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"French Old Guard Horse Artillery - December 1807" Topic


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660 hits since 17 Nov 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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HappyHussar17 Nov 2017 11:02 a.m. PST

I am looking for the battery composition for the six companies of Old Guard Horse Artillery in 1807 at start of campaign.

James Arnold on page 415 of his book "Crisis in the Snows" is confusing. He says that the 6 companies served 18 pieces of ordnance. That comes out to 3 guns per company.

Also: I know that the batteries were still using the 8lb gun. The conversion to the 6lb gun came after the 1807 campaign. The question is were the guns that were attached to the Guard part of these companies or were they part of the line foot artillery batteries that show up for the OB for Eylau.

And what was the exact composition of these batteries? They are:

1 co./1 Squadron – OG Horse
4 co./1 Squadron – OG Horse
2 co./2 Squadron – OG Horse
5 co./2 Squadron – OG Horse
3 co./3 Squadron – OG Horse
6 co./3 Squadron – OG Horse

I know that they had 4lb guns in some of the batteries. Just not sure which ones. Probably the later 3rd Squadron batteries.

Arnold has it broken down like this:

They served 18 pieces. He goes on to list:
9 – 8lb guns
6 – 4lb guns
3 – 6 in. howizters

Then attached were and additional 24 pieces:
11 – 8lb guns
8 – 4lb guns
5 – 6 in. howitzers

I am guessing that these guns were not part of line artillery but were used to build up the strength of the companies.

With that in mind they had:

20 – 8lb guns
14 – 4lb guns
8 – 6 in. howitzers

The first Squadron would have had six 8lb guns is my thinking. Add in two 6 in. howitzers ea. A total of 8 guns or 16 total.

The second Squadron would have had the remaining eight 8lb guns. Thus four 8lb guns per battery. Add in the remaining four 6 in. howitzers. A total of 12 guns.

Split the 4lb guns into two batteries of 7 guns ea. for the third Squadron.

That is one theory of the composition. Does anyone else have anymore more definitive.

Kevin Zucker does not give exact composition in his "Special Study" book called "Stalemate in the Snow" for the LGA at Eylau. He lists 24 guns for 3 batteries (and gives the names of the commanders) at Eylau.

HappyHussar17 Nov 2017 12:23 p.m. PST

Another way to split up the first four companies would be to give them FIVE 8lb guns ea. Add in one or two howitzers to make six to seven gun batteries.

Le Breton17 Nov 2017 1:26 p.m. PST

You mean December 1806, right ?

HappyHussar18 Nov 2017 12:00 a.m. PST

Correct. December 1806. Its typically called the 1807 campaign but of course we all know it started in 1806.

Le Breton18 Nov 2017 3:59 p.m. PST

I do not know how "Happy" you are going to be when this is done. The basic answer is that "no one is sure". However, I found out lots of interesting info and some partial answers on the way to that result.

It will take a bit for me to pull together all the notes and sources. Here is a start :

====================================

OK … this is not going to be easy, but let us start with the known and work into the unknown. The Almanch Impérial for each year was prepared toward the close of the prior year. The Almanch for 1807 (page 85) and 1808 (page 90) show virtually no change in the guard artillery companies.

Using Légion d'honneur dossiers and transcribed matricules, one can check the company officers. It is clear that the 1ere, 4e and 5e compagnies were in action from the beginning of the campaign and that all six compagnies were in the field by the end of the campaign at Tilsit. Per article 27 of the decrét du 14 avril 1806 concerning the organization of the guard, the six capitaines en 2e were to be assigned to the parc, dépôt and fortified places (as was done in the line). Hence it is not surprising that none of their service records that I could find mentioned the specific battles of 1807.

According to Paul Dawson, "After 15 April 1806 the Horse Artillery Regiment was increased to three squadrons of two companies each. One squadron was classed as foot artillery, one company was armed with 12 pounder, the other 8 pounder." I could find no confimation of this in other sources, but it is unlikely that Mr. Dawson would make such a specific statement as a complete invention. See : link

When the guard's foot artillery was formally organized in 1808, only 2 of the existing capitaines commandant were assigned to the foot companies : François-Paul Berthier and Pierre-Gabriel Couïn. Overall 60% of the officers of the former 3e escadron were assigned to the new foot artillery. If Mr. Dawson's information about foot artillery in the guard in 1806-1807 is correct, I think we can have some confidence that the it was the 3e escadron that was so tasked.

