Organization, Uniforms and Weapons
145 pages. Color illustrations throughout. Author mini-bio, acknowledgements, introduction, bibliography, index.
With this book, Italian researcher Gabrielle Esposito provides a useful guide to the many branches of the Imperial Guard, how they developed, their uniforms, and a synopsis of their military actions.
Illustrations are from the digital collection of the New York Public Library, including the Vinkhuijzen Collection of Military Uniforms.
Chapter 1, The Consular Guard, describes the pre-Revolution royal units, the various guard units that replaced them, and the establishment of the Imperial Guard under Napoleon. Bonaparte's veteran Guides had been absorbed into the Consular Guard; when he became emperor, this became the Imperial Guard. (15 pages)
The following chapters each look at a branch of the Imperial Guard. The format is similar: how the unit(s) were established, changes over time (including orders of battle), list of battles, descriptions of uniforms and equipment.
- The Foot Grenadiers and Foot Chasseurs
- Follows the convoluted history of these corps, the creation of velites, absorption of the Dutch Royal Guard. (21 pages)
- The Infantry of the Middle Guard and Young Guard
- Younger soldiers expand the Guard. Creation of Tirailleur light infantry. Absorption of veteran National Guardsmen. Creation of Voltigeurs. Creation of Pupilles, originally from war orphans, as soldiers-in-training. Absorption of Polish exiles. (19 pages)
- The Mounted Grenadiers
- Brief history of grenadiers in general, formation of a mounted guard unit, recruiting of velites (upper-class cadets). (9 pages)
- The Mounted Chasseurs
- Napoleon's personal bodyguard. Includes brief history of chasseurs and mounted chasseurs in general. (12 pages)
- The Empress' Dragoons
- History of dragoons in general, and in French service. Addition of mounted dragoons to the Guard. Creation of Gendarmerie d'Ordinnance (upper-class cadets as light cavalry). (9 pages)
- The Polish Lancers
- Only foreign cavalry in the Old Guard. Valor in Spain. Conversion to uhlans. (9 pages)
- The Dutch Lancers
- Absorbed into Guard, converted from lancers to uhlans. Known as the Red Lancers. (4 pages)
- The German Lancers and the Lithuanian Lancers
- Germans raised by Murat, later absorbed into the Guard, converted to uhlans. Lithuanian lancers later absorbed into Polish lancers. (5 pages)
- The Guards of Honour and the Scouts
- The Guards were cavalry hastily recruited from the upper classes after the Russian debacle. Scouts (Eclaireurs) were lancers intended to cope with Russian Cossacks. (13 pages)
- The Mamelukes and the Tatars
- Egyptian mamelukes served the French in Egypt, and were eventually included in the Old Guard. The Tatars were recruited from Lithuanian Muslims. (8 pages)
- The Sailors and the Gendarmerie
- Naval infantry intended for the invasion of Britain. Gendarmerie d'Elite were military police. (9 pages)
- The Artillery and the Train
- Foot and mounted artillery. Support units of engineers and wagon trains. (10 pages)
This is a reference book, full of useful information, but not a lot of 'easy reading'. Note that the cover subtitle says 'weapons' – that seems to be an error, the interior text correctly says 'equipment'. Weapons are not discussed.
I wish the author had more carefully checked the text against the plates, as the descriptions do not always match. For example, on page 59 the author claims that the Mounted Grenadiers were mounted on "big black horses" – the image opposite shows a brown horse, as well as the plate on page 63.
Useful reference book for anyone who has Imperial Guard.
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .