Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics



YEAR 1810.





As of the Consulate, Napoleon had already chosen Sunday to pass his great reviews, "because he did not want, he had said, that workmen lost one day of their week to come admire the drum major of his grenadiers."  Wasted time seemed to Napoleon a true calamity; and it was in consequence of this systematic economy of time, that the reviews of the Guard were not vain parades.  Sometimes on foot, sometimes on horse, the Emperor had constantly close to him, independent of his staff, the Minister of War, the general commanding the first military division, the ordnance officers, the inspectors of reviews, etc., in a word, all the people to whom an order could be immediately transmitted, in the case where, during his meticulous inspection, he would find the need to make some change or some improvement.  In this manner, all was carried out with the speed of his will, because it was known that the Head of the State appreciated celerity as much as exactitude.

The Emperor started by traversing the ranks of his Guard to get to know the new officers, and to make himself known to them.  He entered then into depth with the equipment, the armament and the operation; he was informed about all the needs, distributed the praise and the blame, the distinctions and the rewards.  These solemnities excited a noble dichotomy.  The nation swelled with pride from of this elite troop, the foreigner learned how to fear it.

During this time, the dignitaries of the Empire, the senators, the advisers of State and the diplomatic agents of all the courts of Europe, avid to see Napoleon and to await from him the favor of a word, encumbered the large apartments of the Tuileries.  These great reviews still offered to Napoleon the most favorable occasion to expose to the eyes of all a sample of his activity, his superiority in the art of warfare, and to exert on the crowd this ascending irresistible capacity, genius and fortune joined together in only one man.

Now, Sunday June 3, 1810, the sun, which initially had risen pale and veiled, resumed little by little its glare; and, early, the crowd of the courtiers encumbered the salons of the Tuileries.  At the end of the mass, which this time had been said to be ten o’clock precisely and taken by assault (enlevée d’assaut), according to the expression of the skeptical Cardinal Maury, Napoleon entered the large apartments, and gave audience: he was in a charming mood.

He saw some steps from him, modestly hidden behind a small group formed by the Ambassadors of Austria and of Prussia, a chamberlain of the Emperor of Russia, the Count of Trawinsoff whom the Czar had sent to Paris, without being credentialed for no other purpose, claimed one, than enrolling a troop of actors for the Imperial Theatre of Saint-Petersburg.  This Muscovite lord having been presented at the Tuileries by Mr. Czernischeff, aide-de-camp of Alexander *, Napoleon beckoned with the hand from him to come to him.

*At that time, there was no question at the imperial court and in the salons of the capital, that the aide-de-camp of the Emperor of Russia, Mr. Czernischeff, who, under the pretext of complimenting Napoleon on behalf of the Czar his Master, had only come to Paris to fulfill a mission of high espionage.  One had seen it coming for the first time after the interview at Erfurth, and since then, he had been continuously on the road of Paris to Saint-Petersburg, which made the practical joker say that he was probably the only one there in a position to find the way to it.  At all events, having made the same voyage ten or twelve times, one calculates that in the space of less than four years, more than ten thousand miles had been crossed by this officer, which was equivalent to a voyage around the world that a vessel usually spends three years to achieve.

—Mr. Count, he said to him, if you are curious to attend a beautiful spectacle, you have only to come with me;  presently I will pass my Guard in review;  will you then tell me what you think?

Mr. Trawinsoff, guessing the intention which Napoleon had to pass under his eyes the troops which at Austerlitz, Eylau and Friedland, had overcome those of the Emperor his Master, believed to dodge the invitation while answering:

—Sire, nothing would make me happier than to accept this distinguished honor which you condescend to make Your Majesty; but... you see, he added, by showing his delicate shoe and his silk stockings, I do not have a horse.

—That's no problem, replied Napoleon who realized well that his intentions had been divined; I will this moment arrange for you to be given one of my own.  Mister de Trawinsoff, resuming his tone, which had something of cherishing about it, please accompany me.

This request was equivalent to an order also; for his only answer, the count himself bowed respectfully, and mixed with the staff about Napoleon who were on the point of following the master.