1er escadron
--- 1ere compagnie à cheval
--- capitaine commandant (1805) Jean Marin-Dubuard : fait la campagne de 1807, blessé d'un éclat d'obus à Eylau, chef de bataillon en 1808
--- capitaine en 2e (1 mai 1806) Julien Boisselier : pas de info sur la campagne de 1807, capitiane commandant en 1809, tué à Reims en 1814

--- 4e compagnie à cheval
--- capitaine commandant (1 mai 1806) Louis-Marcel Sandras : fait la campagne de 1807, aux batailles d'Eylau, Heilsberg et Friedland, chef d'escadron en 1812
--- capitaine en 2e (1806) François-Joseph Georges de Lemud : pas de info sur la campagne de 1807, capitaine adjudant-major en 1808
--- lieutenant en 2e (1806) César Rieussec : tué d'un éclat d'obus à Eylau
--- lieutenant en 2e (1806) Jean-Baptiste-Charles Allavène : blessé à Heilsberg

2e escadron
--- 2e compagnie à cheval
--- capitaine commandant (1 mai 1806) Gilbert-Anne-François-Zéphirin de Pommereul : fait la campagne de 1807, chef de bataillon en 1809
--- capitaine en 2e (1 juin 1806) Robert Marilhac : fait la campagne de 1807, chef d'escadron 20 juin 1807
--- lieutenant en 1er (1 mai 1806) Jean-François-Denis Faivre : pas de notation pour la campagne de 1807, capitaine en 2e en 1808
--- lieutenant en 2e (1806) Herlet : pas de info sur la campagne de 1807, lieutenant en 1er en 1808
l--- ieutenant en 2e (1806) Edouard-Louis Maillard de Liscourt : pas de notation pour la campagne de 1807, lieutenant en 1er en 1808

--- 5e compangie à cheval
--- capitaine commandant (1 mai 1806) André-Jacques-Elizabeth de Lafont de Cavagnac : fait la campagne de 1807, aux batailles d'Eylau, de Heilsberg et Friedland, major en 1812
--- capitaine en 2e (1806) Henri-Dominique Lallemand : fait la campagne de 1807, capitaine commandant en 1808
lieutenant en 1er (1806) Julien Bosc : fait la campagne de 1807, aux batailles d'Eylau, Heilsberg et Friedland, capitaine en 2e en 1809, blessé tué à Wagram

3e escadron
--- 3e compagnie à pied
--- capitaine commandant (1 mai 1806) François-Paul Berthier : fait la campagne de 1807, commandant d'arms en 1809
--- capitaine en 2e (1 mai 1806) Ambroise-Louis Fourcy de Gauduin : fait la campagne de 1807, capitaine commandant en 1809
--- lieutenant en 1er (1 mai 1806) Henri-Alexandre-Eugène de Framery de Lafosse : fait la campagne de 1807, capitaine en 2e en 1809

--- 6e compagnie à pied
--- capitaine commandant (1 mai 1806) Pierre-Gabriel Couïn : pas de notation pour la campagne de 1807, chef de bataillon en 1813
--- capitaine en 2e (1 mai 1806) Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas Schouller : fait la campagne de 1807, capitaine commandant en 1809
--- lieutenant en 1er (1806) Folard : pas de infos sur la campagne de 1807, capitaine en 2e en 1809, blessé mortellement à Wagram
--- lieutenant en 2e (1 mai 1806) marquis Marie-Constant-Fidèle-Henry-Amant d'Hautpoul : fait la campagne de 1807, lieutenant en 1er 1808

…. to be continued ….

HappyHussar19 Nov 2017 4:23 p.m. PST

Thanks for the info – looking forward to "Part 2."

HappyHussar20 Nov 2017 6:48 a.m. PST

This part of the article was the most interesting of course:

"At Jena only weeks before the November 1806 – February 1807 Campaign began, the Guard is also noted by most histories as having 42 guns: 20 8 pounders, 14 4 pounders and 8 6" howitzers; further they note that there were 2 Guard "Volante" Squadrons (4 companies – 24 guns) with 2 foot artillery companies (2e and 6e) from the 1st Foot artillery Regiment and 1 company from the 6th Horse Artillery Regiment of the line, and were taken from Oudinot's elite Grenadier Division.

