Saturday, 22 September 2007

NAPOLEONIC WARFARE IN RUSSIA (part 3)

Infantry Organisation
Organisation of the Russian infantry was rearranged late 1810. There already existed grenadier, musketeer and jäger regiments. Musketeer regiments altered into Infantry regiments. Infantry divisions now were to have two infantry brigades and one jäger brigade each of two regiments. For this purpose several infantry regiments were converted into jäger regiments. Grenadier regiments were concentrated into elite grenadier divisions. Probably in order to bring these up to strength in accordance with the new divisional structure one existing infantry regiment was transformed into a grenadier regiment. Usually the grenadier divisions were utilised as part of the tactical infantry reserve of the field army. In the grenadier divisions all three brigades contained two grenadier regiments.

All infantry regiments were to have two field battalions and a depot battalion. Every battalion consisted of three centre companies and one elite company. All men of the centre companies in Grenadier regiments became fusiliers, musketeers in Infantry regiments and jägers in Jäger regiments. Each company was divided into two sections. The elite company consisted of a grenadier and a tirailleur section. In grenadier and infantry battalions this elite company was entitled grenadier and in jäger regiments karabiner company. Elite status no longer depended on physique but on merit.

Russia also possessed so-called garrison battalions. Each battalion had four companies but no elite one. From all these battalions three companies were taken out and combined to create several new jäger regiments and to re-raise most infantry regiments that were converted into jäger regiments in 1810. More changes were set in motion. Elite companies were taken out of the depot battalions to be merged into new field battalions. Out of every infantry division two such battalions could be formed with each battalion having three companies. These battalions were grouped into brigades and, in 1812, were combined in combat formations known as Converged Grenadier Divisions. In preparation to the forthcoming war many infantry regiments received a fourth reserve battalion, filled with recruits. These battalions were drawn together with the remainder of the regimental depot battalions and used to create no less than sixteen reserve infantry divisions. However, the beginning of the French invasion slowed their completion down severely and in practice many men were deployed to the field units as replacements for casualties.

The Russian light infantry regiments are known as jägers. They were sent to skirmish by platoons or companies, and these relieved each other in turn or became replaced by entire battalions or regiments. If there existed an insufficient number of jägers, the line infantry and eventually the grenadiers detached their own skirmishers. When a jäger battalion deployed, the men from the elite company were kept in reserve behind both flanks of the skirmish line formed by the rest of the battalion. The overall quality of Russian skirmishers varied. At Borodino the Russians used entire jäger brigades as skirmishers. For most part these fought well.

Russian infantry (former musketeer) and grenadier regiments had flags. Officially no flags were issued to jäger regiments. In reality some regiments received them for distinction, or had them because the regiment was recently converted from infantry to jäger. It is however possible that these latter regiments had to hand their flags over to newly created infantry regiments. There were two flags per battalion. The regiment’s first battalion had a coloured flag and a so-called white flag. The other battalions each had two coloured flags. These flags had several patterns because some models backdated to times of Tsar Paul and another model was only distributed during the reign of Tsar Alexander I. A few regiments received a special flag model for distinction on the battlefield known as the St. George model. This was basically a special decorated version of Alexander’s flag model. Flag poles (or staves) were either yellow, black or white and had a gilt finial in the form of a flat spearhead.

Napoleon’s infantry was organised on a standard pattern. Two infantry regiments formed a brigade; two brigades a division and several divisions (2 to 6) a corps. There existed two types of infantry; line and light. The light infantry was made up out of well-trained shooters and could manoeuvre faster than their line comrades. In an attack they frequently formed the advance guard of a brigade or a division. Whole battalions or regiments could deploy in skirmish order. The light infantrymen tried to make a great deal of casualties amongst enemy officers, gunners and skirmishers, thereby lowering the enemy’s will and ability to resist. When a company of light infantry formed a so-called skirmish line it was subdivided in three sections. Normaly only the centre section carried muskets with bayonets fixed and those on the left and right did not. The Grande Army counted far more line than light regiments.

For the Russian campaign many French infantry regiments had four, five or even six battalions (Bataillon de Guerre). In 1812 a French infantry battalion was to have 840 men, but in reality it had between 400 to 600 men. The battalion was made up of six equally strong companies with 140 men (on paper). Two of the companies were entitled elite and the other four can be seen as the basic infantry. In line regiments an elite grenadier company, an elite voltigeur and four fusilier companies made up the battalion. The battalions of the light regiments had an elite karabiner company, an elite voltigeur company and four chasseur companies. Before going into a battle all companies reformed to an equal strength in order to maintain the correct frontage of the unit. When an elite company was below strength it received selected men from the centre companies. The companies formed up in three ranks, but when there were not enough men left it formed up in two. The normal space between these ranks was slightly more than one third of a metre. When several battalions advanced side by side the space between them was slightly less than sixteen metres.

The elite grenadier or karabiner company consisted of men selected for their stature and combat experience. They were shock troops spearheading an attack or holding their battalion’s cohesion when in combat. For this purpose they had to stick out of the rest in appearance. These men were trained in operating guns too. Some men picked from the grenadier (karabiner) company operated as sappers. They were equipped with axes. During combat sappers cleared up all kinds of obstacles and performed small size engineering tasks. The battalion’s other elite troopers were the voltigeurs. These men had all the specific qualities mentioned when I dealt with the light infantry earlier on. Voltigeur companies could be detached from their battalion to perform specific tasks. In a column on the march the voltigeurs normally were in front and the grenadiers or karabiners in the back. In an attack column the voltigeurs formed the left front or flank of the battalion and the grenadiers or karabiners the right flank or front.

In 1812 every French infantry regiment was issued an Eagle with a new tricolour pattern flag, baring the regiment’s battle honours on the reverse. In practice many regiments carried an older version flag. During campaign the flag was removed. The eagle itself was placed on a stave painted in French blue. For the Russian campaign some regiments left their Eagle at the depot and only brought along their fanions (triangular pennons attached to a halberd) or carried battalion flags. Of course the allied infantry of Napoleon’s Grande Armee had their own flag types and patterns, but I won't specify them in this article.

To increase effectiveness in the field and to bolster the morale of his own soldiers, Napoleon assigned regimental artillery of two or three light guns (3 or 4 ponders) to almost every infantry regiment that joined the invasion of Russia. Some men (from the grenadier companies) were trained to operate these guns.

1 comment:

thefunkygoat said...

Hi,

I'm returning to wargaming after a 20 yr hiatus, and I'm planning to do the Russian 1812 theatre. So, I love your blog/site: great stuff!

Can you help me with a basic query on Russian battalion organisation? I know that a French battalion was made up of six companies, and I know how to break down the companies regarding type, and uniforms, etc., but I don't know the equivalent info for Russian battalions.

My ratio of 1:20 is giving me French batts of 6 x 6 = 36. And for Russians I'm going with four companies, each of 10. As I understand it, from info gatthered here:

http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napoleonistyka.atspace.com/Russian_infantry.htm

The breakdown is such that each company is further divided into platoons. A typical infantry regt would be four companies; the first three each of two platoons of infantry ('musketeers' I guess), and then one platoon of strelki, and one of grenadiers. Would these two platoons have the large plume, and the rest have the small plume/pom-pom, like in a French battalion? Or would you get whole battalions of grenadiers?

As you can see, I'm really lost as to how to organise my Russian battalions, and would really appreciate some help,

regards,

The Goat