‘Imperial & Royal’: My 15mm Napoleonic Austrian Army (Part 3: Light Troops)

Today’s riveting blog instalment is a continuation of the ‘grand review’ of my Austrian Army.  The usual disclaimers apply: This article may cause drowsiness.  Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while reading this blog.  If you find that you are affected by the subject matter, self-isolate yourself for two weeks with a pile of unpainted AB Figures and a few gallons of paint until the urges subside.

Today we have the light infantry – the Jäger, Grenzer and Freiwilligen.  I couldn’t find a decent battle painting of Austrian light troops to use as the header, so here are some Hungarian infantry (at Leipzig).

Above:  Some Jäger (literally ‘Hunter’ – skirmishers armed with rifled carbines).  The uniform for all nine regular army Jäger battalions was the same – a simple ‘Pike Grey’ (Hechtgrau) uniform with ‘Steel Green’ (Stahlgrün) facings and black Corsican hat, with black leather belts.  The regular Jäger battalions did not carry flags.

A lot of people tend to paint the grey uniforms of Austrian Jäger in a much lighter shade than this, due to the relevant plate in the Osprey Men-At-Arms book on Austrian Infantry.  This plate was in turn based on a plate published in 1895 by the artist Rudolf Otto von Ottenfeld.  However, this has been disputed by various scholars on the subject (provoking many internet flame-wars), as Ottenfeld was apparently basing his painting on the colour of a faded, 80 year-old surviving uniform rather than the colour produced by the original dye when it was new.  Based on the evidence presented, I’ve been persuaded by the arguments that Hechtgrau was a relatively dark blue-grey, which I’ve tried to replicate here.

Above:  Grenze Infantry Regiment #9 (Peterwardeiner).  This regiment had ‘Light Pike Grey’ facings and yellow metal buttons.

In theory, the Grenze Infantry uniform should have changed following an order in August 1808, to a ‘Black-Brown’ coat with black belts.  However, this order was very slow to implement and according to Dave Hollins in his book book ‘Austrian Auxiliary Troops 1792-1816’, Grenze Infantry Regiment #9 didn’t adopt this new uniform until 1813.

The uniform was essentially identical in style to that of the Hungarian line infantry, with pointed cuffs decorated with a single button and ‘bear’s paw’ of white lace, tight sky-blue pantaloons, embroidered with trefoil-knots and piped down the seams with mixed yellow-black cords.  Aome units used simple plain yellow cords as a cost-saving measure (in any case, yellow/black doesn’t look very good when painted at this scale, so I now just stick with plain yellow).   Items unique to the Grenzer were their traditional hooded red cloaks (here rolled on top of the packs) and the stovepipe-shaped klobuk cap.  The klobuk was officially replaced by the standard 1806 Pattern infantry shako along with the change in uniform.

It’s worth noting that there was something of a mix of uniforms during the transition period, with some regiments wearing the new black belts with the old white uniforms or wearing the old white belts with the new brown uniforms and either klobuk or shako, depending on what had been issued.  Officers, with privately-tailored uniforms, might then also be ‘early-adopters’ of the new uniforms (the officers and standard-bearers here are Hungarian infantry figures, so have the 1806 Pattern shako while the rest have klobuk).

Above:  Grenze Infantry Regiment #12 (Deutsch-Banát).  This regiment had ‘Light Blue’ facings and white metal buttons.

Grenze Infantry Regiments carried flags, but I’ve been unable to discover exactly what type of flag, so I’ve gone with the standard 1806 Pattern flag bearing the Hungarian arms in the centre (for no reason other than the fact that I had a load of Hungarian infantry flags spare)…

In his book ‘Armies on the Danube 1809’, Scott Bowden gives a list showing those Grenze Infantry Regiments which had transitioned to the new brown coat by 1809.  Regiment #12 is one of these.  However, Dave Hollins’ more recent works dispute this, stating that no regiments changed from white to brown until 1810 at the earliest, with most changing in 1813-14.  According to Hollins, Regiment #12 was the first to transition, doing so in 1810.  However, I’d already gone with Bowden’s list…

Above:  Some skirmishers from Grenze Infantry Regiment #13 (Wallach-Illyrian).  This regiment had Light Pike Grey facings with white metal buttons.  I’ve also got a formed version of this unit, which was painted some 25 years ago and is looking a bit battered…

Again, I mistakenly painted this regiment in brown coats.  However, Hollins states that this didn’t actually happen for this regiment until 1814!

Above:  The 1st Battalion of Vienna Volunteers.  The Austrian Army of 1809 fielded a number of Freiwilligen (Volunteer) infantry units and these were usually used to beef up the light infantry element of each Army Corps.  Most numerous among these were the battalions of the Archduke Charles Legion, followed by the Vienna Volunteers and the Moravian Volunteers.  While the battalions of the Archduke Charles Legion and Moravian Volunteers were spread (like the Landwehr militia) across the entire field army, four battalions of the Vienna Volunteers were concentrated in VI Korps, hence this choice of unit.

While most Volunteers were armed with muskets, some units (or portions of units) were classed as Jäger and were armed with rifles (and in some cases with Girardoni repeating air rifles or Crespi breech-loading rifles).  I haven’t painted any Volunteer Jäger just yet, though I will get around to painting the Waltrich Jäger (i.e. the 1st Battalion of the Archduke Charles Legion) for my IV Korps at some point.

Volunteer units were dressed in a wide variety of uniform styles and colours and in many cases very closely resembled the Landwehr.  As in the Landwehr, men who supplied their own uniform were generally better dressed than the rest, who would typically be dressed in very plain knee-length greatcoats.  However, some units were very well-dressed indeed and one of these was the 1st Battalion of the Vienna Volunteers, who all supplied their own uniforms and dressed to a common standard.

Flags are known to have been carried by most Volunteer units, even by units classed as Jäger.  Some carried flags of their own design or bearing the arms of their home region, though a great many of these remain unknown.  However, some (such as the Vienna Volunteers) were issued with spare regular army Ordinärfahnen, as shown here.  AB Figures don’t do a Freiwillige or Landwehr standard-bearer, so I’ve converted an infantry figure who had a broken musket.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Next time I’ll cover the Landwehr and Hungarian Insurrection.

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic Austrian Army, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to ‘Imperial & Royal’: My 15mm Napoleonic Austrian Army (Part 3: Light Troops)

  1. Martin Radcliffe says:

    Great again, and some good info on what I always found to be a somewhat baffling subject at times!

  2. Marvin says:

    Very interesting and enlightening. Seems like the Austrian army could be much more colourful than the ‘mostly white’ I had them down as being. I particularly like the look of your Jäger and volunteers.

  3. Very inspirational! Somewhere I have read that all Grenzers had red cloaks, except for the Deutsch Banater. Being of German descent, they did not share the same tradition. They had black cloaks instead. Now off to find that source again…

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Oh that’s interesting, thanks very much! 🙂 I expect it’s in the bits of Dave Hollins’ Osprey book that I ‘skim-read’… 🙁

      • John Edmundson says:

        Black capuchin (hooded) coats in fact, for Regiments 14-17 as a popular alternative to the regulation issue coats, so a mix would seem likely. I had a conversation with Dave Hollins here (https://wargamerabbit.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/battle-of-gospic-1809/) on the subject, which might be of interest. I also like tyhe idea (when I get around to it . . .) of painting my Grenz mostly in white, but with a few in brown, on the basis that there would be some recruits who possibly had never got the proper uniform (so wore the hausmontur, not the new regulation. The Grenz units were notoriously the worst provided for after all.

        When I wrote this to Dave:
        “Regular battalions – use official Grenz figures, mostly in white but with some brown and other non-regulation items because the Grenz were notoriously poorly supported. Most leatherwork black, some white. Also, add some red cloaks to some of the figures,” he didn’t object, just adding that for Regts 14-17, “Although they were supposed to be in the same uniforms, the Siebenburgen battalions do seem to have worn a rather darker brown, almost black Hausmontur jacket and certainly the slightly lower Tschakohaube. The reserve units would have been in the Hausmontur, old line uniforms, civvy clothes etc., so the more jumbled the better, I think.”


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