You hit the nail directly on the head I think.
Sarramon (in the short article I cited earlier) does not provide details of the previous employment of the “marins” in the 43rd and 44th équipages de flotille / ouvriers militaires, but I wonder if there’s a slight problem in translation here. I think perhaps the short article, like others in the collection, represented a “work in progress” rather than a finished article. Sarramon writes (of the 43rd and 44th):
“On May 1st, 1810 the marine units’ situation was this:
- the first crew of the flotilla (Saizieu): the 43rd marine battalion – 35 officers and 888 men; and 2nd workers’ battalion – 23 officers and 754 men
- the second crew of the flotilla (Baste): - the 44th marine battalion – 38 officers and 834 men; the 1st marine workers’ battalion - 27 officers and 629 men.
The sum total of marines had so far been reduced by 3,228.”
A couple of the potential problems?:
1) First crew of the flotilla – I take to be “équipages de flotille” = OK
2) Workers’ battalion - I take to be batailon de “ouvriers militaires (de la marine)” = therefore more likely artisans than labourers, but some could well have been less skilled ?
3) “so far reduced by” = at this point comprised?
It all seems a tad complicated! But essentially, and irrespective of former occupation and current designation, these équipages/batailons were employed as infantry: garrison troops, on outpost duties, collecting extraordinary contributions, fighting guerrilleros, providing HQ and hospital guards etc. I haven’t got to the section relating to the siege of Cádiz yet, but no-one after crossing the Pyrénées-Atlantiques would appear to have seen a ship (or boat) so far.
Sarramon, J, (1991) Marine Land Operations During the Peninsular War in Berkeley, A (ed) “New lights on the Peninsular War”