Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

 

Uniforms of the Chasseurs-à-Pied  de la Garde

The Sappers

By Paul Dawson

 

Le Bonnet

Sapuers were officially regulated to wear the bonnet-à-poil on 1  November 1789. The bonnet-à-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 19 April 1813, 71 bonnets de sapuers were supplied by Madame veuve Aubineau at a cost of 37 francs 50 a piece.

L’habit

The first uniform by the Sapeurs is documented in a print of 1802. It shows the Sapeur wearing a chasseur’s uniform, but with gold crossed axe devices worn on the upper arm and the traditional equipment of a Sapeur but with the grenades of latter period replaced by hunting horns. The waist belt bore a hunting horn as did the ammunition box on the axe case, which appears to have the flap edges bound in copper.

In 1808/1810 a new habit was adopted .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.

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 Sapeurs epaulettes, and were of the same pattern as worn by the Sergents.  

The gold lace with red and green 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. It had red, green 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 sleaves 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 sleaves.

L’Equipment

The equipment carried by the Sapeur was identical to that used by the Grenadiers-à-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 pattern 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, though retained the tete du coq.

To carry the axe, an axe-case was worn. This was officially regulated on 25 April 1767, and again in 1786 and 1801. 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-à-Pied had identical, though smaller, devices to the brasses on the grenadier’s giberne.  The ammunition pouch on the axe belonging to the 14eme Ligne, bore crossed axes. The 1801 regulations state it was to measure 13 inches long and 9 inches tall at the blade end, and narrow to 4 inches 2 mm at the middle. The case was closed by two flaps, the first was 9 inches long and 2 inches 9 mm deep, the straps were 6 inches long,a nd fastened by brass buckles. A single buckle closed the second flap. The case cost 6,25 francs.

A giberne was worn on the waist belt, 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 grenadier’s 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 1801 was be cut  from mouton chamoise, and to top to bottom 1 meter 30 cm, 677 mm wide at the top and 894 wide at the bottom. It cost 4 francs.

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: March 2005

 

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