Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

 

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

Part V: 1814 –1815 The Restoration

By Ludovic Isnard

Following the return of Victor Emmanuel 1er, the army began reforming  with a structure very close to the one in existence in 1796 (national and provincial regiments) according to the king's wishes.

The very first unit created were the chasseurs of the Count Emilio Robert, whose elements where former soldiers of the Italian army that were  prisoners of the Austrian. This unit was provisionally called the 1st Line Regiment)

On 15 July 1814, the king ordered the creation of the Royal Carabineers (foot and horse, the actual Italian carabinieri) whose task was similar to the French gendarmes; the first priority of the government being the reestablishment of order in the kingdom. The artillery corps was also reinstalled.

National infantry regiments were all recreated with their ancient name, the king appointing the colonels and lieutenant colonels for each one of them :

Régiment des Gardes
Régiment de Savoie
Régiment de Montferrat
Régiment de Piémont
Régiment de Saluces
Régiment d’Aoste
Régiment de Cunéo
Régiment d'Alessandria
Régiment de la Reine
Régiment de Sarzane (becoming Gênes some months later)
Régiment de Sardaigne (already in existence)

The Regiment La Marine was now called Cunéo  to avoid confusion with the Marine troops still in existence. The numbers of these corps were to be 1626 men theoretically, organised in 2 battalions in the "French system": that is 6 companies, of whom one was grenadiers, one was chasseur, and 4 were fusiliers. Practically none of them would reach 1000 men and many only had a single battalion before the end of the fight with the French in July 1815.

The chasseurs companies of these battalions were to be grouped into inedependent battalions:

825 men each of 6 companies, 4 of chasseurs, one of carabineers and the last of bersaglieri.

Victor Emmanuel 1er then re-established his ancient cavalry regiments, again with their former name for most of them:

Dragons du Roi
Chevau léger du Roi
Chevau léger du Piémont
Piémont Royal Cavalerie
Savoie Cavalerie
Dragons de la Reine
Chevau léger de Sardaigne (already in existence)

The Life guards were also recreated with their former structure of 3 companies: 1rst of Savoy, the 2nd from Piedmont, and the 3rd from Sardinia.

Actually, the cavalry numbers existed only on paper because, if the officers were recruited and in some case even the soldiers, the horses were of great rarity. Ten years of continuous war in Europe has made them almost unavailable. The few horses found were given in priority to the Royal Horse Carabineers for the security reasons already stated before.

Finally the provincial regiments were re-established according to the same system prevailing during the revolutionary period (that is soldiers named by the mayor council or the local parish and grouped according to their geographical origin whereas the national regiments were made of volunteers). The following regiments were raised:

Ivrée
Turin
Nice
Asti
Pignerol
Novare
Tortone
Acqui
Mondovi
Vercelli
Casale
Susa 

Those regiments would have 2 battalions (6 companies : one of grenadiers, 4 of fusiliers and one of bersaglieri) but then again the ranks numbers were very difficult to fill. As an example the national regiments of Montferrat had only 450 men in July 1814.

On 11 August 1814, the 31rst French Light Infantry Regiment, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, and composed mainly of Piemontese, returned to Torino and joined the army (in total 650 men and officers). They were incorporated under the name of "Piemontese Chasseurs" and to avoid any confusion with the Chasseurs of Robert, these were renamed "Italian Chasseurs" (since many of them were form the Italian peninsula and not form Piedmont)

A few months later, the Marquese of Cuttica received the authorisation to raise a 3rd chasseur corps, named "Queen Chasseurs" and also made of former Italian army soldiers.

Finally in February 1815, a new Swiss regiment was to be raised under the name of Christ. This was unsuccessful, and the regiment was dissolved in April 1816 due to misappropriation of funds by the colonel. This colonel  was the grandson of the former Christ Regiment’s colonel under Victor Amédée III who was considered a second rate officer but at honest.

At the beginning of 1815, Genova and Liguria were attached to the kingdom, giving a larger access to the Mediterranean Sea. For the army, this led to the creation of a new national regiment, Sarzane, (named Gênes, Genova in Italian few month after) and the forming of the 4th Life Guard Company, from Genova.

It's a known fact that as of June 1815, most of these troops had no training what so ever and that the main quality of most officers was to manage to stay quiet during the French occupation during Napoleon reign, most of them having no military training at all. Pinelli quoted that Victor Emmanuel I wishing to inspect his troops in the first month of 1815 (troops numbering effectively 8000-9000 roughly) was mortified seeing that no regiment was capable of performing the simplest manoeuvre.

Nevertheless, these regiments fought alongside the Austrians during the 100 Days. The campaign took place in the Savoy and Dauphiné valleys and upon Napoleon's final abdication the Kingdom of Sardinia retook all the provinces lost some 20 years ago to revolutionary France with the notable addition of Liguria.

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2006

 

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