ORIGIN OF THE IMPERIAL GUARD.
GUARD OF THE CONVENTION AND OF THE DIRECTORATE
Fructidor Year III of the Republic to Vendémiaire Year VIII
(September 1795 to October 1799)
In September 1792, the Committee of Public Safety having considered that, in the interest of the members of the national representation, it was urgent to create an armed force especially devoted to their defense, presented to the Convention a plan for a decree to form a body of troops which would carry the title of GUARD OF THE CONVENTION. The National Convention ratified the Committee’s plan, and, by deliberation of March 14, 1793, issued that: "a body of infantry would be organized in Paris for the safety of the national representatives." A commission, made up of five members among whom were Dubarreau, Aubry (later Minister of War) and Barras, who later became a member of the Directory and whose political influence established Bonaparte, was in charge of the formation of the cadres of this new body
The commission worked quickly and so, six weeks after, the corps of officers of this new Guard appeared at the bar of the Convention and presented, into the hands of the Chairman, the oath of fidelity to the French Republic one and indivisible. The Conventional Guard immediately set up again the posts hitherto occupied by the Parisian National Guard, and began its service near the Convention, in the normal location of its meetings at the Tuileries. The buildings of the old convent of the Petit-Pères were assigned as barracks for this body which was composed of four companies joined together in only one battalion, with sappers, drummers and music corps. The manpower of the body was established as five hundred men, staff and officers included; the uniform was royal blue, with red facings and piping; white breeches, black gaiters: the buttons of the habit coat carried an embossed bonnet of freedom, with these words written around: Guard of the National Convention.
The precipitation with which this privileged body had been organized, had not made it possible to choose the men most suitable to honor and make honorable an elite troop. However a great number of old guards of the Prévôté de l’Hôtel* had been assigned to form part of it, and many of them entered; but to enlarge the ranks, deserters and bad subjects, to use the polite expression, were also admitted. The majority of the commissions of officers were given for favor much more than for merit; however it would be distinctly unjust to extend this ostracism to all the officers: the majority of them proved later that they were worthy to command other men, since Murat, who became King of Naples, Lefebvre, who was elevated to the dignity of Marshal of France, Guisard, Hardouin, Monnet and twenty others rose thereafter to the highest ranks of the military hierarchy.
But before further going, let us say some words about the Guards of the Prévôté de l’Hôtel, about whom we spoke a few moments ago.
The origin of this company was extremely old, since it already existed at the time of Saint-Louis. This small troop, commanded by a captain, employed close to the person of our kings in functions completely distinct from the other bodies, formed what one later was called the household military. The Provost Guards made up the police force in the palace exterior, i.e. in the courses, peristyles, parks and additional gardens of the royal residences. By day they were positioned, armed with a halberd or a musket, in front of the principal gates; by night they made frequent patrols in the surroundings. Their uniform consisted of a royal blue coat braided on the seams like the uniforms of the other corps; breeches, red vest and a cocked hat with a flat crown also braided. When the king left his palace, the Provost Guards attentively patrolled the way, which the sovereign traveled. In public ceremonies, they preceded the Grand Master of the Royal House, etc.
The Prévôté de l’Hôtel Guards were almost all selected from the best soldiers of the army who could prove an unspecified affiliation with a fief or a noble family. Their pay, under Charles VII, was of 15 deniers per day, which was equivalent to 24 pennies of our currency today. Under Charles IX, they gave a proof of their courage, when, by the orders of Catherine de Médicis, the Marshal de Tavannes came to order them, August 24, 1572, to leave their body guard of the Louvre to make a low handed blow on the Huguenots -- this 24 August was the day of Saint-Barthélemy; Colonel M. de Saint-Afrique, who was their captain, answered M. de Tavannes:
The marshal having threatened Saint-Afrique with the ire of the queen mother, the proud captain retorted:
During the reign of Henri IV, the Prévôté de l’Hôtel Guards were highly considered. The good king liked to be accompanied when he went by coach to the city. The day that he was assassinated, on Ferronnerie Street, while going to the Duke of Sully who remained at the Arsenal, he wanted to be escorted by a squad of Provost Guards: “because, he said, of the threats of the market district who his Guards make safe.” The Duke of Epernon, who accompanied the king, mildly dissuaded him: undoubtedly he had his reasons; it was always thought that the presence of this Guard would have held the arm of Ravaillae; but that would not have in Mr. d' Epernon’s plan.
