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Napoleon's Gods: The Grenadiers à Cheval 1812–1815






ISBN  978-1-907212-18-5


Paperback 11" x 8.5"; 400 pages;

col. and b & w photographs, line drawings


Price: £28.99 + p & p:


UK £2.70


Europe £10.95


Rest of the world £16.35








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Napoleon's Gods: The

Grenadiers à Cheval 1812–1815


Napoleon’s Imperial Guard was elite and self-confident, its mesmeric effect on friend and foe alike due to its close relationship with the Emperor. It contained the best seasoned and most highly-decorated veterans in the entire French army, the crème de la crème. They were the most fearsome and dedicated warriors of their day. From the plains of Spain to the snows of Russia, they followed closely behind the legendary black bicorn hat with the tricolour cockade, trusting absolutely in the genius of the man who wore it.

The senior regiment of the Imperial Guard was the Grenadiers à Cheval, nicknamed the Gods, and hence the title of this book. The silhouette of a Grenadier à Cheval is one of the most symbolic and most easily recognised images from the Napoleonic era, second only to the silhouette of the Emperor with his hat and grey riding cloak.

As heavy cavalry of the Guard, they took part in the charge of the cavalry of the Guard at Austerlitz. They especially took a share of glory with their charge at Eylau on 8 February 1807. They served in Spain, Austria and Russia. No other cavalry regiment in the French army compared to its service in 1813 and 1814, the campaigns of the Guard par excellence. They were present at Dresden, Leipzig and especially Hanau where they charged the Austrian and Bavarian cavalry, and took part in the famous charges of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo.

Now, for the first time, the story of this regiment is told in detail. This book provides a brief introduction to Napoleon’s Imperial Guard and the regiment’s place in it, as well as brief early history of the regiment, and a hoof to tack description of the Grenadiers à Cheval from the fateful Russian campaign of 1812 to its disbandment in 1815 following the disaster of Waterloo. It describes the horses, uniforms and equipment of the regiment, as well as regimental organisation, and provides short biographies of the officers and some of the men, giving a vivid picture of how the men of the regiment lived, and in some cases, how they died.

Illustrated in colour and black-and-white, this book provides a wealth of valuable reference material for historians (both amateur and professional), wargamers, re-enactors seeking authenticity, and to aficionados of the Napoleonic era alike.


Paul L Dawson is a post graduate of the University of Leeds holding an MA by research in History, and is also a graduate of the University of Bradford, holding a degree of Bachelor of Science. He is a professional field archaeologist and horseman. In 2003 he was made a Fellow of Honour of the International Napoleonic Society in recognition of his research into the armies of Napoleon. He is co-author of Napoleonic Artillery, published in 2008, which received praiseworthy reviews in First Empire magazine, as well as several books (see our online boiokshop) on Napoleonic cavalry. In addition he has written over 50 academic papers on Napoleonic subjects and equine nutrition as well as writing three books on the history of West Yorkshire. Since 2000 he has been commandant of the Association Britannique de la Garde Impériale, the oldest Napoleonic re-enactment society in Europe, which specialises in the recreation and research of artillery and cavalry of the epoch. Equestrian-wise, he began riding in the early 1980s, and since 2008 he has ridden and volunteered for the Riding for Disabled Association, as well as competing in dressage within the RDA, being a class winner in 2010. He is an equestrian coach/instructor. He now works alongside Gwydyr Stables in North Wales, as a groom, trek leader and historical rider for film, TV work and live shows as well as concentrating on research and writing.another Waterloo Book? Waterloo is perhaps one of the most famous battles in history and one of the least researched. In this bicentennial year, is there anything new to say on the battle? Paul L Dawson thinks so. His new and often ground-breaking research shows that well-known Waterloo events are often myth and not fact, and presents the results of over a decade’s research in archives and libraries across Europe, presenting many first-hand accounts of the battle which add new insights to the battle.

Discover the role played by the French cavalry during the Waterloo campaign, from period eye-witness accounts and testimonies.

This unique series, using over 400 archival accounts of Waterloo, many not being in print before, bring the battle of Waterloo to life in a dramatic way in the two volumes that deal with the British and French cavalry forces in the battle (see the companion volume Charge the Guns! Wellington’s Cavalry at Waterloo). We see how the Allied light cavalry provided one of the hammer blows that defeated Napoleon when it rode down the Old Guard. Many cherished myths of Waterloo are also examined, for example that the Imperial Guard heavy cavalry charged under orders, contrary to Napoleon’s own take on the battle. The French training system, as demonstrated in the author’s book Au Galop! Horses and Riders of Napoleon’s Army, shows that the French were superior horsemen with a training regime that gave the French superior battlefield manoeuvrability, so that the French cavalry could charge time and time again, a trick the British only seem to have partially learned through hard fighting in Spain. It is obvious that the lack of training for the British was the death knell for the Union and Household Brigades – they had not been in action in some cases for over a decade, and this was exposed at Waterloo when the French rode over the Union Brigade and the King’s Dragoon Guards (see the companion volume Boots and Saddles: Horses and Riders of Wellington’s Army).

This series of four complementary books by Paul L Dawson, a postgraduate of the University of Leeds with an MA in historical research as well as being an noted equestrian, brings to light new ground-breaking research into the study of cavalry in the Napoleonic wars. No similar study has been undertaken since Valentine Wood’s partial study at the turn of the 20th century. The author’s work goes far deeper, and using material overlooked by Wood, primarily French as well as archive sources, overturns a lot of the received wisdom on Napoleonic cavalry, its battlefield performance and theoretical training.