Best/favourite Napoleonic infantry?

Chose 3 favourite/best Napoleonic infantries

  • French guard (old, middle, young)

    Votes: 22 47.8%
  • French line (including grenadiers)

    Votes: 7 15.2%
  • French light

    Votes: 3 6.5%
  • Prussian guard

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Prussian line (musketeers and grenadiers)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Prussian Landwehr

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Prussian Jäger

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Austrian grenadiers

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Austrian line

    Votes: 2 4.3%
  • Austrian Grenzer

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Austrian Jäger and Landwehr

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Russian Guard

    Votes: 2 4.3%
  • Russian line (grenadiers and musketeers)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Russian Jäger

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Russian militia

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • British line (including guard regiments)

    Votes: 7 15.2%
  • British light

    Votes: 2 4.3%
  • British rifles

    Votes: 12 26.1%
  • Highland regiments

    Votes: 4 8.7%
  • King's German Legion

    Votes: 3 6.5%
  • Hannoverian

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Dutch-Belgian infantry and militia

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Nassau

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Braunschweig (Leib, Jäger etc)

    Votes: 2 4.3%
  • Saxon

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Westphalian

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Würtemberg

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Bavarian

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Italian (pick one?)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Swedish

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Spanish (including guerilla)

    Votes: 2 4.3%
  • Illyrian

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Polish

    Votes: 5 10.9%
  • Danish

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Portugese

    Votes: 2 4.3%
  • Engineers/sappeurs (elaborate which army)

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • Other

    Votes: 2 4.3%

  • Total voters
    46

Shtajerc

Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
6,470
Lower Styria, Slovenia
#1
I blew it the first time as I was in a hurry and didn't manage to make a poll, so I kindly ask a moderator to please delete the other one on this link. I'm sorry for making you extra work and trouble. :think:
http://historum.com/war-military-history/97085-allover-best-favourite-napoleonic-infantry.html


Please, use up to 3 choices in the poll.

I'd like to see which Napoleonic infantry you guys will vote for (hopefully it hasn't been done yet). You can choose the one you think was best, either in the whole Napoleonic Wars period or in its branch, or the one you like best, even if just because of their uniforms or something. Please, feel free to elaborate your votes and even more, post some pictures of the respective infantry. I'm sure I forgot plenty, but nevertheless, the poll resctricts nothing, just tell us your choice. :)
 
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Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
13,786
Navan, Ireland
#2
Sorry was completely Anglocentric.

Voted
British line Infantry -- Wellingtons Redcoats of 1814 are often considered the best British infantry 'ever'.



An Elite formation and a key factor to Wellingtons success was British Light Infantry esp the Light Division.



An Elite within the light infantry were the Rifle Regiments

 

Poly

Ad Honorem
Apr 2011
6,692
Georgia, USA
#3
Sorry was completely Anglocentric.


British line Infantry -- Wellingtons Redcoats of 1814 are often considered the best British infantry 'ever'...


British infantry has, IMO, been the best in the world since the dawn of the original redcoats in the English Civil War

However the best British infantry would have to be the superb soldiers on the 1914 BEF

Undoubtedly the best field force Britain has ever committed
 
Feb 2014
1,863
Kingdom of the Netherlands
#4
British infantry has, IMO, been the best in the world since the dawn of the original redcoats in the English Civil War

However the best British infantry would have to be the superb soldiers on the 1914 BEF

Undoubtedly the best field force Britain has ever committed
Especially during the Napoleonic wars, the French infantry outclassed its British counterparts.
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
13,786
Navan, Ireland
#7
Feb 2014
1,863
Kingdom of the Netherlands
#10
The main advantage the British had over their French counterparts was their perfect musketry (three shots a minute I believe) and the fact that they deployed only two lines deep which was often highly effective against the French columns (not Always). Other then that the French slightly outclassed the British infantry. Maybe to compare both armies at their peakes its best to compare French Regular Infantry of 1805 with British infantry in 1813.

I listed a small number of traits that come to mind when thinking on the qualities of both soldiers (disagree if you want of course).

British Infantry:

- Good musketry
- High morale
- Steadfast

French Infantry

- High morale
- Motivation (Esprit de Corps)
- Manoeuvre discipline
- Flexibel

Why I would rank French soldiers over British regulars soldiers is probably because French soldiers could probably be adopted in more diverse ways on the battlefield due to their better maneuvre discipline and flexibility. On the other hand the British were good at fighting defensive battles, but were more methodical when it came to offensive engagements. Again this is not an attack on a 'bias' towards British offensive victories. I do recognize Wellington's offensive victories but they dwarf in scale compared to some of the French offensive victories between 1792-1815, e.g. Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, Auerstedt, Friedland, Wagram, Dresden etc.

