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Napoleonic Glossary

Naval Glossary
British Army Slang
French Army Slang

Abatis:
Barricade of logs.
Aide de Camp:
Assistant to senior officer.
Amalgame:

System that mixed experienced, regular troops with conscripts in France's revolutionary armies.
Ataman:
Cossack senior officer.
Atiradore:
Portuguese sharpshooter.
Banquette:
A parapet's firing step.
Barrelled Sash:
A hussar's girdle with lace barrels.

Bar-shot:
A tin container, designed to split apart when fired from a cannon, filled with an iron bar packed in with musket balls.
Battalion Company:
Centre company in a battalion.
Battery:
Six or eight-gun emplacements.
Blackening Ball:
Nugget-like substance to blacken equipment.
Breastwork:
A parapet.
Briquet:
Infantry sabre.
Brown Bess:
Common name for British Long Land Pattern muskets.
Cabinet:
Napoleon Bonaparte's personal entourage.
Cacadore:
Portuguese rifleman.
Cadnettes:
Plaits dangling from the temples of cavalrymen.
Caisson:
An artillery ammunition wagon.
Canister:
Close-range, anti-personnel ammunition for artillery. Made up of a tin container filled with musket balls, canister was designed to break apart on leaving the cannon's muzzle.
Cantoniere:
Female canteen keeper accompanying army.
Carabinier:
A heavily armed cavalry trooper.
Carbine:
A short cavalry musket.
Carcass:
Incendiary to illuminate dark areas.
Cartouche:
Cartridge box.
Cascabel:
Knob at touch-hole end of a cannon.
Case-shot:
Similar artillery ammunition to canister.
Charoual:
Mameluke trousers.
Chasseur:
Light troops (hunters).
Chasseurs-a-Cheval:
Light cavalry.
Chasseurs-a-Pied:
Light infantry.
Cheveux-Legers:
Light cavalry including lancers, chasseurs and hussars.
Chosen Man:
Corporal in the 95th Rifles.
Club:
A short powdered queue of hair at back of head.
Cockade:
National colours worn on hats.
Colours:
Large regimental or King's flags used by British regiments.
Column of Divisions:
Two-company wide attack formation for battalions.
Commissaries:
Officials who organised supplies of food and equipment for armies.
Conscription:
System where able-bodied men between certain ages were called up for military service.
Cornet:
Cavalry equivalent of an ensign or second-lieutenant.
Corps d'Armee:
A balanced miniature army that contained its own infantry, cavalry and artillery.
Corps d'Observation:
A body of troops split from a main army to cover an opposing army.
Cossack:
Fierce Russian irregular cavalry.
Crapaud:
Derogatory British word for French troops (Toads).
Czapka:
Square-topped cavalry hat, mainly used by lancers.
Degen:
German straight-bladed infantry sword.
Demi-Brigade:

A three-battalion formation that replaced regiments in the French revolutionary army. In 1803 they were reverted to regiments.
Dents de Loup:
Wolf-teeth cloth edgings to a shabraque.
Division:
Infantry or cavalry body that included several thousand men.
Divisional Column:
A battalion-wide column of attack.
Dolman:
A short, tail-less jacket.
Dolphin:
Lifting handle on cannon.
Dragoons:
Medium cavalry capable of fighting on foot with carbines.
Eagle:
French army unit symbol.
Eclaireurs-a-Cheval:
Mounted scouts. The French had three regiments.
Embrasure:
Opening in defensive wall to fire cannons through.
Enciente:
Stronghold's walls.
Enfilade:
Flanking fire that can hit anything within an enemy position.
Ensign:
Infantry second-lieutenant.
Facings:
Colours worn on collars, cuffs and turnbacks to identify various regiments.
Fascine:
Wood bundles used as cover in defensive lines.
Fermelet:
Mameluke waistcoat.
Fixed Ammunition:
Artillery shell with wooden sabot still attached.
Flank company:
Grenadier or light company of a battalion.
Flanquers:
Light infantry, usually of the Middle Guard.
Fleche:
Arrow-head shaped earthworks.
Forlorn Hope:
Volunteers to conduct first attack on fortifications.
Frog:
Looped leather belt through which a sword scabbard is hung.
Fusil:
Light musket.
Fusiliers:
General infantryman.
Gabion:
Dirt-filled cane basket used for defence works.
Gendarmerie:
Paramilitary police.
Gendarmerie d'elite:
Napoleon Bonaparte's bodyguard.
Glacis:
Slope up to a fortification.
Goddams:
Nickname given to British troops by the French.
Gorget:
Small, metal crescent worn by officers around their necks.
Grand-Quartier-General:
General Headquarters.
Grapeshot:
Another close-range artillery shot made of a bag filled with large metal balls.
Grasshoppers:
French nickname for the green-uniformed British riflemen.
Grenadier:
Elite infantryman.
Grenadier-a-Cheval:
Heavy cavalry trooper in the Guard Cavalry.
Grognard:
Affectionate term for "grumblers" of the Guard infantry.
Gros-Bottes:
Nickname for the Grenadiers-a-Cheval (Big Boots).
Guides:
Bodyguards for Revolutionary generals.
Guidons:
Standards used by cavalry units.
Halberd:
Axe-headed polearm used by soldiers protecting the Colours.
Half-pay:
Unemployed officers (including naval lieutenants or above) were entitled to half-pay allowances despite not being on active service.
Hetman:
A cossack commander.
Horse Artillery:
Mobile, horse-drawn cannons.
Imperial Guard:
Napoleon Bonaparte's elite infantry. Later split into the Young, Middle and Old Guard.
Kurtka:
A Polish lancer jacket.
Lancers:
Lance-carrying, light cavalry.
Landwehr:
German conscript troops.
Levee-en-Masse:
Conscription.
Light Bobs:
British nickname for light infantrymen.
Light Infantry:
Units trained for harassing duties and skirmishing.
Limber:
Used to move artillery pieces.
Line Infantry:
Regular infantry that made up the bulk of an army.
Line of Communication:
An army's link to its supply base. Includes the route reinforcements and commissaries would travel to the army.
Line of March:
Direction an army is marching.
Line of Operations:
Direction an army is marching in enemy territory.
Line of Retreat:
An army's direction of retreat, preferably on its Line of Communication.
Mamelukes:
Turkey's elite cavalry.
Masse de Decision:
Reserve troops kept out of battle until the decisive moment of the fight.
Masse de Manouevre:
French force used to outflank enemy army.
Mirliton:
Hussar cap with flying wing.
Necessaries:
Personal kit issued by army.
Old Trousers:
British nickname for French drumbeat the Pas-de-Charge.
Opolchenie:
Russian militia.
Ordenanca:
Portuguese militia.
Ordre Mixte:
Flexible attack formation mixing units in column and in line.
Palisade:
Wooden-stakes fencing.
Pallasch:
German straight-bladed, heavy-cavalry sword.
Parados:
Rear-facing parapet.
Parapet:
Front-facing wall of fortification.
Parole:
Surrendering officer could give their word not to escape before being exchanged.
Petit-Quartier-General:
Small group of key subordinates who would accompany Napoleon Bonaparte.
Pickers:
Wire implement to clear musket touch holes.
Picquets:
Army outposts or patrols.
Pontonniers:
Engineers who could build, or improve, bridges.
Queue:
A soldier's powdered and tightly tied pigtail.
Raupenhelm:
Bavarian crested helmet.
Redoubt:
Independent defensive position.
Roundshot:
A solid metal cannonball of varying sizes and weights.
Sabot:
Wooden base for fixed ammunition.
Sabre:
A curved cavalry sword.
Shabraque:
Ornamental horse equipment.
Shako:
Cylindrical head gear for most armies.
Shrapnel:
Fused explosive shell filled with musketballs and pieces of metal that would rain down on troops when it burst in the air.
Spontoon:
A short, half-pike.
Steel:
Frizzen.
Stovepipe:
British shako without false front (Belgic).
Tirailleur:
A French sharpshooter.
Triangle:
A frame of lashed-together spontoons on which a flogging was carried out.
Tricolor:
The French flag of blue, white and red.
Vedette:
A cavalry scout.
Velites:
Trainee light infantry.
Voltigeur:
Elite French light infantry.
Yeomanry:
Volunteer British cavalry.

 

 

 
 
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