AN ONE AND ONLY CHAPTER
GENDARMES D’ORDONNANCE OF THE EMPEROR.*
had thought, well before the campaign of Prussia and Poland, to bring closer to his throne young people of families which, related to the old French aristocracy, had been held somewhat withdrawn, either because of their political opinions, or because of the position of their parents. Indeed, the major part of this brilliant youth lived secluded in the provinces, or moved away from civil and military employment; Napoleon, we say, thus thought of creating a privileged body which, under the title of gendarmes d’ordonnance, could form, later, a special guard for his person; it was felt at least, because of all the Departments of France rushed, for enrollment in this new body, by the young men, hitherto idle, but full of ardor and bubbling with a secret desire to join the invincible phalanxes of the soldiers of the Guard.
*This body, which belonged to the Guard, only a little while, it is true, was made to appear at the end of the VIth Book of our work, or at least at the beginning of VIIth; but the impossibility for us to provide in these volumes positive information on the creation, the organization, the duration and the service of the corps of the gendarmes d’ordonnance, made us defer this work. Today, thanks to the kindness of one of the most distinguished officers from this crack corps (M. Colonel Count Hippolyte d'Espinchal), who agreed to communicate interesting documents to us in this respect, and thanks also to our ceaseless investigations, we are capable to present the gendarmes d’ordonnance in our History of the Guard, as we always had intended, we have a duty to fill this gap.
This idea of Napoleon was not new, since the first permanent mounted militia, which was instituted under monarchy, bore the name of men-at-arms (gens d’armes) of the ordinances (des ordonnances) of the king.
In 1445, Charles VII, experiencing great difficulties in raising the nobility, with the opening of each campaign, created fifteen companies of horse to which he gave the name of hommes d’armes or gens d’armes (men-at-arms). Each one of these companies numbered one hundred men-at-arms, and each man-at-arms had with him five followers; namely: three archers, a coustelier and a page or varlet, who then was called a lance garnie (provided) or fournie (furnished). All the men-at-arms were gentlemen, and at all times, one saw the nobility entering even as archers: the pages had their training in the last class, that of the varlets or following. Each man-at-arms had four horses: one which he mounted on a journey; one which carried the luggage and one which was called the courtaud (squat one) or bidet; a war-horse: the fourth was used by the archers, the coustelier and even by the varlet, when those were too tired to continue the march on foot.
At the siege of Padoue, under Louis XII, the Gendarmes des Ordonnances of the King refused to make a second attack because they were wanted to be used together with the lansquenets, who were not gentlemen. Under François Ist, the gendarmes companies were of great credit. One day, Charles-Quint having requested to the knight king that he lend an amount of money and this troop to him to go to fight the Turks, François Ist answered him: “As to the first point, I am not a banker; as for the second, as my gendarmerie d’ordonnance is the arm which carries my scepter, I never expose it to danger without going to seek glory with it.” A gendarme then touched thirty livres parisis of pay per month, by means of a tax, called taille des gens d’armes, levied on the middle-class men of the cities; these thirty livres were thus a rather considerable pay at this times when a sheep cost only five pennies, provided that the skin was returned.
In 1502, the number of the companies of gendarmes d’ordonnance was increased, at the same time as the manpower of the companies was lowered; there were companies of eighty, sixty, forty and even of twenty-five men-at-arms. Of all these companies of gendarmes, the Scottish company was the oldest, it went back to Charles VII; it played, as one knows, a great role under the reign of Louis XI.
The foot armor in course having been abolished under
Henri IV, the companies d’ordonnance were distinguished mostly
from the light cavalry by the single cuirass, the richness of their
clothes and the prerogatives attached to their title as gendarmes. Under
this prince, these companies took the name of guard du roy (King’s
Guard): it was the royal squadron, which he preferred to
fight at the head of. He had given the position of commanding
general to the Dauphin, who, becoming Louis XIII, did not relinquish
the title of its chief. Louis XIV, after the Peace of the
Reasons of economy which were suggested to Louis XVI by his Minister of War, made him reform, in 1778, all the companies d’ordonnance, like those of the black and gray musketeers and the light horsemen, that is to say that which was called the red house of the king.
