Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

 

The Leaders

Battery Organisation

Napoleon’s Foot Gunners: The Guard Foot Artillery

Introduction

By Paul Dawson

Napoleon, 1st Emperor of the French, was a born gunner; his guns were truly his ‘ultimo ratio regum’. Under Napoleon, some of the finest artillery officers of the era emerged; Marmont, who laid the guns at Castaglione and Marengo became a Marshall; Drouot son of a baker, ‘the sage of the grande armee’ who studied his bible every day; Eble, Lauriston, Senermont, the list goes on.

General Antoine Drouot
General Drouot
Commandant
Imperial Guard Foot Artillery

Soldiers of other arms complained that the artillerymen gave themselves airs because their Emperor was himself a gunner. The French artillery had an ancient pride in its profession, and by 1790 could challenge Austria, the previously acknowledged master of gunnery. Perhaps the finest gunners in Europe could be found amongst the gunners of the Artillerie-á-Pied de la Garde Imperiale.

Formed in 1808 and increased to an army corps by 1811, the artillery of the guard became a battle-winning organisation when deployed en masse.

The Leaders

Commandants-en-Chef  l’Artillerie de la Garde Imperiale

1803: Couin (Joseph-Christophe)
1807: Lariboisiere (Jean-Ambroise Baston de)
1811: Sorbier (Jean-Barthelemont)
1813: Dulauloy (Charles-Francois)
1815: Drouot (Antoine)
1815: Desvaux de Sainte-Maurice (Jean-Jacques)

Colonel-Majors and Majors Artillerie-á-Pied de la Garde

1808: Drouot (Antoine) – Colonel-Major
1808: Digeon (Armand-Joseph-Henri) – Colonel-Major
1809: Boulart (Jean-Francois) - Major
1813: Griois (Charles-Pierre-Lubin) – Major
1815: Lallemand (Henry-Dominique) – Major

Drouot, was born on 11 January 1771, the third son of a baker. A soldier of the revolutionary ways, he became Major 27 August 1808 of the newly created Regiment d’Artillerie-á-Pied de la Garde Imperiale, and became the Colonel-Major on 9 July 1809. During the Hundred Days Campaign of 1815, Drouot was appointed Commandant_en-Chef d’Artillerie de la Garde Imperiale. He received his general’s epaulettes as General-de-Brigade on 10 January 1813, and was promoted to General-de-Division on 3 September 1813. He was nominated as Commander of the Legion d’Honneur on 14 June 1804 and Count of the Empire on 24th October 1813 after Liepzig. Drouot died aged 76 on 24 March 1847.

Battery Organisation

Intent on strengthening his artillery, Napoleon commenced a reorganisation of the Imperial Guard artillery during 1808-1809. By a decree of 12 April 1808 the Artillerie-á-Cheval was reduced to four companies and formed six companies a pied, which were equipped with heavy 12 pounder guns. A year later with the war in Spain lingering, and war with Austria almost certain, Napoleon raised three companies of Artillerie-Conscrits for service with the Guard in Spain. These guns were issued to the 1st and 2nd Regiments Tirailleur-Grenadiers and 1st and 2nd Regiments Grenadiers-Conscrits, as well as the Fusilier brigade and acted as regimental artillery, a system that continued into 1810. Attached to these three companies was the Bataillon bis du train d’Artillerie de la Garde, commanded by Major Baillard. The train d’Artillerie de la Garde served both the foot and horse batteries.

The Artillerie-á-Pied grew into a fully organised regiment during 1810-11, which increased its strength to 6 companies.

9 June 1809 3 companies of Artillerie-Conscrits raised.
October 1809 7th Company attached to Grenadiers-Conscrit and Chassuers-Conscrit
  8th Company attached to Tirailleur-Grenadiers and Tirailleur Chassuers
  9th Company attached to Fusilier Grenadiers and Fusilier Chassuers
12 December 1811 10th Company Artillerie-á-Pied formed, designated Young Guard
2 January 1813 11th and 12th Companies Artillerie-á-Pied formed
April 1813 13th - 20th Companies Artillerie-á-Pied formed.
  7th - 20th Companies designated as Young Guard

The Artillerie-Conscrit  became the Young Guard artillery , a fourth company being added on 12 December 1811, two more being formed on 2 January 1813. 10 more companies were formed in April 1813.

On March 13 1813, the Guard horse artillery was increased in strengthened by the addition of a third squadron, one of which being designated Young Guard in late 1813. By 1813, artillery of the Imperial Guard consisted of the following guns:

Old guard foot: 6 companies 48 guns
Young Guard foot: 15 companies 80 guns
Old guard horse: 3 squadrons, 8 companies 30 guns
Young Guard horse: 1 company, 6 guns
Reserve: 32 guns
Total number of guns: 196

General Nicholas Songis
Nicholas Songis
General Inspector
Imperial Guard Foot Artillery

Combined, both foot units of the Guard comprised an army corps, which had an attached veterans company, a company of ovriers et pontonniers, and a 12 company artillery train. The corps of Artillerie-á-Pied de le Garde Imperiale had its own administrations, one officer being responsible for all uniforms. Nicholas Songis was the chief Inspector.

The Young Guard artillery was placed under the command of Major Francois-Joseph Henrion. Attached to the Young Guard artillery upon formation in 1813 was the 2eme Regiment de Train d’Artillerie a de la Garde (Jeune garde), and attached to the Guard Foot Artillery Corps was the Parc du Material de la Garde Imperiale under the directorship of Colonel Jean Francois Boulart and command of Major Henri-Antoine Bon de Lignum and the Parc d’Artillerie de la Garde Imperiale.  Henrion was born on 27 January 1776, and on 27 March 1813 he was appointed major commandant of the 15 Young Guard foot artillery batteries, appointed Commander of the Legion d’Honneur 6 November 1813, and made Baron of the Empire 16 August 1813. He was wounded three times: 29 December 1793, 26 August 1813, and 29 January 1814. He died on 5 August 1849.

The large scale increase in the Young Guard in April 1813 was a turning point in the way that Napoleon viewed the Guard, especially the Young Guard. In 1813, the Imperial Guard, especially the Young Guard formations, transitioned from a tactical reserve to became a major battle formation. The Guard had replaced the Grande Armee.

After the retreat from Russia, Napoleon's army was decimated and had a desperate need for men. The ranks of the Army were filled with conscripts, and Napoleon had increasingly difficulties with desertion and the quality of the conscripts.  By creating large numbers of Young Guard formations and taking conscripts directly into them with minimal entry requirements, Napoleon sought to minimize the army's increasing desertion problems. Napoleon recognised by putting the label of ‘Guard’ on his new conscript units, and using the popular perception of what a guardsman was and a how one behaved, he could keep potentially reluctant recruits in the ranks.  By 1814, the need to stem the mass desertion and to fill the ever dwindling ranks of the army, on 22 January 1814 Napoleon proposed filling the Guard with "volunteers who WISH to enter into the Young Guard" and indicates that Napoleon was willing to take just about anyone into the Guard. Clearly his desperation for troops had led him to the point of prostituting the prestige associated with the Guard to get as many able bodies into the army as possible. The enlarged Young Guard artillery of 1813 was uniformed and equipped as a line battery, paid as line, but had the status of ‘Guard’. These new units were armed with the old 8 pounders taken from the arsenals, but with an emphasis on 12 pounders and 6 inch howitzers. The Young Guard artillery essentially became the artillery arm of the French Army.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2003

 

Organization Index | More on French Guard Regiments ]



Search the Series

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

Top | Home ]