"... the Emperor sends in two battalions of Old Guard Chasseurs
to clear the way for him. They surge forward, light-infantry style
at the run in open order, loading their muskets as they come,
each man seeking to be the first to get his bayonet into a Bavarian.
... [Old Guard Grenadiers] literally shaking with impatience,
finally hear the order: 'Grenadiers, forward !' An officer ... sees them come:
'... their line swept down the slope in perfect order, but headlong and terrible
for these men were furious." - Colonel J. Elting, US Army
Guard of the Directory
- - - - - 1. Uniforms >
- - - - - 2. Organization >
- - - - - 3. Young Guard >
- - - - - 4. Middle Guard >
- - - - - 5. Old Guard >
- - - - - 6. Commanders >
Picture: grenadier of the Old Guard
In 1814 Napoleon bid farewell to the Guard.
"For 20 years I have constantly accompanied
you on the road to honor and glory. ...
Do not regret my fate .. Adieu, my friends.
Would I could press you all to my heart."
At these words Gen. Petit waved his sword
On the way home they beat up some happy royalists and nailed
Introduction: Imperial Guard - the power behind the throne.
Napoleon's Guard probably represent the last true link in a chain spanning the ages.
"War's history tells of many elite guards which, in their times, formed living walls
around their rulers' thrones. The Persian 'Immortals' had a support contingent of
concubines... Israel's King David kept a bodyguard of Philistine mercenaries.
Alexander the Great rode amid the nobly-born Royal Squadron of his Macedonian Companions. (ext.link) Rome's Praetorian cohorts, (ext.link) unfortunately, are more remembered for betraying their Caesars than for guarding them, as are the
Janissaries of the Ottoman sultans. Formed in 1506, the Pope's Swiss Guard still wears a version of the uniform designed by,
tradition says, Michelangelo. The 'Maison du Roi' of France's Bourbon kings included Swiss and French guards.
When the Revolution flared, the French guard mutined. The Swiss died fighting for a king
who abandoned them.
While campaigning, the guardsmen were the equal of any formation in the Imperial Army. Seldom used in the early campaigns, they were quite active by 1813 and 1814 and became Napoleon's shock troops during the campaigns in Germany and France. Napoleon wanted a strong Guard for several reasons. It was the wall of bayonets against enemies foreign and domestic about his throne, and a reserve of elite troops under his immediate control. No Napoleonic troop marched into battle with more confidence and promise of military glory than the Imperial Guard. They embodied the physical strength and bravery that characterized anciet warriors.
Discipline was high, it was forbidden to brawl at the canteens or get drunk. A guardsman caught sleeping out of barracks got 15 days' arrest.
The elite troops were pampered. The Guard drew extra pay and allowances, and they got better housing. In 1807 after the bloody battle of Eylau, Napoleon decided to build a military camp in Osterode. The French engineers constructed a palisade around a vast square inside which were streets bordered by wooden huts. Each street bore the name of one of the latest victories. The Imperial Guard had its own camp, built with a degree of luxury. In the centre was a brick building where Napoleon installed himself.
The Guard was a priviledged troop. Napoleon writes:
"When ... the Guard meets ... the Line en route, the latter shall form in line of battle and port arms
or present sabers ... Flags and standards shall be dipped, The colonels and commanders shall exchange salutes."
Guard of the Directory
"The Guard's origin was double. One ancestor was the guard of the National Convention.
That was rough duty: 'Deputations' from various disorderly sections of Paris had the habit
of swarming in, brandishing their sundry blunt and edged weapons, to acquaint the Convention
with their conflicting versions of the people's voice. Anyone choosing to stand in the way of such intrusions ...
might suddenly find his head ornamenting the point of a partiot's pike. The resultant
atrition on the 'grenadier-gendarmes' who had that duty prompted the Convention to augment
them with selected infantrymen and artillerymen and to form the whole into a seven company
guard. Between the Paris mobs and the Paris politicians, those veterans found themselves
in bad company. Though repeatedly purged, reorganized, and renamed, this Gardes du Corps
Legislatif remained unruly and sullenly contemptous of its civilian masters.
In 1796 the Guard of the Directory was formed to escort the Directors in public ceremonies and parades. There were 2 companies of foot grenadiers (and 2 companies of horse grenadiers). The grenadiers were at least 5'10" tall, literate, with perfect conduct and participation in 2 campaigns. It was elite of the army. However, to enlarge their ranks, deserters and 'bad subjects', were also admitted. Some army commanders took advantage of the opportunity to rid themselves of some questionable characters.
Robespierre and Saint-Just had a great number of members in this Guard. The Convention was not unaware of it, and it is what explains the effort that it required to set these troops towards the commune, on the famous night of Thermidor 9. After the reign of Robespierre, the Convention felt the need to purify the ranks of its Guard.
The purification had changed the Guard in last days of its reign; the Directory continued with this prudent work of regeneration. By its care, the veterans of the armies of the Rhine, of Sambre and Meuse, of the Pyrenees and Italy, took places in its Guard.
The admission requirements were:
Guard of the Consuls [Gardes des Consuls]
"On 28 Nov, eighteen days after the coup d'etat, the Guard of the Consuls was officially created out of the Guards of the Directory and Legislature. ... On 2 December citizen Murat, a lieutenant eneral, was named commander in chief and inspector general of the new Guard. (He remained in this post only a few weeks.) ... The decree organizing the Guard of the Consuls was dated 13 nivose year VIII (3 Jan 1800)." (Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory" p 7)
With the establishment of the Consulate, the Guard of the Directory,
The infantry of the Guard consisted of 2 battalions of foot grenadiers and 1 company of light infantry. In the end of 1800 the company of light infantry increased to battalion of chasseurs. All men were excellent fighters, select marchers and killers, but the whole Guard was far from solid, and its morale and loyalty were still uncertain things. Some were uncombed Revolutionary zealots.
There were brawls and duels among the guardsmen, and their conduct in public suggested that some of them considered Paris an occupied city. There were quarels between the Guard and the 9th Light Regiment, which - Napoleon having dubbed it "The Incomparable" in Italy - was not about to be impressed by any "Praetorians."
In the battle of Marengo the Guard transitioned to a battle formation. When Bonaparte became First Consul he wrote that his plans for the Guard were for it to become the model of the entire army.
By a new decree of March 8, 1802, Bonaparte supplemented the new organization of the
In 1802 Napoleon submitted a permanent schedule of recruitment for Consular Guard: 1 man from each battalion.
