“La Garde au Feu!”: My 15mm French Imperial Guard (Part 8: Young Guard Cavalry)

As regular readers of this blog might remember, in April 2020 I declared my French Imperial Guard to be finally finished! Hurrah! Vive l’Empereur! etc…

So here are another two units of Imperial Guard cavalry… 🙂

“WTF?!” I hear you cry… Well in my defence (and in order to justify it to myself), I had already completed most of the significant heavy cavalry regiments (Grenadiers à Cheval, Empress’ Dragoons and Gendarmerie d’Élite) and light cavalry regiments (Chasseurs à Cheval, 1st (Polish) Lancers and 2nd (‘Red’) Lancers, Mamelukes and 2nd Gardes d’Honneur) of the Imperial Guard, though I didn’t have any squadrons of Young Guard cavalry.  This becomes rather critical when refighting the larger battles of 1813 and 1814, as the squadrons of the Young Guard contributed around half the strength of the Imperial Guard Cavalry Corps, often being separated from their parent regiments and grouped in their own brigades and as de facto regiments in their own right.  To complicate matters further, the Young Guard were uniformed differently to the Old Guard and in some cases markedly so.

So I needed some (it’s not merely a case of ‘wanting’)…  That ‘need’ was amplified last year when AB Figures released figures for the Young Guard squadrons of the Chasseurs à Cheval…

In a desperate attempt to justify my indulgence, here are some example orders of battle from 1813 and 1814 to illustrate the tactical groupings of the squadrons of the Young Guard:

Order of Battle of the Guard Cavalry at Bautzen, 20/21 May 1813
Général de Division d’Ornano

1st Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Lefebvre-Desnouëttes
1st (Polish) Lancers (4 Old Guard + 3 Young Guard squadrons)
2nd (’Red’) Lancers” (4 Old Guard + 2 Young Guard squadrons)
Berg Lancers (3 squadrons)

2nd Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Walther
Chasseurs à Cheval (4 Old Guard + 5 Young Guard squadrons)*
Empress’ Dragoons (4 Old Guard + 2 Young Guard squadrons)
Grenadiers à Cheval (4 Old Guard + 2 Young Guard squadrons)
Gendarmes d’Élite (2 squadrons)

Order of Battle of the Guard Cavalry at Dresden, 27 August 1813

Général de Division Nansouty

1st Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division d’Ornano
Berg Lancers (4 squadrons)
2nd (‘Red’) Lancers” (4 Old Guard + 6 Young Guard squadrons)
Empress’ Dragoons (2 Young Guard squadrons)

2nd Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Lefebvre-Desnouëttes
1st (Polish) Lancers (4 Old Guard + 3 Young Guard squadrons)
Chasseurs à Cheval (4 Young Guard squadrons)*
Grenadiers à Cheval (2 Young Guard squadrons)

3rd Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Walther
Chasseurs à Cheval (4 Old Guard + 2 Young Guard squadrons)*
Empress’ Dragoons (4 Old Guard squadrons)
Grenadiers à Cheval (4 Old Guard squadrons)
Gendarmes d’Élite (2 squadrons detached to Headquarters)
1st Gardes d’Honneur (2 squadrons)
2nd Gardes d’Honneur (2 squadrons)
3rd Gardes d’Honneur (1 squadron)
4th Gardes d’Honneur (1 squadron)

Order of Battle of the Guard Cavalry at Leipzig, 16-19 October 1813

Général de Division Nansouty

Gendarmes d’Élite (2 squadrons detached to Headquarters)

1st Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division d’Ornano
1st Brigade – Général de Brigade Colbert
Berg Lancers (6 squadrons)
2nd (‘Red’) Lancers” (4 Old Guard + 6 Young Guard squadrons)
2nd Brigade – Général de Brigade Pinteville
Empress’ Dragoons (2 Young Guard squadrons)

2nd Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Lefebvre-Desnouëttes
1st Brigade – Général de Brigade Krasinski
1st (Polish) Lancers (4 Young Guard squadrons)
Chasseurs à Cheval (4 Young Guard squadrons)*
2nd Brigade – Général de Brigade Castex
Grenadiers à Cheval (2 Young Guard squadrons)

