I M P E R I A L . G U A R D . . . . .
Infantry
part 1

Infantry of the Imperial Guard [Infanterie de la Garde Impériale] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . - Old Guard
. . . . . . - Middle Guard
. . . . . . - Young Guard
Ratio of company level officers (captains and leutenants) awarded with Legion of Honor


Review of the Imperial Guard in Paris, 1804. Painted by H. Vernet

Infantry of the Imperial Guard
[Infanterie de la Garde Impériale]

The most famous troops in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars was Napoleon's Guard. With their gold earring and their mustaches, the fearsome legionnaires were the shock troops of Napoleon's army. These lads were motivated by ideals of liberty and were ready to die for their country and for their Emperor who became very attached to these troops. He was proud of their reputation, appearance, and always gave them a prominent place in his great exhibitions at Paris.

When Bonaparte became First Consul he wrote that his plans for the Guard were for it to become the model of the entire army. At the battle of Marengo the Consular Guard (Gardes des Consuls) transitioned to a battle formation.
In the end of 1799 the Consular Guard was commanded by Commandant-en-Chef GdD Jean Lannes and Commandent-en-Second GdB Bessieres. The Foot Guard consisted of 2 battalions of grenadiers (commander Frere) and company of light infantry

In 1804 after his crowning, Napoleon transformed the Consular Guard into the Imperial Guard.

  • Regiment of Grenadiers (2 battalions of grenadiers + 1 battalion of Velites) - 1.716 foot grenadiers and 955 Vélites
  • Regiment of Chasseurs (2 battalions of chasseurs + 1 battalion of Velites) - 1.716 foot chasseurs and 955 Vélites

    Battalion of grenadiers/chasseurs consisted of 8 companies, each company of:
    1 capitaine, 2 lieutenants en premier, 2 lieutenants en second,
    1 sergent-major, 4 sergents, 1 fourrier, 8 caporaux, 2 sapeurs,
    80 grenadiers or chasseurs and 2 tambours (drummers).

    Battalion of velites (Le bataillon de vélites) consisted of 5 companies, each company of :
    1 premier lieutenant, 1 second lieutenant,
    1 sergent-major, 4 sergents, 1 fourrier, 8 caporaux,
    172 vélites and 2 tambours.

    In the Guard served also 'Vétérans' (veterans unable to serve in the field) - 109 men.

    The velites were a 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, so important in a corps. Allured by the splendid renown of Napoleon, dazzled by his numerous victories, young men flocked to his Guard.

    Napoleon created also musical corps for the eight regiments of the Young Guard already in existence, and doubled the officers of health attached to the chief hospital.

    During 1810-1815 the infantry of the Imperial Guard was divided into Old Guard, Middle Guard and Young Guard. The Old Guard of Napoleon, is as much renowned in modern as the Greek Phalanx was in ancient wars. In the Old Guard served the best fighters and veterans of numerous campaigns, volunteers. They were the elite of the elite, the creme de la creme of Napoleon's infantry. Their grave and austere uniforms, their faces covered with wounds and their discipline inspired awe.
    In the Young Guard served hand picked young men, volunteers, enthusiastic and selected from the strongest and most inteligent recruits. It was a warlike and well-disciplined body of soldiers.
    Holland had fallen into Napoleon hands and he incorporated into his Guard the grenadiers of the Holland Guard.

    The casualties during the 1812 campaign in Russia were horrible.
    By February 1st 1813 there were no officers or other ranks answering roll for several regiments of Young Guard: 4th , 5th and 6th Regiment of Tirailleurs, 4th and 5th Regiment of Voltigeurs and Regiment of Flankers-Grenadiers ! The 3rd Regiment of Grenadiers (Dutch) had only 11 men in the ranks (out of 1.496). The French regiments of Old Guard did much better, there were 408 veterans in the 1st and 2nd Regiment of Grenadiers. The shorter chasseurs had 415 veterans in 1st and 2nd Regiment of Chasseurs. In the Middle Guard: the Regiment of Fusiliers-Grenadiers had 118 survivors and the Regiment of Fusiliers-Chasseurs 126.