  A long time before the different corps of the Guard had started to take their positions in the court of Tuileries, an immense crowd pressed itself around; the cordon of sentinels established to leave a free passage for the Emperor had a lot of trouble not being overwhelmed.  A small white horse of the Arab race, richly harnessed in a saddle of poppy red velour with gold twists, that a page held by the bridle in front of the arcade of the clock tower, pawed behind other horses in hand which awaited the staff:  it was midday.  Suddenly, the noise of the clock of the chateau struck in immense succession soon followed by a deeper silence.  A rattling of saber sheaths, a noise of heel spurs of boots resounds under the flagstones of the peristyle... Then, a small man appeared with a pale complexion, dressed in a simple green uniform, with two modest epaulettes of a colonel; he had on the head a small plain tricorn hat.  Only the badges of the Legion of Honor and the Iron Crown shone on his chest.  He had stopped, made a gesture with his hand, and, some seconds after, he was seen surrounded by a group of soldiers whose uniforms were resplendent in silver and gold embroideries.  All held their hats in their hand.  The chamberlain of the Emperor of Russia was among them.  At once the drums beat in the field in all directions; the cries of command are heard and are repeated, like echoes upon echoes, from one end of the line to the other; the soldiers, by a unanimous and regular movement, present arms, the flags are inclined, and an immense cry of vive l’Empereur!  Erupts from the enthusiastic multitude.

Napoleon gets up on his favorite horse, Marengo, whose always moving head expresses impatience, and moves towards the archway of the Royal Bridge to start showing himself to his anciens.  At the moment when he was to enter the ranks, a young man from fifteen to eighteen years in age managed to free himself from the crowd; his figure is upset, he waves a paper above his head.  At the same moment, one of the grenadiers, who did not cease repeating:  “get to the rear!” sees the movement, falls upon him, seizes him by the collar and tries to force him to return to the crowd; but the young man resists, while saying in a begging tone:

—I only want to give my petition him, it speaks of my mother!  Please, Mr. Grenadier, do not prevent me from passing... Sire!... Sire!... he exclaimed in a voice which dominated all the others while continuously waving his paper. 

—Let this young man approach, Napoleon spoke coldly; do you not see that he wants to speak to me!

With these words the grenadier gave up his prisoner, presented arms and remained motionless.  The young man sprang and came to fall on his knees next to Marengo, which remained stopped, his two front legs drawn aside on the same line, as if accustomed to such incidents.

—What do you want of me?  Napoleon asked him while leaning on the frame of his saddle to take the paper, which the solicitant presented, to him with a trembling hand; since you had something to ask me, why did you not write me?

The young man did not say anything; but attached a begging glance on Napoleon, with large tears running from his eyes.

—Let us see that, returns the Emperor, by tearing the envelope of the petition which he read from one end to the other; then looking at the begging one who had remained in the same posture, he added with a feeling of interrupted impatience:

—Get up, now, Mister!  It is only in front of God whom one kneels!... According to what I see, your mother never left France? 

The word never left the choked mouth of the young man.

Napoleon deferred the eyes on the petition while saying in a low voice:

“One had misled me by saying to me that this woman, after having emigrated abroad, immersed herself in intrigues, while there was nothing to it.”  Then raising his voice: “My young friend, he continued, announce to Madam your mother that as of now, she has a pension of twelve hundred francs from my purse.”

On hearing these comforting words, the joy of the young man was so sudden and so strong, that he could not support himself: his paleness became extreme, his eyes were closed, he fell on the knees and his head ran up against the legs of Marengo.  The frightened animal, moved back and bucked; his rider was in danger of emptying his saddle, when an aide-de-camp seized the animal by the bridle, and with a firm hand managed to contain it.

During this time the solicitant was surrounded.  Help was hastened to him: and pressed him; by seeing the Emperor about to be dismounted, cries of fright exploded, which ceased only when he was seen getting down quietly from his horse and moving with eagerness towards the petitioner who lay some steps from there, to also provide some help.  Then everyone clapped, and there were long enthusiastic acclamations.

—A surgeon!  Asked a staff officer, is there not a surgeon here?

—Leave off, Sir, leave off, said Napoleon to the official party placed close to him, a surgeon is useless, joy is never disastrous at this age; only a little fresh water is needed.