During the reign of Louis XIV so fertile in great military actions, the Provost Guard followed the monarch on campaign and on guard, jointly with the Guard du Corps and Guard de la Porte, the place where the king lived. One still saw at Valenciennes, a few years ago, an old house contiguous to the mansion that Louis XIV had lived in after the capture of this city, that one called the Building of the Provost Guards.
Under Louis XV and Louis XVI this company continued to flower; but in 1787, the Count of Saint-Germain, Minister of War, had the unhappy idea to dismiss, for economic reasons, the military household of the king **, who gave to the throne a shine and a prestige that a good policy must maintain in the interest the monarch. The company of the Provost Guards, which was composed, then of one hundred sixty men, was dissolved, and the soldiers were placed in the capacity as sous-officers, as one said then, in the various regiments of the army. Thus this company disappeared which counted more than five hundred and fifty years of existence and which had seen at
* This company had been disestablished five years before.
** What one called the household military of the king was composed of four companies of bodyguards; a company of the guards of the door; two companies of musketeers; gray and blacks; of a company of light horsemen and a company of gendarmes. These last four companies were called, by the colors of their clothes. Under Louis XVI, there was, independent of these companies, a company known as of the gentlemen of the crow beak, thus named, because they went in front of the king holding with the right hand a cane whose gold tip had the shape of a bill-head. The famous Duke of Lauzun, husband in partibus to the famous Mademoiselle, was a commander of this company. Under Louis XIV, the military household of the king had the strength of approximately 13,000 men. Under Louis XVI and before the ministry for the Count de Saint-Germain, this manpower did not rise to more than 8,000 men.
its head the names of nobler families of monarchy, such as Lahire, Clairvaux, Montmorency, Roquelaure, Noailles, etc. *
Let us return to the Guard of the Convention.
The functions of this troop were restricted to occupying the various posts of the castle of the Tuileries where, as we said, this deliberating assembly held their meetings. These posts, numbering four, were located, first, at the corner of Eschelle Street , which emerged at that time on Carrousel Place, much less vast than it is today; the second, on the quay of Orsay, against the bank of the river; the third, in the Louvre; the fourth had been established on the Revolution Place at the angle of Royal Street and that of Garde-Meubles. These four stations required hardly a score of men per day and were set at ten o'clock in the morning to the sound of the fifes and the drums. The commander in chief came each day to take the orders of the president of Convention: the flag remained constantly on show in the chambers of the Committee of Public Safety.
Robespierre, Couthon, Saint-Just and some other dominating members of the assembly, had a great number of creatures in this Guard. The Convention was not unaware of it, and it is what explains the slight effort that it required to set these troops towards the commune, on the famous night of Thermidor 9. Indeed, Tallien as well as the inspectors of the room (the ones called deputies today who fulfill the same functions of the questeurs) had announced at the tribunal that there was a great incertitude in the countenance of the conventional Guard. The Convention, after having unanimously proclaiming the establishing of the law of Robespierre and his accomplices, and to have declared them permanent, had sent several of its members to the Forty-Eighth District of Paris to call upon the sections. This call had been heard, and several sections of the National Guard grouped around the national representation, from there going, under the command of Bourdon of Oise, towards the commune (the town hall) where Robespierre and his friends had settled themselves. One knows who arrived: the Guard of Convention took only one very-poor part in this expedition where two of these companies only went towards la Grève. The sections and the gendarmerie of Paris did all the work.
