FROM NAPOLEON VS EUROPE, 1813 - 14
If you are a hardcore BOFF player, or just otherwise new to the Napoleonic period, jumping into all the exotic names that graced most Napoleonic armies can be a bit daunting. Unlike our homegrown Rebs and Yanks, these armies didn’t field just “infantry,” but rather Fusiliers, Voltigeurs, Grenadiers, Jaegers and so on, and so on. It’s like trying to figure out the players without a program, so you’re chancing putting a modern day player on meds. However, for the typical 19th century officer it all seemed to make sense.
Not to worry, we’re here to help.
Below you will find typical battalion and regimental level terms regarding units and hardware defined with this 1813 – 1814 scenario book in mind. The reality is that it’s a bit more complicated than this (Voltigeur referred to both Young Guard regiments and the light infantry company assigned to French line infantry battalions), but the list below should give you a pretty good start.
And then when you finally figure out what an Eclaireur actually is (much less pronouncethe word), pour some of your favorite Napoleonic libation and enjoy the game.
Befreiungskrieg– German for the War of Liberation, referring to the campaigns of 1813 – 15.
Cacadores– Portuguese for “hunter,” these were Portuguese light infantry battalions.
Carabiniers– French, the term designated the two senior regiments of Napoleon’s heavy cavalry contingent.
Chasseursa Cheval – French for “mounted hunters,” this term referred to standard, generic light cavalry whose functions included scouting, reconnaissance and battlefield security.
Chasseurs a Pied – French for “hunters on foot,” this term referred to various light infantry formations in French service.
Chevaulegers– French term for “light cavalry,” but normally used in German states such as Austria.
Chevauleger-Lancier– French for “light cavalry lancer,” these units were originally raised to provide battlefield capable scouts to French heavy cavalry divisions.
Cossacks– From the Turkish quzzaq, or “adventurer,” these were Russian nomadic, tribal light cavalry who owed feudal service to the Czar, alongside Kalmuks, Bashkirsand others. Well suited for scouting and pursuit, they were almost useless on the battlefield.
Cuirassiers– Heavy cavalry so named because they wore the “cuirass,” a type of body armor with either front and back plate (French practice) or front plate only (Germanpractice). In some countries, notably Prussia, the name was traditional as initially the troopers wore no armor at all.
Demi-Brigade– During the French Revolution a formation of two volunteer and one regular battalion so named as the term regiment sounded too “royal.” In 1813, it also referred to a temporary infantry formation of battalions drawn from different regiments.
Dragoons– From the French for “dragon,” referring to a type of musket. Dragoons were originally mounted infantry that rode to battle, and then dismounted to fight on foot. By the Napoleonic era they had evolved into multi-purpose line cavalry, normally fighting with the heavies, but also capable of scouting and security as well. British dragoons constituted that nation’s heavy cavalry.
Dragoon Guards – In Britain, former Heavy Horse regiments redesignated dragoons were given this title due to their traditional senior status.
Eclaireurs– French Imperial Guard scout lancers.
Foot Artillery – Artillery so named because although the guns were pulled by horses, the gunners walked on foot beside them.
FreiKorps– German for “volunteer corps,” this term refers to infantry and cavalry formations raised, drilled and equipped at personal expense by patriotic nobles of several German states. They were quite effective as mobile raiding detachments.
Fusiliers– This term is normally associated with the British 7th (Royal) and 23d (Royal Welsh) Regiments of Foot, elite troops, known for their snazzy bearskins. During the Befreiungskrieg the term also applied to the third infantry battalion within a Prussian lineregiment, providing organic light infantry support.
Gardedu Korps – A German term usually denoting the senior heavy cavalry regiment ofthe army, normally an elite formation and often part of the monarch’s personal guard.
Garde Nationale – France’s reserve or militia establishment first formed during the Revolution to maintain public order. During the Befreiungskrieg, French LigneRegiments 135 and higher were formed directly from National Guard cohorts.
Gendarmes– From the French denoting “gentlemen at arms,” this normally referred to military police.
Grenadiers– Originally this term referred to troops whose size, intelligence and courage made them ideal candidates for hurling heavy grenades at the enemy. By the Napoleonic era they were simply elite troops afforded the toughest missions while encouraging their mates to new heights of valor.
Grenz– German for “border,” this term refers to the Hungarian manned border infantry regiments that secured the Austrian frontier with the Ottoman Empire. Given they operated in such broken terrain, they were used as light infantry when supporting the main Austrian army.
Grognards– French for “grumblers or whiners,” they initially referred to Napoleon’s Old Guard infantry, but later to the French army’s personality as a whole.
Guards– Guard infantry, cavalry and artillery units were originally created to provide security for the monarch, evolving in most armies to an elite reserve.
