We portray the 2è régiment d'infanterie légère (2nd Light Infantry Regiment), a French infantry regiment that fought in the armies of Napoleon throughout the Napoleonic Wars. Whilst we portray many different battles our goal is to recreate the 2ème Legere when they were serving Spain in 1811, at the height of Napoleon's power in Europe.
Light Infantry So what were light infantry? During this period the normal formation adopted by infantry units was the line. This would consist of men lined up either two or three ranks deep, and 150-250 men across. Muskets of the period were only accurate to about 100 yards under good conditions and could only manage a 2-3 rounds per minute. So a line was designed to enable these relatively inaccurate weapons to be fired en masse therefore increasing the chance of hitting the enemy line. However, this formation had some weaknesses, it was difficult to move great distance as the line would have to be stopped every 100 yards to make the line straight again and it was difficult to move a line through wooded terrain or ground with obstacles.
During the 18th century light infantry tactics started to be used. These would soldiers were trained to fight in far more open formations, using cover and would go ahead of their own line to break down the cohesion of the enemy line. Often these soldiers would work in pairs as skirmishers, ensuring that one of the two would always have a loaded weapon. Light infantry became an important part of all European armies by the time of the Napoleonic Wars, these troops were often better trained and better motivated then their comrades in the line regiments.
French Light Infantry go into the attack
Uniforms of the 2ème Legere Each light infantry regiment consisted of four battalions de guerre, or field battalions, each having an establishment strength of around 850 men. However, these numbers were seldom reached due to losses through death, disease, desertion and the simple lack of replacements, so most battalions numbered around 600 men. There would also be a fifth depot battalion stationed a the regimental depot in France that would manage the training and equiping of new recruits before they were sent to join the field battalions.
Each of the field battalions was divided into six companies. Four regular companies, a heavy company and a light company. When our members start collecting their own equipment they are free to pick whichever type they choose .
Chasseurs The four regular companies who made up the backbone of the Legere were the chasseurs. They were well-trained infantry and could adapt to fight in both line and light roles on the battlefield. New recruits would be allocated to one of the four companies and put under charge of a corporal who would instruct them in military life on campaign.
The 2eme Legere attack the bridge!
Skirmishing in the woods
Carabiniers In each light infantry battalion there was one carabinier company. They are the heavy element of light infantry unit They were made up of the most experienced soldiers of any light infantry battalion and chosen for their size and bravery. The carabinier company would generally be expected to take the lead in most actions and act as an anchor for the rest of the battalion or their assault unit. Quite frequently carabinier companies from different regiments would be detached to form a composite battalion of aggressive light infantrymen sporting bearskins. They are clearly distinguished by their tall bearskins and red grenades adorning their uniforms.
A carabinier reloading mid-skirmish
Voltigeurs The other elite company of the Legere battalions were the voltigeurs and were the light element of the light infantry. These super-light infantrymen were like the carabiniers selected for their experience and bravery. However, whereas the carbiniers were selected for size and strength the voltigeurs were selected for their marksmanship, initiative and intelligence. Whilst all the Legere were trained as skirmishers, the Legere voltigeurs were the elite within this elite. They are also sported some of the most gaudy uniforms on the battlefield.