"1802 was a wonderful year. During its course Bonaparte filled the French with the 'joy of revival' ... It was the year of the Code, of the general peace ... and of Bonaparte's appointment to the consulate for life. ... Now he was pleased to change the name of the Guard of the Consuls to the 'Consular Guard', or simply 'The Guard.' ... Bonaparte outlined the organizaon as follows: 'The foot Guard shall be composed of two corps containing 2 battalions of grenadiers and two of chasseurs respectively ... ' Though these corps contained but one regiment each, their designation as such indicated that their strength would eventually be increased. Colonel Hulin was given command of the grenadiers. A veteran soldier ... one of the authentic stormers of the Bastille." (Lachoque - "Anatomy of Glory" pp 24-25)
Imperial Guard [Garde Imperiale]
In 1804 after his crowning, Napoleon transformed the Consular Guard into the Imperial
Guard (Garde Imperiale). A decree of July 29, 1804, stated: “The Consular Guard will take the title of Imperial Guard".
The decree also described recruitment: "Each regiment of infantry, cavalry, foot and horse artillery,
and each battalion of the train, prepared a list of 6 NCOs or privates likely to be called upon to belong to the Guard,
having met the measurements of the needs of that Corps.
The conditions to be included to fill these lists were:
There were problems however, for example the 29th Line Infantry had only 4 (instead of 10) soldiers 5'9" with four years' service, and asked if 5'8" would do for a grenadier.
In winter 1803-4 the so-called Velites were formed.
The Velites were sort of enlisted volunteers to remedy the last evil by drawing from
them instead of the army. They were required to be young men of family.
This was to obtain a certain amount of education and character, with which is usually
joined a sense of honor. Allured by the splendid renown of Napoleon, dazzled by his numerous
victories, young men flocked to the ranks of Velites.
In 1806 every battalion of line and light infantry were ordered to send 1 man to the Guard by 1 July. The candidates must be under 35, strongg and tall (5,10" for grenadiers and 5'8" for chasseurs), with 10 years service, and a citation for bravery. It soon appeared that these conditions could not be fulfiled, even by lowering the term of service to 6 years.
The infantry of the Guard also acquired more foreign elements. The Velites of Florence received Guard status in 1809, those of Turin in 1810. In 1813 the battalions of Velites were increased to 800 with Young Guardsmen who spoke Italian.
Napoleon enlarged the Young Guard several times.
The increase of Guard came in 1810 from the incorporation of the Dutch Royal Guard. The Dutch regiment became 2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers before being demoted to being 3rd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers in 1811.
In 1810 the Guard was officially divided into Old Guard, Middle Guard and Young Guard.
Only the 1st Regiment of Grenadiers and 1st Regiment of Chasseurs carried Eagle.
The 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Chasseurs, and all the regiments of Middle and Young Guard carried
fanions. (The voltigeurs carried red and the tirailleurs carried white ones.)
In April 1811 a school of drummers was formed for the Guard. It consisted of :
The decree issued on July 19th ordered that there would always be 10 men nominated per
regiment of line and light infantry for the recruitment of foot grenadiers, as well as for the
foot chasseurs of the Old Guard. (In cavalry also 10 men per regiment for the Guard).
In 1811 were formed new regiemnts:
The Battalion of Instructions was formed in 1811 and was set up to train the Young and Middle Guard as corporals and sergeants for the newly formed regiments.
The Old Guard enjoyed the highest prestige and in 1811 Napoleon made it clear to Berthier (chief-of-staff) "I wish it clearly understood that this priviledge doesn't apply to the 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Chasseurs, nor to the Fusiliers (Middle Guard), voltigeurs and tirailleurs (Young Guard) nor the 2nd Lighthorse-lancers ("Red Lancers"). ... Keep this decision for your guidance alone."
Regiments of flanqueurs (flankers) were formed. The men were recruited from 'sons or nephews of the headquarters, foot, or horse rangers of the Crown Forests, or those of the public domain, who have reached 18 years of age and measure 5 feet, 6,5 inches.' After serving 5 years, the flankers might succeed to their fathers' posts. The flankers wore green uniforms and were usually conspicuous at parades and reviews.
The campaign in 1812 and the winter retreat from Russia ruined the Guard.
The winter was harsh, one night 30 veterans of Old Guard Chasseurs froze to death.
The sudden attacks of the Cossacks had made the guardsmen jittery. A sergeant of the Middle Guard carried the regiment's dog, which had frozen its paws,
on his pack. The dog almost got the sergeant killed while he was fighting off a Russian
cuirassier by trying to take part in the fight and entangling the sergeant in his leash. :-)
Approx. 50,000 foot and horse guardsmen had been reduced to 1,100. (Nafziger - "Lutzen and Bautzen" p 6)
By February 1st 1813 there were no officers or other ranks answering roll for several regiments of Young Guard: 4th, 5th and 6th Tirailleurs, 4th and 5th Voltigeurs ! The 3rd Grenadiers (Dutch) had only 11 men in the ranks (out of 1.496). The Old and Middle Guard did better, there were 408 veterans in the 1st and 2nd Grenadiers and 415 veterans in 1st and 2nd Chasseurs. The Fusiliers-Grenadiers had 118 survivors and the of Fusiliers-Chasseurs 126.
In 1813 the Old Guard was rebuild, 250 battalions in Spain furnished 6 veterans each with at least 8 years' service. These men went into the 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Chasseurs. The 1st Grenadiers and 1st Chasseurs accepted only those with at least 10 years' service.
In 1813 were formed new regiments:
In 1813, the 2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers and 2nd Regiment of Foot Chasseurs became part of the division of the Old Guard.
"Napoleon's desperation for troops during 1814 had led him to the point of prostituting the
prestige and elite status of the Guard simply to draw anyone who could carry a musket into
the army." (- Paul Dawson napoleon-series.org)
The first battalions of 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Chasseurs were made of veterans of the Russian campaign and Fusiliers with 3 years' service. The second battalions were made of veterans of the Spanish war.
When Napoleon abdicated in 1814 he was allowed only a small troop on Elba Island. On April 7th Napoleon called for volunteers from his Old Guard to serve in his guard on Elba Island. The Allies allowed for 500 infantrymen, 120 cavalrymen and 120 artillerymen. Generals Petit and Pelet were soon swamped with requests. Many officers asked to serve as simple privates. Out of 400 volunteers of Guard Artillery 100 were selected for Elba. Out of the Marines 21 men were accepted, and out of the French and Polish cavalry only 100 Polish lancers were chosen. This is what the Emperor said about this faithful phalanx: "They are all my friends. Every time I looked at them my heart was touched because, to me, they symbolized the whole army. These six hundred braves from many regiments reminded me of the great days whose memory is so precious. They all bear honorable scars from .... those memorable battles. In loving them, I loved all you soldiers of the French Army."