Twenty-eight years later, Napoleon reconstituted the gendarmes d’ordonnance, by order of September 24, 1806, dated from the Palace of Saint-Cloud. The new gendarmes had the right to be incorporated into the corps, by paying on their arrival a sum of eighteen hundred francs apiece for equipment and the horse. It was necessary moreover that each gendarme proved that he would annually receive from his family a pension of six hundred francs, which, added to the pay, on the condition that it was put to use to provide for all his needs and to live honorably. The uniform was thus indicated:
Green coat (habit), of the same cut as that of the Horse Chasseurs of the Guard; silver contre-epaulettes and aiguillettes; red waistcoat like the hussar, braided out silver; green trousers with silver lace on the seams, with Hungarian knots on the front; silver cartridge pouch, bearing a gilded eagle.
Black shako furnished with a lace and carrying in the center an eagle; visor furnished with a silver edge, silver grommets and cording, as well as the surmounted pompom with a white plume.
Equipment of the horse: like the hussar, with shabraque of green cloth surrounded by a silver lace.
Saddlebag green, rounded, with the two ends furnished with a silver lace.
Armament: A carbine, a pair of pistols and a saber of the chasseur with half-curved blade.
The distinction of officers consisted of larger laces, epaulettes bearing their rank and twisted gold aiguillettes.
[Aide-de-Camp attached to the General Staff, and Gendarme d’Ordonnance.]
A second order of the Emperor, dated October 28, 1806, regulated the composition of the companies of the gendarmes d’ordonnance as the same number of men as those of the Horse Chasseurs of the Guard.
The gendarmes had to travel many miles at their own
On November 18, there were three formed horse companies.
The second company left
The fourth horse company was organized on January 5, 1807, a fifth was started to be formed on June 1; the sixth company was never formed except on paper.
On December 26, 1806, the first foot company
attempted to form in
After these provisions, the composition of the staff of the corps were named, such as filling the position of the 1st captain (i.e. captain-commander) and of 2nd captain; 1st lieutenants and 2nd lieutenants, namely:
*Son of Marshal Kellermann, Duke of Valmy. He never in fact took command of this corps.
** Was a governor of the Château of Compiegne, in 1806, he was, the only higher commander of the gendarmes d’ordonnance, although his real position in this body was only that of captain-commander of the first company of the first squadron. After the dismissal of the gendarmes, M. de Montmorency again took his position of governor of château, and died a little time afterwards, on December 28, 1809.
*** Both counted only as captain-commanders.
**** This 4th company crossed the Rhine only on May 21, 1807, and was incorporated, by order of Marshal Bessières, in 1st and 2nd of the corps, on the July 1 following.
A few days after the order of the Emperor, on September 23, 1806, which created a corps of gendarmes d’ordonnance, had been rendered, the Minister for War Clarke had written to Napoleon, on the subject a series of questions which he humbly begged His Majesty to condescend to answer, in order to be able to give the young people who came to register for entry into this new body all the desirable assignments. Napoleon answered all these questions, in his hand and on the margin. Here are these questions and the answers of the Emperor:
On September 24, 1806, being in Saint-Cloud, Napoleon wrote to the Minister of War:
“Mister Dejean, my Minister of the Interior
Department (Mr. de Champagny) will have communicated the circular
to you in which he wrote to the prefects to make up two corps d’ordonnance,
one of foot, the other of horse. Send
instructions to Marshal Kellermann, and if you are informed that
indeed a rather great number of individuals come from the departments
“On this, etc.”
Presented here is the text of the circular written to the prefects:
TO M… PREFECT OF THE DÉPARTMENT OF…
Note the conditions placed on the young men who would like to belong to the gendarmerie d’ordonnance by H. M. the Emperor and King.
