The Franco-Prussian War - the French

 

Some of the exotic figures that you get with the French 2nd Empire army:  (above)  Zouaves of the Guard...

 ...and French Zouaves of the Line. There was little difference between them with most being recruited from French North Africa (Algeria) with French officers.  One of the most famous (and effective) units for the French were the mounted Chasseurs d'Afrique (below).

Due to the increase in modern firepower, cavalry were much reduced in battlefield effectiveness, being mainly used in traditional light cavalry roles such as scouting.  For all their colour and élan, the French cavalry were remarkably  ineffective  during the conflict.

Lancers of the Guard in campaign dress (save for the command figures in front) and below, some more of the Imperial Guard (Foundry figures) - one of the three regiments of Grenadiers - all of whom went into captivity with their Emperor at Sedan.

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And the first of the Prussians about to start charging the French guns - von Bredow's 7th Kuirassier and 19th Uhlans of the 'Tottenritt' at Mars-la-Tour.

 

 

These guys were part of an ongoing project that has been on-again, off-again for the last year or two.  Basically I acquired a large number of 2nd Empire French - all Foundry - and including the hard-to-get Mitrailleuse (the first machine-gun) , seen on the right.

I have gamed with them a few times, including a demo at CanCon but the results are usually one-sided against experienced opponents playing the Prussians.  

Prussian fire-power, namely their Krupps artillery, usually pummels the French and takes out their guns, enabling the Prussians to close fast and slog it out. The latter contests often go the Prussian's way because of their additional command elements.  

Voltigeurs Battalion - one per Line Brigade

If the French can engage them at a distance the Chassepot rifle comes into its own and they usually inflict heavy casualties - which is why the Prussians liked to close fast - the Chassepot had an effective range of 1800 meters as opposed to 700 meters for the Prussian Dreyse Needle Gun.  It was particularly deadly in the hands of the veterans of the French Imperial armies during the first half of the war.  The Mitrailleuse with a range of about 2000 meters can also be deadly but it fired in a straight line (being mounted like an artillery piece, it can't readily traverse) and was dispersed with the artillery batteries - unfortunately for the French as it would have been far more effective amongst the infantry - it also meant the Prussians generally took them out when they destroyed the French artillery with their own. 

Chassepot rifle and Mitrailleuse notwithstanding, historically the most effective difference was the artillery.  The French still used muzzle loaders while the Prussians used rapid firing breach-loaders - the Prussian artillery is deadly and quickly dominated the battlefield during the war. 

Another problem for the poor old French - their bright red pants - visible from miles away and denoting their regular units, when they were on the move they were readily observed by the efficient Prussian cavalry. 

French Line regiment of two battalions 

FPW is an interesting period to wargame, prefacing as it did the advent of modern warfare in the 20th century, and there are some useful sites with links to resources. 

Having difficulty sourcing figures to fill out units I came across some Australian made ones for the period at Castaway Arts.  These are nice figures covering most types, reasonably priced (particularly when compared to Foundry!) and fit in well at the usual 28mm - about 20% of my 2nd Empire French are now Castaway figures.

In addition to figures, there are some good rule sets available such as those written by prolific rules author Adam Stone and available through the Canister and Grape website which give a reasonably accurate reflection of the tactics and weaponry characteristics of the period.  The best we have  so far experienced and used at CanCon were modified ACW ruleset Fire and Fury

Although I still have a brigade of Castaway French Line in the works, I have now made a start on my Prussians and will put up another page to cover them as I gradually complete them.