French flag 1804, from French flag 1812, from
Napoleon's Foreign Infantry
Régiments étrangers au service de la France
"The forced marches of our army often continued till late at night, and in passing the troops we frequently heard Italians, Germans or Frenchmen, singing their national airs to lull their fatigue, or, in this distant and hostile land, to recall a lively remembrance of their absent country." - Albert-Jean-Michel de Rocca

1. Introduction - Foreigners in French Service
2. Tirailleurs du Pô
3. Tirailleurs Corses - "Les Cousins de l'Empereur"
4. Swiss Regiments
5. Polish 'Vistula Legion'
6. Croatian Regiments
7. Legion du Midi
8. Irish Legion
9. 'Regiments Etrangers'
10. Other Troops.

The French, being practical people, have always been eager
to let any available foreigners assist them in any necessary
bleeding and doing for France. The foreigners served for
the French kings, for Napoleon and during the 20th Century.
Today the French Foreign Legion is an elite unit.





Poles at Beresina 1812
Picture: Polish infantry at Berezina River, 1812.

"After 1806, about 1/3 of the French army were foreign;
by 1812, more than 1/2. The Poles, believing that Napoleon
would re-establish a free Poland, were perhaps the best.
The Swiss were well-trained mercenaries. Italians usually
served well. Germans were variable; Saxon cavalry and
Wirtembergian infantry being thought the best.
Neapolitans were frequently wothless."
Esposito, Elting - "A Military History..."

The French rulers looked upon Swiss and German infantry
as superior troops that the French could not match;
for them, they were not only convenient but indispensable.

Introduction - Foreigners in French Service.
"You could pave the road from Paris to Basle
in gold with all the money that Your Majesty
has paid the Swiss."
- Louvois to King Louis XIV

French reliance upon foreign mercenary regiments varied considerably over time. To put the Napoleonic period in perspective, it is necessary to begin with the Italian Wars. The French created their armies around a core of foreign infantry. The reign of Francois I marked the high point of dependence on Swiss, German, and Italian infantry. "During the 16th century, the proportion of foreigners was not only high in general; it was particularly great in front-line units. Native militias assisted by second-echelon French troops might man the walls of towns, and mixed forces might garrison threatened provinces, but highly prized Swiss and Germans concentrated in the field armies. ... From 1600 until French entry into the Thirty Years' War in 1635, foreign regiments comprised about 10 % of the infantry regiments maintained by Louis XIII. ... Francois I looked upon Swiss and German infantry as superior troops that the French could not match; for him, they were not only convenient but indispensable. Although the Swiss retained some of their elite aura in the 17th century, Louis XIII and Louis XIV ceased to regard them as supermen." (Lynn - "Giant of the Grand Siecle" pp 329-332)

Portugueese Legion in 1812.
Picture by Knotel. Napoleon's foreign troops comprised three categories:

  • foreigners who enlisted in French regiments
    (When German, Dutch and Italian territories
    were annexed the foreigners in French service
    became very numerous.)

  • entirely foreign units in the French service
    Dutch Guard Red Lancers
    Dutch Guard Grenadiers
    Swiss Regiments
    Croatian regiments
    Polish Vistula Legion
    Hannoverian Legion
    Portuguese Legion
    Irish Legion

  • forces of allied or dependent states.
    Westphalian Corps in 1812
    Bavarian Corps in 1812
    Saxon Corps

    List of French light regiments formed of foreigners:
    In 1811-1813 in the ranks of 8th Regiment of Light Infantry served many Croats.
    11th Light - disbanded in 1803 and reraised in 1811 from Italians and Swiss
    (Tirailleurs Corses, Tirailleurs du Po, Tirailleurs de la Legion de Midi, and Valaison)
    32th Light - raised in 1808 from Italians (Grand Duchy of Toscany)
    33rd Light - raised in 1808 from provisional regiment,
    in 1809 were disbanded and reraised in 1810 from Dutch troops.
    35th Light - raised in 1812 from 1st Regiment de la Mediterrane (formed in 1810)
    36th Light - raised in 1812 from Regiment de Belle-Ile (formed in 1811)

    French line regiments formed of foreigners:
    47th Line - served many Irishmen
    113th Line - formed in May 1808 from troops of Tuscany.
    123rd, 124th, 125th Line - formed in Sept 1810 from Dutch, disbanded in 1813.
    126th Line - formed in 1810 from Dutch, disbanded in 1813 and amalgamated to 123e.
    127th Line - formed in 1811 from Garde de Hambourg and Garde de Lubeck (Germans)
    128th Line - formed in 1811 from Garde de Breme (Germans)
    129th Line - formed in 1811 from Reg. d'Oldenbourg (Germans),
    detachments Garde de Westphaliens (Germans) and French troops. Disbanded in 1813.
    133rd Line - formed in 1811 (or 1812 ?) from the 2nd Meditarranean Regiment (Italians).

