Pioneers and Pontoon Train
In 1810, a Pontoon Train of one company was added to the army. This was brigaded with the Pioneer Company. Both saw extensive service in Russia, opeating in the rear of the Grande Armee. By their labour and sacrifice, they helped make the retreat possible. Both companies survived 1812 although badly battered, but once brought up to strength played an important bridge-building role during the 1813 campaign. In October the French ordered the absorbtion of the pontoon train into the French army - the men promptly deserted to the Allies or melted away into civilian life. The pioneers remained loyal to the French until October 18, virtually the last troops to defect.
The uniform was the same for both companies and was in the style of the line grenadiers.
Shako: Plain black, tall black plume, red cords, white cockade with gold lace, brass shako plate representing the Royal Coat of Arms.
Tunic: Dark green piped red, red cuffs, red collar edged silver. Silver crossed pick and shovel badge on left shoulder.
Trousers: Grey with red piping.
Gaiters: Short black gaiters, worn over the trousers.
Crossbelts: Buff. Equipment as for infantry.
Officers' Distinctions: Silver epaulettes, white breeeches, black boots, plain black bicorn, black plume, white cockade and silver ganse.
Theoretically each battalion had a surgeon to cope with the grisly toll of casualties. Uniforms were simple and functional. Line Infantry surgeons wore the following:
Bicorn: Plain black, worn with an oil-skin cover on campaign.
Jacket: Llight grey double-breasted coat with facings as for the regiment, white turnbacks, brass buttons.
Trousers: Grey or buff.
Waistbelt: White leather, supporting an epee with a black leather swordknot, black scabbard and brass fittings.
Medical instruments were carried in a leather or calfskin haversack, worn slung on a leather shoulder belt. Regretably, I have not been able to discover references to the uniforms of surgeons for other units.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2001
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