Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics



YEAR 1815.




All regiments of the Young Guard, infantry and cavalry, as well as the artillery
of the Old and the Young Guard, incorporated into the troops of line.

Royal decree, which lays off the army in its entirety.


In the middle of the many germs of dissatisfaction, which the royal government had given birth to in the army, almost all the officers of the Guard, reformed or on half-pay, had maintained their relationship with their old regiments.  In Paris, they visited the barracks, reminded the soldiers of the eagle, the Tricolor and the familiar epithets of Napoleon.  Already signs had appeared which announced a forthcoming event: one spoke of the Emperor under the name of Father the Violet or of John of the Sword; and old soldiers repeated: “That soon he will reappear, to drive out with blows of the pitchfork these émigrés who had insulted their old glory.”  Mysterious affiliations dominated the troops; the news came there from all points of France : obviously a plot was prepared.  What was the thought?  What would be the goal?  There was in the army this precursory quivering of revolution; never perhaps had there existed more brotherhood between the officers and the soldiers.  Marshal Soult, then Minister of War*, announced this spirit; fermentation was greater still in the Guard, that had moved away from Paris, as we said previously; it sent to the capital of disguised officers and noncommissioned officers, who grandly announced the nearness of the return of Napoleon.  So one kept the tricolor cockade at the bottom of ones shako, the imperial eagle was also preserved on the cartridge pouch; the white flag, which however had conquered for France its old position in Europe, the flag of Fontenoy, let us say us, was a subject of derision.  The army thus formed as a corps with lots of citizens, and it was at that time that the Generals Lefèvre-Desnouettes, Lallemand and Drouet d' Erlon conceived, the first, the plan of a military coup against the House of Bourbon.

*The Marshal Soult had succeeded General Dupont.

This plot, perhaps, was less attached to Napoleon than with the patriotic party then directed by Fouché; but it is certain that General Lallemand acted by the impulse of an unknown hand which was not that of the Emperor.  This conspiracy was in the head of Fouché; he dreamed, we repeat, of a military demonstration, which would sway the army to take up the Tricolor; once this move was achieved, one would see which direction would be most profitable. All was possible: to keep Louis XVIII with conditions; to get along with Bernadotte, Eugene Beauharnais, or even with the Duke of Orleans, today H. M. Louis-Philippe, seemed to ensure the army a powerful party, which had its origin in the primitive warlike fraternities of Jemmapes and Valmy; Marshal Jourdan, one says, was mingled in with all these negotiations, and perhaps General Drouet, whose name was originally bound to the events of 1792, was not without some positive involvement.  For all, it was necessary to replace the existing order of things as soon as possible.  General Lallemand, most of all advanced the ideas of Fouché, had a spiritual woman, acting like a Creole and bound to all the women of the Bonapartist party, Mrs. Junot, Maret, etc; it was not difficult to place him in this party of the Generals who carried in their heart the patriotic ideas of 89.  The execution of this plan was to be entrusted to the Guard, which, while moving on Pairs, would fraternize with the regiments of line that it met on its way, while disguising, under the pretext of a ministerial revolution, this Praetorian movement.  It only acted; one was to say, to reverse the Ministers for the King and to take up again the national colors.  On another hand, more sinister projects were conceived by the Jacobins, who did not hide anything: those who had justified regicide could dare all. 

Thus were things as of the beginning of the year 1815, when suddenly, on March 5 in the morning, a telegram, transmitted by the prefect of Toulon to the authorities of Lyon, announced the landing of Napoleon at the Gulf of Juan.  A second, more detailed, dispatch, coming from Marshal Masséna, Governor of Toulon, said: “Bonaparte has landed at the head of a thousand to eleven hundred men, collected from all arms of troops already disbanded.  He moves towards the mountains of Dauphiné.”  The Marshal added: “All measurements are taken, and I am moving quickly to stop Bonaparte with the troops which are in my government (the 8th Military Division), unless he is not thrown back into the Piedmontese Alps, because then one must respect the borders of His Majesty of Sardinia.”

