Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

 

 

Uniform of the Sapeurs of the Grenadiers-á-Pied de la Garde: 1810-1815

By Paul Dawson

 

Sapeur Wearing the Undress Surtout. Note the Red Edged Gold Arm Badges, and the Wearing of the Standard Soldat’s Sabre.

Le Bonnet

Sapuers were officially regulated to wear the bonnet-á-poil on 1st November 1789. The bonnet-á-poil was the same as that for a Sergent except it lacked the plaque, which was sanctioned in 1806. Prior to this the sapuers wore a bonnet a d’oursin with white cordon. The 1790 regulations stipulate that the sapeurs bonnet d’oursin had a plaque du sapeur. In 1804, the plaque du sapeur was discontinued, the cordon to be red and white, terminating in a single raquette and a tassle, a red plumet was worn on the left side of the bonnet above a tricolour cockade.

On 19th April 1813, 71 bonnets de sapuers were supplied by Madame Veuve Aubineau at a cost of 37 Francs 50 each.

L’habit

The habit was the same as the tambours except in the following points: On the upper arm gold crossed axe devices appeared on a red ground, were worn, and smaller copies of the same device appeared on the turn backs. The habit for the sapeurs of the Consular Garde was to have a grenade embellished with crossed axes below, to be cut from red cloth (rouges en drap decoupe), and worn on the upper sleave.

On 1 January 1811, 34 pairs of crossed axe arm badges were provided for the regiments of Grenadiers-á-Pied. There were embroidered in red with a gold outline. On 30 January 1811, M. Gilles of no.6 Rue de la Grande Traundere, Pairs,  supplied the sapuers of the 1st Regiment of Grenadiers with their required embroidery, the costs being as follows:

Pair of Gold crossed axes for the full dress habit: 15 francs each
Pair of red crossed axes for the surtout: 8 francs each
4 gold crossed axes for the turnbacks (habit or Surtout):  6 francs each
Epaulettes  Sapeur: 19 francs each
Epauelettes Sergent Sapeur:  25 francs each
Cordon du Bonnet: 23 francs each

Imperial Guard Sapper
Reconstructed Sapeur en Grande Tenue c.1810

However the presence of the flaming grenade over the crossed axes has only been ascribed to the Sergent Sapeur, who wore the Sergents rank bars, and wore epaulettes of  a Sergent-Major.  A Sapeur’s epaulettes were of the same pattern as worn by the Sergents i.e. two layers of red fringing covered by one of gold.  The gold lace with red chevrons appeared on the sleeve seams. In 1810, a sapuer’s habit required 17 meters 40 cm of lace.

In undress a second habit was worn, this had red and gold chevron lace on the collar, cuffs, and turnbacks. Red outlined gold crossed axes were worn on the upper sleeve.    

In 1810, a surtout was issued. This had plain gold lace to the collar and cuffs. On the sleeves red embroidered crossed axes appeared, and gold on the turnbacks.

The great coat was the same as that of the Soldat, but with red embroidered crossed axes on the upper sleeves.

L’Equipment

The equipment carried by the Sapeur was identical to that used by the Grenadiers-á-Pied.

Perhaps the most extravagant piece of equipment worn by the sapeur was his special pattern sabre. In 1804, the sapeurs were issued with a new patern sabre, replacing that of 1776/1777 used by the Garde Constitutional. The sabres hilt was a tete du coq. This was replaced in 1810 by a new pattern sabre. The hilt was far more elaborate, thohgh retained the tete du coq.

The Sapeur’s Axe. Note the Hammer to the Read of the Head. The Blade was in Fact a Splitting Wedge.

Detail of the Hammer at the Back of the Sapeurs' Axe.

 

To carry the axe, an axe-case was worn. This was officially regulated on 25 April 1767, and again in 1786. The belt which carried the case was to be decorated with three brass devices of a medusas’ head, a flaming grenade and crossed axes. Both belts were adjustable by means of large brass buckles. The axe-case was fabricated from black leather and bore no devices,  according to the 1816 regulations, though the surviving example from the Grenadiers-á-Pied had identical, though smaller, devices to the brasses on the Grenadiers giberne.  The ammunition pouch on the axe belonging to the 14eme Ligne, bore crossed axes.

 

Sapeur of the Imperial Guard
Sapeurs Apron, Axe Case, Various Axes and Sabres
Beligan National Army Museum.
Grenadier-á-Pied Belt and Axe Case Note the Giberne and Belt Brasses.
Musee d’Armee

 

A giberne was worn on the waistbelt, which was 65 mm wide. The giberne held 2 packets of 10 cartridges. Otto shows the wearing of this ‘belly box’, and appears to be an exact, though smaller, version of the grenadiers giberne. The axe case was regulated in 1801 to measure 352 mm wide by 244 mm deep, the ammunition pouch to measure 108 mm by 68 mm.

The apron, tablier, according to the regulations of 1787 was be cut from mouton chamoise, and was to measure 975 mm top to bottom, 750 mm wide at the top, 680 mm at the waist and 859 mm wide at the base. A new pattern apron was issued on 26 October 1801. Again it was to be cut from sheepskin, mouton, and was roughly triangular in shape, measuring top to bottom 1 meter 30, 677 mm wide at the top and 894 wide at the bottom. It was held in place by means of a white waist belt that fastened with a brass plate bearing a flaming grenade. Long white gauntlets were also used.

 

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2003

 

Organization Index | More on French Guard Regiments ]



Search the Series

© Copyright 1995-2012, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.

Top | Home ]