The Organisation of the French Army
The Imperial GuardOn the establishment of the Second Empire, Napoleon III decided to resurrect the Garde Impériale along the lines of the Garde of the First Empire. Re-established in 1854 it initially was to consist of one division and would be the new elite of the army. The division was to consist of two brigades of infantry and one of cavalry. After reforms in late 1855 and 1865 it was expanded to two infantry divisions and a cavalry division.
The infantry of the Imperial Guard consisted of one battalion of Chasseur of the Guard, three regiments of Guard Grenadiers, one regiment of Zouaves and four regiments of Voltiguers of the Guard. The Grenadier and Voltigeur regiments each consisted of three battalions with seven companies each with a total battalion strength of 665 men. The regiment of Zouaves of the Guard contained two battalions each of which consisted of six companies with a total battalion strength of 570 men. The Guard Chasseur battalion had ten companies and a battalion strength of 790 men.
The cavalry of the Imperial Guard included six regiments, one each of Cuirassiers, Carabiniers, Dragoons, Chasseurs á Cheval, Lancers and Guides. Each regiment consisted of six squadrons, four of which served in the field and two of which remained at the depôt. Each regiment has a wartime strength of 600 men.
The Guard artillery was made up from two regiments, one foot and one horse. The foot regiment took the field with four four-pound batteries and two mitrailleuse batteries. The horse regiment comprised of four four-pound batteries. Each battery consisted of six pieces and 120 men.
The Guard engineers were disbanded in 1865 as an economy measure. For service in 1870 two companies from the 3rd Engineer Regiment of the Line were attached to the Guard.
The Guard train comprised of a single company.
The Line made up by far the bulk of the Imperial Army. In 1870 there were 100 regiments of Line Infantry and twenty battalions of Chasseurs á Pied.
The Line Troops
Each line regiment consisted of three battalions each of eight companies. Two companies of each battalion remained at the depôt and six served with the colours. Each company had a war strength of 120 men, giving the battalion a war strength of 720 men.
The Chasseur battalions also contained eight companies and also retained two companies in depôt. The company war strength stood at 115 men, giving a battalion war strength of 690 men.
The Regular Cavalry in 1870 consisted of ten regiments of Cuirassiers which made up the Cavalerie de Réserve (Reserve Cavalry). Twelve regiments of Dragoons and eight of lancers made up the Cavalerie de Ligne (Line Cavalry). The twelve of Chasseur á Cheval and eight of Hussars made up the Cavalerie Légèr (Light Cavalry).
Each regiment comprised of six squadrons, four of which served in the field and two of which remained at the depôt. Each regiment had a wartime strength of 650 men.
In 1870 the artillery consisted of fifteen foot and four horse regiments. Each foot regiment contained four four-pound, two twelve-pound and two mitrailleuse batteries. The horse regiment comprised of eight four-pound batteries. Each four-pound and mitrailleuse battery consisted of six pieces and 150 men. The twelve-pound batteries consisted of six guns and 200 men.
Five regiments of fortress artillery was also available. In 1870 there were three regiments, each of 16 companies available for service.
The train consisted of three regiments each of sixteen companies.
The African ArmyOn June 14, 1830 General d’Bourmont landed in Algeria with a small force titled the “Army of Africa “ with the purpose of conquering. From this small force a new army of Africa was soon built out of units made up of foreigners and French volunteers, led by Regular Army officers and warrant officers who, often drawn by the adventure, the land and the lifestyle. This army developed practices and uniforms which differentiated them remainder of the French Army, of which they formed integral part. Originally intended to operate within Algeria, the Zouaves, Zephirs, Foreign Legion, Chasseur d’Afrique and Spahis which comprised the African Army, also served in the Crimea (1854-1856), of Italy (1859), in China (1860), Mexico (1862-1867) and France (1870-1871).
By 1870 the African Army consisted of three regiments of Zouaves, three regiments of Tirallieurs Algeriene (also known as Turqos), five battalions of Zephirs (African Light Infantry), the foreign legion, four regiments of Chasseurs d’Afrique (light cavalry) and three regiments of Spahi (African light cavalry).
The Zouaves and Tirailleurs Algeriene consisted of three battalions each. Each Battalion contained eight companies, of which two remained in depôt and six served with the colours. Company strengths ran at 95 men giving a war strength of 570 men per battalion.
The Zephirs counted eight companies (two in depôt and six with the colours) and each company had a war strength of 115 men.
The Foreign Legion had three battalions in service in 1870 each of which had eight companies (two in depôt and six with the colours) and a strength of 120 men per company. Only two of these battalions were brought to France in October 1870. A fourth battalion, number the fifth, was raised in August 1870.
The Chasseurs d’Afrique were organised the same as the regular cavalry and the Spahis regiments had six squadrons (two in depôt and four with the colours) and had a wartime strength of 650 men.
The Garde Mobile and Garde Nationale
Created under the reorganisation of 1867 the Garde Mobile was intended to be a second line force similar to the Prussian Landwehr. They were to be formed in regiments of three battalions in the same manner as the line regiments.
