I wanted a little special unit to my French Napoleonic collection and the Gendarmerie from Capitan miniatures got my attention. I liked their rough appearance.
I will here quote Arthur from the excellent Lead adventure forum.
The gendarmerie nationale had been set up in 1791 to enforce the law and maintain order within the boundaries of the French republic. Although part of the military, it was essentially a police force whose duties included rounding up vagrants and arresting brigands and highwaymen, enforcing the conscription laws and the new forest codes (which made the force remarkably unpopular in rural areas), maintaining order on market days, etc. These gendarmes (both foot and mounted) were always used as internal security troops and were not involved in military operations proper.
The Gendarmerie d'Espagne was a different animal altogether, although it shared many characteristics with the gendarmerie nationale. It was set up in January 1810 for service in Spain and originally intended to fulfill much the same role as in France. However, it quickly evolved into an anti-guerilla force, a role for which the gendarmes were much better suited than line infantrymen or cavalry troopers. So besides protecting convoys, rounding up deserters and generally maintaining order, they also chased guerrilla bands around and frequently gave them a hard time. 20 squadrons of gendarmerie d'Espagne were organised in 1810, each consisting of 80 mounted and 120 foot gendarmes. These squadrons were later re-organised in six regional legions, with the balance between the foot and mounted contingents being altered to better suit local conditions. The number of horsemen was reduced in the legions operating in hilly or mountainous areas, where infantrymen would move faster and more discreetly than cavalrymen, and increased in the units serving in the plains - the Burgos legion was almost entirely mounted for instance. However, foot and mounted gendarmes would still serve together within the same legions and were not organised in separate entities - merely separate mounted squadrons troops and foot companies.
As far as rating them is concerned, the men of the gendarmerie d'Espagne were a tough bunch. Recruits were army regulars who had to be veterans of at least four campaigns and they were well inured to the hardships of campaigning in rough terrain. They could fight as hard and as dirty as the guerrillas they were chasing, for which they were greatly respected, even by their enemies. You should therefore consider them elites, or at least seasoned veterans, and they would be distinguished from line troops by their ability to skirmish efficiently. Perhaps rating them as elite voltigeurs is the best way to accurately depict these troops.
Given the nature of their duties, foot gendarmes would operate in relatively small units and are therefore best suited for skirmish games as Johan says. They were never formed into infantry battalions as they were not intended for use in pitched battles, although small detachments could be found in French vanguards or forlorn hopes. The number of men within a tactical unit of foot gendarmes would be dictated by the mission they had to fulfill, so could be anything between 20 and one hundred men depending on the job to be done. On the tabletop, they're best used fighting Spanish guerrilas, which is what they were doing most of the time in real life.
The mounted contingent of the Gendarmerie d'Espagne could be used in larger numbers though, and they sometimes fought very effectively as regular cavalry : along with the 15th chasseurs à cheval et Berg lancers, four squadrons of mounted gendarmes charged at the battle of Villodrigo in 1812, where they routed ten squadrons of British cavalry and inflicted heavy casualties on them .
Thanks again Arthur.
The only bad thing with these are their limited poses. To add a little more variety into this unit I also bought an equipment pack and swapped one of the officer’s arms with one from Victrix.
I like the addition that one of the soldiers is carrying a blunderbuss on his knapsack, thinking that he could use it as a primitive swat team instead of a shotgun.
Im not totally sure how to field these in Black powder which is the gaming rule I play Napoleonic’s in but I think they could work really well as a small skirmishing unite with some added special rule to make them a little bit tougher. I based them on individual bases so I could easily play them as skirmishes.