Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics








Napoleon’s Foot Gunners: The Guard Foot Artillery

Their Uniforms

By Paul Dawson



When created in 1808, the gunners were issued with a Shako. This measured some 200mm tall and 244mm in diameter. It was decorated with red V chevrons on the side and a red top band. In full dress, gunners wore red shako cords and a 16 inch red plume. The shako was retained by the Young Guard companies.

The regulations of May 1810 replaced the shako with a bonnet-á-poil to the same pattern as that worn by the Gendarmes de Elite de la Garde. The bonnet measured some 35cm high, and had a red cordon, which terminated in two raquettes. The red cordon for a cannonier cost 3,50 francs, a Sergent 10 francs, and Sergent-Major 19francs.

The rear patch bore a yellow embroidered grenade on a scarlet ground.  The ball cockarde was worn in the plume holder. The centre either bore a crowned eagle in aurore wool or the cypher ‘N’. The bonnet could be purchased from M Maillard rue St Honore Paris for 40 francs.


Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Cockade
Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Raquettes
Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Cords

Detail of bonnet-á-poil cocade

Detail of Sergent Majors' Raquettes and Cords for the Bonnet-á-Poil
Detail of Sergent Majors' Raquettes and Cords for the Bonnet-á-Poil

(R. A. Cooper)


The first issue of the bonnet were provided with chin chains, which consisted of two rows of brass mail rings backed with two layers of black leather. They were supported from stamped brass lions head’s bosses. In 1811, they were replaced with copper jugulaires d’ecailes. All ranks wore red 14 inch plumet in full dress, which could be purchased from la Maison Debruge for 4,50 francs.

A black felt chapeau was issued in 1811, and were supplied by Herbet 14 rue Saint-Sauveur Paris. They cost 13 francs each, 197 of which were issued in the second half of 1811. Only 81 were issued for all of 1812 and 1813. The ganse and marrons were scarlet.

The Bonnet-de-Police was of the pattern a la dragonne and was made out of dark blue uniform cloth with scarlet lacing 3.37 cm wide. The cap measured 112 mm high at the front and back, and 108 mm in the centre. The flamme was piped red and terminated in a scarlet tassel. On the front of the bonnet, a scarlet grenade device was worn, measuring 68 mm tall. The bonnet cost 6 francs.


The regulations described a blue habit long, with scarlet cuffs with blue cuff flaps piped scarlet, long pockets piped scarlet, a blue collar piped scarlet, blue revers piped scarlet  and scarlet turnbacks. The costs for the materials were as follows:

blue uniform  cloth at  28,75 franc per meter
scarlet  for the cuffs and piping at 25 francs a meter
red (garanse) serge for lining the tails at 3 francs a meter
white linen sleeve lining at 1,18 francs per meter.

In 1810 a complete habit cost the princely sum of 60,41 francs. Several small changes to the habit took place. The habit of 1808 had a plain blue collar, which became piped red in 1810. In late 1810, the blue pipe red cuff flaps became all red.

Red (scarlet) epaulettes or those of the appropriate grade were worn on the shoulder.  The buttons cost 0,80 francs per dozen for both sizes. The red epaulettes cost 9 francs per pair, Sergent 15 francs, and Sergent-Major 20 francs. The gallon des grade were aurore for cannonier and caporal and gold for NCO’s


Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Habit
Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Chevrons
Habit of Sergent, Artillerie-á-Pied de la Ligne c.1809.
Detail of Long Service Chevrons, Epaulette and Revers
This style of jacket was that worn by the Guard, except the collar would have been piped red. Also note the use of red epaulettes by Line NCO’s., whilst the Guard NCO’s would have been mixed red and gold.  


Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Uniforms

Gunners in Full Dress 1811
Print after Pierre Martinet

The Young Guard companies were originally issued with the habit-long, but in 1812 were equipped with the habit-veste and line pattern equipment.


The gilet-veste ( sleeveless waistcoat) was made out of Imperial Blue cloth having two front pockets. It was closed by 10 small uniform buttons. The Regulations of June 1811 noted that the waistcoat was to have a standing collar, a flat front and to be closed by 12 small uniform buttons.