    Wirtembergian troops
of the Napoleonic Wars. The foreigners also served in Napoleon's Imperial Guard. The Dutch formed 3rd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers and 2nd Regiment of Lancers (the famous Red Lancers). The Italians formed Velites of Turin and Velites of Florence.
    The Poles formed the 1st and 3rd Regiment of Lancers and in 1812 Napoleon attached the entire 'Vistula Legion' to his Guard. The Germans in the Guard in 1813 were represented by the Saxon Grenadier Battalion and the Westphalian Guard Fusilier Battalion. Earlier on the Berg lancers were attached to the Guard. There were no Swiss in Napoleon's Imperial Guard.

    The numebr of foreigners in major battles was often significant. Below is a comparison list for the Battle of Borodino (1812):
    Battalions of infantry:
    French - . . . . . . . . .144 . . . (75 %)
    Polish - . . . . . . . . . . 27 . . . (15 %)
    Westphalian - . . . .14 . . . (7 %)
    Italian - . . . . . . . . . . .5
    Wirtembergian - . . .3
    Spanish - . . . . . . . . . 2
    Croats - . . . . . . . . . . .2
    Hessian, Portug. and others

    With the exception of desertion of Saxons at Leipzig, followed by the defection of the Bavarians, the foreigners were loyal and fought well. Below is a comparison list showing average officer casualties per battalion suffered at the Battle of Leipzig. The more battalion or regiment was involved in fighting the heavier were their casualties.
    1. French 1st,2nd,4th Marine Infantry Reg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 10.5*
    2. French II Corps (Victor) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 8.8 **
    3. Polish Vistula Regiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 8.5
    4. French III Corps (Souham) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 8
    5. Polish (Independent) 27th Division (Dabrowski) . . . . . . . . . . - 7.8
    6. Polish VIII Corps (Poniatowski) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 7.0***
    7. French V Corps (Lauriston) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 6.5
    8. French IX Corps (Augereau) .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 6.4
    9. Germans [6th Div., Wirtembergians and Westphalians] ... . - 6.2
    10. Germans [Wurzburg Line Reg. in 32nd Division] . . . . . . . . - 4
    11. Germans [Westphalian 8th Line Reg., and Light Btn.] . . . . - 3.6
    12. Italians [3rd Light, 5th Line Reg.] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 1.5
    13. Italians [Milan Guard, 1st, 2nd Light, 5th Line Reg.] . . . . . . -1.3
    14. Germans [Saxons in 24th Division, von Zeschau] . . . . . . . . - 1.3
    15. Germans [Baden 1st,3rd Line Reg.] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . - 0.3
    16. Germans [1st, 2nd Btn. Erfurt in Lefol's Division] . . . . . . . . .- 0
    Bavarian infantry in 1813 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    * - the Marine Infantry (or Naval Infantry) performed some heroics at the Battle of Leipzig. Especially the street fighting at Mockern was very dramatic. According to Marshal Marmont these troops had "exceptional attitude."
    ** - the II Corps defended Wachau where the enemy mounted the major and the greatest attack.
    *** - Poniatowski's infantrymen fought until they exhausted their ammunition. First they defended Mark-Kleeberg, then Dosen and Dolitz, then suburbs of Leipzig and then fired their last shots
    in the street fighting in Leipzig itself. The entire VIII Corps ceased to exist
    and its commander was dead.

  • ~

    Tirailleurs du Pô
    "They Rapidly Became a Crack Battalion"

    "The Piedmontese army is as fine and soldier-like a body of men as any in Europe. ... Of all the Italian states, Piedmont is the best situated for creating a good army. The plains of the Po and its tributaries produce capital horses, and a fine, tall race of men, the tallest of all Italians .... The mountains, which surround these plains on three sides, north, west, and south, are inhabited by a hardy people, less in size, but strong and active, industrious and sharp-witted, like all mountaineers." (Source -"The Armies of Europe" in Putnam's Monthly, No. XXXII, published in 1855)

    The Tirailleurs du Pô were formed in 1803 of northern Italians. According to John Elting "they rapidly became a crack battalion". In 1811 the Tirailleurs du Po were incorporated into French 11e Regiment d'Infanterie Légère. The battalion was commanded by chef (not colonel): in 1803 - by Prince Borghese, 1804 - Cattaneo, 1805 - Hulot, and in 1809 - by Mano.

    Battle record: 1805 - Holabrunn and Austerlitz, 1807 - Heilsberg, 1809 - Herttingen, Reid, Ebersberg, Essling and Wagram.

