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"French Guard service squadrons" Topic

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Comments or corrections?

patrick76612 Oct 2019 12:06 p.m. PST

Were troopers for the guard service squadrons drawn from all the squadrons within the regiments or was one complete squadron assigned as a service squadron?
Thank you,

Trajanus12 Oct 2019 1:15 p.m. PST

I've always thought they rotated but could be wrong.

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP12 Oct 2019 3:06 p.m. PST

They were complete squadrons undertaking the duty.

SHaT198412 Oct 2019 3:44 p.m. PST

As above, "rotated".
There were two sections I believe- the close picket/ peloton with primed carbines at the ready; while the balance of a squadron, one of two on daily duty, was formed and mounted within 50 paces of 'him' and/ or Etat-Major (which also had the Gendarmes d'elite as escorts).

Both senior regiments first performed this duty, then others progressively, performed the service. In the 1805 advance Napoleon sent off the Chasseurs Cheval with Murat in the advance guard for a time. I think they were restless…
regards d

patrick76612 Oct 2019 9:25 p.m. PST

Thank you.
Do you represent them on the table in a game or just include them with the rest of the guard cavalry?

patrick76613 Oct 2019 3:49 a.m. PST

You're saying there were 2 squadrons assigned each day, not 4?
Basically I'm trying to determine if the squadrons should be represented in a game on the table, and how many squadrons would be with napoleon at a battle.
Thank you,

Marcel180913 Oct 2019 10:04 a.m. PST

In the later period each regiment provided a duty squadron, so basically 4 (at least in 1815) and yes you can represent this in a wargame although they would not be easily commited. I do believe the duty squadrons charged at Ligny, but I have to check on that.

SHaT198413 Oct 2019 4:48 p.m. PST

>>You're saying there were 2 squadrons assigned each day, not 4?

Pretty sure that was the way it worked from research many years ago. Where? Not sure. Perhaps La campagne de 1805, 5 vols., Colin & Alombert, Paris 1902. Or Lachouque? I will look this up.

Difficult to manage 6-800 men around a single party/ HQ.
The 'internal' group were the 'escort'. The separate squadrons the 'Duty' group.

So yes if you are depicting Napoleon, at rest/ Etat-Major, two duty squadrons nearby. The rest of the regiment would be in reserve with the balance of Guard and 'other' attached cavalry (if not otherwise detached*).

{From memory} The 'Polish nobles' of the pre-Chevaux-Legere-Polonais first supplanted the French Guard regiments in the Polish campaign, Napoleon being the erudite politician, giving them honours of guarding/ guiding his public entry into Warsaw?

*Every rule has exceptions.


khanscom13 Oct 2019 6:14 p.m. PST

"…and yes you can represent this in a wargame although they would not be easily committed."

From "The Charge of the 3rd Squadron of Polish Light Horse of the Guard at Somo- Sierra" by Andrew Zaremba in "The Soldier Shop Quarterly" Vol. 15, No. 3:

"…Napoleon himself, accompanied, as always, by the duty squadron from one of the Guard cavalry regiments. On that memorable day, the duty fell in turn on the third squadron of the Polish Light Horse, the most junior of all Guard regiments… Realizing that the slow progress of Marshal Victor's infantry augured a long and protracted engagement and wishing to finish the affair with one stroke, Napoleon decided to gamble and ordered his duty squadron to charge the Spanish position… Before the Spaniards were able to recover from the initial shock, Napoleon pushed forward the only available troops he had at hand, namely the single troop of Mounted Chasseurs of his escort…"

Delort14 Oct 2019 4:29 a.m. PST

I have been unable to find any reference to the exact make-up of the Service Squadrons in any of Napoleon's correspondence (but would love to hear from someone who has). However, in 1814, they actually consisted of a company of 100 men from each of the Guard cavalry regiments, thus making a total of 400 men. This comes from Dautencourt who commanded them for a short time. In an article published in the 1894 edition of Carnets de la Sabretache it says,

'There were four service squadrons, but during a battle, the emperor always kept one with him. General Dautancourt, who had replaced General Lion [who had previously commanded them] gives us their composition at Guignes on the 16th [Feb 1814]: Polish Lancers 6 officers and 69 men; Chasseurs 5 officers and 90 men; Dragoons 5 officers and 92 men; Grenadiers 6 officers and 96 men. At this time, each regiment replaced those that were short and completed them to 100 men.'

It is possible that this total (100 men plus officers), half a full squadron rather than a full squadron, was because of the state of the Guard cavalry at that time. However, Mauduit (who of course served in the Guard infantry at Waterloo, but had previously been in the Gardes d'Honneur, and is not wholly dependable) describes them as 400 strong at Waterloo.

It is also interesting that Dautencourt describes Napoleon keeping 'one' near him during a battle, suggesting that the others were kept concentrated as some sort of a reserve (as indeed they were used at Waterloo) perhaps some way back out of artillery range or at least sheltered from it.

Apart from Waterloo, the Service Squadrons also charged at the combat at Gilly on the 15th when they were led by General Letort against the Prussian rear-guard (and in which action Letort was mortally wounded).

patrick76614 Oct 2019 5:22 a.m. PST

Thank you for the replies, very helpful!

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