by: Adie Roberts [ ]
Adie Roberts takes a look at the Imperial guard of the first Empire mounted troops, a book supplied by Pen & Sword, to see just how they came about, and what their role was in Napoleons army.
The book is a hardback reference book, Drawings by Andre Jouineau, Text by Jean-Marie Mongin, Pagination of 176, laid out in the format of a reference book with plenty of colour plates depicting the colour of the uniforms and equipment.
The Mounted Troops of the Imperial Guard
The Mounted Garde Constitutionnelle
The Paris National Guard
The Mounted Guard of the Directoire
The Regiment of Grenadiers A Cheval
The Non-Commissioned Officers
The General Walther
The Dragoons of the Imperial Guard
The Non-commissioned Officers
Jean-Thomas Arrighti De Casanova
The Regiment of Chasseurs A Cheval
The General Lefebvre-Desnouettes
Roustam Raza, The Mameluke to the Emporer
The First Regiment of Chevau-Legers Lancers
The General Count Krasinski
The Second Regiment of Chevau-Legers Lancers
The General Count Edouard De Colbert
The Third Regiment of Chevau-Legers Lancers
The Berg Lancers
Sources and Bibliography
The Imperial Guard (French: Garde Impériale) was originally a small group of elite soldiers of the French Army under the direct command of Napoleon I but grew considerably over time. It acted as his bodyguard and tactical reserve, and he was careful of its use in battle. The Guard was divided into the staff, infantry, cavalry, and artillery regiments, as well as battalions of sappers and marines. The guard itself as a whole distinguished between the experienced veterans and less experienced members by being separated into three sections: the Old Guard, Middle Guard and Young Guard.
The Guard had its origin in the Consular Guard (Garde des consuls), created November 28, 1799, by the union of the Guard of the Directory (Garde du Directoire exécutif) and the Grenadiers of the Legislature (Grenadiers près de la Représentation Nationale). These formations had for the principal purpose the security of the executive and legislative branches of the French Republic and gathered a small number of soldiers, about a thousand. One may question their utility, as they did not oppose Napoleon's 18 Brumaire coup of 1799. The Consular Guard changed its name to the Imperial Guard on May 18, 1804. Its headquarters were located at the Pentemont Abbey in Paris.
Napoleon took great care of his Guard, particularly the Old Guard. The Grenadiers of the Old Guard were known to complain in the presence of the Emperor, giving them the nickname Les Grognards, the Grumblers. The Guard received better pay, rations, quarters, and equipment, and all guardsmen ranked one grade higher than all non-Imperial Guard soldiers. Other French soldiers even referred to Napoleon's Imperial Guard as "the Immortals".
The Guard played a major part in the climax of the Battle of Waterloo. It was thrown into the battle at the last minute to salvage a victory for Napoleon. Completely outnumbered, it faced terrible fire from the British lines and began to retreat. For the first (and only) time in its history, the Middle Guard retreated without orders. At the sight of this, Napoleon's army lost all hope of victory. The Middle Guard broke completely but the Old Guard (and some of the Young Guard) battalions held their formation and secured the retreat of the remainder of the French Army before being almost annihilated by British and Prussian artillery fire and cavalry charges.
This is where the phrase "La Garde meurt mais ne se rend pas!" "The Guard dies but does not surrender!" comes from.
A resource and reference book which goes into considerable detail about the uniforms and equipment worn by the Imperial Guard of the First Empire (Mounted Troops) from 1800-1815.
The book is written with some history to each unit, mentioned, and laid out so that each of the units, in each chapter shares a similar format with some text that describes each different unit and with large amounts of full-colour plates showing the colour of the guard in question, plus various bits of equipment and their ranks.
The number of pictures all of them replicating either a uniform or piece of equipment all in amazing colour representing the actual colours used in the 1800s by the different units or parts of their equipment.
A very interesting reference book on the Imperial Guard of the first empire, it is a period in history that I find fascinating although I didn't know that much about it, so jumped at the chance to have a look at, and review the book. I have found that I know a lot more about the Imperial guard now than I did before and it has definitely sparked some further interest in the Napoleonic war's period in history.
The book is split into the different units that make up the Imperial Guards under the direct control of Napoleon 1, in time they grew to become Napoleon's bodyguard and tactical reserve and he was careful in its use in the battle. It is laid out as not just a pictorial history of the units but also their equipment and colours of the uniforms that they wore. There is quite a bit of text though certainly more pictures but the historic reference of the units and some of the officers leads to you wanting to learn more certainly for me.
It is well written and presented and a book I would certainly recommend to wargamers, figure painters as well as anyone thinking of making some dioramas of this period