One moment later, one of the observers passed his hat, which he had used to draw water with the fountain close to the station.  Napoleon himself threw a few drops on the face of the young man, who regained his senses, opened his eyes and seized one of the hands the Emperor, which he carried to his lips with ecstasy.

Then Napoleon addressing himself to those who surrounded him, says to them:

—Eh well!  Wasn't I right?  Let us get back in the saddle, Messrs, he added, and sprang himself onto Marengo, which a small correction had made flexible, to pass between the first two files of the infantry of the Old Guard. 

During this time, a scene of a kind very different kind had occurred at the other end from the court of the Tuileries:  a recognition of dramatic burlesque had taken place between a drummer, called Castagnet, who for only a few days had been brought into the 1st Regiment of the Chasseurs of the Old Guard, and General Gros, major-colonel of this regiment.  Both had been fifteen years before bed comrades.  Napoleon had a very particular regard for General Gros.  “Gros, he said, lives in gunpowder like fish in water:  it is his element.”  The original way in which this officer had been promoted to such a high rank, could not be overlooked; but we must hasten with the statement that it would have been difficult to find a worthier man to place at the head of the corps of the Foot Chasseurs of the Old Guard; all his men cherished him and said of him:  “He is a finished trooper.”  We do not believe that the soldiers of that time could make their head a more beautiful elegy, and General Gros deserved it from all reports.

He was hardly forty years old.  He was grand, well made; his figure was masculine and handsome.  To all these advantages, he added that of a strong and sound voice, an excessive generosity and a valor that took pleasure in the midst of danger.  By misfortune he was rather poorly educated:  the way in which he expressed himself belonged only to him.

Gros, who was yet only a major of the foot chasseurs, finding himself one morning at Saint-Cloud, alone, in one of the small waiting rooms of the cabinet of Emperor.  There, not knowing what to do, and waiting impatiently because the service aide-de-camp sought to introduce him into the presence of Napoleon who had ordered it, Gros was posed in front of a cheval-glass in which he was reflected with complaisance, adjusting his collar, adjusting his epaulettes and enraptured with how his dress met regulation.  The satisfaction, which this examination caused him, evolved little by little into addressing himself compliments:  “Ah!  my cadet, he said to himself with a very pronounced southern accent and by examining himself from head to foot, he is a little dressed up like that!... Too bad you did not learn the mathematics, as the Emperor requires; you would be general today.” 

—You are one!  Napoleon suddenly said to him while striking him on the shoulder.

  During the short monologue of Gros, the Emperor had entered the salon, without a noise, or being seen; he had heard him and seized this occasion to appoint him major-colonel, that is to say general, as much better that he offered his nomination himself since he had made him come to Saint-Cloud.

  The day of the review of which we speak, Castagnet, this former comrade of Gros, was thus in the Court of the Tuileries, placed in the first rank of the drummers of the Chasseurs of the Guard, whose left was supported by the archway of the Rue de l’Échelle.  The acknowledgement of his colleagues, the Misters (MM.), the officers of the skin, Castagnet, decorated drummer, was moreover a very-pleasant joker in the company.  Castagnet, told them, that it was the major-colonel of his new regiment who must himself give the preparatory glance of inspection (coup d’œil préparatoire d’inspection) before the Emperor came to take over as the master.  Castagnet bubbled with desire to see again this officer-General, with whom he lived formerly in the greatest familiarity.  As soon as the drum major of the regiment saw General Gros who advanced quietly with the step of his horse, he warned Castagnet of it, then posed majestically in front of the face of his subordinates, to which, while turning his head to the right side and left, without stirring up the chest, he spoke as a feeder would speak with the small chicks which he raised: he flattered them, cajoled them, and exhorted them above all for the unit, when the moment to be heard comes.  As for Castagnet, his heart beat with violence, he had curled the ends of his long russet-red moustache, his leg muscles tighten, and his two hands impressed with his drumsticks a movement similar to that of the winch, which one makes move in chocolate.  Moreover, he composed a compliment for his former bed comrade who became a general officer.  However, as soon as the major-colonel was opposite him, he moved his hand high on the bearskin, and with a deep bass voice harangued him in these terms:

Eh!  name of a name!... it is you, my general!... Look at me thus:  I am this joker Castagnet with which you drank more strong stuff (schnick) than there is bouillon in the pot of the Invalides!... How then is your health?  You don't recognize me, my General?