Highlanders– Elite British Regiments of Foot recruited exclusively from the Scottish highlands, it’s most famous three regiments being the kilted 42d (Black Watch), 79th (Cameron) and 92d (Gordon) Highland Regiments.
Horse Artillery – This was artillery created specifically to support mounted formations, having guns of a smaller caliber and all personnel mounted on horses. Austria, however, mounted the gunners of her “fast foot” artillery on a sausage like seat slung atop the trail of the gun, thus the name “Wurstwagon.”
Horse Grenadiers – This term referred to the senior heavy cavalry regiment of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. The French term is Grenadiers a Cheval.
Household Cavalry – Britain’s guard cavalry establishment, consisting of the 1st and 2dLife Guards, which were normally brigaded with the blue uniformed Royal Horse Guards, the senior and only Heavy Horse regiment not converted to dragoons.
Hussars– Elite light cavalry taken from a Hungarian term (we think) meaning “one out of ten.” This was the conscription requirement needed to man such regiments, originally formed for use against the Ottomans. Think Captain Jack Sparrow with a spiffier uniform and foreign accent. Antoine Count de LaSalle putting it all in perspective by declaring that, “a hussar who is not dead by 30 is a jackass!” He was shot dead at 34 in 1809.
Jaegers (properly Jaeger zu Fus) – German for “hunters,” referring to light infantry formations in both Russian and German service, the latter often rifle armed.
JaegerGrenadiers – German for “light infantry grenadiers,” the term refers to RussianJaeger regiments so designated for distinguished service in the 1813-14 campaign against France.
Jaeger zu Pferd – German for “mounted hunters,” the term refers to generic Russian light cavalry from 1812 onwards, as well as Prussian volunteer light cavalry detachments attached to regular cavalry regiments to provide additional scouting capacity.
Inhaber– German for “proprietor,” the term was used in Austria and other German states to denote a noble appointed by the monarch as the colonel commanding of a regiment, thus responsible for its training and maintenance using state funds.
King’sGerman Legion – The KGL was an excellent German corps in service to Britain, being composed almost entirely of former Hanoverian soldiers dismissed after Napoleon conquered that small state.
Krakus– Polish irregular light cavalry, similar to Cossacks.
Landwehr– German for “militia,” designating in Prussian and Austrian, poorly trained troops hastily raised from those considered either too young or too old for normal military service.
Legere– French for “Light,” referring to formally named light infantry regiments within the French army.
Leib– German for “Life,” this title identified a formation as having a formal relationship with the monarch, often due to previous distinguished service, re: Leib Grenadier Regiment.
Licorne– French for “Unicorn,” this was a Russian semi-howitzer with a conical bore, four in each 12 gun battery. They received their name from the design of the lifting handles which referred to the arms of former Russian Chief of Artillery Count Petr Shuvalov.
Light Dragoons – In the British army the theoretical equivalent of French Chasseurs a Cheval, though more apt to cross sabers given their mounts were as large as those of the dragoons.
Ligne– French for “Line,” referring to line regiments, traditionally designated because their soldiers were drilled well enough to fight in a battleline. Other countries referred to them as Line Infantry, while in Britain they were Regiments of Foot.
Middle Guard – Regiments of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard consisting of distinguished soldiers from both the line and Young Guard, with officers and NCOs from the senior Guard regiments.
Old Guard – The senior regiments of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, selected almost exclusively on merit.
Reserve Regiments – In Prussia the units raised in 1813 per the Krumper (German for “to clump”) system. This system allowed Prussia to avoid treaty obligations with France by continuously drafting (then releasing) soldiers through its 12 regular infantry regiments, thus building a large, drilled manpower pool for mobilization.
Rifle Regiments – British, specifically the 95th (Rifle) and 5th Battalion, 60th (RoyalAmerican) Regiments. Excellent skirmishers, as were British Light Regiments.
Schutzen– German for “sharpshooter,” this was a light infantry designation similar to Jaeger, often rifle armed.
Tirailleur– French for “light infantry,” normally implying Young Guard infantry. The name denoted junior status (as light infantry was originally composed of younger, more agile soldiers), not light infantry functionality.
Velites– This term is nearly indefinable but generally means junior troops of some sort within a guard formation. The Velites of Napoleon’s Guard Chasseurs a Cheval were, for example, young men from the privileged classes whose parents actually paid for their recruitment into the elite formation.
Voltigeurs– Yet another French term for light infantry, also designating Young Guard infantry, but again primarily due to their junior status as opposed to any sort of specialized light infantry function.
Uhlans– German, from Polish, for “lancers,” this term designated mounted lancer units within the Austrian, Prussian and Russian armies, as well as the Polish Grand Duchy of Warsaw
Young Guard – Junior units of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard drawn from outstanding soldiers of each year’s conscription class, officers and NCOs from the senior Guard regiments.
Figures above by Dave Bonk of the Triangle Simulation Society.