This news initially threw an inexpressible confusion among the men of the royal government. Each one had his project at the head, each one had the mania to capture the Corsican, the escapee from the Isle of Elba, and this delirium was dividing the court.  The King, the princes and the ministers believed that all that was needed were some regiments to oppose him, or even the National Guard to choke this devourer of mankind.  The serious and experience men knew only the danger of the situation; they knew in advance that the contact of any troops with their old Emperor would be mortal for the House of Bourbon.  The princes had to make an example of courage and of the activity in this imminent crisis: also the Count d' Artois accepted the order to leave for Lyon; the Duke of Orleans was sent with him, in order to impress the resistance with a more national character.  Marshal Macdonald, who was especially to speak with the army, accompanied the two princes.  Marshal Mortier accepted a command in the North of France, where were confined, under the title of Royal Corps of France, the major part of the old regiments of the Old Imperial Guard, among others the foot grenadiers and chasseurs, the horse chasseurs, etc.  Berthier and Marmont remained captains, one, of the company Wagram, and the other of the company Ragusa (gardes du corps). Ney, Augereau and the majority of the marshals each had their mission.  But, before passing onto newer events, we must say what had become, after the departure of Napoleon for the Isle of Elba, of this Old Imperial Guard, this ceaseless scarecrow of the royal government.

Initially, the Royal Corps of Foot Grenadiers of France, organized in Fontainebleau on July 1, 1814, had been formed of three regiments as follows, namely:

Of the 1st and 2nd Foot Grenadier Regiments of the Old Guard, and Regiment of Fusilier-Grenadiers of the Young Guard.

Then, their pay had been reduced as follows:

80 c.

for grenadiers of the old


Regiment, in lieu of

1 fr. 15 c.

65 c.



    idem,       —

"      80 c.

55 c.     for old fusilier-grenadiers,                                    —               "      60 c.

Then, in the companies, each soldier had been classified according to his category, that is to say, there were grenadiers of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class. 

Now, here is the list of names of the officers of which this crack corps had originally been composed of:


The Lieutenant-General Count FRIANT, colonel-commandant.

The Lieutenant-General Count ROGUET, second colonel.

The Camp-Marshal (maréchal-de-camp) Baron PETIT, major.

The Camp-Marshal Baron CHRISTIANI, major à la suite.

*After the organization of the Grenadiers of France, thirteen officers were sent to Metz by the Minister of War, and were placed following the corps and while waiting for that employment had suddenly been caught up within the cadre in consequence of changes, of resignation or retirement. Here names and qualities of these officers:

The Baron of TROMELIN, Camp Marshal—  DE LORRY, battalion head.




The Count of MONTLUC.

The Count of VEZINS.

The Count of CLINCHAMP.

The Viscount of LA BOURDONNAYE.





First Lieutenants:



These thirteen officers remained in Metz on March 23, 1815, the day of the departure of the last battalion of Grenadiers of France for Paris: Napoleon was then at the Tuileries.

In next April, the foot grenadiers and chasseurs of the Old Guard, having been restored under the terms of the decree which we gave the content of in Chapter IV, the men who had made up the old lst and 2nd regiments reformed them, and the former fusiliers-grenadiers of the Young Guard became the 3rd Foot Grenadier Regiment Old Guard. This new organization took place at the barracks of Courbevoie.


battalion heads.


captains adj-majors.









VILLEMEUREUX, capt.-quartermaster-treasurer.

TORTI, 1st lieutenant, flag bearer.

BOURGEOIS, 1st lieut. quartermaster adj.

COLAS, surgeon-major.

DINGREMONT, captain for housing.

SÜE (Jean-Joseph), surgeon aide-major.

































First Lieutenants:













FARÉ (Henri).










HARLET (Germaine).










Second Lieutenants:














HARLET (Romaine).


















The veteran (anciens) foot chasseurs of the Old Guard, under the title of the Royal Corps of Foot Chasseurs of France, had been organized in the same way that the grenadiers.  The staff of this regiment was thus composed:

The Count CURIAL, Peer of France, Lieutenant-General, colonel.

