Sunday 30 December 2018

Chasseurs a Pied of the Old Guard

2nd Battalion, 1st Chasseurs of the Imperial Guard - 410 figures, about two thirds of its true strength.

If one thinks of the Old Guard, the immediate image is of a Grenadier as the classic Grognard.  And yet for most of the Guard's history there were as many Chasseurs as Grenadiers.  The relative proportion of drawings and paintings shows this discrepancy: for every Chasseur there must be at least five images of a Grenadier.  Given the similarity of their uniforms this is understandable - the differences relate to the absence of a front plate and back patch on the bearskin cap, different cuffs and green over red, rather than just red plumes and epaulettes.  Their tactical use was also identical: whatever their light infantry origins, Napoleon did not employ the Chasseurs a Pied any differently from the Grenadiers - heavy shock troops held in reserve until absolutely necessary.

The Chasseurs a Pied of the Consular Guard were created by a decree of the Consuls of November 28, 1799. This decree, which specified that the unit should be recruited only among the men who distinguished themselves on the battlefields, and would consist of  a company of light infantry and two battalions of grenadiers. The Chasseurs, although composed of only one company, carried a Colour. 

On 8 September 1800, the Guard was reinforced: the infantry was increased to three battalions of eight companies, two of Grenadiers and one of Chasseurs. Admission requirements were as follows: taken part in at least three campaigns; received awards for bravery or received injuries; fit to serve; a minimum height of 5 foot 3 inches for Chasseurs (5 feet 6 inches for Grenadiers); and an impeccable conduct record.

On 14 November 1801, a new decree of the Consuls reorganised the Guard.  By absorbing the foot guides of the army of Egypt, recently repatriated, the Chasseurs were brought up to the same strength as the Grenadiers with two battalions. 

Each of these corps was commanded by a brigade commander under the general commanding the Guard infantry. General de Brigade Soulés commanded the Chasseurs. On 1st November 1805 a new battalion was created composed of Velites.

On 15 April 1806, the Chasseurs were reinforced to two regiments of two battalions, each with 480 men.  In 1809, the Chasseurs were briefly reduced to one regiment of 2000 men, but in 1811 the second regiment was reformed with a total of 3200 men for both. 

Following the Russian disaster, the Chasseurs were reduced to a single battalion  and then rebuilt during 1813. On 12 May 1814, after the first abdication of the Emperor, the Chasseurs were renamed the Royal Corps of Chasseurs a Pied, formed of three battalions.  The Royal Chasseurs' pay was reduced to that of the line, a source of resentment.

On 8 April 1815, the Imperial Guard regained its title and status.  For the first time, three regiments of Foot Chasseurs each of of two battalions of four companies was formed. The third regiment was classed as Middle Guard, recruited from elements of the Young and Old Guards as well as the Line, making a total of 3600 men. On 9 May 1815, a fourth regiment of Chasseurs was created but with just one battalion.

One wonders why Napoleon chose to form the third and fourth regiments in this way and why the previous Fusilier regiments of the Middle Guard were not re-created.  Certainly, the subsequent defeat of the Middle Guard at Waterloo did nothing to enhance the overall reputation of the Guard. 

Inspection by the Colonel of the Chasseurs - note the difference between the NCO and chasseurs  epaulettes and  bearskin cords.

An NCO's bearskin

Original coat and hat

Sappers and drummers

This officer displays a rather pompous demeanour, perhaps more typical of the late 19th Century

These bearskins look rather longer and narrower than most.

This post shows the Second Battalion of the First Chasseurs in column of four companies, the Band, corps of Drums, Pioneers, Eagle, Porte Aigles, Field and Subaltern officers and ancillary General officers, totalling 410 men.  The First Chasseurs was commanded by General Cambronne.  

Cambronne indulges in name calling with a British officer

and follows up with a hand gesture

Things turn bad

The reluctant prisoner

In happier times
The Second Battalion will be shown near La Belle Alliance (the completion of which is approaching), from which location it went forward in support of the attack of the Middle Guard; Cambronne's part in this attack is of course the stuff of legend although as with all the best legends the details are highly disputed.   

