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The Napoleon Series > Book Reviews > Books on military subjects

Chasseurs à Cheval of Napoleon’s Guard

Mas, Miguel Ángel Martin. Chasseurs à Cheval of Napoleon’s Guard. Madrid: Andrea Press, 2007. 72 pages. ISBN-13# 9788496527973. Softcover. $34.95.


Chasseurs à Cheval of Napoleon’s Guard Cover

Called “the best regiment in the world” and “my invincibles” by Napoleon, the Chasseurs à cheval of the Imperial Guard is one of the most famous French regiments of Napoleonic Wars, serving as the Emperor’s habitual escort and important reserve in battle.

General Bonaparte’s near capture during the pursuit of the Austrians in northern Italy in the spring of 1796 convinced him of the need to form a special unit to guard the army’s headquarters on campaign. Thus, in May 1796, two units, the Guides à Pied and the Guides à cheval were created for this task. With the formation of the Consular Guard in 1799, came the creation of the Chasseur à cheval de la Garde des Consuls, consisting of veterans of the Guides à cheval and personnel drawn from other units. In 1804, the unit was redesignated the Chasseurs à cheval de la Garde Imperial. The regiment fought in all the main campaigns of the period, in Italy, Egypt, Central Europe, Spain, Russia, France, and at Waterloo.

This book is the first in a series titled Valeur et Discipline; two subsequent volumes deal with Cuirassiers and the Foot Grenadiers and Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard.  The text is by Spanish historian and linguist Miguel Ángel Martin Mas. He is member of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Napoleonic Association and a member of the Forum for the Study of Military History in Spain. He is an active promoter of Napoleonic era historical sites throughout the province of Salamanca. His previous works include La Grande Armée: An Introduction to Napoleon’s Army, Guerrilla Wars, 1808 – 1814, and Les Arapiles, 1812. He was also the Spanish translator of Donald Horward’s Napoleon and the Iberian Peninsula.

This particular volume is organized in six chapters, covering formation and organization, key unit personalities, campaign history, service as the Emperor’s escort, uniforms and equipment and standards. This is a lot to cover in only 72 pages and given limitations of space, Chasseurs à cheval of Napoleon’s Guard provides a good general summary of the history and dress of this fascinating unit.

The many illustrations are beautifully reproduced and include paintings, prints and specially commissioned drawings showing battle scenes, portraits of key figures, dress, weapons, equipment, horse furniture and standards. Most are in colour and produced sharply. There are also two maps depicting the battle of Austerlitz. Fortunately only a few images cross the gutter of the book and even in these cases, little detail is lost. The original artwork was created by Dionisio Álvarez Cueto, a professional illustrator whose work on military subjects has appeared in 40 books, 20 specialist magazines, and the Napoleon Series! (Two recent articles include: The French Armies in Spain 1808 and The French Armies in Spain 1809.)

A bibliography lists the various sources used, including articles from Tradition Magazine, plates by L. Rousselot and other secondary sources familiar to enthusiasts of the subject. Those readers interested in knowing where information is specifically drawn from will find there are no reference notes accompanying the text.

Chasseurs à cheval of Napoleon’s Guard is a nicely executed study of a fine regiment and one hopes future volumes within the series will be as nicely written and illustrated.

Reviewed by John R. Grodzinski, FINS
Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2007