Saturday 5 September 2015

2/8e Regiment de Ligne

The completion of the 2/8e Ligne means my French Line infantry component of Victor's I Corps at Talavera is now 33% of the way there and is a nice mental land mark to achieve.

As with the previous French line units I thought it would be interesting to look at the regiment's involvement in the Peninsular War leading up to Talavera, and add an addendum to my post on the early history and look of the unit. I realised that when starting to work on the first battalion without shako covers I had inadvertently given my first battalion voltigeurs green instead of yellow pompoms as detailed in the Bucquoy print showing a voltigeur in 1809 of the fourth battalion with their peculiar 1804 pattern fanion. In addition the yellow shako lace and chords are quite different and so I have included them on my second battalion and repainted the pompoms on my first which I will display in the full regimental picture to follow.

French troop movements in the initial advance into Spain and Portugal 1808
So the history of the 8e Regiment de Ligne's involvement in the Peninsular War starts at the very beginning of French troops being sent into Spain in January with them providing a battalion to the 3rd Provisional Line Regiment as part of Marshal Moncey's French Corps d'observation des Cotes de l'Ocean numbering 30,000 men.

French Corps d'observation des Cotes de l'Ocean - l January l808, Source Grasset, A., La Guerre d'Espagne (l807-l8l3),
Commanding Officer: Marechal Moncey
lst Division: General de division Musnier
2nd Brigade: General de brigade Prince d'Isembourg

3rd Provisional Line Regiment
4th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(8/568)
8th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(9/507)
57th Line Infantry Regiment (l)(8/569)
5lst Line Infantry Regiment (l)(4/537)

In early January 1808 the French invasion of Spain was under way, under the cover of the Fontainebleau Treaty between Spain and France which allowed the French to send 40,000 troops into Spain should the British land troops to oppose Junot's army which had been sent ahead to subdue Portugal.

General Dupont had crossed the Pyrenees with 25,000 troops eight days after Junot entered Lisbon on the 30th November 1807 and he was followed in by Moncey's troops. These two major troop movements should have been made with prior notice to the Spanish King under article six of the treaty: needless to say no such notice was given and the French forces moved swiftly over the border from Bayonne seeking to occupy key towns along their route towards Madrid under the pretext of supporting Junot.

Moncey's troops moved in to occupy the northern towns in Biscay and Navarre, allowing Dupont's men to move south west towards Valladolid and Burgos and seeing Pamplona taken on February 16th.

In the February a further 14,000 French troops under the command of General Duhesme crossed the eastern Pyrenees into Catalonia with the force headed for Barcelona, later falling to General Lecchi through deception on the 29th February.

On the 13th March the new French commander in Spain, titled "Lieutenant of the Emperor", Marshal Murat had arrived at Burgos together with Marshal Bessieres and another 30,000 men.

Marshal Bessieres moved south west towards Valladolid whilst Murat gathered Moncey and the 8e Ligne together with Dupont's men and marched on Madrid entering the city on 23rd March.

With King Charles and Prince Ferdinand lured into captivity in France by Napoleon, matters came to a head when Murat tried to force the Junta to hand over other members of the Spanish royal family. The "madrilenos" rose up against the French troops occupying the Spanish capital on 2nd May 1808, later known as "El Dos de Mayo" and this was the catalyst for a general uprising across Spain against French forces.

The situation in Spain quickly escalated, particularly in areas not occupied by French troops and the stories of the uprising in Madrid became more embellished with every telling, soon being described as a massacre and inflaming the rebellion still further.

Murat fell ill in May and, returning to France to recover, handed command to Bessieres. A difficult situation soon developed into a faltering campaign of occupation as General Dupont, sent with a force of 13,000 men to take control of Andalusia and the important centres of Seville and Cadiz managed to get himself surrounded and soon surrendered on the 19th July at Bailen.

