Sunday, 31 May 2015

1/24e Regiment de Ligne

Never let it be said that JJ's Wargames doesn't have a sense of poetry. As you know the object is to "paint to play" and units get done in order of that requirement, but sometimes things happen that make you smile, and as I was putting this post together a thought occurred to me. This is the first battalion of the 24th regiment, but it is also the first battalion of 24 battalions to complete the French forces at Talavera, about six months work., The reason it was selected is that the three battalions of the regiment are required to move on to the next scenario in the Talavera series, looking at the ill considered dawn attack on the 28th July.

The most senior line regiment in General de Division Francois Amable's division and the second senior, after the 8e regiment, in the French army at Talavera was the 24e Regimrent de Ligne with their 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions, led by Colonel Baptiste Jamin.

Established in 1773 from the combined 2e and 4e battalions Regiment Royal and raised in the region of and associated with Brie, the regiment would see several reformations during the revolutionary period as a demi-brigade;

1793: 24e demi-brigade de bataille (formed from the following):
  • 2e bataillon 12e Regiment d'Infanterie
  • 3e bataillon Volontaires de la Somme
  • 10e Bataillon Volontaires de Reserve
  • 2e and 4e bataillons Requisition d'Amiens

1796: 24e demi-brigade d'Infanterie de Ligne (formed from the following):
  • 5e demi-brigade de bataille (1er Bat 3e Regt d'Inf, 2e Bat Vol de l'Aube and 10e Bat Vol des Vosges)
  • 206e demi-brigade de bataille (1er Bat Vol de la Meuse, 9e Bat Vol des Vosges and 5e Bat Vol de la Vienne)
before emerging in 1803 as the 24e Regiment de Ligne under Colonel Jean Baptiste Pierre Semelle who was also General de Brigade. 

Left - Fusilier Sergeant of the 24me Ligne with 15-20 years service, illustration
by Dionisio Alvarez Cueto

With a greater focus paid by many wargamers and historians to the campaigns of Napoleon in north and eastern Europe it is easy to forget that many of the most experienced and senior regiments/battalions in the French army were serving in Spain, and it is little wonder that Napoleon was compelled to draw down on this experience as his remaining veterans were wasted away in the campaigns of 1809 and 1812.

With the humiliation of the Emperor and French arms following Bailen in 1808, Napoleon was not messing around when he led nearly 300,000 French troops in the second invasion of Spain in the November of that year. These troops included the veterans of Austerlitz, Jena, Eylau and Friedland in the campaigns spanning the years 1805-07. Not surprisingly they cut swathes through the Spanish armies massed on the River Ebro, and when Napoleon departed in December to prepare for a coming war with Austria, most of these veterans remained to complete the subjugation of the peninsula.

The 24e Ligne, in July 1809, represents those veteran regiments having been at Jena, Eylau and Friedland and it's 4th most junior battalion would be involved in the Danube campaign at Essling and Wagram whilst its three senior battalions were at Talavera. It can therefore be seen what a stern test the allied army would be facing when the 24e Ligne attacked en mass, as these soldiers certainly knew their jobs.

The illustration by  Dionisio Cueto of the Sergeant of the 24e shows a man who would have served during the glory years of the Empire with his two red long service chevrons displayed above the single gold chevron for his rank, indicating fifteen to twenty years service. He is in conversation with a Tiraillieur (Voltigeur in Legere battalions) of the famous 9e Legere the "Incomparables", an epithet gained  after their battle turning performance at Marengo. Both veteran regiments were in the same brigade and spearheaded the night and dawn attacks on the Cerro de Medellin.

French infantry units of this period tended to display slight variation to the standard look, with drummers and musicians still dressed according to the whim of the colonel and little items that differentiated the regiment from its colleagues, typically the design of the shako plate. To identify these for inclusion in model units is all part of the fun and I will attempt to illustrate some of them as we go.

I have two references other than the Cueto work, the primary source being the Otto manuscript that shows all the regiments that were in Victor's divisions at Talavera in 1807, two years prior, in Hamburg and probably underpin the other two in this post. The ones that stand out are the red cuff slash on the tunic as illustrated in the Cueto and Rousselot pictures, this normally being blue, and the little red splay above the yellow pompom of the voltigeurs plume in my other illustration by Rousselot.

24th Ligne Voltigeur 1807-08 (Fig 5) illustrated by Rousselot

My 1/24e Ligne are composed of the excellent figures from the AB range, with the Eagle colour from GMB flags. These chaps in their pre 1812 uniforms with shako covers and gorde water canteens really capture the look of the French veteran infantry that marched the length of the River Tagus in 1809.

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

Next up, the second battalion of the 24e Ligne and a report on our annual trip to Chez Chas in North Devon for a Korean War, Chain of Command game set for next weekend, plus some D-Day commemoration activities.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Phil, thank you. Mr Barton sculpts a fine figure, that really inspires the work.

  2. No idea where you find the time JJ? Glad you do as these are lovely, great background info too. Enjoy your games, Jeremy

    1. Cheers Jeremy, glad you like them. Only twenty three to go.

  3. Many thanks for posting Jonathan, you paint to a very high standard and I always enjoy the background story of the unit you are presenting to us .
    Regards Furphy .

    1. Hi Furphy, thank you, I really appreciate your comment. I think the history behind these units gives them real personality and when they are out on the table en mass the little id numbers we use for C&G helps you recognise them.

  4. Replies
    1. Cheers Rupert. It gets more exciting the closer we get to doing the whole battle and its even more fun sharing the journey.

  5. As always, absolutely gorgeous!

  6. Hey Paul, much appreciated. I reckon this unit x 24 should cause a bit of concern amongst the Brit commanders.