      Picture: Tirailleurs Corses and Tirailleurs du Po in Ebersberg. Tirée d'l'épopée Napoléonienne du Dr Hourtoulle & Jack Girbal.
      In 1809 the Tirailleurs Corses and Tirailleurs du Po fought for the Traun bridge defended by the Austrians. "These men earned reputation for gallantry beginning with their defense of Napoleon's right flank at Austerlitz 4 years earlier. At Ebelsberg they again fought aggressively and with courage. The tirailleurs crossed the bridge in open order under a barrage of indiscriminate Austrian artillery fire that sent both retiring Hapsburg soldiers and pursuing French plunging into the chasm below. Led by the fiery General Coehorn … the light infantry cast the wagons blocking the bridge gate in their faces, but they shouldered their way through and entered the village. Their sudden eruption into Ebelsberg took the defenders by surprise. … the Tirailleurs Corses and Tirailleurs du Po found themselves in the midst of a vastly superior defender who fired from rooftop, window, and doorway and whose artillery on the heights bombarded them with ceaseless fury. … Coehorn's brigade could advance no more. They milled about in some confusion while the town about them began to burn." Massena sent GdD Claparede's two remaining brigades to succor Coehorn. "The fight escalated into a bloody house-to-house combat ... Consequently the Austrians scooped up prisoners as their columns advanced toward the bridge. In this manner a captain of the 4th Vienna Volunteers captured the commander of Tirailleurs du Po while other Austrians seized two French battalion fanions." (Arnold - "Napoleon Conquers Austria")

    Tirailleurs Corses [Les Cousins de l'Empereur]
    All the soldiers were volunteers and all Corsicans.

    Tirailleurs Corses in 1808.
Picture by Knoetel. One of the very best light outfits serving in Napoleon's army was the battalion called Tirailleurs Corses. It was raised in 1803 and Philippe d'Ornano, a Napoleon's cousin (he married Marie Waleska in 1822), was chef de bataillon and they were for this reason nicknamed "les cousins de l'Empereur". It was not an italian battalion like the "Tirailleurs du Po". All the soldiers of Tirailleurs Corses were volunteers and all Corsicans, except one officer (the quartermaster). Its depot company was located in Corsica.

    According to Docteur Dominique Buresi of Ajaccio who last year wrote a "Story of Corsican regiments of light infantry" (DCL publishing march 2003) several Corsican troops fought during the period of 1792-1815. Six bataillons of chasseurs numbered 3rd, 4th (ex royal chasseurs ) and 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th battalions were drafted in 1793 and they wore blue coats. Six batallions were drafted in 1803, five were send to Naples and the 6th was the Tirailleurs Corses. In 1806 at Eylau after the bloody battle it was down to 400 men (14 officers were killed ! Many Corsicans were enlisted in 1810 to the 1st Mediterranean Regiment. In 1814 the garrison of Elba Island consisted of one battalion of Corsicans. According to Docteur Dominique Buresi this troop fought at Waterloo as 1st battalion of 1er Regiment of Voltigeurs of Young Guard.

    General Sir John Moore PS.
    The Corsicans served also in the British Army. The Corsican Rangers wore green coats and were armed with Baker rifles as the 95th Rifles and 5th bataillon of 60th Regiment of Foot. Their colonel was Hudson Lowe, and officers were either corsican or british. In 1808 Hudson Lowe reported that the Corsican Rangers fought "with fierceness" at Capri. In Egypt Sir John Moore said "when Corsicans are in outposts ,I am sure of a quiet night."


    The Swiss Infantry.
    "No Money, No Swiss"

    Swiss grenadier "The Swiss, like all mountaineers, make capital soldiers when drilled; and, wherever they have served as regular troops under foreign banners, they have fought exceedingly well. But being rather slow-headed, they need drilling much more, indeed, than either French or North Germans, to give them confidence in themselves and cohesion." (Source -"The Armies of Europe" in Putnam's Monthly, No. XXXII, published in 1855 )

    The Swiss troops served Napoleon but they also served Spain, Austria and the Pope. Swiss mercenaries have played their important roles in France. Francis I of France used some 120,000 Swiss levies in his wars. Under King Louis XIV, the Swiss troops were organized in two categories, with the king's guard separate from the ordinary Swiss regiments. In August 1792 the Swiss Guards defended the Tuileries Palace in Paris during the French Revolution, when several hundred of the Guard were massacred by the Parisian mob that stormed the Palace. Their stand permitted the royal family to escape across the gardens.

    The French Revolution abolished mercenary troops in its citizen army but Napoleon used them. The Swiss served loyally so long as they were paid regularly. There was saying "No money, no Swiss." They were well trained and disiplined. Their musket volleys were perfectly controlled, their shots well aimed. French General Merle said: "it was pity that the Swiss couldn't handle two muskets at once, if they only could he would issue them".

    Marshal Lannes was titular colonel of the Swiss troops in the French service. The Swiss served Napoleon well, in 1812 they distinguished themselves in Russia. The only setbacks they suffered were at Maida and at Baylen where after some fighting they surrendered to the Spanish troops. (The French provisional and reserve troops and the Guard Marines did surrender too.)

    While Napoleon was exiled on Elba (1814-1815) the grenadier companies of the Swiss regiments in French service served as part of King Louis XVIII's royal guard.
    Below is a list of Swiss regiments and their war record during Empire (1804-1815).