After the reign of Robespierre, the Convention felt the need to purify the ranks of its Guard. Barras, Bourdon (of Oise), and Lecointre (of Versailles), carried out these purifications, which were directed by the Committee of Public Safety. They were severe: one purged this body of all the bad subjects who had slipped in under the aegis of Marat, Couthon and Saint-Just. The Guard of the Convention, thus removed its unworthy members, and took on a warlike attitude. Also Bonaparte, to whom the Convention entrusted its defense during the day of 13 vendémaire, found in this Guard obedient and warlike soldiers. The Guard of Convention formed the head of the column led by Bonaparte when he emerged in Saint-Honoré Street by the impasse of the Dauphin, and his control earned him the praises of the representatives of the people. The grenadier company, amongst them, was singled out by its intrepidity coupled with its humanity, after that artillery, pointed on the steps of Saint-Roch, cut down and put to rout the rebel sectionalists. One saw these soldiers helping the casualties of the opposite party and saving women and children whom curiosity had attracted into the midst of the theatre of this civil war. It is beautiful to see warriors putting aside the roughness of weapons to come to the assistance of their misled brothers, and thus saving the conqueror eternal regrets.
Bonaparte quoted in his report to the Convention the names of grenadiers Brossart, Laudier, Goubert, Flackmann and Auberger, “who, he said, had not forgotten that they had to fight the French who were more foolish than guilty.”
If the Convention had understood that an oligarchic government, as well as a monarchical government, needed a Guard, exclusively brave and devoted; if this union of strong men, not yielding to any political need, had only convinced them that there wasn’t anything that could be done without a legion able to defend it and to gain it respect by the military prestige of its uses; if, say, the Convention had felt the urgency of this measurement, the Directory, which succeeded this terrible dictatorship, could also understand that a Guard especially reserved to the five heads of the government, became a political requirement, an element of conservation and national dignity.
* At the time of the first Restoration, in 1814, Louis XVIII wanted to resurrect the old household military of his ancestors. The red companies were restored, like those of Provost Guards. The latter was made up of the former soldiers who had been released from the English prison boats after the signature of peace. Several of these men were prisoners since the Egyptian expedition. We knew two of them who had been taken at the time of the siege of Saint-Jean-in Arc by Bonaparte, and who had owed their lives only to the intervention of Commodore Sidney Smith, who had declared them prisoners of war of Great Britain. This company was devoted to the monarch whose return had broken their chains. The events of 1815 led to its disbanding a second time and probably for always. However part of these Guards followed the king to Ghent; and, with the return of Louis XVIII to Paris, and in reward of their fidelity, they were distributed in the ranks of the new royal guard, in the capacity of warrant officers.
Art. 166 of the constitution of year III said in its text: “the Executive Directory will have its usual Guard, paid at the expense of the republic; this Guard will be made up of one hundred twenty footmen and one hundred twenty horsemen.”
“The Executive Directory will constantly be accompanied by its Guard in public ceremonies and marches: these will always have the first rank.”
“Each member of the Executive Directory will be preceded and followed on the outside by two guards, etc.”
Consequently, the 6 brumaire year IV (November 27, 1795), the Guard of the Legislative Corps, i.e. of the Convention, took the title of Guard of the Executive Directory, and passed, so to speak without alteration, without jolts, and only by changing the inscription of its uniform buttons, into the service of the new government.
We said that a severe purification had changed the ranks of the Guard of the Convention 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. Tested and able officers, the voluntary enrollees of the various departments were allowed to be used; and an exact discipline, an unknown science of maneuver with its predecessor, soon placed it at the head of the regiments of the army. The Directory, without wanting or knowing it, thus prepared the Consular Guard and the Imperial Guard, which one day would illustrate so much glory for the flags of Republican France and the eagles of Imperial France!
Already a decree of the 13 vendémiaire year V (October 4, 1796) had given to the new Guard of the Directory the following organization, namely:
And these four companies were composed, thusly:
According to a decree of 24 vendémaire (October 15), the admission requirements to this guard were fixed thus:
“1st ART. For the officers: height of at least 5 feet 3 inches, and twenty-five years of age; for the non- commissioned officers and guards, both for foot and horse, heights of at least 5 feet 6, and the same age as for the officers.”
