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"French Imperial Guard (Châlons Camp 1866) - Great photos!" Topic

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Cuirassier05 Sep 2012 5:58 p.m. PST

Amazing pictures of the French Imperial Guard.

Take a look: link

I have 10 more photos to post… :-)

Joep123 Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2012 6:11 p.m. PST

Thanks for posting this Cuirassier.
Great photos.

Personal logo Nashville Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2012 8:01 p.m. PST

They are a dandy looking army. No wonder Napoleon III felt he could commit them to war in 1870. They lasted all of six weeks.

Jeroen72 Inactive Member05 Sep 2012 9:31 p.m. PST

O, i see what you did there :)

Duc de Limbourg Inactive Member05 Sep 2012 9:54 p.m. PST

just great, thanks

Cuirassier06 Sep 2012 1:06 a.m. PST


You keep saying "They lasted all of six weeks"… That's correct, but I would like to say that the French soldier fought with determination and courage. The defeat was not their fault.

Napoleon III's Imperial Guard fought very well during the Crimean War and the Franco-Austrian War (Italian campaign of 1859).

Those soldiers of the Guard in 1866 were mostly veterans of many campaigns (Crimean War, War against Austria in 1859, Intervention in Mexico and other campaigns) and many of them were awarded with the cross of the Légion d'honneur and/or the Médaille Militaire for bravery (take a look at their medals).

Those guys were real soldiers (real warriors, especially the Guard Zouaves)… They had the scars and medals to prove it.

Unfortunately for them, the French Army was not prepared to fight the Prussians in 1870. However, the rank and file did their best under terrible circumstances.

Hope you liked the photos. I had a great deal of trouble to edit, save and host all of them.

Jeroen72 Inactive Member06 Sep 2012 9:24 a.m. PST

I like the the pictures and i'm sure that under better leadership the French army would have done much better.

scarlinosr1 Inactive Member06 Sep 2012 12:38 p.m. PST

nice photos, thanks. Sal Sr out!!!!

mashrewba Inactive Member07 Sep 2012 11:04 a.m. PST

There were units of the Guard who gave a very good account of themselves in the armies of the Republic as you might expect. The Prussian soldiers found the French army a very frightening proposition, they were professional troops who gave the called up civilians of the German army a serious mauling on many occasions. Of course as we well know the high command constantly allowed their men to be outflanked, surrounded and shelled into oblivion and nobody is going to stand up to too much of that!!

Cuirassier07 Sep 2012 4:15 p.m. PST

Exactly right, mashrewba.

"… Of course as we well know the high command constantly allowed their men to be outflanked, surrounded and shelled into oblivion and nobody is going to stand up to too much of that!!"

Three regiments of Zouaves and three regiments of Algerian Tirailleurs held their ground against superior firepower and numbers at Wörth/Froeschwiller. These elite regiments fought like lions that day.

The Zouaves and Algerian Tirailleurs pushed back many German attacks. The Algerian Tirailleurs counter-attacked the enemy with the bayonet at least three times, pushing them back each time. This came at a high price…

In the afternoon, the Prussians had to repel repeated battalion-strength French counter-attacks. Captain Gebhard von Bismarck of the Prussian 21st Division called these bayonet charges "nightmarish". Already terrified by the volume of fire, the Prussians quailed at the ululations of the Algerian troops, who trilled and sang as they fired low into the floundering Prussians.

With the French right flank turned, the infantry divisions of Raoult and Ducrot were now hit in the flank and rear by accurate Prussian shelling and rifle fire. Some green French recruits panicked and fled. French veterans stood their ground.

Some elite French units, like the Zouave and Algerian Tirailleurs regiments, continued to fight valiantly, including the survivors of the 2nd Algerian Tirailleurs, who earned a record number of crosses of the Légion d'honneur (France's highest award) for conspicuous valor, multiple wounds, tenacious defense and the heroic rescue of comrades under fire. They kept a line of retreat open for other French units.

The 1st Zouaves was the last French regiment to leave the field, withdrawing under heavy fire as though on parade. Zouave and Algerian Tirailleur regiments suffered appalling casualties. The 3rd Zouaves lost 80% casualties. The 2nd Algerian Tirailleurs (aka Turcos) suffered 93% casualties!


The 1st Algerian Tirailleurs lost 18 officers and 800 men at Wörth.

Clairon de Turcos blessé by Jules Monge


This painting depicts one of the counter-attacks made by the 1st Algerian Tirailleurs at Wöerth/Froeschwiller. The title is "Wounded bugler of Turcos".


The 2nd Algerian Tirailleurs was virtually destroyed at Wöerth. Few soldiers in history ever fought with such courage and tenacity. All regiments of Zouaves and Algerian Tirailleurs fought with great courage at Wöerth, but the 2nd Algerian Tirailleurs was almost possessed!

The regiments of Algerian Tirailleurs and Zouaves didn't give up an inch of ground, even under the murderous artillery fire of the Krupp guns. They repulsed all infantry attacks made by the enemy and counter-attacked many times with the bayonet.

The regiment lost 2,650 officers and men out of 2,900!

