GUNS AND THE REST
of the French Army • 1804-14
Napoleon had begun his military career as an artillery officer in the Royal Army, and as general and emperor he lavished great attention and care upon that arm of the service. After becoming First Counsel he created an artillery staff under his personal direction, which was responsible for supervision of artillery organization, training, selection of officers and the manufacture of cannon and munitions. The artillery as a whole consisted of the fortress artillery, the heavy siege artillery and, most importantly, the field artillery.
The field artillery was divided into two basic branches: foot and horse. The foot artillery's guns were drawn by horses while the gunners marched on foot. In the horse artillery all personnel were mounted. As a rule the foot artillery was assigned to the infantry corps and divisions and the horse artillery to the cavalry corps. An infantry division usually had two companies of foot artillery, each with six guns and two howitzers. At division level the guns were usually 6-pounders; the heavier 12-pounder companies were held in the corps artillery reserve. Horse artillery companies had four guns and two howitzers. Most of the guns were 6-pounders but there were a few horse artillery companies with 12-pounders. The companies were organized into regiments and battalions but these were purely administrative organizations. On active service the company was the basic tactical unit, and they were assigned without regard to regimental identity. For instance, at the Battle of Leipzig (1813) the artillery of the 4th Infantry Division (II Corps) consisted of one company of the 2nd Regiment of Foot Artillery and one of the 4th Regiment of Foot Artillery. The regiments and battalions each had a depot company that remained behind when the Army marched; these were responsible for training replacements and forwarding them to the companies in the field.
The artillery also incorporated independent companies of artillery artificers, skilled craftsman specializing in the construction and repair of gun carriages and other artillery vehicles. There were also companies of armorers, specializing in the repair of cannons and other firearms. These specialists served in the regimental depots and with the artillery in the field. The battalions of pontoon troops constituted the Army's bridging train. Though functionally they were engineering units, the pontoon battalions were part of the artillery.
The regiments and independent battalions of the artillery were granted eagles and drapeaux of the 1804 and 1812 patterns, but these usually remained with the depot company when the battalions took the field
1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment of Foot Artillery • 1804-12
2nd Battalion, 4th Regiment of Horse Artillery • 1804-12
1st Battalion of Pontoon Troops • 1804-12
2nd Regiment of Foot Artillery • 1812-14
THE IMPERIAL CORPS OF ENGINEERS
The French Army had long been noted for the excellence of its military engineer officers, and Napoleon drew on this heritage to form the Imperial Corps of Engineers (Corps Impérial du Génie) in 1804. This corps had three branches: the staff engineer officers, the sappers and miners, and the pioneers. The staff engineers dealt with such things as the preparation of maps, the planning of routes of march and encampments, and the conduct of sieges. The sappers and miners were the Army’s combat engineers. The former were organized as battalions; the latter as independent companies. The sappers cleared obstacles, constructed field fortifications and led assaults on fortified positions. The miners, considered to be the elite troops of the corps, specialized in siege operations. In 1809 the independent miner companies were consolidated into two battalions. The pioneers, also formed into battalions, were the Army’s labor troops. They were tasked with such things as road construction, building projects and the upkeep of permanent fortifications. The sapper, miner and pioneer battalions received eagles and drapeaux of the 1804 and 1812 patterns, but these usually remained with the depot company when the battalions took the field.
4th Battalion of Sappers • 1804-12
8th Battalion of Pioneers
The train or logistics "tail" of the Army of the Republic had been provided by civilian contractors, an unsatisfactory arrangement. Indiscipline and corruption were chronic problems and to solve them Napoleon decided to militarize the Army's logistics. In 1800 he created the Train of Artillery, which was responsible for the transport and supply of munitions. Specialized vehicles were developed to carry ammunition. For example, the cassoin designed to support the 12-pounder cannon carried 42 rounds of solid shot and 20 rounds of canister plus 14,000 musket rounds for the infantry. The artillery ammunition was “fixed,” with the projectile and gunpowder made up together in a wooden sabot; the musket ammunition was made up in paper cartridges containing the ball and gunpowder. Each battalion of the Train of Artillery consisted of one elite company (supporting a horse artillery company) and four line companies (each supporting a company of foot artillery). Together, an artillery company and its supporting train company were termed a “division of artillery.” Many of the artillery train soldiers were former cavalry troopers no longer fit for active service due to age or wounds.
The Train of Equipment, created in 1807, was responsible for the transport and supply of all necessities other than weapons and munitions: shoes, uniforms, tentage, saddles, horse harnesses and rations. These last were only to be issued in an emergency; normally the Army would obtain food by foraging and requisition. Like their comrades of the Train of Artillery, the soldiers of the Train of Equipment were often veteran cavalry troopers.
1st Battalion, Artillery Train of the Line • 1804-12
12th Battalion, Equipment Train of the Line • 1808-12