3rd Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Walther
1st Brigade – Général de Brigade Lyon
1st (Polish) Lancers (4 Old Guard squadrons)
4th Gardes d’Honneur (2 squadrons)
Chasseurs à Cheval (4 Old Guard + 2 Young Guard squadrons)*
1st Gardes d’Honneur (2 squadrons)
2nd Brigade – Général de Brigade Letort
Empress’ Dragoons (4 Old Guard squadrons)
2nd Gardes d’Honneur (2 squadrons)
3rd Brigade – Général de Brigade Laferrière
Grenadiers à Cheval (4 Old Guard squadrons)
3rd Gardes d’Honneur (1 squadron)

Order of Battle of the Guard Cavalry at La Rothière, 1st February 1814
Général de Division Nansouty

1st Old Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Colbert
1st Brigade – Général de Division Krasinski
1st (Polish) Lancers (4 Old Guard + 4 Young Guard squadrons)
2nd Éclaireurs (Éclaireurs-Dragons) (4 squadrons)

2nd Old Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Guyot
1st Brigade – Général de Division Guyot
Grenadiers à Cheval (4 Old Guard squadrons)
2nd Brigade – Général de Division d’Ornano
Empress’ Dragoons (4 Old Guard squadrons)
3rd Brigade – Général de Division Lefebvre-Desnouëttes
Chasseurs à Cheval (4 Old Guard squadrons)*

1st Young Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Laferrière
Chasseurs à Cheval (4 or 6 Young Guard squadrons [accounts vary])*
Empress’ Dragoons (2 Young Guard squadrons)
Grenadiers à Cheval (2 Young Guard squadrons)

2nd Young Guard Cavalry Division – Général de Division Defrance
1st Gardes d’Honneur (4 squadrons)
2nd Gardes d’Honneur (2 squadrons)
3rd Gardes d’Honneur (2 squadrons)
4th Gardes d’Honneur (2 squadrons)

* One company (i.e. half-squadron) of the Guard Chasseurs à Cheval was formed by the Mamelukes of the Guard.  However, I’m not sure if this company was grouped with an Old Guard or Young Guard squadron.

The Young Guard Squadrons of the Chasseurs à Cheval of the Guard

Disclaimer: Details of uniforms for the squadrons of the Young Guard are sparse, fragmentary, contradictory and sometimes non-existent, but here’s my best stab…

The uniform of the Young Guard Chasseurs à Cheval differed from that of the Old Guard squadrons in several areas, though did wear some matching items of dress.  The dolman jacket was the same, being dark green with green collar and scarlet cuffs, decorated in hussar style with aurore braid and brass buttons (gold braid and buttons for officers).  This was worn with the same green & scarlet barrel-sash.  They also wore the same undress green breeches with aurore braid as the Old Guard squadrons and on campaign wore the same green campaign overalls with aurore side-stripes (some sources show red stripes and even grey overalls with red stripes).

Only officers were permitted to wear the distinctive scarlet pelisse over-jacket and those of the Young Guard had black fur edging, instead of the white fur worn by officers of the Old Guard squadrons.  However, some officers seconded from the Old Guard are depicted in art wearing their white fur-edged pelisse and even scarlet full-dress breeches.

Chef d’Escadron Jacques de Trobriand was seconded to the Young Guard from the Old Guard and is depicted here wearing the white-edged pelisse, scarlet breeches and brass sabre-scabbard of the Old Guard with the officers’ pattern shako of the Young Guard.

Instead of a fur colpack, the Young Guard squadrons wore a scarlet shako trimmed with a band of aurore lace at the top and bottom edges and aurore cords.  The peak was black leather, trimmed with brass.  Chinscales were brass, as was the crowned eagle badge of the Young Guard.  The national cockade was worn above the eagle badge and the whole ensemble was topped off with an aurore pompom (some sources show scarlet pompoms).  A green plume with scarlet tip was added in full dress.