For a variety of reasons the Garde Mobile was not given the attention necessary and it fell well short of its intentions. In 1870 few regiments took the field with their full compliment. Often only one or two battalions would take the field and regimental strengths varied greatly between 300 and 1200 men. Equipment and training were seriously lacking.
No Mobiles saw front line service in the Imperial Phase of the war.
Created at the same time as the Garde Mobile the Garde Nationale was intended as a local defence force whose primary role was to support the Mobiles. The Garde National were organised into single battalions. None saw service in the Imperial Phase of the war.
The Regiment de Marche
With much of the Regular army lost with the capitulations at Metz, Sedan and Strasbourg, the Republic drew on the depôt companies as a source of trained personnel. More than 700 companies and squadrons existed in the depôts and these were merged together to form the Regiment de Marche. The result was a mixture of units.
Some regiments were true to their name in that they were formed of several battalions. Others were single battalion formations. The cavalry often were formed into “Mixed Regiment de Marche”, with cuirassiers serving with lancers and hussars in the same regiment.
The Franc-TireurArguably the most famous (or infamous from the German point of view) of all of the units which participated in the war. Essentially guerrillas they were organised into companies, and in some cases battalions, from a village or locality. More than 57,000 men served in this capacity in more than 300 units, some of which reportedly served as cavalry. Large numbers of these troops were gathered into the Corps Francs which were attached to nearly all the armies of the Republic. Unit strength varied wildly from as many as 500 to as few as 50.
The Navy and the MarinesWith the French fleet idle, the Republic drew upon the Navy for manpower.
The Marines were the Navy’s main source of land troops. Organised into battalions much the same as the Line Infantry, they served in most theatres of the war (perhaps their most famous action being at Bazeilles there the four Regiment de Marche formed the Third Division, Twelfth Corps.
The Navy also provided the Fusiliers Marins. Drawn from the crews of the fleet and organised into companies and battalions of varying sizes, they served in all of the Republican armies, most notably in Paris, where 11,000 of them formed the reserve of the Fourteenth Corps.
The Higher Organisations
The Imperial Phase
On mobilisation the Imperial Army was organised into nine Corps d’Armée. During the course of the Imperial Phase a tenth corps, the Thirteenth Corps, was raised.
Initially all nine corps were formed into the Army of the Rhine under the control of the Emperor. Operational difficulties soon saw the army divided into two wings and, with the defeat of MacMahon at Worth, eventually formed into two separate armies - the Army of the Rhine and the Army of Chalôns.
The Guard Corps consisted of two infantry divisions, a cavalry division and an artillery reserve. Each infantry division comprised of two brigades each of two regiments and was supported by two four-pound artillery batteries and one mitrailleuse battery. The cavalry division consisted of three brigades each of two regiments. The Artillery Reserve consisted of six horse batteries.
The Line Corps consisted of either three infantry divisions (2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 12th and 13th Corps) or four infantry divisions (1st, 3rd, 6th Corps), a cavalry division and artillery reserve. Each infantry division comprised of two brigades each of one Chasseur battalion and two regiments, supported by two four-pound artillery batteries and one mitrailleuse battery. The cavalry division consisted of two brigades (2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 12th and 13th Corps) or three brigades (1st, 3rd, 6th Corps) each of two (sometimes three) regiments. The Artillery Reserve consisted of two four-pound horse batteries, two four-pound foot batteries and two four-pound horse batteries (1st, 3rd, 6th Corps had two additional horse batteries).
The Cavalry Reserve comprised of three divisions, each of two brigades of two regiments, and two batteries of horse artillery.
The Great Artillery Reserve consisted of two divisions. The First Division comprised eight twelve-pound batteries and the Second Division contained eight four-pound horse batteries.
The Republican Phase
While the Republican armies assumed much the same structure as its Imperial counterparts, the number of brigades to a division and the number of regiments and battalions to a brigade varies greatly.
Uniforms of the French Army
The Line Infantry
Although a black felt shako was the regulation issue for headgear for the French infantryman since the first days of the Second Empire, the fatigue cap or Kepi had been worn in service since the Crimean War. In July 1870 it was officially recognised in regulations as a general issue item.
The regulation issue Kepi was garance or bright red with blue seams and a blue band around the base. A garance regimental number was on the front. The peak and chinstraps were black leather.
TunicThe tunic was full length and double breasted in midnight blue, a very dark blue, with a yellow collar and piping down the front edge, rear skirt flaps and cuff edge. Along the front edge of the tunic and around the cuffs was red piping. The buttons were brass and red epaulettes adorned the shoulders.
More commonly worn was the greatcoat over a fatigue vest. The greatcoat was a lighter shade of blue, but still a relatively dark tone and had red patches on the collar and red epaulettes on the shoulders. The coat was turned back at the front and buttoned at the rear waist to facilitate movement. Down the front were two rows of brass buttons.
TrousersTrousers were garance and somewhat volumous and were tucked into white linen gaiters over black shoes.
BeltsAll belts were in black leather.
Equipment.The black leather ammunition box fastened on the back of the waist belt while a reserve pouch was positioned on the right front. A steel scabbard for the sword bayonet was positioned on the left hip. The white linen haversack also hung on the left hip suspended by a white strap over the right shoulder. A water bottle, either pear shaped or oval, was covered by blue cloth was slung on the right hip by a black strap.