    NCO of Grenadiers 
of the 1st Swiss Regiment in 1814, 
by Joineau - 1er Regiment d’Infanterie Suisse
    14 Battles:1805 - Trafalgar and Castel-Franco, 1806 - Sainte-Euphemie and Rogliano, 1807 - Rolonda, Sainte-Euphemie, Sainte-Ambrosio and Capri, 1809 - Capri, 1812 - Willia, Polotsk, Beresina and Wilna, 1813 - Breme
    Colonels:: 1805 - Raguettly, 1805 - Real de Chapelle

    - 2e Regiment d’Infanterie Suisse
    18 Battles: 1808 - La Grenouilliere, Roses, Figuieres, and Evora, 1809 - Carogne, Ferrol, Oporto, Girone, and Burgos, 1810 - Burgos, Corales, Toro, and Ribas, 1811 - Catalogne, 1812 - Belvver, Polotsk, and Bersina, 1814 - Schlestadt
    Colonels: 1806 - Castella de Berlens, 1806 - Segesser, 1812 - Abyberg, 1815 - Stoffel

    - 3e Regiment d’Infanterie Suisse
    15 Battles: 1808 - Jaen, Baylen, and Cara-de-Deu, 1809 - Tuy and Oporto, 1810 - Cadiz, Leon, Pueblo, and Sanabria, 1812 - Drissa, Polotsk, Lepel, Beresina, and Wilna, 1814 - Besancon
    Colonels: 1806 - May, 1806 - Thomasset

    - 4e Regiment d’Infanterie Suisse
    22 Battles: 1807 - Heilsberg and Friedland, 1808 - Lisbonne, Alcolea, Obidos, Rolicia, and Vimeiro, 1809 - Chaves, Tuy, and Oporto, 1810 - Vallavoid, 1811 - Magas, 1812 - Zoa, Llanguez, Polotsk, Beresina, Borisow, Cedano, Wilna, and Kowno, 1813 - Delfzyl, 1814 - Bescanon
    Colonels: 1806 - Perrier, 1806 - Freuler, 1810 - Affry


    The Polish 'Vistula Legion'.
    "...the [infantry of] Vistula Legion seemed particularly
    destined to participate in sieges..." Napoleon stated that
    the infantry [of Vistula Legion] were to be treated on a par
    with French line regiments. - George Nafziger

    Picture by Chelminski. Vistula Legion, by Keith Rocco, USA Left: voltigeur of 4th Vistula Legion.
    Picture by Herbert Knotel, Germany.

    Right: private of Vistula Legion in Spain.
    Picture by Keith Rocco, USA.

    The most numerous and particularly dedicated to Napoleon were the Poles. Among the best Polish regiments were the four regiments of Vistula Legion. They served in every major campaign - in Italy, Spain, Germany, France and in Russia. In 1812 the four regiments were attached to Napoleon's Guard but during the retreat from Russia they fought often and very hard. In 1813 their debris were consolidated into one regiment. This gallant unit fought ferociously at Leipzig (1813) and at Arcis-sur-Aube (1814). When the wars ended there were only few men left in the ranks.

    "In 1806, what was left of the old Dabowski and Kniaziewicz's Danube Legion ... was one infantry regiment and one cavalry regiment in the service of Kingdom of Naples. In February 1807 these remnants became part of the French army and were sent to Silesia. These Polish veterans became the core of a new Polish Legion ... and were initially called the Polish-Italian Legion (Italian since they had fought in Italy, not because the unit had Italians in it).
    Napoleon's decree of 1807 stated this Legion should consist of three infantry regiments and one cavalry regiment. ... In June, the formation took part in the siege of Klodzko. From Silesia the Legion moved to service in Westphalia in October 1807 ... On 21 February 1808, Napoleon ordered the Legion to Poitiers in France, where it was formally inducted into the French army. In a letter to Davout dated 31 March 1808, Napoleon renamed the Polish-Italian Legion (Polacco-Italienne) the "Vistula Legion."
    He also stated that the infantry were to be treated on a par with French line regiments ... The depot for the Legion appears to have been Sedan. ... It should also be noted that French nationals were not permitted to serve in the Legion, except as the company clerks (fourriers), battalion adjutant non-commissioned officers, and as paymasters. The Poles, apparently, had little concern for administrative duties and, driven to desperation, Napoleon relented on these administrative positions. ...
    After the battle of Wagram (1809), Napoleon found that he was once again in possession of a large number of ethnic Poles amongst his Austrian prisoners of war. The Decree of 8 July, 1809, directed that these men were to form a 2nd Vistula Legion. ... The 2nd Vistula Legion never was able to form completely, so it was disbanded by the Decrees of 12/15 February, 1810. It was incorporated into the 1st Vistula Legion as a 4th Regiment.
    The Vistula Legion was sent to Spain where it fought in the sieges of Saragossa and Segunto. In fact, the Vistula Legion seemed particularly destined to participate in sieges, and it fought in all of the major sieges in eastern Spain during the early years of the Peninsular War. ...
    In preparation for the invasion of Russia the Vistula Legion was withdrawn from Spain in early 1812. ... On 2 April, 1812, Napoleon decided to include the Poles in the Young Guard corps under Marshal Mortier rather than designating them as Guard. The third battalions were formed, but on 31 May, after reviewing them in Posen, Napoleon directed that they not form elite companies, feeling their soldiers were too young. However, they would follow the main army as far as Smolensk and Gjatsk, joining the main body only during the retreat in the beginning of November. ... The 4th Regiment was still in Spain while the other regiments went to Russia. ... These men had fought bravely at Smolensk, Borodino, Tarutino, Krasnoe and at the Berezina Crossing. " (- George Nafziger)

