Monday, February 8, 2016

French departmental guards (reserve infantry)

I'm currently finishing a row of figures for my long-term-PreBardin-Uniform project. Yet I'm not sure how to base them - row by row as I did with the Italian line infantry or as a complete block.

The matter of interest in this case is the French reserve infantry - or departmental guard companies. In 1805, a decree was given out that every prefecture in France had to raise reserve infantry companies. Their strength depended on the population size of the prefecture.

The uniform type and equipment was the same as that of the regular line infantry, but the cloth was dyed in a lighter shade of blue plus the different 'legions' could be distinguished by a certain colour code. Basic colours were white, poppy red, green, yellow, orange, dark red and black. The specific combination of cuffs, collar and breast either being in the distinctive company colour or in light blue defined the belonging legion.

For example, 1st legion had breast, cuffs and collar in white while 15th legion had white breast, but cuffs and collar in light blue. By this colour code, you get 28 different combinations.

So here's the start of it. The rest of white, poppy red and black combinations are still on my desk. The rest will follow.

Usually, all the conscripts for whom there wasn't a place in the regular units, were transferred to the reserve. Apart from being a pool to fill up the ranks of the regular regiments, the reserve companies had an important role as a rearguard. They were the military force the prefects could use to enforce their orders. They guarded important infrastructure, catched criminals and deserters, guarded prisons, cared for the public security and fullfilled a lot of other tasks behind the lines.

As units, the departmental guards were seldom used for battle. There were only some cases in regard to the defensive operations in 1814. In the beginning of that year, the reserve companies were dissolved and their men distributed to the various regular regiments.

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