Help support TMP

"Imperial Guard Duty Squadrons at Ligny" Topic

10 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board

732 hits since 25 May 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Noll C25 May 2018 12:21 p.m. PST

John Franklin's Osprey on Ligny seems to suggest that the Duty Squadrons of the Guard Cavalry played a significant role as an independent entity. As I've reached Senior Railcard age and eyesight is not what it was, I thought they might make a suitable 'grand finale' to my Napoleonic collection.

Two questions:
1. Did these squadrons actually play an active role, independent of their parent regiments, other than acting as Napoleon' escort and watching events unfold?
2. If so, who did they consist of – the Lancer and Chasseur Regiments were on the Left Flank near Quatre Bras, but did they have 'representative ' squadrons on duty with the Emperor? Or were they just Grenadiers & Dragoons? Gendarmes d'Elite?

Thanks for your well-informed opinions.

BillyNM25 May 2018 12:28 p.m. PST

The Empress Dragoons provided a duty squadron that was engaged at Gilly see link:

C M DODSON25 May 2018 1:25 p.m. PST

My understanding is the squadrons in question were Grenadiers a Cheval, Gendarmes d'Elite and the Empress Dragoons.

The Guard Light cavalry division were initially engaged at Frasnes before Quatre Bras.

Andrew Field reports on page 139 of Groucy's Waterloo that the service squadrons were as stated.

Best wishes,


Marcel180926 May 2018 11:32 a.m. PST

It was my understanding that the duty sqadrons came from all four the Guard regiment, so even if the light Guard regiments were near Quatre bras, they still had one sqadran near to the emperor, unfortunately I have no direct refernce at hand and have little time to look for it.
when forming the duty sqadrons, don't forget the presence of the Gendarmes d'elite (great uniforms)

C M DODSON27 May 2018 6:18 a.m. PST

Marchel 1809 is correct in that the Duty squadrons were drawn from the four component parts of the Guard cavalry.

Reference to Fields work Quatre Bras regarding the Guard Light cavalry division ' Red lancers' states it at full strength with 880 men in five squadrons. This would therefore suggest that the 1st Squadron, the Elba squadron was not at Ligny.

Unfortunately, I have not seen an order of battle for Ligny that specifies the duty squadrons.

Guard chasseurs a chevel would of course been allocated as security to his Majesty as standard.

Best wishes,


Noll C28 May 2018 2:17 a.m. PST

Thanks for that everyone. 'Grouchy's Waterloo' seems most helpful and is on top of my 'pending' pile…

Sufficient confusion to allow me to try and squeeze representatives of most Guard Cavalry units in. I'm unlikely to meet many veterans of Ligny to challenge my interpretation, and even if I could I have no intention of doing Gendarmes d'Elite in helmets as per Mont St Jean site!


C M DODSON28 May 2018 3:35 a.m. PST

Best wishes with your endeavours.

This is part of my interpretation.



Best wishes,


Le Breton Inactive Member28 May 2018 4:29 a.m. PST

I believe that it was all four of the service squadrons plus the company (1/2 squadron) of gendarmes (the gendarme company formed with the service squadrons). Similar to at Gilly the day before, one charge was ordered toward Bry when Napoléon thought the French attack was slowing.

The grenadiers and chasseurs sustained no officer casulaties.
The capitaine adjudant-major Tierce of the dragoons was killed.
The capitaine baron Jean-Pierre Gauthier (dit "Leclerc") and the capitaine Jean-Baptiste Cabart of the lancers were wounded.
The lieutenant Viénot of the gendarmes was killed.

Brechtel19828 May 2018 4:55 a.m. PST

The usual practice was to have one squadron from each of the Guard cavalry regiments present assigned as a duty squadron.

The Elite Gendarmes' duties, among others, was the protection of Napoleon's person, baggage, and residence wherever they may be at the time. They were also responsible to ensure that Napoleon's orders were enforced. It should be remembered that they were just a little different than cavalry, Guard or Line, and a little more specialized. They were combat troops, but they were also military police and had a law enforcement role in peacetime.

Besides the duty squadrons, Napoleon's personal escort was made up of a 'picket' of Guard Chasseurs a Cheval which usually consisted of a lieutenant, a trumpeter, and twenty troopers. One of the latter, who was selected for both personal strength and length of service, was the chasseur du portefeuille carried a portfolio which contained, maps of the operating area, pens, paper, ink, a writing board, penknives, pencils, dividers, pincushion, and pins for marking positions on the maps. One of Napoleon's aides-de-camp was responsible for ensuring that the portfolio was always properly stocked.

The duty squadrons were committed to combat when necessary, as was the picket. At Somosierra in 1808 it was the duty squadron of the Polish Light Horse who were ordered to take the pass 'at the gallop.'

If the Guard cavalry was not immediately available, light cavalry from the Line was used as the escort or Confederation of the Line light cavalry as happened in the opening stages of the 1809 campaign as the Guard was not in theater at the time. They were still en route from Spain.

It should also be noted that the camp of the Imperial staff's camp was guarded by a battalion of Old Guard infantry, and that the selection and establishment of the camp itself was the General Durocs's marechal des logis and fourriers along with elements of the Elite Gendarmes and Guard Sapeurs.

Le Breton Inactive Member28 May 2018 11:55 p.m. PST

In 1812, the security or escort force for Napoléon was similar to that of 1815 :
- 4 duty squadrons of guard cavalry
- 2 squadrons of gendarmes d'élite
- picket of chasseurs à cheval
- battalion of grenadiers à pied or chasseurs à pied
- company of guard sappers
- company of line sappers
- 2 "équipages" (companies) of guard sailors

In addition to Napoléon's detail, in 1812 the French Army HQ had an additional security or escort force :
- battalion of guard velites of Turin
- battalion of guard velites of Florence
- Neufchatel battalion
- 2 battalions of Badener infantry
- 1 battalion Hessian infantry
- regiment (3 squadrons) of Portuguese legion chasseurs à cheval
- 1 squadron French 28e chassuers à cheval
- 1 squadron Polish (Dutchy of Warsaw) lancers
- company (1/2 squadron) of "guides"
- 2 companies of gendarmes
- 4 companies of line sappers from Elba

Question : was there a similar security/escort force for the French Army HQ in 1815?

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.