      AUGUST 1812.
      Infantry Division of Vistula Legion
      Commander: General de Division Michel Claparede (
      Second in Command: General de Brigade Chlopicki
      Chief-of-Staff: Colonel Briatte
      - - - - - - 1st Brigade - General de Brigade Chlopicki
      - - - - - - - - - - - - 1st Regiment of Vistula Legion
      - - - - - - - - - - - - 2nd Regiment of Vistula Legion
      - - - - - - 2nd Brigade - General de Brigade Bronikowski
      - - - - - - - - - - - - 3rd Regiment of Vistula Legion
      - - - - - - - - - - - - 4th Regiment of Vistula Legion
      - - - - - - Artillery.
      - - - - - - - - - - - - Foot Battery (4 cannons and 2 howitzers)
      - - - - - - - - - - - - Foot Battery (4 cannons and 2 howitzers)

    "On 18 June, 1813, a Vistula Regiment was organized from the remnants of the Vistula Legion. It consisted of only two battalions. ... On 15 September the Legion fought the Russians in a bloody engagement at Neustadt (near Dresden). The Legion, which participated in several small engagements and skirmishes, was virtually destroyed at the Battles of Leipzig on 15-19 October, and at Hanau, where they helped sweep aside the Bavarian army blocking the retreat route to France.
    Infantry of the Vistula Legion.
Picture by Bellange. The Legion was reformed at Sedan in early 1814. All the Poles remaining in French service were utilized in an effort to bring it up to strength. At Soissons, on 2 March, 1814, it fought valiantly against the blockading Russian forces. After earning 23 Legions d 'honneur (two officers and 21 soldiers) at Soissons, the Legion moved to the Compiegne. They fought at Rheims (2 March) and Arcis-sur-Aube (20 March) where Napoleon sought shelter in one of its battalions as it formed square. The Legion then went on to fight at the battle at St. Dizier. When the war ended, the survivors returned to Poland. During the 1815 campaign,325 men under a Colonel Golaszewski appear to have been the last of the Vistula Legion to serve under Napoleon." (Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons")

    - 1er Regiment d’Infanterie de la Legion de la Vistule
    28 Battles: 1806 - St.Euphemie, Mangona, and Codron, 1807 - Salzbrunn, 1808 - Mallen, Allagon, Saragosse, Tudela, and Tavenca, 1809 - Saragosse, Alcanitz, Maria, Belchite, and Stella, 1810 - Villet-Checa, 1811 - Tarragona, Murviedra, Gratalope and Fairet, 1812 - Valence, Smolensk, Chirikovo, Borodino, Krimskoie, Voronowo, Beresina, Krasnoie, and Wilna
    Colonels: 1808 - Chlopicki, 1809 - Kosinowski, 1811 - Fondzielski, 1812 - Kosinowski

    - 2e Regiment d’Infanterie de la Legion de la Vistule
    28 Battles: 1808 - Saragosse and Tudela, 1809 - Perdiguera, Santa Fe, Belchite, Aquila, El Fresna, Calatayud, Retascon, Daroca, Ojos Negros and Tremedal, 1810 - Torre la Carcel, Teruel, Villastar, Villel, Lancosa, Tortosa and Fuente Santa, 1811 - Azuara, 1812 - Valence, Smolensk, Woronowo, Beresina, Tarutino, Wilna and Kowno, 1813 - Wittenberg
    Colonels: 1808 - Bialowieyski, 1808 - Kosinowski, 1809 - Michalowski ?, 1812 - Chlusowicz, 1812 - Malczewski

    - 3e Regiment d’Infanterie de la Legion de la Vistule
    10 Battles: 1808 - Saragosse, 1809 - Saragosse, 1812 - Smolensk, Chirikovo, Borodino, Krimskoie, Voronowo, Beresina, Krasnoie, and Wilna
    Colonels: 1807 - Swiderski, 1809 - Estko, 1812 - Kosinski, 1812 - Szott (Fondzielski ?)

