Photos of Veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, c. 1858
October 28, 2014 5:30 PM   Subscribe

 
They do not make hats like they used to.

This is amazing, thanks for posting!!
posted by sio42 at 5:46 PM on October 28, 2014 [7 favorites]


Monsieur Dreuse is still a handsome man with a full head of hair.
posted by Thing at 5:47 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


The uniforms of the Grande Armée are terribly fine, all except for those white breeches. A fashion faux pas that looked awful even on an Emperor.

And yes, M. Dreuse is indeed rather dishy.
posted by sobarel at 6:00 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Alls I can say is that I sure I wish I had discovered the Sharpe series of books and the Aubreyad twenty-five years ago when I started out my history undergrad. Those fabulous books would have changed everything.

Bernard Cornwell is particularly adept and engaging at what Georges Lefebvre was trying to do, which was portray "history from below".
posted by Nevin at 6:07 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd love to see a photo set of their reactions to being shown Minard's famous visualization of their crushing destruction. (Yes, they would have to hold their expression for the long exposure.)
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:21 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


After reading up on Napoleon, I've come to have some doubts about that visualization. Or at least about how crushing it was in general. Dude took over France, then most of Europe, then was exiled, then took over France *again* and was on his way to Europe *again* when he was finally defeated. Russia happened in the middle somewhere.

We should all be destroyed that crushingly.

Also, these dudes would not only have served under one of the greatest generals of all time but also lived through the greatest revolution of all time. France from about 1740-1850 was amazing.
posted by DU at 6:40 PM on October 28, 2014


THE BEST HATS. THE BIGGEST HATS.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:44 PM on October 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


After reading up on Napoleon, I've come to have some doubts about that visualization. Or at least about how crushing it was in general.

It was crushing for the army in that half a million of them didn't make it out of Russia. Napoleon was able to levy fresh troops, but he'd lost the support of his Austrian and Prussian allies, most of his experienced veteran troops and, maybe most importantly, his aura of invincibility. There was a Russian army in Paris less than two years later.
posted by sobarel at 7:04 PM on October 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fantastic photos. I'd love to hear where they were until now (or were they just in the archives all along and only finally turning up here now?).
posted by immlass at 7:29 PM on October 28, 2014


This is fantastic. The uniforms and shako's are all handsome, the ones with white pants just slightly less so. The sabers are beautiful too, such craftsmanship. It just seems like these outfits would be hard to fight in - keeping the hat on, all those buttons and epaulets and everything... But all those gentlemen just look so stately and dignified, I love it.

(And yes, all I can think of is Sharpe when seeing those pics. Ahh the Sharpe books: Sharpe and Harper are put in an impossible situation, they have to save the day despite their incompetent British officer, and then there's some girl. So great.)
posted by gemmy at 7:32 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thing: "Monsieur Dreuse is still a handsome man with a full head of hair."

Looks like Paul Newman in the eyes.
posted by notsnot at 7:38 PM on October 28, 2014


Those were all cavalry, in case anyone cares. (That's why they're all carrying sabers.) Infantry and Artillery outfits looked a lot different.

It's too bad those pictures weren't in color (which wasn't possible in 1858) because those cavalry costumes were very colorful.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:46 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Those were all cavalry, in case anyone cares. (That's why they're all carrying sabers.) Infantry and Artillery outfits looked a lot different.

I think there were a few infantrymen in the set, weren't there?
posted by Nevin at 7:49 PM on October 28, 2014


Aren't they all really short? Was that prerequisite of serving in Napoleon's army?
posted by misterbee at 7:50 PM on October 28, 2014


I'm not sure if you're being serious, but there wasn't any particular prerequisite to serving in Napoleon's army. In fact, the French Revolutionary armies pioneered the concept of mass conscription - everyone had to serve. The British, for example, had a smaller "professional" army, which had been the norm up until the Revolutionary Wars.

Napoleon wasn't actually particularly short by the standards of the day. On the other hand, the members of Napoleon's Imperial Guard were quite large and tall. So when a man of average height like Napoleon stood next to them, he would have invariably appeared quite short. But he wasn't, really.
posted by Nevin at 7:55 PM on October 28, 2014


I think there were a few infantrymen in the set, weren't there?

Two Grenadiers, a Guardsman and an Engineer. The rest are all species of cavalry.

Aren't they all really short? Was that prerequisite of serving in Napoleon's army?

I was thinking they were looking pretty strapping for men in their 70s and 80s from that time period! People were, in general, considerably shorter in those days however. And quite a lot of people ended up a head shorter during the revolution...
posted by sobarel at 8:07 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Those are mostly cavalry, anyone with Hussar, Dragoon, Lancer, or Chasseur in their affiliation, as well as the 2nd Regiment (if the piping on the chest wasn't a dead giveaway then the sabretache certainly is). The engineers weren't cavalry, but everyone there has a sabre so I'm guessing they were all of a rank or nobility where they were mounted.
posted by furtive at 8:09 PM on October 28, 2014


Napoleon wasn't actually particularly short by the standards of the day.

