These blue-coated lancers in Polish-inspired uniforms were part of the Vistula Legion which transferred to French service in 1808. In 1811 they became the 7th and 8th Chevau-Léger-Lanciers. Their most famous action was at Albuera where they charged Colborne's infantry.
My 28mm Front Rank figures are wearing blue 'kurtka' jackets, except the trumpeter in reversed colours with a yellow kurtka. The square-topped hat, called a 'czapska', was typical of Polish units, both foot and mounted.
The miniature lances are from a New Zealand company - whose name presently escapes me! They are designed for ancient figures, so the lance-heads are not strictly accurate. However, they are strong - and very sharp!
The lance pennons are by GMB Design. The unusual flag is a home-made scan from a book by Terry Wise. GMB Design have got the flag of the Vistula Lancers on their list of forthcoming releases, so I hope to replace it soon. I will also then add a top to the flag-pole (not an eagle for the Vistula Lancers - they had a spear-point pole).
We the undersigned, adminstrative council of the 12th Dragoons, grant this certificate of "Congé Absolu" to Pierre van Dooren, trumpeter of the 1st Company of the 2nd Battalion, born 13 February 1787 in Weert, Department of the Meuse Inferieur. Height 170cms, brown hair, blue eyes, round forehead, broad nose, large mouth, no beard, round face, passbook number 1447.
Colonel-President Binach, Chef de Brigade Delacpeine, Captain Ribet
When I found the above transcript of the discharge papers of my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Pierre van Dooren, I knew that I just had to have the 12th Dragoons in my miniature army. And one of the figures had to be a trumpeter to represent my ancestor. So the green coats and crimson facings of the 12th Dragoons make up my first French cavalry unit.
A helpful reader of this site, Joost Welten, has found out for me that Pierre entered the 12th Regiment of Dragoons on March 3, 1807, having left his hometown of Weert on February 12, 1807. With his regiment he was in Germany (1807- 1809) and Spain (1810-1813) before entering the final battle area in the northeastern part of France (1814). He was wounded in March 1814 and was recovering in the hospital of Angers when Napoleon abdicated.
My miniature Pierre wears reversed colours from the other troopers (a crimson coat with green facings) in order to make him readily identifiable to his officers in this period when trumpeters might have to issue urgent orders in the midst of the smoke and turmoil of battle. He also has a white horsehair mane on his helmet rather than black, and rides a grey horse.
Of the twelve figures in my unit, two wear the bearskin hats and red epaulettes that denote the elite company, the equivalent of an infantry battalion's grenadiers. The others have imposing copper helmets with black horsehair manes streaming out behind. The officer has a leopard skin turban round his helmet, whilst the troopers have brown fur turbans.
Because this unit is portrayed on galloping horses, I didn't line them up straight on their bases. I have some horses racing slightly in front, while others lag behind. This gives a much more natural look to the speeding formation.
For as long as I can remember, whenever I think of Napoleonic uniforms, the flamboyant hussars come to mind first. So I felt it was important to include a hussar unit in my miniature Napoleonic army. I bought these Front Rank hussars second-hand, and was initially disappointed that they were depicted in campaign uniform rather than in their exotic parade dress. But the end effect is still colourful and evocative of the era.
I decided to paint my unit as the 5th Hussars, based purely on the colours of their uniforms (especially the white pelisse and the red shako). What I didn't realise till later was that the 5th's ancestors were the hussars of Lauzun's Legion, which I had already modelled for my 18th Century army. So the 5th Hussars were an apt choice. Like my other cavalry units, the horses are painted in oils rather than acrylics, which gives a much more natural look.
As these figures are wearing the post-1812 uniform with the tall round shako, I had to look for an 1812-pattern flag for the eagle-bearer. I couldn't find such a flag online, so in the end I made my own by converting a Warflag image. However, I am told that hussars at this time did not take their eagles on campaign, so my unit is incorrect in having an eagle-bearer. It is possible that hussars carried fannions instead, but what they looked like is anyone's guess! Does anyone know? If so, please let me know.
Another interesting task was modelling the hussars' sabretaches. These hung beside the sword scabbard, and carried a Napoleonic eagle and the numeral "5". Rather than painting these myself, I found an old print of the 5th and copied the sabretache into my graphics programme. I then reduced this to the correct size, copied it several times, printed them out and glued them over the cast-on sabretaches. You can see here that the result is quite effective. If you look carefully at the officer pictured earlier in this article, you'll see he is wearing his full-dress sabretache, which I created in the same way.
Usually I would not have an elite regiment like the 1st Carabiniers in such a small army. However, I could not resist these miniatures when they were offered to me at a very reasonable price as part of a second-hand deal. My initial plan was to paint them and then sell them, and with the proceeds buy a more appropriate cavalry unit. But with the time and effort I have lavished on painting my Carabiniers, I now can't bear to part with them!
The two units of Carabiniers in the French army (so-called because they were armed with carbines when they were initially raised by Louis XIV) were considered the elite of the heavy cavalry. Until 1811 they wore blue uniforms with large bearskins. My models depict the later white uniform, complete with copper-plated cuirasses and elegant Grecian-style helmets.
I did the cuirasses and helmets using the same technique I use on gun barrels. I left the metal bare (which means I can't spray undercoat as I usually do with my figures), then brushed on and rubbed off GW Flesh Ink. Finally I highlighted by dry brushing with metallic gold paint.
Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that, apart from the trumpeter and standard-bearer, the Carabiniers in most of these pictures are mounted on light cavalry horses. This was temporary only, as I had run out of heavy horses at the time of taking these photos. In this picture (right) two of the Carabiniers are mounted on the correct heavy horses.
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