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"Borodino 2022 French Formations" Topic

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Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP12 Aug 2022 3:48 p.m. PST

Honest question here: presuming the voltigeur company was the leftmost company of the battalion when it was in line, why could not a column of divisions (where the division that would have included the voltigeur company would have been the last in the column) or alternatively a column of attack (i.e formed from the line on the center, where again the voltigeur company would have been in the trail position) be formed without the voltigeurs being present? Yes there would be only five companies in the column and yes the last echelon would be "missing" a company, but it is not immediately obvious to me that it couldn't be done. The first two echelons of 2 companies each, in either formation, would be present.

Mike Petro12 Aug 2022 4:00 p.m. PST

I was thinking the same as Eumelus, I thought a column of division was two line companies abreast in front and the other two line companies behind, with the third rearward element the grenadier and voltigeur companies, if attached.


Or maybe I have no clue what I'm talking about as well.

Edit: Ah! I see you said the rules require it. Okay, does it affect much in the rules really? I always enjoyed my games of C&G, glad to see people playing it.

von Winterfeldt12 Aug 2022 9:47 p.m. PST

I am not aware the voltigeur reunis were formed for the battle, but maybe Terry is able to tell more.

Cdr Luppo13 Aug 2022 12:21 a.m. PST


Cdr Luppo13 Aug 2022 12:23 a.m. PST

iirc, the BN is obliged to switch to colonne par peloton only if the Greneadiers and the voltigeurs are detached.

Michman13 Aug 2022 1:50 a.m. PST

I am not aware that there was any "standard" for combining the artillerie régimentaire.

The 5th corps grouped the 3-pounders into 4 piece batteries at brigade level at Smolensk.

Davout at the small action of Saltanovka made a 4 piece 3-lber battery, I think mostly because he was awiating arrival of "regular" artillery.

Oudinot's artillerie régimentaire stayed in the rear, it appears.
Oudinot à l'Empereur 15.VIII.1812 (just before 1st Polotsk)
"Mes équipages d'artillerie sont en assez bon état, quant à ceux de la ligne, mais il n'en est pas de même pour les régimentaires, ce qui ajoute singulièrement à mes inquiétudes ; je ne sais en vérité comment faire marcher tout cela."

I think that the Italian 15th division *did* make an 8 piece battery or 2x 4 piece batteries, manned with mostly artillery soldiers scavenged from their artillery park. Rather uniquely, 50% of the 15th division were light infantry (and half of these Dalmatians), and I would suppose General Pino saw the regimental guns as a hinderance to them.

The 16 Gribeauval 4-lbers attached to the Young Guard units arriving from Spain stayed with their battalions until captured by the Russians during the retreat.


The use of "voliguers réunis" *did* occur (see Fabry), but was by no means universal, nor even especially common.

It was explicitly the French doctrine with the 6 company battalions to form on division frontage (i.e., 9 ranks plus file closers) for combat if the battalion was complete and on peloton frontage when one or both of the grenadier/carabinier and/or voltiguer company were detached (i.e., 12 or 15 ranks plus file closers, on 1/2 the frontage). This obviated the problems rising from an odd number of sub-units, but (I think more importantly) kept the depth of the formation.

Recall that under the original organization of 9 companies, it was envisionned that the fusiliers/chasseurs were expected to form on division frontage with a depth of 12 ranks plus file closers. This same diisional column with depth of 12 ranks plus file closers was also common to the Consular and Impériale Gardes (whose battalions formed 8 pelotons from 4 compagies).

Alternatively, but less often, the French might form a battalion with grenadier/carabiniers or voltiguers detached, on division frontage, with the remaining elite peloton forming also a 1/2 width division. Again we have 9 ranks plus file closers.

Le décret du 18 février 18o8 sur l'infanterie
"Article 7
Quand les six compagnies seront présentes au bataillon, on défilera et l'on agira toujours par division.
Quand les grenadiers et voltigeurs seront absents du bataillon, on manœuvrera et défilera toujours par peloton.
Deux compagnies formeront une division; chaque compagnie formera un peloton; chaque demi-compagnie une section."

