Monday, May 16, 2011

3ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne Suisse

I was thinking today that it might be nice to add a bit of variety into the ranks of the French and from nowhere the 3ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne Suisse popped into my head. Not sure at the moment whether I will paint them myself or have them commissioned, but whichever here is the background info. Also I believe this regiment possibly retained the bearskin bonnet for their Grenadiers after 1812 which makes things a bit more interesting.

The prints below are in pre-Bardin style.

Swiss mercenaries have long been associated with the French Army, and without a doubt the most famous episode in their history was the defense of the Tuileries Palace in central Paris during the French Revolution.

However the French Revolution abolished the use of mercenary troops in its citizen army, but Napoleon ultimately reversed this decision and made use of Swiss troops, with four Swiss infantry regiments being raised and employed in both Spain and Russia. They were well trained and disciplined, their musket volleys were perfectly controlled, their shots well aimed and they served loyally, so long as they were paid regularly, there was indeed a saying "No money, no Swiss".

The 'Act of Mediation' was issued by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 February 1803 establishing the Swiss Confederation, following the collapse of the Helvitic Republic. As a result it was agreed that four regiments of 4,000 men each would raised to serve in the Grande Armee replacing the old Helvetic demi-brigades recruited in 1798.

The 3ème Régiment d'Infanterie de Ligne Suisse was founded in September 1806 under the command of Colonel Louis de May, stationed at Lille. By the end of 1807 it had reached a strength of 3,000 men and had received it's Eagle.

The 1st Battalion was sent to Spain in late 1807 and the second in early 1808. The 1st Battalion was almost entirely taken prisoner at Baylen.

The 3rd and 4th battalions were employed in garrisons in Zealand until 1811.

In 1811 the regiment headed to Magdeburg to join the three other Swiss regiments forming Merle's division in Marshal Oudinot's II Corps for the upcoming Russian campaign. Each regiment had an artillery company of 2 3pdrs. The 3eme was brigaded with the 123eme Line under Général de Brigade Coutard. On 24th June 1812 the Swiss crossed the Niemen, with the third under the command of Colonel Thomasset and leaving the Grand Army en route to Moscow, they moved on Polotsk where they were involved in both the August and November battles as well as the combats at Drissa and Lepel. They rejoined the Grand Armee during the retreat and at the Beresina they were heavily involved, crossing the river they occupied a position on the right bank in the forest of Stachowa, resisting all attacks they protected the retreat of the Grande Armee, and though barely 300 were left to recross the Niemen they had once again earned a fearsome reputation and a lasting place in the Napoleonic legend.

In 1813 the Swiss regiments saw little action as they were posted in Northern France and the Netherlands, though a small detachment of around 60 men was left in Kustrin through to May. In 1814 the 3eme regiment was involved at Bescanon.

At the first abdication the four regiments swoar an oath to Louis XVIII and during the hundred days they refused to betray that oath and returned to Switzerland. After Waterloo, the Bourbon's signed a new agreement for two new regiments of the Royal Guard and 4 of line infantry. The revolution of 1830 finally put an end to the presence of Swiss troops in the service of France.

See Histofig

To 1812, French coats with long tails of scarlet cloth, Black distinctives piped white. Black open collar piped white. Scarlet shoulder straps piped white. Square black lapels piped white. Cuff flaps (with three buttons) scarlet piped white. Turnbacks white decorated with white five-pointed stars. Vertical pockets simulated by a white piping. Brass buttons.
From 1812, Bardin style coat with short tails of scarlet cloth, Black distinctives not piped. Turnbacks white decorated with a black crowned N. Black open collar piped red. Scarlet shoulder straps piped in black.Square black lapels not piped. Cuff flaps (with three buttons) scarlet not piped. Vertical pockets simulated by a white piping. Brass buttons.

Veste and culottes were white. High white gaiters in grande tenue and black in tenue de route, replaced from 1813 by Black short gaiters in any outfit. Black shoes.

Black felt shako with a top band, and reinforced by a black leather 'V', adorned with a brass rhomboid plate stamped with an eagle. Pompom ball the color of the company with tricolor at the base. White cords and flounders. Black leather visor and brass chinscales.
From 1813, shako decorated with an eagle stamped on base with regimental number.

White leatherwork. Black leather giberne. Infantry sword with brass hilt with a strap and black leather scabbard with brass fittings, white strap.

Troopers dress but with white fringed epaulettes, a scarlet crescent was added after 1810. Bearskin bonnet adorned with a brass eagle. Scarlet plume with white top, white cords and flounders. Red Saber strap.

Troopers dress with chamois collar, green fringed epaulettes with a yellow crescent. White turnbacks decorated with a green horn.
Shako with a green pompon and green plume with a yellow top.
Green Saber strap, sometimes with a yellow tassel.

Troopers dress with lace or gold grade dawn on the sleeves. For sergeants, gold braid on top of shako cords and strap mixed with gold.

Troopers dress with rank insignia (shoulder pads, lace top of shako) gold. Gold cords and flounders, golden ornaments, and for senior officers, white plume. For mounted officers, saddle cloth saddle cover to French madder laced with gold. For mounted officers, schabraque black cloth laced with silver.

Drums and Cornets
Troopers dress with the same distinctives. Collar, lapels and cuffs trimmed with gold and five gold chevrons on both arms. Company insignia for the Fusilier drummers, swallow nests black laced gold.

Dress as per Grenadiers with the insignia of the Sapeurs (crossed axes over a grenade) in white cloth on both sleeves. Whitened leather apron, axe and sabre de sapeur. Four sapeur badges on both sleeves. Scarlet plume topped black.

From what I have read the Grenadiers retained the bearskin bonnet after 1812, whether this means they also didn't switch to the Bardin regulation uniform or not is unclear. Vernet's illustrations of the Bardin uniform does include the Suisse regiments, though he doesn't specifically depict a Grenadier, however Winkler draws a 1ere regiment Fusilier in 1813 in a pre-Bardin uniform, also the Vernet print below is claimed to be from 1813 and depicts a Grenadier in bearskin bonnet.

It appears that even after the switch to the Bardin uniform the Grenadiers still retained the bearskin bonnet. This is a Vernet print of a 1ere regiment Grenadier in 1813.

A 3ème Régiment Grenadier from 1812 in what appears to be a Bardin coat (Bellange)


Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Cracking post - loved that first print... reaching WAY back into my memory, another interesting regiment (in terms of uniform) was I think the 33rd (??) who I seem to remember had an all white uniform with lavender/purple turn backs????

Robert said...

Interestingly in Haythornthwaites book on 1812 Uniforms he specifically mentions the Swiss being in the Bardin uniform and with grenadiers in Bearskins for the Russian campaign.

Engel said...

Wow great collection of pictures.
One day maybe i should do some Swiss...