Once on Elba the guardsmen got bored, and at the first sign of spring they were laying siege
to the local women. After the war was finally over, Marshal Macdonald asked what the guardsmen of Elba Battalion
have done if the expedition from Elba Island to France hadn't occurred or hadn't succeeded.
They replied: "Gone off home."
Napoleon had to rebuilt the Guard again in 1815. "Digby Smith is of the opinion that it's impossible to know the number of Guard survivors from Russia still present in its ranks in 1815, but points out that of the 400-600 officers and other ranks who'd got back, many must have succumbed in Germany. The Grenadiers' and Chasseurs' composition in 1815 is perhaps relevant to the fiasco of the last fatal charge at Waterloo." (Austin - "1815: the return of Napoleon" p 314)
According to the Decree of April 8th 1815, (Article 22.) the requirements for the infantry of Old Guard were 12 years' service, and for the Young Guard 4 years. The height requirements (Article 23.) were as follow:
On June 16th 1815 the Young Guard consisted of the following regiments:
A a levy of selected 2 officers and 20 men from each line and light infantry regiment joined the new Guard. Only the 1st Grenadiers and 1st Chasseurs were filled with men with 12 years' service and with the men of Elba Battalion. They were the old of the Old Guard, the sine pari (without equal). Almost 30 % of the I/1st Grenadiers were veterans of 20-25 campaigns, one third was awarded for bravery. They averaged 35-years of age and 5'11" in height.
The 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Chasseurs accepted men with 8 years' service. The 3rd and 4th Grenadiers, and 3rd and 4th Chasseurs were filled up with men with only 4 years' service in the Line.
The beaurocrats in Ministry of War named the 3rd and 4th regiments of grenadiers and chasseurs,
the Old Guard, but the army called them Middle Guard. The Young Guard consisted of volunteers, retired men,
Corsicans, recruits and even deserters. It recruited with great difficulty and Napoleon
thought of sending the conscripts from the north and the Pas-de-Calais to Paris for the Young Guard.
In August, just few months after Waterloo, King Louis XVIII ordered the Imperial Guard abolished. In September the Young Guard was disbanded. On 11 September, General Roguet, reviewed the 1st Grenadiers for the last time.
A new Royal Guard was formed:
The new Royal Guard looked great during parades and reviews. Most of the members of the Imperial Guard went home. However some of the veterans of the Old Guard were on half-pay and stayed in Paris. They entertained themselves by mocking the young soldiers and aristocratic officers and shouting confusing commands during the Royal Guard's drills. :-)
When the new officers amused themselves by snatching an eagle-crested button from the threadbare coat of a limping veteran, there would be a sudden casualties in nearby alleys. When a group of young officers of the Royal Army jammed into a provincial theater to heckle Talma, a friend of Napoleon, the attentive citizenry and veterans asked for a short intermission, bounced them out the handiest door, and ran them down the street to the shelter of their barracks.
Years later, when at last death knocked at Napoleon's door He remembered his Guardsmen in his will. Approx. 200,000 francs were to be divided among the amputees of Ligny and Waterloo, with double to the Guard, and quadruple to the men of the Elba Battalion.
Uniforms of the Imperial Guard.
The famous painter David tried to persuade Bonaparte and the generals to adopt new fashions and dress in the Roman style, but the kilts the of Ecole de Mars met with small success. The Jacobins clung to the historic dress of the Gardes francaises which, besides being of the national blue, white, and red, was after all, the uniform worn by the stormers of the Bastille. Moreover, a long war had emptied the clothing magazines and had left no time to destroy all the trappings of Tyranny. The soldiers were disgusted with their old clothes, with the uniforms of the Royal army, and with the faded libert caps and the ill-matched shoes. Such garments lowered the prestige of the Guard.
With the better cloth, real leather and gold laces, a new type of soldier appeared at the dawn of 1800. And the Guard prided itself on being the criterion. Officers of the Guard ruined themselves for clothes and accoutrements. An officer thought nothing of spending 35 francs for a bearskin and 18 for a pair of elegant boots. Such elegant outfits also pleased the young women. Between 1806 and 1810 the Guard's uniforms had cost 20 million francs (!), and the cost kept rising. In the Line, coats and waistcoats had to last 3 years, overcoats 4, hats 5, and heavy equipment 20; but no term was specified (according to Henri Lachoque) in the Guard in that time. The resulting waste appalled the honest Daru.
The wardrobe of the grenadier or chasseur was large and cost 258 francs (approx. 100,000 francs in 1956). It included a bearskin cap, 2 dress coats, 2 waistcoats, 2 pairs of breeches, 1 pair of stockings, and a single shirt. The guardsmen combed their queues and tied them just 2 inches below the base of the skull, shined their boots, and chalked their leather belts. Doubtless some privates had dirty hands, but all wore clean white gloves. :-) The officers' uniforms were literally loaded with gold lace. The luxury of the gilded phalanx was overwhelming; it drove the crowds to frenzy of enthusiasm, and set the girls to dreaming.
The Emperor didn't like ragged gaiters nor torn shirts. The guardsmen had to groom their bearskin caps, to brush and brus their fur. General Hulin of the Grenadiers issued the following: "The Commandant has noticed several soldiers wearing black gaiters on the march and reminds them of the regulations expressly ordering them to wear grey ..."
[Gaiters: white for summer parade, black for winter, gray for long marches.]
[Trousers: white or offwhite for summer, dark blue for winter]
P - parade, C - campaign and combat, M - marches, and sometimes in combat
for details see Jouineau and Mongin - "The French Imperial Guard"
Organization of the Imperial Guard.
In general the infantry of the Imperial Guard was organized the same way as the rest of the army. There were only few differences. For example in 1808-1815 the line regiment had staff, and 3-6 battalions of 6 companies each. In comparison the Guard regiment had staff, and only 2 battalions of 4-8 companies each.
In 1804 the Regiment of Foot Grenadiers (and Regiment opf Foot Chasseurs) consisted of staff and 3 battalions (two were made of battle-hardened veterans and one battalion of young Velites), see below:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Regimental Staff:
When the Velite Battalions were disbanded and formed the Regiment of Fusiliers, each Guard regiment had only 2 battalions. In this formation they served until the end of the napoleonic wars.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Regimental Staff: *
* - The staff of regiment of the Old Guard varied slightly from the staff of regiment of the Young Guard.
For example in 1813 the 7th Regiment of Tirailleurs was commanded by senior officer (Concourt)
while the 1st Regiment of Foot Grenadiers by general (Michel).
