The year is 1809 and the Napoleonic War rages on with an intensity and ferocity never known before in the world. Few nations are left untouched by the brutal fighting and devastation, but the real war is fought between the two super powers, Britain and France. A crucial stage for the European theatre of the fight, the Iberian Peninsula soon became the key battleground the war was fought on. An expedition under Sir Arthur Wellesley, which was originally intended to attack the Spanish possessions in Central America, was diverted to Portugal. The troops under Wellesley won the Battle of Vimeiro while reinforcements landed at nearby Maceira Bay, but politics allowed the French to retreat from Portugal with all their loot and put Wellesley's army under John Moore.
John Moore, while not Wellesley's equal, was a capable and well-loved leader. He drove the French all the way back to the Spanish city Salamanca with a capable army of 25,000 well disciplined men. Their advance was checked by the news that Napoleon had taken the Spanish capital of Madrid after easily defeating several Spanish armies, and was advancing on the British with a veteran army of 200,000 men. Recognizing sure defeat if they stayed, John Moore was forced to lead a hasty retreat back toward the Spanish port city of Corunna in order to evacuate. The French were not about to let the British escape unscathed however, and a vicious pursuit soon evolved. This is where we will begin our story.
The world of the British army isn't so simple as fighting the French however, bone deep in the army lays a fiercer, age old, conflict between officers and the men. No rank could be achieved in the army without paying a considerable sum for it, meaning that frequently officers had little to no qualifications. In addition, this meant that people from the ranks never rose to the rank of officer. The highest a British soldier could hope to climb was to the rank of Sergeant. This fact led to an odd mixture of resentment and awe from the troops, as officers were seen as more than mere men. British soldiers would frequently, in fact, refuse to fight under anyone except officers who bought their ranks. For their parts, officers were usually frightened of the soldiers who were so unlike anything they encountered in their previous lives of luxury. The British often recruited the lowest of the low, people who chose the army instead of death for a crime they committed. The officers' fear of their men usually led to a strong disconnect that eventually turned to contempt, or even loathing. It was a rare and beloved officer who could bridge that gap while still maintaining his dignity.
The British army has been retreating for more than 150 miles, closely followed by the French army now under the command of Field Marshal Soult. The French dragoons have been a constant shadow, engaging in multiple skirmishes with the rear guard and cavalry patrols. To make matters worse, it is winter and the fleeing British army is forced to make their grueling march in the snow and bitter cold. The army marches well into the night, and when it comes time to wake up and continue the retreat there are always a few dozen men found dead in their sleeping rolls, frozen to death. The men are both physically exhausted and demoralized. When it comes time to huddle around the fires at night to cook whatever meager supplies they are able to find, they mutter about their officers, warm and comfortable in their large tents.
Corunna is starting to seem like an unreachable goal at this point, another 100 miles of hell stands between the British and the dubious safety of their inept Spanish allies. The question that every man, officer or soldier, asks themselves is whether or not they can really ever hope to reach it.
Age: (Also, how long has he/she been with the army?)
Regiment: (This may take some research. If you want you can be a part of a regiment that wasn't really in action there though)
While there were some more specific ranks (such as Sergeant Major) many of these were rare so i'll stick to the basics.
Private: Basic soldier's rank
Corporal: Also sometimes called "chosen" these were men who distinguished themselves with either ability or long service. They had no real power or privilege above their fellow soldiers besides a slightly better pay.
Sergeant : The highest a basic soldier could expect to rise, these men are generally veterans of dozens of battles. They had direct control of the men, and officers generally relied heavily on them to maintain order.
Ensign: The lowest officer rank, ensigns were generally only boys, usually about 15 or 16. They usually had no real power, but instead were there to observe and wait to be old enough for their lieutenancy.
Lieutenant: The first real officer rank, Lieutenants generally served directly under Captains and didn't lead men by themselves.
Captain: Leaders of a "company"(about 100-200 men), captains are the last rank that had direct contact with their men. While they answered directly to Majors, they generally had free control of their companies. In a
Major: The head of two or more companies, these officers generally didn't associate with the men at all and instead worked closely with their colonels.
Colonel: The head of a battalion (about 300-1200 soldiers), Colonels were considered small generals in a sense, capable of overseeing battles and performing small missions.
General: Head of an army composed of several regiments (multiple battalions), generals had large groups of advisers known as aids who assisted him in making his decisions.
