French Napoleonic Hussars, 1804–1813
Italeri 1:72 Scale Figure Review
Hussars were the most flamboyant troop type of the 18th and early 19th Century. Their richly braided dolmans and fur-edged pelisses came in a variety of distinctive colours and facings. European armies modelled their hussar formations on the famous Hungarian hussars serving the Habsburg Empire, light cavalry mounted on small and sturdy horses, capable of scouting behind enemy lines, raiding and cutting supply lines.
In the first half of the 18th Century, irregular hussar formations received little or no pay for their services, they were encourage to loot and pillage, sharing the booty among officers and men. Deserters and men in trouble with the law were welcome to join the hussars, no questions asked. The regiment would protect these recruits from the authorities, expecting absolute loyalty in return. These mounted bandits brought a certain criminal expertise to the regiment which could be very useful at times.
Many of the early hussar formation were of little value in battle. Discipline was lax and officers needed to formally consult with their men before an attack could be launched. If the enemy resisted, these irregulars were likely to withdraw rather than risk casualties. Austrian Empress Maria Theresia had a number of excellent Hungarian hussar regiments in her army, they routinely out-scouted their Prussian counterparts and cut enemy supply lines on a number of occasions.
Frederick the Great realized that he needed to improve the Prussian light cavalry if they were to protect his army during the coming campaigns. He also wanted to use the hussars in battle, if necessary. Accordingly, numerous regular hussar units were raised, and they drew their replacements from dragoon and cuirassier regiments. Hussar officers participated in regular exchange and training programs with the dragoons, learning to employ their men in close order formations and charges with the sabre in hand. Generals like Kleist and Zieten started their careers in the dragoons and cuirassiers before they joined hussar regiments and rose to fame. That promotion in the hussars was based on ability more often than on seniority and noble birth had a positive impact on unit quality. Capable commoners joined up and rose to leadership positions which would not normally have been available to them.
When Napoléon Bonaparte became Emperor of France on 18th May 1804 his army included 10 hussar regiments. The 11th (Dutch) regiment joined in 1810 when the Dutch provinces were annexed. That same year, several squadrons of the 9th regiment were used as cadres to form a new 12th regiment in Spain. In 1813, following the disastrous campaign in Russia, a 13th regiment was recruited in Rome and Firence, it was amalgamated with the 14th (Croatian) regiment later that year.
The Italeri figures are shown in typical hussar uniform, which remained virtually unchanged between 1790 and 1815. What dates these miniatures is the conical shako which was worn from 1804 until 1813. In the period before 1804, mirliton hats were worn. In 1812 a cylindrical shako was introduced in the 6th and 8th hussar regiments, which became a standard item for all hussars units in 1813–1814.
17 riders in 9 poses – 24 mm equal 173 cm Height
- Officer in Full Dress
- Trumpeter in Campaign Dress
- 15 Hussars:
- 6 in Full Dress
- 5 wearing Dolman
- 4 wearing Pelisse
18 horses in 5 poses – 22 mm equal 15.2 Hands
Excellent detail. Fur edging, buttons, braid, Hungarian lace, belts, buckles, metal fittings, sabre hilts, stirrups, horse furniture and many other items are clearly visible.
Riders fit onto their horses very well and they have their legs pressing into the flanks of the mount.
Beautiful horses, correctly proportioned, saddled and harnessed.
Useful historic poses. The figures may be deployed in attacking units, wearing parade or campaign dress.
The officer and six men are in parade dress, wearing Hungarian breeches. The trumpeter and nine men are in campaign dress, wearing overalls, some without pelisse and others with pelisse worn over the dolman. The variety of dress is acceptable, considering that dress codes were taken less seriously in the hussars. However, the expensive Hungarian breeches were not worn in the field, except by officer who could afford this luxury.
Riders are shown wearing four different styles of shako plates. A nice touch, allowing the collector to portray changes in uniform styles over time. Despite this variety in head-dress, the cylindrical shako has been omitted, an unfortunate oversight.
All figures are equipped with the elaborately embroidered and very expensive full dress sabretasche which was replaced by a black leather version with regimental number on campaign.
Interesting historical topic. These multi-purpose figures make hussars of many nations and early French Chasseurs á Cheval in hussar-style uniforms. The horses with sheepskin shabraques are suitable light cavalry mounts for hussars, chasseurs and lancers.
Good casting quality, although there is some flash on shakos and sword arms.
Four of the five horse poses are somewhat exaggerated, two of the animals seem to want to rear with three legs still off the ground. Two other horses are ambling at full gallop, an impossible combination. The fifth pose is nearly correct, with the animal at full gallop and about to place one front hoof on the ground, but with front legs spread much too far apart. Displayed in formation, these horses do look very nice and the incorrect gaits are much less noticeable. Italeri is well advised to address these obvious motor coordination problems in future releases.
Eaglebearer not included. One of the figure poses is suitable for conversion, simply by removing the carbine from the right hand and replacing it with a flagpole made from 0.6 mm pianowire. The eagle may be taken from Italeri’s French fusiliers. Squadron standards measure 9 × 9 mm square, or 9 × 10 mm swallow-tailed. Regiments carried one eagle and several squadron colours.
Standing and walking horses not included. Hussar vedettes, patrols and escorts usually executed their mounted duties at a walk or halted and observing. Troopers often dismounted and led their horses across difficult terrain, they wrapped the hoofs with rags to reduce noise and facilitate infiltration. Skirmishers fired from horseback, halting the horse to improve their aim. Alternatively, some men might dismount and steady their carbines by firing them across the ridge of the saddle.