(Young Guard) 7e Regiment de Tirailleurs
. . . . . 1 Major-Commandant: Concourt
. . . . . . . . . . 2 Chefs de Bataillon: Magne, Tangnagell
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Cpt. adjudant-mjr.: Charlot
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Ltn. adjudant-mjr.: De Besteen, and one vacant
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Ltn. officier-payeur: vacant
(Middle Guard) Regiment de Fusiliers-Grenadiers
. . . . . 1 Major-Commmandant: Flamand
. . . . . . . . . . 2 Chefs de Bataillon: Leglise, Lafargue
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Cpt. adjudant-mjr.: Rostein, Pelee
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Ltn. sous-adjudant-mjr.: Senot, Pasquy
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Officier-payeur: Capitaine Goussin
(Old Guard) 1er Regiment de Grenadiers
. . . . . 1 Major-Commandant: GdB Michel
. . . . . . . . . . 2 Chefs de Bataillon: Albert, Belcourt
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Cpt. adjudant-mjr.: Tardieu, Pernon
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Ltn. sous-adjudant-mjr.: De Perron, Foucher
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Ltn. officier-payeur: Bourgeois
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Ltn. Porte-aigle : Chauvey
Paul de Bourgoing writes: "Choose the 12 men who seem to have the thickest beards, or are likely to grow them. Above all, don't take any blondes or redheads; only men with black beards, whom you'll place out in front.... Most were still beardless."
Henri Lachoque writes: "Twelve priviledged characters were appointed sappers who would carry axes and wear aprons and bearskin bonnets. Guessing which of the youths would grown beards - and black ones, for red or blond beards were out - was something of a problem." (Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory" p 201)
Theoretically the Guard battalion was approx. 800-men strong. Due to casualties, sickness and other reasons the units never reached the maximum strength. For example in Leipzig (1813) the average battalion of Old Guard was 780-men strong, the Middle Guard 520 and the Young Guard had 455 men.
Napoleon changed the organization of battalion from 8 (smaller) companies to 4 (larger) ones. This organization lasted until the end of Napoleonic wars. For example in 1815 according to Article 2. (Decree of April 8th) Guard regiment "will consist of 2 battalions, each of 4 companies."
In 1810-1811 each company of Young Guard had: 1 captain, 4 lieutenants (two of 1st and two of 2nd class), 1 sergent-major, 4 sergeants, 1 furier, 8 corporals, 1 sapper (with bearskin but too young for proper beard), 3 drummers and 200 voltigeurs or tirailleurs.
The Young Guard [Jeune Garde]
"The Young Guard infantry appeared in 1809 with the organization of two regiments each of
tiraileurs-grenadiers and tirailleurs-chasseurs. Their cadres came from the Old Guard;
their privates were the strongest and best educated men from the current class of conscripts.
There were also two regiments each of conscripts-grenadiers and conscripts-chasseurs,
likewise taken directly from the newly summoned conscripts. Their enlisted cadre was from
the (Guard) fusiliers; their lieutenants were students from St. Cyr. The cadre, especially
its senior officers, did not take kindly to being in 'conscript' outfits.
Napoleon gave seasoned officers to command the Young Guard. These veterans forged their men into a superbly drilled and strictly disciplined force. The martial air of the first regiments of Young Guard astonished everyone. The men of Young Guard were healthy and with stamina (in 1812 the 4th Voltigeurs and 4th Tirailleurs marched 468 miles in 23 days !)
In 1809 the height requirement was 163 cm, in 1814 157 cm. Napoleon wanted them to be at least 5' tall. The taller of the recruits went into the Tirailleurs-Grenadiers while the shorter ones entered the Tirailleurs-Chasseurs.
In 1809 the 1st Conscripts-Grenadiers and 1st Conscripts-Chasseurs campaigned in the mountainous Tyrol against Andreas Hofer's insurrection. Hofer begun to secretly organize insurrection, visiting villagers and holding councils of war in local inns. He was so much on the move that he signed his messages "Andreas Hofer, from where I am" and letters to him were addressed to "wherever he may be". Hofer commanded a force of Tyroleans approximately 20,000 strong, together with a couple of hundred Austrian soldiers. The French promised a reward for his head. Hofer was captured by Italian troops and sent to Mantua in chains. He was executed. Hofer became a martyr in Germany and Austria and a rallying point against the power of Napoleon.
The Young Guard also fought hard in the battle of Aspern-Essling.
Henri Lachoque writes: "A desperate struggle commenced during which Marshal Lannes was mortally wounded.
Massena held the village of Aspern with admirable tenacity while the
Austrian grenadiers wrested Essling from Boudet's division.
Then the Emperor's aides, Generals Mouton and Rapp, recaptured it with troops from Curial's
In 1810 in Spain the Young Guard was tired but war-wise. Colette, a soldier of the 2nd Conscripts-Chasseurs writes: "The [Spanish] partisans blockaded us for 4 days without bread so we ate the captain's horse. ... Then we charged them with bayonets and made an opening. When we leave a town the Spaniards enter it and come out to attack us every night. ... Where we are, they are all around us ..." Corporal Franconin of the 1er Tirailleurs-Grenadiers writes: "We have been running around the mountains for almost two months. We set out in the morning and sleep in whatever village we land in at the end of a fruitless search. We have seen the partisans several times. Two of our mobile columns ... came across one of the largest bands on a hillside two musket shots from Belorado. We gave them a good beating ..." In 1811 Mignolet of the 1st Tirailleurs wrote from Spain: "Their bands grow bigger every year, for we burn their towns and villages ..."
Napoleon recalled part of the Young Guard for his campaign against Russia. Roguet's division had covered a distance of 465 miles by wagon and over 700 on foot !
During the campaign in Russia in 1812 the Young Guard fought at Smolensk. Delaborde's division fought its way into the suburbs with difficulty. Voltigeurs and Tirailleurs, parched by the heat, devoured green apples they found in the orchards. Amid toppling houses, screaming wounded roasting in the flames they penetrated to the center of the burning city which lay under an immense pall of flame-colored smoke. The Russian infantry fought from house to house. At last, near the burned bridge, the Young Guard joined the Polish infantry of the Vistula Legion under Clapared who were firing on the retreating Russians. Smolensk was in French hands.
The Guard reached Moscow. The Old Guard was posted in Kremlin and its surroundings, while the Young Guard was quartered in the rubble around the palace of Count Rostopchin, governor of Moscow. The young men made themselves comfortable and ate off gold-rimmed porcelain. In few weeks the Guard left the beautiful city and marched westward. In one of Delaborde's brigades 99 young soldiers died of starvation between Smolensk and Moscow. The winter retreat from Russia destroyed the Young Guard.
The epic events of 1813 saw the emergence of the Young Guard as Napoleon's effective shock troops, men who made up for what they may have lacked in the pomp and foppery of parade-ground ceremony with awe-inspiring, sledgehammer blows on the battlefield. March or die was the napoleonic formula - and it did not appeal to the young soldiers. No one was allowed to lag behind and in 1813 special NCO detachments knew how to make the "lame" walk. Soon many youngsters fought from fear rather than for glory. In Paris 320 were arrested for desertion and sent to prison.
