Friday, February 24, 2012

French Infantry - 39eme Ligne

39eme Ligne

When I began my Napoleonic project many moons ago - I was rather intimidated by the number of figures required and the intricacy of painting demanded. With the eye to raising a large number of troops in short order, I picked up six boxes of HATs Young Guard. These are fairly innocuous looking fellows in great coats and shakos. The idea was that I would be able to paint these up without any of the facings or other flapdoodle required and I would have my French army relatively quickly. This was the case and they've stormed across many a shot torn tabletop, but in retrospect I'm a little unhappy that I went this route. Part of the attraction of the period is the sheer pagentry of the uniforms, the horses and so forth and while the grey ranks of the greatcoats are probably damn sight closer to the reality - they lack a certain something.

I think the French have a word for it, but I don't know what it is.

A Kennington officer, Ykreol Drummer and HAT NCO

In many ways, I suppose it sums up my attitude to the French army of the period - a grey mass of stormtroopers. The hussars and the foreign legions add colour and I've plenty of Irish and Swiss troops in my French army. Which reminds me, I must add some Poles.

The 39eme Ligne broke during the Combat of Foz de Arouce in 1811, during Massena's retreat from the Lines of Torres Verdras. They attempted to cross a river to their rear, but found the bridge blocked by French cavalry who were attempting to join the fight. Forced to ford the river, several soldiers drowned including the chap with the regiments eagle, which was lost. The eagle was later recovered by Portuguese peasents in return for a hefty sum and now sits in London.

A rather gory casualty figure

The casualty figure above is part of a collection of generic French casualty figures I bought from Mark Bevis a few years ago. I think they look rather well for an odd figure that he's taken a craft knife to. I think this chap started life as an Italeri French Infantry Standard Bearer.

I should probably read some of the French memoirs of the period, which would probably make the Gallic juggernaut a little more human.

Any suggestions?
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


  1. Marbot (aka Brigadier Gerard...) - even though he is a little, ahem, creative in some of his memoirs. Re-reading him at the moment, the Berezina debacle is currently in progress. His ADC remembrances in Spain are very interesting.

    If you're a techno whiz; kindle has the two volumes for a couple of pounds each (though the transcription has some minor annoying glitches).

    1. Marbot is seems to be a favourite. I actually have a regiment of hussars of conflans in my French army as it stands. The Brigadier is inimitable.

  2. Mr Kinch - if you wish to befriend some suitable fantassins, I recommend Nicolas Marcel, captain of the voltigeur company of the 3rd (I think) battalion of the 69e Ligne, who were in the same division of VI Corps as the 39e in Spain. There is a moderate (but readable) translation which you can read/download at

    A man not given to allowing his enemies any benefit of doubt!

    1. My thanks Foy, I'm not one given much to the reading of ebooks as I prefer the paper variety. Not so much because I like books, but because I hate trees.

  3. Not exactly memoirs, but a novel. Seven Men from Gascony by Delderfield might be worth your attention. Not to mention Sir A C Doyle's Brigadier Gerard.

    For an infantryman's memoirs Sergeant Burgoyne's are set at the other end of Europe but worthwile and I suspect there are many more.

    1. I've heard of Burgoyne and I've read Delderfeld. He's wonderfully unsentimental - a wonderful tonic to the emotional incontinence of the 21st century.

  4. For tree haters...