The Count MICHEL, Lieutenant-General, colonel à la suite.

PELET, Camp Marshal, major.

The  Bon PORET DE MORVAN, Camp Marshal, major à la suite.

DE SCÉPAUX,                                  idem,                idem.

CHAILLOU, captain quartermaster of chasseurs.

COUSIN,                    idem              of voltigeurs.

The old regiment of horse grenadiers had taken the title of Royal Corps of Cuirassiers of France, and consequently had changed arms.  The Count GUYOT, Lieutenant-General, had been appointed colonel of this regiment, and the Camp Marshal Baron JANIM (J. - B.), major.

It had been the same way for the old regiment of the horse chasseurs of the Old Guard: it had taken the title of Royal Corps of Horse Chasseurs of France; the Count LEFÈVRE-DESNOUETTES, Lieutenant-General, had been appointed colonel, and the Baron LYON, Camp Marshal, major.  The dragoons: Royal Corps of Dragoons of France . The Count ORNANO, Lieutenant-General, colonel; the Camp Marshal Baron LETORT, major. The lancers: Royal Corps of Light Horse of France . Colonel, the Lieutenant-General Count COLBERT; the Camp Marshal DUBOIS, major.  As for artillery of the Guard (Old and Young), it had been entirely distributed among the artillery regiments of line of the army. One proceeded in the same way in regards to the old regiments of infantry of the Young Guard: all those which been part of its make up were incorporated in the line.

The royal infantry had a Commander in Chief: Marshal OUDINOT, Duke of Reggio, who had as a Chief of Staff the Baron GRASSOT, Camp Marshal.  The royal cavalry had also a Commander in Chief: Marshal NEY, Prince of Moskowa, whose chief of staff was the Camp Marshal Count DE SÉGUR*.

*These six Royal Corps, formed of the old regiments of the Old Guard, had preserved their uniform; only the Arms of France had been substituted for the crowned eagles on the plate of the bonnet and the cartridge pouch, and a fleur de lis on the buttons.

Later, at the beginning of 1815, one on those of higher rank the distinctive marks, i.e. epaulettes for the battalion heads and the captains only.  The battalion heads and the captain-adjutant-majors had, moreover, one aglet on the right.
On the return of Napoleon to Paris, on March 20, the grenadiers and chasseurs removed the oval of the three fleurs de lis from their bonnet plates and cartridge pouches; and, while waiting for the new eagles, they filled this vacuum with a tricolor cockade. The old soldiers were called among themselves, while joking, the Cyclops.  This state of affairs, as one must think, lasted only a few days.

 Here is what this so beautiful Imperial Guard had become, how heroic! whose manpower still rose at the beginning of April 1814 to the figure of seventy-five thousand men and more, and who suddenly had been reduced to less than twelve thousand.

In all events, and according to the blind belief of the court, and as Napoleon approached, all still depended on the fidelity of the royal troops; but already the army of Grenoble, as we will relate in the following chapter, had crossed over to Napoleon; as it had done at Lyon: Ney had defected in Burgundy.  The remaining reserve army was entrusted to the Duke of Berri and came together at Essonnes; however, it was not difficult to see, with the appearance of the regiments of which it was composed, that it was full of the Bonapartist spirit, as one said then.  The officers threw threats, at the soldiers; in vain the praises multiplied, the promises, it was too late: all shone forth with the Napoleonic radiance.

On March 19 in the morning, the most sinister news came from all sides to the Tuileries: “Bonaparte, arrived at Fossart (according to the dispatch of the sub-prefect), was to even sleep that evening even at Fontainebleau.”  It was over, no troop had remained faithful, and Napoleon could, from at any moment, enter Paris.  In this crisis, the disorder was put into all spirits at Tuileries; no one got along any more.  In the end, there was no time to hesitate any more: in the evening, the Bourbons had to leave the capital; Louis XVIII announced it at dinner to his close friends, and at midnight the palace of the Tuileries was given up by them.

