Italian Line Infantry of the Napoleonic Wars, 1807–1814
1:72 Scale Units for Wargames and Dioramas
The figures pictured here are from the 1st Infantry Regiment, Kingdom of Italy ca. 1812. The fusiliers are Italeri figures, painted straight from the box, without conversion. The line grenadier is an ESCI French Old Guard grenadier with his breeches painted over, to resemble the long gaiters worn by the other figures. Voltigeurs may be converted by mounting a line fusilier shakos on guard grenadier figures.
- French Fusiliers, 1:72 Italeri 6002
- French Fusiliers, 1:72 ESCI P-227
- Grenadiers à Pied, 1:72 ESCI P-214
- Grenadiers à Pied, 1:72 Revell 02570
Italian line infantry was originally organized on the French 1805–1807 pattern. Line battalions had nine companies, seven of fusiliers, and one each of grenadiers and voltigeurs. Company strength was set at 123 men each, but this was rarely achieved on campaign. Infantry regiments consisted of two line battalions plus one depot battalion of four fusilier companies. In 1808, Italian line infantry organisation changed to the French pattern of 1807. Company strength remained unchanged, but the line battalions now had only four companies of fusiliers, and one each of grenadiers and voltigeurs. Jim Getz and Scott Bowden, authors of the popular Empire simulation game, rate Italian line infantry as veteran troops in the 1810–1812 period, with line grenadiers and voltigeurs one level above the fusiliers.
In 1806, Italian line infantry adopted the French uniform with pointed lapels, changing its uniform colour from green to white at the same time. Fusiliers continued to wear the bicorn until is was replaced by the French shako in 1807. Shako cords were white, but they were not worn in the field after 1810. Cockades were green-red-white, and French pompoms were worn to distinguish the fusilier companies. Equipment was of typical French pattern.
New flags similar to the 1804 French pattern were authorized to replace the old republican flags, but they don’t seem to have been issued until 1808. Accordingly, from 1805–1808, Italian line infantry may not have carried flags at all. The flags issued in 1808 had red and green corner triangles, and a white center. Two types existed, one with Italian, and the other with standard French devices like those issued to Italian guard infantry stationed in France at the time.
Italian fusiliers may be recruited by painting Italeri French fusilier figures (№ 6002) in the correct colours. The new 1812 pattern French uniform (habit-veste) was not introduced in the Italian army until 1813, and then only in small numbers. Italian troops marched into Russia in 1812 still wearing the older uniform and the long gaiters. In the course of the Russian campaign, the gaiters were made more comfortable by cutting them down to below the knee. They were worn above or below loose fitting trousers, then a popular fashion in most armies. It would be perfectly acceptable to employ the Italeri figures as Italian fusiliers in the period from 1807–1814. Italian fusiliers of 1806 may be created by mounting bicorne hats on these same figures. Another alternative would be to convert Revell’s French Old Guard figures to Italian line infantry in greatcoats.
Grenadiers were shock troops attached to the line infantry battalion. The grenadier company deployed on the right of the line, or on the right flank of an attack column. Grenadiers of several battalions in a brigade might be converged on occasion to form an elite battalion for an assault or strongpoint defence. If Italeri fusiliers are used to form a battalion, the most compatible grenadier types will be the ESCI French Old Guard grenadiers. These figures are obviously created by the same sculptor, and they mix very well.
Italian line grenadiers adopted the new white uniform of French cut with red epaulettes, and the bearskin bonnet in 1806. If Italeri fusiliers and ESCI grenadiers are mixed, one obvious inconsistency will be that the latter already wear the short gaiters underneath loose trousers. This mixture of styles would be acceptable in the Russian campaign of 1812. If used prior to 1812, the easiest conversion would be to paint long gaiters over the grenadiers’ trousers. The result looks very convincing, as can be seen in the picture above.
Voltigeurs were trained light infantry attached to the line battalion as skirmishers. Italian voltigeurs wore the same 1806 French uniform as the Italian grenadiers, but with green epaulettes, and a fusilier shako instead of the bearskin bonnet. The conversion is very easy: Select the required grenadier pose, cut the grenadier’s head off above the collar, insert 0.3 mm piano wire into the figure’s neck, and mount a similarly cut fusilier shako on the figure. The seam between the head and the figure may be disguised with PVA glue. The voltigeurs are probably the first figures to adopt the more comfortable short gaiters. For a more uniform look, paint long gaiters over the trousers as before.
Italian Line Infantry Regimental Distinctions, 1806–1815
|1st||green; piped white||red; piped white||red; piped white||green; piped white||red; piped white||brass|
|2nd||white; piped red||red; piped white||white; piped red||red; piped white||white; piped red||brass|
|3rd||red; piped white||red; piped white||red; piped white||red; piped white||red; piped white||brass|
|4th||red; piped white||white; piped green||white; piped green||green; piped white||white; piped green||tin|
|5th||red; piped white||green; piped white||green; piped white||red; piped white||white; piped green||tin|
|6th||white; piped green||green; piped white||white; piped green||green; piped white||white; piped green||brass|
|7th||green; piped white||white; piped green||red; piped white||n.a.||white; piped green||tin|
|Fusiliers wore shakos with brass plates, white cords
(until 1810), green-red-white cockades, and French company pompoms (1st green,
2nd sky-blue, 3rd orange, 4th violet).
Grenadiers wore bearskin bonnets with brass plates, red plumes, and white cords (until 1810). Line infantry uniform with red epaulettes, and white sabre straps.
Voltigeurs wore shakos with brass plates, green plumes tipped yellow, and green cords. Line infantry uniform with green epaulettes with yellow crescent, and green sabre straps.
Drummers had uniforms with swallow’s nests in the facing colour, edged with green-white-red lace which was also worn on cuffs and collars.
Officers wore the same uniform as the men in their company, with silver epaulettes.
- 1806 – Prussia (1st Line Infantry, Pietro Teulie’s Division)
- 1807 – Prussia (1st and 4th Line Infantry)
- 1808 – Spain (4th – 8th Line Infantry)
- 1809 – Spain (4th – 8th Line Infantry)
- 1809 – Austria (1st – 4th, and 7th Line Infantry)
- 1810 – Spain (4th – 8th Line Infantry)
- 1811 – Spain (4th – 8th Line Infantry)
- 1812 – Spain (4th – 8th Line Infantry)
- 1812 – Russia (2nd and 3rd Line Infantry, 4 Battalions each, IVth Corps)
- 1813 – Germany (1st, and 4th – 7th Line Infantry, IVth Corps)
- 1813 – Defence of Italy against Austria
- 1814 – Defence of Italy against Austria, until Napoleon’s abdication
- 2 May 1815 – Battle of Tolentino
The army of the Kingdom of Italy served in most of the important campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars, even if it was a relatively small contingent. Many more Italians served in the 30 French infantry and 16 cavalry regiments which were assigned recruiting districts in Italy. Wargamers and collectors will find the Italian army very attractive, because it includes a nice variety of Napoleonic troops types, and it is not too large to complete in a lifetime. Most historic campaigns require fewer than five line infantry regiments, of which the 4th Infantry Regiment is the most actively involved unit.