He was five foot six and able to ride a horse.
posted by zennie at 9:10 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Off topic: Not sure when this was (can't find the cite), but in those days people rarely bathed, and many *liked* it that way. The cite I read stated that Napoleon sent his chargé d'affaires ahead of his arrival back in Paris (three weeks ahead) from one of his adventures, specifically asking Josephine not to take a bath for his return.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:19 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Vibrissae: "The cite I read stated that Napoleon sent his chargé d'affaires ahead of his arrival back in Paris (three weeks ahead) from one of his adventures, specifically asking Josephine not to take a bath for his return."

That just sounds like some particularly French kink.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:14 PM on October 28, 2014


The hats have become much smaller. Probably ran out of pluckable species.
posted by mattoxic at 10:30 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just want to note here that my reaction to reading this post, even before clicking, was to utter a fervent "yes!" under my breath and rub my hands together with anticipation.
posted by invitapriore at 10:56 PM on October 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, against my better judgment I've always found something poignant in what Napoleon was reputed to have said on visiting Frederick's grave: "Hats off, gentlemen, for if he were here now, we wouldn't be."
posted by invitapriore at 10:58 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


These ~80 year-olds in 1860 were born in 1780, which is like, just so fucking cool. They could have heard Beethoven play in person. They are older than the Fifth fucking symphony. And I'm looking at pictures of them!

(okay, I'm calming down now)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 11:21 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Part of the Anne S K Brown collection.
posted by Segundus at 2:53 AM on October 29, 2014


Looks like Paul Newman in the eyes.

Monsieur Schmit looks like Dennis Hopper in the eyes!
posted by bendybendy at 3:06 AM on October 29, 2014


Typical preening cavalrymen. The photos are pretty ace though.
posted by YouRebelScum at 3:54 AM on October 29, 2014


did someone actually go to war dressed as a "mameluke" AKA driver in the shriners minicar parade?
posted by ennui.bz at 5:27 AM on October 29, 2014


I paint miniatures from this era, always nice to see the actual uniforms on actual people. Not repros or artist's renditions.
posted by Max Power at 6:07 AM on October 29, 2014


See also these veterans of an even earlier war photographed in old age: The Last Men of the Revolution (American Revolutionary War, that is, fought 1775-1883, versus the Napoleonic Wars of 1803-1815).
posted by beagle at 6:12 AM on October 29, 2014


Here's one more Revolutionary War veteran, born in 1749, photographed in 1858. He crossed the Delaware with George Washington and also happens to be the earliest-born person ever to be photographed.
posted by beagle at 6:19 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


They seem to have forgotten these guys - although something tells me that sword is wrong.
posted by arkham_inmate_0801 at 7:08 AM on October 29, 2014


Sean Bean has played characters with bigger sword-related problems than that...
posted by sobarel at 7:34 AM on October 29, 2014


UK Waterloo veterans
posted by IndigoJones at 8:39 AM on October 29, 2014


Sharpe and Harper are put in an impossible situation, they have to save the day despite their incompetent British officer, and then there's some girl.

Don't forget the vast fortune that they find, only to have said girl steal or otherwise end up with it.

They seem to have forgotten these guys - although something tells me that sword is wrong.

How can you know Sharpe without knowing about his sword?

And man, that half cape the chasseur has is totally bitchin'.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:18 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I say he never loved the emperor! Never!
posted by mwhybark at 9:45 AM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Russian veterans of the Napoleonic war (all over 100!).
posted by languagehat at 9:58 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Evolution of french uniforms from 1850 to 1914, illustrated by vintage photographies
My photographic collection first began in 1986, in a flea market in Paris. While wading through a bunch of old papers, my attention was drawn by a "Carte de visite" photography of a cavalry superior officier. The clear crisp of the photo, the soldiery attitude and the nice uniform outfit stroke a light. My collection had begun.
posted by zamboni at 11:03 AM on October 29, 2014


Monsieur Lefebre looks remarkably like Ben Kingsley if you ask me.
posted by Acey at 4:47 PM on October 29, 2014


I nominate Mathowie for "Mameluke de la Metafiltre Guarde"
posted by Renoroc at 6:39 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


They seem to have forgotten these guys - although something tells me that sword is wrong.

Man, I, like, just realized this might have been sarcasm. Swift on the uptake, am I.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:09 AM on October 30, 2014


I was thinking they were looking pretty strapping for men in their 70s and 80s from that time period!

One thing is that they're able to get into those uniforms so many years later. So I guess this whole late 21C mutable body shape predicament* just wasn't much of an issue for men in those days. And I was thinking, no, they don't look strapping - none of them are particularly big in the shoulders - none of them would have to go through doors sideways - but I bet they were wiry and strong all over.

Great post.

* IOW gender-neutral middle-aged spread
posted by glasseyes at 4:03 PM on October 30, 2014


One thing is that they're able to get into those uniforms so many years later.

Actually, it says in the post "Some of the soldiers have gained weight over the years since they fought for the Emperor; their uniforms have been let out to accommodate their girth. "
posted by gemmy at 5:13 PM on October 31, 2014


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