Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

 

Organization of the Savoy-Piedmont-Sardinian Armies 1792-1815

Part I: War in the Alps (September 1792- May 1796)

By Ludovic Isnard

Line and Light Infantry

National regiments:

Theoretically, each regiment counted 1385 men, closer to 1000 practically; Each battalion had 4 fusiliers companies (123 men), 1 grenadier company (123 men), 1 chasseur company (55 men) and a reserve company (136 men in the depot) plus a regimental headquarters.

The recruits were volunteers that serve for a period of 6 to 8 years:

1st Régiment des Gardes, 2 battalions
2nd Régiment de Savoie, 2 battalions
3rd Régiment de Montferrat, 2 battalions
4th Régiment de Piémont, 2 battalions
5th Régiment de Saluces, 2 battalions
6th Régiment d’Aoste, 2 battalions
7th Régiment de la Marine, 2 battalions  (2nd battalion in 1786)
8th Régiment de Chablais, 2 battalions  (classed as a foreign regiment before1793 and became Alessandria in 1796)
9th Régiment de la Reine, 2 battalions  (2nd battalion in 1786)
10th Régiment de Sardaigne, 2 battalions
11th Régiment de Lombardie, 2 battalions  (created in 1786 after the army reorganisation)
12th Régiment d’Oneglia,  2 battalions  Formed after 1792 of the elite companies of the Navy Regiment (Régiment de la Marine, previously called "Fregate Battalion") and first called Régiment Nouvelle Marine. It was recruited in the county of Nice and comprised the crew of the Sardinian navy.

Foreign Regiments:

1st Royal-Allemand, German 2 battalions  (called Lutren)
2nd Suisse-Valaisan, Swiss 2 battalions  (called De Courten in 1782 then De Streng in 1795),
3rd Suisse-Bernois, Swiss 2 battalions  (called De Rochmondet in 1787 and Stettler in 1794),
4th Suisse-Grison, Swiss 2 battalions  (called Christ),

Between 1792 and 1793, the following units were recruited:

Schmidt Swiss Regiment , 1 battalions  (then 2 battalions  in 1793)
Zimmerman Swiss Regiment, 2 battalions
Bachmann Swiss Regiment, 2 battalions
Peyer-ein-hoff Swiss Regiment, 2 battalions

These new regiments cost double compared to the national regiments, were always uncompleted and never reached the qualities of the national troops according to Pinelli, a XIXe Century Piemontese who wrote the history of the Piedmont's army history.

Provincial Regiments:

The battalion comprised 4 fusiliers companies, a grenadier company and a volunteer company.

The chasseurs companies of these provincial regiments were recruited progressively:  in 1793, Maurienne and Novare; in 1794, Mondovi, Ivrée, Asti, Vercelli ; and finally in 1796 Genevois and 2 new companies for Asti.

These regiments were filled with "volunteers" in fact designated by the local parish or village and they had to serve in the regiment for 12 to 16 years. During peacetime they had to attend a yearly review of 14 days, all the officers were nobles and some under officers were free willing volunteers.

1st Régiment de Genevois, 2 battalions  (was Chablais before 1774)
2nd Régiment de Maurienne, 2 battalions  (was Tarentaise before 1780)
3rd Régiment d’Ivrée, 2 battalions
4th Régiment de Turin, 2 battalions
5th Régiment de Nice, 2 battalions
6th Régiment de Mondovi, 2 battalions
7th Régiment de Verceil, 2 battalions
8th Régiment d’Asti, 2 battalions
9th Régiment de Pignerol, 2 battalions
10th Régiment de Casal, 2 battalions
11th Régiment de Novare, 2 battalions
12th Régiment de Tortone, 2 battalions
13th Régiment de Suse, 2 battalions  (created in 1786 after the army reorganisation)
14th Régiment d’Acqui, 2 bat (created in 1786 after the army reorganisation)

In 1792 the provincial infantry consisted of 14 war battalions (684 men each), 14 garrison battalions (380 men), 14 reserve companies (270 men) and 448 gunners.

Reorganised in 1793, it comprised then 32 fusiliers battalions (of 400 men), 28 grenadier companies (100 men), 9 chasseur companies (60 men), 14 reserve companies (270 men) and 448 gunners organised in 16 platoons.

Provincial Elite Troops (Engineers):

The " Légion des campements" (Camps legion) were created in 1775. Its task was to prepare yearly instruction camps for the provincial regiments, to act as pionneers, engineers and flank guard for the army in campaign. It took its numbers from all the provincial regiments that provided men for each speciality. The battalions were initially based in Chieri (main depot) Chivasco, Chersaco (Piedmont) and Rumilly (in Savoy)

It comprised 1640 men in 1792:

4 Battalions and 21 foot companies (1230 men split between 825 fusiliers, 200 grenadiers, 50 chasseurs, 50 pioneers, 50 gunners)
A horse camp regiment comprising 400 men of which 300 dragoons and 80 horse carabineers.

