"All resources will be used to make the army ready for war." - Napoleon, 1813

Monday, February 18, 2013

Vive la France!

Planning and organizing armies can be exhausting work.

 (Be sure to check out the French OOB page HERE or this post doesn't make much sense.)

(My previous POST on the Prussian OOB includes much of the philosophy
and ground work that was laid down before choosing the French OOB.)

After seeing them in action at AdeptiCon last year, Eric knew two things: he wanted to play French and he wanted to play Black Powder.  Other than that, he honestly didn't know too much about Napoleonics at all, so when he was looking to finally place an order with Perry Miniatures in August/September he asked me for some help.  And lots of advice!

After finally figuring out what makes playable 28mm force and what I was actually going to do for my Prussians, I started cracking open some my books and revisiting some old links.  After being immersed into the Prussian research for so long, I found I really didn't know as much about the French as I thought I did.  At least for 1813-1814.  If I would ever paint up French it would be from 1809 or maybe even 1812.  Those armies and Order of Battles are quite nicely organized and very straight forward.  But when most of the Grande Armée was destroyed in Russia the year before including most of the horses getting eaten, then the OOBs turn into a collection of Provincial Regiments, Combined Battalions, conscripts, and "Marie-Louises."  Pure chaos.

French Marines at Möckern

I approached this as if I was choosing what Division command and commander I would want to do myself.  Along with that, I wanted to try to find a force that wasn't over run with conscripts and specialty units, and could conceivably be used anywhere from 1810 to 1815.  Especially if we decided to run a semi-historical / fictional campaign someday.  Finding a command with a bit of notoriety and uniqueness would be a plus, but mostly I wanted something that was as straight forward and generic as possible.  Along with this I didn't want to saddle Eric with having paint up too many conscript level battalions and the historical shortage of horses/cavalry the French suffered in 1813.  I figured if conscripts made up roughly 25% of his infantry that would be enough to start, and as we both love cavalry I am willing to "fudge" a few things so those lovely units still appear on our tabletop.

As previously mentioned, we are using the northern front of the Battle of Leipzig (Möckern) for inspiration in choosing our forces.  Especially for the Prussians as well as for the Poles and Russians that we'll cover later.  So it made made the most sense to begin looking here.  The defense of Möckern was tasked to Marshal Marmont's VI Corps, and his command was heavily dominated by Marine Regiments.  These units definitely fought well, look good in their dark blue great coats, and are unique.  Unfortunately they might be a bit too unique since they really only fought exclusively during this campaign and few battles during the Fall of 1813.  Still, I might just paint up a regiment of these guys someday as Victrix's recently released Middle Guard boxed set is pretty much perfect match for their unis.  (Or Victrix's Old Guard if you do head swaps.)

I spy with my little eye something that begins with "M"...

Spreading out my search radius a bit more I came across a familiar name: Morand. That's Général de Division Comte Morand to you, son.  Morand is the commander I researched a few years back when considering collecting a French army for either 1809 or 1812, both times being the lead Division in Marshal Davout's I and II Corps respectively.  By all accounts Morand was one of the most capable divisional infantry officers in uniform, would have made an excellent Marshal, and was a major stud.  He started off as a Captain in the Doubs volunteers in 1792, was a hero in Egypt, made general in 1800, wounded at Austerlitz (1805) and was made Major-General after the battle.  He also distinguished himself at Auerstadt (1806), Eylau (1807), Eckmuhl (1809), Wagram (1809), and Borodino (1812) where he had his jaw shattered during the first attack on the Great Redoubt.  In 1813, Morand brilliantly led his division at Wartenburg (where my Prussian 7th Bde (Div) helped win the day) and Leipzig,  At Leipzig he spearheaded the attack of Bertrand's IV Corps which smashed Gyulai's Austrians on the Lindenau front (just south of the fight over Möckern).  He continued his distinguished service record in 1814 and again during the Hundred Days campaign where he commanded the Chasseurs of the Guard.