The classic bell-topped shako soon gave way to the slightly taller, cylindrical shako-rouleau, which was probably the main type of shako worn by 1814.  The shako-rouleau retained the scarlet colouring, again decorated with bands of aurore lace and brass fittings.  However, it only had a pompom instead of the full dress plume and cords.  Instead of the brass eagle badge was a large national cockade, secured by an aurore strap and brass button.  At the rear was a false rear peak of black leather.  The top was waterproofed with black oilskin or leather and this might also have been true of the earlier shako.  The AB Figures Young Guard Chasseurs are modelled wearing the later shako-rouleau.

Belts were of whitened leather and sabretaches were of plain black leather, decorated with the brass eagle and crown badge of the Young Guard.  Some artistic depictions do show more ornately-decorated sabretaches, but these seem to have been officers’ items and perhaps belonged to officers seconded from the Old Guard and/or saved for parade best?

In contrast to the distinctive brass sabre scabbards of the Old Guard, the squadrons of the Young Guard were only issued with plain steel scabbards.  However, again it would seem that officers and trumpeters seconded from the Old Guard continued to wear their old brass scabbards.

Shabraques were in ‘reversed colours’ when compared to those of the squadrons of the Old Guard, being scarlet with plain green edging.  They also lacked ornamentation.  The round valise fixed behind the saddle matched those colours, being scarlet with green lace rings at the ends.  Unusually, officers were meant to use exactly the same pattern of shabraque and valise, though there are depictions of officers adding at least a little gold lace to the edging and even using ostentatious animal-skin shabraques in the style of the Old Guard Chasseurs.  Again, this may have been an affectation used by seconded Old Guard officers.

Cloaks were green and are often depicted in art as being worn rolled over the shoulder en bandolier, as protection against sword-cuts.

White sheepskin saddle-covers could also be used but as with all Guard cavalry regiments, the full shabraque seems to have been universally used, even when on campaign.  Line cavalry regiments by contrast, often dispensed with the shabraque and just used the sheepskin saddle-cover on campaign.  The full shabraque is therefore one of the key features marking the figures out as Young Guard.  The AB Figures French Hussars (which I used for my Gardes d’Honneur) are just modelled with the sheepskin saddle-cover, so aren’t suitable.  I was just about to paint some AB Figures Dutch Hussars as Young Guard Chasseurs (as they have the full shabraque and rolled cloak en bandolier, albeit with a boring covered shako) when AB released the pukka Young Guard Chasseurs.

Trumpeters wore a sky-blue dolman with deep crimson-pink collar and cuffs and braiding in mixed crimson/gold-yellow.  Campaign coveralls were in matching sky-blue with a crimson-pink stripe (or double-stripe).  Barrel-sashes were gold-yellow with deep crimson-pink barrels.  Some Young Guard trumpeters are depicted wearing the deep crimson-pink pelisse of the Old Guard trumpeters, decorated with mixed sky-blue and gold-yellow braid, though these may again be seconded trumpeters from the Old Guard.

The trumpeters’ shako or shako-rouleau was of the same pattern as the rank and file, though had lace and cords in mixed sky-blue/gold-yellow.  Some depictions show trumpeters wearing colpacks in black or white fur, though once again, this may have been an affectation worn by seconded trumpeters of the Old Guard.

Trumpeters’ equipment was the same as the rank-and-file, though again brass scabbards may have been worn by seconded trumpeters of the Old Guard.  Somewhat unusually, their horse furniture was exactly the same as that of the rank-and-file, namely scarlet with green edging.

As they were not regiments in their own right, the squadrons of the Young Guard were not issued with Eagles and no guidon or standard of any type, official or unofficial is recorded.

In 1815 a 2nd Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval of the Guard was raised and wore essentially the same uniform as described here.  However, the regiment did not see action and was disbanded following Napoleon’s second abdication.  I mention it here as the title ‘2nd Regiment’ is sometimes used in relation to the Young Guard squadrons of the Chasseurs à Cheval during the campaigns of 1813 and 1814 (most notably on the AB Figures website!).  This is incorrect and while the Young Guard squadrons may have fought as a de facto regiment 1813-1814, that title was not awarded until 1815.

The Young Guard Squadrons of the 2nd (‘Red’) Light Horse Lancers of the Guard

Do not adjust your set… Yes, the Young Guard squadrons of the Red Lancers wore BLUE coats!