With the first words, and still more with the sound of the voice of the drummer, Gros had recognized his former comrade; volunteer like him in the battalion of the patriots of the Aude.  He got down precipitately from horse, threw himself into the arms of the drummer, embraced him overflowing and answered him, by tightening his hand as if to break the his bones:

—Very-well!  very-well!  my old man Castagnet, and you?

—Always dddrumming (rrroulant), as you see.

—Come to see me tomorrow after the morning muster, Gros told him who had gotten up on his horse, you will see that I always have in my housing, for former friends, a pipe and what-it-takes for friendship.

—I will not miss being there, my General, though what I recall of you is only a history of laughing, because now, thanks to the small the bauble that here, he added by showing with pride the star of honor which shone on his chest, the plug of tobacco is always completely large, and one can wet ones whistle as soon as we finish beating the Diane (reveille).

During this burlesque conversation, Napoleon, after having traversed the first file of grenadiers, was on the point of emerging in the Carrousel by one of the side gates.  While raising his eyes in this direction, he believed to see, at the end of the line, a general officer that was kisses a soldier.  He put spur to the sides of Marengo, which took off like a thunderbolt and came to a running stop very shortly in front of the bandmaster of the chasseurs.  This one, taken for a loss by this abrupt arrival, hastened to give to the large drum the signal used to begin the symphony; but with a gesture Napoleon beckoned to him to wait and raising his voice:

—What that does this mean, General Gros?... he exclaimed to him by wrinkling his brows, surely a theatrical scene of reunion?

The General was discovered, and indicating to the Emperor a drummer which became motionless with his row, answered with the outspokenness which was ordinary for him:

—Sire, it is a former friend, one of the more brave soldiers of the army.

I present to you for a solid trooper and who has never chided in the eyes (engelures aux yeux) in front of the enemy.  Such as you see him, Sire, he beat his drum to Italy, Egypt and through all Germany.  He is called Castagnet:  it was he who beat the charge with only one hand in front of Saint Jean at Acre, because he had in the other been cut through by an Arab musket ball at of the beginning of the battle (tremblement).  He is famous for his feat of arms, Sire!  It was worth to him a pair of baguettes of honor, and you decorated him in Boulogne, as you see.

Napoleon liked discipline, but he liked bravery still more.  Also, while Gros spoke, he had initially stared severely at Castagnet, whose heart beat more violently still; but little by little his glance had softened and had ended up shining with a very benevolent expression.

—All that is beautiful and good, the Emperor began again, but the moment was badly chosen for these kinds of recognition.  Then, addressing Castagnet, he added with this accent which one could say intoxicated his soldiers:

—It was you therefore, my brave man, who descended third in the ditch at Saint-Jean at Acre?... I am very glad to meet you again.

And while thus speaking, Napoleon moved his hand to his hat, which he raised slightly.

With these words, with this gesture of Napoleon, the face of the drummer became crimson; his moustache bristled on his upper lip; he answered while being dallied with:

—And me also, my Emperor, I am flattered...

It is still you, if I have a good memory, Napoleon noted again, who showed an admirable presence of mind and courage at the combat of Wertinguen by saving the life of your captain?

From scarlet, which it was already, the face of Castagnet became blue.  His eyes shone like two carbuncles; he answered even lower than the first time:

A little, my Emperor, one in the same  (toujours du même tonneau)!

—Gros, added Napoleon, if your protégé continues to make us speak well about him, you will carry him to the promotion table.  This man is worthy of another station.  Goodbye, my brave man he added with an almost friendly sign of the head.

—As you please, Sire, answered this one while raising the back of the left hand respectfully to his bonnet.

And Napoleon again launched Marengo, and had entered the Carrousel.  After having reviewed the squadrons of the Guard and those of the light cavalry which were gathered there, he returned to the court of Tuileries, and went to place himself in front of the pavilion de l’Horloge (Clock Tower), in front of the small squadron of general officers who made up his staff, and in the midst of which appeared the chamberlain of the Emperor of Russia, which had always accompanied him.

