Saxon Foot artillery.

 I would like to start this information sheet by correcting some of the information I gave you in the previous sheet on the Saxon artillery.  I have now had a chance to visit the Saxon 12 pdr. gun on display in the Danish army museum in Copenhagen and have to revise my notes.

The gun is displayed on the ground floor of what was the main arsenal for Copenhagen. It stands in a long hall with vaulted ceilings. Although the lighting is good, the size of the hall, the height of the ceiling and the lack of natural light, makes it difficult to accurately discern the colours on the gun. As you approached it, there is no perceptible difference in colour between the gun barrel and the metal work on the carriage. It is easy to understand why others have reported that the metal work on the Saxon 1810 guns was made of bronze. Even when standing beside the gun, the difference between the bronze of the gun barrel and the colour of the metal work on the carriage is not obvious. Only by examining the gun closely, with the aid of the light on a phone, is it possible to see that the metal work on the gun is actually painted - not bronze. The paint has a metallic sheen, very similar to the metallic paint on modern cars. It also has the patina of age despite being in excellent condition. In several places the paint has been chipped and the underlying iron can be seen. In other places the paint has gone on the woodwork demonstrating that the metal work is painted and not made of bronze.

I have spoken to Stephen Summerfield about this finding and he informed me that he has also concluded that the evidence now points to the 1810 guns having painted iron metal work, not bronze.  

The other surprise the Copenhagen gun has in store is that the protective cover for the gun barrel’s elevating mechanism is not leather but an unpainted, curved iron sheet. The red-brown colour is oxidised iron not red leather.

When painting the guns, I recommend a very muted yellow ochre for the metal work on the guns. Possibly even a brown ochre and then highlight this with a touch of yellow ochre. A wash of brown ink may help to add the patina of dirt you’d expect on guns in action. Please do not paint the metal work a garish yellow colour, as this would not be accurate. Remember that the difference in colour between the gun barrel and the metalwork on the Copenhagen gun is hard to make out. The protective shield on the elevating mechanism for the gun barrel should be painted rust red/brown. Woodwork can be painted in black with a touch of brown.

A word of caution though: the gun in Copenhagen is often mentioned as an example of the 1810 Saxon guns, however the date stamped on one of the barrel trunnions is 1842.  This makes it a very late example of these guns and much may have changed in in the design of the carriage in particular between 1810 and 1842.

Another piece of new research I should mention concerns the number of guns in a Saxon battery. I have been consulting the OOBs for Saxon formations of this period in the Nafziger archive which is now available online. It seems to indicate that there was a shortage of guns at the introduction of the new system.  I knew that there had not been enough howitzers initially to equip all the new batteries. It is for this reason that the Granatstuck was kept in service with the horse artillery until enough howitzers were available to reequip them. What I did not realise was that the 6pdrs were in short supply as well. The Saxon batteries that went into Russia in 1812 were made up of four cannon and two howitzers - six guns in total.  In the reconstruction of the Saxon army after the Russian campaign, the number of guns in each battery was increased to eight. – six 6pdrs and two howitzers.


Uniforms of the Saxon Foot Artillery –

After 1810, Saxon foot artillery gunners wore a uniform in the French style very similar in cut to that worn by the Saxon musketeers.

They wore bottle green jackets (Vallejo Dark Green is best. highlight with Naples yellow) The jackets had red collars, cuffs and lapels. The turn-backs and shoulder straps were green piped in red. They also had red grenade patches on the turn-backs.   Buttons were in yellow metal.

Trousers were grey with red piping on the front in the shape of broad arrow heads. The red piping ran along the outside edge of the trouser flap. They also had red piping on the sides of the trouser legs. On campaign, they wore white overalls over, or instead, of the grey trousers. 

There were two types of short gaiters in black or white cloth. The men seem to have preferred the white ones on campaign. Researchers believe that they were more supple and easier to march in.

The shako was the usual French inspired Saxon shako with the royal shield and crown on the front in yellow metal. These were surmounted by the white Saxon cockade and a red plume.  Chinscales were in yellow metal. Red shako cords completed the shako ornamentation. On campaign, the shako was stripped of cords and plume and covered with a black waterproof cover or the calfskin shako cover unique to the Saxon military. The plume was replaced with a red pompon.

A distinctive feature of the Saxon artillery uniform was that all belting was in buff leather. Some sources refer to this as yellow or yellow ochre but contemporary sources always refer to them as buff in colour. It is the contrast between the buff leather and the green jacket, which makes the belts look yellow. Vallejo buff is the perfect colour for this.

