Uniform Guide: Second Empire French Line Chasseurs a Cheval

To off-set the woefully inadequate Osprey offering on the Franco-Prussian War French Imperial Army, I present my findings of the uniform regulations in effect for the French Chasseurs a Cheval for 1870. In general terms, 12 regiments of Chasseurs a Cheval ('Horse Hunters') of the Line were light cavalry dressed largely in accordance with the 1854 regulation. Each regiment had six squadrons, fielding five.
Captain's dolman 1854 pattern.

DOLMAN (jacket)
Was green with 18 braids of black wool to the front and three rows of pewter buttons (left/centre and right) There were no collar or cuff facings or regimental distinctions but were piped black - some have the pointed cuff piped 'garance' (red). Officer distinction is a Hungarian knot in white lace bordering the cuffs and extending up both sleeves to above the elbow. The elaboration of the knot is dependent upon rank - simpler for junior officers and increasingly elaborate for senior ranks. Officers, NCOs and trumpeters also wore a lanyard style 'draw-strings' of a significant and intricate plait in black: fixed to the shoulder and sternum across the left breast with a pair of elaborate tassels hanging from the left.
Second Empire 12è Chasseurs à cheval
GIBERNE (cartridge box and belt)
White broad leather belt worn diagonally across the chest with a brass gun-spike (ornate and elaborate for officers) on the front and the black leather cartridge box on the back.

TROUSERS (Pantalon Basane)
Were madder red for all ranks with a double black stripe down the outside seam of each leg with a central green seam/stripe. The trouser has 'false boots' of black leather extending from just below the knee to the hem. I can't find any images of officers wearing the false boot trousers so they either didn't wear them or all officer images are of dress pants of the same colour and stripe.
Officer talpac 1858 regulation
TALPAC (headgear)
The black lambswool 'talpac' is a Turkish bonnet being often described as a 'frustoconical astrakhan hairstyle' of Middle-Eastern (Janissary) origin and adopted by the French during the Second Empire in the 1854 regulation. The brass-ringed chin-strap when not under the chin was hung from either side across the front of the talpac. Pompoms were affixed at the top centre with the regimental number attached. Pompoms were gold for officers and red for other ranks (including trumpeters). In full dress, a plume was fixed above the pompom - red over green for all ranks but tricolor for trumpeters (red topped, white centre and blue base).
I can neither find images or written references to the colours of the Chasseurs a Cheval kepi. Given that the infantry and the Chasseurs de Afrique of the period follow the same doctrine of red crest over coat colour for the headband, I can only assume it must have been red over green - so unless someone advises me to the contrary, I'm going with that.

Are in black leather with steel hooks (spurs).

The light brass-hilted cavalry sabre is more often shown hung by white slings (hangers) but sometimes black. Other ranks including trumpeters have white sword knots; officers have gold. All ranks waist belt is black.

SABRETASHE (from 1860)
Black leather for all ranks, white hangers and sporting a brass imperial eagle in the centre.

The saddle, girth strap and stirrup leathers are in brown leather whilst the tail strap, bridle and reins are in black leather. The cylindrical portmanteau is in the same green as the dolman; the circular ends edged in red with a red hunting horn patch in the centre. The pale brown/beige woolen blanket is rolled and slung across the pommel and fixed with black leather straps.
When depicted is green edged red with a red hunting horn in the rear corner.

Similarly uniformed to the rest of the regiment in all respects with tricolor piping at collar and cuff as well as tricolor chords for their brass trumpets and bugles.


  1. Nice run down of the uniform from a not-so well documented period. I painted some of these guy up from the Hussars offered by Eagles of Empire https://www.eaglesofempire.com/product-page/french-hussars-1870

  2. Thanks gents. I'm really developing random uniform guides as I go for myself as much as anyone else. I've probably included more detail than I personally need as I'm painting them in Old Glory 15s. For example, I think I'll get away with a a single stripe of black paint for the trousers at my scale unlike what I'd do in 28mm.


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