The pack was cowhide with black straps. The shelter tent in unbleached canvas was wrapped around three sides of the pack. In some cases additional blankets were strapped to the top of the tent. A metal mess tin was strapped on top of the entire tent and blanket arrangement and occasionally a soup dish or larger mess tin was strapped on the back of the pack. Tent poles were also strapped to the pack.
OfficersHeadgear was the same as the men but with a gold regimental number. The tunic was also the same as the men’s with the addition of gold epaulettes, which were not always worn. Black knee boots were worn over the red trousers. A broad red sash was worn beneath the waist belt.
The only other differences in the officers uniform came in the equipment. Suspended from the left hand side of the waist belt on black leather slings was a gold hilted sword in a steel scabbard. A brown leather pistol holster was positioned on the front left hand side of the belt and a water bottle of the same pattern as the men’s was carried on the left hip. The greatcoat was sometimes carried rolled across the shoulder.
MusiciansThe basic uniform was the same as the men’s with the addition of tricolour edging to the collar and cuffs.
Buglers carried a brass bugle with red, white and blue cords and knots and red tassels. Drummers carried a large brass drum with top and bottom hoops in medium blue. Around the hoops was a pattern of flattened “V’s” and in the hollow of each “V’ was a yellow grenade with a red flame. The drum cords were white as was the drum strap and apron. The drumstick holder, positioned on the front of the drum belt, was brass.
Drummers carried only the short sword while buglers carried both the short sword and a rifle.
The Line Chasseurs
HeadgearThe basic head wear was a blue Kepi with blue band edged yellow, and yellow seam edging.
TunicThe tunic was the same pattern as that of the line with pewter buttons. The cuffs were pointed and edged in yellow as was the blue collar and the front edge and rear skirt flaps. The collar had a yellow patch on which the battalion number was embroidered in blue. The epaulettes were green with a yellow crescent.
Trousers.The trousers were a tone of deep grey/ blue with a yellow sewn and tucked into white gaiters over black shoes.
Equipment was the same as that of the line infantry.
The chasseur officers uniform followed that of the line officers with grey\blue trousers replacing the garance trousers and a light blue sash replacing the line officer’s garance sash.
The musicians wore the same uniform as the men with tricolour piping to the collar and cuffs.
These wore the basic line uniform with a mixture of distinctions representing the units from which they came.
The Regiments de Marche.
The Guard Grenadiers
HeadgearRegulations called for tall black bearskins with a brass eagle plate in the front and a red patch with a white grenade on the top. Brass chin scales enabled the wearer to balance the hat on the head. However, more commonly worn was the bonnet de police edged red with a red grenade and tassle on the front.
TunicThe Grenadiers wore a full length single breasted dark blue tunic tailored narrow at the waist with nine rows of red lace or Boutonnieres on the chest. Red piping ran down the front edge and back flaps of the tunic. The collar was solid red with a white horizontal grenade at the front on both sides. The cuffs were red with a white patch with three buttons. Epaulettes were red. All buttons were brass.
TrousersTrousers were garance with a blue stripe and tucked into white gaiters over black shoes. Waist belts were white with a brass belt buckle.
The equipment was the same as the line infantry.
The Guard Voltigeurs.The Voltigeurs wore very much the same uniform as the grenadiers with the following differences. The regulation black leather shako was replaced with the bonnet de police with yellow edging, grenade and tassel.
The boutonnieres were yellow as was the collar with blue grenades. Cuffs were pointed and blue edged yellow. The epaulettes were red with a yellow crescent.
Officers.The officer’s uniform was similar to that of the men with the headgear being the line Kepi with gold or silver band and sewn edging. The tunic was of the same cut but without the boutonnieres and the grenade on the shoulder was gold or silver. The epaulettes were gold. A silver or gold aiguillette was looped over the right breast.
MusiciansThe Guard musicians had a similar uniform to the line with the appropriate boutionniers and bonnet de police colourings. The collar and cuffs were piped in triclour edging.
The Guard Chasseurs
HeadgearThe regulation black leather shako with plume was soon dispensed with and replaced with a bonnet de police the same as that of the Voltigeurs.
TunicThe tunic was much shorter than that of the grenadiers or voltigeurs, having more the appearance of a shell jacket than a tunic. There were nine rows of boutonnieres down the front in yellow and the blue, edged yellow cuffs were pointed. The collar was blue edged yellow. Epaulettes were green with a yellow crescent.
TrousersThe trousers were grey/blue with yellow Hungarian knots extending down the side almost as far as the knee.
OfficersGuard Chasseur officers followed the pattern of the officers of the Grenadiers and Voltigeurs, substituting the grey/blue trousers for the garance of the other cadres.
The African Troops - Line Zouaves
HeadgearThe basic head wear was a soft garance fez like cap with blue tassle. A white turban was worn around the outside of the fez.
Jacket.The Zouaves wore a short dark blue open jacket over a dark blue vest. Neither garments had buttons. There was gararnce decoration round all edges and cuff seams as well as a distinctive loops down each side of the jacket front. The different regiments were identified by the colour of the false pocket or Tombo. Colours were 1st - garrance, 2nd - white, 3rd - yellow. Cuffs were pointed and in blue with a garance edging.