Napoleon made a sign:  an aide-de-camp approached, is recognized, bowed towards the Emperor, leaves at a gallop, quickly traversed the whole face of battle, and returns to his place.  One moment after, Napoleon advances Marengo a few steps, whose sides are breathing hard and nostrils covered in scum.  He raised his arm, struck his hand above his head, and at once one heard a drum roll which enlarged little by little like a crescendo of thunder, then ceased suddenly.  A regular noise of fusils succeeded it while being prolonged all along the line.  With the command that only one voice threw into space, everything shook.  Then the figure of the Emperor, previously so pale, so impassive, became animated and is colored.  He subsided on the saddle of his horse, presses the right hand on his hip, and throws one inexpressible look at the Count of Trawinsoff, who seems absorbed in contemplation of this splendid tableau.  It is that Napoleon noticed the undulation imprinted with the eagles of the flags; it is that he saw from afar his anciens who advance slowly, but in an admirable order; it is finally the procession of the Imperial Old Guard will start, and that this spectacle was true magic.

The Old Guard approached.  Each old soldier represented one of the glories of France: they were the foot grenadiers and chasseurs, the conquerors at Marengo, at Austerlitz, at Jena, at Eylau, at Friedland, at Wagram, the future winners at Moscow.  As soon as they had started to defile, Napoleon had been turned over towards the chamberlain of Alexander, and had beckoned to him to a place closer to him.  This one had hastened to obey, to the great astonishment of the MM. aides-de-camp grouped behind the Emperor, and which cannot guess what can be the reason for such a distinction in favor for a Russian.  Napoleon had his reasons.  Addressing itself to Mr. de Trawinsoff:

—Monsieur count, he said to him with benevolence, remain thus close to me, perhaps you will recognize some old acquaintances among my small relintintins; it is they who come now. 

Indeed, the regiments of line arrived at the pas accéleré (accelerated march).

—It is my 45th, Napoleon said to the Russian count; they’re children of Paris!... Do you see my brave men these small nobodies (gingalets)?  On campaign, they are lions; in peace, they are good-for-nothings who do not show a single example of discipline, and only think of making love, and, which worse is, of quarreling with MM. the bourgeois.  Their colonel never could get them to return to the district at the hour of retirement.  But on campaign, what dash!  What intrepidity!  And especially what gaiety!... If ever it happened that the horse carts were upset between my brother of Russia and me, I would increase the strength of my 45th to six battalions, and it is with them that his Imperial Guard would have to deal.  Hold, here is this last company, it doesn’t think anything about preserving its alignment.  Then, raising his voice:  “Captain of the 45th, tighten the ranks!...”  elbows to the right!... However, it was this regiment which fell upon on the Russian batteries at Austerlitz; it was a corporal of the voltigeurs, one of the small lions which you see running there, rifle on the shoulder who, finding himself caught by an officer of the cuirassiers of Doctorow, sprang to ride behind this iron covered rider, and strangled him with his hands, not finding an other means of getting rid of him.  What do you think now of my children of Paris?...

The chamberlain of the Emperor Alexander having answered that a similar feature was comparable with the most beautiful facts of the antiquity, Napoleon looked at him with malign, and added:

—Eh well!  There does not exist, in my Guard, a regiment that cannot still quote a hundred more admirable facts.

—Hold, he began again; you see well this lieutenant covered all over in dust, which comes to us at racing speed with his company?  Eh well!  It is Robaglia; he is my first cousin (cousin-germain).  In spite of that, or, for better saying, because of that, he does not have favor to hope for; he will have only his merit.  And however what devotion!  What a empire I exert on his spirit!  You will judge.

In this moment, the battalion of Lieutenant Robaglia had arrived in front of the general staff.  On a sign of Napoleon, the young man ran, lowered the point of his sword and brought his hand to his shako.

—Hello Robaglia, Napoleon said to him in a familiar tone: how goes it?  Are you content?

—Sire, I am quite happy, at this moment especially.

—Tell me, in your first battle (affaire), would you say you were afraid?

—No, Sire; you were there with us.

—Good!  But if you believed of being killed, how would you act?

—Sire, I would not move back a foot.

—Eh well, rest easy, it will come to nothing; it is to me who you answer.  Good-bye, Robaglia, join your battalion, and come to see me tomorrow; the first time that I see your mother, my cousin, Napoleon hastened to add, I will say to her that I am content with you.

