| || || Formation of the Regiment|
In 1807 Napoleon authorized the raising of a guard regiment of Polish light horse. His main objective in doing so was most likely political, a first token of his promise to establish an independent Polish state.
Whatever his motives, he obtained the services of some of the finest soldiers who ever served under him. Qualifications for enlistment were high; Applicants must be landowners or the sons of landowners. Some financial backing was certainly necessary, as those accepted had to provide their own uniforms, saddlery and horses.
The men came mainly from Murat's Polish 'Honor Guard' and volunteers. A majority of the men were nobles, thus being better educated than rank and file of the French Guard who - in big part - could only read and write. This situation however was only during the beginning, later on their ranks were filled up with veterans selected from every Polish cavalry regiment.
In Paris the Poles were warmly welcomed by the Imperial Guard and entertained at banquets at the Emperor's expense. The regiment was proud that its members all came from Old Poland rather than 'South Prussia'."
The Poles were in daily contact with the battle-hardened veterans of the Imperial Guard (Horse Grenadiers and Chasseurs). Soon they were fully trained and acquired discipline that made the regiment outstanding. Napoleon brigaded the Polish chevaulegeres with the Chasseurs-a-Cheval, his personal escort.
Battle of Somosierra Pass "The Polish Charge"
Summary of the Battle
Description of the Charge of the Polish Lancers
- The Battle of Somosierra occurred November 30, 1808 in the Peninsular War, when a French army under Napoleon I forced a passage through the Sierra de Guadarrama shielding Madrid.
At the Somosierra mountain pass, 60 miles north of Madrid, a heavily outnumbered Spanish detachment of conscripts and artillery under Benito de San Juan aimed to block Napoleon's advance on the Spanish capital. Napoleon overwhelmed the Spanish positions in a combined arms attack, charging the Polish Chevau-légers of the Imperial Guard at the Spanish guns while French infantry advanced up the slopes. The victory removed the last obstacle barring the road to Madrid, which fell several days later.
- "We charged at full speed, I was about 10 paces in front with my head bent down, uttering our war cry by way of distracting my attention from the din of the enemy's fire which was all breaking out at once and the infernal hiss of their bullets and grape shot. ... Our warlike cries were becoming lost in the cries of pain of the unfortunate Poles; I did not dare to turn my head, fearing that the sad spectacle would cause me to give up. ... One officer alone was following me, Rudowski, I believe, a colossus, like most of these picked men. He was still on horseback, but wounded to death, staggering, and on the point of falling off with his face to the enemy. ... Nearly the whole of the squadron was laid low ... twenty alone had escaped this massacre safe and sound. These had assisted their wounded to retire, so that, over the whole of the remaining ground covered by our charge. I only saw one trumpeter left standing, motionless in the midst of the firing which was still going on. The poor child was weeping for his squadron..."
After the Battle of Somosierra the regiment had impressed Napoleon greatly. The Polish Lancers continue to Fight in Napoleons Guard throughout the remaining years of the Napoleonic Wars.
Upon Napoleon's Abdication in 1814 and hand picked Squadron by Napoleon himself was sent to accompany him to his exile in Elba. These men followed him upon his return to France and the entire 100 Days campaign leading up to the Battle of Waterloo.[/list][/list]