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Drapeaux of the French Army    Line & Light Infantry
The Army of Italy    1796-98

When General Bonaparte took command of the Army of Italy in 1796 he found it in a pitiable condition: uniforms in tatters, the men often barefoot, supplies of all kinds lacking, units shot through with indiscipline and sedition. He acted immediately to set the situation to rights: improving the supply system, obtaining sorely needed reinforcements and restoring discipline in the ranks. Among his reforms was the provision of new colors to the infantry demi-brigades in place of those that had been lost or reduced to scraps of rag. The new colors were the same size as those of the 1793 pattern. All were to be based on the design of the color of 1st and 3rd battalions of the 197th Demi-Brigade of the Line, with its striking diagonals. On the obverse was a panel bearing a laurel wreath; for the light demi-brigades, a bugle horn appeared within this wreath. On the reverse were the arms and title of the Republic with the motto DISCIPLINE AND SUBMISSION TO MILITARY LAW, the number of the demi-brigade and the battalion designation. There were two separate issues of these colors and those of the second issue were of a slightly different pattern. In some cases colors of the second issue were replacements for lost or worn-out colors of the first issue. An example is the second-issue color of the 1st Battalion, 9th Demi-Brigade, which was issued in Egypt.

In a move to bolster morale and foster unit pride, Bonaparte introduced an innovation: the addition of battle honors to the obverse of the colors of the demi-brigades. These were designated and granted by the commanding general himself, some being applied before the distribution of the new flags in 1797, others being added later. Usually they were inscribed above and below the central panel, though in the case of demi-brigades with a large number of battle honors they appeared to the panel's left and right as well. Additional battle honors were added later and they did not necessarily appear on the colors in chronological order. Those demi-brigades that later formed part of the Army of the Orient in Egypt received still more battle honors, usually applied to the white panels on the reverse, as shown for the second-issue color of the 1st Battalion, 9th Demi-Brigade.



1st Battalion, 9th Demi-Brigade of the Line


3rd Battalion, 14th Demi-Brigade of the Line


1st Battalion, 58th Demi-Brigade of the Line


3rd Battalion, 69th Demi-Brigade of the Line


1st Battalion, 2nd Light Demi-Brigade


2nd Battalion, 4th Light Demi-Brigade


3rd Battalion, 21st Light Demi-Brigade




1st Battalion, 9th Demi-Brigade of the Line


2nd Battalion, 39th Demi-Brigade of the Line

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