The First Battalion was kept further south to guard the imperial baggage at Le Caillou and so the Second Battalion carried the Eagle, which was nearly lost when 2/1 Chasseurs lost cohesion during the chaos that followed the defeat of the Middle Guard and the capture of Cambronne.  The Eagle was not in fact captured and Lt Martin, the Eagle bearer, took refuge in the square of 2/2 Chasseurs, rejoining the survivors of his own unit at Laon.

A rather nice image of a Chasseur officer. 2/1 Chasseurs was commanded by Major Lamouret, a former Elba Battalion company commander and the first man ashore on 1 March.
The figures are almost all vintage metal - mostly Hinton Hunt, with some Alberken, Lamming, Les Higgins, Douglas and a few Newline to make up numbers to 360 in the rank and file.  They will be transposed onto the section of the model showing La Belle Alliance shortly.

Lamming front rank

In the rear, a S Range Band, preceded by the Corps of Drums - the drum major is R Range, the drummers are Lamming.


A Franznap mounted officer, converted from a Neopolitan

Massed ranks

In flank - the Gunner's dream shot.

S Range general with Hagen staff

Band, with band master and drum major
Fierce looking, but by no means bullet proof
That said, able to exact punishment when necessary

I like the serried ranks of red and green plumes.

Hinton Hunt officer

An Italieri officer has snuck in here, but I think he looks the part

Hinton Hunt Pioneers
The real thing

The Les Higgins are clearly visible

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Engineers of the Guard

On 10th July 1810, a decree announced the creation of the Engineers of the Imperial Guard: A company of sappers would be part of the Guard  under the the Commander of Engineering. This company would provide the Fire Brigade in the imperial palaces.

At its creation, the unit consisted of 139 men: three officers, 15 non-commissioned officers and corporals, two drummers and 104 sappers. Six sappers and 10 drivers were responsible for the service of  eight water pumps.

Engineer helmet -is this the prototype for all subsequent firemen?!

While the civil role of the Engineers of the Guard was limited to the fire safety of the imperial palaces, in the field the unit became engineers. In 1812, their numbers were increased to 200 men. At the time of the Russian campaign, the Engineers of the Guard were attached to the division of infantry of the Old Guard. 

In 1813, the unit was joined by the company of sappers of the newly created Young Guard, bringing the number to 376 officers, non-commissioned officers and sappers. In 1814, the Engineers of the Guard becomes a battalion with four companies, of which the first only was of Old Guard, for a total number of 615 men. 

Dissolved by the First Restoration, the Engineers of the Guard were reorganised by Napoleon in 1815 participating in the campaign of Belgium.

With the exception of a few Hinton Hunt, my Engineers are largely conversions from Zvezda Old Guard, Hat, the Waterloo 1815 dismounted Dragoons and some Franznap.  

Given the Bardin coat, this would seem to be a Young Guard sapper of 1813

This officer is also wearing a Bardin coat

Here are my figures.  They are just about all conversions, less some S Range.  Most of the figures are Zvezda Old Guard with a head change, the W1815 Dismounted Dragoons again with a head change and various others.  The heads are all Italieri Carabiniers with a plume attached. This took a lot of work!
The Engineers moving forward with senior officers at the front

Side view with Marines in the background

The second rank are S Range


Drums platoon

Drum Major - a W1815 conversion

Commanding Officer and Colour party

Hat conversion

Pioneer platoon, all Hinton Hunt.  The officer appears unsure that the rest of his unit are heading in the right direction so is checking his map.

W1815 dismounted dragoon conversion

Three senior officers - Alberken (centre), Hinton Hunt ADC (left) and Art Miniaturen (right).

Engineers of the Guard with Marines behind

Colour Party - Zvezda Eagle, Hat porte aigle

Zvezda officer

S Range officer