TrousersThe trousers were loose fitting and garance in colour with two blue stripes down the side of each leg. White gaiters over black shoes were worn.
Belts and EquipmentThe waist belt was black worn over a sky blue sash.
The remainder of the equipment was the same as the line infantry although the Zouaves tended to carry more blankets, pots, pans and other bits of booty that they could fit onto their packs. Instead of the greatcoat the Zouaves wore a dark blue hooded cape.
Headgear.Officers wore a garance Kepi with gold seams and a blue band edged gold.
Tunic.The officers tunic was a knee length coat, dark blue in colour, over a dark blue vest. Buttons were gilt.
Trousers.These were garance with a blue stripe. The trousers tucked into black knee length boots.
EquipmentThe waist belt was black, worn over a sky blue sash, an on the left hand side was a brown leather holster. The sabre was slung from black slings under the coat on the left hand side.
MusiciansDrummers and buglers wore a very similar uniform to the men but with tricolour piping around the jacket edge and cuffs. Drummers carried the distinctive African drum.
The Guard ZouavesThe uniform of the Guard Zouaves was essentially the same as that of the line except that the trouser stripe and the tassle were yellow.
The Guard Zouave officers wore a gold grenade on the collar.
The Tirailleurs AlgeriensThe three regiments of Tiraillieurs Algeriens wore a uniform of identical cut to that of the Zouaves, but differed in colour. The jacket and vest were sky blue with yellow distinctions. The waist sash was garance. The trousers were plain white linen in the summer and sky blue with yellow stripes in autumn and winter. The tombo colours matched those of the line regiments.
The officers wore the Zouave officers uniform with a sky blue coat, garance sash and trousers. The Kepi was garance with a sky blue band and gold edging. Buttons were gilt.
The ZephirsThese African light infantry wore basically the same uniform as the line infantry but with a blue collar and red epaulettes with a green crescent and shoulder straps.
The Foreign LegionAgain the uniform was similar to that of the line infantry with a garance collar and garance star on the front of the Kepi. Epaulettes and shoulder straps were green and the former had garance crescents. The officers were dressed the same as the Zouave officers with gold grenades on the collar.
The MarinesThe marines wore the uniform of the line infantry with a plain collar sporting a red anchor. The greatcoat did not have epaulettes. The trousers were blue/grey with a red stripe. The Kepi was blue with garance seams and a garance anchor on the front.
The officers wore the Zouave officers uniform with blue/grey trousers and gold anchors on the Kepi.
The Fusiliers Marins
HeadgearThis was a dark blue seaman’s cap with a red pompom on the top.The band was black with a red top edge.
TunicThe tunic was a short dark blue jacket with a V neck. A light blue flap with white edging folded over the back. Under this was worn a sky blue and white vest. An alternative was a dark blue double breasted jacket with brass buttons and a red anchor on the blue collar.
Trousers were dark blue and were tucked into white gaiters over black shoes.
The equipment was the same as the line infantry. In the winter many adopted a shortsleeved sheepskin jacket.
The officers wore dark blue peaked caps and the dark blue double breasted tunic with gilt buttons and anchor on the collar. Trousers were dark blue and tucked into black boots.
The Garde Mobile
HeadgearOfficially the Kepi was of the line pattern, but in practice the colours varied greatly depending on the availability of materials.
TunicThis by regulations this was blue, double breasted and had red collar and cuffs and red piping on the shoulder straps. In reality the tunics varied from workman’s blouses to shortjackets, sleeveless sheepskin jackets and greatcoats. Colours varied greatly.
TrousersThese were supposed to be blue with a red stripe but many wore blue/grey or even black trousers with either white or black gaiters and black shoes, or black boots.
Equipment.This was in short supply. Many carried only a blanket roll with a waist belt, ammunition pouches, a bayonet and a haversack. Some troops had a greatcoat. Some units had the full kit of the line infantry.
Officers.The officers tended to wear the regulation dress of the men with gilt buttons. Black boots were worn in winter. Also popular among the Mobiles officers were bearskin coats and dark blue pelisses with black braid.
The Garde NationaleThe regulation uniform of the Garde Nationale was the same as that of the Mobiles but with pewter buttons. The reality was, however, that the Mobiles had priority over uniforms and the Garde Nationale had to make do with what was left over. As a result the uniforms varied greatly. Greatcoats were rare. Kepis came in vast array of colours - all blue, black with a red band, blue with a red band, blue with a black band and so on. There is also evidence in contemporary prints that the line infantry shako was worn.
Trousers also showed a vast variety from garance to dark blue to blue/grey. Either gaiters and shoes or boots were worn.
Officers wore a uniform similar to the Mobiles officers.
These guerillas wore an even greater variety of uniform than the Mobiles or Garde Nationale. A few types are listed below.
Les Partisans du Gers wore a black tunic with two rows of pewter buttons, black trousers and brimmed hats with the unit name on the front.
