Napoleon's Imperial Guard

Size of the Guard
Year No. of men
1800 3000
1804 7000
1805 12,000
1812 56,000
1814 112,000
1815 26,000
The Imperial Guard was the elite fighting force of Napoleon Bonaparte's armies made up of brave, experienced troops.

To join the Guard you needed to have been a soldier for 10 years, served in at least two campaigns and be of good character.

You also needed to be over 5.5 (5.11) French feet to be a grenadier, or 5.3 feet (5.8 ft) if being a chasseur was your preference. The black-horsed Guard cavalrymen had to be taller than 5.6 feet.

It was formed from the Consular Guard in 1804 with one regiment of grenadiers (two battalions of eight companies each) and a similar formation of Chasseurs a Pied. Two companies (16 guns) of artillery and two of train troops were also incorporated into the Guard.

The bond with the emperor was strengthened by his personal approval of the design of each detail that went into their uniforms. He also saw to it that the Guard was better paid, equipped and looked after than any other force within his armies.

During the period 1806 to 1808 the Guard formed two regiments each of grenadiers and chasseurs, with the service requirements for the second regiments being lowered to eight years.

The artillery also received a boost in 1806 with a regiment (six companies) of horse artillery as well as a battalion of train troops and was greatly expanded in 1808.

The horse artillery was reduced to 32 guns, but three companies of foot artillery and three companies of conscript cannon were formed. The conscript formations later became the Young Guard artillery.

There is much confusion over what constituted the Old, Middle and Young Guard units - basically it depended upon time of service.

The Old Guard:

This was made up of officers of the Grenadiers, Chasseurs, Fusiliers and Seamen as well as colonels, majors and capitains of the Voltiogeurs, Flanqueurs, Tirailleurs and National Guards. All troops within the 1st Grenadiers, 1st Chasseurs, Veterans and Seaman, as well as sergeants of the 2nd Grenadiers, Chassuers and Fusiliers.

The Middle Guard:

All troops of the 3rd Grenadiers, the corporals and troops of the 2nd Grenadiers, Chasseurs and Fusiliers.

The Young Guard:

Voltigeurs, Tirailleurs, Flanquers and National Guards.


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