La Furia Francese: The Italian War of 1859

The war of 1859 pitted the Piedmontese army and it's French allies against the Austrians in Northern Italy. Once again it is not my intention to provide a detailed account of the war itself. Instead I will give some details of the combatants and how they would be depicted in a modified version of 'Fire and Fury'. In addition the details needed to re-fight the battle of Palestro are provided. War broke out when the Austrians reacted to deliberate Piedmontese provocation and declared war. This mistake enabled Cavour, the artful Piedmontese politician, to call his French allies to Piedmont's 'defense'. The fighting was all in northern Italy and divided into two phases. The first phase was a series of small encounters mainly between the Piedmontese and the Austrians. The Piedmontese were greatly outnumbered and were awaiting the arrival of the French at the front. This they successful accomplished, greatly helped by incompetent Austrian command. The second phase commenced when the main body of the French Army arrived. At which time the allies fought the Austrians at two larger bloodier battles, Magenta and Solferino. Defeat at these battles was enough to convince the Austrians that it was time to make peace. This was despite the expected Prussian intervention on Austria's behalf. The war provided prestige for the regime of Napoleon III. It started the process that would see the King of Piedmont elevated to become the King of Italy in 1861. As an interesting aside the suffering of the wounded at Solferino inspired Henri Durant to found the Red Cross Organization.

The French Army
Weapons: The French Army was equipped with the 1842T or 1853T rifle, which is a MLR. On the rare occasions that the cavalry dismount they will count as Confederate cavalry for firing. The artillery was in the process of re - equipping with rifled guns. At the start of the war the Guard and some of the rest were equipped with RA, while the majority had SA. As the war progressed more batteries were given rifled guns. I usually assume that all the guns are RA, as the front line troops would get them first. Also this gives the French a historical advantage its artillery possessed.

Tactical Doctrine: Fittingly the army of the new Napoleon continued to use the tactics of the great Napoleon. The infantry habitually used assault tactics, normally in attack column. Indeed it was during this war that the phrase 'furia francese' was coined to describe the French. So all French infantry get the bonus's and disadvantages of 'Assault tactics' when in attack column. In addition the French emphasized 'elan', so they are also all 'Impetuous'. Thus when in attack column French infantry will get +2 (+1 assault tactics & +1 impetuous) when in close combat. When not in attack column, march column or skirmishing they will get a -1 on the maneuver table. As the war progressed the same tactics were used but in open columns rather than the more normal closed columns. Open columns are I think best represented by using the supported line formation. So some units, particularly the 'African' units, may add supported line as a formation they do not get the -1 to maneuver and can use assault tactics in. Chasseurs and the "African' units may use skirmish tactics, as can line units in some scenarios.

Troop Quality: The bulk of the French Army should be rated as 'Veteran', with the following exceptions. The Imperial Guard are 'Elite", while the 'African' units and other elite units should be 'Crack'. Leadership: Much of the higher leadership of the French Army owed its position to political loyalty rather than skill. Therefore many of the Corps and Division commanders should be "Poor", while "Exceptional' commanders would be rare. In contrast many of the lower leaders, unit leaders, should be "Exceptional', about 1/2 to 1/3. They frequently kept their units in action in the face of grave difficulties. See also "Army Commanders" below.

Organization: The following is the "standard" organization of French Formations in 1859. Obviously there were many exceptions to this in reality, particularly the Imperial Guard and 2nd Corps which only had 2 infantry divisions each. The number of stands given depict the units at full strength, in brackets are the number of stands if the unit is skirmishing. The first number is appropriate to the 1:300 scale and the second to the 1:200 scale, if different.

French Corps
Corps HQ: 1 Leader.
Corps Artillery: 2 / 5 Batteries, mostly Foot but some Horse. RA.
3 Infantry Divisions each:
1 Leader.
1 Foot Battery ( SA or RA) stand
1 Chasseur unit of 4 (6) / 6 (9) stands
4 Line units of 7 / 11 stands
1 Cavalry Division:
1 Leader.
1 Horse Battery (SA or RA) stand
2 Cavalry Brigades of 5 / 8 stands


The Piedmontese Army

Weapons: The bulk of the Piedmontese Army was equipped with smoothbore muskets, SM. The exception to this was the Bersaglieri, which were equipped with rifles, MLR's. The artillery was all smoothbore and so counts as SA.

