History of the Douanes Imperiales

The history of the Napoleons customs officers corps was virtually forgotten. Almost nobody

in Napoleonic reenactment  (in which much knowledge about the Napoleonic  period is

present), new about their existence.

 

For more then two years I studied into their uniforms and their history, especially with the

main idea behind it, to portray them in an authentic way at Napoleonic re-enactment

(living history) events in the Netherlands and other countries.

 

The text written down below has literally cost me hundreds of hours of work. Information

is to be find only in fragments, and the art is to tie these pieces up to being a correct whole.

 

Unfortunately at the end of the19th century the complete French customs authorities

archives are destroyed by a large fire, as a result it is very difficult to find detailed

information about the Douanes Imperiales corps.  

 

J.J.Duforez

 

      

Then and now

The corps of custom officers under Napoleon of course frequently becomes compared to

the functioning of the nowdays customs officers. This is of course understandable, but

nevertheless the corps of customs officers under Napoleon differed much from customs

officers today. The current customs  officers tasks are mainly based on controlling at  airports

and harbours, controlling the incoming goods and persons. 

 

Under Napoleon however their tasks were much more wider, a semi-military unit, actually

used for everything.

 

Also the French customs apparatus in his French form has been later taken over by other

countries in Europe. Carrying back the colours of the current green uniforms on the French

green uniform, for the first time regulated in February 1800.

 

 

The start up

In April/May 1791 the 'Assemblée' started the set-up of  the `douanes nationales' corps.

An independent functioning government body with officials who got as a task; excise control,

bordercontrol and police force tasks. In January 1800 the corps got its first own uniform.

 

With this new uniform regulations all ranks within the corps got their own dark green uniform,

with silver galon or silver stitching on sleeves and collar, showing their rank.

 

In the years before, customs officials were mainly only recognizable by their copperplate on

their sable belt, and carried with them a document (commission), which explained that one

was operative at the French corps of customs...

 

 

A douanier on guard at Bordeaux (E.Fort)

 

 

 

The functioning of the 'douanes nationales' (and the later douanes imperiales), their ranks,

all rules, excise levies on goods, new legislation and rules, etc, was kept together  within the

so-called: 'Legislation des douanes ' bookwork. A member of our group  has bought one of

these now rare books, this version of the book has been pressed in 1813, and is a second

edition, more information and photographs:  Here

 

 

...Under Napoleon and during the continental blockade, the customs authorities received a

complete authorisations from Napoleon himself, for the correct implementation of their tasks.

Customs authorities could do for example irruptions and controls on any suspected persons

an their  livings, irrespective of which army degree or civil status,  All this to reduce any trade

in English goods. They only had to obey their officers/chiefs in command and to Napoleon

himself.

 

 

Director of the douanes (customs officers) in his uniform (E.Fort)

 

 

The douanes imperiales corps operated within a complex multiple numbers of functions and

' bureau's ', the highest function was the 'Directeur general des douanes'. Below the

complete list of ranks and functions:

 

1.Administration Part:

1 Directeur general des douanes

4 Administrateurs

1 Secretaris general des Douanes

 

Bureaux Administratifs

1-Ministre du commerce:

chef du bureau des douanes, sous chef, sous chef adjoint directeur

commis d’ordre, redacteurs second classe, plusiers commies aux expeditions

2-A l’Administration des douanes:

Chefs de division, sous chefs, premiers commis, commis principaux, commis

d’ordre, commis aux expeditions

3-Dans le directions:

Premier commis, second commis, troisieme commis, quatrieme commis.

 

Emplois Superieurs

Inspecteurs generaux, directeurs, inspecteurs principaux, particulairs et

sedentaires, sous inspecteurs.

 

Bureaux de Perception

1-Dans les grandes Douanes:

Receveurs principaux, controleurs aux visites, premiers commis a la navigation,

controleurs aux entrepots, verificateurs, receveurs aux declarations, commis

aux expeditions, commis a la recette, aides verificateurs, poseurs, emballeurs,

Concierges ou portiers

2-Dans les douanes subordonnees:

Receveurs particuliers, visiteurs, commis aux expeditions

 

 

2.Active part (Brigades)

Brigades

Controleurs de brigades, captain, lieutenant principaux et ordre, lieutenant et

sous lieutenant a pied et a cheval, preposes.

