Enlisted Colpack, Chasseurs a Cheval de la Garde


French First Empire ca. 1806 pattern Colpack for an enlisted man of the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard, complete, totally regulation, and exquisite. While a reproduction, this piece was crafted with superb artistry, solely of nineteenth century materials, using only period techniques. All fabric, cording, and thread is pure wool, linen, or cotton-- synthetics are totally absent. All visible stitching was executed by hand. This Colpack is not a “product,” manufactured by underpaid workers in a South Asian or Eastern European sweatshop. Rather, it is a work of art meticulously crafted in the studio of a well-known American historian-artisan. As a result, every aspect of this example’s construction is perfect.


Patterns and research notes used as guidance were provided by Rousselot and the examination of original artifacts. Colpack body is constructed of nineteenth century fuller’s board, lined with shellacked antique hempen cloth. Its exterior covering is real hair-on hide, full and lovely. The Colpack flamme, or bag, is sewn of vintage scarlet wool, ornamented with aurore worsted wool cording and a matching tassel. The sweatband is of oiled black leather, handstitched to the handloomed linen “monk’s cloth” headnet. Size is slightly adjustable, via cinching the headnet’s drawstring and, if necessary, padding the sweatband—and will accommodate a 7 ¼ to 7 3/8 head size.


All trimmings are similarly correct and excellent. The cords are identical to original manufactures, with correct tassel and flounders, hand-plaited of aurore woolen worsted. The plumet is full and outrageous, handcrafted of cock feathers laid upon a cane core, wrapped with waxed linen thread, and hand-cut. Its coloration—a scarlet body with emerald green tip--was unique to Imperial Guard. The cockade is of tufted scarlet and white wool, with a blue woolen broadcloth center, emblazoned with the gold Imperial eagle hand-embroidered in silk thread. Chinstraps are of oiled black leather, faced with solid brass chain, and tied with vintage black mohair tapes.


“The Chasseurs a Cheval de la Garde took enormous pride in their privileged role as Napoleon’s personal bodyguard, and in the fact that he usually wore the uniform of their colonel; in all the most famous paintings of his campaigns they are to be seen in close attendance on the Emperor.” They saw extensive combat service throughout the Napoleonic Wars—in Spain, at Wagram, to Moscow and back, at Dresden, Leipzig, Chateau-Thierry, Craonne, and Waterloo--and “where Napoleon went, the Chasseurs rode with him” (Maughan, Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, p. 43). See Rousselot’s L’Armee Francaise, Pl. 69 for his usual detailed illustrations and extensive discussion of the garb and equipment of this famous unit.


This Colpack may well be the finest reproduction of the chasseur’s distinctive headwear ever crafted. It is a seldom-encountered blend of superb scholarship combined with exquisite craftsmanship, and, as characterized by one knowledgeable observer, “would be a credit to any collection, public or private.” You can probably find another which will cost a few dollars less, but you will find none finer.