Tirailleurs de la Garde Imperiale: 1809-1815
"In war, I profit more from the Fusiliers and Conscripts than
the Grenadiers and Chasseurs’
Role of the Young
By Paul Dawson
Napoleon never fully explained his reason for creating
the Young Guard, but it was three fold.
Firstly the Young Guard was a source of trained cadre for other guard units
and the army as a whole. In April 1811, Napoleon
recognized that he had a senior cadre locked up in the 1er Regiment
de Voltigeurs and the 1er Regiment de Tirailleurs and that
they might be more useful if they were used to form a second chasseur
regiment. The Decree of 18 May 1811, ordered the re-activation of the
2e Regiment de Grenadiers-á-Pied and 2e Regiment de Chasseurs-à-pied
de la Garde, which was formed using the cadres of the 1st Tirailleur
and 1st Voltigeur Regiments. The ranks of the Young Guard being filled
with selected cronscripts, with the cadre coming from the Line.
estimated this organization could give him sufficient cadres serving
in his Guard to organize an army of 100 battalions. He estimated that
he could draw 3,000 sergeants from the fusiliers and tirailleurs, 6,000
corporals from the tirailleurs and the conscrits, 600 lieutenants from
the Old Guard and 600 sous-lieutenants from the various schools. To
furnish this cadre, each Tirailleur and Voltigeur regiment was to have
a company of Coporal-Tirailleur or Voltigeur, who were instructed at
Bataillon d’Instruction de la Garde at Fontainbleau, where they were
taught military practice and theory.
enlargement of the Guard and movement of personnel between regiments
resulted in newly formed units having a percentage veterans who would
stiffen the ranks of the mainly conscript army. However, this resulted
in the accounts of the Guard becoming over stretched, in arrears and
‘a labyrinth which no inspector could find a thread’.
Secondly, the Young Guard became the main combat arm
of France in the last years of the Empire, and was as noted previously,
used as a way of combating desertion which was rife throughout the army.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2003
Index | More
on French Guard Regiments ]