“La Garde au Feu!”: My 15mm French Imperial Guard (Part 3 – The Young Guard – Organisation)

In Part 1 of this series I looked at the infantry regiments of Napoleon’s Old Guard and in Part 2 I looked at the regiments of the Middle Guard (who as discussed in Part 2, were actually known as the Young Guard from 1806 to 1809 and as the ‘Old Soldiers of the Young Guard’ from 1809 to 1811).  In this article I’m going to look at the ‘New’ Young Guard.  The Young Guard became something of a monster organisation and I’ve got quite a few of them, so I’ll split this in to two parts – first the organisational history of the Young Guard and then the uniforms.

The ‘New’ Young Guard was created in 1809 with the creation of several new light infantry regiments – the 1er & 2ème Tirailleurs-Grenadiers, the 1er & 2ème Tirailleurs-Chasseurs, the 1er & 2ème Conscrits-Grenadiers and the 1er & 2ème Conscrits-Chasseurs.  Like the regiments of Guard Fusiliers, these were meant to be attached to the Old Guard Grenadiers and Chasseurs, to give them light infantry support.  However, like the Fusiliers they were in practice grouped within their own brigades and in 1809 both the Old and New regiments of the Young Guard formed their own division within the Imperial Guard Corps of the Army of Germany and received their baptism of fire at the Battle of Aspern-Essling:

Young Guard Division (1809) – Général de Division Curial

Brigade of Général de Brigade Roguet
1er Tirailleurs-Grenadiers (2 Bns)
1er Tirailleurs-Chasseurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Gros
Fusiliers-Chasseurs (2 Bns)
Fusiliers-Grenadiers (2 Bns)

Curial’s Young Guard Division at Aspern-Essling in 1809: Gros’ Brigade is on the left, represented by the Fusiliers-Grenadiers. Roguet’s Brigade is on the right, represented by the Tirailleurs-Grenadiers. The skirmishers in front are Fusiliers-Chasseurs.

After the conclusion of the campaign in Austria, the Young Guard was sent to Spain, where they were mainly engaged in anti-partisan duties.  In 1810 the Young Guard was reorganised and expanded again, with the Tirailleurs-Grenadiers being retitled simply as Tirailleurs and the Tirailleurs-Chasseurs being retitled as Voltigeurs of the Guard.  Napoleon had never been happy with the title of Conscrits, so the 1er & 2ème Conscrits-Grenadiers became the 3ème & 4ème Tirailleurs and the 1er & 2ème Conscrits-Chasseurs became the 3ème & 4ème Voltigeurs.

In 1811 the Young Guard was further expanded by the addition of the 5ème & 6ème Tirailleurs and the 5ème & 6ème Voltigeurs, as well as a whole new regiment raised from the sons and nephews of foresters, entitled the Flanqueurs of the Guard.  Additionally, a corps of Imperial Guard Pupilles was created for the sons of soldiers killed in action, as well as an Imperial Guard branch of the French National Guard.  These would provide the Guard with good-quality recruits – something that would become crucial in 1813.

In 1812 the Young Guard and Middle Guard formed the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the Imperial Guard Corps as it marched into Russia:

1st Guard Division (1812) – Général de Division Delaborde

Brigade of Général de Brigade Berthezène
4ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
4ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
5ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Lanusse
5ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
6ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
6ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

2nd Guard Division (1812) – Général de Division Roguet

Brigade of Général de Brigade Lanabère
1er Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
1er Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Boyeldieu
Fusiliers-Chasseurs (2 Bns)
Fusiliers-Grenadiers (2 Bns)
Flanqueurs (2 Bns)

The Young Guard in Russia, 1812: Delaborde’s 1st Division is on the left and Roguet’s 2nd Division (which includes the Middle Guard and the green-coated Flanqueurs) is on the right.

The Guard was practically wiped out in Russia, though a new Guard was created in remarkable time from the pitiful handful of survivors, as well as those Young Guard regiments and depots in France and Spain who had not been sent to Russia  Drafts were also drawn from the National Guard and Pupilles, as well as volunteers from Line regiments and the best of the new draft of conscripts.

