In his military career, Napoleon fought about 60 battles and lost seven, mostly at the end of his reign.The great French dominion collapsed rapidly after the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon was defeated in 1814, and sent into exile on the island of Elba; he then escaped and returned to power, only to be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, and was exiled again, this time to Saint Helena.
After his death in 1821, the surviving veterans of Grande Armée honored his name and historic leadership. Every year on May 5, the day Napoleon died, veterans dressed in the uniforms to pay respect to the fallen emperor marched to Paris’ Place Vendôme.
On one of those occasions, probably in 1858, the following photos were taken. The veterans, all in their late 70s and 80s at that time are wearing their original uniforms adorned with the Saint Helena medals. The St. Helena medals were issued to all veterans of the Napoleonic wars and in August 1857 .
These are the only known and surviving photographs of the soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic wars
The Grande Armée scored a streak of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.
All photos by:BROWN UNIVERSITY LIBRARY