Portuguese Legion (Napoleonic Wars)

The Portuguese Legion (French Légion portugaise and Portuguese Legião Portuguesa) was the 9,000 men strong Portuguese military force integrated in the Napoleon's Imperial Armies, mobilized after the occupation of Portugal by the army of General Junot, in 1807.

Portuguese Legion
Ph legiao0301.jpg
Chevauleger of the Portuguese Legion
Active12 November 1807
Disbanded5 May 1814
Country Kingdom of Portugal
AllegianceGrandes Armes Impériales (1804-1815)2.svg Napoleon I
Branch French Imperial Army
SizeLargest at 17 infantry battalions, 16 cavalry squadrons, and 2 artillery companies
Part ofImperial Foreign Troops
Nickname(s)"Black Infantry"

The Legion was created by order of Napoleon from 12 November 1807. Organization began in February 1808, with the best units of the disbanded Portuguese Army, including the elite Legion of Light Troops. It left to Salamanca in April 1808, crossing Spain until arriving in France. During the crossing of Spain, many legionnaires defected, returning to Portugal and joining the Portuguese resistance against the French occupation.

At the service of Napoleon, the Portuguese Legion fought in the campaigns of Germany, Austria and Russia, suffering heavy casualties. It was present in the battles of Wagram, Smolensk, Vitebsk and Borodino (Moscow). Being highly regarded by Napoleon, the troops of the Legion were referred by him as the "Black Infantry".

The Legion was disbanded on 5 May 1814, with only about 1,000 of its original 9,000 soldiers surviving and returning to Portugal.


The Portuguese Legion was organized as a division, originally including:

For the 1809 campaign, the 13th Elite Demi-brigade was created, with three battalions, made from elements of the several infantry regiments of the Legion. The 13th Demi-brigade was part of Oudinot's II Corps.

In 1811, the Portuguese Legion was reorganized in:

  • Three regiments of infantry
  • A regiment of chasseurs à cheval
  • A depot battalion

In 1813, after suffering heavy casualties, the remains of the Legion were organized as:

  • A battalion de guerre
  • A depot battalion


  • Artur, Ribeiro, Legião Portuguesa ao Serviço de Napoleão (1808–1813), Lisboa, Ferin, 1901.
  • Banha, Teotónio, Apontamentos para a História da Legião Portuguesa, Lisboa, 1863.
  • Boppe, P., La Legion Portugaise 1807–1813, Paris, 1897, p. 497.
  • Esdaile, Charles, The Peninsular War, London, 2003, pp. 28–29.