If these companies followed the notional batteries rules set out above it would give 42 guns, but the distribution of guns becomes muddled as it would require the old 1805 battery form (8 guns) for the Guard units, two strange foot batteries (10 guns each of 4 8 pounders, 5 4 pounders and 1 howitzer), and a normal horse artillery battery of 6 guns.

An alternative distribution is to have 5 horse artillery batteries of 8 guns each (as Petre notes two guns from the Guard were "held in reserve" with the baggage train), or yet another assumption based upon Foucart is to say that the 4 companies of horse artillery assigned to the Guard had 4 8 pounder guns and 2 howitzers, while the 3 Companies from the line were two foot (2 8 pounders, 2 4 pounders, and 2 howitzers) and one horse battery (4 4 pounders and 2 howitzers). This yields the desired number of 8 pounder cannon, while inverting the howitzer and 4pounder."

Looking like there was FOUR Old Guard horse companies, TWO line foot companies and one line horse company. But the main thing is that there were not SIX Old Guard horse companies.

Le Breton20 Nov 2017 9:40 a.m. PST

Right …. I think all the evidence is pointing that way for the opening of the campaign. By Friedland I think things were changing.

=====================

The chefs d'escadron for the guard artillery for 1807 were, in order of seniority :

--- chef d'escadron (1803) Armand-Joseph-Henry Digeon : bataille de Eylau, promoted major commandant le parc d'artillerie de la garde 28 mar 1807
--- chef d'escadron (1805) Joseph-Louis-Victor Greiner : fait la campagne de 1807
--- chef d'escadron (1 mai 1806) Louis-Joseph Chauveau : aux batailles de Eylau, Heilsberg et Freidland
--- chef d'escadron (28 mars 1807) Jean-François Boulart : venu du 3e régiment d'artillerie à cheval 28 mars 1807, aux batailles de Heilsberg et Freidland avec la garde

Again we see that it is most likely that 2 escadrons were present at Eylau (Digeon and Chauveau commanding) and all three for Heilsberg and Friedland (Greiner, Chauveau and Boulart commanding). Boulart in his memoirs does not mention being assigned to the artillerie à pied until 1808. So, I am of the opinion that in 1807 Greiner commanded the 3e escadron (à pied).

=====================

Famously, the grand battery of the artillerie de la garde at Eylau was composed of 40 pieces. From Lechartier (Les services de l'arrière de la grande armée en 1806-1807, Paris : Chapelot, 1907, see the général Sorbier's report reproduced on page 569), we have the following repartition of pieces as of 1 November 1806:

--- artillerie de la garde : 9x canon de 8-livre, 6x canon de 4-livre, 3x obusier de 6-pouces – total 18
--- artillerie attaché provisoirement venu de la ligne : 11x canon de 8-livre, 8x canon de 4-livre, 5x obusier de 6-pouces – total 24
--- total : 20x canon de 8-livre, 14x canon de 4-livre, 8x obusier de 6-pouces – total 42

As two guns were held in reserve to the rear with a guard infantry regiment (the 2e grenadiers à pied …. see: Petre, Napoleon's campaign in Poland 1806-1807), we should be reasonably convinced that the repartition as of the beginning of November held correct through the battle of Eylau, with a total of 42 pieces.

From page 574 of the Lechartier, we know that the ligne gave (all ranks) 138 foot artilerists and 189 horse artillerists together with the pieces listed above. This is clearly 2 compagnies à cheval and 1(+) compagnie à pied (the ouvriers and train are listed separately). Mr. Dawson assumes that these are the same as were assigned later in the year, but he appears to be in error. The only foot company that I found in the contrôles for January 1807 assigned to the guard was the 7e compagnie du 1er régiment d'artillerie à pied, capitaine commandant Jean-Nicolas-Augustin Noël. I could not trace which companies of horse artillery were assigned. The 6e régiment à cheval is mentioned by Dawson – and I have no reason to doubt him as I do not have the January 1807 contrôle for this regiment. Both the 5e and 6e régiments d'artillerie à cheval had officer casulaties at Eylau.

La tragédie d'Eylau by Danielle et Bernard Quintin (Paris : Archives & Culture 2006) gives the following repartition for the horse artillery
--- detachments of 2/2e, 3/2e, 4/2e and 1/3e with the réserve de cavalerie
--- 1/5e with 3e corps
--- 2/5e, 5/5e with 7e corps
As the 6e régiment à cheval was indeed there, I think we can go along with Mr. Dawson. Only one of chefs d'escadron of the 6e à cheval has "Eylau" in his service records without an assignment to the staff of a specific division, so I list him below. Coincidentally or not, after he was wounded at Friedland, he was replaced in the 6e à cheval by capitaine en 2e Robert Marilhac of the 2e compagnie à cheval de la garde (a capitaine en 2e in the guard would have army rank of capitain en 1er, and so would be a candidate for promotion to chef d'escadron in the army).