    Infantry of Guard in 1813:
    2 reg. of grenadiers (Old Guard) x 1.600 men each = 3.200 men
    2 reg. of chasseurs (Old Guard) x 1.600 men each = 3.200 men
    2 reg. of fusiliers x 1.600 men each = 3.200 men
    battalions of instructors from Fontainbleau = 2.000 men
    2 reg. of flanqueurs (Young Guard) x 1.600 men each = 3.200 men
    13 reg. of tirailleurs (Young Guard) x 1.600 men each = 20.800 men
    13 reg. of voltigeurs (Young Guard) x 1.600 men each = 20.800 men
    1 reg. of Pupilles (Young Guard) x 1.600 men = 1.600 men
    The average strength of battalion in the field was 560.

    In 1813-1814 the Young Guard got very busy, it became Napoleon's fighting machine. At the Battle of Dresden the 1st Regiment of Tirailleurs attacked 6 Prussian battalions and won 100 crosses of Legion of Honor. In 1814 at Craonne the 14th Regiment of Voltigeurs put on a fight losing 28 of 33 officers and 50 % of rank and file !

    The infantry of Imperial Guard was divided into 2 corps:
    Grenadiers and Chasseurs:

    FOOT GRENADIERS
    Corps des Grenadiers à pied

    Colonel-General: Davout

    Colonels:
    (1802-1808) Hulin
    (1808-1812) Dorsenne
    (1812-1815) Friant
    (1815) Roguet

    FOOT CHASSEURS
    Corps des Chasseurs à pied

    Colonel-General: Soult

    Colonels:
    (1801-1809) Soules
    (1809-1815) Curial
    ...
    (1815) Morand

    Grenadiers à pied (1 regiment in 1805)
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . (4 regiments in 1815)
    Fusiliers-grenadiers . . . . . (1 regiment)
    Tirailleurs-grenadiers
    Conscrits-grenadiers . . . . (1 regiment)
    Tirailleurs . . . . (16 regiments in 1814)
    Flanqueurs-grenadiers . . . (1 regiment)
    Vétérans
    Chasseurs à pied (1 regiment in 1805)
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . (4 regiments in 1815)
    Fusiliers-chasseurs . . . . . (1 regiment)
    Tirailleurs-chasseurs
    Conscrits-chasseurs . . . . (1 regiment)
    Voltigeurs . . . . (16 regiments in 1814)
    Flanqueurs-chasseurs . . . (1 regiment)
    Gardes Nationaux

    A common criticism of the guard was that it drew off the best men from the line and from the conscripts, thereby robbing them of potential sergeants and corporals. But it must be remembered that Napoleon intended that the guard serves as a training ground for the NCOs from the army so the guard functioned as a military school. For example sergeants of the Old Guard were commisioned as the second lieutenants in the line. The Battalion of Instructions was formed in 1811 and was set up to train the Young and Middle Guardsmen as corporals and sergeants for the newly formed regiments.

    Dorsenne
    General Dorsenne
    commander of the Grenadiers
    of Old Guard

    Old Guard

    In 1802 Napoleon submitted a permanent schedule of recruitment for Consular Guard: 1 man from each battalion, tall, robust, of exemplary conduct, able to read and write and who participated in at least 3 campaigns.
    In 1806: 1 man from each battalion who had 10 years' service, brave and was under 35 age. These requirements were not easy to meet so they were lowered. For example not 10 but only 6 years' service was enough, and the legionaires were exempted from height requirement.
    In 1809 the 1st regiments took 456 selected NCOs from the army.
    In 1811 were only 532 veterans from Egypt and Italy, the rest were younger. Napoleon was forced to accept 500 soldiers with only 5 years' service.
    In 1813 only 408 grenadiers and 415 chasseurs were in the ranks, the rest either has perished in the snows of Russia or were in hospitals sick, exhausted, frost bitten. The Old Guard was rebuild, 250 battalion in Spain furnished 6 veterans each with at least 8 years' service. These men went into the 2nd Reg. of Grenadiers and 2nd Reg. of Chasseurs. The 1st Reg. accepted only those with at least 10 years' service.
    In 1815 were 8 regiments of Old Guard: 4 of grenadiers and 4 of chasseurs.
    - 1st regiments were filled up with: guardsmen from 2nd regiments of Old Guard and men of 12 years' service selected from the army
    - 2nd regiments were filled up with: guardsmen from fusilers of Middle Guard and men of 8 years' service selected from the army
    - 3rd and 4tf regiments were filled up with: guardsmen of Young Guard and men of 4 years' service selected from the army