“This corps will be divided into two detachments, one of foot, the other of horse.”
“Those who wish to be used by the Ordonnances of horse will have to be equipped at their expense, to get a horse, and to be ensured, by themselves or their parents, of an annual pension of at least six hundred francs.”
“Their uniform will be throughout like the
chasseur, all green, without piping nor color;
scarlet waistcoat, braided with silver; Hungarian trousers, also
braided; shako and buttons round and white; the chasseur saber; the
horse, for the size and its equipment, will be like that of the horse
chasseurs. The carbines and the pistols will be provided, at
the magazines of
“Those who wish to be used in the Ordonnances of foot will have to equip themselves. Armaments will be given to them the moment of incorporation into companies.”
“Their uniform will be green, like that of the cavalry, with a hat and gaiters. The waistcoat and the trousers will be also like those of the cavalry.”
“All and sundry must be more than eighteen years old, and less than forty; they will travel many miles at their own expense to Mainz, where they will present to Mr. the Marshal Kellermann.”
On October 2, 1806, the Minister of War addressed, in the form of instruction, to the commissary of stores (intendants), junior commissary of stores and review inspectors, a circular in which he said, while speaking about the gendarmes d’ordonnance:
“These companies, though organized like that of the horse chasseurs of the Guard, will have to receive pay and allowances only for those fixed for the horse chasseurs of the line.”
On November 30, 1806, Napoleon, then at Posen, addressed the following letter to the Chief of Staff of the Army (Marshal Berthier):
“My cousin, write to Marshal Kellermann that my intention is that there not be a second in command in the companies of gendarmes d’ordonnance, and that the second company must be commanded by Mr. d' Arberg.”
A new order of the Minister of War, dated January 21, 1807, concerning the companies of gendarmes d’ordonnance, said:
“The pay of the horse companies must be the same as that of the horse chasseurs of the line, unless otherwise ordered, given directly by H. M. Emperor to Marshal Kellermann.”
The 25th of the same month, this last wrote to the Minister of War:
“The ardor for the gendarmes d’ordonnance slowed down well. They
do not come any more to only
“Your Excellence will want to warn the prefects of it well, etc.*”
*One sees, by this letter, how it fully illustrates, that the Emperor had charged Marshal Kellermann specially with the organization of his gendarmes d’ordonnance, he had in his heart to well fulfill the mandate entrusted to his zeal and his experience; but that is not all, and we should clearly state it, these young officers, without them suspecting it, were the object of an active monitoring on behalf of the military police, whose secret agents addressed each week, and directly, to the Minister of War a bulletin which informed him of the least action of the gendarmes. We are far from approving of this system of inquisitorial police force, which had been established under the Empire, by the councils of Fouché; Napoleon himself did not attach any importance to these bulletins, and did nothing but laugh at it when his minister believed it his duty to submit it. In all events, we had some of these reports under our eyes, and if we transcribed them here, it was only in the intention to give to those of the gendarmes d’ordonnance who still exist an idea of the way in which the monitoring was exerted in their connection.
In one of these bulletins entitled, Military Police Secret, addressed
“Misters de Montullé, Henri and Hippolyte d' Espinchal, Desparts, Naucase and d’Albuquerque constantly affect a species of contempt for all that who did not previously serve in the Army of the Condé.”
“Mr. de Montullé carries on the blade of his saber the engraved letters C.M., and these words: One of the six. He has under his shirt a silver medallion on which is written, on a side, Napoleon, Emperor of the French, and other side, the name of these six gentlemen; then: Union sworn in Paris in front of Amélie de Bourdeilles. It is said that this lady is the woman of Desparts. These Sirs claim to used their own influence with the Grand-Marshal of the Palace to propose to the Emperor to raise a corps only made up of former emigrants.”