Of all the known Young Guard cavalry uniforms (those of the 1st (Polish) Lancers remain curiously unknown), those of the 2nd Light Horse Lancers of the Guard were the most radically different from their parent regiment.  As mentioned above, the Young Guard squadrons of the Chasseurs à Cheval had reversed-colour shabraques, but the basic uniform colours remained the same and the Young Guard uniforms of the Grenadiers à Cheval and Empress’ Dragoons also remained very similar to those of their parent regiments.  However, the Young Guard squadrons of the 2nd Lancers were dressed in coats of reversed colours (i.e. blue coats with scarlet facings instead of the scarlet with blue facings worn by the Old Guard).

My pet theory is that plenty of uniforms with very similar colourings were already in stock, thanks to the demise of the short-lived 3rd Regiment of (Lithuanian) Light Horse Lancers of the Guard, which was raised in 1812 and then wiped out soon after, possibly leaving a depot full of undelivered uniforms….

[Factoid: The 2nd (‘Red’) Lancers of the Guard were initially classed as Middle Guard, but on 17th March 1813 were elevated to the Old Guard by Imperial decree.  Someone recently tried to correct my ‘mistake’ in calling them Old Guard…]

The dark blue Polish-style kurtka jacket had a plain scarlet collar, lapels, pointed cuffs and turnbacks, as well as scarlet piping on the back-seams, which continued down the back of the arms.  Instead of the elaborate yellow epaulette and aiguillette worn by the Old Guard, the Young Guard just wore simple blue shoulder-straps, piped scarlet.  However, NCOs wore the Old Guard-style epaulette and aiguillette in mixed crimson and gold cords (as shown on the right).  Buttons were brass.

The full-dress trousers were scarlet with a double dark blue stripe.  However, dark blue coveralls with a single scarlet stripe were worn on campaign.  As my figures are in campaign dress, I’ve gone with the campaign coveralls (as I did with my Old Guard ‘Red’ Lancers).  Depictions of the campaign coveralls vary from source to source, but most show black leather reinforcing and white metal buttons down the scarlet stripe.

The czapka cap followed the colouring of the Old Guard ‘Red’ Lancers, being a black leather cap with a black leather peak trimmed in brass, with brass chinscales and a scarlet cloth ‘box’ piped yellow, with a wide yellow band of lace separating the ‘box’ from the black leather cap.  Yellow cords and a white plume were worn in full dress.  Sources vary re the front-plate; most depictions show the Old Guard-style ‘sunburst’ plate, while some show just a simple brass ‘N’.  There is actually a surviving example of a Young Guard czapka of the 2nd Lancers with the simple brass ‘N’ badge, which adds considerable weight to that depiction of the uniform.  It is of course possible that both types were worn and the ‘N’ badge might have been a late-war ‘austerity’ item.  In my case this is all academic, as my lads are wearing black oilskin czapka-covers.

Belts were whitened leather and the waist-belt had a large brass buckle-plate.  Scabbards were plain steel, though again some brass scabbards appear in art and may have been worn by personnel seconded from the Old Guard.  Cloaks were white with a red collar.

The lances had WHITE-OVER-SCARLET pennants, which were the same as the Old Guard squadrons of the 2nd Lancers.  (NOT scarlet-over-white, as used by the Line Lancers!)

The horse furniture was essentially the same as that of the Old Guard squadrons, namely a dark blue shabraque edged yellow and a scarlet round valise, also edged yellow.  However, they seem to have lacked the ornamentation (eagle badges, etc) added to the shabraques of the Old Guard.

The details of officers’ uniforms for the Young Guard squadrons of the 2nd Lancers seems to be lost to history, though if a specific uniform existed it was probably much the same, except with the addition of a gold epaulette and aiguillette, plus gold lace on the czapka and shabraque.  However, I’ve opted to use an officer seconded from the Old Guard squadrons, wearing his scarlet kurtka.