At Wörth/Froeschwiller, the 2nd Tirailleurs Algeriens suffered 93% casualties! The Bavarians were expressing frustration in their own brutal way at the stiff resistance of Colonel Pierre Suzzoni's 2nd Algerian Tirailleur regiment. Holding the wooden salient below Froeschwiller against the best efforts of two German Corps, the Algerians simply would not yield. "We will all die here, if need be", Colonel Suzzoni had told his men in the morning, and most of them did. With 2,900 troops in the morning, the Algerians were reduced to a rump of 250 by the afternoon, enclosed, as one tirailleur put it, "in a circle of iron and fire." Suzzoni himself was killed by a shell splinter at 2:30 in the afternoon as were most of his officers. (The Franco-Prussian War – The German conquest of France in 1870-1871 by Geoffrey Wawro, page 131)

Captain Viénot (see below) was the highest ranking officer of the 2nd Tirailleurs left standing at the end of the battle. He organized the retreat of the regiment with only 250 officers and men.


Monument dedicated to the 2nd Algerian Tirailleurs (located near the site of the Battle of Wöerth)



The 3rd Algerian Tirailleurs also fought very hard at Wörth/Froeschwiller.

Captain Deschamps was killed during the battle… When he was hit by a German bullet, a Sergeant was begging him to dismount from his horse, but Deschamps answered in Arabic: "The children of the desert do not obey a leader who dismounts before the enemy!"

Colonel Gandil (see below), the commanding officer of the 3rd Algerian Tirailleurs, lost 33 officers and 872 men at the Battle of Wörth.



The 1st Zouaves at Wörth


Captain Minary of the 1st Zouaves


Veteran of the Crimean War (wounded at Malakoff), Franco-Austrian War (wounded at Solferino) and Mexican Intervention, Minary was promoted to Chef de Bataillon after the fight at Wörth. Unfortunately, he was killed two weeks after at Sedan


Colonel Détrie (commander of the 2nd Zouaves in 1870)


Détrie was seriously wounded and captured by the enemy at Wörth. The 2nd Zouaves lost 47 officers and 1,088 men at this bloody battle.


The 3rd Zouaves began the battle with 65 officers and 2,200 men. Only 24 officers and 415 men answered the roll call by nightfall.

Bellow… Ceremony that took place at Les Invalides (Paris) in 1911.



The standard-bearer is an officer of the 3rd French Zouaves and he's carrying the old standard/eagle of the regiment (what was left of it anyway). This standard saw battle at Wörth/Froeschwiller in 1870 and was regarded as a treasured relic by the French army.

Cuirassier07 Sep 2012 4:38 p.m. PST

The last two photos are larger than they appear on this site. Just copy and paste the HTML of the images and you'll see.

Do the same with this one…


Bad General Inactive Member08 Sep 2012 6:42 p.m. PST

Very nice.

And the French leadership was a scandal. Sort of in a depressed stupor. Reading about it one gets the feeling that the leadership in 1940 was not so dissimilar.

mashrewba Inactive Member09 Sep 2012 2:29 a.m. PST

I imagine there was an element of "Surely not this again" in 1940.

jammy four Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Sep 2012 3:12 a.m. PST

what a brilliant thread!!

and 28mm

Patrice Inactive Member10 Sep 2012 9:25 a.m. PST

Excellent pictures.

And, about leadership… my grandmother used to say that we (the French) are "always one war late, still preparing the previous war!"

In 1870 the French HQ was still thinking early 19th C, in 1914 they were ready for 1870, and in 1940 they were planning 1914-18.

My grandmother was not a wargamer… She was a child in 14-18, she had seen French defeat and German occupation in WWII, and she knew what she was talking about.

Cuirassier15 Sep 2012 5:43 p.m. PST

New photos posted (link on the first post of this thread).

Much more to come.

Cuirassier19 Sep 2012 7:08 a.m. PST

About the French soldiers…

The war of 1870 is perhaps more accurately called the Franco – German war, as all the remaining states of Germany participated in the war. It can be divided into two main periods. Firstly the 'Imperial' phase when the Imperial French army resisted the invasion. This phase ended with the surrender of the bulk of the Imperial army at Sedan and Metz. Following this a French republic was proclaimed which attempted to continue the war. During this 'Republican' phase the Germans besieged Paris.

Tactical Doctrine: The 'African' troops [Zouaves, Algerian Tirailleurs and Chasseurs d'Afrique] and some other elite formations retained their aggressive spirit and count as 'Impetuous'.

Troop Quality: Generally the quality of the Imperial French army was high, while that of the Republican army was low but very variable. The Imperial Guard should be rated as elite. The Chasseurs [battalions of Chasseurs a Pied], the 'African' troops and the cavalry should be rated as crack. While the rest of the field army are veteran. For the 'Republican' period the remnants of the Imperial army should follow the guidelines above, with units such as the marines and the foreign legion counting as crack. The new units raised by the republic were generally bad and should be mostly levy with a few green units [many of them fought valiantly but they were poorly trained].

Source: link

Personal logo John the Greater Supporting Member of TMP19 Sep 2012 10:44 a.m. PST

Great pictures. Those French have always known how to dress.

And generally they knew how to fight. Well-led they knew how to win. Alas, "well-led" is not a term to be applied to the leadership in 1870!

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