    - 4e Regiment d’Infanterie de la Legion de la Vistule
    13 Battles: 1810 - Puebla de Senabria, Benevente, Santa Martha, 1811 - Puebla, Aldea-del-Ponte, Tabara, Salinas and Penaranda, 1812 - Tudela, Ontario and Penaranda, 1813 - Rogozno and Parkowo
    Colonels:1812 - Bronikowski and Estko


    The Croats.
    "They were always organized
    and always ready." - General Teste

    Drummer and Voltigeur of
Croatian Regiment
in Russia in 1812. Picture (from left to right): Drummer of 1st Croatian Provisional Regiment in 1812 in Russia and Voltigeur of 3rd Croatian Provisional Regiment in Russia. (Please let us know who is the author of this picture.)

    The Croats lived in the mountains and formed good light infantry serving in the Austrian and French armies. French General Teste said: "they were always organized and always ready." The Croats were experts in skirmish-order hill fighting but had very little passion for fighting for France. Some troops even mutined. Under Napoleon served four regiments of so-called provisional regiments of Croat infantry.

    The 1er Regiment d'Infanterie Provisories Croate was formed in 1811 from the 1st btns. of 1er and 2e Regiment de Chasseurs Illyriens.

    The 2e Regiment d'Infanterie Provisories Croate was raised in 1813 from the 1st btn. of 4e Regiment de Chasseurs Illyriens and 2nd btn. of 3e Regiment de Chasseurs Illyriens. The 3e Regiment d'Infanterie Provisories Croate was formed in 1812 from the 1st btns. of 1er and 2e Regiments du Banat. The 3e Regiment d'Infanterie Provisories Croate was formed in 1813 from the 2nd btns. of 1er and 2e Regiments du Banat. All four regiments were disbanded in 1813.

    Carabinier of 2nd
Croatian Provisional Regiment
in Germany in 1813. - 1er Regiment d'Infanterie Provisories Croate
    8 Battles: 1812 - Ostrowno, Kalouga, Maloyaroslawetz, Orsha, Krasnoie, and Beresina, 1813 - Glogau and Lubnitz
    Colonels:1811 - Slivarich de Heldenbourg, 1813 - Joly

    - 2e Regiment d'Infanterie Provisories Croate
    2 Battles: 1813 - Radebourg and Wurschen
    Colonels:Robert Gordon, Mamulla von Turkenfeld

    - 3e Regiment d'Infanterie Provisories Croate
    2 Battles: 1812 - Polotsk and Beresina
    Colonels: Joly

    - 4e Regiment d'Infanterie Provisories Croate
    0 Battles: none
    Colonels: none

    Picture: Carabinier of 2nd Croatian Provisional Regiment in Germany in 1813.


    Legion du Midi
    The legion was made of discharged Piedmontese veterans,
    who probably were ocassionally drunk and disorderly.
    It went into Spain, where it served well enough
    but gradually fell off in strength to a single battalion.

    Legion du Midi in 1792 "To collect discharged Piedmontese veterans, who probably were ocassionally drunk and disorderly Napoleon ordered the formation of a 1st Piedmontese Legion. ... Napoleon sent its 1st and 2nd battalion and the artillery company to West Indies, where most of them died of diseas. The few men remaining there were adopted by the 82nd Line. The 3rd battalion, which had been unable to sail because of British blockade, was redesignated the 1st, and a new 2nd battalion was enlisted a prix de argent and very slowly. Those two battalions became the 2nd Legion du Midi. After a stint of coast defense duty it went into Spain, where it served well enough but gradually fell off in strength to a single battalion." (- John Elting)

    The Legion du Midi was disbanded in 1811.

    In 1804 the Piedmontese Legion was renamed Legion du Midi. The legion took part in the following battles: Beja (1808), Corogne (1809), Busaco (1810), and Fuentes-d’Onoro (1811).

    Between 1803 and 1807 the Legion was commanded by Joseph-Louis-Victor Chevillard de Mariloz. And between 1807 and 1811 by Jean-Pierre Maransin.


    Irish Legion.
    The Irish Legion, was raised "from the almost endless
    stream of enthusiastic Irishmen that appeared any time
    there was an Englishman to be shot. -

    During the Nine Years' War, Irish troops came to France in great numbers. And again in late 18th and early 19th century groups of volunteers found their way over from Ireland. They formed "Legion Irlandaise" (Irish Legion) and recruited among British prisoners of war. According to the Irish Legion, was raised as a light infantry "from the almost endless stream of enthusiastic Irishmen that appeared any time there was an Englishman to be shot."

    Virginia Shaw Medlen writes: "Established on 31 August 1803, the Legion Irlandaise was originally created in anticipation of an invasion of Ireland. The purpose was to establish a core of trained irish officers and ncos who could raise the population of Ireland in a war of liberation against the english rulers of Ireland. By using Irish soldiers, Napoleon hoped to achieve three important goals:
    Irish Regiment, reenactors. 
Photo unknown author.