In Dresden the Young Guard spearheaded the French onlsaught, smashing through
the stubborn Allies line and assuring victory one of the largest engagements of Napoleonic
Wars. The 1er Tirallieurs charged six Prussian battalions at bayonet point, taking several hundred prisoners,
General Gros' 4th and 5th Voltigeurs captured the trenches at Freiberg.
The 3rd Voltigeurs led by Cambronne captured a whole battalion.
The Young Guard were in the forefront of Emperor's juggernaut, surging on to the bullet-swept fields of Lutzen and Leipzig, and wreaking havoc on every enemy that tried to stand before them. "More and more battalions arrived in our front line, and the Emperor ordered them to direct all their fire at the village. ... the Emperor drew his sword, placed himself between the two columns of Young Guard, and advanced through the resulting gap toward Kaja. The Young Guard stormed the vilage without firing a shot and ejected all the enemy with the bayonet." (Chlapowski, - p 135)
In Leipzig, Marshal Oudinot turned to his generals and said: "Take your division Decouz, and that of Pacthod and drive away these guys with a kick in the rear, so that they then will only flee." They cheered their Emperor as they marched past him. The drummers, tediously beating the rhythm of the march, broke into flurries when they realized He was so close. Napoleon and his staff watched their advance. Oudinot's troops passed by Wachau and in frontal assault captured Auenhain sheep-farm. Mortier's troops drove into University Wood sweeping all before them.
In 1814 the men of Young Guard were lean, their uniforms and shoes generally in a sorry state of dilapidation. The young boys were brave and enthusiastic, but they were too young and lacked stamina. Thusands fell sick and exhausted during the rapid marches. But hopes run high, in January at Epinal one battalion of 1st Voltigeurs lost 50 % its effectives defending the rear of the army. Dragging their single cannon, this unit finally reached Nancy where they were congratulated by Marshal Ney.
In Brienne, Blucher launched an assault in an effort to recapture the chateau. In the dark streets below Marshal Ney let loose his Voltigeurs in the rear of the exhausted Russian battalions. The enemy was caught between two fires and suffered heavily. A frightful slaughter ensued in the darkness lighted intermittently by burning houses. The French and Russian battalions became mixed. In the chaotic combat General Decouz received a mortal wound.
In La Rothiere the Young Guard suffered heavy casualties in the street fighting. Blucher directed Russian 2nd Grenadier Division toward the burning village. The Astrakhan Grenadier Regiment and Little Russia Grenadier Reegiment charged into La Rothiere and drove the Young Guard at bayonet point. The Young Guard broke and fled and was only rallied in the northern part of the village "by officers beating men back into the ranks." They were able to hold only on few buildings so the fight for the village was inconclusive.
In Craonne a withering Russian artillery fire decimated the 14e Voltigeurs. They lost 28 of 33 officers and 50 % of rank and file. Bigarre and Le Capitaine were both hit, as were Guye and Boyer de Rebeval.
During the battle of Paris the 11th Voltigeurs made a gallant charge to rescue Marmont's infantrymen, hard pressed in the woods of Romainville. Together they cleared the Russians from the outskirts of Pantin. The 2nd Voltigeurs met the Russian grenadiers head on and exchanged volleys before falling back. Suisse led the 10th Voltigeurs out at bayonet point and had his jaw smashed in the process. The Flanquers-Grenadiers recaptured the bridge over the canal.
In Soissons were - among others - 1,160 Voltigeurs and Tirailleurs. They had been besieged since 20 March by Prussians. They withstood bombardement, mines and repeated ultimatums and they refused every summons to surrender. Every salvo they fired on the night of 29/30 March was accompanied by shouts Vive l'Empereur ! Major Braun led 500 of them down the Crouy road and attacked the Prussian outposts as they were making their soup. The Young Guard brought the half-cooked meat back to Soissons, but left one of its captains dead on the field. On the 7th a peasant bringing letters from the Prussian general was run out of town without ceremony. An ADC of the war minister wearing a white cockade was obliged to retreat in the face of threats from the young soldiers whose officers had the greatest difficulty in controlling them.
The Middle Guard [Moyenne Garde]
The Middle Guard was far less numerous than the Young Guard.
2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers
The two regiments were formed in 1806 from veterans with at least 6 years' service. Soon these units were disbanded and - in 1810 - the regiment of Dutch Grenadiers took on the name 2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers. The Dutchmen wore white instead of dark blue uniforms. (In 1811 they were renamed to 3rd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers and in 1813 were disbanded.)
In 1811 the 2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers and 2nd Regiment of Foot Chasseurs
were reraised and strengthened with 500 men from the line with 5 years' service and 1.000 men from the instruction battalions at Fontainebleau.
The men of the 2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers however complained that at a December review the Emperor's attention seemed fixed on a regiment of Croats rather than on them.
In 1813 in the beginning of the campaign the 2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers and
2nd Regiment of Foot Chasseurs were Middle Guard.
Their first battalions were made of veterans of the
Russian campaign and Fusiliers with 3 years' service.
The second battalions were made of veterans of
the Spanish war selected from the Line with 8 years' service.
3rd Regiment of [Dutch] Foot Grenadiers.
In 1810, the Regiment of Foot Grenadiers of the Dutch Royal Guard (Regiment de Grenadiers de la Garde Royale Hollandaise) was incorporated into the French Guard as the 2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers. They wore white uniforms and were much admired by the people of Versailles.
Their commander was Ralph-Dundas Tindal, a tall Scot with a sentorian voice. They had as a drum-major one named Siliakus. He was a giant (202 cm tall !) born in Holland, and he died in Russia during the retreat.
When 1811 two regiments, one of Grenadiers and one of Chasseurs, were raised, the former Dutch Grenadiers were renumbered as the 3rd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers.
By way of welcome, Napoleon reviewed them and afterwards, open barrels of wine were set
out for the perspiring Dutchmen. They found it a delicious change from their habitual beer
and quaffed mightily - but couldn't carry the unaccustomed tipple. Roaring drunk they
whacked one another and chased squealing Parisian women into the dusky groves.
The 3rd Regiment of [Dutch] Foot Grenadiers participated in the campaign in Russia. During the winter retreat they have suffered very heavy losses. They fought well in Krasne (Krasnoe). Napoleon disbanded the regiment and some Dutchmen eneded up in the French 2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers.
