Military Review

At Napoleon's Headquarters

Napoleon in his carriage
Napoleon in his carriage after the battle. Painting by John Chapman

Napoleon's wartime headquarters was built of four autonomous teams, organized so that the emperor could easily move from place to place and work freely in the field, regardless of the circumstances.

The first team, the so-called "light duty", had 60 mules or pack horses. This service was supposed to provide freedom of movement on rough terrain and off-road. Mules, especially useful in the mountains, transported 4 light tents, 2 small field beds, 6 sets of cutlery and Napoleon's desk. Another 17 horses were intended for servants: a wagenmeister, a service manager, 3 chamberlains, 2 valets, 4 footmen, 3 cooks and 4 horse breeders. In addition, 2 more light carriages of 6 horses each were provided for transporting any property. Sometimes light duty was divided into two convoys in order to set up two camps for the emperor in two different places on the vast battlefield so that he could, having moved from one flank to the other, immediately begin work.

The second team was called "expeditionary service" and was engaged in the transportation of all the property of the imperial camp. She provided Napoleon with relative comfort for living and working if he stayed in the same area for several days. The service possessed 26 carts and 160 horses, which were distributed as follows: a light carriage for the personal use of the emperor, which allowed him to travel long distances, 3 similar carriages for Headquarters officers, a cart with Headquarters furnishings and stationery, and 2 carts with furnishings bedrooms. There was also a wagon for servants, 6 wagons for provisions, 5 wagons with tents, a medical van, a wagon with documents, a spare wagon, a field forge, and 2 wagons with Napoleon's personal belongings.

The third team was called the "big carriage" and consisted of 24 heavy carts and 240 horses. It followed the Great Army much more slowly than the previous two and made it possible to expand the imperial camp in case Napoleon lingered in some place for longer than a few days, usually for weeks. Bonaparte used the services of this command in the Bois de Boulogne and on the island of Lobau in the 1809 campaign, and in addition, he used this command extremely rarely. The convoy of the "big crew" included the famous carriage of Napoleon, built to a special order so that the emperor could comfortably live and work in it together with his secretary on long journeys. The carriage became a trophy for the Prussians in the evening after the Battle of Waterloo. In addition to her, the train contained other carriages for officers and carts for secretaries, a spare carriage, carts with maps, documents, stationery and wardrobe, 8 carts with provisions and tableware, two carts with servants' things, a field smithy and auxiliary carts.

Finally, the fourth team consists of riding horses, divided into two "brigades" of 13 horses each. Two of them were intended for Napoleon and one each for the great stable, small stable, page, surgeon, picker, Mameluke, three horse breeders and a guide from the local population. Napoleon personally conducted horse reconnaissance before the battle and reviews of the troops located near his Headquarters.

The tasks of the Stavka personnel in the field were clearly defined and rigorously carried out under the supervision of the officers on duty. The attendants did not leave anything to chance, since any mistake could be fraught with disastrous consequences.

Each of Napoleon's riding horses had two pistols, which Mameluk Rustam Raza personally loaded every morning in the presence of the great stable. Every evening he unloaded both pistols in order to load them in the morning with fresh gunpowder and new bullets. In wet weather, the charges were changed more often, several times a day. Rustam always carried with him, on a wide belt, a flask of vodka, and when saddled he always carried a roll with an imperial cloak - the legendary redingote - and a frock coat. Thus, Napoleon could quickly change clothes in case he got wet in heavy rain.

It was the page's duty to carry the imperial telescope with him at all times - of course, keeping it in perfect condition. In his saddlebags he always had a set of imperial shawls and gloves, as well as a handy supply of paper, wax, ink, pens and pencils, and a compass.

Picker carried with him a supply of food and another flask of vodka. Napoleon's personal surgeon carried a personal medical bag with a set of surgical instruments, and the footmen carried lint (used as a dressing before gauze was invented), salt and ether for disinfecting wounds, vodka, a bottle of Madeira and spare surgical instruments. The emperor himself needed surgical treatment only once: when he was wounded during the siege of Regensburg, but the surgeon also provided assistance to officers of Napoleon's retinue, who often died or received wounds in the presence of the emperor, as happened, for example, with Gerard Duroc or General François Joseph Kirgener.

