Napoleonic History Corner!

by seanbeansshako

History and Genneral Napoleonic Era Trivia:

So you actually want to learn something while playing video games? you nerd! nah I kid. Some of us actually know our stuff about History and have posted some stuff already. Feel free to ask any questions about this crazy era of warfare and you’ll get an honest and sensible answer for it. All questions and answers will be logged in this section plus other interesting things posted.

If you want to learn about everything in the history of the Napoleonic Wars by yourself, try this informative website here.

A lot of the information provided is Wikipedia content as a taster, If you seriously are interested in the History of this era I really do suggest hunting down real books based on it as well as visiting any Napoleonic era Military musuems if you have any near you.

(Real)Bad Asses of the Napoleonic Wars!

Sharpe and Flashman, these dudes were the real deal.

First the generals of the DLC:

Napoleon Bonaparte
Arthur Wellesley (Duke of Wellington)
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher AKA Field Marshal Blucher
General Mikhail Kutuzov
Karl Phillip, Prince of Schwarzenberg

Generals and Statesmen:
Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (The Black Duke)
Marshal Ney
Marshal Grouchy
Marshal Soult
Marshal Murat
General Picton
Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore
General Rowland ‘Daddy’ Hill
Major General Isaac Brock
Admiral Nelson
Prime Minister Pitt The Younger
King Frederick William III of Prussia
Major General Carl von Clausewitz
General Field Marshal von Gneisenau
Prince Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
Tsar Alexander the 1st
Holy Roman Emperor Francis II
Archduke Charles of Austria
Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz
General Johann von Klenau
Commander Andrew Jackson
General Toussaint Louverture
Sultan Mahmuh II of The Ottoman Empire
William II The Prince of Orange
Stanisław August Poniatowski (The Last King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth)
King Gustav IV of Sweden
Duke Dickbutt

Soldiers, Sailors and Regular People:
Andreas Hofer Tirolean Rebel Leader and Patriot
Horse Artillery Captain Mercer
Sergeant Masterson
Captain Murray Maxwell
USS Constitution
HMS Speedy
Captain Peter Heywood
Citizen Tarrare
HMS Victory
Captain Thomas Cochrane
Major Somerset
Captain Joseph Dyas 51st Light Infantry
‘Hussar General’ Colonel Lasalle
Imperial Guard Captain Jean-Roch Coignet
Roustam Raza (Napoleons Mameluke Bodyguard)
Diplomat Citizen Talleyrand
Secret Police Leader Fouche
Marquis de Sade The Classical French Perverted Aristocrat
Juan Martín Díez (Father of early modern Guerrilla warfare tactics and Liberal Spanish icon)
Fusilier John Thruel (Oldest Soldier of Europe, served three French Kings and four governments)

Battles and Campaigns
Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Leipzig
Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Ligny
Battle of Quatra Bras
Battle of Arcole
Battle of Wagram
Battle of The Nile
Battle of New Orleans
Battle of Jena-Auerstedt
Battle of Corunna
Battle of Borodino
The Siege of Siege of Badajoz (1812)
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Bladensburg
Siege of Toulon
Battle of Talavera
Battle of Dresden
Battle of Paris
Battle of Salamanca
Battle of Smolensk
Battle of Vitoria
Battle of Friedland
Battle of Raszyn
Battle of Dennewitz
Battle of Hagelberg

The Hundred Days campaign
The Peninsula campaign (Actually small scale war)
The Italian Campaign
The Egyptian Expedition
Napoleons Invasion of Russia
The whats and whys of Napoleonic Era uniforms!

Just going to write a slightly detailed guide on what these things are called on our christmas tree clothes and why they were like that for those vaguely interested.

Shako: The most common Military headgear of the European armies, these things were designed to make the soldiers of the armies look taller and more intimidating and were made of leather and felt. Originated from Hungary and decorated with a plate with the Regiment number, insignia or King/Emperors initials. Also decorated with feathers, pom poms or plumes depending on branch or regiment.

Crossbelt: Made from leather the crossbelt is pretty much the early version of modern version of webbing which the cartridge pouch and scabbard for your sword was attached too. Crossbelts sometimes had a shiny bright plate in the centre making the poor soldiers the perfect target for anyone who could shoot.

Pack: The backpack on the back of the common soldier, these oddly enough were rarely worn during the battle in real life. Carried the usual supplies of food and spare uniform bits plus the equipment. Was emptied for precious LOOT after the battle and a good place to stick a good pair of liberated boots in. Not made from the pelt of Zebras but usually cows or crude leather.

