As a wargamer with more than a passing interest in the French Revolution I was very excited to see that this new publication in Helion’s from Reason to Revolution series land on my doorstep with a big thump as it is quite a weighty tome, coming in at 362 pages.
The Garde National 1789-1815, Frances’s Forgotten Armed Forces, by Pierre-Baptiste Guillemot is absolutely stunning, which quite rightly befits what is book number 100 in the series. It is the first such work published in English, and the author has drawn on a wide range of sources and often previously little-used archive materials. My understanding of the organisation and role of the Garde was limited but this tremendous book discusses the organisation, uniforms, roles and many subsequent reorganisations in detail as it evolved into one of the most important tools of the Revolution and ultimately the Empire, in both in Paris and across the country. Initially an internal security force the Garde soon saw action in the frantic battles defending Frances’s frontiers during the many incursions by Coalition forces right up to the fall of Napoleon. They were also involved in the unsavoury and brutal war against the Vendean and Chouan rebels in Western France.
The author takes us on a journey through the history of the Garde, it’s initial creation in Paris, followed by similar initiatives in the provinces, through the early years of the Revolution, the Consulate and the Empire. The attention to detail and the sheer amount of information is inspiring; even more inspiring are the vast array of colour and black and white illustrations. Unusually but also wonderful is the fact that there are TWO large sections of colour illustrations. Many of the these (for example in the first colour plate section) are contemporary images but the entire second section of colour plates illustrating uniforms from throughout the period were commissioned from renowned artist Patrice Courcelle. There are further colour illustrations dotted liberally throughout the book, as well as a colourful section on the flags borne by the Garde.
This remarkable book is a must for anybody with an interest in the French Revolution and role of the Garde National during its lifetime. I learnt a great deal and the book is a worthy addition to my library.
ISBN 978-1-915113-88-7 362 pages.