Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics



YEAR 1812.




And of a third regiment of Light Horse Lancers.

NEVER in any time, during the period of the monarchy, did France know an army more beautiful, more warlike, more complete than that which Napoleon formed in 1812, because the specialty of the Emperor was the army.  No one could match the great captain his ability of surveillance, of activity and of the almost fabulous means, which he employed to create, organize and then act.  Chief then of a totally military nation, deeply penetrating the character and French spirit, he knew how to please this bellicose nation that had been raised on battle fields.  Never had Europe seen a more splendid gathering of elite soldiers and of a more valiant corps trained; the eagles and Napoleon were indistinguishable from this same religion, placed on the same alter raised up from a hundred victories.  Also nothing could be compared with the enthusiasm of the soldier of the Guard for the Sovereign.  However, this Imperial Guard was not any more, in 1812, the modest Consular troop made up of four regiments; it had become like a new army having its staff, its administration, its infantry, its cavalry, its artillery park and its seamen.  The granite column of Marengo had its history traced on a bronze column, where a thousand triumphs were shining with the reflection of the sun of Austerlitz, Jena, Eylau, Friedland and Wagram.

The Imperial Guard was composed then of three regiments of grenadiers and two regiments of foot chasseurs, veterans of the grand army and all sons of the campaigns of the Republic, from Sambre-and-Meuse to Italy and Egypt.  Following these old men of the old, as they were called among the people, came a special company of veterans covered with noble scars; one counted among these the old French Guards who, without shoes and ammunition, had no less gloriously over ran Europe.  Independently of these two crack corps, the infantry of the Guard counted two regiments of fusiliers, one attached to the corps of grenadiers, the other to that of the chasseurs; six regiments of tirailleurs grenadiers, six other regiments of voltigeurs chasseurs, a regiment of flanqueurs, a regiment of National Guards, a regiment of pupils, and eight companies of these intrepid seamen who had provided such great service on the Danube three years before, because the Emperor wanted in his Guard that all arms were represented.

The cavalry, much fewer than the infantry, counted a regiment of grenadiers, a regiment of chasseurs, then a company of mameloucks, the last remains of the campaign of Egypt; a regiment of Polish lancers and three regiments of light horse lancers, all three made up of brave Poles or Germans from the banks of the Rhine and Elbe; finally two platoon of elite gendarmes, whose Duke of Rovigo, Minister for the Police Force, had been forced to yield command of to the General Durosnel.  The artillery counted a horse regiment and a foot regiment, two battalions of the crews of the train, a company of pontoon workers and a company of sappers of the engineers.  This Imperial Guard, the complete corps, a representation of all the army, counted more than fifty thousand elite troops able to decide a great movement in a battle, and Napoleon counted on it.

The increases, changes and creations undergone by the Guard in 1812, had thus been these:

By Imperial decree, dated from the palace of the Tuileries, on January 12, 1812, created of a company of veteran gunners (canonniers).

“The officers of this company, said the decree, will enjoy, according to their rank, the same pay and the same allowances as those granted to the artillery officers of the old Guard.”

On February 18, each company of the artillery train of the Guard was increased by ten men.

On March 2, an Imperial decree increased by two the number of the commissioners of war, and by three that of the assistants (adjoints) in the corps of the Guard; the same decree changed to twelve the number of assistants attached to the administration.

The 11th of the same month, a second regiment of light horse lancers of the Guard was created, as well as a fifth squadron of two companies in the first regiment of this arm.

The 19th, the non-commissioned officers of the Maritime Expedition to Algiers, whose dissolution had taken place previously, were allowed into the fusiliers of the Young Guard, in the capacity of sergeants.

The 24th decreed that: “from next April 1, the service of the payments to be made to the Guard will cease being under the direction of the treasurer of the crown.

“Pay and allowances will be discharged, according to the rules laid down for the payments of this nature, with the troops of the army.”

By Imperial decree, going back to Wilna, on July 5th, a third regiment of light horse lancers was created. “This regiment, said the decree, will be composed of five squadrons, and each squadron of two companies.”   

“This 3rd regiment will have the same pay and the same allowances as the 2nd regiment.  It will be recruited only of Polish landowners.”

On July 27, the salary of the bricklayer's, carpenters, etc. was fixed, for those attached to the general administration of the Guard; namely:

Master bricklayers (maitre maηons)…………………………………..

150 fr.


per month.

Bricklayers, carpenters and locksmiths……………………………….









The pay and the additional allowances of all the corps of the Imperial Guard, of the administration and staff officers who were attached, were, under the terms of the decree of previous March 24th, to be discharged according to the mode employed for the troops of line.  The inspectors were to conduct their reviews of manpower in accordance with the provision ordered on this subject.

By a decision of October 8, the 1st Regiment of Polish Lancers was carry a complement of one thousand five hundred assembled men.  The cadres did not have to undergo any increase in officers and non-commissioned officers.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2006


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