  • - the invasion force would be viewed by the Irish population
    as an army of liberation, rather than a foreign invader;
  • - a minimum number of french troops would be required for the effort
  • - such an invasion, if properly carried out, would tie up
    a maximum number of English troops for years to come,
    and could result in the English suing for peace.
    However, with the continuing superiority of the British fleet, an invasion of England became more unlikely. The dream of an Irish invasion died with the British victory over the combined French and Spanish Fleets off Cape Trafalgar in 1805. With Austria and Russia preparing to renew the struggle for control of central Europe, Napoleon's attention turned to the east."
    (Shaw Medlen - "Legion Irlandaise (Napoleon's Irish Legion) 1803 - 1815")

    From 1804 until the end of 1811 the Irish Legion carried a special flag with "Liberty of Conscience/Independence of Ireland" on one side and "The First Consul to United Ireland" on the other.

    By 1809 the Legion had five battalions, the 1st and 2nd battalion were made of Irishmen. The 3rd, 4th and 5th were formed principally of foreign deserters of every nationality and of low morale.

    "On July 30th of 1809, the 1st Battalion received its baptism of fire in battle when English forces landed on Walcheren Island. After a spirited defense, the vastly outnumbered French forces, including the Regiment Irlandaise, retreated into Flushing. On August 1, The English attacked all along the perimeter outside Flushing. The Irish suffered heavy casualties, but performed well and held their assigned position. The Irish regiment remained in an advanced position from the 3d to the 13th of August, and were engaged in almost daily skirmishes. The English were preparing positions and bringing up siege guns. The expected bombardment began at noon on 13 August. At 5 pm the enemy infantry attacked all of the advanced posts. Although elements of the other regiments sought to retreat into the city, the Irish held firm and occupied their original position at the end of the day. In the fighting, the acting Commander of the 1st Battalion, Captain William Lawless, was struck below the right eye by a musket ball that lodged below his ear. ... By the evening of the 14th of August, after a terrible bombardment which dismounted many of the town's guns and nearly exploded the powder magazine, it was apparent that further resistance was futile. ... On the 15th, the French General surrendered, and the entire garrison of Flushing were made prisoner and were transported to England where the men remained until the end of the war. However, a small number of men managed to escape. Among them were Captain Lawless and Lt. Terrence O'Reilly ..." (Shaw Medlen - "Legion Irlandaise (Napoleon's Irish Legion) 1803 - 1815")

    The 2nd and 3rd Battalion served in Spain. In January 1809 Napoleon was in Burgos in Spain. The honour of guarding him was granted to the Irish Legion. Parading in full dress with their eagle they provided a vivid spectacle in their distinctive green uniforms. The Legion also served in the siege of Astorga in 1810. In June the Legion was assigned to the Army of Portugal.

    According to the Decree of 28 June 1810 the 1st and 4th Battalions became the new 1st Battalion. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions, then serving in Spain, became the new 2nd Battalion.
    In May 1811, the Irish Legion took part in the battle of Fuentes de Onoro.

    In August 1811 the Irish Legion was renamed the 3rd Regiment Etranger.

  • ~

    The 'Regiments Etrangers'.
    They were given very showy uniforms
    to attract recruits.

    Voltigeurs of Isenburg 
Regiment in 1808. There were also so-called regiments etrangers - for some reason considered light infantry though seldom if ever specifically so employed. They were given very showy uniforms to attract recruits. One Frenchman wrote about the 1st Foreign Regiment: "in their handsome green uniforms, they made a large number of female conquests, especially among cooks." (Elting - "Napoleonic Uniforms" Vol 2)

    Their drum majors wore the most flamboyant outfits in Napoleonic infantry.

    In 1805 was raised Regiment de La Tour d’Auvergne in 1811 renamed to 1er Regiment Etrangers (1st Foreign Regiment). In 1805 was also formed Regiment d’Isembourg, in 1812 renamed to 2e Regiment Etrangers (2nd Foreign Regiment). It was named for the German princeling who organized it for Napoleon). Both regiments were commanded by princes. In these units served men of various nationalities, Germans, Hungarians, Brits, Swedes, Greeks, Danes, Spaniards and even French royalists. Many were prisoners of war, others were deserters, the third group were volunteers and so-called "soldiers of fortune".

    In 1806 the Regiment de Prusse was renamed to the 4e Regiment Etrangers (4th Foreign Regiment) was raised after Napoleon's victory over Prussia and consisted of Prussian deserters and prisoners of war. It made a considerable use of captured Prussian weapons and articles of clothing. Senior sergeants retained the Prussian custom of carrying canes for disciplinary problems. They were well trained soldier but without much love for France and Napoleon.

