Uniform Guide: Second Empire French Line Cuirassiers

The usual go-to reference works for embarking on any new army painting project are regrettably insufficient for the Franco-Prussian War campaigns of the Second Empire French. I have to say the Osprey offering on the subject is woefully inadequate and introductory at best. I've had to scour the internet for what I could find to round out all I wanted to know before painting my Cuirassier regiment. So, as usual, I'm sharing my findings in the best traditions of co-operating on the World Wide Web.

Please note I'm staying away from the Guards regiments for the time being because I'm not painting any.

The French had to supplement most of their line regiments with all manner of heavier horses to bring their regiments up to strength for the 1870 campaign. Colours would have varied greatly with a general reliance on darker colours (bays, chestnuts etc). Consistent with the First Empire and into the 20th century, the French trumpeters were mounted on greys. This appears to have remained consisted for line and Guard regiments.
HELMETS - Line Regiments
The steel bonnets of the cuirassier has a brass front plate, chin scales, a brass edged steel peak and crest. Mounting the top of the crest is what is described as an 'olive' I believe (also of the same brass) which held a scarlet tuft (all ranks). The horse-hair manes were black for all ranks except the trumpeters whose manes were scarlet. The helmets are wrapped in a turban of marine cow hide (dark brown/black).
Interestingly and helpfully, the Cuirassier regiments of the line had a standardized uniform with no regimental distinctions. Their jackets were dark blue with red collar and epaulettes (silver for officers and white for trumpeters) with dark blue cuffs piped scarlet and scarlet cuff lapels with three brass buttons. The jacket is scarlet piped down the full length of the front button line on the front edge (button hole side) but has a plain bottom seam around the skirt.  In some images there is a scarlet trim visible at the edge of the breast plate. Rank chevrons are in scarlet. The piping for the officer is in silver and the trumpeter piping is in white. A black belt with brass buckle secures the tunic about the waist - only visible on the trumpeter who has a plain fronted jacket with no lace.

The baggy trousers were scarlet with a thin, pencil line black stripe down the centre length on the outside of both legs. Officers had a broader black stripe.

Black leather and knee high for all ranks with steel hooks. Gauntlets when worn were white.

A polished steel cuirass has brass shoulder straps and as stated above, the scarlet edge of the padded lining is sometimes depicted - visible front and back. The rivets are brass and the ensemble is secured at the waist with a black strap with brass buckle.

The straight cavalry sabre is brass hilted with a steel scabbard and white sword knots for all ranks (presumably silver for the officers). Hangers are white (sometimes depicted black).
The water bottle appears to have been slung across thee shoulder with a black leather strap and harness. The water bottle appears to be a grey/blue. Trumpeters look to have a cartridge box (black leather case) slung over the shoulder with a while leather strap/belt.
Dark blue edged white with a white grenade in the rear corner. The tubular Portmanteau is also dark blue with a white grenade in the centre. When it comes to the piping around the outside of the portmanteau I have seen it naked, white and red. I don't know if the regimental number appears inside the grenades or not - I suspect they might but I can't make any out.
1870 Sedán: Carga del general Marguerite by José Cusachs
Apart from white epaulets and grey mounts trumpeters are more often than not depicted with brass trumpets with red chords and tassels.
This from 1876
BRIDLE, REINS and Leathers

Thankfully these are all invariably portrayed as black leather.


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