Regiment of Fusiliers-Grenadiers
The Fusiliers (Fusiliers de la Garde) were formed in 1806 from selected conscripts taken from infantry and from departamental reserve companies. In 1806 the height requirement was 168 cm (soon it was heightened to 173 cm). Napoleon writes: "Young men who volunteer, may enlist in the two fusilier regiments if they are strong and healthy and measure not less than 5'8" (173 cm)."
These young and strong men looked really good, however during one of their parades in Paris the public made fun of their sleeves which were "too short and coats which were too tight. Could they have grown ? Boyer, their colonel, was convinced of it." (Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory" p 104)
The NCOs of the Fusiliers came from the battalions of Velites, while officers from the foot grenadiers and foot chasseurs. In 1807 the 2nd Fusiliers had been formed from conscripts. Soon it was renamed to Fusiliers-Grenadiers.
Until 1811 both units of Fusiliers were ranked as Young Guard. In that year they became Middle Guard.
It was ordered that the Fusiliers were to be replenished with voltigeurs
and tirailleurs of the Young Guard with 2 years' service and some education, and selected
conscripts. Napoleon wrote that the most distinguished and intelligent Fusiliers with 4 years'
service or citation for gallantry should be admitted to the Old Guard.
In 1813 approx. 250 battalions from Spain furnished 6 veterans each with at least 4 years' service into the Fusiliers.
In 1814 the Fusiliers became Old Guard although Napoleon refused to give them bearskins. The Fusiliers were disbanded after the campaign.
The Fusiliers experienced the most changes of all Guard regiments; until 1811 they were Young Guard, between 1811 and 1814 Middle Guard, and in 1814 Old Guard. When Napoleon raised regiments of Conscripts-Grenadiers and Coscripts-Chasseurs he took cadres from the Old and Middle Guard. Lachoque writes: "Stripped of 450 men for this purpose, the Fusiliers were replenished by a levy from each department of 4 conscripts who were intelligent, literate, roust, and of suitable height."
In 1808 the Fusiliers were in Madrid, Spain, when the famous uprising against the French began. Chlapowski writes: "About 2,000 peasants and citizens were captured. ... these 2,000 were led out of the city, lined up beneath its wall and the order was given to a battalion of Fusiliers to shoot them." (Chlapowski - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer" pp 36-37)
The guerilla war had a negative effect on the young Fusiliers. Lachoque writes: "43 fusiliers-grenadiers had deserted during the retreat from Madrid. The youngsters were gloomy and no longer sang. They came to dread the smoky huts in villages where men and beasts were huddled together and where the fleas in their pallets were simply indestructible. They had been better off in Germany where the hog was king." In good old Germany the beer was foamy and the girls very friendly :-)
In 1807 in Heilsberg Napoleon's ADC Jean-Marie René Savary received order to take Roussel's 4 battalions of Fusiliers and 12 guns and support Murat's cavalry. On came these gallant men of the Guard in magnificent formation. They marched in the direction where was fought the great cavalry battle and were almost swept away by the fleeing cuirassiers and dragoons. Marshal Murat met Savary and insisted that the guardsmen attack with bayonet. Savary was annoyed with Murat's actions: "It would be better for us if he (Murat) was less brave and had a little more common sense." Savary's guardsmen loaded their muskets and cannons and opened fire at close range. The enemy was checked by crisp volleys of the Fusiliers and many Russians and Prussians were unsaddled. The gallant commander of the Russian cuirassiers, GM Kozhin, was killed. One of the cuirassiers picked up his body, threw over saddle and rode away to the Russian lines. Russian artillery opened fire on the Fusiliers. According to Adolphe Thiers: "The brave General Roussel, who was, sword in hand, amidst the Fusiliers of the Guard, had his head carried off by a cannon ball." And the same moment described by St.Hilaire: "The Fusilier-Chasseurs of the Young Guard, commanded by General Savary, were put in motion to support the Saint-Hilaire division; those proved themselves as prodigious combatants with an intrepidity, which marked them throughout all the army. General Roussel, chief of staff of the Guard, who was in the midst of them, had his head carried off by a ball. General Curial, colonel of the fusilier-chasseurs of the Young Guard, was seriously wounded as a combatant at the head of this regiment with his accustomed courage." (St.Hilaire - "History of the Imperial Guard.")
In 1809 the Fusiliers and Tirailleurs fought at Aspern-Essling and Wagram. Henri Lachoque writes: "A desperate struggle commenced during which Marshal Lannes was mortally wounded. Massena held the village of Aspern with admirable tenacity while the wrested Essling from Boudet's division. Then the Emperor's aides, Generals Mouton and Rapp, recaptured it with troops from Curial's [Guard] division. 'Forward in column ! Keep your heads down and don't bother about the number of enemies' the Emperor ordered. The Guard batteries supported the attack, firing at top speed. Captain Bizard had his arm shot off. Some of the gun crews were reduced to 2 men. Durosnel, Drouot, Curial, and Gros were all wounded, as was Mouton who was created Count of Lobau after the battle. The tirailleurs drove the enemy out of Gross-Aspern. Captain Ciceron was sent to the cemetery where he was overwhelmed by a superior force and obliged to retreat. Wounded, and with the rear-guard of his company surrounded, he had to surrender. In its baptism of fire the Young Guard lost a quarter of its effectives. Lieutenant-Colonels Lanabere and Lonchamp as well as Rousseau, Secretan, Labusquette, and Ciceron were all wounded more or less severely."
In Krasne (Krasny, Krasnoie) in 1812, the Emperor formed all 4 battalions of Fusiliers in three columns and directed towards Buyanovo, Malievo and Chirkova. They advanced noiselessly, their watches synchronized for a simultaneous attack. At midninght, in cold, the Fusiliers led by Roguet fell upon the Russians with bayonets in their camps, throwing them into disorder and inflicting heavy losses. The Fusiliers lost more than 300 men. Krasny was on fire, revealing a Dante's inferno.
Battalion of Velites of Florence
The two Italian battalions were attached to the Guard. These were the Velites of Florence, and Velites of Turin, raised as as bodyguards for the Emperor's sister Elisa, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, and Prince Borghese, governor of the Transalpine departments.
The Velites of Florence received Guard status in 1809, those of Turin in 1810.
The Velites of Florence numbered 600 men under Major Dufour, veteran wounded at Marengo, and then captain of Guard Chasseurs. The officers and NCOs came from the Foot Chasseurs, and the privates from the Tuscan departments, over 18 years old, 5'10" tall, who could pay 200 francs for their board.
The Velites of Turin mustered 475 men under Major Ciceron, a very brave man well-known in the Imperial Guard. The officers and NCOs came chiefly from the Foot Grenadiers.
Prince Borghese proposed to Napoleon that an eagle be awarded to the velites but the Emperor refused: "Only the regiments of the Old Guard have eagles."
