest_____
wine

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP14 Aug 2021 12:55 p.m. PST

Long as it was good dinner. I have two sons at home right now (26 year olds) and I would not try to post much after a two hour dinner across the table. I emptied the recycle bottle box only two days ago and already it is…let us say embarrassing.

SHaT198414 Aug 2021 6:00 p.m. PST

Heh Liam
well we don't drink AND eat here, at least at home. The alternative cuisine fairy sees to that.

Dinner was so ordinary I can't remember.
Having a wine or two is usually a post dinner/ tv watching experience.
It probably takes us 3 months to fill a 200L recycling bin, so you see we're not great consumers ;-) .
cheers d

@setsuko-
>>and the Bardin regulations being more exhaustive than previous regulations, limiting a lot of the previous crazy variation <<

Yes the quantifiable reductions in costs to manufacture, centralised control and issues same, common features etc. all gave impetus to this.

I agree.
It wasn't to make the chaps look 'better'!

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