Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics


14th French Hussar Regiment, 1813

By: Markus Stein and Edmund Wagner

Translator:  Justin Howard

This article previously appeared in Issue 1 of the German-language magazine Depesche, which is published by our partner, Napoleon Online. We appreciate the kindness of the editor, Markus Stein, for giving us permission to publish the translation.

Here we will deal with a relatively unknown regiment, which even in works such as Malibran receives only a brief mention – namely the 14th Hussar regiment.

A distinction must be made here between the regiment as newly formed in 1813 and the 14th regiment as formed in 1814 by merging the 13th and previous 14th Hussars. Both formations were supposed to have different uniforms, though those of 1814 were a colourful mixture of the old uniforms of the 13th and (old) 14th regiments as well as the new regulation uniform.

We will therefore concentrate in this article on the first formation from 1813 and present a short text about the exact theoretical organisation of a hussar regiment for the years 1813/14, as well as a short discussion of the rank insignia of the French hussars. In another article, the figures of the second formation from 1814 will be described, accompanied by a short regimental history.

Organisation

In 1813, each hussar regiment was supposed to consist of 5 squadrons as well as a regimental staff. The 5th squadron under the command of the major remained in the regimental depot to receive and train freshly conscripted recruits. In January 1813 a sixth squadron was ordered to be raised, but considering that for almost every regiment even the 5th squadron was just a vague concept, this plan never made it past the embryonic stage.

Each squadron consisted of 2 companies with the following grouping:

1st Squadron – 1st (Elite) and 5th Companies.
2nd Squadron – 2nd and 6th Companies
3rd Squadron – 3rd and 7th Companies
4th Squadron – 4th and 8th Companies
5th Squadron – 9th and 10th Companies

The staff was composed of the following:

1 Colonel, 1 Major, 4 Chefs d’escadron, 2 Adjutants-Major, 1 Quartier-maître trésorier, 1 Chirurgien major, 1 Chirurgien aide-major, 2 Chirurgiens sous aide-major, 2 Adjutants sous-officier, 1 Artiste vétérinaire, 1 Trompette major, 4 maîtres d’ouvriers (1 tailleur, 1 sellier, 1 armurier, 1 bottier) and 14 enfants de troupe.

The next section, concerning rank insignia, provides the translations of the various ranks.

Each company was supposed to consist of:

1 Capitaine, 1 Lieutenant, 2 Sous-lieutenants, 1 Maréchal-des-logis-chef, 4 Maréchaux des logis, 1 Brigadier-fourrier, 8 Brigadiers, 2 Trumpeters and 75 – 100 troopers (including 1 Maréchal ferrant).

This gives a theoretical strength for a regiment of 5 squadrons of approximately 1035 men (including 49 officers) with about 1055 horses (including 60 – 65 officers’ mounts).

It must once again be noted that these figures were never actually met, because the actual regimental strengths in the years following the disaster of 1812 lay well below these figures and most of the troops had to set off on campaign on foot or with only substandard (plough) horses.

Rank insignia

Other ranks and NCOs wear their rank insignia on the dolman and pelisse sleeves, while officers also have them on both thighs of the breeches as well as on the shabraques and shakos by means of lace of various widths.

However I will concentrate only on the insignia worn on the sleeves, which are shown on page 17. These drawings show the position on the dolman sleeve, though the insignia on the pelisse sleeve was worn in exactly the same fashion.

The insignia matched the button colour of each particular regiment, so they were white for the 14th regiment.

In particular for the 14th Hussars, they were as follows:

Hussar – only a 1 cm wide white braid edging on the cuff

Brigadier (Corporal) – two woollen tresses, each 2.5 cm wide, over the cuff (the tresses at a distance of 1 cm from each other)

Brigadier-fourrier (Quartermaster-Corporal) – in addition to the two chevron tresses of the brigadier, another 2.5 cm wide silver slanted tress on the upper sleeve.

Maréchal des logis (Sergeant) – one 2.5 cm wide silver chevron tress at a distance of 1 cm from the cuff

Maréchal-des-logis chef (Chief Sergeant) – a second 2.5 cm wide silver tress at a distance of 1 cm above the tress of the Maréchal des logis

Adjutant sous-officier (Sergeant-Major) – a third silver tress

Sous-lieutenant (Second-Lieutenant) - a silver coloured, 1 cm wide tress on the edge of the cuff

Lieutenant – two silver 1 cm wide tresses above the cuffs (no distance between them!)

Adjutant-major            - this rank requires an exact explanation; according to my documents it is apparently a lieutenant with more than two years service as such and who is just before promotion to captain; so I can only make some assumptions as to his insignia, but probably these were the three chevron tresses of the captain – a further feature of the adjutant-major was a cane, the meaning of which is however fully unclear to me – maybe a reader can help with solving this mystery?

