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Drapeaux of the French Army  •  1804-15  •  Line & Light Infantry

Images Added June 2017

 Battalion Fanions, 8th, 45th & 100th Line Infantry


Line & Light Infantry Regiments  •  1804-12

The transformation of the French Republic into the Empire of the French in 1804 brought about a reorganization of the Army. In 1803 the infantry demi-brigades had become line and light infantry regiments, and the following year they all received new colors (drapeaux).The Tricolor cravat was abolished and the design was standardized for the whole Army, the only distinctions being regimental designations on the obverse and battalion designations on the reverse. The basis of issue for infantry regiments was one color per battalion. Thus, for example, a regiment with three battalions received three colors, each with the appropriate battalion designation on the reverse. Light infantry was distinguished from line infantry by a white backing to the numbers in the corners. The 1804 colors were 80cm square, made of oiled silk, and carried on a staff surmounted by a gilded bronze eagle with spread wings that was actually the primary standard of the regiment. The cloth flag was considered of secondary importance, and in fact the Eagle (as the standard was known) was frequently carried in action with no color attached to the staff. French soldiers' half-mocking, half-affectionate nickname for their regimental Eagle was coucou (cuckoo). The Eagles and colors of light infantry regiments were not supposed to be taken into the field, but this rule was often ignored.

In 1809 Napoleon ordered that henceforward each regiment would have only one Eagle and color, to be carried by the 1st Battalion. The remaining battalions were to carry plain fanions de bataillon made of bunting: white for the 2nd Battalion, red for the 3rd, blue for the 4th, green for the 5th and yellow for the 6th. They were carried on a staff with a spearhead finial and were the same size as the drapeaux. These fanions de bataillon should be distinguished from the smaller fanions d'alignement  (company marker flags) used to dress the line. Apparently not all regiments complied with this directive before 1812. Some failed to turn in their surplus Eagles and others added  inscriptions and insignia to their fanions, though the practice was specifically prohibited. Examples of these unofficial fanions are shown below.


2nd Battalion, 3rd Line Infantry


3rd Battalion, 54th Line Infantry


2nd Battalion, 8th Light Infantry


1st Battalion, 22nd Light Infantry


4th Battalion, 8th Line Infantry  •  Fanion de bataillon


4th Battalion, 100th Line Infantry  •  Fanion de bataillon


2nd Battalion, 7th Light Infantry  •  Fanion de bataillon


Line & Light Infantry Regiments  •  1812-14

In 1812, colors of a new pattern, based on the Tricolor, were issued to all line and light infantry regiments. These showy new drapeaux  were the same size as the 1804 model but a narrow gold fringe was added and the Tricolor cravat was reintroduced. The inscriptions on the obverse were similar to those on the 1804 colors, but now battle honors appeared on the reverse. Only those victorious battles where the Emperor had commanded in person were permitted to be borne, so that some regiments had no inscriptions on the reverse of their colors. The inscriptions appeared within a border of Imperial insignia. The basis of issue for the 1812 colors was one per regiment, to be carried by the 1st Battalion. The other battalions were to carry plain fanions de bataillon as before. Once again, however, many regiments ignored the regulations and embellished their fanions with inscriptions and insignia, as shown below for the 2nd Line Infantry. Also shown is a typical example of an unofficial line infantry fanion.

After Napoleon's abdication in 1814, the restored Bourbons decreed the destruction of the 1812 Eagles and colors, replacing them with new white colors. A few, however, survived to reappear during the Hundred Days.


2nd Line Infantry







2nd Line Infantry  •  Fanions de bataillon


19th Line Infantry


92nd Line Infantry


15th Light Infantry


32nd Light Infantry


3rd Battalion of a Line Infantry Regiment  •  Fanion de bataillon


The Line & Light Infantry Regiments of the Hundred Days

When Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France, he immediately set about reconstituting the Grand Army. New Eagles and colors were issued to the line and light infantry regiments. These 1815 colors reflected the haste with which the Army was expanded, being of a much simpler design than previous patterns. The inscriptions were the same those of the 1812 colors, but now there was only a narrow ornamental border with no insignia or fringe. They were, however, larger than previous patterns: 120cm square. The basis of issue was one color per regiment, to be carried by the 1st Battalion, with fanions for the other battalions as before. Some regiments added ornamentation and inscriptions to their battalion fanions as shown below for the 4th Battalion of the 45th Line Infantry. After Waterloo, the 1815 Eagles and colors were abolished and the infantry was completely reorganized into eighty-six "Departmental Legions," each with three battalions.


45th Line Infantry


70th Line Infantry


2nd Light Infantry


6th Light Infantry


4th Battalion, 45th Line Infantry  •  Fanion de bataillon


Fanions d'alignement

Fanions d'alignement or company marker flags were used to delineate battalion boundaries and dress the line. No general regulation governed their design. Mostly they were 40cm to 60cm square and mounted on staffs designed to be inserted into the barrel of the bearer's musket. They should not be confused with the larger fanions de bataillon that were introduced in 1809 when the allotment of Eagles and drapeaux was reduced to one per regiment, to be carried by the first battalion. Shown below are some examples of the fanions d'alignement used by line and light infantry regiments.

By 1810, a line infantry battalion consisted of two so-called elite companies—one of grenadiers and one of voltigeurs (light infantry)—and four fusilier companies. Each company had an authorized strength of 140 men. The grenadiers were supposed to be the battalion's tallest, strongest soldiers and were often used to spearhead attacks. The voltigeurs, quick and agile, served as skirmishers. Light infantry battalions were similarly organized. Their elite companies were titled carabineers and voltigeurs; the other four companies were titled chasseurs. Soldiers of the elite companies received higher pay and in return were expected to set the example for their comrades.


Carabineer Company  •  7th Light Infantry


Fusilier Companies  •  15th Line Infantry


Voltigeur Company  •  3rd Light Infantry


1st Light Infantry  •  1810-14


Carabineer Company


Chasseur Companies


Voltigeur Company

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