A piece of lost history
In 2005 a man named Erik Schoutens started research into this para military unit. This was not easy, because around 1880 a lightning strike hit the archives of the Douanes Imperiales. But by finding and binding bits and pieces he reintroduced a lot of info back into the world. Sadly, not all, but a few more people are continuing research on this valuable part of history.
Before Napoleon became Emperor the Douanes Imperiales was known as the Douanes Nationales. They were charged with the tasks of checking ships and their cargo for contraband, issuing licenses and collecting taxes. These officers were only recognizable by a sabre and a piece of paper that stated that he was a customs officer.
The change to Douanes Imperiales
The name change happened shortly after Napoleon crowned himself Emperor, in 1804.
A lot of things remained the same within the Douanes Imperiales. However new uniforms, more tasks and powerful privileges were added as well.
For a normal Custom's officer a minimum pay grade was 900 francs which could increase to 1200 francs depending on where he was stationed and if he qualified for hazard pay. Not only was a higher pay grade given, but pensions and Holidays were provided. The newly designed uniforms were green but each civil servant had to pay for his own uniform. Some commanding officers allowed them to chose some decorations on the uniform but not all did. The Douanes Imperiales were armed with the Charleville 1777 musket. Napoleon granted complete power to the Douanes Imperiales which gave the right to check everything, everywhere and at anytime. No matter if you were a high ranking officer, or even a general, a high class civilian or a priest you were not exempt from inspection and possible seizure. The French Empire grew fast and the Douanes Imperiales grew larger as well. They mostly consisted of French and Italians, and most of them were veterans who had already served time in the army. The total field personnel, at its peak, was 35.000 men.
The Douanes Imperiales had only a few ranks. The highest within the organization was the Director, who answered directly to Emperor Napoleon himself.
A couple of ranks were within the offices themselves. However, for now I will leave them out.Ranks:Directeur Des Douanes
The highest position within the Douanes Imperiales.Controleur Des Brigades
Note the 2 stripes on his sleave near the wrists, and the stripe around his neck.Captain
Notice the 2 stripes around the wrist on both arms.Lieutenant
The flower decorations were not a compulsary part of a Lieutenants uniform. All the Lieutenants within the DI were always recognizable by 2 arrows pointing towards the shoulder near the neck.Sous Lieutenant
Two arrows starting at the wrist area pointing towards the hands.Douanier/Prepose
In campaing tunic. During normall duties it is without the backpackMatelot
The uniform was different, but also Recognizable by the anchors.Douanier a cheval
Militarize of the Douanes Imperiales
The Douanes Imperiales was not part of the Ministry of War, but rather, a part of the Ministry of Trade. However, Napoleon wanted a group of Douanees in his own Imperial Guard.
Afraid that the customs personnel would only get used for military purposes, the office personnel delayed this for a long time. The troops were not sent until 1813, after the disastrous invasion of Russia. Napoleon almost lost his complete fighting force and with the Russians closing in, 4 regiments were formed from the Douanes Imperiales. They were allowed to keep their distinctive green uniform. Each regiment had support from artillery that was also made up of customs personnel. They formed a green thin line between the Russians and the rest of the French Empire. Uncharacteristic for this time period, Imperial Customs personnel were allowed to refuse taking part in battles without facing any consequences. Despite this, a few fought at the battle of Waterloo in 1815 and a couple of battles against the allies marching for Paris.
Rebellion in Italy:
Vission of the Douanes Imperiales on holdfast
We will form "companies" of artillery, light infantry, line infantry and cavalry. I want to allow people to sign up as individuals, or as a group, and do their own thing in events. (Of course there are some compulsory rules for all). Units will have the option to pick a regiment number or a district, for example: "Holland" "Paris" or "Bordeux"
Those who are interested in joining, or simply wanting to learn more about the rich history of Douanes Imperiales are more then welcome on our Teamspeak Channel: douanes-imperiales.servegame.com[/b]
Reenactment group action photosThe DI Divsion listPremiere divisionDeuxieme divisionTroisieme divisionQuatrieme divisionOverview of cities that had a costums office in which division.