Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics



YEAR 1810.





THE YEAR 1810 was perhaps the most glorious and most prosperous time in the reign of Napoleon.  In consequence of the Treaty of Vienna, the borders of the French empire had been moved back, on one side, to the mouth of Elba, and the other, to the shores of the Tiber.  Rome had become the second city of the Empire, and Amsterdam the third, by the fact of the union of the Kingdom of Holland to France.  A brother of the Emperor (Joseph Bonaparte) reigned in Spain; another (Jerome) in Westphalia; the brother-in-law of the Emperor, Murat, was King of Naples; Napoleon himself, King of Italy, was moreover mediator of the Swiss Confederation, and protector of the Confederation of the Rhine; the French domination, in consequence of the glory of its arms, thus reached forty four million men, and the patronage of the Emperor of the French extended over a hundred million Europeans.  Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Bavaria and Wurtemburg honored themselves with our alliance; there was only England, this old enemy, this eternal rival of our grandeur and our prosperity, who preserved her feelings of jealous alone in its hatred for the French name.

       This time of glory was also marked in the life of Napoleon by the greatest event, which concerned his domestic affections: his divorce from the Empress Josephine and his marriage to the Archduchess of Austria Marie-Louise.  But if the Emperor benefited from the leisure which the apparent tranquility of the cabinets of Europe left him to powerfully raise agriculture, science, the letters, arts, of trade and industry, he did not lose sight however of his Guard, whose hazards in the last war with Austria had shown to him more than ever the need for increasing their numerical force and the preponderance in the army.  He also believed that he had to reinforce it with a regiment known as the National Guard, with a second regiment of light horsemen (chevau-légers) lancers, and with a company of sappers of the engineers especially intended to service of the fire pumps in the imperial palaces.

Then, in consequence of the unexpected political events arising in Holland, he incorporated into his Old Guard, the grenadiers of the Dutch Guard, which he had called to France; moreover he created corps of musicians for the eight regiments of the Young Guard, which already existed, and finally he almost doubled the number of the medical officers assigned to service at the military hospital of Gros-CCaillou; so that the Guard, whose manpower was assembled in 1808 with only fifteen thousand two hundred and two men, attained, in 1810 and successively, the figure of thirty-two thousand one hundred fifty one men, i.e. more than double, by means of decrees and judgments, of which we provide the text, or at least indicate the content.

In the first decree, dated from the palace of Tuileries, January 1, 1810, it was stated:

“The Emperor, wanting to give a proof of satisfaction to the National Guards of the Departments of North, commands that a regiment of four battalions will be added to the regiments of infantry of the Guard, that will be composed men of goodwill, drawn from the companies of National Guards who contributed to the defense of the coasts from Flanders and the English Channel; each battalion will be composed of four companies organized and treated just like the tirailleurs of the Young Guard.”

This regiment accepted the denomination of Regiment of the National Guards of the Guard, and was organized in Lille.

Another decree, going back to Compiegne, March 20, ordered the formation of a second regiment of light horsemen (chevau-légers) lancers.

The same decree prescribed the creation of corps of musicians for the eight regiments of the Young Guard, twenty-four musicians per arm, or twelve musicians per regiment.

The 16th of July, 1810, a company of sappers of the engineers, was created which was attached to the Old Guard, and which, in this capacity, had to provide services to the fire pumps in the imperial residences.*

*Here was the circumstances leading to the creation of this company:

There was at the palace of Saint-Cloud a bodyguard placed under the grand hall.  One night that the soldiers of this station maintained a fire as an added measure, while the Emperor lived in this residence, the stove became so hot, that an old arm chair, which was leaned against one of the fire grate mouths which heated an interior suite, caught fire, and the flame promptly spread to all the pieces of furniture.  The officer of the station, on seeing this, at once warned Mr. Charvet, caretaker of the chateau, who ran to the lodging of the grand marshal of the palace, Duroc, who he awoke.  This one rose in all haste, recommending the greatest silence, and organized (bucket) chains at once.  Duroc, as Charvet, were even placed in the basin which is in the main courtyard, and passed the buckets of water to the soldiers.  One hour after, the fire, which had already devoured the pieces of furniture of the suite, was extinguished.  It was not until the next morning that the hosts of the palace learned of the event.  To prevent similar accidents, Napoleon organized a night guard.  All the imperial residences followed this organization in succession.  This guard, made up of sappers of the engineers, was called watch of the room. (chambre de veille) 

September 13th, the Dutch grenadiers were incorporated into the Imperial Old Guard.



At the time of the marriage of Napoleon to Marie-Louise, in April 1810, the uniform of musicians and the sappers of foot grenadiers the Old Guard underwent some modifications, which however only increased the richness of their costumes.  Thus, all the parts of the jacket (habit) of parade dress of the musicians, hitherto of the color crimson, became scarlet.  Nothing was changed in the gold lacework; but the trousers and the boots “à la Suvorov” replaced the breeches and the boots with turned down cuffs.

The small the edging of the hat was removed.  The top of the plume remained white, but the bottom of this plume was red scarlet.