Now that I had a more than adequate recommendation for Eric's Division commander, I had to double check the actual units he commanded.  It seems I lucked out again as the divisional OOB was pretty straight forward and seemed to meet the criteria I was looking for.  It included one Light Infantry Regiment (8th), two regular Line Infantry Regiments (13th & 23rd), and the 137th Line Regiment which would fill my 25% requirement of conscripts.  It also includes the option for painting up a couple of unique green and yellow uniformed battalions of the Provisional Croatian Regiment.

 Needed:  Cavalry, lots of cavalry!

Looking at the various historical OOBs during the Fall of 1813, those for the 12th Division flux from having two to three brigade commands at times with multiple battalions per each regiment.  Seeing that most of the battalions were understrength, I decided to streamline Eric's command into two brigades with four battalions each.  He can always include a third brigade commander if he wishes or expand, and the more generic build also satisfies my requirement to keep things flexible so Eric can use his French anywhere from 1810ish to 1815.

The last thing I'll touch on is the French cavalry.  There's already some notes on the French OOB page, but I'd like to revisit the subject here as well.  After the disaster of the 1812 campaign, Napoleon had a major shortage of cavalry/ horses in 1813.  This greatly impacted his flexibility, reconnaissance, and ability to exploit success on the battlefield.  For the most part, the units he did have were a patchwork of the remnants of various squadrons thrown together to form viable units.  Both Eric and I are big fans of cavalry and would in no way want to limit their presence in our games or desire to paint up hodge podge looking units  We also have no plans to do an actual historical 1813 campaign where this crucial French disadvantage could not be ignored.

Although I have given Eric a few vaguely historical recommendations, I felt he should have a free hand in choosing whatever cavalry units he desired with uniform colors that met his fancy.  Especially with Hussars.  The only limitation is following the typical composition of a Light or Heavy Cavalry Brigade.  Although he has committed to doing at least two infantry brigades, he can paint up as much cavalry for the French side as his heart desires. :-)

Some of the resources I used:

Napoleon's Grande Armee of 1813 by Scott Bowden
Leipzig 1813, The Battle of Nations (Osprey Campaign) by Peter Hofschroer
Lutzen & Bautzen, Napoleon's Spring Campaign of 1813 by George Nafziger
Wagram, The Apogee of the Empire by F.-G. Hourtoulle
Borodino-The Moskova, The Battle for the Redoubts by F.-G. Hourtoulle

Nafziger 1813 OOB links:
The Grande Armée August 10th, The Army of Berlin Mid-August, Dennewitz, Wartenburg, Leipzig, and Möckern.

The Napoleon Series:
French OOB at Leipzig


  1. Very cool artwork - the planning sound detailed, but rewarding. Hmmm, I'm thinking of getting some French Marines now - they would look great for skirmishing. Best, Dean

    1. Thanks Dean. I was happy I finally found the artwork that the Perry Miniatures Marshal Ney is based on.

  2. If I haven't already, thank you thank you for all your hard work in helping me with my army creation. I won't go into detail on how many simplified emails and links Jason has put together for me but it's really been like having a simple Codex for warhammer.

    I have been gathering small snippets of info for myself as of late but the silver platter is good to get me painting which is what I love to do.

    Thanks again,

    1. You're welcome! I won't lie, all that crap took a lot of time and effort. I'm hoping to be ultimately rewarded by having a great looking French army and wonderful opponent to play against (and with when using my Poles). :-)

  3. Jason,

    really these last couple of posts have been very interesting, I really like the thought you put into it and the info is invaluable.
    great job.


  4. Sounds great Jason,
    Will look forward to seeing Erics French come together.

  5. Very interesting post. Morand is favourite of mine, too.

    1. The more I read about him the better I feel about my army. A very busy and interesting fellow.

  6. Thanks Iannick. Yep, Morand's the man.