Friday, December 2, 2011

French Horse Artillery

Newline Designs French Horse Artillery

I've been extemporising Horse artillery for the last while, using an ADC figure and two chaps from the foot batteries. As a stop gap, it sufficed and there was little doubt as to which were the horse batteries and which the foot. But it rankled, so I have just mustered two new gun crews into the French service. These are Newline Designs figures and are a touch small, but they do well in units on their own. I had toyed with HATs offering, but wasn't convinced by the sculpting. I also wanted each horse battery to have at least one mounted gunner so that the difference between horse and foot batteries would be clear.

Up close for a whiff of grapeshot

My readers are all no doubt familiar with horse artillery, but in case Tim Gow has had a sudden rush of blood to the head and momentarily forgotten anything that doesn't have a jet engine on it.

Horse artillery are simply put, batteries of artillery where the gun crews ride rather than walk. The idea behind them was that they would provide fast mobile firepower where it was needed. Foot batteries, which typically carried a greater weight of metal, were more powerful, but couldn't be relied upon to get to the key point quickly. Horse artillery, sometimes called "flying batteries", though I've only heard this used when referring to the American arm, were most numerous in French service. They were expensive to train and raise as they required more horses then a foot battery and men who could ride as well as shoot. The first batteries were raised in 1792 under General Mathieu Dumas.

Sadly, this is not Alexandra Dumas father, who was the rather more imposing Thomas Alexandre Dumas. But the French artillery and horse artillery especially certainly shared his aggression. Paddy Griffith covers the "artillery charge" in passing in his Osprey on French Napoleonic Infantry tactics, but essentially it boiled down to getting in close and shooting fast, delivering murderous close range fire to rupture the enemy line.

We will never see a horse artillery battery in action in earnest, but to give you some impression of the speed, precision and dash of these men, have a look at this footage from the Royal Tournament in 1985.


While Command & Colours Napoleonics gun crews (at least as I organise them) come with only three crewmen and a gun, that seemed a rather scanty number of gunners. The Newline Design packs came with more figures than I needed, so should I ever need more crewmen (I won't say a full crew), these fellows are waiting in the wings.

I suppose that these pictures are part of a larger project to document my collection of figures, for my own satisfaction and so that I can insure them. I posted (as I usually do) a link to my blog entry on the subject to The Miniatures Page recently and received some interesting and not so interesting responses.

The discussion spiralled out of the bounds of reason and decency shortly there after and considerable time and energy that could have been more profitably spent calculating how many angels may dance on the head of the pin or perhaps ironing the undersides of cats was expended on the subject of whether it is right or proper to murder someone who is burgling your home. For a variety of reasons, I shall not go into my position on the subject here. I can only steal another man's eloquence.

"It is a big step to take another human life. It is never to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts. I can assure you they live with the Mark of Cain upon them."


  1. Excellent footage Conrad!

    You're right:HaT's French horse guns are horrible and Italeri's are really Imperial Gurad horse artillery, so there's not much in the way of plastic 1/72nd stuff.

    I've been wary of buying Newline as I've always thought it too small. I have been tempted to try SHQ's artillery, though haven't yet go around to it.

  2. I have too little time in my life to even think of visiting the TMP site based on what others have said... on to more interesting subjects, I have seen the RHA in action at the Royal Tournament as a child, and I specifically remember the sheer speed in such a confined space - magnificent horsemanship - those guns skid as they go round the corners...... fantastic.

  3. I'm intrigued by the mention of jet engines in a post about Napoleonic horse artillery. Now there's an idea...

  4. Hmm does make one wonder if rules for horse artillery should make them fast but require them to always move in circles.

    One of my favorite troop types though.

    Possibly home invaders should be forced to sit and read TMP threads.


  5. Rosbif - isn't it? Stirring stuff.
    I have a set of the Italeri Guard that'll get done eventually, but it's not exactly priority.

    Steve - TMP is a curates egg and I wouldn't write it off entirely. As the the RHA, I've only seen our own mounted unit in action once and they were incredible. I can't but imagine what seeing a team would be like.

    Tim - Gow, see me after class.

    Ross - I couldn't agree more. If we ever meet in person, there's a funny story I must tell you about a home invasion.