1858: Napoleonic Veterans


The only known surviving photographs of veterans of Napoleon's Grande Armée and Guard dressed in their uniforms and regalia.

the pictures were taken after 1857. Each man is wearing the Saint Helene medal, issued on August 12th, 1857 to French veterans of the wars of the Revolution and the Empire. While the exact date on which the photographs were taken is uncertain, it is highly likely to have been Wednesday May 5th, 1858.  Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5th, 1821, and each year on the anniversary of his death, veterans gathered and paraded through Paris to his tomb.

In 1858, the veterans were in their seventies and eighties.  Some of the portraits suggest that the men have had their uniforms retailored over the decades to accommodate their changing body shapes.

The photographs belong to the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, the foremost American collection of material devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering. The collection is one of the world's largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms and was formed over a period of forty years by the late Mrs. John Nicholas Brown (1906-1985) of Providence, Rhode Island.



All images: Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University, Rhode Island.


MORE