Chasseur à Cheval de la Garde
During their earlier history the Chasseur Regiments lacked the higher profile of the identically-armed (but much more lavishly uniformed) Hussars. Distinguished by dark green uniforms and a bugle-horn badge, they were frequently used as advance scouting units providing valuable information on enemy movements.
Bonaparte originally raised an elite bodyguard in 1796 comprising both cavalry and infantry. They accompanied him to Egypt in 1798 but when he abandoned the army to its fate and returned to France he took with him just over 300 hand picked personnel and from those he built his regiment of Chasseur à Cheval. The consular guard, to whom they belonged, became in 1804 the Imperial Guard. Now gloriously uniformed in green and scarlet in Hussar style the Chasseurs took enormous pride in their privileged role as Napoleon’s bodyguard.
As his personnel bodyguard they were based in Paris and every man was equipped with a special sabre, two pistols and a IX cavalry musket. They also wore a ‘colback’, a fur shako whose design was based on the Turkish style head-wear seen during the Egyptian campaign. It was modified later to become the well known style of head-wear also worn by the Hussar's elite companies. It had a leather shell interior covered with bearskin with a cloth bag piped with narrow braid, closing the colback's top. Trimmings include knotted cords, and a tricolour woollen ball tuft with an embroidered eagle.
The headdress was held in place by a set of scaled chinstraps mounted on leather. The Chasseurs were by no means just a ceremonial guard, Where Napoleon went so did they and they played a full part in all his campaigns, most notably their historic charge at Austerlitz where they inflicted heavy casualties on the Russian Imperial Guard and captured the commander of the Chevalier Guard, Prince Repnin. On campaign Napoleon was most often seen in the undress uniform of a colonel of the Chasseurs á Cheval de la Garde.
310gm Limited edition of 50 c/w authentication certificate
Illustration by David Higham