In 1793 this legion was broken up and its men formed 2 new foot regiments: 

"Grenadiers du Roi", King Grenadiers with 2 battalions  (Commanded by the Savoyard marquis of Bellegarde, less known than his parent, the future Austrian Feldmarshall Bellegarde)
Pionneers, 2 battalions  (used at first for the fortification works around Torino)

The men of the Cavalry regiment were given to the line Cavalry regiments

In 1793, the usual practise of regrouping the grenadier and chasseur companies of the line regiments was officially put on paper. These joint formations were frequently used before, and this just gave the practice formal recognition

Grenadiers:

1st Battalion:  Composed of the Gardes, Asti, Casal grenadiers companies.
2nd Battalion: Composed of the Savoie, de Marine, de Turin grenadiers companies.
3rd Battalion: Composed of the Novare, Suse, Saluces grenadiers companies.
4th Battalion: Composed of the Aoste, Courten, Mondovi grenadiers companies.
5th Battalion: Composed of the Montferrat, Piémont, Rockmondet, grenadiers companies.
6th Battalion: Composed of the Royal Allemand, Chablais, Genevois grenadiers companies.
7th Battalion: Composed of the Maurienne, Ivrée, Pignerol grenadiers companies.
8th Battalion: Composed of the Nice, la Reine, Sardaigne grenadiers companies.
9th Battalion: Composed of the Christ, Lombardie, Acqui grenadiers companies.
10th Battalion: Composed of the Novare and Oneglia grenadiers companies in 1792
11th Battalion: Composed of the Zimmerman, Bachmann, Peyer-ein-hoff, grenadiers companies when these regiments were created

Chasseurs:

1st Battalion:  Composed of the Gardes, Saluces, Aoste, Courten, la Reine, Christ, Sardaigne, Lombardie chasseur companies.
2nd Battalion:  Composed of the Montferrat, Piémont, Royal-Allemand, la Marine, Savoie, Chablais chasseur companies.

In March 1796, these 2 battalions were grouped under the command of the Colonel marquis Colli-Ricci

Light infantry

Apart for the line regiments, the army organisation dating from 1775 brought to existence a light unit whose tasks was primarily the frontier guard and smuggling control:

"Légion légère", Light Legion with 4 battalions and a depot company, around 2200 men.

In April 1795, the Light legion was dissolved and formed 2 new units instead:

1st Light Regiment
2nd Light Regiment

Regiments with 2 battalions:  4 fusiliers companies, 1 of grenadier, 1 of chasseur.

Garrison Troops

The garrison corps (740 men) was formed in the last month of 1792 to train the militia. Formed with retired soldiers, it will have 2 new companies in 1793

Militia and Irregular Corps

Militia

After the loss of Savoy and Nice in 1792, the king decided the levy of the militia, mainly to support the troops for garrison service. Each militia company should have 48 troopers at most or 36 at least (plus the headquarters), 2 companies formed a "century" (100 men) and 6 companies a virtual battalion whose officers were to be chosen by the army headquarters.

Each century had 100 men, except where indicated otherwise:

Acqui, 20 centuries
Alba, 20 centuries
Alexandrie, 14 centuries
Aoste, 10 centuries
Biella, 7 centuries
Casale, 15 centuries
Possano, 4 centuries
Fenestrelles, 14 centuries, making 840 men
Ivrée, 20 centuries
Loano, 9 centuries making 558 men
Mondovi, 40 centuries
Mortora, 12 centuries
Novare, 14 centuries
Arona, 1 centurie
Oneille, 42 centuries making 2604 men
Pignerol, 14 centuries
Valdesi, 25 centuries making 1500 men
Saluces, 20 centuries
Savigliano, 5 centuries
Suse, 10 centuries
Tortone, 29 centuries
Valenza, 4 centuries
Verceil, 12 centuries

Total: 391 centuries and 35,602 men

To this total we should also add the urban militia of Torino, comprising 2500 men.

In the following years, other militia were recruited in the same regions to replace some of these levies that were incorporated in some provincial regiments.

For the 2 provinces of Savoy and the Nice county, occupied by the revolutionary French armies, the government did not have time to levy militia troops. Instead, irregular free corps ("corps francs") and volunteers took arms and formed good troops that fought side by side with the regular troops (particularly in the Nice county).

