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Cheval Legers

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1st Regiment of Cheval Legers of imperial Guard 1807-14
From the left: captain of chivalry 1807-1809, Cheval Leger 1807-1809, Cheval Leger-Lancier 1810-1812, Cheval Leger of the second line 1813-1814, Cheval Leger in the coat 1813-1814

1st Reginemt of Cheval Legers - Lanciers. This regiment was formed on the base of Emperor`s decree that was issued on 9th of April 1807 in Kamieniec Suski. It was composed with 4 squadrons each of 2 companies and was numbering 60 officers and 976 soldiers. Commanding person was col. Wincenty Krasiński. Grosmajors were Charles Delaitre of Guard of Mameluks and Piere Datancourt of Gendarmerie. Chef of squadrons were: Tomasz Łubieński, Jan Kozietulski, Ferdynand Stokowski and Henryk Kamieński. Cheval Legers were armed with sables (from the beginning in prussian type and then in french type) and rifles, and pistols.
Military debut was the war in Spain, where they were sent in several portions on spring 1808. Training of the regiment was directed by the legendary commander of the hussars general Lasalle. Cheval Legers were at the anti-french upraise in Madrid and then distinguished themselves oin battle at Medina de Rio Seco. After the concentration at Brivescos on 10th August the regiment was fighting at Burgos. On 30th of November there was performed the most famous charge at Somosierra. In very difficult shaped area, attacking in the four per on line column, on the wide and curved way, through the four Spanish batteries, Cheval Legers of the 3rd squadron of Jan Kozietulski opened to Napoleon the way to Mardid.
On 16th January 1809 at the division of the troops the regiment was counted into the Old Guard receiving superiority after the cheval riflemen and before the mameluks. In march of 1809 the regiment was directed to the Army, that was preparing to the war with Austria. On 22nd of May Cheval Legers took part in the battle at Essling. On 6th July at Wagram with their excellent charge they damaged the regiment of ulnas of Prince Schwarzenberg (that was mostly consisted also by Poles). After that battle Chevau Legers demanded to be equipped with the lancas, which they received at the break of 1809 and 1810. At that moment the regiment changed its name into Cheval Legers-Lanciers.
After the war with Austria regiment was settled in Chantilly and service squadron was lodged in Paris. In 1810 around 400 Cheval Legers under command of grossmajor Charles Delaitre was sent to Spain, where they fight at the valley of Ebro river. As a consequence of the preparations to the war with Russia on the early spring of 1812 they were taken from the France. At the end of February the regiment was moved to Germany. On the 12th of March in Poznań there was started forming the 5th squadron. On 11th of march four remaining squadrons were concentrated in Toruń.
In the first phase of the campaign of 1812 the regiment accompanied Emerors Head Quarter and one squadron was designed as the personal escort of Marshal Davout. Cheval legers were fighting at Wilno, Mochylew and Smoleńsk. In the battle at Borodino the regiment was staying in reserve forces. Very active participation in fights the regiment had in the retreat. On the 25th of October they were fighting with the much more numerous forces of Cossacks. On the same day service squadron of Jan Kozietulski at Horodnia rescued the Napoleon against the charge of Cossacks. On 17th November Cheval Legers they took part in the battle at Krasne and on the 28th of November they fought at Berezyna. On the 5th of December in Smorgonie there arrived as reinforcements 7th company, that at that moment was designed as escort of Napoleon leaving the remains of the Great Army. In the russian campaign the Regiment had big lost. On 28th of December there fought only 378 men, that were practically without the horses. Nevertheless it was more than in all other regiments of the cheval guard troops summed together!
The bravery of the polish Cheval Legers deserved the great appreciation among the enemies. While seeing the patrols of 1st Regiment of Cheval Legers the Cossacks that were during the last phase of the retreat real nightmare for the remaining of the Great Army they escaped several times. On the beginning of January there joined both fifth squadron and remains of the Lithuanian regiment of Cheval Legers of Guard, and Lithuanian Tatars. There were joined also new recruits so on the 11th of April the Regiment numbered 101 officers and 1106 soldiers. on the 20th of June there were also added 500 soldiers, that had been chosen from the division of general Dąbrowski. on the 12th of July 1813 reconstructed regiment was composed of 7 squadrons and again was among the forces of the Great Army.
In the spring campaign Cheval Legers they fought among many places also at Lützen, Budziszyn and Reichenbach where several times regiment charged with success russian chivalry. During the summer armistice there divided the regiment into two. First one of the six the oldest companies was among the Old Guard and eight next companies was among the Young Guard. In autumn Cheval Legers took part in the battle at Peterswald, where they destroyed the prussian regiment of the hussars of Leib-guard commanded by the son of general Blucher. Then they took part at Lipsk. At Hannau by the marvelous charge they opened the way to France for the rest of the Great Army.
On the 9th of December 1813 Napoleon restored the former organizing schema (4 squadrons and 8 companies). The additional forces were formed in 3rd Regiment of Eclereurs of Guard under command of Jan Kozietulski and of both similar organization and uniform.
In the french campaign 1814 they took part practically in each bigger battle. They fought among many places also at: Saint Dozier, Brienne, La Rohtiere, Champaubert, Montmirail, Vauchamps, Montereu, Troyes, Berry-au-Bac, Craonne, Laon, Reims, La Fere-Champenoise, Arcis-sur-Aube, Vitry and finishing their battle-array by the participation in the defense of Paris. In difference to the other french units they were faithfull to Napoleon to the very end.
On the 11th of the April Cheval Legers and Eklereurs they were joined into the one regiment, without the Frenchmen separated aside and one squadron of Paweł Jerzmanowski, that was to accompany to Emperor on the Elba island. On the 1st May the regiment was taken out from the list of the French Army and on the 7th June in Saint Denis at Paris there was the last parade before the new commander of the Polish Army - Great Prince Konstanty. Soon after that the regiment set off towards to the Country.
Squadron of Jerzmanowski participated in campaign 1815 finishing by participation at battle at Waterloo polish history of napoleonic wars.
Basic weapon of the Cheval Legers was prussian sables (of no0t so very good quality). In 1809 it was changed into the perfect sables of the light french chivalry of type AN IX. The armored of the officer was also two pistols. Regular Cheval Leger was equipped with the sable in the iron frame, riffle with bayonet and one pistol. After the battle at Wagram the cheval Legers required the arming into the lances. They received it on the break of 1809 and 1810. It was 2,8 meter long and was decorated into white and amaranth pennons. Two sided slight edge was 38,3 cm. long. In 1812 there was improved new model of lance of 2,64 long. In the beginning there was armored in lances both lines of each company. After the retreat from Russia 1812 the regiment was reorganized leaving the lances only to the first line, that was the tradition only in polish chivalry.
Cheval Legers were wearing the uniforms that were resembling the uniforms of National Chivalry of Kingdom of Poland from bfore 1794. Great uniform was composed with dark-blue jacked with carmasin collar, wristbands and exposed on chest the edge of collars, then also covered by the ladder from the internal side dark-blue trousers with one carmasin galloon. To the service in the field the decorative edges of the collar were buttoned up. Uniform of parade was different by the snake-type silver application and double galloon on the trousers. High carmasin cap was decorated in the front brass (for the officers silver) plate of shape of half of the sun with the gold letter "N" on the silver background. Additionally there was also rosette with the silver chevalier's cross, plumes of white feather and white cordons. Accordingly to the accepted in the regiment fashion the caps were worn without the usage of the metal fasten and turned towards the right eye (even in the charge). Officers they wore blue coats and regular Cheval Legers white. 3rd Regiment of Eklereurs wore the uniforms similar to Cheval Legers. The only one difference was both white on the officers caps there was white pompons instead of plumes of white feather and white-blue belts.

Officers of Cheval Legers 1807-1812
From the left: higher rank officer in parade uniform 1807-1814, colonel in parade uniform 1807-1808, younger officer in the uniform of the service 1807-1814, younger officer in the uniform of the field 1810-1814


Trumpeters of the 1st Regiment of Cheval Legers-Lanciers of the Guard 1810-1814
From the left: trumpeter (brigadier) in the march uniform 1810-1814, drummer 1811-1814, Cheval Leger in the garrison uniform.



Officers of Cheval Legers 1807-1814
From the left: younger officer in ball uniform 1807-1808, officer in the visiting uniform 1810-1814, higher officer in the visiting uniform.


Officers of Cheval Legers
From the left: officer in the uniform of the firld and in the coat 1812-1813, officer in coat "redignote" and officer in the frock-coat


Trumpeter of Cheval Legers 1807-1810
From the left: trumpeter in the parade uniform 1807-1810, trumpeter in the march uniform 1807-1810


Trumpeter of Cheval Legers 1810-1814
From the left: trumpeter in the parade uniform 1810-1814, trumpeter in the escort service 1810-1814



by Piotr Pacak
illustration from the collection of the author