Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics




YEAR 1814.




APOLEON had just lost Germany: it was necessary that he saved France, or that he succumb with it.  His first words to the Senate, on arriving in Paris (after the campaign of Saxony), had been these: “All Europe went with us one year ago; today all Europe goes against us.”  But against Europe armed to complete the overthrowing of the vast French empire, the nation was going to oppose its energy, retempered deploying an army which counted amid its ranks more than one hundred twelve thousand men of the Imperial Guard.  Our reverses, disastrous as some of them had been, were thus not completely irrevocable! … A new levy of three hundred thousand men was issued at once by the Senate.

Consequently the organizing genius of Napoleon was entirely engaged.  Military engineers were sent to all our towns of the North, to raise the old walls which formerly had been used as ramparts in old France, that is to say to strengthen our entry ways, where the courage of our volunteers could defend the passage against the foreign legions step by step.  Considerable orders were made at the depots for remounts, at the foundries for cannons, the munitions factories, the powder magazines, the workshops for clothing and equipment; but money was needed, and the cash boxes of the State had none … Napoleon sacrificed his personal fortune that he had accumulated for ten years in the vaults of the Tuileries.

The administrative councils, the councils of war, finance, and diplomatic deliberations followed one another hour after hour in the palace.  The days being too short, the Emperor devoted his nights to it.  Lastly, to give an idea of the extraordinary activity of Napoleon in these critical circumstances, we will say that in the course of only January 1814, he issued five decrees concerning his Guard, of which he seemed to be preoccupied with even more solicitude than before… It is that this time Napoleon knew that it would be necessary for him to ask for and obtain large acts of devotion and intrepidness from this crack corps.

The first of these decrees, dated January 14, created a 14th, a 15th and a 16th Regiment of Voltigeurs and Tirailleurs of the Young Guard.  The grenadiers and the voltigeurs of the Royal Guard of Spain were used in the composition of these eight (sic) new regiments.   

The 13th of the same month, a second battalion of sappers of the engineers was also organized.

The 15th following saw the creation of regiments of volunteers, composed partly of workmen from manufacturers of Paris, of Rouen, of Amiens and the manufacturing cities of 1st, 2nd, 14th, 15th and the 16th military divisions, which were without work.  These new regiments took rank following the Young Guard.

By Imperial decree of January 21, six other regiments of voltigeurs and tirailleurs of the Young Guard were created under numbers 17, 18, and 19.

“These twelve regiments, said the decree, will be composed of volunteers, at least twenty years old and forty years at the maximum.  However young people of eighteen and nineteen years as well as some fifty year old men will be able to be admitted, provided that they are five feet tall and have a strong constitution.

These volunteers are contracted to a commitment to be deployed until the enemy is driven out of the French territory.

The chiefs of factories and workshops who, in consequence of circumstances, have workmen without work, will be able to draw up a list of names of those of the latter who they want to enter these corps, to certify their good conduct, and to address these lists either to the mayor of their community, or to the sub-prefect or even prefect, who will pass the review of these men through officers who, after having noted that they meet the required qualities, will provide them roadmaps to go to Paris.

The wives and children of the volunteers admitted in these new regiments of Young Guard will receive the aide fixed by the decree of December 9, 1813.

Any soldier who, having already been deployed, now enjoys a retirement pension or discharged on half pay and would like to again serve in these battalions, will preserve the pleasure of his pension; the authorities will amend them and take care to note the state of their wounds and their health allows them to again serve on active duty.”

Lastly, January 24th following, the company of veteran cannoneers was changed to a hundred and twenty men.   

Some changes and modifications had been made previously in the uniform of the various regiments of the Young Guard.  In 1813, these changes and modifications underwent still newer variations: thus the officers of the fusiliers-tirailleurs and conscript-grenadiers, who had always worn the uniform of the officers of foot grenadiers of the Old Guard, were distinguished from the latter only by the shako, which was furnished with a band around the top, of black velvet embroidered with stars of gold placed at ten lines distance, and edged with baguettes and a saw tooth pattern; the bottom band did not have stars.  The visor of the shako was furnished with a gilded semi-circle; eagle and chinstraps gilded, with a small gold twist on the rosette.  This shako moreover was decorated on going out with a red plume coming from a tulip out of gold embroidered with spangles.

Until 1813, all these shakos were decorated with a gold cord, with twisted tassels: from this time, they were removed, even in the fusilier-grenadier regiment.

The lieutenants and second lieutenants of flanqueurs-grenadiers, only, wore the uniform of their regiment: long coat (habit), white trousers and boots in the Russian style, same epaulettes and same shako that those of the other regiments of Young Guard.

The officers of the regiments of fusilier-tirailleurs, conscripts and flanqueurs-chasseurs, National Guards and voltigeurs, wore the same uniform as those of the foot chasseurs; only the shako had been substituted for the bearskin.  This shako was the same one as that of the Young Guard, except the ornamentation, which was a laurel branch embroidered in gold, on black velvet, between two gold baguettes with a saw tooth pattern.

A gold tulip and a plume red, on the higher part, green on the lower part, decorated this shako; the remainder of the uniform was similar to that of the corps of grenadiers.

The epaulettes of the officers of the Old Guard were embroidered on red cloth; the base out of twisted cords and spangles of gold; the curved part, in the shape of a shield, carried a grenade embroidered in gold spangles forming a relief.  The chasseurs, instead of a grenade, had a hunting horn.  The fringe of the epaulettes was in gold twists.

The horse grenadiers and the dragoons wore the same epaulettes as the foot grenadiers.

The elite gendarmes had the same epaulette form only instead of being out of gold it was out of silver.

The epaulettes of the foot artillery were the same as that of the infantry, only the grenade rested on two crossed cannons.

(Chief Surgeon and Reviewing Inspector)


Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2006


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