In the full version, Napoleon's headquarters consisted of Napoleon's apartments, apartments for "great officers", that is, marshals and generals, apartments for imperial adjutants, apartments for officers on duty, apartments for messenger officers, guards, quartermasters and servants. The imperial apartments were a complex of tents, in which the first and second salons, an office and a bedroom were arranged. They all had to fit in one cart. The distribution of tents on two carts threatened with the loss or delay of one of the units in the military turmoil.

Napoleon's Last Headquarters
The Last Headquarters of Napoleon. Painting by Patrice Courcelles at the Museum of the Battle of Waterloo

The imperial apartments were located in a rectangle of 200 by 400 meters, surrounded by a chain of guards and pickets. It was possible to enter the apartments through one of the two opposite "gates". The apartments were in charge of the chamberlain (“the grand marshal of the court”). At night, the apartments were lit by bonfires and lanterns. Lanterns were installed in front of the emperor's tents. One of the fires always kept hot food for Napoleon and his retinue so that they could eat at any time of the day or night. The apartments of Napoleon's chief of staff, Marshal Louis Alexander Berthier, were located 300 meters from the emperor's apartments.

To guard the Headquarters, a guard battalion was allocated from another regiment every day. He carried out a guard and escort service. In addition to him, to protect Napoleon personally, there was a horse picket in the platoon force and a full escort squadron. The escort, as a rule, stood out from the horse rangers of the imperial guard or the lancers' regiments, in which the Poles and the Dutch served. The soldiers of the guard battalion were required to keep their guns constantly loaded. The cavalrymen were required to keep their horses under the saddle, and pistols and carbines - ready to fire. Their horses were always next to the imperial horses. The escort squadron also had to constantly keep the horses in readiness, but at night its soldiers were allowed to remove the bridles from the horses. The bridles were removed an hour before sunrise and put on an hour after sunset.

During the day, the emperor was constantly accompanied by two adjutants in the rank of generals and half of the messenger officers and pages. At night, only one adjutant was awake, who was on duty in the second cabin. He had to be ready at any time to bring maps, writing utensils, a compass and other items necessary for staff work to the emperor. All of this was under the tutelage of the most senior of the lower ranks of the picket.

In the first saloon half of the messenger officers and pages were on duty at night along with the commander of the picket. The picket soldiers, except for one, were allowed to dismount. An adjutant in the rank of general had a list of all those on duty. In the service, all officers were required to keep horses under the saddle, which were also with Napoleon's horses, so that the officers could immediately accompany the emperor. The small stable was responsible for the needs of the surgeon, Mameluk Rustam, pages and a picket. He was also responsible for finding guides from local residents. As a rule, such guides were simply grabbed on the high road by the soldiers of the escort squadron, and they also made sure that the guide did not run away.

If Napoleon rode out in a carriage or carriage, a horse escort was assigned to him in the strength of a platoon. The same escort was attached to a cart with maps and documents. All carts were supposed to have a loaded firearm weaponso that personnel can defend themselves in the event of a surprise attack.

On the battlefield or during the review of the troops, Napoleon was accompanied by only one adjutant general, one of the senior staff officers, a chamberlain, two messenger officers, two staff adjutants and a guard. The rest of Napoleon's retinue and escort kept behind, at a distance of 400 meters to the right of the emperor and in front of the "brigade" of imperial horses. The rest of the staff adjutants and staff of Berthier's headquarters made up the third group, which moved 400 m to the left of Napoleon. Finally, various assistants to the emperor and the chief of staff, under the command of the general, kept behind Napoleon, at a distance of 1200 meters. The place of the escort was determined by the circumstances. On the battlefield, communication between the emperor and the other three groups was maintained through a messenger officer.

Napoleon's soldiers developed a special attitude towards their leader, marked not just by respect, but by adoration and devotion. It took shape shortly after the victorious Italian campaign of 1796, when old, mustachioed veterans christened Bonaparte with the comic nickname "Little Corporal". In the evening after the Battle of Montenotte, Sergeant Grenadier Leon Ahn of the 32nd Line Semi-Brigade proclaimed on behalf of the troops:

"Citizen Bonaparte, you love fame - we will give it to you!"

