A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Behold the Glaringly Obvious – Two French Armies

The Cupboard - a lot more comfortable now that the Spanish, all the
artillery and vehicles and the ECW are stored in magnetised box files in
The Other Cupboard

Quite often, I find that I have brilliantly deduced something which has been staring me in the face for a while. I don’t like to rush my break-through moments – maybe that’s it.

My Peninsular War French army is quite big. Not compared to some, of course, but in terms of the extent to which it has exceeded the bounds of what was needed and what would have been sensible it is kind of big. An inability to stop collecting – all the usual excuses. My French army is about twice as big as could possibly be employed on my tabletop – it offers some entertaining choices of line-up in a wargame, and it is fine for providing the manpower for a campaign, but some bits of it don’t get used very often, which is a shame.

The French bit of The Cupboard - general staff are in wooden trays a few
shelves down, and guns and anything with wheels are stored elsewhere

I must explain that my army is originally built around historical fact, with the necessary large pinch of wargamer’s licence. It started out as a workable subset of the Armée de Portugal of 1812. As it grew (thank you, eBay) I could have simply increased the size of the subset – grown the thing from the original 3 divisions of infantry to the full, historical 8 divisions. Problem is that the units in that army were all pretty much vanilla French regulars – fine chaps, but you know how it is. Short on colour.

So the growth has included all sorts of Confederation, Spanish and Italian units which have enriched the army in a number of ways, but the structure is increasingly convoluted (and unlikely), with all sorts of secondments from other French armies. A couple of things have happened recently which got me thinking about the matter.

(1) My solo campaign required me to break the army into suitable units to occupy a big area on the map – it made sense to follow some kind of historical organisation (if very approximately) to do that in a sensible and satisfying way. The army began to break up a little for this one-time activity, and I have found it interesting to think of the subdivisions as separate entities. The conflict between the various army commanders was, in any case, an important sub-plot for the war.

(2) My Spanish army has grown beyond recognition – it is now big enough to take the field on its own. Maybe they should have a regular opponent. Aha.

So – although choices and variety are still important – I have come to the idea of making the permanent structure of the army such that it is in two official parts. They will continue to mix and match and visit each other as necessary, of course, but they will firm up, and not just be a temporary feature of a map game. I will, in short, have an Armée de Portugal to fight the Anglo-Portuguese, and a (slightly bastardised) Armée du Centre to fight the Spaniards – regular and/or irregular.

Great. I started sketching out the changes – which are really very small. A little evening up of formation sizes and a short list of extra commander figures which I’ll need, and we are there. In a spirit of appropriate comradeship, the two armies can share engineers and siege/fortress artillery as necessary.

The proposed structure is thus:

Army of the Centre (King Joseph & Marshal Jourdan)

Division Darmagnac
            Brigade Neuenstein
                        2e Nassau (2 Bns) & Regt de Francfort (1)
            Brigade Chassé
                        4e Hesse-Darmstadt (2) & 4e Baden (2)
            Brigade Verbigier de St Paul (Italians)
                        2e Léger (1) & 3e Ligne (2) & 5e Ligne (2)
            Italian Foot battery

Division Guye
            Royal Guard (Merlin)
                        Grenadiers (2) & Fusiliers (2) & Voltigeurs (1)
            Brigade Casapalacios (Spanish Line troops)
                        1e (Castilla) Léger (1) & 2e (Toledo) Ligne (2) & Royal-Etranger (1)
            Brigade Leberknoedel (Duchy of Stralsund-Ruegen)
                        Grenadiers (1) & Fusiliers (2) & Jaegers (1)
Spanish Guard horse battery
Stralsund foot battery

Division Villatte
            Brigade Thouvenot
Dragons à pied Provisoirs (2) & 28e Léger (1) & 4e Etranger (Prusse) (1)
& 4e Vistule (1)
            Brigade Soulier
Grenadiers Provisoirs (1) & Garde de Paris (1) & Chasseurs des
Montagnes (1) & 3e Berg (1)
            French foot battery
Cavalry (Gen de Divn Treillard)  
            Brigade Maupoint
                        13e Cuirassiers (3 Sqns) & 4e Dragons (3) & Dragoni Napoleone (3)
Brigade Avy
5e Chevauxleger-lanciers (3) & 7e (Vistule) Chevauxleger-lanciers (3)
            Brigade Kleinwinkel (Stralsund-Ruegen)
                        1e Chevauxlegers (3) & 2e Chevauxlegers (3)
Army of Portugal (Marshal Marmont)

Division Foy
            Brigade Chemineau
                        6e Léger (3 Bns) & 69e Ligne (2)
            Brigade Desgraviers
                        39e Ligne (2) & 76e Ligne (2)
            Horse battery

Division Clauzel
            Brigade Berlier
                        25e Léger (3) & 27e Ligne (2)
            Brigade Barbot
                        50e Ligne (3) & 59e Ligne (2)
            Foot battery

Division Maucune
            Brigade Arnauld
                        15e Ligne (3) & 66e Ligne (2)
            Brigade Montfort
                        82e Ligne (2) & 86e Ligne (2)
            Foot battery

Heavy Cavalry (Boyer)
            Brigade Carrié de Boissy
                        6e Dragons (3 Sqns) & 11e Dragons (3)
            Brigade Col Boudinhon-Valdec
                        15e Dragons (3) & 25e Dragons (3)
            Horse battery

Light Cavalry (Curto)
            Brigade Col Desfossés
                        3e Hussards (3) & 22e Chasseurs (3)
            Brigade Col Vial
                        13e Chasseurs (3) & 26e Chasseurs (3)

Park, Engineering etc
            2 Foot batteries
            5 Garrison batteries
            Bridging Train
            4 cos Sapeurs/Mineurs
Prov bn of regimental sapeurs

This is not the state of my current campaign (except coincidentally). These units all exist (apart from a couple of generals, which are in hand), and each infantry brigade also includes a small combined tirailleur battalion of 9 or 12 figures. There are still some things in the spares box which should join the army at some future date, but I have deliberately excluded anything which exists only on paper.

If it seems appropriate, I may post some new team photos when everything is done. With two armies available, the Emperor himself might make the occasional cameo appearance, if only to witness the lack of co-operation at first hand.


  1. An impressive force you have there Tony. Teams photos would be good!

    1. Hi Ian - I'll do photos, but I have to find out how to hide the dining chairs behind a blue sky with fluffy clouds first.

    2. I'll give you Dave's email address - keep 'im busy tee hee!

    3. A blue towel or bed sheet tossed over the chairs will do.

    4. Good idea, but I have my heart set on those fluffy clouds.

  2. Wonderful stuff - I keep planning to do something similar, but I'm a little concerned that I may have rather more than I know what to do with.

  3. A very sensible division of forces. It is satisfying to know things have a place in the greater scheme of things.

    Where does the band fit in?

    As for clouds:

    1. Clouds demo was great - the ad which preceded it was also very good (Hals replica).

      Glad you mentioned the band. They are officially the band of King Joseph's Guard, so I guess Big Joe gets to keep them, but he will hire them out for union scale + 50% + travel costs + subsistence. Special rates after midnight.

  4. Inspiring site Tony - I do admire your sense of order.

    1. Thank you, sir - OCD does have its uses! If I don't keep things organised, stuff gets lost or dropped, or occasionally sat upon - you will observe that The Cupboard has black blinds (to keep out the light), so no-one can see in there unless I unlock it.

      You may imagine the sad little world of secret tidiness that this is a glimpse of...!