The Boulonge franc tireurs wore a single breasted grey tunic with red shoulder straps and piping along the front, bottom, cuffs and collar. Trousers were white or pale grey with a red seam and the Kepi was grey with a red band and seams.
The Compagnie de la Raute-Saone wore a black Kepi, brown tunic, brown trousers, black boots and a grey blanket rolled across the shoulder.
The Compagnie des Vosges had a dark green single breasted tunic with brass buttons and red collar, cuffs and shoulder straps. Trousers were blue/grey with a red stripe and Kepis were dark green with red bands. Gaiters were black.
The Chasseurs Garibaldiens du Havre had a red Kepi with sky blue band, a single breasted jacket in red with white buttons, a sky blue sash and plain red trousers tucked into white gaiters.
The Legion des Volontaires Garibaldiens wore a red Kepi with a blue band, a red tunic c with brass buttons, grey trousers with a red seam and gaiters or boots.
The Volontaires de l’Ouest (formerly the Pontifical Zouaves) wore the Zouave uniform in light blue with red braid, a Kepi with a light blue band, pointed cuffs edged gold and red, blue trousers with a red seam and a red sash. The officers wore very much the same pattern uniform but with black distinctions and broad Hungarian knots on the sleeves.
Equipment for the francs tireurs was very much dependant on its availability. On the whole they carried little more than a blanket roll, water bottle, ammunition pouches and a rifle.
The Carabiniers of the Guard
HeadgearThe Carabiniers wore a brass helmet with brass comb. On top of the comb was a thick scarlet woollen crest. On the front of the helmet was a steel plate with a grenade device. The chin scales were brass.
TunicThe tunic was the basic pattern for several types of French cavalry. Medium length and single breasted it was sky blue with scarlet piping, collar, cuffs, cuff patches, epaulettes and aiguilette. Buttons, including the three buttons on the cuff patch, were pewter.
The cuirass was brass with a red edging along the bottom edge and around the arms. A steel sunburst pattern was located front and centre and the shoulder scales were steel.
Trousers.The trousers worn by the Carabiniers were the standard trousers worn by all French cavalry. Called pantalon basane they were fairly bulky, garance in colour and generally with a leather lining on the lower legs. Those of the Carabiniers had a sky blue seam and were worn inside stiff black boots that reached above the knee.
Belts and EquipmentA white waist belt was worn beneath the cuirass.
The Carabiniers were armed with a straight steel sword with a brass hilt which was carried in a steel scabbard and slung on white slings from the waist belt.
The standard cavalry greatcoat or manteau was grey/blue. That of the carabiniers had four rows of boutonnieres in scarlet.
The basic horse furniture for French cavalry was a black saddle over a grey blanket. In front of the saddle were two brown leather wallets over which was strapped a tent piece and the manteau. At the back of the saddle was a portmantueau and two white linen saddlebags. A mess tin was sometimes strapped on top of the manteau.
The Carabinier portmanteau was sky blue with white edgings and had a white crown one either end.
The officers uniform differed from the trooper’s uniform in that the brass and steel metal fixtures were replaced by silver or gilt. The aiguillette and trouser tripe were silver.
The horse furniture also was simpler. Officers carried only a manteau in the front and two saddlebags at the back. Rarely did they carry a portmanteau.
MusiciansThe trumpeters wore a scarlet tunic with sky blue facings and nine rows of boutonniers in white lace across the chest. Trousers were sky blue with scarlet seams. Epaulettes and helmet crests were white.
The Line Cuirassiers
Headgear.The helmet was steel with a brass comb. Around the middle of the helmet was a black sealskin band. A black horsehair mane or criniere flowed from the comb and a small red tuft or houpette decorated the front of the comb. Chin scales were brass.
TunicThe standard cut tunic worn by the Carabiniers was also worn by the Cuirassiers. It was dark blue in colour and had garance collar, piping along the front and cuffs, cuff patches and epaulettes. Buttons were pewter.
The cuirass was steel with red edging around the arm holes and base. The shoulder scales were brass.
TrousersThe pantalon basane had blue seams and ended in false black boots.
Belts and EquipmentThese followed the Carabinier pattem. A blackened water bottle on a brown leather strap was worn on the left hip. The portmanteau had a grenade device on the ends and the edging were both white.
Officers.The officers wore the same pattern uniform as the troopers with silver and gilded metal replacing the steel and brass. Three bands of white piping decorated the cuffs in place of the trooper’s red. The trousers were of a tighter cut then the pantalon basane and had a wide blue stripe. They were worn inside high black boots.
MusiciansTrumpeters wore the trooper’s uniform without the cuirass and with a garance criniere and white epaulettes. The collar and cuffs were piped tricolour
The Guard Cuirassiers
HeadgearThe helmet was similar to that of the line but had a brass band instead of the sealskin.
TunicThe tunic was also similar to the line except with white epaulettes and aiguillette. The cuirass was the line pattern.
Trousers.The Guard wore the line pattern pantalon basane.
Belts and EquipmentBoth the waist belt (which was worn under the cuirass) and the pouch belt were white. The pouch was black. All equipment was the same as the line regiments.
OfficersAll equipment was the same as the line regiments.