Greatcoat: Some of the Prussian soldiers are either wearing these as a full part of their uniform or around their Torso rolled up (The Russians do this too). Greatcoats obviously kept the soldiers of Europe warm and dry and when rolled up tight were surprisingly good saber deflection too. Some of the Western European soldiers have their greatcoats rolled up in or on their packs as they are of a shorter design.

Gaiters: The silly little calve cover for some of the line infantries boots that come either in bright parade white or coal black. They have very little function apart from looking good and next to the useless neck stocks found themselves mostly being thrown away ‘by accident’ by soldiers on campaign. Still exist today much to the misfortune of those who have done military service as part of parade dress.

Gorget, Sashes and Epaulettes: Exclusive only to comissioned officers these shiny and lacey things are used visually to designate the cream of the rank and file. The gorget is a throw back from the Fedual days of Knights in Europe back when men wore huge suits of armour and have been transformed now to the shiny metal things hanging around Officers neck. Gorgets were made of silver and gold plating for Officers of different senoirity. Sashes worn around the waist and upper coat area were also a rank identifier each sash colour designating the different rank with officers. Epaulettes also performed the same role. A Junior Captain would only wear one while a more senoir officer would get two on each shoulder.

Coat/Coatee: These things came into fashion around the late 18th century and had many different designs and cuts for the normal soldier and officers of all brances. The coloured cuffs and lapels of these things are called ‘facings’ and each regiment of every army or group of regiments had their own official colour and were also decorated sometimes with the unique logos or insignias of the regiment (EG the grenades all over the place with the Grenadier guys). Most Officers had slightly slimmer tighter fitting versions of their mens coats with the infamous coat tails on the back though some elite line were all known to have tails on their coats.

Britches: The pants/trousers/leg coverings of the era noted for their tightness and hilarious pronounciation of ones junk. These things snuck into fashion around the 17th century and pretty much evolved into the comfortable things we wear today to show off our packages and butts. Armies amusingly even designated regiment and branches by the colour of their britches for example the blue pants of Austria are all Hungarian while the white pants are the Austrian Germans. White britches like all same colured clothing items could be kept clean with pipeclay.

Boots: These came in two flavours, ankle high things for the foot sloggers than were woefully mass produced and gave away quickly and the much more stylish and appreicated tailor calve high riding boots associated with the dashing Hussars and other cav of this era. Needless to say all men happily got the latter as soon as possible as they were comfortable and looked so much cooler.

Other clothing items/stuff:

Sapper/Pioneer Aprons were pretty much functional as they not only handled explosives but did the digging and carpentry needed for an army on the march plus they were handy for both friend and foe as quick identifiers.

The helmets of the heavy cav were modeled in the Greeco Roman style due to the fact that many educated men of this era were Classically Educated and knew not only of the history and science of the Ancient world but also their conquests.

Drummers and Fifers carry their music with them in sheets, which are handily rolled up and stored in the shining metal tube resting on their hips. The drum sticks also went in there when not in use.

The cuirass the heavy cav wear is not entirely useless. At long ranges it could even take minor damage from a musket ball and is still quite useful for melee fighting though.

The Pavlov grenadiers wear something called a Mitre (The Pope hat) which was more of a symbol of a professional elite soldier than the hat of the pope in the 18th century but now slowly going the way of the tricorn and bicorn. Frederick The Greats own Prussian Grenadiers wore these as well as other European nations Grenadiers.

Dragoons, Light Cav and some Artillery officers enjoy wearing the tartleton helmet which became quite known during the American war of independence which simply looks awesome. Seriously, don’t deny it. It looks good.

Prussians and Opel both seem to be wearing peaked forage caps and are apparently a century ahead from everyone else in Military fashion as peaked caps have been the formal uniforms head gear choice for over one hundred years now for most armies of the world.

What the hell are the British chanting in the Waterloo movie?

An interesting question, turns out to a mid 19th century Whalers Sea Shanty:

Chorus is in italics.


Boney was a warrior
Away, a- yah!
A warrior and a terrier
Jean Francois!

2. Boney fought the Russians
Away, a- yah!
The Russians and the Prussians.
Jean Francois!

3. Moscow was a-blazing
Away, a- yah!
And Boney was a-raging.
Jean Francois!

4. Boney went to Elba
Away, a- yah!
Boney he came back again.
Jean Francois!

5. Boney went to Waterloo
Away, a- yah!
There he got his overthrow.
Jean Francois!

6. Then they took him off again
Away, a- yah!
Aboard the Billy Ruffian.
Jean Francois!

7. He went to Saint Helena,
Away, a- yah!
There he was a prisoner,
Jean Francois!

8. Boney broke his heart and died
Away, a- yah!
Away in Saint Helena
Jean Francois!

9. Give her the t’gan’s’ls
Away, a- yah!
Its a weary way to Baltimore.
Jean Francois!

10. Drive her, Cap’n, drive her
Away, a- yah!
And bust the chafing leather.
Jean Francois!

Jean Francois was the polite term for a Frenchman.

