The Chasseur-à-Cheval de La Garde Impériale Sabre
In order to get an idea of the magical attraction that a sabre of Napoleon's famous Imperial Guard has on collectors here is an overview of the history of the regiment that was equipped with the "Chasseur à Cheval de La Garde Impériale" sabre.
Comment: Many regiments of the Imperial Guard were later equiped with this type of sabre during Napoleon's reign, but the Chasseurs-à-Cheval was the first regiment to be equiped with it and therefore gave the sabre its name. Troopers and NCOs of the Horse Artillery and the Artillery Train of the Imperial Guard and also the Guard Hussars of the Kingdom of Holland, under Louis Bonaparte, used this sabre. These hussars were later absorbed in the Imperial Guard and became the famous Red Lancers, the 2nd Regiment de Cheveau-Légere lanciers de La Garde Impériale.
The Regiment of Chasseurs-à-Cheval was raised under the name: "General-in-Chief's Company of Mounted Guides" as the cavalry part of the bodyguard that Napoleon created in Italy 1796. Its first commander was Captain Jean-Baptiste Bessières, the future Marshal of France (1804). The squadron went to Egypt with Napoleon and was renamed to "Escadron de Chasseurs-à-Cheval de La Garde Consulaire" after his coup in 1799. On 3 January 1800, it consisted of 4 officers and 113 troopers and was commanded by Captain Eugène de Beauhairnais, Napoleon's stepson.
Until then the troopers and NCOs were equipped with the hussar sabre Model 1786. In 1800, a new type of sabre, that would be the base of the later "Chasseur à Cheval de La Garde Impériale" sabre, was introduced: the "sabre des Chasseurs-à-Cheval de La Garde des Consuls -1e modèle 1800 - 1803." This sabre was different from the later famous model because it had no two strips (rings) around its copper scabbard and it had slightly different dimensions. On the side of the blade it had the inscription "Mfacture de Klingenthal." (The sabre was manufactered at the famous armory of Nicolas Boutet in Versailles and the blade was made by Klingenthal.)
The squadron was present during the famous battle of Marengo (14 June 1800) and even led one of the final cavalry charges that contributed so much to Napoleon's victory. On 1 October 1802 it became a regiment with 4 squadrons, comprising 56 officers and 959 troopers.
On 22 September 1803, the regiment received the "sabre des Chasseurs-à-Cheval de La Garde Consulaire puis Impériale, 2e modèle 1803", the model that it would continue to use during the rest of the Napoleonic Era. This sabre was also manufactered at Versailles and it was inscribed on the side of the blade: "Mture Nale du Klingenthal Coulaux Frères Entreps" or "M=fture Imp=le Du Klingenthal Coulaux Frerés".
When Napoleon crowned himself Emperor in 1804 the name of the Consular Guard was changed in Imperial Guard (Garde Impériale). From this time on the regiment went everywhere Napoleon went and one squadron of Chasseurs-à-Cheval was always with him, 24 hours a day. It was his mounted bodyguard, the so called "Escadron de service" (Service Squadron). The Chasseurs-à-Cheval were Napoleon's favorite regiment, he called them his "enfants chéris" (his treasured children) and gave them liberties that the other Guard regiments could not afford to get away with.
In 1810 a small modification was made to the Chasseurs sabre. The scabbard was made out of one piece now and the hilt became a little larger. After this it was known as the "sabre des Chasseurs-à-Cheval de La Garde Impériale - 3e type". The Red Lancers received the sabre at this time. It needs to be said of course that all the different models continued to be used during the entire Napoleonic Era because the decrees that regulated their use were not always followed to the letter and/or implemented right away.
During the First Restoration the regiment was renamed the "Corps Royal des Chasseurs-à-Cheval de France" but its old name was restored with Napoleon's return from Elba. The story ends with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo (18 June 1815) which was the end of the Imperial Guard. There is no evidence that the sabre was used during the Second Restoration so the end of the Napoleonic Era was also probably the end of the active service of the "sabre de Chasseur a Cheval de La Garde Impériale."
The Sabre's Marks of Recognition
I would like to point out that the inscriptions on the blade mentioned above are not the Holy Gospel because there were other denominations and marks of recognition that I will elaborate on here.
If one collects sabres from the Napoleonic era one has to be familiar with the descriptions of Christian Ariès. This man published a collection of drawings that is considered to be the "Bible" by many French collectors. It comprises, foremost, drawings of sabres from the Musee L'Armee in Paris and the Musee de Empiri at Salon au Provence. Most models are of course described in this work but there were so many variants made that it would be premature to write of a sabre because it doesn't figure in this work. The same goes for the double edition of Michel Petard's work that mainly describes the same sabres.
Measurement of the Chasseur-à-Cheval de La Garde Sabre
Views of the Chasseur-à-Cheval de La Garde Impériale Sabre
Click on any thumbnail image for a larger view.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2000
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