“The sir de Montullé does not have anything; the brothers Henri and Hippolyte d' Espinchal have, between them, only a few thousands of livres of revenue, etc.”
In another of these bulletins, the following July, the agent writer, said to the minister, while speaking about the accountancy of the corps of the gendarmes d’ordonnance:
“One sees there appearing enormous expenditures for drugs, for the expenses of the post, travel and burials; treatments of drivers, stable boys, nurses, carters, etc; fees for lessons on the trumpets: thus, Monseigneur, on July 1 the trumpet major of artillery of the Guard was paid, for lessons given to the trumpeters of the corps, 90 fr. —I still notice the continual renewal of equipment, and allowances for doctors at Marienwerder; there are enormous sums paid for tailors. —In short, this accountancy is most irregular, and the inspector of reviews of the Guard seems to keep a closed eye to these abuses which Your Excellence could not tolerate for a long time any more!”
Lastly, in a last bulletin, dated July 10, 1807, the scrupulous agent exclaims:
“Monseigneur, Your Excellence should know that the gendarmes d’ordonnance offered the Russians to a meal which cost them 58 fr. 25c.!”
The cost to be paid for this dinner was however not expensive, if it were indeed a meal for the corps! In all events, we are entirely of the same opinion of the Emperor, relative to the opinion that he formulated in margin of the first of these bulletins, and we will say, to finish with some of these turpitudes, that if the gendarmes d’ordonnance did wrong by giving a dinner to our allies, they at least had the decency to thoroughly beat those which were not.
Napoleon, being in
“My cousin, you will give the order to General
Clarke, that as soon as my two companies of ordonnance arrive at
On February 19, General Teulié, whose command the gendarmes d’ordonnance were place under, addressed the following report to the Chief of Staff of the Army:
“Monsieur Marshal, the 18th, at the break of day, I moved to entrench the village of Langkarel, where the enemy had reconnaissance cavalry; the picket of the advance guard of the gendarmes d’ordonnance of His Majesty charged vigorously and killed some men who sought to run away themselves for the protection of the wood.” (The detail of the capture of the fort at Neugarten follows.)
“I have to especially praise the gendarmes d’ordonnance: this is a very beautiful corps which creates wonders; Mr. de Montmorency, who commands it, sets the example of the zeal and devotion. The gentlemen gendarmes remained twenty-seven hours on horse: certainly a more warlike corps would not have done any better.”
Here now is what was read in no 66 of the newspaper entitled, The True Dutchman, dated on March 3, 1807:
“One receives each day new details on the brilliant combat which took place before Neugarten. The first two companies of gendarmes d’ordonnance of H.M. the Emperor were particularly distinguished there. One singles out especially a young officer, M. Hippolyte d' Espinchal, whose detachment seized a Prussian military cash-box; the gendarmes, by mutual agreement, gave it up to their comrades the Fusiliers of the Guard, satisfied to have obtained their regard and friendship. One cannot just imagine the enthusiasm which animates this beautiful corps: it charged the enemy with the cries of Vive l’Empereur and of Vive l’Impératrice! thus carrying in the middle of the fire the memory of the majestic protection that its sovereigns granted to them, and answering their benefactors by displaying the most daring courage.”
Report of the Count Montmorency, commanding the squadron of the gendarmes d’ordonnance, with General Teulié, dated at Degow, on March 8, 1807.
“My general, I must give to you an exact account of the business which took place yesterday, the 17th of this month, between the gendarmes d’ordonnance who I have the honor to command and the enemy cavalry.”
“We formed the advance-guard of your division leaving Corlin. After two hours of marching, the enemy cavalry, made up of cuirassiers, dragoons of the Queen and hussars of Rodolphe, two hundred horses strong, appeared suddenly on the heights, which dominate the road of Colberg. The cry of the gendarmes at the sight of the enemy was so universal, that it was impossible for me to see how I would remain master to stop their impetuosity in the event of an attack; I did not have, according to your orders, permission to move away from the column. The impatience of the gendarmes was overflowing; it was sufficiently excited by the death of M. Alexandre d' Ablons, their comrade, killed in the reconnaissance of the 4th, two hours after one I had done the same day, accompanied by my second captain, adjutant of the squadron and my gendarme orderly, and where we had been hit by a sharp fusillade: add to this reason the constantly expressed desire so naturally found in the ranks of the army for a brilliant action.”
