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"Train des Equipages" Topic

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Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2023 8:57 a.m. PST

Some English language Napoleonic volumes translate this as 'equipment train.' The question I have is what equipment?

Two translations of the above term make much more sense. The English translation in the Rousselot plates is 'carriage train.' Col Elting translated it as 'supply train' which makes much more sense and is much more accurate.

An 1846 French dictionary, not a military one, translates 'equipage' as 'crew', 'train', 'to keep a carriage', and 'pumping gear.' The use of the term 'equipment' is not to be found.

The same dictionary defines 'equipment' from English to French as 'equipement' and 'armement.'

Military French can sometimes be difficult and words in 'civilian life' can mean something entirely different when used by the armed forces. A good example is the word 'fraise.' In normal French it means 'strawberry' but in military French it means a 'pointed stake' as used in fortifications.

The train des equipages militaires (the actual title) was created and authorized in March 1807 to replace the Companie Breidt which had handled the French supply and logistics effort from 1805-1807. The necessary horses and wagons, etc. were purchased from 'various contractors.' The new organization was a great improvement over the civilian contractors.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2023 9:56 a.m. PST

Col Elting's translation and your last paragraph leads me to opine that it is the army supply train, "tasked with transporting flour, bread, meat and fodder." See link from the French language Wiki.


Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2023 10:43 a.m. PST

Translating it as 'equipment train' is a mistranslation.

Prince of Essling15 Mar 2023 11:41 a.m. PST

Agreed trying to anglicise French terms can be a real nightmare. I have always looked on the train des equipages as the carrier of supplies, materials & munitions, in otherwords the equivalent of the modern logistics chain.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2023 12:04 p.m. PST

That is correct which is why I always use 'supply train.' Equipages does not translate as equipment.

Musketballs15 Mar 2023 12:14 p.m. PST

-The English translation in the Rousselot plates is 'carriage train'.-

In Upah-Claas English the term 'equipage' clung on in its original meaning of a 'horse-drawn contraption of some description'. Naturally, it was reserved for the vehicles they drove around in – a coach or carriage, rather than a wagon or cart.

Translators of a certain era might naturally, but wrongly, have assumed that 'equipages' referred to the vehicle, rather than the cargo, and therefore 'Train des Equipages' was a direct equivalent to the British military term 'Wagon Train'.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2023 3:15 p.m. PST

Even wagon train was a better translation than equipment train.

Again, that begs the question, what equipment?

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2023 3:45 p.m. PST

Primarily food. The ambulances were also assigned here.

La Fleche15 Mar 2023 8:00 p.m. PST

The Train des Equipages would have carried everything an army would need except (depending on the army):
1. Specialist equipment belonging to artillery, bridging, engineering and medical units.
2. Items needing to be close at hand to cover the next day, in the case of battles, or up to a week in the case of campaign marches: Personal items beloning to individual troops, which would have been carried in knapsacks or company carts, and communal items such as bulky rations, cooking pots and pans etc, which would have been conveyed in company, battalion or even vivandière/ cantinière carts.

Some things would be less likely to have been carried in large quantities that could have been begged, borrowed or stolen from the locales through which an army passed (particularily in the case of the French army).

I've often envisaged this touching scene:
"Papa, what did you do during the war?"
"Well, I drove the wagon that carried the forage for the horses that pulled the wagons that carried the forage for the horses that pulled the wagons that carried the nails for the horseshoes that shod the horses that pulled…"
"Oh Papa, never mind!"

NB: "Chevau de Frise" is the name of the spiked obstacle ("Frisian Horse").

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2023 4:18 a.m. PST

The ponton train would carry the necessary material to throw pontoon bridges, such as the hacquets that carried the pontoons, field forges, wagons carrying coal, etc, and the necessary ancillary equipment such as anchors, rope, etc.

The pontonniers were formed in 1792 in Strasbourg from Rhine River boatmen. They were not fully organized as a battalion until 1794 and were thoroughly disciplined and morale restored until Eble was appointed as their commander. They were part of the artillery arm. The second battalion was formed on the Rhine in 1797-1799; the third battalion was formed in Italy in 1800. The next year the second and third battalions were consolidated.

The engineer train was first organized on a trial basis in Berlin in 1806 and was fully organized by 1811. The engineer train troops were uniformed in the usual iron-gray (gris-de-fer) but with black facings.

Lilian16 Mar 2023 6:02 a.m. PST

There is a misunderstanding I think with the Train d'Artillerie/Train of Artillery raised before in 1800 or the Train du Génie mentionned above because the Train des Equipages didn't carry at all these "Specialist equipment belonging to artillery, bridging, engineering and medical units" or even ammunitions, there three differents branches and kind of Train battalions,
at this time the first were often named just Bataillons du Train (implied : "of Artillery") while the seconds rather Bataillons des Equipages instead of their longer complete title

as miniMo said, the Bataillons du Train Equipages transported food for men and also obviously for animals, biscuits, bread, rice, wheat, rye, oatmeal, hay, wines and brandy, one specific Ambulance Battalion was chosen the 18e,
were also raised mule brigades in Spain

Musketballs16 Mar 2023 12:56 p.m. PST

So, the Train was raised to replace the private haulage companies run by the contractor Breidt, with whom Bonaparte had fallen severely out of love by early 1807.

If we look at his Correspondence to find out what Breidt's hauliers were doing before their replacement, on top of moving food around, we also find them tasked with things such as:

-Delivering stocks of shoes, boots and uniforms.
-Delivering replacement saddles and horse harness.
-Moving stocks of captured Prussian war material.
-Moving stocks of confiscated merchandise and requisitioned goods.
-Transporting the baggage of the Imperial Guard to the Guard in Magdeburg

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP16 Mar 2023 3:35 p.m. PST

I believe that Napoleon, based on the logistic failure of the Companie Breidt in the 1805 campaign, wanted to militarize the supply train.

Interestingly, in the 1823 'invasion' of Spain, it was Gabriel Ouvrard that got the logistical contracts…

Musketballs17 Mar 2023 10:48 a.m. PST

The old way worked so long as the French Army stayed in its traditional campaigning sphere…the Low Countries, Italy and the Rhine. No-one really imagined it having to support a large army in Moravia or Poland, let alone during winter.

Bonaparte himself mentions the issue of Breidt using a civilian scale of one driver to a four-horse wagon, rather than the military scale of one driver per two horses – if the single driver falls ill, what happens to the wagon? Not a huge concern on the Rhine in summer, but a serious problem in a Polish winter.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Mar 2023 11:26 a.m. PST

The 'old way' was open to graft and inefficiency, which was why Napoleon militarized the supply train in Poland in early 1807. the Compagnie Breidt had their own horses and drivers. The wagons and harness were supplied by the government. Breidt supplied only one driver for every four-horse wagon, when two were required. And they cut corners on such things as veterinary service and horseshoeing and were not very generous in feeding their own men. The convoys made up of these vehicles lost wagons en route to their destination as the horses fell sick, wore out, or threw shoes.

von Winterfeldt17 Mar 2023 12:36 p.m. PST

the system collapsed in 1807, despite the Grande Armée stayed quite imobile for a while, people should ask why they just couldn't supply the needs of the soldiers despite the relatively short approach ways from Prussia.

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP17 Mar 2023 1:43 p.m. PST

If the system had 'collapsed' in 1807, the army would have either starved or been forced to retreat from Poland.

Once again, you are incorrect in your assessment.

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