Napoleon Series Archive 2012

Carabiniers, light infantry, rifles (rahter long)
In Response To: Re: Carabines rayées in 1796 ()

As promised some quotes, my main sources were the Bernard Coppens uniform plate Infanterie Légère / Carabiniers, where an awfull lot of very usefull infomration can be found, also in all other plates regarding the light and line infantry as well, quoted as Coppens - I hope to motivate readers to buy these plates and as well as the already mentioned article by Harman, Chapter 11 - They decide not, nor are the chiefly relied upon battle (footnote 1)
British Rifles and Light Infantry in the Peninsular War, published in A History of the Peninsular War volume IX - Modern Studies of the War in Spain and Portugal, 1808 - 1814,edited by the late Paddy Griffith - quoted as Harman.

Clearly the French light infantry was originally at a loss to deal with the light infantry of the Prussians and Austrians, as they were inferior in numbers and experience.

« Tout le monde sait », disait Dubois-Crancé, rapporteur du comité de la guerre, « que les Prussiens et les Autrichiens entretiennent en avant de leurs camps des nuées de troupes légère ; ils en tirent le double avantage d’éclairer toutes nos marches, toutes bis positions, et de cacher les leurs. C’est par la faiblesse respective de nos moyens dans cette espèce d’arme que nos ennemies sont parvenues à nous tendre des embuscades, à nous surprendre des postes et quelquefois à pénétrer jusque dans no lignes. Il faut donc, autant qu’il est en nous, multiplier les troupes légères. »
Coppens

Here a small development of light infantry and how to cope with the enemy

Carabiniers
L’ordonnance du roi de 17 mars 1788, portant règlement , sur la formation de douze bataillons d’infanterie légère(…) prévoyait, en article 9, la création de douze carabiniers dans chaque compagnie.
(…)
La loi du 1er janvier 1791, qui doublait le nombre de compagnies dans les bataillons d’infanterie légère, réduisit à six le nombre de carabiniers par compagnie. (…)
Dès le début de la guerre (déclarée le 20 avril 1792). L’Assemblée nationale décida de modifier l’infanterie et d’accorder plus d’importance à l’infanterie légère, (…) Chaque bataillon d’infanterie légère devait être composé de huit compagnies de 130 hommes, dont une de carabiniers « composée des hommes les plus adroits tireurs, es plus vigoureux et les plus lestes. » Ils devaient armés de carabines, équipés et exercés d’une manière analogue au genre de service auquel ils étanit destinés. C’était l’acte de naissance des compagnies de carabiniers, qui devaient être à l’infanterie légère ce que les grenadiers étaient à l’infanterie de ligne.
A cette époque (1792), écrit le général Bardin dans son Dictionnaire de l’Armée de Terre : « des compagnies français ont été créées à l’imitation de celles des corps francs hollandais, belges, flamands et liégeois qui attachés alors au service de l’armée française ; les basques de leur habit portaient la grenade ; leur haute paye était celle des grenadiers. (p.1024) »
Coppens

Also "foreign" units - volunteers, legions were used by the French to beef up their inexperienced skirmishers.
At least Thiébault gives them very good credit and seemingly they were armed with riflex as well.

Mais les général Thiébault a servi dans un des corps belges, (le 24e bataillon d’infanterie légère, devenue 2e bataillon de Tirailleurs), et il a laissé dans ses Mémoires (tome 1, p. 505) la description de sa compagnie de carabiniers :
« La compagnie de carabiniers, composée de cent douze à cent quinze hommes superbes, était une de plus terribles qui existaient. Chaque homme y avait une carabine double et était un tireur habile. C’était effrayant de penser combien ces carabiniers tuaient d’ennemies dans un combat ou seulement dans les escarmouches continuelles aux avant-postes. Six d’entre eux équivalaient à une batterie.
Coppens

This is in contrast to the memoires of Duthilt - who confirms that at least some carabinier units were armed with the carabine rayée

Capitaine Duthilt, qui servit au premier léger, c’est en 1799 que ce remplacement eut lieu :
« A cette même époque (1799), on retira aux compagnies de carabiniers les carabines dont elles étaient armées depuis 1792 ; on les remplaça par des fusils à baïonnette et en place du poignard de la carabine on leur donna des briquets ordinaires.
Cette mesure fut nécessité par l’embarras qu’avaient les carabiniers de convertir les cartouches de fusil en cartouches de carabine, et le balles de fusil en lingots ; les arsenaux, à cette époque, ne fournissaient pas exactement des cartouches spéciales pour cette arme, dont le calibre d’ailleurs différait d’une arme à l’autre ; il en résultait un travail pénible, assujettissant et très dangereux pour les carabiniers, d’autant plus qu’il prenait sur le repos de la nuit, lorsque dans le jour ils avaient consommé celles confectionnées, et de plus, un bien plus grand inconvénient lorsque dans une affaire ils venaient à en manquer, ils ne pouvaient facilement les remplace de suite par des cartouches ordinaires. »
(Capitaine Duthilt, Mémoires, p. 115)
Coppens