Corps Francs

Theses free corps were used to harass enemy communication line and to make partisan attacks but also fighting with the regular troops in many fights.

A free company already existed before the start of the war against France. In 1792 it had 800 men divided in 2 corps:

National Company  (Savoyards and Piemontese)
French Company (French émigrés and deserters)

At the end of 1792, the count Malabailo di Canale, former officer of the guard regiment, created a "century" (that is 2 companies) of chasseur-carabineers (337 men). In 1793, the Canale's Chasseur-Carabineers became a battalion. Recruitment included sometimes bandits,  smugglers, and the like. They had a bad reputation but their behaviour on the battlefield show much courage and energy

In March 1793, Filippo del Carretto, marquis of Camarana, commanded a second "corps franc"  made up of pardoned deserters (2 companies) rapidly joined by French émigrés. This corps became the chasseurs commanded by the French émigré de Bonnaud in 1793 and reached 2 companies. They were used for various dangerous missions (in the Gilette fight near Nice in 1793 for example).

From 1794, the "corps francs" are getting more and more numerous and they became organised in a greater "Corps francs" structure comprising 13 companies (2133 men):

Piano's Chasseurs: 150 men initially, passing to 2 companies of 307 men 6 months after their creation.
Pandini's Corps franc
Martin Montu-Beccaria's Chasseurs (carabineers) 150 men
The 2 de La Rocque's companies: a regular company and and a free company made up of Nice's volunteers.
 Radicati's Niçois chasseurs (2 battalions) which had an excellent reputation.

To insure a better discipline among these various free companies, their were finally regrouped under the command of a unique man in 1795. This commander was Borgarelli D’Isone and the free corps comprised then 11 companies of 160 men each:

1st Pandini
2nd Buriasco
3rd Saissi
4th Francini
5th Martin
6th Bovarino
7th Rivarona
8th Patono
9th Piano
10th De Bonneaud
11th de réserve

Notably, the Radicati's Niçois chasseurs stayed out this structure (they were formed then of 2 battalions of 4 companies, 1500 men) because they were already considered elite troops due to their excellent fighting capacity.

Cavalry

Cavalry regiments were made up of 4 squadrons of 2 companies each. A squadron had 93 men of whom 64 horsemen before the start of the war, as we see their strength was weaker than regiment of other European nations. Tt the start of the war in 1792, cavalry regiments could only mobilised 16 squadrons (each of 132 men of whom 100 were mounted), the other 16 squadrons (109 men each) serving in garrison.

Since 1786 and the army reorganisation, each cavalry regiment had an elite company:  chasseur à cheval d'élite for the heavy cavalry regiments and horse grenadiers for the dragoons regiments.

In 1794, the company level, as the basic administrative unit, was suppressed and the regiments were split in squadrons who had always been the standard tactical formation on the field. Since 1775, the cavalry was in fact split into two wings of two brigade each:

At the top of the list of fighting Cavalry units came the:

Life guards:  "Gardes du Corps" with 3 companies (120 men):  1st made up of Savoyards, 2nd made up of Piemontese and the 3rd composed of Sardinians.

Dragoon Wing:

King's Dragoons, 4 squadrons. (recruited in Savoy)
Queen's Dragoons, 4 squadrons. (recruited in Piemont)
Piemont's Dragoons, 4 squadrons. (recruited in Piemont)
Chablais's Dragoons, 4 squadrons. (recruited in Savoy)

The Sardinian's dragoons were not part of the dragoon wing and was garrisoned in Sardinia with its own organisation. It was one the units used (together with local militia) to repel the French revolutionary landing attempt on this island in 1792.

Sardinian's dragoons, 2 squadrons. (212 horses)

Cavalry wing:

Heavy cavalry:

Savoy Cavalry regiment (called "Savoie Cavalerie"), 4 squadrons (recruited in Savoy)
Piemont-Royal, 4 squadrons (recruited in Piemont)
Aoste Cavalerie regiment (called " Aoste Cavalerie"), 4 squadrons (recruited in Northern Piemont, Aosta)

Light Cavalry:

His Majesty's Chevau-légers, 4 squadrons (recruited en Savoy)

Artillery and Engineers

4 Artillery battalions  (2156 men in July 1792)
1 Company of miners (mineurs) and 1 company of workmen (ouvriers),
2 pioneer battalions (already quoted before as part of the Camps legion)

Household and Miscellaneous Troops

Swiss guard
Foot Guards (gardes à pieds)
The hunt dragoons (dragons de la chasse)

These were not fighting units

The disabled ex-servicemen company

In 1792 a single unit of 1000 men was in charge of the supply of the troops, the Dragoni di provianda.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2006

 

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