Saxon Light infantry –
I completed the research for the Saxon light infantry a couple of years ago. At the time, there seemed to be general agreement as to their uniforms and equipment. It was only when I did the final research for the Jaegers that I came across Jorg Titze’s booklet on the Saxon light infantry and Jaegers. This booklet was definitely not in agreement with the accepted image we have of the light infantry. I had to stop working on the figures and turn to something else (the foot artillery figures). It has taken me a while to get my head round the conflicting information and to try to build a new picture of this part of the Saxon army.
The main problem with Titze’s booklet is that it is only available in German. Since I do not speak or read German I had to seek Peter Bunde’s help with translation. I would like to thank Peter for his help once again. Large sections of it I have translated myself using Google translate but please be aware that I may have missed some of the subtleties of the text and therefore vital information.
In the Titze booklet there is an image of a painting by Friedrich Leopold von Schubauer of the headquarters of the first light infantry regiment at the Battle of Podobna during the Russian campaign. I believe that von Schubauer actually served in the light infantry during the Napoleonic Wars so this picture should be accurate. The painting itself seems to have been lost during the Second World War so these images are all we have left of it. You can view the picture on Deutsche Fotothek by searching for Podobna. I will refer to this painting frequently in these notes.
The Light infantry uniforms –
The Saxon light infantry wore a bottle green jacket in what is described as the “Russian” style. It was very similar to that worn by both the Russians and Prussians. It was a double-breasted jacket with no lapels. It was piped in red along the edge of the opening on the chest, and along the bottom of the jacket all the way to the green turn-backs that were also piped in red. The collars and cuffs were black piped in red. The shoulder straps were green piped in red. There seems to be no agreement as to whether there were red bugle horns on the turnbacks. Peter Bunde thinks there were, Titze mentions them but does not show them in his illustrations and some of the big guns such as Knotel and Olms do not show them. The von Schubauer picture is not useful in this instance as the officer’s turnbacks cannot be made out clearly. The clincher for me is the pair of Olms plates on the light infantry where he shows the horns on the jaeger’s turnbacks but not on the light infantry. I have not sculpted the horns on these figures as my feeling is that there were none on the light infantry turnbacks. If you want them you can always paint them on.
The breeches were grey with red arrow shaped piping on the front on either side of the trouser flap. There were also lines of piping along the outside seams of the breeches. They were worn tucked into short black gaiters. On campaign the breeches were covered or replaced with white or grey overalls, worn over the gaiters. Titze quotes regulations in 1810 stating that the white gaiters should only be worn with the white overalls.
A piece of interesting information in the Titze booklet is that the NCO’s were allowed to wear special trousers or overalls with broad black stripes down the side of each leg but with no piping apparent on the front flap.
The shako was the usual Saxon headdress with the Saxon shield and crown on the front in yellow metal, surmounted by the white cockade. The infantrymen’s shako had a tall green plume at the front. Titze shows the hornists with a red plume; drummers also with a red plume but with a black lower portion; NCO’s with a green plume but black upper portion. The light infantry also had green cords on the shako for ceremonial occasions. On campaign the shako was stripped of all ornaments and covered with a black waterproof cover or the calfskin cover. It is at this point that opinions vary as to what replaced the plume on the shako. Most sources opt for a green pompon with a red tuft. Other sources show the green and red tufted pompon but also some men wearing pompons in reverse colours – a red pompon with a green tuft. In some illustrations (Olms) soldiers wear both types of pompons in the same image. Titze is the joker in the pack. He starts off by mentioning that the dress regulations in 1810 stated that each company should have it’s own coloured pompon – white, red yellow and blue. The colours were repeated for the four companies of the second battalion but with white top and bottom sections. This information is supported in the text of Jurgen Olme’s plate on the light infantry. It seems that the regulations did indeed stipulate the coloured pompons but that they were never adopted. All sources agree (including Titze) that the tufted pompons were used from very early on.
Titze goes on to show the colour schemes for the pompons. He has the men wearing green tufted pompons, with both sections in green. He shows different pompons for the junior NCOs – green with a yellow tuft. The senior NCOs have a green pompon as well but with a gold bullion tuft. The bullion “tuft” was so heavy that it drooped down over the front of the spherical part of the pompon in a very particular way. What is really interesting about these pompons is that there is very strong evidence for their use by officers when on campaign. The photo of the painting by von Schubauer shows the officers, both on foot and mounted with stripped down shakos covered with the black waterproof covers. The plumes have been removed but all the officers, except one, have also removed the tulip and replaced it with the green pompon with the gold bullion tuft.
Titze goes on to show similar pompons, as described above, for the second regiment of light infantry but with a red line at the top of the spherical part of the pompon just below the “tuft.” It seems that, with the adoption of the tufted pompons, an effort was made to differentiate between both regiments of light infantry by this simple means. I have found no proof for it but an argument can be made that the green pompons with red tuft and the red pompons with the green tuft were simply a development of this attempt to differentiate between the two regiments. Perhaps the red line on the green pompon was too difficult to make out and it was decided to make the difference between the two regiments more discernable by having reversed colours on the pompons for the two regiments. Pure conjecture, I know, but most sources do show the tufted pompons in green with a red tuft or red with a green tuft and there is no other explanation for this. Perhaps the senior NCOs and officers of the second regiment had red pompons with the bullion tuft?
