On 18 Oct at Leipzig "We advanced when our troops did
and changed front as necessary to engage the best targets."
- General Griois, Guard Foot Artillery
1. Artillery of the Imperial Guard.
2. Organization and Strength.
4. Artillery Train.
Artillery of the Imperial Guard.
There was, perhaps, no class of men on the face of Earth, who led a life of more
continued exertion, excitement and danger, and who were more enamored of their occupation, than
the gunners of Napoleon's Old Guard. Strange, that men could find so strong and fascinating
a charm in this hazardous mode of life, as to estrange themselves from home and all the comforts and privileges of civilization. The very danger had its attraction and the courage and skill
made necessary by the difficulties they had to overcome, the privations they were forced to contend with, became at once their pride and boast.
Napoleon was the first monarch in Europe and first commander who appreciated artillery so much. In 1813 Napoleon wrote to Clarke, Minister of War: "In most battles the Guard artillery is the deciding factor since having it always at hand, I can take it wherever it is needed." The Emperor used massive number of guns in the decisive moment of battle. The decisive attack against a selected point of the enemy's line began with the Guard artillery riding out in front of the infantry, unlimbering at 500 m away from the enemy and opening a rapid fire. It was customary for the gunners to boldly handle their weapons. This intensive bombardment battered a breach into which the cavalry or infantry could plunge into.
Napoleon had a group of very talented officers of artillery who understood his ideas. The Guard artillery was commanded by the following officers:
The Park of Guard Artillery was commanded by:
Organization and Strength
In January 1800 was issued a decree organizing the Guard of the Consuls. It consisted one company of light, or horse, artillery. Many of their officers served with Bonaparte in Egypt. In the end of 1800 there were 12 guns of the Guard. Within few years Napoleon enlarged the Guard artillery to several foot and horse batteries.
In 1802 Napoleon submitted a permanent schedule of recruitment for Guard: 2 men from each artillery regiment, tall, robust, of exemplary conduct, able to read and write and participated in 3 campaigns. In the end of 1806 each artillery regiment was ordered to send 15 best gunners 5'10" tall to, under 35 and with 10 years' service, with citation for bravery and good conduct to the Guard. In March 1815 it was expected from the gunners of Old Guard to have at least 8 years' service. The Height requirements were: in 1805 176 cm tall, in 1806 178 cm tall and in 1815 165 cm tall men were accepted.
The single 12pdr cannon had 15 men crew commanded by a corporal. The Section (2 guns) was commanded by a sergeant. The Half-Company (4 guns) was commanded by a lieutenant. The Company (8 guns) was commanded by a captain. The average company carried a double ration of ammunition. The Battalion (24 guns) was commanded by Chef de bataillon
Foot Artillery (Young Guard)
The Regiment of Guard Horse Artillery [Regiment d’Artillerie a Cheval de la Garde Imperiale] had 2 squadrons of Old Guard and 1 squadron of Young Guard. Each squadron had 2 companies, each company of 6 guns, crew, horse-teams, and train. The Young Guard served in Spain while the companies of the Old Guard were on the primary theater of war, in Germany and Austria.
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The 1st Regiment of Guard Foot Artillery [1er Regiment d’Artillerie a Pied de la Garde Imperiale] had 2 battalions of Old Guard and 1 battalion of Young Guard. Each battalion had 3 companies. The company of Old Guard had 4 12pdr cannons, crew, horse-teams, and train. The train drivers were ranked as Middle Guard (not Old Guard). The company of Young Guard had 8 4pdrs, crew, horse-teams, and train.
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During the retreat from Russia losses were horrendous. Lack of horses forced the abandonment of numerous ammunition wagons and artillery pieces. The artillery was decimated and had a desperate need for men and horses.
By August 1813 the Guard horse artillery has been completely restored to its former organization. The officers had an average of 17 years in service and the privates had an average of 14 years. The companies maneuvered in full gallop and were able to come to a stop and fire the first round "in less than a minute". Their horses were well cared for and ammunition was plentiful. The companies of Young Guard had double ammunition provisions and the companies of Old Guard having triple ammunition.
In 1813 Napoleon had 1st and 2nd Regiment of Guard Foot Artillery and Regiment of Guard Horse Artillery. The 1st was commanded by:
1808 - Antoine Drouot, 1808 - Armand Joseph Henri Digeon, 1809 - Jean Francois Boulart,
1813 - Charles Pierre Lubin Griois, in 1815 by Henry Dominique Lallemand.
Uniforms of the Gunners.
The Guard horse gunners wore striking, hussar-style uniform. It consisted of dark blue dolman and pelisse, tight Hungarian pants, under-knee boots, and black fur caps. For parade was red plume.
In 1808 the foot gunners were issued with a 20 cm tall shako. It was decorated with red shevrons on both sides and red topband. For parade they wore red shako cords and tall red plume. In May 1810 the shako for gunners of Old Guard was replaced with 35 cm tall bearskin. For parade the bearskin had red cord with two raquettes. The gunners of Young Guard kept their shakos. The coat was dark blue with scarlet cuffs and dark blue cuff flaps piped scarlet. Since 1810 the dark blue collar was piped scarlet. The turnbacks were scarlet and the lapels were dark blue piped scarlet.
Uniforms of Guard Foot Artillery (ext.link)
Until 1812 all gunners wore hese coats (habits) but in 1812 the Young Guard gunners were issued the new short tailed habit-veste. For a grand parade the dark blue breaches and long white gaiters were worn. For service and parades were issued the black gaiters. In 1813 the long gaiters were replaced by shorter black or grey ones. In about that time were issued long linen or cotton drawers, which would usually be worn without or over the breeches to keep warm. The elegant breeches required washing, but it was not the case with the drawers.
Guard Artillery Train.
Left picture: driver of Guard artillery train in campaign uniform, by André Jouineau (?)
Napoleon expected a lot of ammunition for the guns of Guard Artillery. The 8pdr cannon was issued 3 caissons and the heavy 12pdr and the howitzer 5 caissons each. Each caisson held approx. 350 rounds. The ammunition wagons were operated by men of artillery train. These men were carefully selected. From the candidates was required 10 years' excellent service, bravery and good character. According to the Decree of July 29th, 1804 (10 Therimador an XII)- the requirements for the Guard artillery train were: 5 years' service and heigth above 1.78m (5'2'' French). Every battalion (?) of artillery train in the army had to provide a list of 6 NCOs or troopers meeting these requirements.
During campaign one company (battery) of artillery was teamed with one company of artillery train. The gunners handled the guns (cannons and howitzers) and the men of train handled the
draft horses, limbers, supply and ammunition wagons.
The Guard artillery suffered heavy losses twice. The first was in 1812 during the winter retreat from Russia, and second took place in 1814 at La Rothiere where Russian dragoon division captured 24 pieces of Guard horse artillery. These were lost during one of the chaotic moments that take place in every battle and not by a frontal assault.
Sources and Links.
Auge - "La Garde Imperiale"
Elting - "Swords around the Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armée", New York 1988
Lachouque (Anne S. K. Brown) - "The Anatomy of Glory: Napoleon and his Guard"
Lachouque - "Napoléon et la Garde Imperiale"
Connelly - "Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France, 1799-1815"
Esdaile - "The Wars of Napoleon"
Mansel - "The Eagle in Splendour: Napoleon I and His Court" 1987
Six - "Dictionaire biographique des generaux et amiraux..."
websites: napoleonseries.org and napoleon-series.org
Infantry of the Imperial Guard.
Cavalry of the Imperial Guard.