Napoleon’s 9th Light Infantry Regiment


By T. E. Crowdy

This book is the story of the 9th Light Infantry Regiment of Napoleon’s Grand Army from the days of the revolution to the final collapse at Waterloo. The Ninth can trace its roots back to the Royal Army as the Volunteers of Clermont-Prince in 1758. It became the 9th Demi-Brigade of Light Infantry in 1794 as part of the re-organization of the Army after the Revolution began. This was the Republic’s way of cleaning out the old references to the Royalist regiments. It became the 9th Light Infantry in 1803, under the command of General Napoleon.

Some of the members of the 9th Demi-Brigade could remember going to America with Rochambeau in 1779 and fighting in the American Revolution. In 1799, they were a part of the garrison of Paris. They were dispatched under orders of the First Consul Bonaparte westward to put down the Chouan rebellion. Upon arrival in the area most of the leaders surrendered to the Republican troops. They became part of the Army of the Reserve and marched eastward to face the forces of Austria. They marched through Dijon, which was full of foreign spies and were the object of ridicule because of the shoddy condition of uniforms and arms. This was part of Napoleon’s plan. He had them head for their depot where they received new uniforms and their firearms were fine-tuned. The newly re-furbished troops crossed the Alps and proceeded to beat the Austrians at Lodi.

The Ninth earned its nickname, “The Incomparable” at the battle of Marengo. They charged the Austrian positions after General Desaix had been killed and carried the day.

By naming the Ninth “Incomparable”, Napoleon had created some dissatisfaction in other units that had fought well that day.

In 1802, the regiment was presented with a new flag bearing the name “Incomparable” . Although, now being a favored unit in the Army, they never again stood out as the premier unit in a battle. When Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor, the Ninth swore allegiance to the crown.

The Ninth fought in many of the battles of the First Empire, although missing out on Austerlitz. As the French Empire became more pressed in the later years, parts of the Ninth were sent to fight in Spain and participated in the battles of Vitoria, and Badajoz.

They took part in the siege of Cadiz and other actions.

The resurrected Ninth took part in the Hundred Days campaign, when napoleon returned from Elba. They were part of the 30,000 who marched with Grouchy in June of 1815. The unit was dis-banded in September of 1815.

I recommend this book to those interested in the Napoleonic Wars, not only for its depiction of the trials and tribulations of fighting a war in those times, but also for its human side. These men, mostly conscripts, from the Vosges region of France, suffered the privations of a republican government without sufficient funds, living off the land during campaigns and some, the captivity of their enemies. This is a regimental history, that is less history than the story of the men who lived it.

This excellent book is available from Osprey Publications.

Hardback $29.95

eBook ePub $17.24

eBook PDF $17.24