“The enemy had made a stand; then cries of Vive l’Empereur! … Let’s charge! … were heard in the ranks, and, by a spontaneous movement, officers and gendarmes sprang with all bridle and saber in the hand on the enemy squadron; the Prussians flee, and, for one mile, are chased with the same ardor, in the individual charge several dead, wounded and captive, remained on the road.”
“Arriving at the height of Zernin, the gendarmes were; by my order, reformed in squadron and put in battle order on a small plateau, within two hundred paces of the houses of the village; hardly established, a fire of carbines and muskets well supported from the hedges and houses suddenly hit us; a company of enemy chasseurs was laying in wait in the village.”
“The gendarmes coldly met this discharge, which could be so fatal for them; only one, M. de Stappers, an orderly near me, was wounded at my side by a ball which passed through his right arm and put out of combat; the horse of my first mate, Carion-Nisas, was struck by a ball; that of M. d' Albuquerque, officer-adjutant, had just been wounded at the beginning of the business; two other horses were killed: one under M. de Charette, sergeant of the 2nd company; the other under M. Papillon, gendarme of the 1st company.”
“Taking advantage of this shooting, which started again with more rapidity, and with the aid of fifty cuirassiers, fresh troops hidden in the village, the enemy cavalry rallied, is formed and sounded the charge. Seeing the double danger of this position, I shout again: Vive L’Empereur! … Let’s charge! … This cry, repeated by my second captain at the head of the 1st company, and by M. de Montbreton at the head of 2nd, my whole troop pierced on the run the infantry and the cavalry.”
“The two enemy troops, terror stricken with this unexpected shock, threw down their weapons and fled towards Colberg: the infantry on the left in the middle of impracticable marshes, the cavalry on the right; only attracted the impetuosity of the gendarmes, who were out numbered three to one; they impetuously charged this cavalry and chased it up to one half-league from Colberg. Thirty prisoners and a dozen dead and casualties were the fruit of this second charge; the prisoners made in the first charge escaped on the road.”
“I have to regret only one gendarme, M. Grard, cowardly killed under the cannon of the city by a prisoner, who picked up his carbine and discharged it at him in the kidneys from behind. I have to personally praise all the gendarmes and their officers; they deserved the honor of their creation, and I am proud to be placed at their head.”
“Our return towards the infantry was carried out with greatest coolness and with at a walk. I pointed out young men who were still ahead, that is to say those who were mounted on vigorous horses, and I again took the way, which brought me back towards the column.”
“Returned to the height of Zernin, the enemy marched ahead; there, I was joined by a score of intrepid Italian voltigeurs; I again put my gendarmes in battle order, the voltigeurs were covering on their left flank, and once the enemy were within range, they started a very-sharp fire, which the enemy returned by some carbine fire. The horse of M. Carion-Nisas took a second ball from this discharge; M. Lamarre, gendarme of the 2nd company, had a ball through his jacket; and M. d' Humières, of the same company, had some also in his holster. The squadron bristled for a charge; the enemy avoided it by a precipitous escape.”
“The arrival of the column closely followed this third affair; and you could, my general, to see yourself the results of this day.”
“In addition to the officers and gendarmes whom I named, I must still give credit to the intrepidity of M. de Bryes, 2nd lieutenant of the 1st company; of M. d' Espinchal, 2nd lieutenant of the 2nd company; Misters Jules and Abel of Saint-March, brothers, one sergeant, the other corporal; Misters Alphonse de Vergennes, Vignères, Mauroy, Lanoy, Bonvallot, 1st company: this last saved the life of the sergeant of the brave men dragoons who were with us; Misters de Corday, de Bottu, de Beau, Leon d' Ablons, brother of the gendarme killed the 4th, on reconnaissance; de Navailles, 2nd company, was also distinguished: this last lost his horse in a quagmire, and did not chase any less on a horse he caught.”