In the August Junot's army in Portugal was forced to capitulate to a British expeditionary force, managing to at least arrange a repatriation of French troops to France, but liberating Portugal and setting up a base of operations for British troops.

In Catalonia French troops soon found themselves engulfed by patriot forces and cut off from their bases back in France.

The spell of French invincibility had been broken, not just threatening the Emperor's control of the peninsula but further afield in other parts of the Empire

By September 1808 French forces had pulled back to a line behind the River Ebro and under a decree on the 7th of September was to be totally restructured into eight corps and an infusion of one hundred and thirty thousand fresh veteran reinforcements from the Elbe joined by the Emperor and his guard.

We next find the 8e Ligne with three battalions as part of General Lapisse's 2nd Division in Victor's I Corps d'Armee.

I Corps: Maréchal Victor - 15 November 1808, Source Oman
2nd Division: Général de division Lapisse
Brigade: Général de brigade Maison
16th Légère Regiment (3)(47/1,739)
8th Line Regiment (3)(52/1,922)
Brigade: Général de brigade Darricau
45th Line Regiment (3)(52/1,703)
54th Line Regiment (3)(59/2003)

The movements and actions fought by Victor's corps have been covered in my previous posts on the 2/24e Ligne and 2/96e Ligne.

Suffice to say that in their first major action in the re-invasion of Spain General Lapisse's troops were involved in a flank march against Blake's troops at Espinosa, breaking through and routing the raw Asturian division and then wheeling left into the Galician 1st Division. With pressure applied to their front, the Spanish troops broke back through Espinosa under the combined French attacks.

As the advance took Victor's Corps south towards Madrid, Lapisse's division was detached from I Corps and left to garrison Salamanca, much to Marshal Victor's frustration as he was directed to prosecute the war in Estremadura.

Thus the 8e Ligne and the 2nd Division as a whole were not involved in the actions at Ucles (13th Jan 1809) and Medellin (28th March 1809) and only rejoined I Corp in the Tagus valley on the 19th April 1809 prior to the Talavera campaign.

I really like the variety that you can achieve using AB figures. Note the sergeant centre picture behind the officer
After Talavera, the regiment would gain the unenviable record of being the first French regiment to lose it's Eagle to the British at the Battle of Barrosa in 1811 as covered in my post on the 2/87th Foot.

2/87th Foot (Prince of Wales Own Irish)

My second battalion are composed of figures from AB supplied by Fighting 15's and the battalion fanion is an adapted GMB fanion from the 1809 French at Wagram collection.

1/8e Regiment de Ligne

Other sources used in this post;
Napoleon's Line Infantry, Osprey Men at Arms - Philip Haythornthwaite, Bryan Fosten
French Napoleonic Line Infantry - Emir Bukhari
Napoleon's Soldiers, The Grande Armee of 1807 (The Otto Manuscript) - Guy C Dempsey Jr.
Napoleonic Armies, A Wargamers Campaign Directory - Ray Johnson
Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain - Andrew W. Field
The Peninsular War Atlas - Colonel Nick Lipscombe

Next up, with the summer holidays over and things starting to get back to normal, I pick up the Talavera scenario test games with a re-run of the Dawn Attack scenario and AAR to follow


  1. You do keep banging them out JJ! Not sure how you don't fall for the Tedium Demon myself but its admirable. Any more games in the pipeline?
    Be good, Jeremy

    1. Hi Jeremy, yeah I have my eye firmly fixed on all 24 battalions lined up with the other 21 ready to be launched at that Anglo-Spanish line. Thanks for the encouragement.

      Holidays and stuff had put a hold on the games but we are back playing the second play test of Dawn Attack tomorrow, so I am really looking forward to that.


  2. That was a great read thanks for posting Jonathan and it's good to see another unit on the table .
    Regards Furphy .

    1. Thanks Furphy, just another sixteen battalions to go!

  3. Replies
    1. Cheers Rupert, these AB's are a joy to paint.