French Foreign Regiments

This article on the French Foreign Regiments in the Napoleonic Wars was written by David Rusk. Adding these foreign regiments to your armies would be a fun and interesting under taking.


One of the more enjoyable aspects of building war game armies is the adding of contingents of allied sol­diers once your basic opposition forces have been completed. In almost any period of military war­fare the major forces fighting each other somehow managed to lure troops of other countries into the war on their side. The addition of these soldiers into the war game army often adds color and interesting aspects of combat values.

These “auxiliary” troops did not often have their heart in the cause, but in fact they were there in these wars, and the wargamer can take advantage of this fact, and by adding them to his basic armies can make his miniature battles more interesting.

The best example of this is the Napoleonic Wars where the smaller countries changed sides many times. One can add to the British Army battalions of Hannoverians, Kings German Legion, Spanish and Portuguese soldiers to name a few. The French at various times had Saxons, Bavarians, Swedes and soldiers from the small German States.

These contingents usually wore a different uniform than did their major ally, and as a consequence often these become the war game players favorite -­whether in historic fact they were good fighting men or not!

The French, in particular, seemed to attract foreign regiments-perhaps the pay was better! The addition of a Swiss Battalion in their red coats into your Fr­ench army will be noticeable in any war game action. And another nice group, which will add color – if not fighting ability, are the Foreign Regiments that were in French service. A brigade of these in their green uniforms will certainly stand out, and who knows, they may turn out to be good fighters.

In any case, these Foreign Regiments are intriguing and it has taken some time to gather together all the information that follows concerning them. Here’s hoping you will find this useful in adding some of these troops into your armies.

The Foreign Regiments in Napoleon’s army were us­ed in less important war areas in order to free French regiments for use on major fronts. Four of these regiments were those which became the 1st through 4th Etranger (Foreign) in 1811.

The 1st Etranger was formed at Ysenburg on Sep­tember 30, 1805 as the Regiment of La Tour D’Au­vergne. It contained Germans, Hungarians, Belgians, Swiss, Poles, Swedes and Russians.

The Regiment had 3 battalions (organized in the French system) which were sent to Naples in 1806. A 4th battalion of Austrian prisoners was raised at Belfort in 1809. It served in Catalonia against the Spanish until 1811 when it joined the rest of the battalion in Naples. A 5th and 6th battalions of Sp­anish prisoners were formed in 1810 and sent to Naples. In 1812 and 1813 the regiment was garris­oned in Northern Italy.

In June, 1813 all the Grenadier and Voltigeur com­panies were combined into two elite battalions. They served with the 7th Italian Division against the Aus­trians. The Fusilier companies remained on garrison duty. In 1814 the remnant of the regiment retired into Southern France.

The 2nd Etranger or Regiment d’Ysenburg, was for­med at Ma’inz on November 1, 1805. It also had a varied make up of troops. Its 3 battalions seem to have spent all their time in Naples.

The 3rd Etranger had been formed August 31, 1803 as the Irish Legion of one battalion (August, 1968, Miniature Parade). By 1810 it had gained 4 more battalions. The first 2 battalions were mainly Irish; the rest had many nationalities, even English deserters!

The Regiment fought in many battles in Spain from 1808-12. In 1813 the last two surviving battalions fought in Germany.

The 4th Etranger was organized at Leipzig on Nov­ember 13, 1806, as the Regiment de Prusse. It had Prussians, Russians, Swedes and Danes in its ranks.

One battalion, the 1st, fought in Spain, the other two fought against the British invasion of Holland in 1809.

The Etranger regiments wore French Legere style uniforms with short tailed coat and gaiters reaching below the knee. For full dress they wore gaiters styled like hussar boots, with the tops edged with colored cords.

The Grenadier companies wore black bearskins with plumes and cords. (In campaign dress, as in Plate 3 the Grenadiers removed the cords and plume). They also had red epaulettes. After 1808 they switched to black shakos with red cords and plumes.

The Voltigeurs had shakos with yellow cords, a green plume with the top third yellow, green epaulettes with yellow crescents on top and yellow cords on their dress gaiters.

Fusiliers seemed to vary- greatly in uniform. I n the 1st Etranger (Tour d’Auvergne) they have white cord arid green plume on the shako, and white epaulettes.

In the 2nd (d’Ysenburg) they have green cords and a black plume with sky blue shoulder boards, edged yellow, and red boot cords.

In the 3rd (Irish) they have a green tuft, white cords and green epaulettes with red crescents.

In the 4th (Regiment Prusse) they have white plume and cords, green shoulder straps with red edges.

All companies had black gaiters, shakos or bearskins, cartridge boxes and infantry sword scabbard. Knap­sacks were brown and coat rolls were gray. Cross­ belts were white.

The uniform of the 1st Etranger was medium green coat, pants, cuff, turn backs and lapels. Collar and cuff slash red, and facings trimmed white.

The 2nd Etranger had sky blue’ coat, pants, cuffs, lapels and turnbacks, with facings edged yellow. The collar and cuff slashes were yellow.

The 3rd Etranger uniform was medium green with light yellow collar, cuffs and turnbacks. The lapel .and cuff slashes were medium green with yellow edge.

The coat and pants of the 4th Etranger were medium green with red collars and cuff slash Cuffs, turn­backs and lapels were medium green with red edges.

Officers wore the regimental uniform with plumes in their company color, gold epaulettes, silver gorgets, and silver cords on shakos and hussar boots.

For your wargame regiments, you can use 20mm or 30mm HistoriFigs/Scruby French Voltigeur castings for all companies that have plumes or epaulettes (the 1st and 3rd). In 30mm the French Legere Carabin­eer castings can be used for the Grenadiers in the bearskin. In 20mm any Grenadier casting will do as they are dressed in the short tailed jacket. For Fusi­liers of the 2nd and 4th Etranger (with plumes and shoulder straps) the 30mm Saxon castings can be used. ‘In 20mm one could use Voltigeur castings and either paint over the epaulettes or file them off. If desir­ed, one could fill the shako dip of the Russian cast­ings with powdered iron, or could file down the hat level to represent the French shako.