The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw (Part 1: The Infantry)

Since this lockdown started I’ve been looking forward to the games I’m going to have once it’s all over and that has served as an impetus to my painting, as well something to keep my mind occupied and positive. Consequently, I’ve been attacking the North Face of the Lead Mountain like a man possessed (don’t tell Mrs Fawr, but I’ve got about 3,000 unpainted Napoleonics… and the rest…).

With luck (and if we’re spared) my first game is going to be the Battle of Liebertwolkwitz, which was fought on 14th October 1813, being a major cavalry clash and precursor to the titanic Battle of Leipzig (the southern portion of which was fought over the same ground two days later). I’ve played the scenario before, but not for a VERY long time and I do recall it as being a fun, ding-dong of a game. It’s also quite a cosmopolitan battle, with Russians, Prussians and Austrians all present on the Allied side and a large Polish contingent fighting on the French side, which all adds interest and tabletop ‘colour’.

I’ve already got enough ancient and battered models to play the scenario, but thought it would be nice to FINALLY re-base and re-flag my mate Jase’s old Russian army (which he left with me when he emigrated to New Zealand and which was still based for WRG rules, which we stopped playing in around 1991), add a load of new AB Figures units to my own Russian army, paint an Austrian corps in shakos and finally paint Poniatowski‘s Poles…

Poniatowski’s 8th (Polish) Corps 1813

Let’s get one thing out of the way at the start; The Duchy of Warsaw was never a GRAND Duchy.  Nobody seems to know where or when this nomenclature started and it’s been refuted often enough, but the fictitious ‘Grand’ bit of the title is like a persistent weed that seems unwilling to die in wargames circles!  I’m glad I’ve got that off my chest…

Duchy of Warsaw uniforms are something of a bugger to research, with lots of contradictory sources.  I’ve gone with the information supplied in W J Rawkins’ latest booklet on the Army of the Duchy of Warsaw.  If you’ve never come across him before, he started out in the 1970s selling very useful photocopied booklets on every Napoleonic army under the sun (many of these were ripped off and sold by someone else for a long time).  He now sells them as ebooks or DVDs from his site The History Book Man and the advantage of doing them electronically is that he’s able to regularly update them as research develops.  Consequently, his new booklet on the Poles differs in details with the 1970s version I used to own.

[Edited 24 Feb 21: Sadly I’ve just heard on the grapevine that Mr Rawkins passed away in December 2020 and the website is no more, so I’ve removed the link. 🙁 ]

1st Infantry Regiment 1812-1813

Starting with the infantry, here’s the 1st Infantry Regiment.  I’ve dressed them in the regulation uniform stipulated for all Duchy of Warsaw infantry regiments from 1810.  They are recorded as wearing this uniform, though some sources also describe distinctly non-regulation sky-blue collar and cuffs and even yellow cuffs (these may all have been worn during successive years from 1810 to 1813).  Prior to 1810 the 1st to 4th Infantry Regiments had yellow lapels, scarlet collar and cuffs and brass buttons, though the 1810 regulation changed that to a uniform very similar to the French line infantry uniform, though cut in Polish kurtka style with half-lapels and using crimson as the cuff and piping colour instead of scarlet.

Here’s a close-up of the 1st Infantry, showing the post-1810 regulation uniform in detail: The half-lapels and turnbacks were white, while the collar and shoulder-straps were dark blue, all edged with crimson piping.  The crimson piping also extended down the front seam of the coat below the half-lapels.  Cuffs were crimson with white cuff-flaps and may or may not have been piped white.  Buttons were brass. 

Descriptions and depictions of drummers’ uniforms vary wildly from source to source, but I went with one described for the 1st Infantry, namely a white uniform (which were very common for Polish drummers and trumpeters), with scarlet lapels and shoulder-wings edged sky-blue, with sky-blue collar, cuffs and turnbacks edged scarlet and a scarlet shako, drimmed with yellow.

The infantry-pattern czapka headdress was essentially just a squared-off black felt shako, unlike the cavalry czapka, which was a heavier leather helmet topped with a cloth-covered square ‘box’.  All regiments had a brass band just above the brim, pierced with the regimental number.  This was then surmounted by a white metal eagle and a white cockade.  Centre company pompoms were sky-blue for most regiments and white cords were worn in full dress.

Elite company distinctions were very much like the French.  The Voltigeurs had green fringed epaulettes (some had yellow, scarlet or white crescents), yellow collars and yellow or green pompoms, topped off with a yellow and green plume and yellow or green cords in full dress.  The upper edge of the czapka was normally decorated with a band of yellow lace.

The Grenadiers wore scarlet fringed epaulettes (some had white crescents or even white epaulettes with scarlet crescents) and bearskins with brass plates and scarlet rear-patches, decorated with a white lace cross. White or scarlet cords and scarlet plumes were also added in full dress.

8th Infantry Regiment 1807-1812

Prior to the 1810 regulations, the 5th to 9th Infantry Regiments had crimson lapels, collar and cuffs with white piping and cuff-flaps, dark blue turnbacks and shoulder-straps with crimson piping and white metal buttons.  Chelminski recorded the 8th Infantry Regiment as retaining this uniform until at least as late as 1812, so I’ve dressed the 8th in this uniform by way of a change of scenery.

Some sources show the 8th Infantry as adopting the 1810 regulation uniform or a variant using rose-pink instead of crimson.  While that would certainly add a splash of colour, I wonder if the pink is a mis-translation of crimson from a faded picture or faded survivng uniform?

While I haven’t painted any of these regiments, the 9th to 12th Infantry Regiments originally wore uniforms with white facings with scarlet piping and brass buttons, though again, most adopted the 1810 regulation uniform or other oddities of their own making.

