Sunday, 11 May 2014

French Horse Artillery

Just finished preparing two limbers, guns and crews for my French which I hopefully can use from the Crimea until the Franco-Prussian wars. These are by Essex, part of a huge joblot I picked up on ebay several years ago. The figures are very nice and I would struggle to afford them these days. I did a quick comparison between Essex and Outpost. A Limber, 4 horses two drivers and two crew are £6.50 and £2.00 respectively. I have some Outpost figures coming so I'll be able to make a fairer comparison. I do have some Outpost Bavarian Foot Artillery Limbers and I can see that the horses are  about 10% smaller than the Essex ones and overall the Outpost figures have less bulk than the Essex. Nonetheless, Outpost figures are very fine and I'm happy to have a largish order turning up soon. I'll be surprised if anyone comes close to the Essex artillery piece in finesse though.

Some interesting crew poses and the finest work I've seen on the guns (except for the barrel ends) which need drilling out.
My one major concern is the drivers. Both ridden horses have tack for the lead positions. Most drivers were sat on the left of the team although I have seen one example of  drivers at the front. Not sure how the French did it but I'll stick them at the front since the horses are harnessed that way. One of the barrels is way too big for a 4-6 pounder, so I've passed that on to a foot artillery crew who were missing a barrel. I'll find another smaller  barrel from somewhere.

Just received my order from Outpost including Tom Nutt's book on the French Republican forces. Therein is described the horse artillery's equipment. The 'nearside' horses are ridden ( indicating that the drivers were all on one side) as it says 'offside horses only had reins and harness' ( referring to the absence of a portmanteau). The 'only ' is ambiguous. I think it means - 'offside horses had  reins and harness only'. Although I presume the horses on both sides were needed to provide motive power and that at least the rear pair were needed to slow the team, as the rear ridden horse has no strap around its rear end I wonder how it could use its weight to pull back against. I found this description of  earlier harness -

 To quote

''Draught Harness and Traces
The draught harness consisted of traces and breaching straps. The traces transmitted the tractive effort of the horse to the vehicle being drawn via the swingle trees. The traces were made of four strand hemp rope, furnished with rope loops at their terminals which looped onto the swingle trees. The traces were supported by a leather loop at the D buckle connected the wither strap to the breaching strap (avaloire).
Around the horse passed two large pieces of leather, the breaching strap and wither strap. These acted as the break for the gun. The wither strap, connected to the breaching strap via large D buckles, held up by a loin strap, which passed over the hind quarters of the horse, and the through the crupper. The wither strap was a single length of leather which passed around the front of the horse, through the iron rings on the neck collar and secured at each end to the breaching strap. The wither strap was provided with leather tubes to take the traces where they passed below the saddle, and over the stirrup leathers and girth of the near side horse. A flank strap supported both the traces and wither strap. A double or single loin strap passed over the horses’ rump.
The off side horse had a back strap which connected the top of the neck collar, passing to the flank strap, and thence the crupper at the loin strap. On the near side horse, this strap passed to the front of the riding saddle.
The leading and centre horses did not have the breaching strap or loin strap. The traces terminated in iron hooks with connected to the wither strap rings on the proceeding horses neck collar.''

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