These men who were to have been in at least two campaigns of the war of freedom, and to have faced enemy fire, were moreover to know to read and write correctly.
“ART. 2. For the first formation, the soldiers of any grade, composing today the Provisional Guard of the Executive Directory, known as the Constitutional Guard, and counting six months of service already, can be included in the Guard of the Directory, at twenty-two years of age.”
“ART. 3. The General commander in chief of the aforementioned Guard, will hold a register of all the candidates who, having the qualities prescribed above, have presented themselves to form part of it, and will indicate the subjects which he believes are his duty to choose; but none of those will be allowed any rank, unless first accepted by a formal decree of the Executive Directory; in the same way no man can be reduced in rank or dismissed unless by a similar decree or following a legal judgment.”
“ART. 4. Each officer, non-commissioned officer and soldier, either footmen or horsemen, will be held to provide the General commander in chief, while presenting themselves, or within one month of his admission, at the latest, all the legal papers suitable to make known the position of his parents, up to the time of his presentation, his names and first names, his age, the place of his birth, and what civil or military roles he filled. He will have to gather these certification papers in good order.”
“The General commander in chief will give a synopsis of all this information to the Directory, and an account will return to him, in writing, the first decadi of each quarter, of the control of each soldier placed under his orders. He will add to this report the nominal control of the Guard.”
“ART. 5. The brevet of officers of the Guard of the Directory will be made by the Minister for the War, as with all the other officers of the army in which they will continue to hold positions, according to their rank and their seniority.”
“ART. 6. This Guard will enter in active service next 11 brumaire, the anniversary of the installation of the Executive Directory.”
The 13 brumaire year V (November 3, 1796), a decree regulating the mode of service and the relationship of the commander in chief of this Guard with the president of the Directory, by determining the order of precedence in public ceremonies.
The following 20 brumaire, an adjutant non-commissioned officer and a head of the non-commissioned officers of the two arms was created, and the Master spur-maker was removed: this function was taken by the Master-gunsmith (armurier).
The 8 frimaire year V (November 28, 1796), the Directory stopped the final appointment of the members of its Guard *; we believed to have given the names and first names of these brave men, who later formed the core of the Consular Guard, then finally that of this famous Imperial Guard which, during ten consecutive years, gained the admiration of the world. We said that this Guard was entirely made up of elite men; indeed, never was choice at any time more equitable and more severe; here is the exact and complete muster.
KRIEG, Division General, Commander-in-Chief
JUBÉ, Brigadier General, Second-in –Command
Aides-de-camp of the General Commander in Chief.
MOREAU, Quarter-master-treasurer.—DUDONJON, Surgeon-major.
Artisans of the Staff.
DUBOIS (Antoine), Battalion Head.—LEMAROIS (Réné), Flag bearer.
* Then quartered in the vast buildings of old Capuchin’s Convent, on Saint- Honoré Street.
Bonner (Martin), Drum-Major*
*In order not to keep returning for the many different drum majors who followed, in the Guard of Directory, as in that of the Consuls and later in the Imperial Guard, we will speak some of those who appeared successively in these various bodies, and who were more distinguished by their physical qualities, the excellence of their behavior and their service.
One to name is Lingué who replaced Bonner, in the Guard of the Directory. This one was succeeded by Sènot, the veritable model of a drum major, because independent of the personnel qualities, which distinguished him, he was indisputably the best man of France, and consequently the handsomest soldier whom one could see. Sénot we hear was a Captain with the 8th Line (old regiment of Austrasie), at the time of the Revolution. He took part in the wars of the Vendée; but our brave men soldiers were then in so deplorable a situation, that Sénot turned in his resignation, and returned to Paris. However he was not long in entering the service again in the Guard of the Directory, where he entered initially as a simple grenadier, then continued as drum major, replacing Lingué when he left. During the formation of the Guard of the Consuls, Sènot, with his qualities, belonged to this new guard, and finally, in 1804, he entered, like most of these elite men, the Imperial Guard. He was drum major of the 1st Foot Grenadier Regiment during all the wars of the Empire. Napoleon had a particular regard for him: My beautiful and honest Sénot! he said while speaking about this drum major. Sénot died in 1837, in Melun, where he had been withdrawn with the retirement of a decorated captain. Two of his sons, also in the Guard, followed him in its campaigns, and one of them, today promoted to captain, was in 1813 a lieutenant under the executive officer with the fusilier-grenadiers when Baron Flamant was major-commander.