The recreation of the Guard was nothing short of miraculous and by late February 1813, the Old Guard and Middle Guard had been completely reconstituted (all except for the 3ème Grenadiers à Pied, who were never reformed), while the Tirailleurs and Voltigeurs of the Young Guard each had seven new regiments!  This force took to the field in April 1813 and while not the near-superhuman elite corps of old, the Guard still provided a solid core for Napoleon’s Grande Armée during his victories at Lützen and Bautzen.

1st Guard Division (Lützen, 1st May 1813) – Général de Division Dumoustier

Brigade of Général de Brigade Berthezène
Fusiliers-Chasseurs (2 Bns)
Fusiliers-Grenadiers (2 Bns)
6ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
7ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Lanusse
1er Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
2ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Tindal
1er Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
6ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
7ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

The newly-rebuilt Young Guard Division, as it appeared at the Battle of Lützen, 1st May 1813.

Further reinforcements for the Young Guard arrived after the victory at Lützen. On 15th May 1813 the Young Guard was reorganised into two divisions and fought in this organisation at Bautzen on 20-21st May 1813:

1st Young Guard Division (Bautzen) – Général de Division Dumoustier

Brigade of Général de Brigade Mouton-Duvernet (Middle Guard)
Fusiliers-Chasseurs (2 Bns)
Fusiliers-Grenadiers (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Tindal
1er Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
2ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Lanusse
3ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
6ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
7ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

2nd Young Guard Division (Bautzen) – Général de Division Barrois

Brigade of Général de Brigade Rottembourg
1er Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
2ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Berthezène
3ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
6ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
7ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

The expanded Young Guard as it appeared at the Battle of Bautzen, 20-21 May 1813. Dumoustier’s 1st Division is on the left and includes the Middle Guard (Fusilier) Brigade, as well as two brigades of Voltigeurs. Barrois’ 2nd Division is on the right, comprising two brigades of Tirailleurs.

Expansion of the Young Guard continued through the Summer Armistice of 1813 and by the re-commencement of hostilities in August 1813 the Voltigeurs and Tirailleurs were fielding thirteen regiments apiece.  The Flanqueurs, who had been absolutely wiped out in Russia, were replaced by two new regiments, the Flanqueurs-Grenadiers and the Flanqueurs-Chasseurs.  The Middle and Young Guard were now formed into four Young Guard Divisions and the Imperial Guard formed a full third of the entire army!

After the Battle of Dresden in September 1813, the Fusiliers-Grenadiers and Fusiliers-Chasseurs of the Middle Guard were split off to form a 2nd Old Guard Division under General Curial, being grouped with the Vélites of Turin, the Vélites of Florence, the short-lived Polish Guard Battalion and a battalion each of Saxon and Westphalian Royal Guards.  The four Young Guard Divisions were then grouped into two Young Guard Corps and fought using this organisation at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813:

I Young Guard Corps (October 1813) – Marshal Oudinot

1st Young Guard Division – Général de Division Pacthod

Brigade of Général de Brigade Lacoste
1er Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
2ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
3ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Coloumy
7ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
11ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
11ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

(N.B. Some sources show the 1st Division to be divided into three brigades, with the third brigade commanded by General Gros)

3rd Young Guard Division – Général de Division Decouz

Brigade of Général de Brigade Boyer de Rebeval
5ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
6ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
7ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
8ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Pelet
9ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
10ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)
12ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

II Young Guard Corps (October 1813) – Marshal Motier

2nd Young Guard Division – Général de Division Barrois

Brigade of Général de Brigade Poret de Morvan
1er Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
2ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
3ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade (unknown)
4ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
5ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
6ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

4th Young Guard Division – Général de Division Roguet

Brigade of Général de Brigade Flamand
Flanqueurs-Chasseurs (2 Bns)
Flanqueurs-Grenadiers (2 Bns)
7ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Marguet
8ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
9ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
10ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)

The massively-expanded Young Guard organised for the Battle of Leipzig: Oudinot’s 1st Young Guard Corps is on the left and Mortier’s 2nd Young Guard Corps is on the right. Note the newly-raised Flanqueur-Grenadiers (in green coats with yellow flag) and the Flanqueur-Chasseurs in the skirmish line. Note however, that I got bored painting Voltigeurs and Tirailleurs, so have sneaked in the 1809-uniformed Tirailleurs-Grenadiers to replace a brigade of Tirailleurs and the Sailors of the Guard to replace a brigade of Voltigeurs. Note that the Middle Guard had now been removed and grouped with the Old Guard.