Battalion of Polish Foot Grenadiers.
The Polish Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard are known under three names:
Commander: Chef de Bataillon Kurcjusz (from Polish 15th Infantry Regiment)
Adjutant-Major: Captain Laski (from Polish 12th Infantry Regiment)
Adjutant-Major: Lieutenant Gawronski
- - - - - - 1st Company: Captain Smette (from Vistula Legion)
- - - - - - 2nd Company: Captain Chmielewski (from Polish 12th Infantry Regiment)
- - - - - - 3rd Company: Captain Sulejowski (from Vistula Legion)
- - - - - - 4th Company: Captain Czerwinski (from Polish 1st Infantry Regiment)
The Old Guard [Vieille Garde]
Picture: the old of the Grenadiers of Old Guard. Musee l'Armee.
Only two regiments were the real Old Guard, the 1st Regiment of Foot Grenadiers and the 1st Regiment of
Foot Chasseurs. They were the elite of the elite, the creme de la creme of Napoleon's infantry.
The grenadiers wore tall black bearskin, with a brass plate representing in relief a
crowned eagle holding thunderbolts in its talons. The cartridge box was decorated by a
- 1st Regiment of Foot Grenadiers
- 1st Regiment of Foot Chasseurs
Napoleon selected his guardsmen carefully and the requirements were not easy to meet for the
candidates. In 1806 only one man from each infantry battalion was admitted to the Old Guard.
The requirements were:
In 1809 the Foot Grenadiers and Foot Chasseurs took 456 best NCOs from the army, they
became privates in the Old Guard. The Guard was in its peak. In 1814 the 1st Chasseurs
still had many old-timers: sapper Rothier - 21 years' service, 2 wounds,
Private Stoll - 22 years' service and 20 campaigns, and so forth.
Napoleon's campaigned almost non stop. The numerous wars resulted in heavy losses. In 1811 in the Old Guard were only 532 veterans from Egypt and Italy, the rest were younger. The number of veterans decreased and Napoleon was forced to accept 500 soldiers with only 5 years' service.
The long retreat from Russia destroyed the Old Guard. The survivors' cheeks were hollow. They had lived on horse flesh half roasted and rye water which in the absence of salt they seasoned with gunpowder. Their tattered uniforms and their feet being enveloped in shreds of coarse cloth made a sad sight. That "column of granite" had melted away ! In the end of the campaign only 408 grenadiers and 415 chasseurs were still in the ranks. Many were frost bitten, or died of hunger and exhaustion.
In 1813 the Old Guard was rebuild, 250 battalions in Spain furnished 6 veterans each with
at least 8 years' service. These men went into the 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Chasseurs.
The 1st Grenadiers and 1st Chasseurs accepted only those
with at least 10 years' service.
April was the month of Napoleon's abdication.
On April 7th the Old Guard came out of their barracks in Fountainebleau carrying torches
and weapons shouting "Vive l'Empereur !" and "Down with the traitors !" These lads were
ready to fight. On May 3rd took place a solemn entry of Louis XVIII in Paris.
The royalist diarist de Boigne writes: "The procession was escorted by the
Imperial Guard. Its aspect was imposing, but it froze us. It marched quickly,
silent and gloomy. With a single glance it checked our outbursts of affection. ...
The silence became immense, and nothing could be heard but the monotonous tramp of its quick
striking into our very hearts."
In 1815 only the 1st Regiment of Foot Grenadiers and 1st Regiment of Foot Chasseurs were filled with men with 12 years' service and with the men of Elba Battalion. They were the old of the Old Guard, the sine pari (without equal). Almost 30 % of the I/1st Grenadiers were veterans of 20-25 campaigns, one third was awarded for bravery. They averaged 35-years of age and 5'11" in height.
You cannot exaggerate about these lads: they were battle-hardened veterans, bold, and physically strong. They were convinced to the point of arrogance, that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth- and the amusing thing about it is that they were. If they had the chance to fight today in a pub, they would take the opponents to the cleaners, then drive them back in a school bus sobbing like the muppets.
In 1814 Chateaubriand saw them: "I do not believe that human faces have ever worn such threatening expressions. These Grenadiers covered with scars, these conquerors of Europe, were forced to salute an old king, a veteran of years and not of war ... [some] drew the corners of their mouths into grimaces of scorn and rage ..."
Italian historian Alessandro Barbero writes: "...their skin was covered with tattoos, and large golden earrings hang from their ears, giving them the look of old-time pirates."
In 1812 Napoleon made his entry to Moscow at the head of the Old Guard. Guns were posted in Kremlin at each corner of the square, while companies of Foot Grenadiers and Foot Chasseurs guarded the gates.
The Grenadiers and Chasseurs did fight in numerous battles; Eylau (1807),
Hanau (1813), Brienne,
La Rothiere (1814),
Plancenoit (1815), to name only the biggest battles. Actually they participated in
more combats and campaigned on more theaters of war than the Prussian, British and Russian
Commanders of the Guard.
Marshal Jean Lannes
Marshal Jean Lannes was one of the first commanders of the Guard.
Marshal Jean Bessieres
Bessières was born in southern France in 1768. He took part in numerous campaigns and repeatedly distinguished himself for valour. Jean-Baptiste Bessieres took over the Guard and gave it careful, efficient administration. Bessieres was tall man with a youthful face. Despite being very rigorous in discipline, he was adored by every guardsman for his honesty, even temper, and bravery. His orders and speeches were cold and dry and he was the only marshal who kept the old-fashioned military style of both powdering his hair and wearing it in a long queue. Bessieres was excellent cavalryman and gallant fighter, thourough soldier and all soldier. His cold courage never flinched, in crisis of battle a sudden beserk fury possessed him. Bessières was killed by a cannon ball which ricocheted off a wall and hit him in the hand. He died from blood loss. [Bessieres] "... was personally beloved to an extraordinary extent amongst his soldiers, and (unlike most of the French generals of the time) amongst his opponents. It is said that masses were performed for his soul by the priests of insurgent Spain, and the king of Saxony raised a monument to his memory." (- wikipedia)
Marshal Francois Lefebvre
Francois-Joseph Lefebvre had a German accent, a very loud voice and a sergeant's vocabulary.
But he looked after his guardsmen as if they were his own children.
Lefebvre was an outstanding 'general of execution, an excellent leader of men, but given a semi-independent mission
he was apt to go looking for a head to hit, regardless of orders. The Old Guard loved him for simplicity
and for ten other reasons. But Napoleon was not so impressed, he wrote "There is such imbecility in Lefebvre's correspondence
that I can't comprehend it."
Marshal Edouard Mortier
Edouard-Adolphe-Casimir-Joseph Mortier was the commander of the Young Guard.