For more than twenty years, from the siege of Toulon to the defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon was close to the soldiers. He grew up from an army environment, knew the craft of war, shared danger, cold, hunger and hardship with soldiers. During the siege of Toulon, grabbing, so as not to interrupt the fire, a cannon from the hands of a murdered artilleryman, he caught scabies - a disease with which every second soldier of his army was sick. At Arcole, the sapper Dominique Mariolle raised Bonaparte to his feet, overturned in the Ariole stream by a wounded horse. Near Regensburg, he was wounded in the foot. Under Essling, he so neglected his own safety and approached enemy positions so much that the soldiers refused to continue fighting unless he retired to a safe distance. And in this act of desperate entreaty, the soldiers' affection for their emperor was expressed.

Under Lützen, Napoleon personally led the unharmed youths of the Young Guard into battle, and under Arsy-sur-Aube, he deliberately drove up to the place where the grenade fell, which, however, did not explode, to show the soldiers that “the devil is not so terrible as he is painted ". Under Lodi and Montreux, he directed the guns himself, which should not be surprising - he himself was a professional artilleryman. That is, no one in the Grand Army could have even a shadow of doubt about Napoleon's personal courage and the fact that even in the most difficult moments of the battle he knew how to maintain incredible calm. In addition to undeniable military leadership talents, it was this courage and this composure, as well as the understanding of the mentality of an ordinary soldier, that attracted thousands of people to him and forced them to be loyal to him to the end. Without that spiritual connection between the army and its supreme commander historical victories of French arms would not have been possible in principle.

Napoleon attached great importance to this connection. To maintain it, he did not neglect any occasions, primarily parades and shows. In addition to the entertainment component, the parades provided a good opportunity to strengthen the belief that he personally cares for each soldier and can punish negligent officers. The examinations, at which the emperor was personally present, became difficult examinations for commanders and officers. Napoleon carefully walked around line by line, examined the soldiers, noticed flaws in their uniforms and equipment. At the same time, he asked about the conditions of life in the barracks, the quality of food, the timely payment of salaries, and if it turned out that there were drawbacks, especially through the fault of negligence, negligence or, worse, the corruption of the commanders, then woe to such generals or officers. Moreover, Napoleon conducted his inquiries scrupulously and competently. Repeatedly he asked about such details that might seem unimportant or ridiculous, for example, about the age of the horses in the squadron. In fact, he could quickly assess the combat effectiveness of the units and the degree of awareness of the officers.

Parades and shows also became convenient occasions to publicly express their satisfaction. If the regiment looked bravo, if no obvious shortcomings were noticed, Napoleon did not skimp on praise and awards. Occasionally he would hand out several Crosses of the Legion of Honor, or instruct commanders to draw up lists of the most honored for promotion. For the soldiers, it was a convenient opportunity to beg for a reward if they thought they deserved the "cross", but for one reason or another did not receive it. The soldiers firmly believed that they themselves had come up with such a "cunning plan" to reach the emperor himself through the heads of their commanders, who, out of harm or for other reasons, delayed the awards and promotions of their subordinates.

But despite such closeness to his soldiers, despite the fact that he shared with them all the hardships of military campaigns, Napoleon demanded that truly court etiquette reigned in his Headquarters. Not a single marshal or general, not to mention the lower ranks, had the right to refer to him by name. It seems that this was only allowed to Marshal Lann, and even then only in an informal setting. But even those who knew him from the military school in Brienne or from the siege of Toulon, such as Junot or a particularly close Duroc, could not hope for such familiarity. Napoleon sat at the same table with Buckle d'Albe, but no one had the right to be present with him without taking off his headdress. It was impossible to imagine that the officers of the Headquarters did not monitor their appearance or appear unshaven before the emperor.

In military campaigns, Napoleon did not spare himself and demanded the same from the officers of the Headquarters. Maximum effort and dedication was required of them; everyone had to be constantly ready to serve and be content with the conditions of life that were available at the moment. Any dissatisfaction, whining or complaints about hunger, cold, quality of apartments or lack of entertainment could end badly for such officers. It happened, of course, that the Headquarters plunged into luxury and the officers ate their fill, drank and walked, but much more often they had to be content with coarse food and an unpretentious bed in the hay, on a wooden bench, or even on the ground in the open air. During the Saxon campaign of 1813, Count Louis-Marie-Jacques-Almaric de Narbonne-Lara, a former courtier of Louis XVI and a trusted diplomat of Napoleon, a man so scrupulous in matters of etiquette of the XNUMXth century that every morning he began the day by powdering his wig, resignedly slept on two piled up chairs in an office full of adjutants constantly scurrying around.

Napoleon himself more than once set an example for his subordinates and slept in the open air with his officers, although the retinue always tried to provide him with more comfortable conditions of rest before battles. But he attached great importance to daily baths, which really had a beneficial effect on his well-being. Therefore, the duties of the servants from Headquarters were at all costs to get hot water and fill it with a portable copper bath. Napoleon was content with three or four hours of sleep. He went to bed early, before midnight, in order to start dictating orders with a fresh mind in the morning. Then he read reports from the previous day, which allowed him to soberly assess the situation.

M. Doher. Napoléon en campagne. Le quartier impérial au soir d une bataille... Souvenir Napoleonien, (278), November 1974.
JT Headley. The Imperial Guard of Napoleon: From Marengo to Waterloo... C. Scribner, 1851.
M. Dupont. Napoleon et ses grognards... Lavauzelle, 1981.
M. Choury. Les grognards et Napoléon... Librairie académique Perrin, 1968.

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  1. Mouse
    Mouse April 30 2021 18: 27
    History shows that this is all, everything, everything did not save Napoleon ...
    1. Alien From
      Alien From April 30 2021 19: 30
      Good day! Let's pay attention to the picture (which is in the carriage), it looks like Napoleon understood everything))
      1. Thunderbolt
        Thunderbolt 1 May 2021 00: 00
        Quote: Alien From

        Good day! Let's pay attention to the picture (which is in the carriage), it looks like Napoleon understood everything))

        The most wonderful thing is that it was on this carriage that the great N was going to go around his conquered empire, but the furious Russian grenadiers and the stern bérézina made it clear to the unlucky emperor that there is strength in the world and stronger than the Russian claims to the throne. 1 and retreated, only completely dying, and inspired by this victory, a lousy European rabble, /// in beautiful uniforms and with all the regalia ///, suddenly saw that he was attacked by hundreds of fresh Russian brave Cossacks. On good horses and warm bekeshah, the Russian Army was cutting the path to Paris with a saber.
        P.S. .... We entered Paris in cloaks, and left in jackets. Thunderbolt.

        1. Ulrih
          Ulrih 1 May 2021 21: 14
          What an enchanting ..... eeeee ..... how to put it more decently ..... "disorder of the process of thinking."
          What nafig claims to the Russian throne? Napoleon didn't have that in mind.

          By the way, Napoloen, together with the Prussians, beat the Russian army with recruits in 1813 several times. The fact that there were not enough horses for the French cavalry saved from more serious consequences, and of course, reinforcements in the person of the Swedish and Austrian troops, which sharply changed the balance in favor of the Allies.
    2. Nikolaevich I
      Nikolaevich I 1 May 2021 00: 12
      Quote: Mouse
      all this, all, all of Napoleon did not save ...

      Broke, kid ...! Overestimated my strength! Although ... What would the world be like today without Napoleon? History without Napoleon? Military art without Napoleon? .... Anecdotes without Napoleon? "Asylums" without "Napoleons"? request
      1. depressant
        depressant 1 May 2021 19: 37
        Nikolaevich, a mocker! Pleased)))
    SERGE ANT April 30 2021 19: 03
    Napoleon's soldiers developed a special attitude towards their leader, marked not just by respect, but by adoration and devotion.
    He knew many of them by sight and by name ..
  3. Ravik
    Ravik April 30 2021 20: 47
    Without a doubt, this was the Great Leader and the Great Statesman.
    Much of what he introduced into public circulation still exists.
    Example? Please - Order of the Legion of Honor.
    However, this is only a tiny part of his transformations.
    I dare to suggest that if Napoleon had not come to power, France would have remained on the margins of History.
    1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
      Kote Pan Kokhanka April 30 2021 22: 04
      Quote: Ravik
      Much of what he introduced into public circulation still exists.
      Example? Please - Order of the Legion of Honor.

      If I am not mistaken, then during the period of confrontation with Napoleon, the "German Cross" or "Iron Cross" also appeared. Friedrich Wilhelm III founded it in 1813 and our compatriots were the first to be awarded.
      Of the foreign gentlemen, there was even the king of Sweden - Jean Bernadotte and his son Johan.
      1. Aleksandre
        Aleksandre April 30 2021 22: 49
        Quote: Kote Pan Kokhanka
        If I am not mistaken, then during the period of confrontation with Napoleon, the "German Cross" or "Iron Cross" also appeared. Friedrich Wilhelm III founded it in 1813 and our compatriots were the first to be awarded.

        Compatriots were awarded the so-called "Kulm cross", such as the export version) And EKa was for their own.
        1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
          Kote Pan Kokhanka 1 May 2021 05: 13
          Thanks for the clarification, I did not know such subtleties.
    2. Kote Pan Kokhanka
      Kote Pan Kokhanka April 30 2021 22: 13
      Quote: Ravik
      I dare to suggest that if Napoleon had not come to power, France would have remained on the margins of History.

      Controversial statement.
      Charlemagne, the last Charles de Gaulle, was unambiguously the first franc to rule out the presence of France in the margins of history.
      No less striking personalities were the plaid of French kings, cardinals and military leaders. Do not forget the scientists, engineers and even the chefs and winemakers who have brought their share of fame to the history of France.
      By the way, which French achievement is most worthy of respect, alas, I will not answer Napoleon's civil code, but the meteoric system.
      1. depressant
        depressant April 30 2021 22: 45
        Kostya, do you mean the metric system?
        1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
          Kote Pan Kokhanka April 30 2021 22: 47
          Yes metric. Thanks for the fix! The French Academy of Sciences stubbornly refused to admit the existence of meteorites !!!
          1. depressant
            depressant April 30 2021 23: 11
            Apparently, they were waiting for some academician to fall on his head. Apparently, they waited wassat )))
            As for the metric system, Napoleon, as the head of state, presumably approved it.
            The first practical implementation of the metric system was carried out in 1799, during the Great French Revolution, when the existing system of measures, which had acquired a bad reputation, was temporarily replaced by a decimal system based on the kilogram and meter. The work to reform the old system of weights and measures was supported by everyone in power, including Louis XVI. The metric system, according to the philosopher and mathematician Condorcet, was intended "for all people and times." In the era of humanism, the basic units were taken from the natural world: the unit of length - the meter - was based on the dimensions of the Earth, and the unit of mass - the kilogram - on the mass of such an amount of water, which occupied a volume of one liter, that is, one thousandth of a cubic meter. Master copies of both units were made and deposited with the French Academy of Sciences. In 1812, due to the unusualness of the new metric system at that time, in the retail trade and small business, France returned to some old units, but tied to the metric system (for example, the old toise became the metric toise).
            1. Kote Pan Kokhanka
              Kote Pan Kokhanka 1 May 2021 05: 12
              Quote: depressant
              Apparently, they were waiting for some academician to fall on his head. Apparently, they waited)))

              You have no idea how you guessed exactly with the situation.
              As for the metric system. Napoleon, the practical meter, kilogram and liter are the “burps” of the Great French Revolution, which were a consequence, not a cause, of each other.
              Recently I learned that one of the authors of the "metric system" went to introduce it to America, but volleyball cases died at the hands of pirates. So the last one still has miles, halons and pints.
      2. Tavrik
        Tavrik 3 May 2021 23: 12
        Everything is so, but by the time of the Directory France was in disarray ... A mess in everything ... Raging inflation, banditry, monstrous enrichment of the new rich (nouveau riche). The country was going to hell. Only very perceptive people, such as Talleyrand, understood that it could not go on for so long. The country needed a Master. And he was found.
    3. Illanatol
      Illanatol 1 May 2021 08: 23
      I dare to suggest that if Napoleon had not come to power, France would have remained on the margins of History.

      Oh really? France was on the outskirts of History under Louis 14?
      And under Robespierre? Was the Hundred Years War, won by France, a minor episode?
      It was Napoleon who, having exhausted the forces of France, launched the process of its transformation into a minor power, which it still is.
      The Order is bullshit, trinket. But the code of Napoleon was indeed a significant event. It would be better if he was engaged in economic and legal reforms than ruining the French gene pool on the battlefields, which is why it was not France that won.
  4. the finish
    the finish 1 May 2021 00: 48
    Rustam Raza-Rostom Khachaturian was of Karabakh origin.
    1. depressant
      depressant 1 May 2021 10: 45
      Rustam Raza (French Roustam Raza, Armenian Ռուստամ Ռազա-Խաչատուրյան Ռոստոմ; 1782, Tiflis - December 7, 1845, Durdan) - Mameluk, bodyguard and squire of Emperor Napoleon. Armenian by nationality.
      The sixth child of the merchant Rustam Hunan. After the family returned to Armenia, a war broke out between the Armenians and the Persians. The family took refuge in the Shushi fortress, the boy was already 13 years old, a teenager. Further:
      was stolen and sold into slavery. The Turks gave him the name "Ijahia". It was sold seven times in total.
      In 1797 or 1798, Rustam in Constantinople was bought by Sala Bey, one of the 24 governors of Egypt, who gave him freedom and enrolled in the Mameluke cavalry corps. In Cairo, he was circumcised. After Napoleon took the capital, the enraged Cesar Pasha poisoned Sala Bey, and Rustam deserted, wandering for about a month, and not betraying that he was a Mameluk. Then in Cairo, he was hired to serve with Sheikh El-Bekri, the local commander-in-chief and agent of the French. At first, the sheikh treats him favorably, and even promises his daughter's hand, but then begins to scoff and threaten. Napoleon asks for a Mameluke as a "gift", and Rustam goes to his service in August 1799.

      That was life, right? This is me without irony. There was no rest for people! But when I remember my ... Peace is a sweet unattainable state of confidence that there will be peace tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and always ...
      A closed circle of rest.
      But I won't even dream
      Neither a commander, nor an outcast,
      Always trouble, from all sides.
  5. Senior seaman
    Senior seaman 1 May 2021 09: 48
    Every night he unloaded both pistols

    Discharged with a shot?
    1. depressant
      depressant 1 May 2021 19: 40
      Or maybe he poured out damp gunpowder, and filled in fresh? Or is it technically impossible?
      1. Senior seaman
        Senior seaman 1 May 2021 20: 02
        So I wonder ...
        1. Former naval person
          2 May 2021 23: 16
          and I'm interested, but history is silent. the sources I have scoured say décharger or unload. both words mean "discharge", and at least unload does not imply a shot, for which I vouch.
          1. Senior seaman
            Senior seaman 3 May 2021 08: 57
            Thank you.
  6. depressant
    depressant 1 May 2021 19: 47
    In general, of course, Napoleon is such a powerful historical figure that he will survive all epochs. Everything will go away, many will be forgotten, but Napoleon will remain. At least in the form of medical terminology. It is not for nothing that people with a shifted psyche imagine themselves to be them. I admit that psychiatrists have such a concept as "Napoleon's complex", well, or "Napoleon's syndrome", even if the patient considers himself to be some other great personality.
    1. Tavrik
      Tavrik 3 May 2021 23: 25
      So I wondered why Napoleon is such a powerful figure? After all, there were many great rulers and great generals. He came to the conclusion: because, against the background of his neighbors, Napoleon created a socially just state. Where there was no unlimited power of the rich over the poor, but on the other hand, any literate, active, active citizen could make a career in any field, regardless of origin. Napoleon appointed people to high posts in accordance with their professional qualities, and not for money or origin (well, yes, I know about his sisters / brothers, he did not offend anyone, well, these are Italian roots laughing ). At the same time, it did not matter what political views they adhered to. Napoleon himself worked for the benefit of the empire and demanded the same from others, infecting everyone with his energy. Yes, there is no ideal, anything happened, even doctors for money from the army "excused" someone, but against the background of its neighbors, it was the most progressive state with social obligations.