Expansion of the Young Guard continued despite the defeats of the Autumn Campaign, the disaster of Leipzig and the associated losses.  The 14ème & 15ème Regiments of Tirailleurs and Voltigeurs were formed during this period from the remnants of King Joseph Napoleon’s former Spanish Royal Guard, though along with 13ème Regiments, the these seem to have remained within the Réserve de Paris.

In December 1813 and with the Allies about to invade France, Napoleon once again reorganised the Guard.  The Middle Guard Fusilier Regiments and Vélite Battalions, along with the two Flanqueur Regiments under Général de Brigade Gros, were grouped with the Old Guard as a Mobile Reserve under Marshal Mortier, while the bulk of the Voltigeur and Tirailleur Regiments were grouped into six independent Young Guard Divisions:

1st Young Guard (1st Voltigeur) Division (1814) – Général de Division Meunier
1er, 2ème, 3ème & 4ème Voltigeurs (two brigades)

2nd Young Guard (2nd Voltigeur) Division (1814) – Général de Division Decouz
5ème, 6ème, 7ème & 8ème Voltigeurs (two brigades)

3rd Young Guard (3rd Voltigeur) Division (1814) – Général de Division Boyer de Rebeval
9ème, 10ème, 11ème & 12ème Voltigeurs (two brigades)

4th Young Guard (1st Tirailleur) Division (1814) – Général de Division Barrois
1er, 2ème, 3ème & 4ème Tirailleurs (two brigades)

5th Young Guard (2nd Tirailleur) Division (1814) – Général de Division Rottembourg
5ème, 6ème, 7ème & 8ème Tirailleurs (two brigades)

6th Young Guard (3rd Tirailleur) Division (1814) – Général de Division Roguet
9ème, 10ème, 11ème & 12ème Tirailleurs (two brigades)

These organisations didn’t last long and the changes in commanders and organisations are too numerous to list here.  A Young Guard Corps of two divisions (Meunier’s and Decouz’s Divisions, with Curial replacing Decouz when that general was killed in March 1814) was formed under Marshal Ney in early 1814 and fought as part of Napoleon’s main army, though the organisation was fluid.  For example, Meunier’s Division for a time included the 1er & 2ème Tirailleurs from Barrois’ Division.  Barrois’ and Roguet’s Divisions meanwhile were sent to Maison’s Army of the North in Belgium, while the other two divisions (or elements thereof) were passed from pillar to post throughout the 1814 Campaign.

By the time of Napoleon’s surrender, the 16ème to 19ème Regiments of Tirailleurs and Voltigeurs had also been formed, but these do not appear to have taken to the field, remaining instead within the Réserve de Paris and sending reinforcements forward to the other regiments in the field.  However, by the end of the Campaign of France, every last regiment was being pushed into the fight and even battalions of the Pupilles were employed on the front line as infantry.

Young Guard Voltigeurs, 1814.

With Napoleon’s return to power in 1815, the Young Guard was reformed, but was limited to just a few regiments of Tirailleurs and Voltigeurs.  The Young Guard Division that accompanied Napoleon to Waterloo in 1815 was formed from just two regiments of each:

Young Guard Division (1815) – Général de Division Barrois

Brigade of Général de Brigade Chartrand
1er Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
1er Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

Brigade of Général de Brigade Guye
3ème Tirailleurs (2 Bns)
3ème Voltigeurs (2 Bns)

In the next part I’ll look at the uniforms for each part of the Young Guard.

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Napoleon's Battles (Rules), Napoleonic French Army, Napoleonic Wars, Painted Units. Bookmark the permalink.

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