Capitaine (Captain) – three 1 cm wide silver tresses above the cuff

Chef d’escadron (Squadron chief) – according to regulations, three silver, 1 cm wide tresses as well as one silver, 2.2. cm wide tress, which is fixed second above the cuff – more often though, one finds the arrangement as shown on page 17, namely alternately two thin (1 cm) and two wide (2.2. cm) chevron tresses

Major (Lieutenant Colonel) –three thin (1 cm) silver and two wide (2.2 cm) golden tresses alternating above the cuff

Colonel – as for the major, except the two wide chevron tresses are also silver.

For hussar regiments with yellow button colour, the insignia must therefore have been yellow or gold.

All that remains is to explain the following ranks:

Quartier-maître trésorier (Quartermaster and Paymaster) – he was usually held the rank of lieutenant or captain and should therefore have worn their insignia, I am not aware of any specific insignia

Chirurgien major (Surgeon 1st class) – he did not hold the status of an officer and was subject to the dress regulations for medical personnel

Chirurgien aide-major (Surgeon 2nd Class) – as above

Chirurgien sous aide-major (Surgeon 3rd Class) – as above

Artiste vétérinaire (Veterinarian) – as above

Trompette major (Staff trumpeter) – he wore the insignia of his rank (e.g. Brigadier or Maréchal des logis)

Maîtres-ouvriers (Master Craftsmen) – in detail, these were 1 tailleur (tailor), 1 sellier (saddler), 1 armurier (Armourer) and 1 bottier (shoemaker); their uniforms and insignia are completely unknown to me

Enfant de troupe (?) – are these the musicians of the regiment? Which reader can help me to clarify this?

Maréchal-ferrant (farrier) – a horseshoe in the button colour (white for the 14th regiment) on the right upper sleeve

In addition, to mark the years of service red woollen chevron tresses were worn on the left upper sleeve of the dolman, the pelisse and the coat of the other ranks and NCOs as follows: 1 tress for at least 10 years, 2 tresses for at least 15 years and three tresses for at least 20 years.

Description of the Plate

The two figures pictured in the plate by Mr Wagner are shown in the so-called Elsässiches Manuskript, later revised and reproduced by R. Forthoffer. They are a trumpeter (on the left) and a hussar (on the right), the latter standing out by the unusual fact of being armed with a lance as well as the non-regulation so-called trefoil epaulette on the pelisse (probably to fix the cross belt).

Now to the colours of the two figures:

Trumpeter:

Black kolpak, black plume, sky-blue bag with white (or yellow – this detail is not clear from the drawing) piping and white (or yellow) tassel; Brass chin-scales.

Chestnut-brown dolman with white frogging and white lace trimming; tin buttons; sky-blue collar; sky-blue cuffs.

Chestnut-brown pelisse with white frogging and white lace trimming; tin buttons; black fur trimming.

Crimson woollen sash with white loops.

Sky-blue riding trousers with yellow lace trimming.

Black boots with white braiding and white tassel.

White belts and straps, with brass fittings.

Black leather sabretache; tin “14”.

The sabre is the Year XIII model à la chasseur with brass hilt; black grip; iron scabbard. 

Brass trumpet; red trumpet cords.

Black sheepskin shabraque with scarlet wolfs teeth border.

The valise colour in R. Forthoffer’s tiny sketch is a very dirty green – almost olive -;

white lace and white “14”.

Iron stirrups; white stirrup leathers.

Hussar

Shako in black cover; black peak with black leather rim; brass chin-scales.

White-powdered hair (very unusual for 1813!)

Dolman and pelisse as for the trumpeter – except for a white trefoil epaulette with tin button on the left shoulder of the pelisse.

Sky-blue overall trousers; black leather reinforcing; brass buttons.

Black boots with tin spurs.

White belts and straps, with brass fittings and buckles.

Black cartridge box.

Iron snap hook and white sling on the carbine shoulder strap.

Sabretache and sabre as for the trumpeter.

Lance with black shaft; iron tip; Pennon is white over “olive” (see above), and is fixed to the shaft by iron studs.

White sheepskin shabraque with “olive” wolfs teeth border.

“Olive” valise with white straps and lace; tin buttons; white “14”.

Black bridle. Iron stirrups.

Sources

Drawing by Herbert Knötel after the Elsässiches Manuskript, revised and coloured by R. Forthoffer, Wehrgeschichtliches Museum, Rastatt.

H. Malibran – Guide à l’usage des artistes et des costumiers contenant la déscription de l’armée française de 1780 à 1848. Paris 1983

M. Pétard – L’homme de 1812, le hussard, published in Uniformes, Issue 62

E. Bukhari – Napoleon’s Hussars. London 1978

E. Bukhari – Napoleon’s Line Chasseurs. London 1977

E. Bukhari – Napoleon’s Cuirassiers and Carabiniers. London 1977

RIGO – Plate U 25, Hussards, 9e regiment 1798 – 1814.

Cdt. Bucquoy – Les uniformes du Premier Empire, la cavalerie légère.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2010

 

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