The cavalry defiled in its turn, and then, through a swirl of dust, one could make out the grenadiers with their ever so severe dress, from them then the chasseurs of the Guard with their colback with long hair that the wind made billow like ears of a cornfield.  Then the company of the mamelucks, with the turban of white muslin surmounted by a gold crescent; then dragoons of the Guard to the light helmet, commanded by Arrighi, him also a cousin of the Emperor; then Polish lancers, with their elegant chamckas with the mixed flames, led by the Count Kraskinski; then finally the artillery of the Guard under the command of Sorbier and Aboville.  Each regiment, each squadron, each battery had successively pushed out a hurrah of vive l’Empereur!  When no more remained to defile but the crews of the train that the soldiers, in their epigamic language, had baptized with the name of hussars with four wheels, Napoleon set foot on the ground, and addressed to the majority of the corps heads that had grouped around him, his compliments on the beautiful behavior of their troops.  The chamberlain of the Emperor of Russia was always there.  Napoleon having requested of him what had most struck him among all that he had seen:

 —Sire, this one answered, it is the extraordinary memory of your majesty, it is this facility to remember, after a so long a time, feats of arms and the names of so many of soldiers.

 —Monsieur Count, it is the memory of the heart, retorted Napoleon; it is that of a lover who remembers his first mistresses:  that one is never lost.

Finally the Emperor, who appeared very-tired, prepared himself to go up to his apartments, when General Gros stopped him at the bottom of the staircase of the grand hall:

—Let us see, you want me?  Napoleon said to him with a pleasant brusqueness; would this be still one of your friends of the Sambre-et-Meuse, which you would like to present to me?  Hurry, I am in a hurry to rest.

—No, Sire, it is on the contrary... You know well..., your bad discovery.

—I do not know what you want to say, Napoleon began again, who already had climbed the first steps.

—Lord, it is a young man, a type of conscript out of black dress, that which had startled Marengo.  He is here, he would like to be taken into service, and to be made to kill as soon as possible for Your Majesty.  Here is what he gave me the responsibility to ask you.

  - Eh well!  Say to him for my part that the best manner of serving and of proving his recognition to me, is for him not to be made to kill unnecessarily.  You only have to incorporate him in the fusilier-chasseurs.  Goodbye.

And Napoleon climbed the grand stairway quickly.  Finding the very radiant Empress Marie-Louise, who had been standing on the balcony of the pavilion de l’Horloge with her ladies, Napoleon said to her merrily while rubbing his hands:

—That was very good; I am very content.  How well my Guard is outfitted!  How beautiful is was!  made the Emperor as if savoring a plug of tobacco.  Ah!  ah!  I do not advise that the others come to rub there.

—Eh my God!  Sire, who would think of making war on Your Majesty, or rather, who would dare?

Who?  Repeated Napoleon by raising his head, not the emperor your father, my good Louise, he repeated, but his neighbor Emperor Alexander emperor, that who was pleasured to name me his brother; I am certain of it now.  —Napoleon was not mistaken.


Staff and administration


General administration

1 staff, 5 companies workers.




Grenadiers (Old Guard)

2 regiments



Veterans        (idem.)

1 company



Fusilier Grenadiers (Young Guard)

1 regiment



Conscript Grenadiers   (idem.)

2 regiments



Tirailleur Grenadiers    (idem.)

2 regiments



Chasseurs  (Old Guard)

2 regiments



Fusilier Chasseurs (Young Guard)

1 regiment



Conscript Chasseurs  (idem.)

2 regiments



Tirailleur Chasseurs  (idem.)

2 regiments




8 companies



National Guards

1 regiment







1 regiment



Vélites grenadiers

1 squadron




1 regiment



Vélites chasseurs

1 squadron




1 company



Elite gendarmes

2 squadrons




1 regiment



Vélites dragoons

1 squadron



Polish Lancers

1 regiment



Light Horse Lancers

1 regiment






1 staff, 4 foot companies, 4 horse companies.


1 company of pontooners, 2 battalions of train.

  1 staff, 1 company.

                         Hospital of the Guard






[Dutch Grenadier and Pupil (dress uniform)]

Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2006


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