The officers uniform followed that of the men but had silver or gilt metal and a silver aiguillette,
Musicians.The helmet details were the same as the men but the criniere was red and the houpette white. The tunic was light blue with garance facings and nine white boutonnieres across the front.
The Line Dragoons
HeadgearThe Dragoon helmet was of the same pattern as that of the Cuirassiers except that it had a leopardskin band instead of sealskin. The criniere and houpette were both black.
TunicThe tunic was of the same cut as the Carabiniers but dark blue with white collar, cuff patch and piping. Epaulettes were garance and buttons brass. A sky blue cravat was occasionally worn.
Trousers.The pantalon basane had a blue stripe.
Belts and EquipmentThe waist belt and pouch belt and pouch were all black leather.
The Dragoons were armed with the heavy cavalry sword of the same pattern as that of the Cuirassiers and a carbine that was slung over the shoulder on a black strap.
The portmanteau was dark blue with a red grenade and edging.
Officers.The officers wore the trooper’s uniform with white epaulettes, three white bands of braid around the cuffs and abroad red sash under the waist belt. The metal items were gilt instead of brass.
Musicians.The trumpeters wore the same uniform as the troopers but with red crinieres and houpettes. Epaulettes were white and cuffs and collar were edged tricolour.
The Guard Dragoons
HeadgearThe helmet was the same as the line regiments but did not have the leopard skin band.
Tunic.The Guard Dragoons continued to wear the old medium green double breasted coatee with garance lapels, collar, pointed cuffs and piping on the turnbacks. The grenade on the turnbacks was also garance. The aiguillette and epaulettes were white and the buttons brass.
Trousers.The garance pantalon basane had three stripes in medium green along the seam, the middle stripe being a thin piping.
All other equipment was the same as the line regiments.
OfficersThe officers sore the uniform of the men with gold and silver metal details. The trousers had two gold stripes separated by a green band. The aiguillette was gold. Boots were knee length.
MusiciansTrumpeters wore garance tunics with green distinctions. Trousers were green with garance stripes. The helmet details were the same as the line trumpeters.
The Line Lancers
Headgear.The head wear was a black czapka covered with a black oilskin on campaign. On the top at the left was worn a green cockade while a white cord ran from the right hand corner of the top to the left strap button. Chin straps were black leather.
The 4th regiment differed in that it wore the infantry pattern Kepi with garance top, blue band and blue seams.
Tunic.The dark blue tunic was of the same pattern as the Carabiniers, Cuirassiers and Dragoons. 1 had a yellow collar, piping down the front and around the cuffs and cuff patches. Buttons were pewter. When worn the epaulettes were white.
TrousersThe standard pantalon basane had blue seams and were worn in black false boots.
Belts and EquipmentBoth the waist belt and the pouch belt were white leather.
Armament for the Lancers was a light cavalry sabre with brass hilt and steel scabbard slung from white leather slings, a pistol and a wooden lance painted black. The lance pennon was red over white. The portmanteau was dark blue with two garance crossed lances device and edging.
Officers.The officers wore the same pattern uniform with silver buttons and carried only the sabre. The pouch belt was red leather with white metal studs running along the centre.
MusiciansTrumpeters wore the trooper’s uniform with tricolour edging to the collar and cuffs.
The Lancers of the Guard.
Headgear.The Guard lancers wore the same czapka as the line together with the oilskin cover.
Tunic.The regulation tunic was a white coatee with sky blue collar, cuffs, turnbacks, piping and lapels. The epaulettes were garance. In the field, however, the tunic was a sky blue stable vest with white collar patches and piping down the front. Cuffs were sky blue with white piping and both the epaulettes and the aiguilette were garance. The buttons on both tunics were brass.
Trousers.These were the pantalon basane with three sky blue stripes.
Belts and equipment were the same as the line, except that the portmanteau was sky blue with a white crown and edging.
Officers.The officers also wore the sky blue vest although theirs had turnbacks. The front of the vest, the collar, cuffs and tumbacks were all piped white. The epaulettes were garance and the aiguilette gilt. The pantalon basane were garance with two gold stripes separated by a sky blue seam. Buttons were gilt.
Trumpeters wore reversed colours.
The Line Chasseur a Cheval
Headgear.The Chasseurs a Cheval wore a black lambswool talpac which in shape resembled a shako. It had a red over green plume extending from a garance cockade at the top end centre. The chin scales were brass.
Tunic.This was a medium green dolman with none rows of black woollen braid down the front and with three rows of pewter buttons. The green collar was edged black while the green pointed cuffs were edged garance.
Trousers.The pantalon basane had two black stripes separated by a green seam.
Belts and EquipmentThe waist belt was black and the pouch belt white with a black pouch.
The Chasseur a Cheval were armed with a light cavalry sabre in the same pattern as the Lancers, which was hung from black slings, and a carbine. The portmanteau was medium green with a garance light infantry bugle device and edging.
Officers and Musicians.The officers uniform differed from that of the troopers only by having silver buttons and wearing a black shako in a black oilskin instead of the talpac.
The trumpeters wore the same pattern uniform as the men with the usual triclour edging to collar and cuffs.
The Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard.The uniform of the Guard regiment followed that of the line but with a slightly taller talpac, white braid and piping and garance cuffs. The trouser stripes were green. The portmanteau was green with white edging and crown.
The officers and trumpeters were similar to the men except that the trumpeters wore reversed colours and the officers had silver buttons, trouser stripes and collar braid.
HeadgearThe Hussars wore a black fur talpac with a green cockade and a red over white plume. The chin scales were brass.
Tunic.Like the Chasseurs a Cheval the most of Hussars wore the dolman, with nine rows of braid down the front. The 1st and 8th Hussars, however, wore the German pattern attila with six rows of braid across the front. The colour of the garment, the braid and the buttons varied with the regiment.
The 1st and 8th regiments had blue cuffs and a garance collar, all being piped in white, as was the front and hem of the tunic. The other regiments had garance collar and cuffs. The 1st and 8th also had piping on the shoulder straps which ended in a trefoil design.
Trousers.The pantalon basane were piped with sky blue seams for the 1st and 8th regiments, yellow for the 7th and white for all others.
Belts and EquipmentThe pouch belt was white with a black pouch
Armament and other equipment was the same as the Chasseurs a Cheval. The portmanteau was in the tunic colour with yellow or white edging and star.
Officers and MusiciansThe officers wore the same uniform as the men with silver or gilt buttons and a black shako in a black oilskin cover. They also carried a sabretache which was black and bore the Imperial eagle in gold. Edging of the sabretache were also gold.
Musicians wore the trooper’s pattern uniform with tricolour piping to the cuffs and collar.
Headgear.The Guides wore a black fur busby with a gold cockade on the front and brass chin scales.
Tunic.The dress uniform was very similar to that of the Chasseurs a Cheval, but the campaign uniform differed greatly. The dolman was medium green and worn over this was a pellise in medium green with six rows of orange-yellow braid down the front. The collar, cuffs and hem of the pellise were edged in black fur. The cuffs were pointed and edged with orange-yellow braid. The three rows of buttons down the front of the pellise were brass.
Trousers.The pantalon basane were garance and had orange-yellow stripes and were worn in false boots.
Belts and Equipment.
Armament was the same as the Chasseurs a Cheval and Hussars with all belts and straps being black. The portmanteau was medium green with a white crown and edging.
Both the waist belt and pouch belt were black leather. The pouch was also black.
Officers and Musicians.The officers wore the same pattern uniform as the men but with black braid on the pellise, gold trouser stripes and gilt buttons. Officers also carried a sabretache in the pattern of the Hussars.
Musicians wore the trooper’s uniform with tricolour piping.
The Chasseur d’Afrique
Headgear.The Chasseurs d’Afrique shako had a garance top with sky blue band and seams. On the front was a red, white and blue cockade held in place by a blue pin. On the top of the shako was a garance pompom.
Tunic.The troopers wore a sky blue vest with yellow collar patches and garance piping on the sky blue pointed cuffs. About the waist they wore a garance sash. The buttons were pewter.
Trousers.The pantalon basane had three sky blue seams.
Belts and Equipment.The waist belt and the pouch belt were white leather and had a black leather pouch.
The armament was the same as that of the Hussars, Chasseurs a Cheval and Guides. The portmanteau was garance with sky blue edging and regimental number.
Officers and Musicians.The officers wore a garance Kepi with a sky blue band and gold seam. The vest was sky blue with six rows of black braid across the front. The collar was yellow and the cuffs sky blue, and both were edged with black braid. The hem of the vest was also black. The buttons were silver. The trousers had a sky blue seam and were worn in black or brown stiff knee length boots.
The trumpeters followed the troopers but with tricolour piping.
Headgear.The Spahis wore distinctive north African turban type headgear called a grenhour. This was white with a dark blue band with garance piping and tassels.
Tunic.The Spahis wore a vest and jacket of the same cut as that of the Zouaves. The vest was light blue and the jacket garance.
The jacket had dark blue braid down the front and a tombo, the colour of which identified the regiment. The colours were 1st - garrance, 2nd - white, 3rd - yellow.
A white cape tied about the neck and a strip of plaited white fabric ran down from the neck splitting just above the knees and ran around behind the body. Around the waist was worn a garance sash.
Trousers.These were dark blue and very bulky. They were worn inside brown leather African style boots.
Belts and EquipmentAll belts were black leather.
Armament for the Spahis was a long ‘Mexican’ style sabre in a steel scabbard hung from black leather slings, and a carbine. The horse furniture differed greatly from the European cavalry. The saddle cloth was dark blue and the distinctive saddle had a front that rose as high as the rider’s waist and a rear that rose well up the rider’s back.
Officers.The European officers wore a blue Kepi with gold seams, a garance dolman with six rows of black braid and a black hem. The cuffs were blue, edged black, and the trousers blue with red stripes.
The native officers wore a similar pattern uniform to the troopers but with gold lace on the cuffs.
The trumpeters wore reversed colours with yellow lace.
The Line Artillery
Headgear.Both the horse and foot regiments wore a blue Kepi with red seams and regimental number.
Tunic.Both branches wore a single breasted dark blue coatee with garance collar patches and plain blue cuffs. The buttons were brass.
