The Polish legions
The Polish troops in the service of France in Italy or in Germany from 1797 to 1801, the Italian legion, or the legion of the Danube, did not, as one often hears it said, give birth to the famous legion of the Vistula. Renamed the foreign demi-brigades, then the hundred thirteenth and hundred fourteenth demi-brigades, they were forced to embark for San Domingo and essentially destroyed by local fevers. Only a few companies which in 1806 were part of the army of Naples under Gouvion Saint-Cyr were still in Westfalia in 1807 for the initial formation of the legion of the Vistula.
The Grand Duchy of Warsaw
After the entry into Poland at the end of 1806 Napoleon charged Dombrowski with putting on foot a Polish army. On January 10, 1807, it already included
- eight infantry regiments (or at least their first battalion)
- two regiments of mounted chasseurs
- one artillery battery on foot
There were also some squadrons of mounted volunteers and the legion of the north, formed of Austrian prisoners or Prussians of Polish origin.
Organization after mid 1807: three divisions each including four infantry regiments, two cavalry regiments (one mounted chasseurs and one lancers) and an artillery battalion of three companies. The infantry regiments had four squadrons, about one hundred eighty men apiece.
The campaign of 1809
To begin with, it must be noted that from the beginning of the campaign in Spain and except for the legion of the Vistula, three infantry regiments of the grand duchy (fourth, seventh, and ninth) each sent two battalions there. These troops remained in Spain up to the end of 1811.
In 1809 the Polish army under Poniatowski (less the troops in Spain and two battalions from each of the eighth, tenth, and eleventh infantry left in garrison in Prussia) fought the Austrian VII Corps of Archduke Ferdinand. The latter took Warsaw, but Poniatowski invaded Galicia (a Polish province of Austria), where he recruited six infantry regiments and ten cavalry (seven of lancers, two hussars, and one of two squadrons of cuirassiers) known as the Franco-Galician army.
At the end of 1809 these Franco-Galician troops were incorporated into the army of the grand duchy; the infantry took the numbers thirteen to seventeen the fourth Galician is below), the cavalry the numbers seven to sixteen (the Polish cavalry regiments are numbered sequentially and not by arms; thus the hussars had numbers ten nd thirteen and the cuirassiers fourteen.
In Russia in 1812
The Polish soldiers essentially formed the V Corps under Poniatowski, with
- sixteenth division-- Zayonschek
- seventeenth division-- Dombrowski
- eighteenth division-- Kamienicki
Each division had three or four infantry regiments (with three or sometimes four battalions) and one or two cavalry regiments.
Moreover, Polish troops were found
- in the twenty eighth division (Girard) of the IX Corps (fourth, seventh and ninth infantry, returned from Spain)
- the fifteenth cavalry brigade in the first division of light cavalry (Bruyere) of the first cavalry corps: sixth and eighth lancers, second Prussian hussars (General Niemojewski)
- the fourth light cavalry division (General Rozniecki) in the fourth cavalry corps: second, seventh, eleventh, third, fifteenth and sixteenth lancers (three squadrons each)
- the second brigade of the seventh heavy cavalry division of the same corps: fourteenth cuirassiers (two squadrons) with two regiments of Westfalian cuirassiers, General Lepel
- the tenth hussars were in the sixteenth brigade (Subervie) of the second division of light cavalry in the second cavalry corps - finally, the fifth, tenth, and eleventh infantry formed the Radziwill brigade in Macdonald's X Corps.
The first act of the campaign would be the liberation of Lithuania, a Polish province, which made it possible to raise there five infantry regiments ( eighteen to twenty two) and four of lancers (seventeen to twenty)
In Germany in 1813
The grand duchy was invaded by the Russians at the beginning of 1813. It was after Cracow, the after Saxony that Poniatowski reorganized the Polish army. The Polish men became the VIII Corps, including
- twenty sixth infantry division (Kamienicki); first. eighth, fifteenth, and sixteenth
- twenty seventh infantry division (Krasinski; second, twelfth, and fourteenth
- cavalry brigade (Krukowiecki); second lancers, fourth chasseurs
The infantry regiments had only two battalions, the cavalry regiments three or even just two squadrons.
As for the cavalry, it became the fourth cavalry corps of the reserve under Kellermann:
- advance guard (Uminski); fourteenth cuirassiers (Polish cossacks)
- seventh light cavalry division (Sokolniki); eighth and sixteenth lancers, thirteenth hussars
- eighth light cavalry division (Sulkowski); third and sixth lancers, first mounted chasseurs.
Other regiments or isolated battalions made up part of the garrisons of strongholds, notably at Wittenberg the regiment of the Vistula (regrouping the remains of the legion) and the fourth Polish regiment, formed from the debris of the fourth, seventh, and ninth.
The grand duchy would be definitely erased from the map at the end of 1813, and Poniatowski drowned at Leipzig. Some Polish soldiers fought with their habitual talent in France in 1814, and during the Hundred Days they formed the third foreign regiment.