The King took refuge initially at Lille, where he established his government under siege.  There, this famous ordinance, dated March 23, 1815, which laid off the army en masse*, was signed by him.  We give this part here, because, five months later, the same text was used to formulate an ordinance of dismissal no less historical: that of the Army of the Loire **, at the same time as he organized the regiments into departmental legions.

*Including the Royal Corps, i.e. the former Old Imperial Guard that the king had allowed to belong to his military household a few days before.

** He had not changed anything in considering this second ordinance of August 2, 1815, if it is not the preamble, where he made known: “The regiments belonging to the French Army having been previously laid off by our royal decree of March 23, leads us to mandate and order, etc”

“Louis, by the grace of God, King of France and of Navarre ,”

“To all those who find present we greet.”
“The treason of almost all the army corps intended to defend the fatherland making essential the entire change of measures which we had to have to take; and wanting to prevent new misfortunes of which our people are threatened by the presence of Napoleon Bonaparte on the French territory;”
“Considering that conscription was abolished by Article XII of our constitutional Charter and that the recruitment of the land army and sea could not be still determined by a law;”
“Considering Article XIV of the aforesaid the Charter which places at our disposal all the forces of ground and sea;”
“Considering, finally, that in all the powers of which we are invested, in ordinary times, our Royal title and Constitutional Charter come together, in so perilous a crisis, all those which the danger, confidence, the will of the nation and the expressed wish of its representatives, force the duty upon us to exert;”

“Due to these causes, we have ordered and order what follows:”
“ART. 1st It is to defend all the French, either that he who was previously part of our troops, or those that served, to obey no alleged law of conscription, recruitment, or with any other unspecified illegal order which would emanate from Napoleon Bonaparte, of all bodies or authorities political, civil and soldiers that he could call or establish or which would have obeyed him since March 1, 1815, or would obey in the future.”
“ART. 2. It is likewise in parallel to defend all general governors and officers commanding in our divisions soldiers and the departments of our Kingdom, to the officers of our gendarmerie; to all prefects, sub-prefects, mayors, etc. etc., not to carry out or make carry out any of the alleged laws of conscription or recruitment, or illegal orders mentioned in the preceding article.”
“ART. 3.  Any French whom one would like to force to enroll under the flags of Napoleon Bonaparte is authorized, by us, to withdraw himself from it, even while armed.”
“ART. 4. Any governor or officer general commanding in our military divisions, or the Departments of the Kingdom; every commander of our towns, fortresses or stations of war, any admiral, vice-admiral or another officer of our Royal Navy, which, to the contempt of the oath that it lent us, would adhere to the party of Napoleon Bonaparte, will be relieved, deprived of any kind of activity or retirement pension for the future, unless after having been informed of our present ordinance, he does not return at once to his duty towards us.”
“ART. 5. We lay off, by the present ordinance, all officers and soldiers of the bodies of ground and of sea, which, involved with the chiefs who betrayed us, would have taken part in the revolt and cross over temporarily under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte, or his members, and we order with that these said officers and soldiers go at once in their homes.”
“ART. 6. Our Ministers of War and the Interior are charged, each one to what relates to him, with the execution of this ordinance.”

“Given in Lille, the twenty-third day of March of the Year of Grace eighteen hundred and fifteen and of our reign the twentieth.”

Signed: LOUIS.”

But was the King in safety at Lille? Emissaries sent of Paris had spread to the barracks; the soldiers murmured loudly.  Louis XVIII thus could not remain in a place exposed to a military rebellion. The eagle, indeed, had flown from bell-tower to bell-tower, as if announcing Napoleon in his proclamation dated from the Gulf of Juan*.  Marshal Mortier announced the situation of the things sadly to him: a few hours still and he did not answer to him again.  The Bourbons thus left Lille, and went to Ghent; it was there that the King fixed his residence.  Consequently, there were two governments: one in Paris, the other in Ghent; and, as of this moment, the rights of an ancient dynasty, but worn out, were opposed to the active genius of the superior man who held for the second time, in his powerful hand, the destinies and the future of France.

*See the following chapter.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2007


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