=====================

So here is what we have for Eyalu :

20x canon de 8-livre, 14x canon de 4-livre, 8x obusier de 6-pouces

1er escadron de la garde – chef d'escadron Armand-Joseph-Henry Digeon
--- 1ere compagnie à cheval – capitaine commandant Jean Marin-Dubuard
--- 4e compagnie à cheval – capitaine commandant Louis-Marcel Sandras

2e escadron de la garde – chef d'escadron Louis-Joseph Chauveau
--- 2e compagnie à cheval – capitaine commandant Gilbert-Anne-François-Zéphirin de Pommereul
--- 5e compangie à cheval – capitaine commandant André-Jacques-Elizabeth de Lafont de Cavagnac

division du 6e régiment d'artillerie à cheval – chef d'escadron Pierre-Louis-Auguste Caron
--- ??? compagnie à cheval – capitaine commandant ???
--- ??? compagnie à cheval – capitaine commandant ???

artillerie à pied
--- 7e compagnie du 1er régiment d'artillerie à pied, capitaine commandant Jean-Nicolas-Augustin Noël

=====================

For a game, you could let the player assign the guns, as it appears we really don't know.

Here's my conjecture ….
--- The Gribeauval howitzers were heavy-ish. It would hard for them to keep up with horse artillery given the terrible roads, mud, snow, etc. I think the 8 pieces were assigned to the 7e/1er and used as 2x pieces with each guard infantry regiment.
--- The remaining 34 cannons portioned out as evenly as possible across the six horse compagnies

=====================

Shall we go on to Friedland ?

von Winterfeldt20 Nov 2017 10:21 a.m. PST

not only the howitzer but the ammunition waggon were clumsy as well and let to a steady complaint from gunner who couldn't exploit tactical advantages due to lack of ammunition.

Le Breton20 Nov 2017 11:20 a.m. PST

And for Friedland ….

Again for the Lechartier, we have a report for the général Songis with the pieces used by the garde artillery from the beginning of May 1807. This was 6x canon de 12-livres, 12x canon de 8-livres, 10x canon de 4-livres and 8x obusiers de 6-pouces.

=====================

For the assignment of the pieces to the companies, I see no reason not to follow Mr. Dawson (alhtough I cannot confirm his reporting). So, from

1er escadron de la garde – chef d'escadron Louis-Joseph Chauveau
--- 1ere compagnie à cheval – capitaine commandant Jean Marin-Dubuard : 6x canon de 8-livres
--- 4e compagnie à cheval – capitaine commandant Louis-Marcel Sandras : 6x obusiers de 6-pouces

2e escadron de la garde – chef d'escadron Jean-François Boulart
--- 2e compagnie à cheval – capitaine commandant Gilbert-Anne-François-Zéphirin de Pommereul : 4x canon de 4-livres, 2x obusiers de 6-pouces
--- 5e compangie à cheval – capitaine commandant André-Jacques-Elizabeth de Lafont de Cavagnac : 6x canon de 4-livres

3e escadron de la garde
--- 3e compagnie à pied – capitaine commandant François-Paul Berthier : 6x canon de 12-livres
--- 6e compagnie à pied – capitaine commandant Pierre-Gabriel Couïn : 6x canon de 8-livres

For completeness, in June 1807, the 11e compagnie du 8e régiment à pied (capitaine commandant François Brutto) as assigned to the guard artillery. They were located at Praga (Warsaw fortress), assumedly charged with logistical support.

=====================

The Lechartier also gives the guns for Oudinout's grenadiers in May 1807 : 6x canon de 8-livres, 6x canon de 4-livres and 3x obusiers de 6-pouces.

The artillery units attached to Oudinout's command at the beginning of June were the following – the rôle of the 3e régiment à cheval being confirmed by Boulart's memoirs :
--- 2e compagnie du 1er régiment à pied : capitaine commandant Grenier (effectif sous les armes 87 officiers et hommes)
--- 4e compagnie du 3e régiment à cheval : capitaine commandant Ange-Louis Cachardy
--- 5e compagnie du 3e régiment à cheval : capitaine commandant Jean-Baptiste Lebel

Again, I do not know anything of the assignment of guns to specific compagnies.