See also
"Manuel d'infanterie, ou résumé de tous les réglemens, décrets, usages, renseignemens" ….
4e édition, 1813, pages 437 et seq.


If you put all the Russian heavy infantry battalions in "attack columns" flanked by platoons from their light artillery companies (a pair of 6-lbers) – and – all their jäger battalions each in 1 (thick) open order chain, you would not be too far wrong.

But to force such rigidity on the French side seems (at first glance) ahistorical and unfairly depriving them of one of their advantages. Is there some reason to take away from the French some of their tactical flexibility?

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2022 2:10 a.m. PST

One possible argument occurs to me to support the doctrine of forming only column of companies (peletons) when the battalion is down to 5 peletons. With a 6 peleton battalion formed either in column of divisions or column of attack (2 peleton frontage in either case), a square can easily be formed by halting the lead division, forming the left and right faces by half wheels by the second division, and forming the rear face by having the trail division close up and complete the square. If the voltigeurs are with the battalion but skirmishing, they will have to return to complete the rear face.

But if the voltigeurs are detached from the battalion, then there is nothing to complete the rear face if the square is formed in the above manner. However, forming a square from a column of 5 peletons is simple – the second closes up on the first to form the front face (of 6 ranks), the third and fourth swing left and right to form the side faces, and the fifth closes up to form the rear.

This is speculation on my part, but if correct then the choice you might present to the players is "if you converge the voltigeurs of the regiment, then columns of division or attack cannot form _hasty_ squares (they can form squares if given time to do so). Such restriction does not apply to columns of companies (peletons)."

Personal logo Flint and Bayonet Supporting Member of TMP13 Aug 2022 2:32 a.m. PST

Capf Luppo

Excellents documents Éric ! :^)

My site

Michman13 Aug 2022 2:47 a.m. PST

@Cdr Luppo

Thank you for the excellent diagrams !!!


I generally agree about making squares with 5 pelotons – although I think they would reinforce the corners insted of doubling one face (that was the rôle for grenadiers if present in the 9-company battalion square).

Also forming square from 4 pelotons on division frontage has issues : you end up with each face of the square being 2 sections from different pelotons (not great when getting out of square) and it requires your front to break in 2 places and turn *away* from the enemy.

The diagram above of 4 pelotons on division frontage is a little off-scale. At full strength, the 4 pelotons would occupy 80 files by 6 ranks plus file closers – say about 50m x 7m. …. really just a doubled line.

"If the voltigeurs are with the battalion but skirmishing, they will have to return to complete the rear face"
Or not – a square missing its rear face was a type of "colonne vide" – used by Russians (especially against Turks), if not French (who had it before 1791, but I dont know if they kept it).

Anyway, the Coleagues' discussion here reinforces the idea that the French were very flexible tactically, which I would hate to see lost in the planned Borodino game.


von Winterfeldt13 Aug 2022 5:49 a.m. PST

iirc, the BN is obliged to switch to colonne par peloton only if the Greneadiers and the voltigeurs are detached.

I was under the impression to colonne de division

Cdr Luppo13 Aug 2022 11:31 a.m. PST

well, from our friend Diego M. site about "voltigeurs réunis" (2008 or so)

1812 – The Moskowa : Compans infantry division : had formed two battalions of "Voltigeurs Réunis" (with 6 and 4 pelotons ) to lead the two brigades leading the attack.

so you have 6 + 4 pelotons of voltigeurs reunited to "lead the attack" for two infantry brigades from Compans Division.

ps : Hi Thierry ! happy to get news from you. really. with my best regards of course.
; )

Cdr Luppo13 Aug 2022 12:15 p.m. PST

Article 6

En bataille, la compagnie de grenadiers tiendra la droite du bataillon, celle des voltigeurs, la gauche.

Article 7

Quand les six compagnies seront présentes au bataillon, on défilera et l'on agira toujours par division.
Quand les grenadiers et voltigeurs seront absents du bataillon, on manœuvrera et défilera toujours par peloton.

Deux compagnies formeront une division; chaque compagnie formera un peloton; chaque demi-compagnie une section.

Michman13 Aug 2022 2:49 p.m. PST

5e division present under arms on 23 August 1812 (from Fabry)
25e de ligne 103/2,664
57e de ligne 93/2.968
61e de ligne 85/2,452
111e de ligne 79/3,155
Total of 360/11,239 in 20 battalions, of which the four 6th battalions did not yet form elite companies.
Average of ~3/~94 per company.
Note that none of the 4 regiments was light infantry

Here is an aticle which discusses Compans' voltigeurs réunis in some detail :
PDF link
commander major en 2e du 25e de ligne Alexandre Duchesne (Saintes 1773 – Saintes 1842)
--- 1er bataillon de voltigeurs réunis : les quatre compagnies du 25e et les 1° et 2° bataillons du 57e
--- 2e bataillon de voltigeurs réunis : les 3° et 4° bataillons du 57e et les quatre compagnies du 61e
see also : link


Poniatowski had 2 battalions of voltigeurs réunis at Smolensk.
See : PDF link

And at least 1 battalion of voltigeurs réunis at Mozhaysk.
See : link

At Borodino, Poniatowski had 18 battalions of line infantry and, like Compans, no light regiments. He sent all or nearly all of his 18 companies of voltiguers into the Utitsa woods to battle the 18 companies of jägers and combined grenadiers of the Russian 3rd Infantry division. I do not know if the Poles formed their men into three battalions of voltigeurs réunis, but it would seem quite possible.

von Winterfeldt14 Aug 2022 4:07 a.m. PST

Very impressive information and links, special thanks to Michman, Cdr Luppo and carnot.

von Winterfeldt14 Aug 2022 4:42 a.m. PST

reflecting on that – it is kind as the Prussians used their Schützen in 1806 – they received bad critics for that, but as I see the French and Poles did the same, so the battalions had no tirailleurs de combat any longer or did they just use then a usual center company?

In case we discuss the voltigeurs on such a good level of detail, what happened to the grenadiers at Borodino or in the 1812 campaign?

Scott Sutherland15 Aug 2022 6:50 a.m. PST


to supplement the details already provided. This may be of interest to resolving this. I would expect the voltigeurs to be consolidated on a Brigade basis, rather than regimental. i.e. the same as envisioned for grenadiers.

For example in "Règlement provisoire sur le service de l'infanterie en campagne du 5 avril 1792", in Titre III (page 8 it notes), selected paragraphs
"1 Les corps destinés à servir en campagne seront mis en brigades à leur arrivée au camp
2 Toutes les brigades seront composées de deux régimens ou de six bataillons

7 Lorsque les brigades seront formées les compagnies de grenadiers de chaque brigade se réuniront en bataillon qui sera commandé par un officier supérieur choisi par le général.
8 Ces bataillons seront destinés à servir hors de ligne quand ils ne seront pas détachés Les compagnies de grenadiers camperont à leur place ordinaire »

A free translation
"1 Each unit will be placed in brigades upon arrival at camp.
2 All brigades will be composed of two regiments or six battalions.

7 When the brigades are formed, the companies of grenadiers of each brigade will be combined in a battalion, which will be commanded by a senior officer chosen by the General.
8 These battalions will be intended to serve out of the line of battle. When they are not detached [from the brigade]. The grenadier companies will camp in their ordinary place."

I have not seen any similar mention concerning Voltigeurs, although at this time there is no clear Voltigeur or similar light company.

In Napoleon's instructions to form Voltigeur companies in 1804 does not mention combined battalions or similar.

However, Napoleon's instructions on the six-company organisation in 1808 note.
ART. 6. – En bataille, la compagnie des grenadiers tiendra la droite du bataillon, celle des voltigeurs la gauche.
ART. 7. – Quand les six compagnies seront présentes au bataillon, on défilera et l'on agira toujours par division. Quand les grenadiers et voltigeurs seront absents du bataillon, on manœuvrera et défilera toujours par peloton. Deux compagnies formeront une division ; chaque compagnie formera un peloton ; chaque demi-compagnie, une section. »

Which loosely translated is;
Article 6. – In battle, the company of grenadiers will hold the right of the line of the battalion, that of the voltigeurs on the left.
Article 7. – When all six companies are present with the battalion, it will travel (march) and manoeuvre by divisions. When the grenadiers and voltigeurs are absent from the battalion, it will always manoeuvre and travel (march) by platoon. Two companies will form a division; each company will form a platoon; each half-company, a section…."

