Napoleonic French cavalry on parade

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Following on from the inspection parade of my Napoleonic French infantry, it’s the cavalry’s turn to be reviewed.

I painted most of these figures back in the early 2000s. You’ll see that some of them are painted in a simple block colours, because at that time I hadn’t yet learned how to use highlighting and shading!

As usual in my postings, you can click on the images to enlarge them.

12e Régiment de Dragons

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We the undersigned, administrative council of the 12th Dragoons, grant this certificate of “Congé Absolu” to Pierre van Dooren, trumpeter of the 1st Company of the 2nd Battalion, born 13 February 1787 in Weert, Department of the Meuse Inferieur. Height 170cms, brown hair, blue eyes, round forehead, broad nose, large mouth, no beard, round face, passbook number 1447.

Colonel-President Binach, Chef de Brigade Delacpeine, Captain Ribet

Versailles 22.4.1814

When I found the above transcript of the discharge papers of my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Pierre van Dooren, I knew that I just had to have the 12th Dragoons in my miniature army. And one of the figures had to be a trumpeter to represent my ancestor.

Pierre entered the 12th Regiment of Dragoons on March 3, 1807, having left his hometown of Weert on February 12, 1807. With his regiment he was in Germany (1807- 1809) and Spain (1810-1813) before entering the final battle area in the northeastern part of France (1814). He was wounded in March 1814 and was recovering in hospital at Angers when Napoleon abdicated.

My miniature Pierre wears reversed colours from the other troopers (a crimson coat with green facings) in order to make him readily identifiable to his officers in this period when trumpeters might have to issue urgent orders in the midst of the smoke and turmoil of battle. He also has a white horsehair mane on his helmet rather than black, and rides a grey horse.

Of the twelve figures in my unit, two wear the bearskin hats and red epaulettes that denote the elite company, the equivalent of an infantry battalion’s grenadiers. The others have imposing copper helmets with black horsehair manes streaming out behind. The officer has a leopard skin turban round his helmet, whilst the troopers have brown fur turbans.

Because this unit is portrayed on galloping horses, I didn’t line them up straight on their bases. I have some horses racing slightly in front, while others lag behind. This gives a much more natural look to the speeding formation.

5e Régiment de Hussards

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For as long as I can remember, whenever I think of Napoleonic uniforms, the flamboyant hussars come to mind first. So I felt it was important to include a hussar unit in my miniature Napoleonic army. I bought these Front Rank hussars second-hand, and was initially disappointed that they were depicted in campaign uniform rather than in their exotic parade dress. But the end effect is still colourful and evocative of the era.

I decided to paint my unit as the 5th Hussars, based purely on the colours of their uniforms (especially the white pelisse and the red shako). Like my other cavalry units, the horses are painted in oils rather than acrylics, which gives a much more natural look.

As these figures are wearing the post-1812 uniform with the tall round shako, I had to look for an 1812-pattern flag for the eagle-bearer. I couldn’t find such a flag online, so in the end I made my own by converting a Warflag image. Strictly speaking, hussars at this time did not take their eagles on campaign, so my unit is incorrect in having an eagle-bearer.

Régiment de Lanciers de la Vistule

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These blue-coated lancers in Polish-inspired uniforms were part of the Vistula Legion which transferred to French service in 1808. In 1811 they became the 7th and 8th Chevau-Léger-Lanciers. Their most famous action was at Albuera where they charged Colborne’s infantry.

My 28mm Front Rank figures are wearing blue ‘kurtka’ jackets, except the trumpeter in reversed colours with a yellow kurtka. The square-topped hat, called a ‘czapska’, was typical of Polish units, both foot and mounted.

The miniature lances are from a New Zealand company – whose name presently escapes me. They are designed for ancient figures, so the lance-heads are not strictly accurate. However, they are strong – and very sharp!

The lance pennons are by GMB Design. The unusual flag is a home-made scan from a book by Terry Wise.

4e Régiment de Cuirassiers

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These are the only plastic cavalry in my army. The figures are beautiful, as you would expect from Perry Miniatures.

Plastic allows finer detail than metal (the plastic scabbards, for instance, are very intricate indeed). On the other hand, the casting method used with plastic means some things can’t be done as well as in metal, the most obvious example on these figures being the in-fill between the reins. But overall the effect of the plastic is a much ‘finer’ look than metal, I feel.

Two different sets of arms allow you to have the figures either waving their swords in the air, or shouldering them – I chose the latter, except for my officer.

I used my normal black undercoat method. The horses were all done with rubbed oils. And the figures were painted with the Foundry three-colour system.

I chose to paint this unit as the 4th Cuirassiers in aurora facings. The Perry kit also included flags, which are very nicely done in an almost GMB-like style.

1e Régiment des Carabiniers

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Usually I would not have an elite regiment like the 1st Carabiniers in such a small army. However, I could not resist these miniatures when they were offered to me at a very reasonable price as part of a second-hand deal. My initial plan was to paint them and then sell them, and with the proceeds buy a more appropriate cavalry unit. But with the time and effort I have lavished on painting my Carabiniers, in the end I couldn’t bear to part with them!

The two units of Carabiniers in the French army (so-called because they were armed with carbines when they were initially raised by Louis XIV) were considered the elite of the heavy cavalry. Until 1811 they wore blue uniforms with large bearskins. My models depict the later white uniform, complete with copper-plated cuirasses and elegant Grecian-style helmets.

I did the cuirasses and helmets using the same technique I use on gun barrels. I left the metal bare, which of course meant I couldn’t use spray undercoat as I usually do with my figures. I then brushed on and rubbed off GW Flesh Ink. Finally I highlighted the cuirasses by dry brushing them with metallic gold paint.

Visit my previous ‘On Parade’ postings:

20 thoughts on “Napoleonic French cavalry on parade

  1. How wonderful to be able to trace an ancestor to the Napoleonic Wars and render him in miniature. Thanks for sharing your troop reviews, very enjoyable.

    1. I agree to a point,the figures are ok,sorry if I sound harsh, but have seen many over the last 40 years. From Connoisseur to Essex, etc I once in the 90s Painted Napoleon, 2 squadrons of French Carabiniers, Empresses Dragoons,Polish Lancers etc ,with each and every trooper looking individually different and realistic as if a miniature living life figure including the horses.
      Ie totally different to everyone elses.

  2. Splendid as usual.
    Love your eclectic approach to the whole project.
    Particularly the 12e Dragoons. Very cool.

  3. Totally agree with Chris’s comment Roly – what a great link to the past! You are very fortunate to have the document to point you in the right direction – I am sure many of us have ancestors who fought in the wars we game, but are unaware of it! I agree with you about the plastic figures – I find them much harder to paint than the likes of Front Rank – there is probably more detail, but everything is more realistically proportioned, so belts don’t stand out with sharp edges that catch the brush etc – you have to be much more accurate in your painting style!

    1. That’s certainly the way I’ve found painting plastics compared to some of the metal ranges. To me, the most painter-friendly (metal) miniatures are Front Rank.

  4. Terrific figures, each regiment looks tremendous. That’s a particularly great story about your relative, the trumpeter, so it’s very appropriate and a fine tribute to create the same regiment. No doubt he would have been very pleased to see what you have created.

    Marvin

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