Why do the Austrians have leafs on all their hats?

Austrian soldiers used to carry three oak-leaves on their helmets-shakos; but why?

In Germany oak were the Trees of the Homeland, the powerful war trees of the Teutons, whose leaves also served in war as a field mark. The oak was consecrated to the thundering god Donnar (Thor). Ancient Celts observed the oak’s massive growth and impressive expanse. They took this as a clear sign that the oak was to be honored for its endurance, and noble presence. Further merit to its regal presence is its tendency to attract lightning. This was considered hugely powerful among the ancients and is associated with one of their foremost gods, Dagda.

More, in the old German language of flowers they told: “Who carries oak leaves, indicates his own determination and that thereby nobody will can stop him. So it was recommended, therefore, to be careful with those carrying oak leaves, and, above all, to avoid jokes with these fellows, who didn’t allow jokes.” The weapons put “at rest” during wars and campaigns were often hung up on oaks. It was easy to understand why German (and Austrian) warriors went in the battle with oak leaves.

They were primary used as means of identification for forces of the Holy Roman Empire during the 30 Years War in the 17th century due to the lack of modern uniforms during the time.

OK, it’s not really hard at all to find a ton of references of cavalry firing en masse from horseback. I don’t know why the admins in the line battles frown on it. It’s VERY historically accurate, here is a sample:

This is from the 1809 campaign, the Bavarians (French allies at the time) are having a meeting engagement with far superior numbers of Austrians, the day is April 19th, around 9 am, the battle is the relatively small action between Hausen and Teugn (in Bavaria).

At that hour, the main body of the Crown Prince’s division (Bavarian) was en route to Abensberg, preceded by it’s cavalry brigade and Captain Regnier’s battery of horse artillery. The jangling troopers and gunners had already passed through Abensberg and turned north up the road to Arnhofen, their movement screened by a set of low hills. To the Austrian commander peering west from the fringes of the Seeholz Wald, therefore, the Bavarian advance troops on the road to Arnhofen were invisible; the only Bavarians he could see were a few cavalry pickets on the high ground between the two villages. These pickets seeming to be the single obstacle between the Seeholz and Arnhofen, he set his brigade in motion across the fields to occupy the town.

The Crown Prince’s scouts natrually lost no time in reporting the approach of Thierry’s little force and the Corp commander Lefebvre immediately ordered the advance guard forward at the trot. In response, the Bavarian Kronprinz Chevauxlegers (light cavalry) executed a right turn and advanced up the low rise that had shielded them from Habsburg eyes. The unexpected appearance of an entire regiment of green coated chevauxlegers surprised the Austrian Levenehr Dragoons advancing from the Seeholz and they halted momentarialy while the Bavarians sent mounted skirmishers forward to contest any further Austrian advance.

Thierry quickly deployed his four 6-pounders and opened up on the chevauxlegers, but Bavarian guns were also on the way and, favored by a well placed knoll, Regnier’s battery gave the Austrians a second unpleasant suprise when it suddenly pounded up and unlimbered to the left of the cavalry regiment. The arrival of this battery boded ill for the Austrians: fifteen minutes after coming into action, the Bavarian gunners had disabled two Austrian pieces and were happily shelling the rest under Regnier’s enthusiastic direction.

To ease the pressure on their brigade, the Austrian dragoons rode forward to the attack, but the first two squadrons were turned back by fire from the Bavarian battery. Undeterred, the other two squadrons spurred up the gentle slope after covering the withdrawl of their comrades. Despite canister fire from Regnier’s sweating men, the white coated horsemen drove into the flank and rear of the Bavarian chevaliers. The Bavarians, considering the ground too steep for a countercharge, chose to receive the Austrian charge from a stationary posture, defending themselves with a volley of carbine fire at short range. The dragoons charged through this fire, caught their foemen at the halt, disordered them and sent them fleeing to the rear. This turn of events made life dangerous for Regnier’s men. Desperately trying to limber and displace, they would almost certainly been overrun had the two squadrons of the 1st Dragoons not galloped up to conduct a timely counter attack.