Mortier ('mortar' in French :=) was a huge man, with 6,6" he was the tallest of all marshals.
Mortier received better-than average education at the English Collage of Douai (his mother
was English). Mortier was cheerful and unassuming, and easily influenced by his colleagues,
until the shooting started. Then he suddenly set an example of unbreakble courage.
In 1814 while many marshals (incl. Ney) bugged out, Mortier remained loyal.
General Jean Dorsenne.
Picture: Dorsenne and the Old Guard
under heavy artillery fire at Wagram.
General Louis Friant.
The son of a wax-maker, took part in the great victory of Fleurus (neare battlefield of Ligny) in 1794. Friant was promoted to Général de Brigade on 13 June 1795. In the Austerlitz campaign of 1805, Friant's division earned a reputation for rapid and effective marching. (70 miles in 46 hours from Vienna to Austerlitz and arriving just in time to counterattack the Allies at Tellnitze and Sokolnitze on the morning of 2 December. In the fighting Friant had three horses killed under him. In Auerstadt (1806) Friant's division advanced on the right, turning the Prussian left flank. The infantry of Friant and Gudin, standing in square, withstood a massive cavalry attack led by Blucher himself. In Eylau (1807) Friant's division arrived to reinforce the French right on the morning of 8 February, helping to turn a near-defeat into a stalemate. In Wagram (1809) Friant was wounded by a shell fragment during the successful storming of the Square Tower at Markgrafneusiedl. In Borodino (1812) Friant's division captured Bagration Fleches. After Dorsenne's death in 1812, Friant took over the Old Guard. He distinguished himself in 1813 and 1814 in every battle he fought. In Waterloo (1815) Friant led the Middle Guard in the attack on the Allied center, where he was wounded yet again.
General Jerome Soulès.
The foot chasseurs were commanded by Jerome Soulès. He was born on 24 August 1760, spoke with German accent and enjoyed reputation as a great fighter. There was however a darker side of this warrior. When in 1807 after the peace of Tilsit Soulès and his 1st Regiment of Foot Chasseurs had returned to France the customs officers wanted to do their duty and visit the transports of Soules and his men. The response of Soulès was simple: "if only one of your toll-collectors dare lay a hand on the boxes of my old rabbits, I will have them all f**** drowned in the Rhine River like kittens !" His body language was "you don't wanna mess with me" thing. In 1815 Soules cast his vote for the death of Marshal Ney, which was not very noble of him.
General Jean Gros.
Another commander of the foot chasseurs was General Jean-Louis Gros.
Napoleon had a very particular regard for him. “Gros, he said, lives in gunpowder like fish
in water: it is his element.... He is a finished trooper.” Henri Lachoque described him as
"brave and much scarred ... loudmouthed ... he declared that he 'slept in the arms of the goldsmith' - thinking
Morpheus was some pimp at the Palais-Royale." Gros was masculine, very brave but poorly
educated, the way in which he expressed himself belonged only to him. :-))
General Henri Delaborde.
One of the most popular divisional commanders of the Young Guard was Henri-Francois Delaborde (1764-1833). Delaborde was son of a baker and was educated for the church. He was a leanly big man and spoke Latin language. According to Elting "he said little, but what he said was very definite." In the beginning of the French Revolution he joined the volunteers and passing rapidly through all the junior grades was made general of brigade after the battle of Rhein-Zabern (1793). He was present at the siege of Toulon and promoted general of division. In 1807 Delaborde was training new conscripts at his camp at Pontivy in France. In 1808 he fought a brillant delaying action at Rolica against British troops that outnumbered him 4 to 1. Amazingly the French lost only 550 men and retreated in fighting order. The British lost approx. 500 men. In 1812 Delaborde commanded the 1st Infantry Division of Young Guard. He traveled by carriage. Only 48, his bent back and protruding paunch made him look much older. Delaborde distinguished himself at Krasne against the Russians. He led his division of Young Guard with these words: "My children, when you smell powder for the first time, it is stylish to stick up your nose !" The Bourbons hated him and wanted to execute for supporting Napoleon to the very end.
General Francois Roguet.
Francois Roguet (1770-1846) was nicknamed "Pere" and was a tough soldier and a natural leader. The caustic Gascon did not trifle with discipline which he termed 'the soul of the armies.' In Spain a few NCOs closed their eyes while houses were pillaged. On their return three court-martial were convened, and two of the malefactors were shot. Two NCOs were stripped of their shevrowns in front of the troops. Roguet added: "I shall remember the commanders who permitted this relaxation of discipline." In 1812 during the horrible winter retreat from Russia, thousands of men died from cold, hunger and exhaustion. However some warriors had been too hard to break. "The Old Man Roguet" marched out on foot with his Middle Guard, too tough even to catch cold. He set the supreme example every morning of a cold water shave before a mirror hung on a gun wheel. He ate gruel and drink melted snow. His servants all froze to death. In Waterloo (1812) enraged Roguet had threatened with death any grenadier of the Old Guard who should bring him a Prussian prisoner.
General Poret de Morvan.
Paul-Jean-Baptiste Poret de Morvan was born in April 1777. In 1811 he became colonel of the 34th Regiment of Line
Infantry, in 1813 colonel-major of 3rd Regiment of Tirailleurs of the Young Guard, and
in 1815 colonel of 3rd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers of the Middle Guard.
He was a man of a robust stature, and every drop of blood in his frame came from
the fiercest of fighting stock. At Waterloo fought with great determination against
the numerically superior British-German-Netherland troops. Commander of the Legion d’Honneur : 26 May 1813
Baron of the Empire: 14 August 1813. De Morvan died in 1834.
of Washington who had died ... This death was announced
to the Consular Guard by the following order:
“Washington is dead ! This great man fought the tyrants ...
His memory will be always dear to the French people,
as to all free men ...”
St.Hilaire - "History of the Imperial Guard"
Sources and Links.
Elting - "Swords around the Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armée"
Houssaye - "La Vieille Garde Imperiale" (Ilustrations de Job)
Lachouque - "The Anatomy of Glory: Napoleon and his Guard ..."
Lachouque - "Waterloo"
St.Hilaire - "History of the Imperial Guard"
Connelly - "Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France, 1799-1815"
Chlapowski - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer" transl. by Tim Simmons
Mansel - "The Eagle in Splendour: Napoleon I and His Court"
Rousselot - "Les grenadiers de la Garde" "Les marins de la Garde"
Dupont - "Napoleon et ses grognards"
Jouineau and Mongin - "Officers and Soldiers of the French Imperial Guard 1804-15" Vol I (The Foot Soldiers)
Le musée de l'Armée.
Pictures of Garde Imperiale.