In grande tenue d’ete an unbleached woollen waistcoat of the same pattern would be worn, the cloth costing 2,50 francs  a meter for the white wool, 1,50 francs for the white serge lining material. 

A blue working jacket was issued to Caporals and Cannoniers. This was of similar cut to the waist coat but had a tall collar like the habit which was closed by two hooks and eyes, the front being closed by ten small unifom buttons. The plain blue cuffs were closed by two small unifom buttons. No shoulder straps or a bride and button appeared at the shoulder. Two small pockest appeared at the front, the left hand pocket being false. Caporals and Cannonier 1ere Class wore their rank bars  at the cuffs, but the lace was half the width of that on the habit. All class of private wore their  service chevrons, the lace being half the width of those on the habit.

Not wearing something round your neck was not done in 18th and 19th Century society. Every soldier would receive two cols noirs (black stock) and one col blanc (white stock). The col noir was made of black cloth or linen, lined with white linen, and filled with cardboard. It's purpose was to hold up the head and straighten the neck; and to look smart, of course. The French were luckier than the British, since no Frenchman would be so sadistic as to make his soldiers wear the leather stocks that the British used. The col noir was used in most tenues. Soldiers would be issued three pairs of undyed linen shirts, that they would use somewhat like we use t-shirts today. They would wear them always, underneath every tenue, and would also sleep in them. Since they had only three pairs, occasions to wash were not always very frequent

The stock was to be lower than the jacket collar, between 55 mm and 60 mm tall, and cost 2 francs.


In full dress blue breaches were worn, the front fall being closed by 5 cloth covered buttons. Long black wool gaiters were worn for full dress and ordinary wear, and white for parades, cost 4,20 francs , the short 3,10 francs. From 1813, the long gaiters were replaced by short black or grey gaiters worn with long blue overalls.  By this date the blue trousers had replaced the breaches as full dress items, and were worn wiuth all orders of dress.

Although little worn by the lower classes, the army issued long drawers to the soldiers, which would usually be worn, if only to avoid having to wash the trousers often, and to keep warm. These would be full length linen  or cotton drawers, with a button up fly, and a cord round the waist or at the back to fit.

Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Uniforms
Field Officer and Gunner in Full Dress c. 1811.
Note the caisson in background.


The giberne was the same pattern as that of the Grenadiers-á-Pied, and was ornamented by a stamped brass eagle over crossed canon device. This device appeared on the white linen campaign cover. The giberne  ornament cost 1,25 francs and the belt and giberne 8,60 francs. On campaign, a white linen cover was worn over the flap bearing the eagle-and-cannon device in black. The cover cost 0,60 francs.

The sabre belt was of the same pattern for all Guard Infantry, with fittings for both sabre and baionette and cost 8,50 francs. The belt was 70 cm long. The old guard companies had belts with stitched edges and carried the Grenadiers sabre, the Young Guard wore the line pattern sabre and had belts with unstitched edges.

The musket issued to the artillery was the 1804 pattern Velite musket. However, the special pattern musket issued to the Grenadiers and Chasseurs-á-Pied quickly replaced these. The weapon was 143,1 cm long overall and had a calibre of 1,75 cm. The musket was supplied by Boutet of Versailles, and were more highly finished than those of the line at an extra cost of 10 francs.

In order to clear the vent of the musket during firing each man was issued with an epinglet. This was a small round file  suspended in a piece of brass or copper chain 250 mm long. It was worn in the second button hole of the right lapel on the habit, and in the same place on the great coat.


The bonnet-á-poil was of identical pattern to those of the cannoniers, though the visor may have been bound in gilt brass. The cordon, glands, and fund du bonnet were all in gold bullion, which cost 26,50 francs. A bonnet with cordon cost complete 45,50 francs. All officers up to the rank of Chef-de-Battalion wore the red plumet, Chef de Bataillion 50/50 red and  white, and a Major all white. Officers plumes were to be from vulture feathers and measure some 56 cm tall. The Major’s plume was to be made from heron feathers. The bonnet could cost between 45,50 francs and 120 francs depending on quality and depth of the officers purse. Staff officers wore white plumes with a red tip. Officers of the Young Guard may have retained the old guard uniforms, as was custom at least for the infantry regiments of the Young Guard .