The light infantry had black leather belts. The black cartridge pouch had a yellow metal bugle badge on the flap. The sidearm was supposed to be the straight bladed faschinenmesser but shortages of supply meant that many men were initially issued with the pre 1810 sidearm which was a straight bladed sabre. After the Russian campaign, the rapid rebuilding of the Saxon army meant that there were shortages of sidearms once again. This time the shortages were made up with supplies of French sabres. There are images of light infantrymen wearing a disconcerting array of sidearms. I found this very confusing but information from Peter Bunde and from the Jorge Titze booklet has given me the workable answer I have just discussed. The figures have been designed wearing both the faschinenmesser and the French sabre as issued in 1813 thus keeping faith with the available evidence. The scabbards of the fashinenmesser and the straight bladed sabre were made of red leather. The French sabre scabbard was black. The muskets had red leather musket slings. The leather straps on the calfskin packs seems to have been black. Most sources (Knotel for example) show the straps of the metal water bottles in white leather.
Sword knots are mentioned in the regulations but no image shows them. Titze has one picture of an NCO’s sabre with a silver and crimson knot so it may be that NCO’s, like the officers, did use them.
The greatcoat was grey with black patches piped in red on either side of the collar. Both single and double-breasted versions are seen in illustrations.
The NCO’s had the same distinctions as in the musketeers – French type rank chevrons on the left sleeve only in red or gold depending on seniority. They also had gold ribbon on the top of the shako (two rows for Feldwebels) and the smaller, NCOs cartridge case, with the royal monogram on the flap in yellow metal.
The hornists and drummers did not have swallows nests in the light infantry. They had French style epaulettes instead. These were green with red crescents. The horn was of the French type and not the German U-shape one. The bugle cords were green with red stripes. The drum hoops were black. The pioneer had the usual red leather apron and red crossed axes on the left sleeve. Like the musketeer pioneers he had either a beard or a full handlebar moustache, I have been unable to find out which!
Officers also wore a bottle green jacket in the “Russian” style but made of finer material and with longer tails. They wore rank epaulettes in gold in the French style. Collars and cuffs were black with red piping. The turnbacks were green with red piping. There was red piping on the chest and along the bottom of the jacket all the way to the turnbacks. Officers were supposed to wear a gold gorget when on duty but these were often packed away when on campaign. Dress trousers were green breeches with gold embroidery on the front and a line of gold piping down the side. These were tucked into black Hungarian riding boots with gold piping on the top and gold knots on the front. The shako had a row of the Saxon officer’s lace in gold along the top and the Royal monogram on the front also in yellow metal. The “tulip” and chinscales were in yellow metal but the shako cords were in silver. The tall plume is shown in most sources in green - Titze gives it a black bottom. Officers carried sabres in the light infantry in black scabbards with yellow metal fittings.
It is the campaign uniform of the light infantry officers that gave me the biggest thrill when doing the research. In this case we have the von Schubauer photos to refer to and we can see how the officers really dressed on campaign. They have all replaced their dress jackets with the Saxon equivalent of the French officer’s surtout. This jacket is much simpler than the dress jacket. It is also bottle green in colour with collars and cuffs in black piped in red but that is the extent of the decoration on the jackets. The turnbacks are plain green. There is no piping along the chest, and the rear pockets are simple horizontal flaps, none of the double pockets with piping as seen on the dress jacket. The breeches have been replaced with green or grey overalls, some with decorative stripes down the sides of the legs. All have stripped and covered their shakos. Only one has kept the “tulip” all the others have removed this and replaced it with the pompon with the gold bullion tuft as already discussed. Since this is a picture of the headquarters of the regiment, most officers seem to have decorated the covered shakos with some sort of drooping cords. Close examination brought the realisation that infact they are the shako chinscales looped up onto the shako from lower left to upper right to keep them off the face. Since these officers were not directly involved in the action and the chinscales must have been uncomfortable to wear for prolonged periods, they have moved them out of the way. They have all tidied them away in the same manner, so it must have been a Saxon or regimental fashion. The left chinscale is looped from the lower left of the shako to the upper right where the shako cords would have been attached. The right chinscale is then detached from its boss on the lower part of the shako and both ends are hooked up in a loop on the upper right of the shako where the end of the left chinscale has already been attached. The effect is one of stubby shako cords. Officers in action would have put their chinscales down as they could not afford to lose their shakos.
Most of the officers are still wearing their gorgets and the foot officers have rolled greatcoats as well. The mounted officers have shabraques with pointed ends like the Saxon light cavalry but only the commanding officer’s very ornate shabraque can be made out clearly. There is a lot of discussion about the light infantry mounted officer’s shabraques. I have discussed this with Peter Bunde and he freely admits that there is no solid evidence for their design. He had to commit to one design when he did the light infantry plate and opted for the one he liked best. Taking an educated guess is something we all do in the business when there is no answer. My educated guess, taking account of the commanding officer’s shabraque in the Schubauer painting, is that Jurgen Donner is probably closer to the right answer than Peter Bunde on this occasion. He shows a mounted officer on a green pointed shabraque with a broad line of gold lace along it’s edge and the rank marking chevrons at the point of the shabraque as seen on many other Saxon saddlecloths. Titze opts for Peter Bunde’s Chevauleger type saddlecloth but presents no new evidence for his choice (although this is one of the things I may have missed in translation). He explains away the Von Schubauer painting by saying that this shabraque is not regulation!
Finally: the hairy question of moustaches in the light infantry. If you have found an image of the von Schubauer picture, you will see that all the light infantry officers are sporting moustaches. This would seem to indicate that the light infantry had moustaches. However, many pictures of the light infantry show them clean-shaven. Titze’s comment on this is that it was evidently allowed on campaign as the picture clearly shows this. The corollary though is that it was not the norm.