THE ART GALLERY

THE GREAT GATE OF HOUGOMONT

The combination of drama, historical and technical accuracy captured by Keith Rocco in his latest masterwork, "The Great Gate of Hougoumont", makes this painting an instant classic.

Rushing into the British garrison are members of the lst Battalion of the Ist Legere Regiment, led by sous-lieutenant Legros (raised ax in hand) of the carabinier company. Although most of the assailants depicted are carabiniers, including the corporal leaning against the gate on the right-hand side of the painting, two voltigeurs of the battalion are also shown. In the light infantry, carabiniers were an elite company equivalent to the grenadiers of the line battalions. Voltigeurs were the elite light company. The regular companies were called chasseurs in a light battalion (1eger) and fusiliers in a line (ligne) battalion. The French are wearing the so called 1812 uniform.

Rocco correctly shows the French soldiers in their parade dress uniforms which, unless circumstances prevented, they invariably wore into battle. In addition, some of the carabiniers are sporting the new plumes as published in the 1812 journal Militaire.

Rocco is also to be highly commended for his accurate portrayal of the French going into battle without their cumbersome backpacks - a historical fact that seems to have escaped notice by almost every artist and military miniature designer attempting to depict Napoleonic subjects. Although instances of the French carrying their backpacks into action may be found, the overwhelming majority of documented cases show Napoleonic infantry going into battle carrying only their weapons, canteen and up to four cartridge pouches, each pouch holding about 15 rounds of ammunition.

The defenders are also depicted accurately. The British shown attempting to close the gate are members of the light company of the Coldstream Guards (each Guards battalion had one light company), who dropped their packs in the confines of the farm before the battle began. Also of note next to the gate is the open fronted cart shed that burned down during the battle and was not rebuilt.

- Scott Bowden - NAPOLEON MAGAZINE

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