HappyHussar23 Nov 2017 6:21 p.m. PST

Excellent information. Thank you so much for your time in finding this information.

Brechtel19825 Nov 2017 3:34 p.m. PST

The artillery arm of the French Imperial Guard began as part, albeit a very small part, of Napoleon's Guides that he organized in Italy in 1796. When it was combined his Guides with the Garde du Corps Legislatif and the Guard of the Directory, it became the Consular Guard.

The artillery component was one company of artillery, half horse artillery and half foot artillery. However, the artillery company was entitled and organized as a compagnie d'artillerie legere.

By 1804 the Guard artillery consisted of two companies of horse artillery with two artillery train battalions to pull the guns and vehicles, as designated in the decree of 29 July 1804.

On 15 April 1806 the artillery arm was expanded to a regiment of three squadrons of horse artillery (artillerie a cheval) consisting of six horse artillery companies (two companies per squadron). This organization would continue until the artillerie a pied of the Imperial Guard was organized by Antoine Drouot by imperial decree of 7 April 1808. The horse artillery regiment was reduced to two squadrons of two companies each.

Until the organization of the new Guard foot artillery regiment, the Imperial Guard had no foot artillery-all of the Guard artillery was horse artillery.

Regarding the calibers suited to employment by horse artillery it is noted in Louis de Tousard's American Artillerist's Companion that ‘The horse artillery make use of the same calibers and carriages as the field artillery…' (30) Further, ‘Though the 8-pounder be the most preferable caliber for the general service of the horse artillery, still the 12-pounder may be employed very advantageously; for it is equally susceptible of celerity in its motions. Its weight is only 1800 pounds, consequently six or eight horses, if the ground be difficult, are more than sufficient to execute, in conjunction with cavalry or chasseurs, the most prompt and decisive maneuvers.' (47).

Regarding the ammunition load for each piece, Napoleon always wanted a double ‘approvixionnemenet (basic load) of between 300 and 350 rounds per piece, Guard or Line.
It should also be noted that on campaign, the number of pieces per company might be reduced because of casualties suffered, both from wounds and sickness. And this also applied to the horses per company.

If losses in combat could not be readily replaced, the gun teams would be built up to strength with the survivors and the vehicles that were now unable to move with the companies would be sent either to the army parc or to the arsenals in the area of operations. Damaged vehicles would be traded out with the spares in the corps and army parcs and if the damaged ones could be repaired, they would be done so in the army parc or the arsenals.

A division of guns in the Grande Armee was either eight pieces (six long guns and two howitzers) or six pieces (either six long guns, or four long guns and two howitzers) in the horse artillery. These would be served by a company of either foot or horse artillery.

In the case of the artillery, a division was not troops, but artillery pieces.

In general, guns were assigned to the gun companies and stayed there unless damaged or lost. This latter practice was one of the tenets of the Gribeaval System. It was found by Gribeauval that if pieces were only issued to the companies before a compaign, the gun crews would not be familiar with them in combat, which would be a disadvantage.

Le Breton26 Nov 2017 1:23 p.m. PST

Nice summary. Almost the same as the one in "Swords ….", which is also quite good.

However, I thought Happy Hussar and I were trying to look a little more deeply into some very specific questions. Same for Paul Dawson.

======================

I am curious about this statement :
"In general, guns were assigned to the gun companies and stayed there unless damaged or lost"
Do you mean exactly what you wrote, or "stayed there until the end of the campaign unless damaged or lost"?

Can you please provide some contemporary source support for your assertion either way?
A regulation, an instruction, reports of company or regimental commanders, etc.

I am not so sure that your statement is true, as I read rather often in the Correspondence of the artillery unts being moved spearately from artilley pieces, especially in between campaigns. So I am loking to you to substantiate your assertion. Thank you in advance.

The question is interesting to me because the practice of keeping guns in arsenals and issuing them as needed, with rather fewer in peacetime for training, was abolished in Russia as a reform of the artillery during Paul's reign. Thereafter, the men and the guns were united at the formation of a unit and the guns were never re-assigned except in extraordinary circumstances (such as the de-activation of an artillery company).

I would be interested to see the French regulations or instructions on the matter, hoping that your assertion has some such actual contemporary source support.

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