French infantry uniforms & facings

Infantry Weapons
Bonaparte's Army

Infantry Formations
Uniform Distinctions

French infantry uniforms underwent many changes during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, moving from the white coats of the Royal Army to the dark blue coats of the revolutionary forces.

Early on there was much resentment between the older regular troops (les blancs) and the newer units (les bleus), so in 1793 the official uniform was decreed to be blue.

However, shortages meant that many units did not change from their white coats for some time. In 1806 some units were changed back into white as part of an army transformation, but few remained in the former royal colour for long.

They were difficult to keep clean on campaign and it is said the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte himself ordered the return to blue after seeing the white uniforms showing too much blood at the slaughterhouse that was Eylau.

White breeches with black knee-length gaiters (occasionally white in summer) were regulation, although the revolutionary armies often used civilian red, white and blue striped trousers on campaign.

Soldiers wore bicorne hats up until 1806, when stronger felt shakos were introduced.

Line troops generally had red pom-poms and cuffs, with cloth shoulder straps; voltigeurs yellow collars with epaulettes combining yellow, green and sometimes the addition of red. Grenadiers had red shako plumes, epaulettes and turnbacks.

Greatcoats were grey or a bluey-grey.

In 1811, orders were made for uniforms that distinguished each fusileer company of a battalion.

The first company would have dark-green pom-poms, the second sky-blue, the third an orange-pink and the fourth violet.

Plumes were only to be used by senior officers. A colonel had white, a major red-topped white and a chef de bataillon had red. More junior officers and non-commissioned officers were to have white pom-poms, with those in voltigeur companies wearing yellow and grenadiers red.





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