Now the fact that I emphasized the French traits, does not mean the British did not posess them either, but they do in a less extent and visa versa for the British traits.

The main reason for the British succeses in the peninsula lay not so much in superior British infantry (which was excellent and probably only slightly second to the French), but in the fact that Wellington applied reverse slope positions which were highly effective against the French columns. Nevertheless it was the flexibilty of the French infantry on the other hand that delivered Napoleon his long list of victories between 1796-1809 on other fronts.

Maybe its good to list some of Wellington's victories by putting them in perspective.

Battle victories with significant numerical advantages:

- Roilica (1808) 15,500 British and allies vs 4,350 French and allies
- Vimeiro (1808) 20,500 British and allies vs 14,000 French and allies
- Second Battle of Porto (1809) 18,400 British and allies vs 20,000 French and allies (only 11,000 engaged)
- Vitoria (1813) 79,000 British and allies vs 66,000 French and allies
- Nivelle (1813) 80,000 British and allies vs 60,000 French
- Orthez (1813) 44,000 British and allies vs 36,000 French


Battle victories at a high cost:

- Talavera (1809) 6,700 British and Spanish casualties vs 7,200 French casualties
- Fuentos de Onoro (1811) 1,800 British casualties vs 2,600 French
- Nive (1813) 5,000 British casualties vs 6,000 French

Then again there are more British victories then just the famous ones by Wellington, but I will have to dig deeper into my books for that :p.

French lists are often completely different pre-1812. Usually they either resulted in decisive victories or decisive defeats, with the former occuring more frequently. This alone makes both armies hard to compare. I personally find the victories of the Austerlitz campaign more impressive then the victories in Spain. There are few engagements between British and French soldiers that resulted in decisive victories on either side with Waterloo later being the exception. Both infantry were a clear match towards eachother.

Of the most notable Wellington battle victories (not sieges) I think only Salamanca and Bussaco really stands out for the British as being a large scale victories.

I am not trying to downgrade British soldiers or Wellington for that matter, so excuse me if I give that impression. What I will say though is that British victories in the peninsula were not as decisive as some of the battle fought under equally harsh circumstances on the rest of the continent. British troops and Wellington were both well rounded and could be relied on, that is without doubt. They were steady and were the best at musketry. Then again their officers corps was less encouraged to take initiatives , NCO's were less encouraged to think independently and the officer picking was still very much based on social standards and not meritocracy like we see in the French army.

Would the British soldiers have faired as well against the Austrians, the Prussians and the Russians the same way the French had done for over a decade? Hard to say. The qualities of both were rather differently and we also need to add the effects of cavalry and artillery as well of course in that case. Nonetheless although I regard British infantry to be well rounded, they have rarely matched the same feats their French counterparts inflicted. I wonder how British troops would have performed at the Berezina. Under such circumstances would they still have faired as well? British troops on the peninsula were often (again not always) well supplied, contrary to the French who were heavily demoralized by constant raids and lack of proper maintained supply routes. If it were the other way around with British soldiers being constantly herassed and bereaved would they still have been as steadfast and well disciplined? I am not talking abouts strategy here or the way generals aquired goods for their troops. I am talking about the average infantrist who had to face the consequences of the decision making by his superiors. What I mean to say is we have seen a French soldier act under excellent circumstances and abysmal ones. We have seen the British perform under excellent circumstances as well, but can you name such abysmall circumstances like the French faced at Eylau or the Berezina? We have seen the French perform under the most horrible circumstances imaginable and I will admit that the French performed appaling during most of that retreat in Russia in 1812. They lost all sense of discipline and good order. Then again under such circumstances its hard to imagine otherwise. Nevertheless most did not falter in battle and in fact surprised the Russian time and again. The French experience in Spain was quite different from the British experience. The French were the ones that were hated and despised by the majority of the local populous. They were under constant attacks of guerrila's. The British were on the other side of that spectrum. That's why I try to emphasize again to make this comparison based on when both armies performed at their best. I hope you'd agree.

Maybe on a sidenote, we must not forget that both armies were not homogenously. L'Armée d'Espagne had many different nationalities (Dutch, Swiss, German, Polish etc) and the army of Wellington was often aided by Portuguese and Spanish troops. This makes it even harder to compare especially for the French since these troops were heavily integrated into the army.
 
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