Branches of the Army
The grenadier units had, by the time of the Napoleonic Wars, ceased using the hand-thrown grenades, and were largely known for being composed of physically big men, frequently relied upon for shock actions.
• Infantry of the Line
Infantry of the line were so named for the dominant line combat formation used to deliver a volume of musket fire. Forming the bulk of the Napoleonic armies it was the primary offensive and defensive Arm available to the commanders during the period. Movement in line formation was very slow, and unless the battalion was superbly trained, a breakdown in cohesion was virtually assured, especially in any kind of uneven or wooded terrain. As a result, when movement over such terrain was required over a significant distance troops would move in columns and then deploy into line at their destination.
In addition, the line formation was vulnerable to cavalry charges, particularly from the flanks and rear, and these attacks usually resulted in the complete breakdown of cohesion and even destruction of the unit unless it was able to "form square".
• Light infantry
The light infantry variously known in different armies by different names were first introduced into the regular armies during the wars of the 18th century as irregular troops, but became permanent parts of regular Napoleonic armies either as units in their own right, or as companies in the line infantry battalions. Perceiving themselves as superior troops due to being required to engage the enemy in small groups ahead of the other troops, requiring greater initiative and skill. Light infantry were also fully trained to fight in formation and so functioned as both line and light infantry when required.
Many armies contained other light troops other than the officially designated 'light infantry'. These units fought as dedicated skirmisher units ahead of the main force, such as the French Voltigeurs, German Jäger and British Rifles.
The cavalry of the period had retained its role from the 18th century, although the mounted grenadiers had also abandoned their grenades, and only retaining their names. For the most part the cavalry were an offensive Arm, either used to find the enemy, or as a maneuver force to deliver a physical shock to the infantry, dependent mostly on their sabers and lances for causing casualties. The largest component of all armies during the period were the dragoons, but due to lack of adequate sized horses light cavalry soon became a large part of the armies.
• Battle cavalry
Battle cavalry were all cavalry units that mounted large horses and were used to deliver a physical shock to either enemy cavalry or infantry. They were so called from the 18th century belief that they were the deciders of the battle, always kept as a final reserve to be used to break the enemy ranks. Although many still wore the cuirass, and therefore many regiments were called cuirassiers during the previous century, and were descendants of armored cavalry before them, many like the carabineers did not, and were later referred by writers as "heavy cavalry" for the size of their horses.
Dragoons were the less glamorous but most numerically significant part of the cavalry Arm although their origin was in mounted infantry. During the period dragoons were frequently used in the battle cavalry role in addition to their traditional role. They were also equipped with either carbines or the characteristically long dragoon musket.
• Light cavalry
Light cavalry were utilized for their speed and agility functioning primarily as reconnaissance and screening troops. They were also used for skirmishing, raiding and communications. Many light cavalry types evolved flamboyant uniforms, particularly the hussars, these had originated in Hungary and they continued to be recruited from there by the army of Austria. By the time of the wars Hussar units were found in all armies. Irregular Cossack cavalry were of great use to the Russian army in harassing the enemy lines of communication and conducting raids.
Lancer cavalry, known in many armies as 'Uhlans', were exclusive to a few armies at the beginning of the wars but came to be used by nearly all the combatant nations as the wars progressed. They were valued for the significant advantage they had in a charge due to the long reach of the lance which allowed them gain first strike at enemy cavalry and infantry alike, though they were highly vulnerable if forced into a near stationary melee. Frequently used as an anti-cavalry force.
Artillery of the Napoleonic Wars continued to use the cannon and howitzers of the previous century. These were smooth-bore, heavy, cast artillery pieces moved by limbers, usually at a slow pace.
• Siege artillery
Siege artillery were very heavy cannon, howitzer and mortar artillery pieces used to force surrender of fortresses during a siege.
• Field artillery
Field artillery usually employed cannon and howitzers to fire directly into visible enemy troops, firing either ball or canister ammunition measured in the weight of the cannon ball (in pounds). The heavier pieces were sometimes known as "position artillery" and were deployed in the same position for the duration of the battle due to the difficulty of moving them.
• Horse artillery
Artillery in which the crews rode rather than walked with their pieces became known as horse artillery, and was also an innovation of the previous century, but became more widespread during the Napoleonic Wars. Usually attached to the cavalry units to provide them with supporting fire from smaller cannon then their field artillery counterparts.
That's all the relevant material I can think of, if you have a question on something please don't hesitate to ask.