Evidence for trumpeters’ uniforms is fragmentary, but they seem to have worn a sky-blue kurtka with scarlet collar, cuffs and turnbacks, edged in mixed crimson/gold-yellow lace.  The back-seams were also edged in this lace.  The lapels are invariably depicted as plain sky-blue without edging, though its possible that in full dress these were reversed to show scarlet and lace.  The shoulders were decorated with an epaulette and aiguillette in mixed crimson/gold-yellow lace and the trumpet had matching cords.  Full-dress trousers were scarlet, but on campaign they wore the same dark blue campaign coveralls as the rank-and-file.  The czapka had a white ‘box’, edged scarlet with cords matching the aiguillette.

Again, Eagles and standards were not awarded to the squadrons of the Young Guard and no unofficial standards are recorded.

AB Figures don’t produce any specific figures for the Young Guard Lancers.  Their Guard Lancer figures have the epaulette and aiguillette, so are only suitable for officers, NCOs and trumpeters.  However, their Vistula Legion Lancer figures are spot-on, having full shabraques and shoulder-straps.  That said, these figures are a touch on the small side, having been originally designed for the Battle Honours range.  Cue the usual internet wailing and gnashing of teeth about ‘incompatibility’, ‘scale-creep’, ’18mm’, etc, but I’m willing to bet that hardly anyone noticed until I pointed it out… 😉

Other Squadrons of the Young Guard

As I play Napoleonics at a high command-level, where each unit represents a brigade (using Napoleon’s Battles rules), I don’t really need to paint any more Young Guard.  This is fortunate in the case of the Young Guard squadrons of the 1st (Polish) Lancers, as there seems to be nothing known about their uniforms.

However, if you’re interested, the Young Guard squadrons of the Grenadiers à Cheval simply wore the undress, single-breasted surtout coat of the Old Guard squadrons, though deleting the aurore aiguillette, replacing it instead with a second aurore contre-epaulette.  All other uniform details were the same as the Old Guard squadrons.  If I were going to model these, I would use the AB Figures Early Carabinier figures and carefully file the fringes off their epaulettes to make contre-epaulettes.

The Young Guard squadrons of the Empress’ Dragoons seem to have worn exactly the same uniform as the Old Guard squadrons, though again replacing the aurore aiguillette of the Old Guard with a second contre-epaulette.

There isn’t really an easy modelling work-around for these fellas, as the helmet shape of Line Dragoons is rather different and they lack epaulettes to file down into contre-epaulettes.  The triple-holstered horse furniture of the Empress’ Dragoons is also very distinctive and is a feature shared only with the Gendarmes d’Élite.  The only option therefore seems to be to use the Old Guard Empress’ Dragoons and somehow carve away the aiguillettes… Sod that for a game of soldiers…

Anyway, that’s it for now.  I’ll sign off with another photo I took while the Imperial Guard toys were out of the box…

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

10 Responses to “La Garde au Feu!”: My 15mm French Imperial Guard (Part 8: Young Guard Cavalry)

  1. Dean O says:

    Great article, with thanks. Makes me shudder at the units I have left to paint! Love the illustrations too – Knotel, etc. I presume based on a personal library of some scandalous size? Keep up the dazzlingly good work!

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Cheers Deano! Yeah, I do have a pretty big library, but it’s usually quicker to use Google when I know what I’m looking for! 🙂 The pics here are mostly from Herbert Knoetel and Lucien Rousselot. I think there might also be a Boisselier in there as well.

  2. Robert John Turner says:

    Love this! Great read and pictures.

  3. Robert John Turner says:

    Love this! Great read and pictures.

  4. Ian G says:

    Thank you for your post. They look wonderful. I learned a lot about Young Guard cavalry. So far, I have managed to ignore them. Legally, as I don’t usually go beyond 1809 but that won’t last. A Club stalwart fell and his figures have been redistributed. Now I have some later Russians.

    Have fun.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Thanks Ian! Yes, I’d managed to ignore them until now, but we’re looking at doing Dresden later in the year, so we’re going to need them! If they’d have remained attached to their parent regiments I’d probably just ignore them, but the fact that they were split off to operate as separate units and brigades does make them rather essential.

  5. stephen marsh says:

    Great read mate. Thanks for posting it.

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