Saturday, March 13, 2010

French Cuirassiers redux

In 1812 the 5th Cuirassiers were Beaumont's Brigade, part of Montbrun's 2nd Cavalry Corps.  Led by Caulaincourt, they were credited as being the head of column and thus the first to break into the Great Redoubt at Borodino.

The regiment posted returns for 52 officers as of 1st Nov 1812 (according to documents in the Vincennes Archive quoted by Hourtoulle of Histoire et Collections) 45 of which went to Russia.  There was a fifth squadron which remained in depot in France.  Interestingly, 33% of the regiment in Russia were not Frenchmen but mainly Italians (73 were said to be from Marengo!) Germans and Belgians.
The regiment that crossed the Nieman into Russia had 683 officers and men in four squadrons, with 103 left behind in Poland in depot or hospital.  At Borodino the regiment mounted 566 officers and men - remarkable unit strength given the cavalry overall may have been reduced by as much as 30% with many at half strength by the huge losses in horses.   Three weeks after the battle they presented at Moscow 434 officers and men but only 286 horses.  They were reinforced in Moscow by another 110 officers and men (all mounted) - just in time for the retreat!
 The regiment, like the rest of the French cavalry was destroyed in Russia but remarkably rebuilt around its depot squadron and various drafts of reinforcements that luckily didn't get to Russia so that by 1813 they were roughly at half strength with available horses.

One of the more remarkable stories was that of Marechal des Logis Chef Mouffet, wounded several times 'by bayonet and sabre' at the Great Redoubt.  Decorated by Napoleon in Moscow with the Legion d'Honour Mouffet was captured at some stage during the retreat.  He survived his captivity, but after being released by the Russians only returning to France by January 1815.  He joined up again for the Hundred Days, was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and present at Quatre Bras and Waterloo.  Tough guy!  He managed to survive this but like most officers, was dismissed from service with the Restoration.  He petitioned and had his LH restored to him (on a half pay pension) in 1830. Salute MdL Chef Mouffet!
Vive l'Empreur!

Given the historical numbers quoted above, at a ratio of 50:1 about 12 figures represents a full regiment and an understrength one of about 8-9 figures. 

Well, that's about it for the French Cuirassiers.  I'm doing a grenadier command for my Victrix Italians before I decide on the next project and will post the results in due course - uni and work permitting.

Cheers,
           Doc