“M. de Salecey, appointed officer in the 4th company, constantly charged with 2nd, where he was previously sergeant.”
“I reproach with you, my general, too much impetuosity on the part of the gendarmes; but how much the desire to receive their military baptism, and to deserve more and more, like me, your votes and your benevolence, does not make it excusable the excess of our heat!”
“L. DE MONTMORENCY.”
Extract of the MONITEUR of March 8, 1807. — “The general Teulié, with Italian Division, the Fusiliers of the Guard and the 1st Squadron of the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance, had some affairs with the garrison of Colberg. On March 8, at Zernin, the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance, commanded by M. de Montmorency, crushed the infantry and the cavalry of the enemy that opposed them. The impetuosity of their charge deserves praise, and made the enemy flee. M. de Montmorency himself praised M. Carion-Nisas, whose horse was twice wounded; M. d' Albuquerque, officer-adjutant; M. de Charette, and in general, all the officers, non-commissioned officers and gendarmes of his corps, which, tested by this small combat, soon will be called to show themselves in more important affairs and in a larger theatre.”
General Teulié wrote to the Chief-of-Staff, dated from Iram-below-Colberg, on March 20, 1807:
“The Gendarmerie d’Ordonnance of His Majesty went quickly from Neckin to Selnow, with a company of the 19th: this display overpowered the enemy. M. Micolon, of this body, was wounded in the head.
“I have particular praise for M. d' Arberg, chamberlain of His Majesty, and captain of the 2nd company of gendarmes.”
Order of the Emperor, March 28, 1807.
“The Gendarmes d’Ordonnance will be under the command of Marshal Bessières, and will remain at Marienwerder until new orders are given.”
According to this order, the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance
arrived on March 30, 1807 at Marienwerder, located at five quarters
of a mile from the Imperial residence of Finckenstein; there, the
corps could rest from the exertions which it had experienced during
this short campaign, and receive the new detachments which it awaited
Ten days afterwards, Napoleon, accompanied by Prince Murat and a brilliant staff, passed in review the gendarmes. On arriving at the front of the two squadrons, he addressed some affectionate words to M. de Montmorency; then he said to the troop; in a strong voice:
—Gendarmes d’Ordonnance! welcome; you started well, I hope that you will always continue in the same way, and that you will make yourselves worthy of the corps to which you belong!
After having passed through the rows and carried
out some evolutions, he ordered the procession to a gallop, then
left, followed by an officer and twenty-five Gendarmes d’Ordonnance,
to go visit a fortified camp on the edge of the
Two days after this review, Napoleon, having proposed to Marshal Kellermann to place his son at the head of his Gendarmes d’Ordonnance, temporarily named General Kellermann colonel of the corps. The Marshal wrote to the Emperor, on April 6, 1807, a letter in which he thanked him for this favor, while saying to him, among other things:
“I hope that my son could be at the head of this corps at the opening of the campaign; he is for it; — his wound is well.”
Then, at the bottom of this letter was the following postscript:
“As I had the honor to already say to Your Majesty, the corps of the foot gendarmes will never be completed.”
An order of the Emperor, dated to his camp of Finckenstein, on April 12, 1807, still said:
“1st and 2nd companies of Gendarmes d’Ordonnance (these two only) are comparable, for the pay, the allowances, accountancy and the administration, with the regiments of horse chasseurs of our Imperial Guard; pay known as of first setting excepted.*”
*At this time, the manpower of these two companies was not, fully that of 14 officers, 187 non-commissioned officers and gendarmes, and 228 horses.