The 4th, 7th and 9th Infantry Regiments were detached to the French Army of Spain in 1808 and by 1809 supply issues meant that they were wearing uniforms of French/Confederation of the Rhine style; namely square-lapelled ‘Spencer’ coats (as worn by many German contingents) and cylindrical French-style shakos.  When these regiment returned to the Duchy of Warsaw in 1812 they continued wearing these French-style uniforms that were coloured roughly according to the pre-1810 regulations.  I haven’t done any yet, but I do intend to do the 4th Infantry Regiment, using AB Confederation of the Rhine figures and a transplanted Polish Eagle standard.  I’ll also do some Vistula Legion infantry using those same figures.

When a 13th Infantry Regiment was raised in 1809, it wore an esoteric uniform made from captured Austrian uniform cloth, being white with sky-blue facings.  I did want to paint this unit, but it doesn’t appear to have been reformed following the 1812 campaign and wasn’t therefore at Leipzig (the remnants ended up as a fortress garrison).  Nevertheless, I think I might have to paint the 13th one day, as it’s such a spectacular uniform.

15th Infantry Regiment 1810-1813

Here’s the 15th Infantry Regiment.  The 14th to 17th Infantry Regiments wore the 1810 regulation uniform, though once again some regimental variations crept in, such as some units allegedly replacing the crimson piping with scarlet.

One notable feature of the 14th to 17th Regiments is that their centre companies are recorded as having pompoms coloured by company as per French regulations: 1st – green, 2nd – sky-blue, 3rd – aurore (orange) and 4th lie-de-vin (violet).  Sky-blue pompoms with company-coloured tufts are also recorded.  Some of the 1st to 13th Regiments may also have used company-coloured pompoms.

In the 1st Edition of Mr Rawkins’ Army of the Duchy of Warsaw book, he stated that the tops of infantry czapkas were decorated with a box of lace tape around the edge and an ‘X’ of lace across the centre, very much like cavalry czapkas.  However, in the latest edition, he has revised this to ‘infantry regiments may have decorated the tops with piping or lace’.  However, give me an inch and I’ll take a mile… I like the look of the ‘X’ and it makes them stand out as being Poles not French, so I’ve painted it on all my infantry.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Generals, artillery and cavalry to come.  All the figures here are 15mm AB Figures painted by me, with flags by Fighting 15s.

Dabrowski’s 27th (Polish) Division 1813

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

14 Responses to The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw (Part 1: The Infantry)

  1. Martin Radcliffe says:

    Great to see such an excellent Polish army, always had a particular liking and fascination for the Poles. Such good troops too.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Martin. Yes, likewise. I used to have a very large Duchy of Warsaw army in 15mm Minifigs (around 600 figures and organised at 1:50 ratio), but some bastard nicked it from a show and left me with the solitary unit that was on the table at the time. 🙁 I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to collect them again! I did one lancer regiment with AB Figures ‘Vistula Legion’ figures about 25 years ago before they brought out a proper Duchy of Warsaw range (it’s at the very bottom of the article), but I didn’t do any more until this year.

      • Martin Radcliffe says:

        Theft at shows was an all too common thing at one time as I recall- difficult to fathom a person’s mentality who would do that. The Vistula Legion remains one of my all time favourite units- did them in 25mm, as it was back then.

        • jemima_fawr says:

          Yeah… That taught me to store things in MUCH heavier boxes and to put them well under the table once unloaded, not on a side-table behind the players… Thankfully, it hasn’t happened very often and that was the only time someone got away with a whole army. In the past we’ve had burglaries on the club and a club-member (who was never identified, but who clearly had access to our cupboards) walking off with tons of 25mm club scenery.

  2. Martin Radcliffe says:

    Bizarre really. You’d think being a niche hobby, that clubs and shows would be very much a gathering of like minded souls. The bad apples turn up everywhere it seems….

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Yeah. On the other occasions I can remember it’s always been kids. One little sod (about 8 years old) pinched a very nicely-painted 1/300th scale Tornado jet and the other scrote (13 years old and a cadet) nicked a load of GW Terminator Marines that I’d just painted for a mate. I knew exactly who it was, but couldn’t pin it on him… Another cadet later managed to steal one of them back for me. 😉

  3. Jason says:

    Great article Mark and beautiful painting as usual!

  4. Tim Simmons says:

    Just caught up with this as I am searching for inspiration as I upgrade some old Battle Honours Poles for a scenario of Markleeberg. Very informative post and lovely units. Thanks for setting the example! Incidentally, the 13th made up the garrison of Zamość that held out bravely against a Russian siege until December 1813, when they finally ran out of ammunition. They were allowed the honours of war. I have a book about the siege that has a picture of them in blue uniforms. I guess they might have abandoned White by then but the book isn’t really focussed on dress so perhaps this is an editing error. I’ve a mind to try some skirmishes from the siege one of these days.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Tim! Yes, a lot of the most interesting Polish units ended up being trapped in fortresses after 1812, which is a shame. However, I’m going to HAVE to paint the 13th one day, just for the pleasure of painting them. And they can always turn up in 1812.

      Funnily enough, I was just this second reading through my articles on the Poles, hunting for links to Mr Rawkins ‘The History Book Man’. Sadly I heard yesterday that he passed away last December and the link is now dead, so please let me know if you find a live link! 🙂

  5. Gary Williams says:

    Sad to hear of Mr Rawkins passing, especially as I also just found out his book on the poles. Does the copy you have happen to hold any detail as to the flags etc carried by the Poles in the revolutionary era, online info seems rather stuck at just pointing out that the Vistula Legion had one of the old flags from that era.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi Gary, it only covers the Duchy of Warsaw, sadly and the Legions are in another booklet. I remember that in ‘t’old days they were all in one book.

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