“With Eagles to Glory: Napoleon and his German Allies in the 1809 Campaign” by John H. Gill, pages 84-85

Why British cav seem slightly more bland than other nations cav:

OK, here is the skinny on British cav during the Napoleonic wars. Britain fielded dragoon, light dragoon and hussar units only. They didn’t have lancers until 1822 (7 years after Waterloo) when the 17th light dragoons were re-classified as lancers.

The British cavalry was generally of good quality ON A TROOPER TO TROOPER BASIS, being mounted on probably the best surviving horseflesh in Europe (the quality of cavalry horses on the Continent had dramatically deteriorated after 20 years of sustained war, the British cavalry mostly being spared this), and was individually well trained, but suffered from several weaknesses:

– It was unaccustomed to being drilled/trained in units larger than squadrons or regiments. Most other nations, and in particular France, trained cavalry units to operate in much larger organizations such as brigades (2 to three regiments), divisions (usually 2 brigades), or even full cavalry Corps (two to three divisions). This resulted in typically inept deployment when large British armies had to commit large numbers of cavalry in battle at once. Even the famous charge of the Union Brigage at Waterloo (6th Inniskilling dragoons, 1st “Royal” dragoons and the Royal Scots Greys), which started well, ended in a total disaster for the brigade. After pretty much riding down a French infantry divisions, the brigade got ‘out of hand’ and was uncontrollable. Millhaud’s cuirassers and Jacquiont’s lancers counter-charged them and put them out of action for the rest of the day (the brigade commander Ponsonby being captured and summarily executed by lancers). The Union brigade, in it’s most ‘successful’ charge suffered nearly exactly 50% losses!

– The British cavalry was poorly led by inexperienced officers, especially at the regimental and brigade levels (Wellington himself considered them overly-arrogant) and the troopers themselves had little combat experience. Even though it’s just a quote from a movie (Waterloo, 1970), this sums it up pretty well:

Marshal Soult (on observing the Union brigade charging): They are the noblest cavalry in Europe, but the worst led.
Napoleon: That may be, but we will match them with our lancers!

I thought you guys might like to hear one of my favorite stories from the Austerlitz campaign (1805). One of the most talented, aggressive, and loyal commanders in the Grande Armee was Marshaal Jean Lannes, who was considered the flower of the army, his loss was greatly felt when he fell at Aspern-Essling in 1809. A nearly spent cannon ball shattered both his legs, Baron Larrey amputated one, and tried to save the other, but infection set in and he died eight days later, in incredible pain. Napoleon wept at the loss, not only because Lannes was a great general, but because there were close friends as well. Had he survived, some of the later campaigns could have had different outcomes, but, at least he fell at the zenith of imperial power and missed the long downhill slide starting in 1812.

Anyway,the 1805 campaign is heating up, this incident occurs before Napoleon’s spectacular victory at Austerlitz. Usually I like to give full quotes from books and cite the source, but, as I looked through my library, I was surprised to see that I really didn’t have anything that talked about this, so, the following is lifted from the web:

Later during the same campaign of 1805, Lannes and Marshal Murat bluffed their way into possession of a key Austrian bridge. Loaded with explosives, the Austrians intended to destroy the bridge the moment the French attempted to to take it. Lannes, Murat, Bertrand, Belliard, and a few other officers crossed the bridge, telling the Austrians that an armistice had been signed that gave the French the bridge. Sending Betrand with the Austrians to meet the Austrian commander, Lannes and Murat talked to the Austrians in an attempt to distract them from Oudinot’s grenadiers who were sneaking up. One Austrian noticed the approaching grenadiers and lit a match to fire the artillery, but Lannes immediately seized his arm and demanded how he could dare break the armistice without higher authority. Bertrand returned with Austrian General Auersperg, whom Lannes and Murat explained the same story to, and he agreed to not fire upon them. Oudinot’s grenadiers finished coming up, cut the fuses to blow the bridge, and with that the bridge was in French hands without a shot being fired.
Napoleons Marshals and the casulties of the 1812 retreat from Russia:

Speculus posted:

Yeah, the Marshals of France were a strange bunch. Napoleon sort of played them off against each other to ‘encourage results’ which often had the unfortunate effect of them not supporting each other in the field as much as they could have due to jealousies. They could be a quarrelsome lot too.

Bernadotte was absolutely dispicable, after Napoleon put him on the throne of Sweden he later defected to the Allies in 1813 when he saw which way the wind was blowing. I guess treachery pays though, because the Bernadottes are the royal family of Sweden to this day.