    The soldiers of Old Guard were hand-picked men, wore the most ellegant uniforms and were armed with the best weapons. All regiments were ordered to halt and present arms when they were passing. In 1814 Mr Haydon described the Old Guardsmen: "tall and bony. More dreadful-looking fellows I had never seen. They had the look of thoroughbread, veteran, disciplined banditti." But these veterans were honest lads of high moral character. General Dorsenne, who commanded the grenadiers, once said, "If I had a wagon load of gold, I would put it in the mess-room of my grenadiers--it would be safer there than under lock and key." In 1812 during the retreat from Russia, the paymaster of the Guard fearing the chest would fall into the hands of the Cossacks, distributed the whole amount among the veterans, who put it in their knapsacks and pockets. When the army reached the other side of the Beresina river, it was rendered up again, and the amount, 2,000,000 of francs, found entire, with the exception of some 200 francs, which had sunk with the grenadier who carried it in the waves of the Beresina. The horrors of this march increased as they advanced towards Poland. Only few of the shivering with cold and reeling from exhaustion Old Guardsmen survived. One who had seen that corps, on a review day in Paris, would not have recognized them. Their 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 !
    The Old Guard was rebuilt and strengthened in 1813. Prior to Emperor departure from Dresden, he had a grand review of his army. Accompanied by the King of Saxony he galloped the whole length of the line. As the Guard defiled before him, it seemed to carry the prestige of victory in its high standards. Napoleon ordered a great banquet for the whole of the Guard. At Leipzig Napoleon pitched his tent in the thinned square of the Old Guard. In January 1814 a decree ordering a levy augmenting the Guard to 112,000 men. But France was exhausted and the levy was not successful. The poor fellows in the Old Guard who, exhausted as they were, would have attacked the enemy without a murmur in several battles. After the bloody battle of Craonne, Napoleon wrote to his brother Joseph, "The Old Guard alone stood firm - the rest melted like snow."
    One of the last shouts in the Battle of Paris, was "Vive l' Empereur," from some of the Old Guard who had fought like lions under GdD Curial.
    After 1815 many of the officers of Old Guard went to America and to USA. Among them were Lefebvre-Desnouettes and Lallemand. Lallemand planned a place of refuge for all the veterans and selected a place in Texas, about 50 miles above the mouth of Trinity River. Soon more officers arrived to New Orleans and on Galveston Island, near Houston in Texas. When those from Galveston and Trinity met each other the past came back with renewed freshness and shouts "Vive l'Empereur!" were heard around campfires in the night. One could hardly believe that they had passed through such great and stirring scenes for nearly fifteen years.
    Arriving at Galveston Island, which was shortly afterwards submerged, they suffered greatly for provisions, and were generously relieved by the pirate, Lafitte. Annoyed by the Indians, and prostrated by disease, in a short time most of them perished.
    "I ought to add that having myself questioned one of the officers who made a part of the Colony (the Champ d'asile in Texas) upon the object which they proposed, he assured me that it was their intention not to settle definitively (or finally) in Texas: that they intended to collect many Frenchmen, and chiefly the old Soldiers, in order to make an attempt to rescue Napoleon from St Helena. Their dispersion caused this scheme to vanish, and it will doubtless appear to have been no more than a dream."
    - Translated from the "History of France" by Anquitel, continued by Leonard Gallois. H. J. Jewett. [Endorsed:] L'Alaman's settlement in Texas]

    1st Regiment of the Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard
    [1er Regiment Grenadiers a Pied de la Garde Imperiale]
    Nickname : Grumblers
    Status : It was the senior regiment in Napoleon's Guard infantry.
    Requirements
    1799 - no less than 25 years old, 3 campaigns, able to read and write, good conduct, strong
    1802 - as above
    1806 - 10 years' service, citation for bravery, good conduct, not older than 35
    1815 - 12 years' service, good conduct, able to write and read
    Legionaires were exempted from the height requirements and the length of service
    Height requirements:
    1799 - between 179 cm and 184 cm
    1802 - at least 184 cm tall
    1815 - above 165 cm
    According to French secondary sources, the wooden pole of the standard of Ier Btn/1er Regiment was smashed by a Russian shell at the Battle of Eylau (1807) and the Eagle and drapeau fell on the ground. But it was not captured by the enemy.
    Colonels: 1805-1807 Dorsenne, 1807-1813 Michel, 1813-1815 Petit.