Denelle (Benjamin) replaced Sénot in the first regiment of grenadiers, and occupied this station until the Guard was disbanded. Denelle had been decorated in 1807.
The drum major of the second regiment of grenadiers of the Old Guard, was called Vercellana. He was 1 meter 97 centimeters, i.e. he was more than 6 feet; he was Master-of weapons within the regiment, and left the service only in 1815.
The third regiment had as a drum major one named Siliakus. He was a type of giant (he was 2 meters 2 centimeters). Born in Holland, he died in Russia during the retreat. He had been decorated at the beginning of this campaign.
It was impossible for us, in spite of our meticulous investigations, to know the name of the drum major of the first regiment of the foot chasseurs of the Old Guard; but that of the second was called Lesecq: in his capacity as drum major of the ex-Guard, he entered in 1815, one of the regiments of infantry of the lately formed royal Guard.
By decree of the 6 nivose year V (December 26, 1796), the musicians of the previous legion of police, temporarily preserved, were reduced to sixteen, including the band leader. These sixteen musicians were moved from the musters of the commissioner of wars and attached to the Guard of the Directory; but 13 ventose year V (March 3, 1797), the number of these musicians was changed to twenty-five including the band leader, and the 24th of the same month were named as these listed:
Fairu-Guiardel, First Clarinet, Band Leader
AUBINEAU-DULPLESSIS, Squadron Head.—TERREAU (Bernard), Standard bearer.
The 26 nivose preceding (January 15, 1797), trumpeters had been named for the Guard of the Directory, the citizens:
The Administrative Council of the Guard of the Directory was made up as follows:
The Quartermaster will fulfill the functions of clerk secretary.
The member of the Council missing from the corps, was replaced by an officer of the same rank and oldest after him, or finally by an officer of the immediately lower rank.
The ordinary meetings of the Council took place the nonidi each decade, and were headed by the General, commander in chief.
To the last meeting of each month, the captains or commanders of the companies brought accounts to the Council of the compatibility of their companies, as well as the Quartermaster-treasurer.
The commander in chief could convene the Council extraordinarily, each time the interest and the good of the service required it.
The War Commissioner, charged with the police force of the Guard of the Directory, entered into the Council, whenever it was required, to report on accounts or to communicate some report having to do with the service; but he was not entitled to vote, he only could address to the president the observations, which he believed suitable.
All the laws and ordinances relating to the Boards of Directors of the various army corps of the Republic, were kept in common in the Board of Directors of the Guard of the Directory.
A decree of the 9 brumaire year V (October 30, 1796) prescribed for the Guard of the Directory the following uniform, namely:
“1st ART. The General Commander in Chief and the Aides-de-Camp will wear the same uniform as those assigned to their ranks and employment in the armies of the Republic, with the exception of the fringes of their scarves which will be out of gold; it will be the same for the Second in Command, if he is General officer.”
“ART. 2. The Second in Command, if he is not General officer, and the four adjutants wear the normal uniform of General Adjutants of the army with the epaulettes of their respective ranks; but without the collar buttonholes embroidered. It will have a second rank of collar embroidery and on the facings of its dress.”
“The four adjutants will wear a gold aiguillette on the right shoulder, instead of epaulette or an unfringed epaulette.”