It seems, it is almost taken as given, that the Grenadier and Voltigeur are operating separately from the Fusiliers much of the time.

14Bore15 Aug 2022 2:56 p.m. PST

Assuming the Russians formations thread will be posed?

Michman16 Aug 2022 12:10 a.m. PST

The most common Russian heavy infantry formation was their version of a French attack column : "column on the center". It could be as the French : formed on the center division (two platoons) at half distance (the distance between divisions being a half platoon). The Russians could from this also form a closed column (virtually no space between divisions) when making a bayonet charge (which could be done against cavalry or infantry), or to receive cavalry.

Column on platoon frontage was mostly a movemet formation or used where terrain was constricted (example : 1st Grenadier division near Utitsa).

Jäger were typically in open order, but if/when formed, they formed as did heavy infantry. Grenadiers were sometimes in open order, if terrain or tactical need required it (examples : Tauride Grenadiers, Combined Grenadier battalions of the 3rd Infantry division). Infantry (i.e. heavy infantry not Grenadiers, formerly called Musketeers) could adopt open order but it was rarer.

I know of no clear example of any infantry unit forming line at Borodino. It is possible that the Life Guard Jager did so, or tried to do so.

Most battalions formed 8 platoons into 4 divisions, with 24 files in 3 ranks. Understrength or losses would create vacant ("void") spaces in the 3rd rank until it was empty. 2 elite platoons equalized with each other, 6 center platoons equalized with wach other.

Standard column on the center, facing "up" screen, formed on the right – notice that their was no problem with having eleytes in the same division as center companies (an issue for the French 6-company battalions), presumably because detaching platoons was uncommon or not done at all.

1/2M b 2/2M
2/3M 1/1M
1/3M 2/1M

M = Mustkeers companies in Infantry battalions, Fusilier icompanies n most Grenadier battalions
G = Grenadier platoon
S = "Strelki" or Marksmen platoon
#/# = platoon number/company number
b = banner group

column on the center for 6 platoon/ 3 company Combined Grenadier battalions :


G/ = Grenadier platoon
S/ = "Strelki" or Marksmen platoon
J = company from Jäger regiment
SH = company from senior Heavy infantry regiment
JH = company from junior Heavy infantry regiment
b = banner group (but *no actual flag*)

Infantry division formation, typical arrangement, facing "up" screen

◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦

3/JHi 1/JH1 3/SH1 1/SH1

3/JH2 1/JH2 3/SH2 1/SH2

◦ ◦ = Jäger advanced in open order
#/ = battalion number, each with 2x 6-lber guns
SH# = senior heavy regiment of the # brigade
JH# = senior heavy regiment of the # brigade
on the flanks and/or in reserve : 8x 1/4-pud unicorns
detached : two Combined Grenadier battalions and the battery artillery company

There were vaiations, of course. Example : 11th Infantry division sent 150 "zastrelki" from the flanks of the platoons in their 1st brigade, compsed of the crack Kexholm and Pernau regiments, to cover the front of the division. Their senior Jäger regiment, the 1st, was detached from the division. The junior 33rd Jäger, formerly the Senate guard regiment, was held in reserve in a third line in 4 platoon columns.


Russian cavalry formed in 2 ranks. They operated on frontages of :
divisions : 120 files
Two divisions formed a regiment of Heavy cavalry (cuirassiers including guards, dragoons) and a battalion or 1/2 regiment of light cavalry (hussars, lancers)
squadrons : 60 files
half-squadrons : 30 files
platoons : 15 files
road-march : 3 files (column of 3's)
The light cavalry could also fight in open order.

Although Cossack and Native (or "National") cavalry could form as did regular cavalry, it was rare and did not occur, to my knowledge, at Borodino. Thsee typically fought in open order (called лава / "lava" = avalanche or flood formation).

Michman16 Aug 2022 6:22 p.m. PST

I am not sure where the "deployed in line" comes from (there is no footnote). A paragraph or so later, he quotes Poles reporting facing Russian columns.