    1st Regiment of the Foot Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard
    [1er Regiment Chasseurs a Pied de la Garde Imperiale]
    Status : It was the second in seniority regiment in Napoleon's Guard infantry.
    Requirements :
    1802 - no less than 25 years old, 3 campaigns, able to read and write, good conduct
    1806 - 10 years' service, citation for bravery, good conduct, not older than 35
    1815 - 12 years' service, good conduct, able to read and write
    Legionaires were exempted from the height requirements and the length of service
    Height requirements:
    1802 - 178 cm tall
    1802-1803 - 181 cm tall
    1815 - above 160 cm.
    General Gros was one of the commanders of the chasseurs. He was a tall, powerful man, "with a voice like a trumpet." Napoleon once said about him, "Gros lives in the smoke of cannon like a fish in water. It is his element." Gros was illiterate, but generous and very brave lad.

    In 1814 Napoleon met last time the Old Guard at Fountainebleau:
    "Officers and soldiers, I'm content with you.
    I am not able to embrace you all, but I will embrace your general.
    Adieu, my children, adieu, my friends, preserve me in your memory.
    I shall be happy when I hear that you are so."
    Then Napoleon embraced GdD Petit, and kissed the Eagle of 1st Reg. of Grenadiers.
    "Ah, dear eagle," said Napoleon under the swelling tide of emotion.
    "Adieu, my children, adieu my braves, surround me once again.
    The battle-hardened veterans had never seen their Emperor so moved before,
    and tears rolled down their faces. Napoleon threw the last glance upon them,
    tore himself away and drove off.
    ...

    Middle Guard

    2nd, 3rd and 4th Regiment of Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard.
    The 2nd Regiment was formed in 1806. Then they were disbanded and formed again in 1811
    Status : In 1806-1813 were counted as the Middle Guard, in 1813-1815 as the Old Guard
    Requirements for the 2nd Regiment were good conduct, able to write and read and:
    1806 - 6 years' service
    1811 - 5 years' service
    1813 - 8 years' service
    1815 - 8 years' service
    Legionaires were exempted from the height requirements and the length of service

    The 3rd and 4th Regiment of Foot Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard were formed in 1815.
    Their ranks were filled up with the short voltigeurs and tirauliers of the Young Guard,
    fusiliers of the Middle Guard and men from the line and light infantry regiments with
    Status : In 1815 they were called by everyone the Middle Guard, although officially they were Old Guard
    Requirements for the 3rd and 4th Regiment:
    - 4 years' service, good conduct, able to read and write

    2nd, 3rd and 4th Regiment of Foot Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard.
    The 2nd Regiment was formed in 1806. Then they were disbanded. They were formed again in 1811
    Status : In 1806-1813 were counted as the Middle Guard, in 1813-1815 as the Old Guard
    Requirements for the 2nd Regiment were good conduct, able to write and read, and:
    1806 - 6 years' service
    1811 - 5 years' service
    1813 - 8 years' service
    1815 - 8 years' service
    Legionaires were exempted from the height requirements and the length of service

    The 3rd and 4th Regiment of the Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard were formed in 1815.
    Their ranks were filled up with the voltigeurs and tirauliers of the Young Guard,
    fusiliers of the Middle Guard and men from the light infantry regiments.
    Status : In 1815 they were called by everyone the Middle Guard, although officially they were Old Guard
    Requirements for the 3rd and 4th Regiment:
    - 4 years' service, good conduct, able to read and write

    Regiment of Fusilier-Grenadiers and Regiment of Fusiliers-Chasseurs
    They were formed in 1806 from selected conscripts from the infantry and from departamental reserve companies.
    Their officers were from the Old Guard.
    Status : They were counted as the Young Guard until 1811 when they officially became the Middle Guard
    In 1813 the 250 battalions from Spain furnished 6 veterans each with at least 4 years' service into the Fusiliers.
    In 1814 they were ranked as the Old Guard although
    Napoleon refused to give them the tall bearskins as the rest of his Old Guard
    In 1815 they became the 3rd Grenadier a Pied and 3rd Chasseur a Pied de la Garde Regiment.
    Officially they were the Old Guard although everyone called them the Middle Guard
    Height requirement :
    1806 - 168 cm tall. Soon it was heightened to 173 cm.
    1815 - minimum height was lowered to 162 cm


    Poret de Morvan
    in 1813 Colonel-Major
    of 3rd Regiment of Tirailleurs
    Young Guard

    Young Guard

    The Young Guard was formed in 1808 from the strongest and most inteligent recruits.
    The taller went into the Tirailleurs-Grenadiers (later renamed to Tirauliers)
    and the shorter recruits went to the Tirailleurs-Chasseurs (later renamed to Voltigeurs)
    The martial air and erect figures of the first regiments of Young Guard astonished every one.