The cartridge box was black with crossed cannon barrels in yellow metal decorating the front flap.  The sidearm was the straight-bladed faschinenmesser as supplied to the Saxon infantry. Most illustrations do not show the men wearing a bayonet scabbard, only the sword. A few plates show the foot artillery wearing sabres instead of the faschinenmesser. These illustrations may be correct as we know that shortages of supply in 1810 and then in 1813 were made up with issues of French equipment. The scabbard for the Saxon faschinenmesser was red leather. The French sabre had a black scabbard.

There is some debate concerning the forage cap worn by the foot artillery. Most sources opt for the usual forage cap as worn by the infantry. Others show the gunners wearing a cap similar in style to the Prussian reservist’s peaked cap.  The most important piece of evidence in favour of the peaked cap is the Schilling painting of the Saxon battery at Dennewitz. In the foreground of this picture, one of the gunners clearly wears a peaked cap. In the background a Hussar wears a similar cap. This painting is a model of correctness, it was obviously well researched, nevertheless, there is little other evidence to support the peaked cap. One explanation for this dilemma comes from the Titze booklets where he mentions the possibility of the forage cap having a folding visor. Another possibility is that the peaked cap was introduced in late 1813 after the Saxons had changed sides and Schilling simply got it wrong by a few months. Most researchers opt for the forage cap as worn by the infantry of this period and I have followed suit, there is simply not enough evidence for the peaked cap. If the forage caps were of the type worn by the infantry while allied with Napoleon, they would have been green with a red band and would have had red piping along the cap edge.

NCOs wore the same uniforms as the men but with French style rank distinctions in red for junior NCO’s and gold for senior. They also had a bar of gold lace along the top rim of the shako: two rows of lace for Sergeant Majors. Junior NCO’s were in charge of the gun teams – the gun captains. These were usually graduates of the artillery school and had two bars of gold lace on either side of the collar to show that they had attended the school. It is possible that the NCO pompons were black over red. The NCOs also had the smaller cartridge pouch issued to NCOs in the infantry with the royal monogram on the lid.

The officers had a very similar uniform to the men’s but with long tails to their coat. They were also made of finer material. One distinction of the officer’s coats was that their red jacket collars were piped in green. The lapels and cuffs were red. The turn-backs were green piped in red. The grenade badges on the turn-backs were gold. They wore the usual rank epaulettes in the French style in gold. They were supposed to wear the gorget when on duty but on campaign junior officers frequently removed these expensive items and placed them in storage. They would also fold back the lapels of the jacket to show the green lining so that only a flash of red lapel showed by the collar. Trousers were white and worn tucked into riding boots. On campaign, these were replaced by green or grey overalls worn over the boots. Officers carried straight swords. Scabbards were red leather trimmed with gold metal. Shakos were trimmed with the special officer’s lace in gold along the top and bore the royal monogram on the front and the white Saxon cockade above it. The “tulip” on the top of their shako was in yellow metal and had a tall red plume in it for ceremonial occasions. The shako cords were silver, and the chinscales were in yellow metal. The officer’s shakos also had a trim of gold metal running along the rim of the visor. On campaign the shako was stripped of all ornaments, with the exception of the tulip, and was covered in a waterproof cover.

We know what the mounted officer’s shabraque was like as we have a very good illustration of it. The Shabrques were red with a broad gold lace border. There were rank marking chevrons at the corners in gold.


Additional notes –

Titze reproduces a copy of the 1810 regulations for the gun drill in one of his booklets. It is evident from this that the new regulations changed the gun drill for the new guns from the Saxon model to the French one.  Before 1810 the Saxon guns were served from the right. After 1810 they were served along the left hand side. What this means is that the ammunition was passed along the left side of the gun (with the gun pointing at the enemy) with the loader standing on the left side and the rammer standing on the right.

The loader received the ammunition from another server who was the “runner.“ The runner picked up the ammunition from the ready box and brought it to the loader. The loader would then keep this ammunition in a leather ready-bag to protect it from stray sparks, which could ignite it. The 1810 regulations do not mention the ready-bag but suggest instead that the loader should undo the last four buttons of his lapels and stuff the round under his jacket to protect it. I cannot think that this was popular with the loaders. Pictures show them with ready bags in the French style so these must have been introduced once the guns were in regular use.