“ART. 3. The uniform of the Foot Guard will be similar to that of the grenadiers of the demi-brigades of infantry of the armies of the Republic, except for the button, which will be stamped with a fasces of weapons, carrying these words written around in summary: Guard of the Directory, and facings of the habit which, being red, will be cut and closed by a white flap.”
“Coat (habit) royal blue;
reverses, facings and flaps scarlet with white edgings; white lining
with scarlet edging; turnbacks fastened, furnished with scarlet grenades;
turn of pocket (transversely) closed by a scarlet braid.”
The officers had silver epaulettes, the sword knots and hat ornaments of silver, just as the epaulette shoulder straps and the grenades on the coat, and their boots were turned down.
“ART. 4. The uniform of the Horse Guard will be the same as that of the
Foot Guard, with a difference only that instead of grenadier epaulettes,
there will be red tri-pointed flaps (trèfle), edged white.”
“ART. 5. The Flag Bearer and the Standard Bearer will have the same uniform as the other officers of their respective arms, with epaulettes of their rank placed on the right.”
“The flag or the standard will be the national colors, and will carry on each side the figure of the French Republic, surrounded by a crown of oak and bay-tree branches, and in legend: Guard of the Executive Director.”
“The flag and the standard will be richly embroidered, the tie and the fringe will be of pure gold, the poles and the lance will be only gilded.”
The uniform of the musicians consisted of a national blue coat, without reverse, red collar reversed with white edging; blue facings with gold lace of nine lines width. White lining, formed braid; all the remainder of the uniform was similar to that of the grenadiers, except the epaulettes, which the musicians did not wear.
The Band Leader carried the distinctive mark of his rank on the collar of the coat.
The musicians provided their own instruments, and maintained them at their expenses, except for the large and small drum, the cymbals and others instruments, which were not ordinarily used in the music of the armies of the Republic.
By decree of the 25 ventose year V (March 15, 1797), it was known:
“The Drum Major of the Guard of the Directory will have two complete uniforms, one for ordinary service, the other for parade days.”
“The first uniform will be similar to that of the grenadiers for all the parts of clothing, as for the saber. The second will be similar, as for the colors and the cut, with the differences hereafter noted: collar, reverse and facings of the coat bordered with a row of gold lace nine lines wide; two gold epaulettes. Hat bordered with gold lace fifteen lines wide, with large festoon, and surmounted by a plume in the national colors. Ordinary boots for the small uniform, with turnbacks on the boots for the great one. Saber with a gilded handle, silk sword knot in the national colors, intertwined with gold wire. On one and the other of these uniforms, the drum major will carry a collar shoulder belt on which will be the distinctive marks of his employment.”
“His baton will be of Malacca cane, with silver head, covered in all its length with a double silver chain.”
The drummers and the trumpeters of the Guard of the Directory had on the facing of the coat gold lace nine lines wide, similar to that of the small uniform of the drum major.
The spurs of the horse guards were bronzed steel, instead of being brass.
ARMAMENT & EQUIPMENT.
For the Infantry
Rifle with brass trimming; strap and cover platinum white; cartridge pouch with white shoulder belt. Saber with red sword knot and white cross-belt.
The officers were armed with a uniform sword, copper gilded, with white belt, with a polished gilded plate, carrying a figure in matte gild, of two letters R. F. The sword knot was of gold.
For the Cavalry
Musket trimmed out in brass; strap and cover-platinum white. Horse pistols, trimmed in copper. Cartridge pouch with white shoulder belt.
White musket strap. Saber with red sword knot and white belt with polished copper plate.
For the officers: a saber whose plate was similar to that of the officers of infantry: the gold sword knot.
HARNESS OF THE HORSE.
Saddle in the French style, furnished with cast iron; saddlecloth and holster cover national blue, braided in yellow.
The bridle and its harness in the French style; copper bridle bit and buckle.
The pay of the Guard of the Directory suddenly, at various times, had notable changes. We will restrict ourselves at present to the mode of payment and the detail of the pay of this Guard such as it had been fixed at its formation, as having been the most complete payment mode found, but however quoting some of the decrees which determined the numeration of this pay. Thus, a decree of the 9 nivose year V (December 29, 1796) granted a top pay of fifteen pennies per day to the 224 men composing the Guard of the Directory.