This is in contrast to the performance of the "belges" who seemingly overcame the logistical probloms of ammuniton resupply.
The comment of Duthilt is very interesting there it clearly describes the usual "problem" of rifle men who could not just use normal army ammuniton but had to care for themyselves. For most or all non French units, who fielded skirmishers - it seemed to be worthwhile not to be daunted by this logistical problem but keeping and extending rifle units. As well as the riflemen themyelves did try to retain their beloved rifles and dispised to be armed with smoothbore muskets.

As to the impression to be shot at with rifles and being unable to return that accurate fire :

« One French officer certainly experienced many casualties amongst his own men, but also commented upon their inability to return the fire effectively: “ I was sent out to skirmish against some of those in green – grasshoppers I call them; you call them Rifle Men. They were behind every bush and stone, and soon made sad havoc amongst my men, killing all the officers of my company and wounding myself without being able to do them any injury. This drove me nearly to distraction.” (Footnote 89)
Anecdotes in British memoirs reinforce the idea that riflemen could pick off individual French officers.
Harman

Also the British observed :

“Only the 95th are specifically mentioned as a regiment that skirmished better than the French : “ they were in fact, as much superior to the French Voltigeurs as the latter were to our skirmishers in general. (Footnote 135)
p. 285

Whatever modern curator will thing about rifles - sword bayonets - I concede, I give more weight what eye witnesses say about such performance

“So angry did they become that they would not stand it any longer. One skirmisher jumped up and rushed forward crying: ‘Over Boys! Over! Over !’ Instantly the whole line responded with ‘Over, over, over!’ They ran along the grass like wildfire and dashed at the rise, fixing their sword-bayonets as they did so. The French light bobs, unable to stand the sight, turned about and fled. (Footnoote 116)
p. 282
Harman

So - in my view - the French were on the right path to develop rifled units in the French revolution but due to logistical problems, no tradition of rifled units and not fitting into their tactical doctrine they left this path.
By this the created a tactical gap - which they could not respont to in the same quality.
In the petite guerre - the loss of rifles was at least by those missed, who were armed with them before but had to hand them in for smoothbore muskets.

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Drill, Line and light infantry.
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Carabines rayées in 1796
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Gassendi on the carabines de versailles
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Carabine de carabinier mle 1781
Mémoire sur la fabrication des armes *LINK*
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Re: Carabines rayées in 1796
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Duhesme *LINK*
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I don't think we are in disagreement on this :-)
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Right :-)
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Re: Carabines rayées in 1796
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Carabiniers, light infantry, rifles (rahter long)
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Belhomme, t. 3, p. 490
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Re: Carabiniers, light infantry, rifles (rahter lo
Re: Carabiniers, light infantry, rifles (rahter lo
Re: Carabiniers, light infantry, rifles (rahter lo
Re: Carabiniers, light infantry, rifles (rahter lo
"infiniment plus difficile"
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Rifle-armed infantry in the Peninsular War
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28e bataillon légére
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Instruction pour organiser ...
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URL of prior Topic - Un Carabinier vs the Rifleman
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Re: Long Memory.
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Artillery and Small Arms
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In Re: Liège.
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Re: In Re: Liège. Vineyards
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Thread URLs.
Production of carabines rayée
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Re: Liege
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Liege Gunmaking...
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Indeed.
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Liege Gunmaking....Well Done 8)
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Re: Liege
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A Better Buy.
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The Darkest Hour.
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Re: Liege *LINK*
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Re: Carabiniers, light infantry, rifles (rahter lo
Re: Carabiniers, light infantry, rifles (rahter lo
Re: Carabines rayées in 1796
Re: Carabines rayées in 1796 - a speculation
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ooops :D
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Gates tirailleur losses/entire British Army losses
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Re: Carabines rayées in 1796
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Sources and Answers...
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Re: Drill, Line and light infantry.
Re: Drill, Line and light infantry.
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quick note on lancers
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Re: Drill, Line and light infantry.
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Real lancers on film (non-period)
Re: Real lancers on film (non-period)