From the after-action report of General Konovnitsyn (commanding the 3rd Infantry division) :
"1-я гранадерская дивизия построена была прежде в две линии, пехотные полки 3-й дивизии в баталионных колоннах за ними."
That just says formed in 2 lines, not "deployed in line".
See :

From the after-action report of General Stroganov (commanding the 1st Grenaduer division) :
"как скоро французские колонны начали показываться из лесу, первая линия 1-й гренадерской дивизии под командою генерал-майора Фока, стоящая за деревней, находящейся на Старой Смоленской дороге, деплоировала и выслала своих стрелков против неприятельских стрелков"
He says his first line deployed skirmishers. I would not read "деплоировала" as the six battalions deployed in line-of-battle and then sent out skirmishers.
See : link

Typically, the initial positions of the 1st Grenadier division are given as :
--- skirmish chain : 1st/Yekaterinoslav in/about Utitsa and zastrelski detachments of skirmishers from 1st/Pavlov and 1st/Tauride to the north and south – each with several guns of No. 6 light company
--- 1st Line : Life, Saint-Petersburg, and 3rd/Yekaterinoslav in battalion columns either side of the road immediately behind Utitsa
--- 2nd Line : Pavlov, Graf Arakcheyev and Tauride behind the 1st Line, also in battalion columns
This would have been a rather standard/typical Russian divisional deployment

See :
PDF link
PDF link

After about 30 minutes skirmishing around Utitsa, the Poles were exiting 2 divisions from the woods and un-limbering several artillery batteries.
The 8 heavy infantry battalions of the 3rd Infantry division are then called away toward the flèches, 2 battalions of the Tauride Grenadiers are sent to cover this movement as skirmishers, the zastrelki and the light company guns are pulled back, the 6 battalions of 1st line of the 1st Grenadier division are ordered to light up the village, pull back and effect a passage of lines with the remaining 4 battalions of 2nd line of that division, while a 12-lber battery is emplaced on the nearest high ground : all in the clear space behind the village of about 500 x 800 meters.
If any Russian unit had been deployed in line of battle, they would have needed to convert to column.

Michman17 Aug 2022 4:01 a.m. PST

Maybe of interest ….

Many would consider the following to be the best record of the terrain, vegetation, buildings, fortifications, etc. for Borodino.

After the battle, the French left three senior geographic engineers * at Borodino to map the place in detail. Some hand colored versions of their work made it to Paris, and were promptly obtained by Russian spies. The Russians corrected several mistakes in place names. On the map below, "Stara Selnia" is actually Utitsa. Shevardino is called "Aleksinke" and is located at the bottom center of the image. North is roughly to the left, so that you see Utitsa from the perspective of the advancing Poles. The "Utitsa Kurgan" occupied by a 12-lber Russian battery later in the day is the mound "above and to the right" of Utitsa, almost aligned with so-called Novo-Selnia. For scale, the straight line distance from the center flèche marked "5" to the Old Smolensk road at Utitsa is almost exactly 2 km.

Note the constricted/disrupted terrain in front of and around Utitsa – presumably the reason for the Russians re-deployment behind the village, where there were better fields of fire for their artillery. In my opinion (just that) there is not space enough to have two lines each of 6 Grenadier battalions all deployed in line-of-battle, nor any reason to do so.


* The three engineers did not survive the campaign ….
--- ingénieur-géographe capitaine de 1re classe Antoine-Joseph Pressat "aîné" (Paris 1776 – Vilna 1812) – wounded 10.XI.1812 near Smolensk, died 4.XII.1812 near Vilna
-- ingénieur-géographe capitaine de 2e classe Etienne-Auguste Chevrier (Paris 1773 – Vilna 1812) – wounded on 20.XI.1812 on the Berezina bridges, left in delirium at a village near Vilna, and never seen again
--- ingénieur-géographe capitaine de 2e classe Régnault (Paris? ~1779 – Vilna 1812) – wounded, frostbitten, reported missing in Vilna 10.XII.1812, and never seen again

Allan F Mountford17 Aug 2022 7:49 a.m. PST

Is this the whole map? If not, do you have a link to the original?
I have never seen it before.