Tactical Doctrine: Bersaglieri may skirmish and are also impetuous when not skirmishing. Also many of Garibaldi's units can skirmish and will count as impetuous while he can be seen. The rest of the army generally operated in attack column. Yet they did not show enough aggression to generally get the benefits of assault tactics. Therefore they receive -1 on the maneuver table when not in attack or march column, and skirmishing for the Bersaglieri. The Bersaglieri, the Granatieri (Grenadiers) and Garibaldi's troops get the +1 for assault tactics in attack column, but other units do not.

Troop Quality: Generally the quality of the army was low, with the majority counting as 'Green'. The Bersaglieri and the Granatieri units were the exceptions to this rule. They should be respectively 'Crack' and 'Veteran' . While Garibaldi's troops should perhaps be rated as 'Levy".

Leadership: Yet again the leadership of an Italian army proved to be a handicap in war. All of the higher leadership should be 'Poor'. Garibaldi is an 'Exceptional' and an exception to the normal level of leadership.

Organization: See notes on French organization above.

Infantry Division Cavalry Division
1 Leader. 1 Leader
Foot Artillery: 1 or 2 / 2 batteries. Horse Artillery: 1 battery.
2 Bersaglieri units of 2(3) / 3(4) stands. 2 Cavalry units of 3 / 4 Hvy. Cav. stands.
4 Line units of 9 / 13 stands.  
1 Light Cav. unit of 1 / 2 stands  

The Austrian Army
Weapons: The Jagers and the majority of the Line infantry were armed with the Lorenz Rifle, a MLR. While the Grenzers and between 20 and 40% of the Line were still equipped with muskets, SM. The artillery was similarly equipped with smoothbore weapons and so counts as SA. In addition to these guns a small number of rocket batteries (Roc) were used.

Tactical Doctrine: Both Jaeger and Grenze units may operate in skirmish formation. While the Line infantry may use assault tactics when in attack column. They suffer no disadvantage if they are not in assault column. As it was only after this war that this became Austrian doctrine.

Troop Quality: Jaeger, some of the better Line units and units of Grenadiers only, should be 'Crack'. While Reserve battalion units should 'Green'. As should most Hungarian units which were dissatisfied at this time. Italian units, if used, should be either 'Green' or 'Levy' as they were very disaffected with the idea of fighting their compatriots. With these exceptions all other infantry should be 'Veteran' and these should be the bulk of the army. The cavalry were once again above average and should be 'Veteran' or higher. Leadership: Once again the leadership of the Austrian Army was poor. The majority of the higher leadership proving to be 'Poor' when the test of combat occurred, despite the pedigree of many of these officers. Of the corps commanders only Benedek could claim to be 'Exceptional'. The quality of the divisional commanders was higher with 25 to 50% of them 'Poor'. While 'Exceptional' divisional and unit commanders should be rare, but not unknown.

Organization: See the notes on French organization above.

Infantry Corps Cavalry Division
Corps HQ: 1 Leader 1 Leader.
  1 / 2 Horse batteries.
Corps Artillery: 2 / 4 batteries. 2 Dragoon units of 3 / 5 stands.
  2 Lt. Cav. units of 5 / 8 stands.
Corps Cavalry: 1 Lt. Cav. unit of 3 / 4 stands.  
2 Divisions each:  
1 Leader.  
2 batteries.  
2 Grenze or Jaeger units of 3 or 4 (4 or 6) / 4 or 6 (6 or 9) stands.  
2 Line units of 15 / 22 stands.  


Army Commanders: In this war the various heads of state were commanders of the armies in the field. While this was mainly nominal control they did sometimes get into the thick of the fighting. Victor Emmanuel, the King of Piedmont, for example frequently led regiments in charges. So any of these commanders may be present on the battlefield. If they are present they should count as 'Exceptional' commanders, with the restriction that they must be attached to a unit to receive the benefits. Or at best with a much reduced command radius.