Trousers.The foot artillery wore plain dark blue trousers with a garance stripe inside white gaiters over black shoes. The horse artillery regiments and all drivers in the foot artillery wore garance pantalon basane in black false boots.
Belts.Pouch belts and waist belts for both branches were white. The pouch was black.
Equipment.The foot gunners carried a short sword and a carbine as armament. The horse gunners carried a light cavalry sabre in a steel scabbard from white slings. Other equipment was similar to the infantry greatcoat and the lithe line troops. The foot gunners having greatcoats and the horse artillery wearing the cavalry manteau. Portmanteaus for all riders was dark blue with the regimental number and edging in red.
Officers and Musicans.The officers wore a uniform similar to the men. The jacket was double breasted and had a plastron piped garance. The collar and cuffs were blue, piped red, and the blue trousers were worn inside black boots. Belts were black.
The musicians were dressed in the same manner as the men.
The drivers of the artillery train wore the same pattern uniform as the artillery drivers but with garance piping on their cuffs and pewter buttons.
The Guard Artillery
Headgear.The Guard artillery wore a black fur busby with a garance pompom and brass chin scales.
Tunic.All troops wore a dark blue dolman with garance braid across the front. The hem and blue pointed cuffs were both edged in garance. The foot regiment had three and the horse regiment five rows of brass buttons down the front of the dolman.
The trousers, belts and equipment was the same as that of the line.
Officers.The officers wore the blue dolman but with black braid and gilt buttons. The trousers were blue with a gold seam. The belts were the same as the line officers although the Guards carried a sabretache with a gold eagle and edge.
Musicians.The trumpeters wore the same pattern uniform as the men, but the dolman was white with garance braid.
HeadgearThe Kepi was blue with garance seams and a garance grenade on
TunicThe engineers wore the same pattern tunic as the infantry with black collar patches edged garance. Epaulettes were not worn.
Trousers.These were dark blue with a garance seam and were worn in white gaiters over black shoes.
The rest of the uniform was the same as the line infantry. Tools were carried in the wagons.
Officers.Officers wore a dark blue single-breasted tunic with garance cuff patches and piping up the front and around the cuffs and black collar.
General Officers and Staff
Headgear.Both generals and staff officers wore garance Kepi with a dark blue band. The seams were gold and an abundance of gold lace decorated the top and sides.
Tunic.Most officers wore a plain single-breasted dark blue frock coat with gilt buttons. A double-breasted coat with similar distinctions was later issued. Staff officers had a gold aiguilette on the right shoulder.
Trousers.The trousers were garance with a broad dark blue stripe. They were worn either in or over black boots.
Belts.The waist belt was black leather and was sometimes worn over a red or light blue sash.
Equipment.Officers carried a sword in a steel scabbard which was slung from black slings on the left hand side. A pistol holster in black or brown leather was occasionally worn on the left front of the waist belt.
A general’s horse furniture officially consisted of a crimson saddle cloth with leopard skin pistol holsters edged crimson, and a staff officer was supposed to have a blue saddle cloth edged gold. Most officers appeared to follow the standard pattern of the line cavalry.
Rank MarkingsThe NCO’s used a system of cuff chevrons and stripes. If the unit had pointed cuffs then the mark was a chevron and if the cuffs were not pointed the mark was a stripe.
A private first class or lance-corporal had one stripe and a corporal two. These would be in yellow if the individual belonged to a line infantry, a Chasseur a Pied, Guard Voltigeur, Guard Zouave, Tirailleur or Chasseurs d’Afrique regiment, or red if any other unit.
Sergeants would have one stripe and sergeant-majors two stripes in either silver or gold, edged yellow or red.
The officers followed three basic patterns.
The first method was the use of epaulettes. A second lieutenant would have the epaulettes in the button colour. The right epaulette would have a light fringe and the left not. A lieutenant would have the same arrangement but the epaulettes reversed. A captain would have both epaulettes with light fringes. A major would have both epaulettes, the right one with a heavy fringe the left with a light fringe. A lieutenant colonel would have both epaulettes with heavy fringes in the colour opposite to the button colour and a colonel would have two epaulettes with heavy fringes in the button colour. General officers would have very heavily fringed gold epaulettes.
A second system that was in use by some regular units at the beginning of the war and used by most Garde Mobile and Garde Nationale units was a system of cuff rings. The colour and number of rings varied with the rank. A second lieutenant had one ring, a lieutenant two rings and a captain three, all in the button colour. A major had four rings with the one nearest the cuff being in the opposite colour to the buttons. A lieutenant colonel had five rings the second and fifth of which were in the opposite colour and a colonel had five rings in the button colour.
The third system was initially developed of the light cavalry but was soon taken up by the Guard Chasseurs a Pied, all the Zouave and Tirailleur regiments, the Foreign Legion, the marines and the Guard artillery. This system involved the use of Hungarian knots which extended up the sleeve to above the elbow. The knot would consist of a number of strips of braid which corresponded both in number and colour to the ring system noted above.
In addition to all of these markings the Kepi would have a series of loops on the top which would correspond in colour and number to the cuff ring system.