    Majority of the foreign troops served on secondary theaters of war, in Holland, Italy and Spain, and on Corfu Island. Their performance was below the French average. In early September 1813 the Austrian infantry took the fort Muhlbach that guarded the mouth of the Pusteria Valley, capturing the voltigeur company of the 1st Foreign Regiment (1er Regiment Etrangers) posted there. The voltigeurs behaved very poorly, and many simply ran away at the approach of the Austrians. The remainder of the company was taken prisoner. (Nafziger and Gioannini - "The Defense of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Northern Italy 1813-1814" p53).

    - Regiment de La Tour d’Auvergne
    (in 1811 renamed to 1er Regiment Etrangers)
    8 Battles: 1807 - Calabre, 1809 - Pan-Marco-de-la Catola, 1811 - Scylla, 1813 - Brixau, Ferrare, Saint-Marco, and Saint-Michel, 1814 - Mincio
    Colonels: 1805 - Prince La Tour d’Auvergne, 1809 - Drummond, 1811 - Danlion, 1813 - Drummond

    - Regiment d'Isembourg
    (in 1811 renamed to 2e Regiment Etrangers)
    11 Battles: 1807 - Calabre, 1808 - Capri, 1809 - Mitoya, 1810 - Otrante, Carascal, Lerida, and Viterbe, 1811 - Castelmare, 1812 - Gaete, 1813 - Marinella and Muhlbach
    Colonels: 1805 - Prince d'Isembourg, 1807 - O’Meara, 1808 - Stieler de Landoville, 1811 - Barre, 1812 - Meijer, 1813 - Bentzel

    - Regiment Irlandaise
    (in 1811 renamed to 3e Regiment Etrangers)
    15 Battles: 1808 - Jaen, Baylen and Cara-de-Deu, 1809 - Tuy and Oporto, 1810 - Cadiz, Leon, Pueblo, and Sanabria, 1812 - Drissa, Polotsk, Lepel, Beresina and Wilna, 1814 - Besacon
    Colonels: May, Thomasset

    - Regiment de Prusse
    (renamed to 4e Regiment Etrangers)
    22 Battles: 1807 - Heilsberg and Friedland, 1808 - Lisbonne, Alcolea, Obidos, Rolicia, and Vimeiro, 1809 - Chaves, Tuy and Oporto, 1810 - Vallavoid, 1811 - Magas, 1812 - Zoa, Llanguez, Polotsk, Beresina, Borisow, Cedano, Wilna and Kowno, 1813 - Delfzyl, 1814 - Bescanon,
    Colonels: 1806 - Perrier, Feuler, 1810 - Affry


    Other Troops.

    Private and officer of
Albanian Regiment.
Chasseur of Septinsular
Battalion, 1808-1812. Picture (from left to righ): Private and officer of Albanian Regiment in 1808-1813. Chasseur of Septinsular Battalion in 1808-1812. (Please let us know who is the author of this beautiful picture.)

    In 1803 were formed:
    - Legion Hanovrienne. It was commanded by Louis-Cyriac Striffler. (In 1811 by Hohenzollern-Hechingen.)

    In 1807 were formed:
    - Regiment de Westphalie (Germans). It was commanded by Charles-Antoine-Frederic-Meinrad-Fidele Prince de Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. (In 1808 by Frederick-Herman-Othon Prince de Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen.) This regiment was disbanded and incorporated into the Legion Hanoverien.
    - Regiment Albanaise (Balkans). It was commanded by Jean-Louis-Toussaint Minot. This unit was disbanded in 1814.
    - Bataillon de Valaisan (Swiss). It was commanded by Louis de Bons. (In 1811 by Pierre-Joseph Blanc.) This unit was disbanded in 1811.
    - Batailllon de Neuchatel. It was commanded by Jean-Henri de Bosset. Between 1809 and 1814 this unit participated in nine engagements, including the biggest battles; Paris (1814), Leipzig (1813), Borodino (1812) and Wagram (1809).

    In 1808 were formed:
    - Bataillon Septinsulaire. It was commanded by Chef Piero Lorenzo. This unit was disbanded in 1813.

    In 1808 were formed:
    - Regiment d’Illyrie. It was commanded by Chef Nicolas Schmitz. (In 1813 by Jean Muller).
    Battle Record: 1812 Ostrowno, Krasne, Smorgnie, Wilno, and Kowno. In 1813 Juterbock, Leipzig and Hanau. This unit was disbanded in 1813.

    Links and Sources.
    Recommended Reading.

    Elting - "Swords Around a Throne"
    Fieffe - "Histoire des Troupes Etranger au service de France"
    Mageraud - "Armement et Equiement de l'Infanterie Francaise"
    Martinien - "Tableaux par Corps et par Batailles des Officiers tues et blesse pendant les guerres de l'Empire 1805-1815"
    Six - "Dictionnaire Biographique des Generaux et Amiraux Francais de la Revolution et de l'Empire 1792-1814"
    Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars"
    Susane - "Histoire de l'Infanterie Francaise"
    Irish Legion.
    Legion Irlandaise (Napoleon's Irish Legion) 1803 - 1815.
    Vistula Legion (reenactors, photo gallery).

    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies