The Honor of Carrying the Colors

With the loss of so many horses, much of what was going to be saved had to be carried by someone.  Such was the case with the colors of the 2nd Cuirassiers.  Sergeant Auguste Thirion was entrusted with the care of the colors.  He describes how his horse gave out after “… two nights with nothing to eat except the bark of trees… ”  He ended his horse’s misery and shouldered the standard and a double-barreled gun which had been purchased in Moscow [double barreled = heavy].

“I must confess that I found the standard extremely heavy.  At the end of a fairly

French Eagle by P. Grenar

long staff was a bronze eagle with open wings.  Under the eagle, and nailed to the staff, was a square flag of white satin surrounded on three sides by a gold fringe made out of bullion the length and thickness of one’s finger.”

“On this flag had been embroidered in large letters of gold: The Emperor to his 2nd Regiment of Cuirassiers….  The whole thing was furled in a morocco sheath.”

“This enormous weight, to which was added that of my double-barreled gun, was crushing my shoulder, and I looked for some way of getting rid of it, because quite apart from the fatigue, I felt a large burden of responsibility, if one bears in mind the dishonour attached to losing a standard.”

“Eventually, by dint of representing to my colonel first the state of exhaustion I was in, secondly the danger that, during the constant Cossack raids to which we were subjected, the standard might find itself undefended and be captured as a result, and thirdly the fact that my death would not save the standard, because my duty was to defend it as long as I had a spark of life in me – all these considerations decided the colonel to conceal it.”

“I unscrewed the eagle, which was placed in the portmanteau belonging to Millot, the adjutant; the flag and cravat were folded and put in the colonel’s portmanteau; and the staff was burnt.  Once this had been done, I felt very relieved, both morally and physically.”

Source:
1812: Eyewitness Accounts of Napoleon’s Defeat in Russia, compiled, edited and translated by Antony Brett-James, p 238 – 239

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