The 16th, MM. de Guerra, Hippolyte d' Espinchal, Norvins de Montbreton, Pitat, Charbonnière and Montmorency, all the six belonging to the corps of the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance, accepted the decoration of the Legion of Honor.
The 17th, the Chief-of-Staff addressed to the Emperor, still at Finckenstein, the following note:
“The 3rd company of the Gendarmes
d’Ordonnance, seventy-six men and eighty horses strong, left
“I have the honor to propose to His Majesty to direct it onto Marienwerder, to join the two other companies.”
Napoleon wrote in his hand on the margin of this note:
“Let it remain in
On May 1, the Emperor, accompanied by the Ambassador of Persia and followed by his military household, passed a great review on the plain of Finckenstein of all the Imperial Guard; having put dismounted, and arriving at the gendarmes, he stopped and said to them:
“Sirs, you will soon have new comrades; I hope that they will do as well as you.” Then seeing M. Carion-Nisas: “By which circumstance are you here? he asked him; you thus gave up the pen for the sword?”
—Yes, Sire, this one answered; I prefer the effects to words when it is a question of serving Your Majesty.
—Very good! Noted Napoleon with a gesture, which had something of affection; I will remember that.
And he continued his course. Further, arriving in front of one of the gendarmes who had been decorated fifteen days before, he stopped, looked at him one moment, and asked him in this short tone which was usual for him:
—Your name, Mister?
—De Guerra, Sire.
—Of which Department you are?
—Of Aveyron, Sire.
—A wonder! Napoleon began again by posing his hand on the decoration of this gendarme; I make it my compliment to this department and you!
After the review, Napoleon carried out army maneuvers, that Marshal Bessières commanded; and the same day the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance, before returning to their quarters, attended a banquet that the Chasseurs of the Guard offered to them, while M. de Montmorency dined, at the table of the Emperor.
On August 3, 1807, Marshal Kellermann wrote from
“Charged by Your Majesty with the organization
of the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance, my devotion to the execution
of these orders makes me wish that this
corps extends its existence and formation, for which I had devoted
my hopes. If it should not exist any more, I request Your Majesty
to allow myself to propose to him to use it, by attaching it to the
person of H.M. the King of Westphalia. This corps is generally
quite well composed; however if there were some subjects, who did
not deserve to remain, they would be reformed. That he has
ordered them to return to
Napoleon wrote in his hand on the margin of this letter:
“To stop it in
“Napoleon, etc; - on the proposal of our Minister of War, lets us order and issue what follows:
“Named in the regiments of troops of horse hereafter indicated, the officers, non-commissioned officers, sergeants and Gendarmes d’Ordonnance, whose names follow; namely:
“These officers will be provided with the first vacant billet the corps to which they are attached.”
The Minister of War addressed to the Emperor the following report:*
*This report is not dated either; but, to judge by some of the contents, it has made prior to the decree placed immediately above.
“His Highness the Prince Vice-Constable ** invited me to take the orders of Your Majesty relating to the corps of the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance.
** Marshal Berthier.
“A hundred and eighteen officers, non-commissioned officers and gendarmes were placed as officers in the horse troops. The strength of this corps is two hundred and sixty and eleven officers, non-commissioned officers and gendarmes, divided into five companies.”
“I request His Majesty to make it known to me if he wants that this corps is maintained, or if his intention is that all the individuals which still form part of it are placed in the line.”
“In the first case, I have the honor to point out to him that the first two companies only were comparable for the pay and allowances with the Horse Chasseurs of the Guard, by decree of April 12, 1807, and that at the time when this decree was issued the other companies had not still arrived with the army.”
“Perhaps Your Majesty will judge it suitable
that the officers, non-commissioned officers and gendarmes of 3rd,
4th and 5th companies are entitled to the pay
and the allowances of the Horse Chasseurs of the Guard, from the
day when they left
“On another hand, shouldn’t one regard the expenditures for the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance as belonging to those of the Guard, from the day of their assimilation into that of the horse chasseurs, so that at the moment of the re-entry of this corps to France, this expenditure would be accounted for from the same funds, and by the paymaster of the Guard?”