As for the sappers, they adopted a jacket (habit) of the parade uniform furnished on all the seams with gold lace and wool of ten lines width; the collar, the facings, the reverses and the lining of coat tail of the jacket were bordered with the same the lace, as well as the turns of pocket.  Brandenburg (cuffs) of gold and wool were all supplied with buttons; grenades and two crossed axes embroidered out of gold were positioned on the top of the sleeve of the jacket.  To the epaulettes of gold and red wool were added gold cords, and the body of the epaulette was striped transversely with lines of gold.  Nothing else was changed with the remainder of the uniform, nor with the armament.

(Officer of voltigeurs and National Guard, parade dress.)

National Guard (Gardes Nationales) *

* This regiments became the 7th Voltigeurs in 1813. 

Jacket (habit) cut like the uniform of the tirailleurs chasseurs, base blue; collar and facings (in points) out of scarlet cloth, edged white; white reverses in a point, scarlet edgings; lining of coat tail white serge, scarlet edging; braid of the pockets outfitted in scarlet; turnbacks furnished with blue cloth eagles; epaulettes ending in three points (goose foot) of blue cloth, red edging, yellow buttons.

Vest and trousers white; small black gaiters; overcoat gray.

Equipment and armament like the tirailleurs chasseurs.

Shako furnished with a crowned eagle, out of copper, a white cord and a pompom with dot surmounted with a flame of different colors for each company. 

Like the regiments of line, the regiment of the National Guards had a grenadier company and a company of voltigeurs for each battalion.  The grenadiers had, for distinctive mark, the epaulettes, a sword knot, cords of the shako with a pompom and grenades on the turnbacks, all red in color.

The voltigeurs had; epaulettes, sword knot, shako cord, pompom and hunting horns in the turnbacks of green color.

Dutch Grenadiers.

During the reunion of Holland to France (in 1810), the Dutch Royal Guard became 2nd Regiment of Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, and kept its uniform, except for the emblems of the Dutch government, which were replaced by those of the Imperial government.

A white jacket (habit), collar, reverse and facings crimson; lining and braid of the pockets the same color, yellow grenades.  Buttons with an eagle on the jacket and on the white vest, as well as the breeches.

Long black gaiters with copper buttons;  red epaulettes and sword knots.

Bonnet without plate, white cord with double tassel; on the top of the bonnet, a cross in white thread on a base of crimson.  Red plume.

The same trimming of cartridge pouch as the grenadiers of the 1st Regiment.

Fusil banded out of copper.

The walking out dress (petite) uniform consisted of a white coat (surtout) with crimson collar, facings and linings; coat tails without pocket flaps, furnished with yellow grenades.

Hat with simple a yellow edge; mark (marrons) and the pinecone shaped pompom red.

The parade uniform designated for summer for the officers and the soldiers was a veste, breeches and gaiters of basin white.

Epaulettes and sword knots of the officers, similar to those of the grenadier officers of the 1st Regiment.

The musicians had jackets of sky blue; collar, reverses and facings yellow, silver non-commissioned officers; Brandenburg cuffs with silver twists on all the buttons of the reverses; folds and turns of pockets longitudinal.  Lining of coat tails yellow, bordered with a lace; white buttons with the eagle.  Trefoil silver.

Busby with yellow fly (bag), silver lace and tassels, plume white with a blue bottom.

Vest and trousers plain white; boots in the Russian style, with edge and tassels silver.

The drum major wore the same jacket as musicians, but it was braided on all the seams and around the pockets; two large silver epaulettes, a red shoulder sash, embroidered with silver and furnished with a plate, with two small drumsticks; a crowned eagle and grenades.  This shoulder strap, along its length, was bordered with a silver twist.

Busby with a yellow fly, silver lace and tassel.  Plume white and with a blue bottom, surrounded by three white ostrich feathers.

Vest and trousers white, laced.

Black laced boots bordered in twists.

The drummers wore the same uniform as the soldiers; it was braided on the collar, the reverses and the facings.  These brilliant uniforms disappeared after the Russian campaign.

[Light Horsemen Lancers (second regiment), and Lithuanian Tartar, attached as scouts to the regiment of light-horsemen lancers.]

(Sapper of Engineers, parade dress and entrenching dress.)

Light Horsemen Lancers (Chevau-Légers lanciers).

Kurka, collar, reverses, facings and turnbacks royal blue; blue braid on all seams.

Two yellow epaulettes; aiguillettes on the left.  Yellow buttons.

Trousers over the boots, like the sailors, out of scarlet cloth, bordered with a blue cloth band.

Cartridge box bearing an eagle.

Lance with a red and white pennant; saber like the hussars with white belt, attached to the jacket by a plate carrying an eagle.

Square schapski, camelé red, with a radiant crowned N, and a cordage of white thread; white plume;  visor bordered with copper, chin-straps of copper chains.

Porte-manteau round.

On the shabraques of the light horsemen, there was a crowned N in the place of the crown of the other cavalry regiments.

Sappers of the Engineers.

The uniform similar in the cut, as that of foot grenadiers, jacket (habit) royal blue, reverse, collar and facings out of black velvet edged red, turnbacks and braid of pocket red.

Vest and breeches royal blue.

An iron polished helmet, furnished with ornaments and a displaying an eagle, out of brass; crest (crinière) black, red plume.

Epaulettes and sword knots red.  Overcoat royal blue.  Equipment and armament like the regiments of Old Guard.  An eagle on the cartridge pouch.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2006


Organization Index | More on St. Hilaire's "History of the Imperial Guard ]

Search the Series

© Copyright 1995-2007, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.

Top | Home ]