Michman17 Aug 2022 12:42 p.m. PST

@Allan F Mountford

Overall, no …. but some little bits and pieces, yes.

Discussion of French and other mapping of the battlefield. The second article seems to have had 2 more fragments of the 1812 map (not archived, that I can find so far).
PDF link

This seems to be the guy who photographed the French 1812 map in the Russian archives:

The French 1812 map was done at 1:14,400 scale

Fragment around "Aleksinky" – actually Shevardino


Another fragment : Gorki to Semenovskoe (village of Borodino No. 9 at bottom left, "Raevsky" redoubt No.6 at bottom center) :
PDF link


The Baron von Toll had a 1:21,000 map done in 1814 by Russian geographical engineers.
But the French one looks much better to me.
A fragment :


Michman18 Aug 2022 8:05 a.m. PST

More on early Borodino maps ….

French 1812 1:14,400
I found archived images of the fragments included with the second article noted above : no joy.



It would appear that the very nicely executed copy done by Russians with placename corrections was the work of Topographic Engineer Sub-lieutenant Rayko, in 1815.
I still think this is the best one, not least because it give the heights numerically (e.g. "7m") in addition to graphically.


Russian 1814 1:21,000
Here is the *series* of 1:21,000 maps done in 1814 by the Russian engineers under Baron von Toll's direction. I think it is quite good when seen as a whole.
To download in a .pdf, just click the icon with the downward pointing arrow. While no one should guaranty safety on the Russian internet, this is the website of the Russian State Library – like for the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Full series


French ~1830 1:50,000
Thiers published an Atlas of the wars of the Consulatte and the Empire in 1859.
It included a 1:50,000 scale map of Borodino drawn in about 1830, apparently at the French military map archives and so with access to the 1:14,400 map done on-site in 1812
Full – black & white


Sections – colored




Russian ~1835 1:42,000
The Russian general staff under General-Major Khatov made this 1:42,000 map for the staff school. It was used by Buterlin in his detailed history of the 1812 campaign published in 1837

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP18 Aug 2022 8:13 a.m. PST

These maps are amazing, thank you! What does the "constricted, disrupted" terrain mean? What effect would it have on movement and fire?

Michman18 Aug 2022 9:36 a.m. PST

I meant the differences in elevation, the ravines for river/stream beds, the buildings, the vegetation, etc.

Now, exactly how much vegetation earned a mark of "woods" ? It would be more vegetation than cleared ploughland or pastureland, but maybe not dense forest. I imagine the French 1812 map makers, at least, marked what they considered miliarily relevant terrain. But I could only give my opinion ( = guess) for the effect of each type of marking.

Comparing the maps for a given location might also help. It would seem that some of the maps have deciduous marked differently from conifers.

Also, if it helps, I checked the 1799 1:8,400 plans for used by Russian government auditors. More graphical layouts than real maps. These show buildings, roads/bridges and ploughland in use. There was no ploughland shown in use in 1799 in the battlefield area. So we are likely looking at pastureland with XX degree of trees where so marked in 1812.

Toward the south of the battlefield, I suppose the woods were rather thick. The Poles took an 8 km round-about route from their bivouacs to use the Old Smolensk road rather than go directly at Utitsa 2.5 km through the woods.

Allan F Mountford22 Aug 2022 12:16 a.m. PST

Many thanks again.
One of the interesting features is the representation of the Bagration fleches, with the third 'concealed' fleche having varying location and orientation.

Michman22 Aug 2022 3:21 a.m. PST

@Allan F Mountford

Yes, exactly so.
Perhaps of interest ….

Engineering works at the Borodino battlefield in 1812
«Инженерные работы на Бородинском Поле в 1812 году»
Николай Иванович Иванов (1923–2006)




Flèches (text)
Other parts of the bttlefield

Background info about Ivanov :

Архитектор-реставратор Н.И.Иванов
Леонард Владиславович Тыдман (1928-2016)

Предисловие к статье Н.И. Иванова «Братские могилы и другие воинские захоронения 1812 года на Бородинском поле»
Пантелеймон Николаевич Грюнберг (1950- )


Collection of Borodino paintings

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