 

 

Douanier a cheval (1812-1813, Knotel)

 

 

Militarization

After the crowning of Napoleon as emperor in 1804, the `douanes nationales ' corps is

transformed into the 'Douanes Imperiales corps. Although still functioning as prescribed

in the early 90'ths, their tasks were extended and Napoleon especially had a further

militarization in mind.

 

Officially the customs corps has never become an real army component under Napoleon I,

this would happen in a later period (in the 1830's). Napoleon has, however, tried for

several times to place the corps under the ministry of war and even wanted (in the later

years) to place customs units in his own Imperial Guard. That all of this had not succeeded,

was part of a strategy used by the customs highest administration, who applied a type of

delay tactics, (on the implementation of new legislation concerning militarization).

 

She has continued this until Napoleon I would eventually once and for all disappear

in 1815. Reason for their behaviour, was their fear that Napoleon would use their men

only for military actions instead for the tasks which the corps had been setup in 1791,

(excise control, border control and police force tasks).

 

Eventually in the later years, a lot of the customs units (in spite of the early non

cooperative attitude of the customs administration), were used military in a large scale.

Brigades were put together in battalions sizes, as a support for the regular army units,

during military actions and for the maintaining of city defences. Military commitment

however was already a fact also in 1805, (a year after the establishment of the Douanes

Imperiales) and maybe earlier.  For an example look  Here

 

 

Fighting until November 1815

This military commitment increased considerably, in a biography from 1809 (Charles hare)

is already written down by an eyewitness that more and more douanes units were called

under arms in those two years, which eventually would further increase especially after

the year 1812, until they stopped fighting in November 1815! With large customs units still

involved in fighting's at the  the French borders, against an supremacy of mainly Prussian

armies.

 

The militarization of the whole customs corps was however in the beginning also a large

change for the douaniers itself, never these had expected that Napoleon would equip

them with own uniforms and shako's, and that they would be stationed all along the new

strange coasts and country borders of the ever growing French Empire.

 

That these considerable reversal and extension of their tasks nevertheless was well taken

by the douaniers that we can attribute to the fact that the most of them for years earlier

had served as a soldier, and among other things knew ' how to handle their bayonets ' and

as a soldier already had been in other countries. At the end of Napoleons realm  their

numbers were almost as high as other troops in the field, and they were often the only

remaining men in full uniform and with a long service and military history. as the most part

of the remaining army were  the 'Levis' and 'Marie Louise's', with almost no military

experience and no real uniforms.

 

 

Drawing of an douanes inspecteur

 

 

In the Netherlands

In the Southern Netherlands the first French customs appeared already in 1793, shortly

after the taking of these areas by France. Everywhere along the Batavian republic border,

customs officers posts were set up, in cities such as Maastricht, Venlo, Roermond and

in the neighbouring villages and even frequently in hamlets. But also near the larger rivers

(for example the river Meuse), on which many trade goods were moved.

 

In 1806, Lodewijk (a brother of Napoleon), became king of Holland, and the

Batavian republic was abolished. To exclude smugglers and their forbidden goods from

England, French douaniers also came to Holland. Under Lodewijk Dutch douaniers

were also trained, by their French colleagues called 'douaniers  Hollandais'.

 

In 1811, the kingdom of Holland disappears and becomes a component of France, this

after a long period of mutual dissatisfaction between both of the brothers, whom

especially (brother Lodewijk) not wanted to carry out well the international blockade

against England, trying to prevent an impoverishment of the Dutch port cities and his

kingdom (most conducted trade was with England at that time).

 

 

A douanier a pied and douanier a cheval 1812-1815 (Vernet)

 

 

Holland becomes part of the French Empire (1810)

After te disappearing of the Kingdom Holland, the French customs moved themselves

around the 'Zuiderzee', the large rivers 'Rhine and Wale', and along the whole coastline.

The former 'douaniers  holandais' were incorporated into the Douanes Imperiales corps,

as they needed more and more men for carrying out the ongoing blockade.  In the Dutch

cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam and in Groningen appears an administrative customs

officers head office (headed by the 4th customs `division'), charged with carrying out the

international blockade. In Amsterdam alone there were more then 400 douaniers

stationed.

 

In the middle of 1813, the strength of the French authority eroded slowly in the

future Dutch territory. The larger French army units withdrew themselves to Antwerp,

(future Belgium) and France to realign itself there, and only small departments soldiers

lagged behind in the cities. French officials and a lot of douaniers left the future Dutch

territory, by small boats or coaches, with their children and women. A lot of them had

founded a family with children, during the many years stay in the Netherlands, and

found a save departure with their family more important, whereas others stayed behind

to fight for the French cause.

 

 

Burning douanes posts and offices in Amsterdam in 1813. The douanes

had leaved the city earlier on..

 

 

Riots in Holland

By this situation rapidly arose small riots in the Dutch port cities and future Dutch

provinces, fed by the hated continental blockade which arose poverty, but also by the

hated conscription and the still high Orange inclination in the Northern provinces.

In Dutch future Southern provinces however it remained relatively quiet during this

period. Here the blockade had been less tangible because they were less depending

on trade only, and most income came more from agriculture and industry. Also was

there little to no tie with the Orange house, which was considered as 'alien' and one

had accepted the conscription and French authority as something inescapable.

 

This manner of thinking will have to do much with the fact that these areas belonged

already for hundreds of years to all kinds of conquerors from foreign countries and had

less to do with a pro-French manner of  thinking, like frequently suggested.

 

End 1813 some cities in the north of the Netherlands are however defended still by

small French garrisons, among them are  also units of douaniers. In most of the cases

these garrisons continued to sit out their time, with time to time carrying out some small

breakouts. Exception among them were the sieges of Gorinchem, Doesburg and Arnhem,

were the fighting was fierce.

 

Some of these occupied cities remained French into the months of March and April in

1814. In April Napoleon distance himself of his throne and leaves to Elba. At Coevorden

and other still occupied cities, the French garrisons gets an free escort, official the war

then has expired against France and a new French government was installed. French

army components (among which also remaining French customs units) leave then once

andfor all the future Dutch territory.

 

 

Cartoon; take a pick, take a pick, six douaniers for a penny

 

 

Douanes Imperiales corps

The men in service of customs authorities corps were all ex-soldiers or veterans, one

had to have a military history, without one it was not possible to take service. Since the

Douanes corps was a government part and no army body, these men thus were no more

soldiers, but officials. Becoming employed was voluntary, but the douanes corps also in

an active way kept searching for fitting men. By the ongoing growing of the French

borders, the numbers of douaniers kept growing also, in 1812 and 1813 a 35.000 men

with a short peek to a more then 40.000 men.

 

 

Not only French men

For  It concerned also not only French men that took service, as often thought. In the

later years also men from Italie, Germany and from Holland took service. After a recent

small research project it appears that the numbers of Dutch men in service of the

Imperial customs was much higher then thought. For more info, click  (Dutch only)

 

 

(1)Administrative component

 The customs units had been set up as semi-military corps. With an existing 'actively'

(brigades) and 'administrative ' part, each with their own ranks. The administrative

part was build up in a number of  `directions' (administrative offices) divided over the

French area. These `directions ' had been subdivided in four `divisions ', each of these

divisions was headed by a senior official, called the `administrator `.  Also these

divisions were called 'legions', as within the Gendarmerie. The set-up of these

`directions' was as follows, (February 1812)

 

- Premiere division, offices in the cities:

Toulon, Cette, Perpignan, Saint Gaudens, Baionne, bordeaux, drawer rochelle, Nantes,

Lorient.

 

- Deuxieme division, offices in the cities:

Brest, Saint Malo, Cherbourg, Rouen, Abbeville, Boulogne, Dunkergue, Besancon.

 

- Troisieme division, offices in the cities:

Marseille, Nice, Genes, Livourne, florence, Rome, Foligno, Parme, Voghere, Verceil,

Geneve, sad.

 

- Quatrieme division, offices in the cities:

Anvers, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, groningen, Embden, Hambourg, Lunebourg, Wesel,

Cologne, Mayence, Strasbourg.

 

Each of these directions, with all their administrative officials,  was headed by one

customs director. These directors communicated with the the concerned division among

under which they were part of. For all activities around these offices they had specific

functions, each with their own tasks. Every direction had a certain piece of territory

(arrondissement) of the French Empire which to control.

 

 

Four douaniers, one of them an officer, painted in Hamburg 1809

 

 

(2)The Brigades

Besides the administrative part there where the customs brigades, which were headed

by the director of the 'direction', in which one was functioning.  Their posts been spread

out at strategic places. One worked with invisibly so-called `lines', a 1st and 2e line,

linked together by customs posts distanced from each other, in certain layers. These

lines ran along the whole coasts and the borders. Their main task; checking in and out

going goods, border control, and all kinds of police force tasks (frequently in association

with the gendarmes) as been already established in 1791. Later added the hunt on

deserters and army service refusers, the protection of  high officials and army officers,

the guarding of prisoners of war and the always returning military commitment of the

brigades.

 

 

Small douane posts, placed in a sort of line along the coast, each one occupied by a

few number of douaniers. If smugglers were spotted, they hoisted a red flag, alarming

the nearby other posts, so that they also could intervene.

 

 

Functions and ranks within the brigades

- Controleur of the brigades:

The highest rank/function within the brigade was the controleur of the brigades. He was

responsible for the complete (general) pace of matters in his district (arrondissement)

responsible for the discipline at the brigades in the district. Kept up any changes in orders,

and checked if these were also carried out properly. He could note preposes for a

promotion, but also for a punishment, what was assessed then by the customs director,

among in which district it fell.

 

- Captain:

Hereafter the rank of captain follows (the ville, of the city). These were only used in the

large cities, frequently only in the capital of the district, where they several brigades

headed.

 

- Lieutenant principaux (principal):

In function the same as the controleur, but this only in less important and less large

districts, and fell directly under supervision of customs inspecteur or sous inspecteur.

 

 - Lieutenant dórdre:

Temporary boss concerning the brigades in a district, which needed extra attention and

extra control. And among other things checked all the daily rapports of the lieutenants.

 

Lieutenant et sous lieutenant:

Actual chef of the brigades, where the sous lieutenant took over the tasks of the

lieutenant when he was absent.

 

Prepose (a pied, a cheval):

The most attentive function within the brigades, actually the ' backbone ' of the

complete corps.

 

(note: the rank of brigadier who is described in some books, not yet existed under

Napoleon I, this rank was later introduced)

 

 

Two douaniers looking for forbidden goods at a port (E.Fort)

 

 

A douanes post

A small douanes post was nothing more than a rented building or house, which also

acted as administrative office, for visitors to receive and to stock some goods. It had

been obliged at each post had a sign with showing the text; Douanes Imperiales, entry

and sortie. Sleeping and living space was somewhere else foreseen, namely in rented

houses, rooms or a chamber in an inn, where one stayed, possibly with its family.

 

It was the lieutenant who kept up the administrative operations, this task also was

however often taken over by the douanes 'receveur', who did his round on the douanes

posts and sometimes also temporary stayed on one particular post, for taken over their

administration.

 

 

A small douanes post near a river

 

 

Dangerous job

By all these tasks the customs brigades became an almost daily returning sight, in the

daily living of a lot of citizens, who lived in the French Empire. Their function was the

most dangerous but also the worst paid. The average wage of a customs 'prepose'

(the lowest rank in the brigade), had been determined on 500 franc per year. But in more

remote (read more dangerous) the wage was higher, namely 900 francs a year.

 

Also a type of bonus was implanted (sometimes also a percentage of the confiscated

goods) for every deserter, service refuser and criminal which was taken up by a douanier.

Further rights for a douanier were holidays, getting back his declarations (with an

appointed maximum for each rank), and a pension from the state.

 

 

Corruption

The brigades did their much more dangerous work in the field in day and night, 

for administrative units on their offices it was relatively much more safe , and these

also were better paid then the men within the brigades. By this inequality there was thus

always much tension between both groupings. The comparatively low payment and the

fact that one was placed in a position able to easily deserve much money, ensured that a

lot of customs within the brigades would make themselves guilty to corruption, by

receiving compensations from smugglers to let through their goods, or by smuggle

themselves goods.

 

Sentences for this were however very high, customs officials who were taken up for

corrupt practices, could count on years of prison in irons, or even to be shot. In spite of

these measures, there was much corruption under the customs officials, and the

administration always considered new rules  to reduce corruption. It was forbidden for

them to live close near a border, and often they were moved to another post.

 

 

An average brigade

An average functional brigade in the field, existed from 7/8 customs preposes (more

or less, depending on their tasks), a second (sous) lieutenant and a lieutenant. At

added brigades also a drummer had been frequently incorporated. The brigades in the

field worked already with dogs, (firm dogs), which could stop a smuggler. The higher

ranks in the brigades, such as a captain or controleur operated mainly on their office,

and seldom with the brigades themselves in the field.

 

 

A number of smugglers, bringing their illegal goods a shore

 

 

The Continental Blockade

(or Continental System)

 

First move by the British

A range of decisions, which formed together an economic war between the United

Kingdom and France, and ran in fact parallel with the war conducted in military.

It was the United Kingdom and not France (like it is generally adopted) that started

it in 1803. In this year the United Kingdom started  to obstruct the import which

came from countries with French influence, and made skilfully use of their strong sea

power  to add strength to their prohibition provisions. 

 

The United Kingdom, exclaimed in 1806 that the whole coast line from Brest to

Hamburg was to be blocked by their navy. Napoleon answered with the decree of

Berlin, in which all trade with the United Kingdom was forbidden to France and here

allies. After this the United Kingdom went on a step further; all strange ships (also the

neutral ones) had to halt in London or other English ports to become inspected and

had to pay scandalous high amounts of money to be able to continue their travel.

 

Napoleon exclaimed hereafter the decree of  Milan in 1807, that each ship, which

would submit himself to this requirement, was explained forfeited as it again would

stop in a French port our  at one of the ports of French allies.

 

 

Prices of Goods

By these blockades the prices of colonial goods grew enormously, and becoming a

smuggler turned out very profitable. Whole classes within the population occupied

themselves to smuggling, and it was  on a scale like never earlier seen in the

human history.

 

Rich by the large profits, having lots of money, relatively easily earned, ordinary

work become despised. Not only the smugglers themselves were involved at smuggling

but also innumerable mediators, who ensured transport inside the countries, mostly

over water. And then at last they in the large cities, who received the goods and stored

them in secret places, from where they the reached consumers .

 

Centre of the smugglers trade in the north became the coast of East frieze country

with its innumerable bays and coves, from way back a harbour for  smuggle  and

corsairs. Napoleon could not prevent that  enormous quantities of  products were

brought into the country. Guarding only from the country side (on water the English

Navy was present ) was insufficient.

 

 

Not for the ordinary men

In spite of high numbers of incoming goods, these were already no longer payable by

the 'ordinary men' , because the general prosperity in a lot of countries had collapsed;

this by constant wars, tax increases and the blockades. This poverty was felt mostly in

the larger cities in contrast to relative prosperity on the country. For many producers

and farm in the own country the blockade was an advantage.

 

By the lack and disappearance of the massive English goods, the request for goods

made in the own country arose. Production in grain and sugar arose, and farmers and

companies started on large scale planting sugar beets, in substitution for sheer sugar.

Also textile the industries thrived again.

 

 

Smugglers at Dunekerk and Gravelines

In the later years of the French Empire (1810-1814), Napoleon English agreed to have

English smugglers at the French ports Dunekerk and Gravelines, and motivated them

for transporting prohibited goods over the canal. In Gravelines even accommodations

had been regulated for an approximately 300 smugglers, this certain spot of the city

was called: 'city of smugglers'.

 

Napoleon used these smugglers in his war against the United Kingdom. They arrived

on the French coasts with escaped French soldiers, golden Guineas, English

newspapers, information of French spies and carried back French textile, French

brandy and gin. For this even entirely new distilleries were set up, one of them, build

in 1812, distillery Persyn, still exist today. A link HER

 

More information concerning the continental blockade finds you on the site of

Wikipedia:

Continental System

 

 

 

Three ways of smuggling goods over water

 

 

Armies of smugglers

Even if as from 1806 (shortly after exclaiming the blockade) there  were already at

least more than a 100,000 smugglers actively getting around the blockade. Actively

supported by England , illegal goods nevertheless  in massive quantities entered

the French Empire . The numbers of smugglers grow in the years to follow, some

well organised and well armed, an always returning danger for the customs officers

brigades which were heavily in the minority (in the former years, 22,800 man, spread

out over the whole Empire), who could not do much against this supremacy.

 

In spite of this, the fight against smugglers and smuggling was hard, even with

customs brigades which set up raids to destroy large cargos of English goods,

stationed on hostile territory.

 

 

Smugglers followed by douaniers

 

 

Confrontations

Confrontations with smugglers frequently occurred, these degenerated in

small-scale fighting's to the coasts or somewhere in the country, where men on

both sides lost their life's. But also the douaniers on the small customs  ships that

obliges (in spite of the overall present much stronger English Navy) had to choose

sea, and once discovered, by earlier-mentioned was attacked, had no easy task.

English sailors called them; the Regies.

 

By their imposed tasks people around them often hated them. The fight between

smugglers and douaniers hardened also according to the years expired and the

blockade kept on existing. Comparatively with an ordinary soldier the work of a

douanier was more dangerous. A soldier mainly only had a chance to get killed or

wounded on a battle field, moreover he lived in a relative security between his

comrades of the regiment.

 

A douanier ran each day again in a  situation to get wounded or to be assassinated,

he was almost always present in hostile surroundings, and always considerable in

the minority compared to the gangs of smugglers who armed and unrecognizable

foraged the country. One frequently reads that douaniers were assassinated, were

killed in a ambush somewhere in a remote area or even at their own post, had to

deal with riots, rebellion and scuffles.

 

 

Not cute men

Reciprocally douaniers in the brigades were of course also not cute men, as an

often former soldier one must already have been hardened in the army and got

used to certain forms of violence which one had experienced or  had taken part

during military operations. And one would have been therefore more rapidly prepared

to also use violence on a certain spot and situation, always been considered as an

enemy and probably also in this way treated. Beside the earlier mentioned corruption,

maltreatment and insult was frequently used by douaniers.

 

 

 

Smugglers approaching the French coast

 

 

1812-1815

After the calamity for the French army in Russia (1812), the last rests withdrew

themselves into Germany. Between the army and the Russians a thin green barrier

was formed of customs units, collected and invoked by Marshall Davout and customs

director Pyonniere. Also it is written there concerning about the set up of an 2e

regiment of customs, this written after a command of Davout himself on august17th,

1813., made out of two battalions, six companies, with own cavalry and artillery,

around 2000 men together.

 

Also customs units were added at components of the army , invoked by army officers.

At the siege of Hamburg, customs units were used for manning the bastions .

A special custom unit of  'sharpshooters', under command of customs captain

Lavandeze, was used to eliminate hostile units, with large rifles on large distances

(probably the enemies officers). Also from the Hamburg port small customs gunboats

took the enemies under a violent fire. Unfortunately also in Hamburg there were not

only douaniers who fought for the French matter ,  but there were also customs

colleagues who thought more financially..

 

Before the exodus of French army units out of the city Hamburg in 1814, douaniers

tried to take along the money from a bank the city. Danish sailors who had been

held prisoner in Altona (a suburb of Hamburg) prevented this, a violent fighting arose,

where on the side of the douaniers thirty men were killed.

 

 

Plan of the fortified city Thionville,

defended by douaniers and other troops in 1814 and 1815

 

 

1814-1815

In the beginning of 1814, the whole customs system collapses entirely . Customs

officers units continued defending cities, in current Belgium and more to the

French border. In cities such as Mayence, Landau, Strasbourg, Huningue, and more

in the west: Thionville, Metz, Belfort and Besançon and in a lot of other cities were

garrisons in which concluded large numbers of douaniers. Customs units also

fought during the short siege of Paris in 1814.

 

After the departure of Napoleon in 1814, the corps recovered its old name, the

'customs officers nationales '. In spite of the large numbers of emperor minded

men, no purifications were carried out. This would prove to be a mistake, because

the whole corps places itself right behind Napoleon as he on March 1ste 1815 puts

his feet back on  French soil (Antibes France), and in his way to Paris a unit of

almost 500 douaniers voluntary follows him for taking care of his safety, and to

confront his enemies.

 

 

A douanier 'a cheval and a pied', 1812-1815

 

 

Customs Officers units at Waterloo?

In May 1815 report is made of customs authorities in an outpost fighting against

Prussian army units at the French border. Until now it has not been still really cleared if

customs units have taken part in the combat before and during the battle for Waterloo.

If this was been documented somehow, then probably these documents were lost during

the destruction of the French customs archives in Paris (end of 19th century), by a large 

fire. But however  plausible it still is. In a list reflecting the strength of Napoleons army

(written in June 1815), it is mentioned that for Armee du Nord, 12.000 douaniers were

incorporated in the army, as auxiliary troops.

 

There were in 1815 still much large numbers of douaniers, who after the shrinking of

the French Empire to France normal borders, and after the lifting of the continental

blockade probably had nothing more on their hands then again to support Napoleon and

his army, this in a time that Napoleon could use every man who could handle a weapon.

But however until this time. every proof for this is still lacking.

 

However a small remained document could be  an indirect indication, that perhaps

douaniers have taken part in combat at Waterloo. Douanier Sacré operated in the Dutch

Hindelopen, and probably in 1813, had been left the country with the rests of French

armies and a lot of of his colleagues. The next indication concerning him is on 19 august

1815, this in the military hospital at Philippeville (near Charleroi and Waterloo). On this

earlier-mentioned date he died from his wounds, in the function as a douanier. (noted on

19 august1815 by an informé). Also it is knowned from an document written in the

beginning of June 1815, that Armee du Nord, consisted out of 12.000 douaniers.

 

 

Painting of Napoleon, made before the battle of  Waterloo ?

 

 

After Waterloo

After the defeat at Waterloo in June 1815, (also see the small you-tube films) the upset

French army withdraws itself on French ground, Prussian armies approached the French

border and French border cities. These are now again defended by customs units, garde

national units and the small remains of the French army.

 

In reinforced cities such as Givet, Belfort Longwy and Rodemack and others, these offer

under the command of general Hugo an other generals still resistance until  the end of

November 1815, five months after Waterloo! Eventually after several recalls from Paris

(by the new French government), the action was broken off and a peace treaty was

signed.

 

After  this the Imperial eagle disappears once and for all of the customs  uniforms and

the corps is transformed for the second time into the 'douanes nationales '.

 

 

-Monument to honour customs officials, who died at the siege of the French city Givet,

attacked by Prussian columns on 3 September 1815. The douaniers were part of the

'legion des Ardennes':

2nd battalion 1st company en 2nd battalion 3rd company.

 

 

 

 

Research sources

Documents: Cahier des Douanes (Douane France), Costums officers museum Bordeaux,

Costums officers and exercise museum Rotterdam, Costums officers museum Antwerp,

Book: Legislation des Douanes 1813, Edmond Zotto, Former Customs officer Andre Lucot,

Book: Memoires de General Hugo 1814, Laura Sacre, Sebastiaan Berntsen, Book: Le

fiamme gialle d'Italia, E.Fort, Lienhart & Humbert, Professor Joost Welten, Book:

Napoleons Europese droom, Website: Genealogie 19 eeuwse militairen, Erven van Charles

Hare, Albert van E, several original documents from internet websites.