These light cavalrymen carry swords and carbines, but they are not expected to charge home, instead they are a superb force to disrupt enemy plans and pursue the routing foes. They are, for example, incredibly effective against skirmishers and artillery. Their horses have good endurance and are fast: a cavalryman without his horse is, after all, fairly useless. They are vulnerable when facing heavier cavalry and well-trained infantry in square, but they can fire their carbines when mounted.
The Guard Chasseurs a Cheval, Napoleon’s closest guards, had their origins on the battlefields of northern Italy and the “Guides” that Napoleon raised there. When the regiment was officially constituted in 1800 it had four officers and 113 men, all chosen from among the Guides and other veterans of the Italian campaign. Napoleon’s respect for his regiment was obvious and he was often seen wearing the green undress uniform of the chasseurs. These men followed Napoleon from Arcola to Waterloo, and remained loyal to him even in his exile. Few Chasseurs consented to serve under the restored Bourbons when the Emperor finally abdicated.