Another decree of the 4 brumaire year VI (October 25, 1797) said:
“1st ART. The usual Guard of the Directory will enjoy the same pay temporarily as that granted to the body of grenadiers employed near the national representation.”
“ART. 2. This pay will be the same one in the corresponding ranks for the Foot Guards as well as for the Horse Guards.”
“ART. 3. The rations of food and liquids will be delivered to the Guard of the Directory, in the same proportions as those delivered to the Legislative Bodyguard; the maintenance costs and other allocated expenditure it will be the same as with the aforementioned Guard.”
“ART. 4. Those of the officers whose rank would not correspond to that of the various officers of the Legislative Bodyguard will only enjoy the treatment shown officers of the same rank in the armies of the Republic.”
According to Article 5 of the decree of the 6 nivose year V (December 26, 1796), the musicians were paid and treated, thusly: the band-leader like a quartermaster-sergeant, and musicians like the drummers.
Nine ventose year V (February 27, 1797), the Foot Guard took the denomination Foot Grenadiers, and the Horse Guard that of Horse Grenadiers.
Lastly, the 14 pluviose year VI (February 2, 1798), the Directory decreed that its Guard would preserve its organization, by always presenting a manpower of 240 men. This body thus remained in this state until after the famous day of the 19 brumaire (November 9, 1799).
But an armed body can have affection only for one visible, permanent head, always recognized and in all places. The directors, under the terms of the Constitution, left, after a lapse of time, the reins of the power handed over to others. Here is what explains the Directory not having, at the day of its defeat, neither a soldier, nor a flag; here is what also explains Napoleon, on the day of its forfeiture, still preserving a guard of twenty-five thousand men who wanted to follow him and to stick to his fortune. The Directory, in the eyes of the soldiers, was an incomprehensible myth; Bonaparte, combined power, was an alive emblem, an acting idea, a true capacity. Also, at the time of the events of brumaire, when the daring General as a head of the Army of the East had decided to invert directorial powers, and that, leaving his small house on Victory Street, ran to Saint-Cloud to break the laws and to raise on their remains the consular fascia, he was little worried of the directors and of their Guard. And indeed, weren't the ranks of this militia filled with old soldiers of Arcola and Lodi? Hadn't they inoculated in their young comrades their feelings and their affections for the conqueror of Italy, for the heroes who had led them so many times to the victory? Did the name of Bonaparte resound well in their heart, but what significance were there the obscure names of the Abbot Syeïès, General Moulin, of Roger-Ducos and Réveillère-Lépaux? These names did not say anything to the imagination of the soldier, and those, which carried them, had been, in spite of their political authority, eclipsed in face of the laurel wreath of the Caesar of France.
The Guard of the Directory did not do anything to save its owners. Without orders, heads and passion, it waited in its barracks and its posts of Small-Luxembourg—where the directors remained—the outcome of the drama which proceeded in Saint-Cloud. The Director Moulin tried to gather this Guard in the garden of Luxembourg for a harangue and to then direct it on Saint-Cloud; but the efforts of Moulin, had it been crowned success, the Guard of the Directory would not have turned its bayonets against Bonaparte, and the proof, is that the grenadiers which, at the stormy meeting of the Council of Five Hundred, made him a rampart for his body to guarantee it from some dagger of deputy firebrands, belonged to this same Guard.
The 20 brumaire, Bonaparte, greeted as First Consul by the people of Paris, came into the Place Carrousel, at the head of many staff, to pass in review the regiments, which formed the garrison of Paris. The Guard of the Directory occupied the right of the line of battle. Bonaparte announced at the face of banner of this body, which he would take from now on the name of Guard of the Consuls, and the cries of sharp vive Bonaparte General! resounded at once on all along the line... the Imperial Guard had been born!
(Bonaparte, First Consul at Marengo)
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2005
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