Murat was playing a weird double game during the Hundred Days. He was still sitting on the throne as the King of Naples (that Napoleon had put him on) because the Allies, after 1814, came to an agreement with him, but upon hearing that with the news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba, he repudiated his new allies and started a separate war against Austria!. He was defeated, fled to Corsica, was captured and executed 4 months after Waterloo. He should have gone over to Napoleon and helped out!

Ney was sort of thick headed, but loyal (generally!) and brave. The rear guard action leaving Russia is pretty remarkable to read about, supposedly he was the last man out of Russia, as he was leading a few hundred Bavarians holding off the cossacks on a bridge on the river Nieman on December 13th, 1812. When the Bavarians broke and ran, Ney, with only his aide-de-camp, slowed backed off the bridge, picking up the dropped Bavarian muskets and firing them as he went (he was double musketing!!! Admin, admin!). Ney was always in the thick of it, having 5 horses shot out from under him at Waterloo alone. Probably he was executed by the Bourbons after Waterloo, but there are persistent stories that, due to his Masonic connections, to include alleged secret intervention from Wellington himself, Ney’s execution was faked and he was allowed to flee to America, where he lived a secret life in exile and died in Meklenburg county, North Carolina. “Peter Stewart Ney” died in 1846 and is buried in Cleveland, North Carolina.

By the way, here is probably one of the finest graphs ever created that shows a lot of variables in a really cool format. It shows the progress of the 182 campaign in Russia. The thick beige band shows the strength of the Grande Armee coming into Russia, you can see how it gets more narrow as battles are fought, garrisions are detached, and sickness takes it’s toll. The black band shows the retreat from Moscow, the same thing is see, the band gets more narrow. Finally, at the bottom there is a temperature scale that shows the weather conditions during (only) the retreat. Look how the weather corresponds to the thickness of the black band…there are large ‘kill-offs’ as the mercury plummets. This chart was created by a French civil engineer named Charles Joseph Minard (1781-1870). It is widely recognized as “probably the best statistical graphic ever drawn.” Although many accounts vary with the numbers, Minard’s is pretty much in the middle of ranges. He claims that 422,000 men went into Russia, and 10,000 came out (under arms, there were additional stragglers).

Taunts and War Cries Translations and meanings:

United Kingdom:
“Rule Britannia!”
“Hurrah for Old Nosey!” (Duke Of Wellington)
“Sons of the hounds come here and get flesh!” (Cameron clan warcry).

Vive la France: Long live France.
Vive la patrie: long live the fatherland
Vive l’empereur: Long live the emperor
On va leur percer le flanc: We are going to break their flank.
Je me rends: I surrender.
La Garde meurt mais ne se rend pas!: The Guard does not surrender.

Für König und Vaterland! (For king & fatherland)
Gott schützen den König! (God save the king)
Schlagt sie! (Beat them!)
Auf geht’s Kameraden! (Let’s go, comerades!)
Nicht schissen (Don’t shoot).


Für den Kaiser! (For the emperor!)
Gott schützen den Kaiser! (God save the emperor!)

The rest of the German taunts are just war cries and yells.

“Pulya – Dura; Shtyk – Molodets!” ~ “The bullet’s a fool, but the bayonet is clever.”
“Nu, pohodite, suki-voleyte!*” ~ “Well, come on, you puny bitches!” *I’m not 100% sure on if he’s saying voleyte or not, or even suki for that matter.
“Ura!” ~ “Hoorah!”; “Huzzah!”
“Slavsya ‘techesvo!” ~ “Glory to the fatherland!”
“Za gosudarya!” ~ “For the sovereign!”
“Bey basurmyan!” ~ “Strike/Kill the infidel!” (a little bit strange)
“Voruy! Ubivay!” ~ “Steal! Kill!” (perfect for partisans preying on the French stragglers in the winter)

History and specifics of the flintlock musket

British Napoleonic Wars Army Slang and French Napoleonic Wars Army Slang!

British regimental nicknames of the Napoleonic Wars and why they were given them.

Hearts of Oak sung rather well in Sharpe.

Traditional Over The Hills And Far Away With Lyrics

Napoleonic Wars Tropes!


Weapons and Equipment of The Napoleonic Wars

Free to browse and read with the e-book reader plug in for the website and downloadable for a small charge this guide tells you everything you need to know about the weapons and general tactics soldiers of all armies used in this grand conflict.

Memoirs of an Imperial Guard Sergeant of the 1812 invasion and retreat from Russia.

Memoirs of a 95th Rifles Officer during the Peninsula War to 1815.


British Army:

French Army:

Russian Army:

Austrian Army:

Prussian Army:

Franco Prussian War Stuff!

French Army:

Prussian Army: