Sunday, May 29, 2016

Swedish Soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars (Part I) - an Overview

A Guide to the Swedish Napoleonic Uniform

With Sharpe Practice 2 now released its time to get our Napoleonic skirmish wargaming going again. Together with Dalauppror (please have a look here) there will, of course, be a Swedish theme. Our main focus will be on the Siege of Stralsund in 1807 and the Finnish War 1808-1809 where Sweden fought the French and the Russians respectively.

As our gaming will feature Swedish soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars we thought we should post some information on the look and colours of the Swedish soldiers of that era, as that information isn't as widely known.

Before posting for instance a tutorial on how to convert a miniature into wearing a Swedish Mid Uniform of 1806 - for use in the campaigns of Germany (Pommerania), Norway and Finland - it might be useful to provide some uniform context. So here is Part I on Swedish Napoleonic Soldiers that focus on the cut of the uniform and the other equipment worn by the soldiers.

The Swedish line infantry uniform of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) went through quite a few changes in the field - and even more on paper. It is complicated to establish what specific uniform that was worn in the field by a certain regiment at a certain time. Also, we are no true experts but this is our best effort (that we would happily adjust if needed). That said, to simplify, the Swedish Napoleonic line infantry uniform can be divided into three main categories. These categories don't cover all aspects, neither all regiments, but you can sometime benefit from doing 28mm miniatures instead of a re-enactment full size uniform...
- the Early Uniform - with plastron ("front panels")
- the Mid Uniform - single row of buttons, including both the modified 1806-version and the new grey enhetsuniform ("unity uniform") of 1807
- the Late Uniform - double row of buttons

Despite that new uniform regulations were being issued uniforms were sometimes to be worn out before being replaced and also logistics troubles and scarce resources in general made older uniforms being used in later stages of the war.

It should therefor be stressed that although for instance the Finland War of 1808-1809 could be described as a Mid War conflict where you might expect to see the then latest uniform (i e the unity uniform of 1807) it was instead more common to see the modified version of 1806 or the Early Uniform of 1802.

The Early Uniform

The Swedish uniform of the 18th century preserved the look of the Caroleans of Sweden's time as a major European power. After a change of style during the rule of Gustav III (1771-1792) the Early War uniform - first introduced in 1792 - presented a new cut for the Napoleonic Age.

It should again be stressed that although here described as an Early Uniform it lived on with many regiments through out the war in Finland.

The Early Uniform is recogniced by its plastron, a "breastplate" of front panels on the uniform's chest. Gaiters went above the knee. The round tall hat that - more or less unchanged - would stay on for many years, was close to corsican style with its brim turned up on one side. Another item that would stay on was the black neck-cloth that was worn around the neck, under the jacket's collar.

The short sword were in use and hung from a leather waist belt. Instead of a backback a single strap satchel of cowhide was worn together with a bulkruka, a copper bowl for water.

An Early m/1792 uniform, of the Uppland regiment.

An Early Uniform. A m/1802 of Hälsinge regiment
(from the Army Museum - the Digitalt Museum web page)

A side view of an Early Uniform jacket
(again from the Army Museum - the Digitalt Museum web page)

The Mid Uniform

The Mid Uniform is a case of two in one: the 1806 modified version of the Early Uniform jacket and the new so called unity uniform of 1807. The former was simply the older (often blue) jacket re-sewn into a new style. The latter was a concept of trying to replace all the variedly coloured uniforms with a single uniform of the same colour - grey with blue facings - for all line regiments. In both cases the plastron of the Early Uniform was no more and the Mid Uniform instead had a single row of buttons. The grey unity uniform failed to be properly implemented, atleast during the Finish War 1808-1809, and the modified 1806-version (together with the still used Early Uniform) seem to have been the norm.

Gaiters were, at least for many regiments, shortened to below the knee. The black neck-cloth was still used. A yellow and blue striped, wide belt of cloth was introduced and the short sword droped, leaving the soldiers to rely on the bayonett. With the unity uniform, the leather belts for the cartidge box etc were regulated to be black instead of the normal white for regular line infantry. The Early Uniform hat was still in use. It is uncertain to what extent the regulated round patch or cockade on the front of the hat with a coloured cross was actually worn in the field. It was supposed to be differently coloured depending on the regiment. The single strap satchel and copper bowl were both still in use (the satchel was single straped until 1811 when it was ordered to be modified into a knapsack with two straps).

The Mid Uniforms - the unity uniform in grey and the modified version of 1806
in blue, the latter probably of the Södermanland regiment. The officers in the
picture wear long tailed surtouts and white scarfs around their left arm
- a sign of loyalty to the king since Gustav III's coup of 1772.
The Early Uniform compared to the Mid Uniform
A Mid Uniform jacket, from the Jönköping regiment worn at the
battle of Ratan in 1809 (from the Army Museum - the Digitalt Museum website)
A rear view of a Mid Uniform
(The Army Museum - the Digitalt Museum website)

A single strap satchel m/1757 made of calfskin.
(The Army Museum - the Digitalt Museum website)
A bulkruka, a copper bowl. This example might be from a later date.
(from the Bohusläns museum - the Digitalt Museum website)

The Late Uniform

A soldier in the the Late Uniform - introduced in 1810 and as seen during the campaigns of 1813-1814 - has a somewhat different look compared to the Early and Mid Uniforms. The jacket had double rows of buttons. The cuffs got cuff-flaps with three buttons. Also, trousers were worn over the gaiters and decorated with "knots" and sometimes also a stripe along the outseams. The single strap satchel had finally been replaced by (or made into) a real backpack with the great coat straped on top. The copper bowl was still there though, and carried on the outside of the backpack. The hat of the Early Uniform was also still there. Some units might have taken initiative to upgrade the hat to a more modern shako. However, looking at Ljunggren's contemporary illustrations the old style of hat still seem to have been the norm and the shako was not implemented for real until 1815. The distinctive blue and yellow belt was in use.

A Ljunggren contemporary illustration of a Late Uniform.
Note the bulkruka - the copper bowl (pictured somewhat big).
A Late Uniform as pictured by Knötel.
A rear view of another Late Uniform.
This might not be a line infantry uniform because of the epaulettes
but still gives a good example of the cut of the Late uniform.
(The Army Museum - the Digitalt Museum website)
Uniforms of Västgöta-Dals regiment, of particular interest here is the
1815 uniform - a "later than late uniform" using our classification.
Very similar to what we call the Late Uniform though, but it has the 1815 shako.