    In 1809 were formed:
    1st and 2nd Regiment of Tirailleurs-Grenadiers, in 1810 renamed to 1st and 2nd Tirailleurs
    1st and 2nd Regiment of Conscrit-Grenadiers in 1810 renamed to 3rd and 4th Tirailleurs
    1st and 2nd Regiment of Tirailleurs-Chasseurs, in 1810 renamed to 1st and 2nd Voltigeurs
    1st and 2nd Regiment of Conscrit-Chasseurs in 1810 renamed to 3rd and 4th Voltigeurs
    In 1811 were formed:
    5th and 6th Regiment of Tirailleurs
    5th and 6th Regiment of Voltigeurs
    In 1813 were formed:
    7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th Regiment of Tirailleurs.
    7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th Regiment of Voltigeurs.

    In 1814 were 16 regiments of tirailleurs and 16 regiments of voltigeurs.
    Their officers were from the Old Guard and their NCOs from the Middle Guard
    Height requirements;
    in 1809 - 163 cm tall
    in 1814 - 157 cm tall

    There were also Regiment of Flanquers-Grenadiers and Regiment of Flanques-Chasseurs.
    Both troops enjoyed the status of the Young Guard.

    Young Guard on June 16th 1815:
    1st Tirallieurs Regiment [26 officers, 1.083 other ranks]
    2nd - [24 officers, 750 other ranks] in Vandee
    3rd - [28 , 960 ]
    4th - [24 , 389 ] in Paris
    5th - [23 , 153 ] in Paris
    6th - [16 , 249 ] in Rouen
    7th - [17 , 89 ] in Paris
    8th - [8 ? , 77 ] in Lyon
    1st Voltigeurs Regiment [31 officers, 1.188 other ranks]
    2nd - [29 , 910 ] in Vandee
    3rd - [32 , 935 ]
    4th - [32 , 700 ] in Rueil ?
    5th - [30 , 175 ] in Paris
    6th - [20 , 110 ] in Amiens
    7th - [18 , 187 ] in Amiens
    8th - [14 , 171 ] in Amiens

    1813 - Ratio of company level officers (captains and leutenants)
    awarded with Legion of Honor

    in bold is number of captains and leutenants
    awarded with Legion of Honor

    OLD GUARD :
    1st Regiment of Foot Grenadiers - GdB Michel [I Btn.-ChdB Albert,II Btn.-ChdB Belcourt] - 10 of 32
    2nd Regiment of Foot Grenadiers - GdB Christiani, [I Btn.- ChdB Golzio, II Btn. - ChdB During] - 11 of 32

    MIDDLE GUARD :
    Regiment of Fusiliers-Grenadiers - Mjr.-Com. Flamand [I Btn.- ChdB Leglise,II Btn.- Lafargue]- 13 of 32
    Regiment of Fusiliers-Chasseurs - Mjr.-Com. Rousseau [I Btn.-ChdB Varlet,II Btn.- Dufour]- 12 of 30

    YOUNG GUARD :
    7th Regiment of Tirailleurs - Mjr.-Com. Concourt - 5 of 24
    8th Regiment of Tirailleurs - Mjr.-Com. Bardin - 1 of 24
    10th Regiment of Tirailleurs - Mjr.-Com. Vezu - 3 of 24
    13th Rgm. of Tirailleurs - Mjr.-Com. Laurede - 2 of 24
    7th Regiment of Voltigeurs - Mjr.-Com. Couloumy - 3 of 24
    8th Regiment of Voltigeurs - Mjr.-Com. Secretan - 1 of 24
    9th Regiment of Voltigeurs - Mjr.-Com. Jacquemard - 3 of 24
    10th Regiment of Voltigeurs - Mjr.-Com. Suisse - 1 of 24


    Retreat from Russia, 1812. By Wojciech Kossak.

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