Officer’s mount not included. Sheepskin shabraques were used by the men, officer’s received cloth shabraques in the colour of the dolman and laced in the button colour. Alternatively, pantherskin shabraques were used, with the head of the stuffed animal placed directly behind the saddle. Revell’s Chasseurs á Cheval figure set includes such a horse and it may be used for the hussars as well. Otherwise, it may be assumed that the officer has lost his horse in battle and temporarily acquired a new mount from a trooper in his unit.
Seven of the nine troopers in campaign dress do not carry a carbine, even though this was a standard issue weapon.
Elite Company hussars are not included. French hussar regiments consisted of four squadrons of two companies each. The 1st company of the 1st squadron was the Elite Company, and its troopers were distinguished by curved sabres and fur colpaks. In later years, elite shakos were introduced which had red trim and chevrons, red plumes and cords. One of the Italeri hussars is wearing a shako with cords attached and he may be painted as an elite trooper even though his sabre is not curved correctly.
Incorrect painting instruction on the box. The coloured edging on the shabraques should be red (light blue for the 5th regiment). Cloak rolls behind the saddle should be edged in button colour, white in this case. Regimental numbers were attached to the side of the cloak roll, using lace in the button colour. The officer’s collar is correct, sky blue with white edging, but the troopers are shown with incorrect red edging. The trumpeter should be in reversed colours, red dolman with blue facings, usually mounted on a grey horse with black sheepskin shabraque. Unfortunately, he actual model of the trumpeter is wearing the pelisse over the dolman so that the reversed colours will not be visible.
Uniform confusion on the box. The troopers are shown in the 1808 chasseur á cheval uniform, without braiding on the chest and with long turnbacks. Only the officer is correctly dressed as a hussar. Might this be an indication that Italeri plans to release chasseurs á cheval of the line as well? They would be a welcome addition to the growing range of Napoleonic troop types, particularly because these line cavalry troopers wore a standard uniform which would lend itself to many interesting conversion.
- French Hussars 1804–1813
|1e||sky blue||sky blue||red||sky blue||white||sky blue|
|2e||brown||brown||sky blue||brown||white||sky blue|
|5e||sky blue||sky blue||white||white||yellow||sky blue|
|9e||red||light blue||light blue||light blue||yellow||light blue|
|10e||sky blue||red||red||sky blue||white||sky blue|
|12e||red||light blue||light blue||light blue||white||light blue|
|13e||brown||light blue||sky blue||brown||white||sky blue|
|14e||sky blue||chamois||chamois||sky blue||white||iron grey|
|Buttons in the colour of the braiding, except for the 3rd regiment which had white buttons. Black fur edging on the pelisse (white for the 11th regiment). Red barrel sashes with knots in the braiding colour, except for the 3rd (red/white), 8th (red/green) and 11th regiment (red/white with a vertical blue stripe). Pompom on the shako in squadron colours: 1st squadron red, 2nd sky-blue, 3rd orange and 4th violet. Trumpeters wore the dolman in reversed colours (hidden underneath the pelisse in this model), and they rode grey horses with black sheepskin shabraques. The 5th (light blue) 6th, 8th and 13th regiment (red) had coloured shakos with black trim, later replaced by coloured cylindrical shakos without trim. Bags of the colpak were red (1st, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th regiment), sky-blue (2nd, 5th, 9th, 12th and 13th regiment) or white (3rd regiment).|
- French Honor Guards 1813–1814
- Westfalian Hussars 1807–1813
- 8th (Belgian) Hussars 1814–1815
- French Hussars 1790–1804 (Mirliton hats from Revell’s Prussian Hussars)
- Swiss Republik: Hussars 1798–1800 (Mirlitons)
- French 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th and 27th Chasseurs á Cheval 1805–1814. These units wore a hussar-style uniform without the pelisse, and without sabretasche after 1805. The uniform á la hussarde should have been replaced by the surtout, but some regiments held on to it for a long time, the 27th Chasseurs until 1814.
|27e||green||green||madder red||green||madder red|
|Trumpeters wore reversed colours, they rode grey horses with black sheepskin shabraques. White edging on collars and cuffs, braiding and buttons for all regiments. Pompoms in squadron colours: 1st squadron red, 2nd sky-blue, 3rd orange and 4th violet.|
- Nassau mounted Jägers 1804–1810 (Bavarian Raupenhelm with green plume)
- Baden Hussars 1806–1812 (horses with cloth shabraques from Revell’s Chasseurs)
- 6th (Dutch) Hussars 1814–1815 (cloth shabraques as above)
- Bavarian Hussars 1815 (cloth shabraques as above)
Following the French Carabiniers, Hungarian grenadiers, and Russian Pavlovski Grenadiers, Italeri has added another interesting topic to its growing line of Napoleonic troops. French hussars are among the most interesting and colourful troops of this era and they are an important part of any miniature collection. Italeri deserves much praise for their innovative product line. Wargamers and collectors will require many boxes of these lovely figures, virtually ensuring market success for the manufacturer.
- Knötel-Sieg: Handbuch der Uniformkunde, pp. 171–174
- Funcken, L. & F.: L’Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats du Premier Empire, pp. 64-69
- Haythornthwaite, Philip: Uniforms of 1812, Plate 8
- Allevi, Piersergio: Zinnsoldaten, p. 21, 134, 153