“If Your Majesty would decide that the officers, non-commissioned officers and gendarmes d’ordonnance must all be placed in the line, would this placement take place only successively, and progressively with the proposal that the vacant posts would filled by me as they are available for submission to Your Majesty? Or, would I have, as of now, to present a list of distribution between the various bodies of horse troops?”
Within the margin of this report is written in the hand of Baron Fain: Without decision of His Majesty.
Then, on October 23, 1807, Napoleon a issued
a decree dated from the
“ART 1st. The companies of the Gendarmes d’Ordonnance of our Guard are dissolved; but, wanting to give them a proof of satisfaction that we experienced from their services, we admit into the horse chasseurs, grenadiers and dragoons our Guard, the simple gendarmes who participated in the last campaign.”
“ART 2. Our Minister of War, will presented to us, a list of names of the non-commissioned officers and sergeants of these companies, our intention being to employ them, according to their services and their capability, in the regiments of the army, or to give them other marks of our satisfaction.”
“ART 3. Our Minister of War is in charge of the execution of this decree.”
RECAPITULATION of names, according to the inspector of the corps, of the officers and dead gendarmes d’ordonnance from sickness or accidents, killed, wounded or made captive during the campaign of 1807.
RECAPITULATION general and numeric of officers and gendarmes d’ordonnance killed accidentally or of sickness, killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
received gendarme in the 1st Company on November 8,
1806, sergeant (maréchal-des-logis) in the 2nd Company
on December 24, 1806. Took two prisoners on the capture
of the fort of Neugarten, in front of Colberg, on February 18,
—entered the town of
“D' Espinchal (Hippolyte), born in
1777, former officer in the service of
*Captain and Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1809; this officer commanded
the Royal chasseurs of Henri IV, in the
His younger brother, the Count d' Espinchal (Louis-Henri), born in 1773, had
served from 1789 to 1798 in foreign armies; he formed as part
of, from October 31, 1806 to July 15, 1807, the gendarmes d’ordonnance. Placed
as a lieutenant with the 7th chasseurs, in 1807, he
was a major of the Chasseurs of the
During their creation, the gendarmes d’ordonnance of the Emperor inspired a great
jealousy with some chiefs of Corps of the Imperial Guard, coming
from the plebeian ranks, which led to guesses of the future intentions
of Napoleon in the choice that they had made of General Montmorency-Laval,
as the higher commander of this body. The first check placed
upon the gendarmes d’ordonnance, as
soon as the army had begun its operations in
“When the gendarmes had arrived in Prussia, he said, M. d' Albignac, who was, so to speak, “à tu et à toi” (familiar terms) with his commander General de Montmorency, approached him one day, and directly asked him something which he needed for his equipping; but M. de Montmorency, taking the request seriously, answered him at once:
—My dear d’Albignac, in
—Yes, my colonel.
Some time afterwards, M. d' Albignac having been wounded in a skirmish, M. de Montmorency went to see him, and asks him how he was. Although he suffered much, M. d' Albignac found it pleasant to show to his chief how much he was full of the high lesson which he had condescended to give him on the military hierarchy, and instead of directly answering his question, he said to him:
My general, give your request to the major, who will transmit them to my captain, who will inform his lieutenant of it, who will send my sergeant to me, to which I will answer that I’m alright.
M. de Montmorency, who at the bottom was a good man, could not be annoyed by the gaiety that M. d' Albignac preserved even in the middle of his sufferings, and easily forgave with his subordinate this innocent mystification.”
This anecdote, we say, was retold in time, and arrived at the ears of the Emperor, who laughed at it a lot, while saying: I recognize the old French nobility there well: spirit and gaiety; they will always be the men of Fontenoy!
Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2007
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