French Foot Artillerist

French Foot Artillerist

By: Keith Rocco


Editions and Sizes

50 Signed and Numbered Canvases - 12" x 9"

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Napoleon remained an artillery officer at heart, and during his reign as First Consul and Emperor, the French corps of artillery grew tremendously. At the time of the French Revolution, the artillery had about 13,000 men, a figure that more than doubled by the time of the Treaty of Amiens in 1801. Four years later, the Emperor had an establishment of some 36,000 artillerymen, with many more being added subsequently. In 1810, with the amalgamation of the Dutch artillery, nearly 80,000 men were part of the various artillery units.

As the number of conscripts increased, Napoleon came to insist on having at least one cannon for every 250 men in the field to augment their firepower. Over time, he honed his doctrine of using massed artillery formations to pulverize the critical point in the enemy's line, to great success.

The Gribeauval artillery initially used by the French was the foremost system to be found anywhere. However, by 1809, the French were implementing the new Year XI system, which gradually replaced the 4-pounder and 8-pounder of the Gribeauval system with a more standardized 6-pounder, largely for economic reasons. Many French artillerists felt that the new system was not an improvement, and greatly lamented the loss of the 8-pounder. Overall, the French artillery, because of the prestige attached to the branch, and the military education afforded to its officers, produced the finest artillery corps in continental Europe.

Most French gunners belonged to one of the eight (nine from 1810) regiments of foot artillery, each regiment having 22 (later 26) companies of gunners. Except for regimental designations on their brass buttons and shako plates, all gunners wore the dark blue uniform with red cuffs, turnbacks and piping as depicted here. The shakos, which replaced bicorn hats from about 1807, had red cords and plumes, and occasionally, red bands. Gunners also had a pair of black gaiters as well as white ones and, especially in torrid Spain, might be seen in linen trousers. They were armed with muskets and bayonets to defend the batteries. The water bottle might, on a good day, contain wine.