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Napoléon and his Imperial Guard

Napoleon and his guard.

We arrived on August 12th and resided in the encampment around the Pont-de-Briques castle where Napoleon was, accompanied by his staff and his household. Companies from the “Chasseur a cheval” of the guard as well as from the “chasseurs a pied” of the guard had the honor of accompanying him.

This time, the men of our regiment were jealous, but they knew that they will have their chance to escort our respected little corporal.

On the 13th, captain Le Sang gathered the men from the first company and rigorously examined every soldier. Each man had to be flawless during the inspection; otherwise the commander of the 1st regiment would issue harsh sanctions. This however, had happened only once as far as the officers could remember.

Finally, at dawn, the two battalions making up the regiment marched towards the Emperor’s encampment with the band playing. Bayonets were fixed and sparkled in the rising sun.

Like in a parade, the five thousand men of the imperial guard took position in the vast garden in front of the large residence where Napoleon was staying.

We were waiting for him to come out on the balcony. All heads were looking at it. However a cheer came from the right. He was mounted on beautiful white horse followed by all his Marshals and ordnance officers.

He stood in front of us and his staff stood behind him.

His voice was loud and clear: « Officers, Soldiers, my sons… our nation’s enemies threaten us… we will not let them invade us… » And for half an hour, with poise, the Emperor addressed us with conviction…

Napoléon then stopped talking… no one knew if he had finished his speech… but a few seconds later, one grenadier screamed « Long live the Emperor»… followed by a second and then instantly they were joined by 5000 voices shouting “Long live the Emperor”.

August 14th 1805… Extract from the memoires of Sargent Bonheur. 1st company, 1st battalion, 1st regiment of the grenadiers of the imperial guard.

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