On campaign the encumbering bonnet or shako was placed in the baggage train and a chapeau was worn.

The chapeau was the same as that previously described for the cannoniers, but the ganse and marrons were gold rather than red or mixed red and gold for NCO’s. The Major wore white carrotte in the chapeau. De Brack suggested that an officer should need two coats, three or four new shirts, two pairs of trousers and two or three pairs of good new boots, all to be room and comfortable, and would be sufficient for a campaign of 18 months.


Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Officer's Cockade Imperial Guard Foot Artillery Officer's Chapeau
Officers' Pattern Cocade Worn on the Bonnet-á-Poil
Officers' Chapeau


Line Artillery Officer
Young Lieutenant of Line Artillery c.1810.

On campaign officers wore the single breast surtout, closed by 7 or 9 large uniform buttons. All officers of the Imperiale Guard, except infantry, wore the aiguillette on the right shoulder.

Subalterns wore black boots with faun folded down uppers or bottes a l’ecurere. Mounted officers were shod in a choice of three boots:  the totally smooth and highly polished, one piece full dress pattern; the semi rigid campaign boot with soft body and stiff knee section; or the fully soft-leather two piece  bottes a l’ecurere for foot duty and off duty.  The spurs were of gilt bronzed iron and were detachable. All officers wore low shoes with silver or gold buckles in walking out dress.

The only mounted officers were captains and above. The schabraque was made from Imperial Blue cloth and was square cut, the edges of which had  a double row of gold lace around it (the outer measuring 6cm, the inner 3cm wide). In the rear corner of the schabraque a gold embroidered Imperial Crown appeared. The rubbing plates were of black leather, the girth being grey on campaign and gold in full dress. The double pistol holster hoods carried the same lacing. The lacing on the holster caps were graded according to rank. The stirrup leathers were red. The snaffle rein and bridle were gold, whilst the parade harness was of black leather. However, it seems that when on campaign many officers used non-regulation schabraque of Hussar pattern. The Wurtz collections contains a dark blue schabraque with long points bordered in gold lace.

The following is a price list for part of an officers uniform and equipment, all of which he had to provide:

Bonnet-á-Poil (avec cordon, et plumet)    240 francs
Chapeau           100 francs
Epaulettes du Grade                                            250 francs
Habit (2) 500 francs
Gilets d’Uniform (2) 200 francs  
Bonnet de Police  30 francs
Manto Capote  120 francs
Ceinturon du Sabre 2 Dragonne 60 francs
Sabre d’Uniform   

72 francs

Pantalons (2) 144 francs
Culotte (2) 84 francs
Capote  160 francs
Epee et Ceinturon    75 francs
Bottes (4 pairs) 280 francs
Shoes, Spurs, and Gloves (2 pairs) 66 francs


Thus upon joining the regiment, a Lieutenant had a considerable outlay, equivalent to nearly 9 months pay, without taking into consideration mess bills, and other costs. It is no surprise that many officers died in debt to the tailors. If made a Capitaine, extra costs were encured:

1 Schabraque 450 francs
4 Chevaux    5000 francs
2 Equipages Complets de Maitre 600 francs


Thus  it cost nearly 8120 francs to equip a newly promoted capitaine with his horse, saddle and equipment as well as his uniform, in excess of 2 and a half years pay!.  Colonel Drouot was paid 750 francs a month, while his line equivalent drew 416.66 francs. Pay also differed between the different Garde corps, a Capitaine of Artillerie-á-Pied drew 300 francs a month, while his counterpart in the Artillerie-á-Cheval drew 333.33 francs.

Cannoniers were paid 0.80 francs a day  the deductions to this were: 4 to the mess, 2 to the underwear fund 2 into the pocket. A caporal was paid 1.66 francs a day, a sergeant 2.22 francs, and a sergeant-major 2.66 francs.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2003


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