The server with the rammer had to swab out the gun after it was fired and then push down the round loaded into the muzzle of the gun by the loader. He would then wash out the sponge in the bucket, ready for the next swab of the gun. The bucket was kept by the right axle of the gun for this purpose. Occasionally, a piece of debris would get lodged in the gun barrel. The rammer or loader would then use a “worm” to pull out the debris. The worm looked like a large double corkscrew on a long pole. It is not specified as to who used the worm but as the loader and the rammer worked together, either could have used the worm. These two servers worked at the muzzle end of the gun.

At the vent end of the gun barrel, the vent man stood to the left of the gun and the firer on the right side. The vent man’s job was to put a finger over the vent hole while the barrel was being swabbed by the rammer. This lessened the risk of unexploded powder in the gun barrel igniting. He was equipped with a thumb stall to protect his thumb but most vent men wore the leather cover on their middle or fourth finger of their left hand as it was not uncommon for a blowback from the vent to take off a server’s finger.  The thumb was too important to lose. The ventman was also responsible for piercing the powder bag once it was in the gun barrel and then pushing a fuse into it. He was also equipped with a small “belly’ pouch containing the copper tube fuses. This pouch had a “pricker” attached to the front for perforating the powder bag.

The firer stood to the right of the vent. His job was to look after the portfires and to make sure that a lit slow match was available when the order to fire the gun was given. He would then fire the gun using his portfire. He was equipped with a portfire and a leather tube on a shoulder strap containing lengths of slow match.

The gun captain stood to the right of the gun behind the firer.  His job was to supervise the gunners so that the gun drill was carried out smoothly and at a good speed.  He was also responsible for aiming the gun with the help of another server who stood by the trail of the gun and moved the gun right or left using the trail spike.  If the gun was difficult to move the vent man could take a step back and help the trail spike man to move the gun. The 1810 regulations initially task the NCO with the puncturing of the powder bag and inserting the fuse but he was already the busiest man on the gun team and it is unlikely that he retained this task once the new guns were introduced. The task must have been passed, as was the case in the French gun drill, to the vent man (whose job otherwise was solely to cover the vent).

The servers I have referred to as the “Runners” are worth mentioning again. Each gun team had three, sometimes four of these. One stood by the ready box on the limber and selected the correct ammunition out of the box. The other two or three runners either supplied the rounds to the loader or replenished the ready box from the caisson when it was running low of ammunition. The “runners” would have had leather bags like the loader’s to protect the ammunition from flying sparks and embers.


Design notes –

You will see from the photos that all the figures are serving the guns in full equipment. There has been a fashion in recent years for designers to sculpt figures stripped down “for action.” This is incorrect, certainly for the Saxons and French.  Most images of French and Saxon gunners show them serving the guns in full kit: the French even have slung muskets.  Artillery may have been the queen of the battlefield but it was still on the front line. Cavalry or determined infantry could charge a battery down if it was not well protected. The battery needed to move with the rest of the battle line, at short notice and the gunners had no time to put on discarded equipment. Since a soldier’s pack was his lifeline on campaign, he would have been very reticent to part from it.

It was not easy researching the equipment worn, or carried, by these figures. Some equipment items like the rammer and the “worm” are illustrated in a Rouvroy drawing of the 1810 equipment.  Other items, such as the leather slow match holder, the design of the portfires, the fuse pouches and, most importantly, the ammunition bags for the loader and runners are not described anywhere. The 1810 regulations, while good to have, were plainly a work in progress prior to the introduction of the new system. Some parts of it are taken directly from the French gun drill. Others - such as the NCO doing part of the ventman’s job - are unworkable.  Some parts are simply dangerous: no loader would want to stuff a live round up his jacket while standing at the muzzle end of a gun! 

Where inconsistencies in the regulations were present or descriptions of equipment were unavailable, I have referred to the French gun drill and equipment. The ammunition bags, slow match tubes, portfires and fuse pouches are all taken from drawings and illustrations of French equipment.

Finally, I would like to explain the logic behind the design of the figures.  After I had designed the Prussian artillery I noted that even though there seemed to be plenty of figure variation, in reality, the figures fell into three gun teams of four figures each: one team loading, another firing and a third aiming the gun. If I wanted a battery working in unison, as opposed to four guns working separately, I would have to use the same gun team four times. This was not satisfactory.

I wanted the Saxon artillery figures to look as if they were working in unison - a vignette of a battery in action. I monitored the sales of the Prussian artillery figures and found that the firing team was the one that sold the best. With this in mind, I designed four separate teams of Saxon gunners but all in the process of firing their guns.  I provided greater choice by adding the “others” packs, the NCO packs and the battery command pack. Now you can have a battery that looks as if it is working as a unit and there is no need to repeat a single figure within the battery.


Peter 15-9-18.